Happy Superbowl Sunday everyone! Since I don't care about football one bit, I'm going to use the big day to tackle a big subject: How to market your blog. If you're a new reader, welcome to Print To Online, my blog for absolute beginners just learning their way around the Web. If you're looking to get online savvy, this will all probably make more sense if you go back to the beginning and read from there.
So. Where were we? Oh, right.
You've created a blog. You've tweaked your layout. You've made 10 posts you like pretty well. You've followed my advice on how to let Google and Technorati know you exist. You've added Site Meter and Feedjit traffic trackers, and so you can see the grim reality is ... NO ONE is coming to your blog. Dang it.
What to do? First of all, know that marketing your blog is a long-term project. Don't try to do everything at once and get it out of the way. This task will never be out of the way. It's the mail, you're the mail man. No matter how much you deliver, there's always more mail to deliver. So get your Zen on and know that telling people about your blog is just an integral part of blogging. Always Be Marketing is the way of the blog.
So there's a million and one ways to market your blog, but they all come down to three things: Knowing People, Making Great Content, Having a Way to Tell People About Your Great Content.
When I say knowing people, I mean you have to get out there in the Blogosphere and Twitterverse and start getting to know all the people out there, especially the people who are followed/read by LOTS of other people. If you can work your way up to being mentioned every once in a while by people who are read by lots of other people, you will see your following tick up over time.
For example, Jay Rosen of NYU is one of the most followed people on Twitter. When he gets into a conversation with you on Twitter or mentions something you posted, you know some portion of his 7,367 readers will come check you out, and some will bookmark you or sign up for your feed.
If that happens once a week or so you'll see a healthy boost to your traffic over time. So get to know people. Read other people blogging on your topic and off, link to the interesting stuff they write and let them know you did it. Comment on fellow bloggers blogs and Twitterers Tweets. Over time the community will send you dividends.
Okay, two, Content. Knowing people isn't all it takes. You can't ask your friends and business associates to link to your blog if there's nothing new or interesting on it to link to. You have to create unique, compelling content. Then, really, you don't so much want to ask people to link to you. Instead, you just let your people know that you've posted interesting content. They'll take a look, and if they like it, they'll link to it.
If you write something REALLY good and unique, many people will link to it. Content is King, and the Twitterverse (and all the other message delivery systems out there) has a magical way of finding and sharing the best content. If you're good, the links will come.
It was interesting to watch this "cream will rise" concept at work last week, after Seattle Councilman Nick Licata held a panel on the future of newspapers in Seattle. A bunch of people wrote blog posts and Tweets on the panel and how it went and what it meant, but there was no big "you gotta read THIS" theme out there until MyBallard's Cory Bergman wrote his take.
Then all of a sudden all of the people I was following were recommending that one piece. At least, that's how it seemed from my chair: The followers of the story dubbed Cory's take the go to story on the topic -- and I'm guessing all the many links to it from Twitter and elsewhere helped drive more traffic to his story. A search for "Nick Licata" and future of newspapers Seattle shows that Cory's take is the fourth highest ranked result, after The Stranger's, the City of Seattle, and the Seattle PI's version.
(We linked to Cory's take too, from the Seattle PI's version of the story. It was good. You should read it. See, it happened again!)
So how do you let your People know about your Content?
You need a message delivery system. Thank god there's about a zillion of them -- three of the most popular being Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader. If you work on getting a following on a couple of these tools, it becomes very easy to let people know when you create a post you think is link-worthy -- you just post a note about your latest piece to Twitter and etc, and (if you make it sound interesting) your followers will come and check it out.
The ability to tell people all in one big blast that you've written something they might like is a great power. If you don't have it you should be working on getting it.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be mentioned by high-powered Twitterers not once but twice -- by Monica Guzman and Chris Pirillo -- more than doubling my Twitter readership in one day. Now next time I want to use my Twitter account to advertise a post (something I'll do sparingly, and only if it would be of interest to my Twitter followers) I'll be sending my link out to 260 people, not just 90.
Monica is great about offering to tell her Twitter followers whenever a new PI staffer starts Twittering -- and I've done the same, recently posting to my followers that Rebekah Denn has a new Twitter feed going. If you join the Twitterverse just let us know -- I'd be happy to let my readers know about it. And then you'll play it forward and help out the next guy who comes along looking for a leg up.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
Okay, so, pretty easy so far, right? To recap:
1. Get to know people who know a lot of other people
2. Write good, unique, link-worthy content
3. Let your people know about your content
I know, simple, right?
Specific things you can do:
1. As you discover other writers blogging and Twittering about the kind of things you're covering, respond to their posts, add your points, maybe after you've done that a few times and the blog host has responded and you've got a rapport, if the blogger you're getting to know writes a post about something you've written about before, comment on the blogger's post and then post a link to your take on your blog.
Generally, as you are participating in commenting on posts around the Web, it's okay to go ahead and link back to related stuff you've written, just be aware that there's an obnoxious and a not obnoxious way to do this. I did this earlier today: I came across a blog that was asking journalists to answer the question: Do you Twitter? If so, why? I responded by saying Here’s my post on why I use and recommend Twitter.
It's a simple thing -- but if you do it once a day for a year you'll seriously increase your exposure.
2. Take the time to link to others. Many smaller bloggers scour their traffic logs and will see that you've sent readers to them. They'll likely appreciate the help and will do the same for you.
It's a very Sicilian system, but that's okay, because I just so happen to be Sicilian. Machiavelli would have been a great blogger, I think.
3. Take a look at the top of the page on the Print To Online blog. You'll see that I'm calling out three blogs at the top of the page. Don Smith at Seattle New Media is returning the favor, and sending me a couple of readers a day.
4. When people write to you and ask questions or interact with you, consider calling them out in a post and telling your readers about their blog. I did this in a recent post from Ricky Young, who asked a question about using photos taken from government Web sites. At the bottom of that post I encouraged readers to "Check out Ricky's excellent San Diego-based blog at www://ricky-why.blogspot.com." Ricky immediately posted to all his connections on Twitter that he'd been mentioned on my blog, and posted a link, which sent me readers.
I guess you get the idea. It's really not rocket science, it's just getting in the habit of giving people props and links, interacting with your readers and linking to their stuff so they'll do the same for you, helping the world so the world helps you.
More tips at: Problogger's 41 Ways to Market your blog.
Seth Godin's recommendations on driving traffic to your blog.