If you have a blog then you know that the biggest challenge next to content is readers. How do you get your audience, who are bombarded by hundreds (thousands?) of messages per day, to focus on your messages?
Of course your first responsibility is providing content your audience will actually find relevant and useful. Your second responsibility is to tell them, often, that your content exists. If it sounds simple, that's because it is. There's no magic trick to building blog traffic if your content is good (and sometimes even if it isn't!)
But it *is* time consuming — and that you should be prepared for.
You should also be aware that in driving traffic to your blog you have 2 distinctly different jobs:
1. Get new readers to find out about your blog and visit
2. Get past visitors to come back
This second one is critical. Meeting your goals will be nearly impossible if you can't get readers to come back to your blog on a regular basis. Sometimes the same tactic can be used for both goals but there are some that are specific to each.
Today I outline the top 13 techniques for getting new readers to your blog, and share experiences from business owners just like you. Next time we'll discuss how to keep people coming back.
How to get New Traffic and New Readers to Your Blog
These days the idea of "link building" is almost loosing it's meaning because so many online marketing techniques could fit into this category. Link building for your blog has essentially two major benefits — 1) introducing the audience of another Web site to your blog and 2) boosting your search engine rankings. Link building techniques for your blog include:
- Posting Comments — posting "comments" in other blogs & public forums can help you reach a highly targeted audience for whom your content is extremely relevant. LinkedIn and Ning are great places to look for communities who are already discussing the topics you focus on.
But be very careful — commenting carelessly can get you banned from a community or worse — silently (or vocally) tagged as a spammer which will damage your credibility and your brand. Spend some time in the community to see which method (if any) would be most welcome. And by all costs take the advice of business owner and reader Brock Green of JustinAamir.com in avoiding "shameless" self-promotion "do not ask a blogger and its readers to 'come check out your blog'...thats so tacky." I would heed Brock's advice.
Here are 3 ways you can approach posting comments or new discussions:
a) write a meaningful comment that links to your post as a follow up
b) write a meaningful comment and include a standard signature in all of your comments with your name and a link to your blog
c) start a conversation around the topic you discuss in your post.
If commenting is welcome at all, using one of these approaches should keep you out of trouble!
- Directories & Content Aggregators — instead of posting your content in its entirety, these sites simply posts links to your content. Some have found that sites like StumbleUpon and Digg only work if you have top member posting on your behalf, your mileage may vary but if you are willing to spend the time to make this a focus of your marketing efforts it could drive significant traffic to your blog. There are many of these sites including:
- Cross Linking — encourage other bloggers to link to your blog or posts and do the same for them. If there is a community around your topic tap into that community to raise the profile of each other's content.
There are many modern ways to allow others to repurpose your articles as content.
- Cross Promote in other Venues - do you write for any other publications online or offline? Going to be on a public access cable show? Have the opportunity to participate in a goodie bag? Make sure you cross promote your blog in venues besides the ones you own. Fatemeh Khatibloo of TimesTwoMarketing has started mentioning her blog when she writes for industry newsletters and publications and it has made it to her list of top 5 marketing techinuqes.
- Article Submission sites — people really disagree about this one. Some have either found aggregators to be useless at driving traffic, or to drive traffic that doesn't convert in any other way but Wilson Web has a great list of these sites here and provided some additional advice: http://www.wilsonweb.com/linking/wilson-article-marketing-1.htm
- Guest Blogging - Offer to write guestposts on other relevant blogs whenever you can (with links pointing back to your site), even if they are small blogs.
- Guest Bloggers — while this is reverse of content syndication, in a way you are syndicating your brand by enabling other bloggers to promote content they have provided to your site. As Kristin Hornby of NileGuide suggests, "We host guest bloggers to post on NileGuide, who then promote their articles to their own audience. We also have the NileGuide 5 interview series, where we interview other travel bloggers". This can be an excellent way to build new readership and has the added benefit of driving new traffic through a credible referral.
- RSS feeds — while typically associated with individuals having their own "feed" of your content (which they would only get by visiting your blog in the first place) another very clever way of using RSS is to get people to add a feed of your headlines to their Web site for others to see. Josh Steiniz of NileGuide mentions that they distribute their blog content via free RSS to partners like newspaper websites. Building partnerships purely for blog content syndication is a brilliant way to leverage your content and your knowledge expertise.
- YouTube — many people don't think about using video to convey their message. Consider creating a low-budget video to support your content and to get your content in front of YouTube visitors. You can even start your own YouTube channel.
- Basic SEO - Brush up on your basic SEO techniques to help you get your blog ranked well in search engines for the terms you are targeting. To learn more about SEO visit my post Keyword Density: The 9 Places to Put Your Keywords for SEO Power.
- Tagging & Categories — while you don't have to make categories the primary way you organize your posts, if your categories double as keywords, and appear often as links (i.e. in a sidebar category list or as your main navigation) they boost your optimization for those keywords.
Online & Offline PR
While really a combination of link building and syndication I mention online PR specifically because of it's potential to be viral. This is an aspect that many people do not consider. When you post a release online it has the possibility to be picked up and spread as "news" by a variety of publications looking for content. Consider whether some of your posts are worthy of an online press release that can be submitted to places like PR News Wire.
Don't forget about the power of the live and in person. Kimberly Ward of Pinkeggshell hands out cards, sponsors industry events and does high profile charity work, Brad Officer of BradOfficer.com who is in the highly competitive real estate industry says he uses his online blog for real offline help "In this industry, people always ask questions about their mortgage, their home, their situation." He can collect a business card and after the event email his new contact a link to a specific blog post that answers their question. It's a great way to follow up in a meaningful way.
- Use Appealing Headlines - Gary Unger of GaryUnger.com who is the author of a popular book and runs a successful LinkedIn group mentions "The better the headline the more attraction I receive. Especially if I use the word 'twitter' in a headline."
- Name Names — there's relevancy and then there's relevancy. It never hurts to mention people, products or concepts by name — especially if it's a topic that is particularly relevant to your audience. Gary notes that "Landing a good person or product to blog about" has really helped his blog posts to get found and also get shared making it one of his top 5 blog marketing techniques.