One of the primary reasons most blogs are abandoned is that it takes time to build an audience. It’s demotivating to spend hour upon hour crafting sparkling prose that reveals your most profound industry insights and most valuable guidance, only to see that after weeks of effort, your blog is attracting only a handful of readers per day. How can you avoid that fate and build an audience more quickly?
It can be done. the graph below compares the last three months of traffic on the WebMarketCentral blog, which after four and a half years had built up a sizable and consistent following, to the first three months after launch of the Webbiquity blog. As the graph shows, it took just 12 weeks for traffic to Webbiquity to surpass the traffic level of a far more established blog.
Granted, in the case of Webbiquity, it helped to have an established blog to link from. But even absent that advantage, traffic to a new blog can be ramped up quickly using the following 12 techniques.
1. Build links to your blog from every possible source. Link to the new blog from your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, other social networking and social bookmarking profiles, comments you leave on other blogs—anywhere you can create a link. Add your blog name and link to company email signatures and include it in your corporate newsletter or marketing emails as well.
2. Publicize the blog through offline channels. Include the URL on business cards, brochures, your corporate PowerPoint template, trade show booth signage, etc.
3. Use Twitter. Twitter is the fourth-highest source of traffic to Webbiquity, just behind Google. Of course it helps to have a sizable Twitter following, but the quality of your followers is much more important than the quantity. A few influential followers (with significant followings of their own) who will retweet your blog post links are far more valuable than a boatload of spammy followers who probably never visit your blog in the first place. Blogging and Twittering work together synergystically; writing quality blog content, then tweeting about it, can help increase both your relevant Twitter following and blog readership.
4. SEO the blog. Write compelling, relevant (i.e., don’t try to be too clever) headlines. Include post tags and properly categorize each post. Use keyword-rich post URLS, not meaningless page names like “id=98″. In WordPress, you can set this in Settings…Permalinks. Finally, include relevant page titles, a compelling description, and keywords with each post. For WordPress blogs, two of the best SEO plugins are All In One SEO Pack and Platinum SEO.
5. Promote your blog posts to your relevant LinkedIn groups. If you haven’t already done so, find and join LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry, groups that key influencers, potential business partners, and most importantly your sales prospects are likely to be members of. Link to your posts as either discussion items (for posts that ask questions, solicit reader feedback, or address controversial industry issues) or news items (for posts that are more straight reporting of research or how-to type content.)
6. Create “linkable” content. Links can generate direct visits and they are critical for SEO. The best way to obtain links is to attract them naturally, by writing link-worthy content. A variety of content can qualify, including posts that report new information, explain how to solve a problem, take a controversial stand, or make people laugh. A SWOT analysis is one helpful tool to develop killer topics for blog posts.
7. Write guest posts for popular blogs. A great way to reach a new audience, spread your company’s fame and promote your own blog is to write an attention-getting piece for an established industry blog. It helps (greatly) if you already have a relationship with the blogger, but even if you don’t, most bloggers are far more open to offers of a guest post than they are to PR pitches. Politely contact the blog owner, offer to write a guest post on a pertinent topic for the blog, and ask what the requirements are. When using guest-posting as a strategy, it’s best to start with relatively small blogs and work your way up the food chain. An offer to guest post will have far more credibility if you can point to other posts you’ve already written. If you’ve never had a guest post published, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll get your writing to appear on an A-list blog like TechCrunch or Mashable, but—as evidenced by the fact that both do publish guest posts—it is possible to work one’s way up to that level.
8. Use social bookmarking. Social bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx and Propeller can help drive traffic and provide links, though some sites including the first three in this list use the insidious nofollow tag, which means the links won’t help with SEO. It’s perfectly acceptable to link to your own content, as long as you don’t promote your own stuff exclusively. And if someone else bookmarks your content—vote it up!
9. Add your blog and feed links to blog directories and RSS syndication sites. These links can help drive direct traffic, increase your blog’s subscribers, and improve the position of your blog in search. Helpful, though slightly out-of-date lists of blog directories and RSS sites can be found on the TopRank blog and Robin Good’s site.
10. Link to other bloggers. The golden rule as applied to blogging would be: link unto others as you would have them link unto you. Almost every blogger appreciates links (it’s high praise that you find their content worth linking to) and many will return the favor in some way; by linking back to you, Tweeting up your blog post, social bookmarking it, etc. Linking to other blogs accomplishes at least three things: it’s social (and therefore may lead to a link back), it’s helpful to your readers (by pointing them to more information on a specific topic), and it demonstrates confidence.
11. Submit your blog to AllTop. This is very popular blog directory. It won’t necessarily drive a lot of direct traffic, but it helps, and you never know—Guy Kawasaki may end up retweeting one of your posts and giving you a huge spike in visits.
12. Add alt tags to images and use SEO-friendly file names. Google’s image search can drive a surprising amount of traffic. To optimize the images in your posts, use appropriate alt tags and descriptive file names (e.g., a photo of a polar bear should be named something like polar-bear.jpg, not image01243.jpg). Proper alt image tags also help with SEO of the post itself.
The first requirement of a successful blog launch is to create quality content and publish on a regular basis; weekly at a minimum, more frequently if possible. The second requirement is patience—being willing to stick with it even if your traffic doesn’t skyrocket immediately. There’s no way around that first requirement, but you’ll need less of the second if you utilize all of the avenues above to help your blog quickly build a respectable following.