Setting up a blog is as easy as it gets—getting traffic is another proposition altogether. Yes, blogs by their very nature are supposed to be search engine optimization ready but there is a catch: Your blog needs to break free from the millions of blogs jostling with each other for attention. And till you don’t get traffic, you cannot make money from a blog. At least through some of the direct means.
Here is what you can do to get the eyeballs to look your way:
If every good product sold on its own, advertising would not have been a career option. Even when you have hit the sweet spot with your product, you need to promote it. Try these ideas—based on a mix of conventional thought and the science of how bits and bytes behave in cyberspace:
Get other sites to link to you: In an ideal world, everyone you want will link from their site to yours. Poof, and you could be in business overnight. The more blogs and sites that link to you, the better you fare in search engine rankings. If wishes were horses! Keep trying, and you will have sites linking to you over a period of time. It may take a year or longer of blogging for things to start happening for you. Remember, other sites will link to you only if your content is good. Period.
Get yourself some links: Till WSJ.com does not link to you, visit the site and other blogs and leave comments on topics of shared interest—with your link. This is one way to generate some traffic faster - find blogs in your niche area and leave meaningful comments on posts with your blog’s address.
Link to others, selflessly: Provide links to blogs you like without expecting anything in return. These respective blog owners might come visiting to know about yours and someday do something for you too.
Grab all the free ad spots to publicize your blog: These include your visiting cards, email signatures, letterheads, mobile messages, bumper stickers and other such communication. Let your emails end with a prompt to a recent post of yours relevant to the recipient.
Be proactive: Respond to all those who leave comments on your blog or seek further information - make their effort seem valuable. Let them feel a part of your blog community and they will tell other people about you.
Send out mails: Mine every email address you have in your desktop and workplace, and send a message. Pitch specific posts, not necessarily your blog, to entice greater interest.
Make friends in the Blogosphere: And write guest posts and comments on each other’s blogs. Exchange links, too. There is no such thing as being competitors here. You have to realize you cannot be selfish—it is all about give and take to get ahead.
The title of your post matters: A simple yet overlooked factor that makes a big difference. Most people read blogs on RSS (really simple syndication) feeds. The title helps them decide whether they want to click on it or move to the next entry on the feed. Also include keywords in your title that people are expected to be searching for.
A social media strategy: Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and LinkedIn may have become a rage for their socializing and networking potential, but they are also highly effective to promote your blog. There are many ways to do so, as also elaborated in a later section, but here are some pointers to set you thinking:
Create a Fan Page on Facebook
Create groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and invite your contacts to be members
Take feeds from your blogs on to your profiles for your contacts to read even if they don’t visit your blog
Advertise if you have the budget
In your status updates mention the latest you have done on your blog for others to get alerted to and possibly visit
Twitter: A Microblogging platform, Twitter allows you to post messages not longer than 140 characters. Whoever is following your ‘tweets’ can get alerted to the latest on your blog and visit it if interested.
YouTube: If you have any video content on your blog, it is always a good idea to post on YouTube too. With its own captive audience, you can get viewers to your videos and they may want to explore your blog further for relevant content.
Flickr: Likewise posting any photos on your blog on to a Flickr account can get you eyeballs redirected from Flickr.
“You just cannot get results fast enough. It was only after a year of blogging that things started happening for me. Other sites will link to you only if your content is good. Leaving comments with your blog URL is one way to generate some traffic faster—find blogs in your niche area and leave meaningful comments on posts with your blog’s address. If it adds value to the conversation, other readers will click on your link to know more about what you are doing. Someone else may already have the audience, and you are doing nothing unethical or illegal in trying to attract them too.”
- Amit Agarwal, Professional Blogger at Digital Inspiration, a Technorati’s Top 100 blog
Will you travel 10 miles just to pick up a KitKat or settle for a Dairy Milk an arm’s length away? Ditto for blogs. If you don’t make it easy for your readers to access your content, they will just move to a competing blog. Here is what you can do to get them to stay with you:
One click sign-up: People read your posts mostly through emails and RSS. Make it easy for them to do so—sign up with free services such as FeedBlitz and FeedBurner to manage all your sign-ups and mailings automatically. And place the forms, chiclets, links and icons they provide on all your pages and even emails you send for your readers to subscribe with one click.
Maximize your storefronts: Nike and Starbucks generate volumes by ensuring a presence in all marketplaces to make for easy access; links to your blog are your storefronts. Make these present on as many websites, blogs, comments you leave and emails you send - never be too far from your customer, who is the reader in this case.
Some more marketing tips:
Positioning: Why should someone want to visit your blog? The answer has to come in a single word or short phrase. This will be its unique positioning. A picture of what your blog is all about should form in the reader’s mind as soon as he or she thinks of your blog. If this does not happen, you know you are doing something wrong.
Presentation: Keep your layouts neat and easily readable. Let not the untidy, garish blogs be your inspiration. Try to write good copy, with catchy headlines and minimum language errors.
Passion: Be passionate about what you write - it is like a book writer who has to feel for the subject, to be with it for years while writing it.
Patience and Persistence: If you are on the quality path, it will be a long and lonely marathon. Do you have it in you to undertake it?
“I did not do any promotions though—over time, people just found me because of the work I was doing.
Why does someone visit a blog? Because they want to learn something. My audience is the thinking Indian. Quality causes stickiness. If I only wanted traffic, I would be doing very different things. If you are on the quality path, it will be a long and lonely marathon. Do you have it in you to undertake it?”
- Kamla Bhatt, blogger for four years now and publisher of the highly popular KamlaBhattShow.com connecting Indian diaspora around the world