8 tips on promoting your blog and building a loyal audience [Blogging 301]

So you’ve started a blog and now you’re wondering why nobody is visiting. You’ve done everything in Blogging 101 and Blogging 201, but you feel invisible.  Your next step is to start sharing and promoting your blog to drive readership.

Promotion of your blog should be a part of your overall blogging strategy. Remember, you won’t be an overnight success, as it may take months and months of consistent blogging and promotion to build a loyal following, but here are a few tips to get you on the right track.

1. Set goals. If you fail to set goals, you won’t have a target to aim for and you will have no way of knowing if your blog is a success. I can assume that if you are reading this post, you’ve already made the decision that you want more than just friends and family to be reading your posts and you want to reach as many people as possible, right? So set some goals, and be realistic. Would you be happy with 100 pageviews a week? 1,000? How about 20,000 page views a year? Really think hard about how successful you think you can be in your first year and shoot for that target. You don’t have to just set pageview goals: think number of comments, interactions, and shares too.

2. Leverage your social networks. Here’s an easy one – use your existing social networks to spread the word about your blog and each new blog post.

Twitter is by far my most useful referral tool. Be sure to use relevant hashtags to insert yourself into conversations, thank people for RTing and commenting on your work, and tweet at the best time of day (for most industries that’s between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.). This behaviour helps to encourage feedback, shares, and comments.

At the same time, as you are promoting your blog on social networks, you should also be actively trying to continue to build a following  of your target audience on these networks. For example, if you are writing about local food, seek out, follow, and interact with those who like to post about food in your city.

Facebook and Google+ are starting to provide some decent traffic for my blog, and don’t forget about social bookmarking: reddit, digg, stumbleupon, etc.

3. Think SEO when writing content and headlines. Admittedly, I’m not an SEO expert, but we can all use a few key principles to help make our content more attractive to search engines. First, be sure to use common search terms in your headline. You can check out Google Adwords or Google Insights for some help in determining what they should be. Second, in your body copy, be sure to use these same search terms and link them, where possible, to other posts on your blog, or major sites online (i.e. Wikipedia). Finally, if you have images on your blog (and you should), be sure to use these same keywords in the name and title of the image file.  There’s way more to SEO than this. For a more complete tip-sheet, check out this list by Reverse Delta.

4. Share the “link love”. Often ideas for your own blog posts will stem from what you’ve read on others. If I’ve pulled an idea, topic, or infographic from another blogger or website, I always reference where the material came from and reward them with a link-back to their site. The link is still the currency of blogging. Simply put, the more influential pages you link to, and who are linking to you, the higher your blog will return in search results.

5. Get other people talking about / sharing your content. Start by doing the simple stuff. Make sure your comments are open and include buttons to share, like, tweet, rank, email, stumble, digg, etc. The easier it is for your readers to share, the more referrals you can expect. Next,  Join the conversation with other bloggers by being active in the blogging community. You should be liking, commenting, reviewing, and critiquing (professionally) other blog posts. If the idea for your latest blog post was a reaction to something you read on another blog, be sure to return to that blog and post a link to your reaction in the comments section; remember, your are continuing the conversation, not attacking the other opinion.

6. Consider guest blogging.  If you are an established blogger, be open to the idea of contributing a guest post to another blog with a similar focus. You may also be approached to have your existing content syndicated on other blogs: this is a good step too.  Another way to expand your audience is to invite another thought leader in your field to contribute a post to your blog. This not only provides your readers with new content and a new perspective, but also it avails you to the loyal following of your guest blogger…who, I would assume, would help to promote his/her post on your blog to his/her readers.

7. Use offline promotion techniques.  So you want to turn pro? Well, I’m not there yet, but consider the use of traditional marketing materials to drive traffic to your website. This can take the form of almost anything: posters, flyers, stickers, post cards, club cards, t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc. If you choose to do this, be sure to include a unique, and trackable URL, so you can evaluate how many visitors your campaign has generated. At the very least, you should include a URL to your blog on your business card.

8. Don’t over promote. Sometimes you just need to give it a rest. All bloggers can admit to themselves that they may have crossed the line when promoting their blogs, but it’s good to not make a habit of it.  I try to promote my posts for about 24-36 hours, then let them flow down stream.

Is there anything else that should be on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

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11 Responses to “8 tips on promoting your blog and building a loyal audience [Blogging 301]”

  1. How do you determine what a realistic # of page views is? Do you base it on # of social media followers?
    For instance if i started a blog right now, I wouldn’t have any idea whether my goal should be 10 or 100 or 1000.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dawn. There are a few ways you can set a benchmark for success. First is a comparison with your peers and other similar websites. I often use http://compete.com/ to get an idea of how much traffic other websites get. Another way you could do it is by knowing your audience size. Let’s say you are blogging about fashion in your hometown. Think about how many people live in your town, what are the demographics like? Do you have online competition? Is there a fashion Institute? How many people study there? And so on. Also, look how your topic trends across various social media platforms. Are you writing on something esoteric, like the best place to get cheeseburgers, at midnight, in the summer, in Northern Alberta? or something with a broad scope, like social media … From there you can probably reason your way to a starting point.

      You number of social media followers can play a role, but that figure can be misleading. It is more valuable to be connected to 100 influential people than 10,000 observers. Visit http://www.klout.com to get a read on who are the most influential people in your networks.

  2. Hey David, What is an SEO?

  3. Thanks Dave, for the thorough response. It seems like there’s lots of options out there but the most important is to have a good idea of who and how big your target audience is.

  4. All great tips!

    I would add that you should always try and bring a new idea, perspective, or opinion to an existing topic (especially if its a popular one) . Don’t just regurgitate what others have said before you because when everyone is talking about a particular topic, people are always looking for something new and fresh to read (and share!). If there is nothing new to say … then you should think about how you can present the information in a new way, that’s how infographs got so popular!

  5. Excellent post Dave!

    I found that one of the best ways to increase blog readership is to consistently build high quality back links. Some of my favorite ways to do this include article marketing, video marketing, blog commenting and forum marketing. Most of these strategies are extremely simple and very effective.

    Thanks Dave!

    • Thanks for the comment, Micah!
      I agree. Putting an effort into building your links is essential if you are really looking to drive traffic. Blog commenting is often overlooked, but quite effective as long as you make sure you are on topic.
      Cheers!

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