This will take an enormous amount of time and energy– probably a lot more than you even spend writing– so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t just happen. Here are 20 strategies for developing a blog following. Though everyone wants to be the next “viral” hit, most of us have to build a base of readers using the slow and steady method. It takes work, time, patience, and a bit of luck!
Before I begin, there is one disclaimer. This isn’t going to be a post about creating great content– that is assumed. You must put in the time to create writing that easy to read, relevant, helpful and/or entertaining. If you’ve done that, then proceed!
1. Develop a consistent writing schedule.
Be sure that whatever you plan ahead of time, you stick to it. Obviously, blogs that update daily will see more traffic, but it is far better to stick to once or twice a week, rather than promise a daily post and not be able to deliver on that promise.
2. Talk up your blog in the real world.
People often focus on blog traffic strategies online, and while they are important, you can also market your blog to local neighbors, friends, and colleagues. If you have a specific niche blog, see if you can write an article in your local newspaper and add your blog link at the bottom. A great example of this would be a recipe in a paper with a link to the food blogger’s website.
3. Offer incentives.
If you want more email subscribers, offer a free product or service. You can also host a giveaway or a reader of the month club too. The techie term for this is called an “opt-in”. A lot of professionals say that a pop up email form will gather more subscribers than if it sits on the sidebar. It’s a personal choice as to whether or not you want to use a pop-up, but email is still the fastest and easiest way into someone’s regular reading!
4. Create a rock solid gravatar and profile.
Every time you leave a comment on another blog, your profile and gravatar will show up next to your name. That is the way new readers can find you, so fill out all the important information like your web address, name, email, and catchy tag line.
5. Guest post.
A lot of bloggers have a once or twice a month guest posting opportunity. You write up an article for their blog, and then on the day it gets posted, you can get referral traffic through your signature at the bottom. Likewise, the host blogger gets promoted on your blog (where you write something like, “hey I blogged here today!”). This is a great way to cross promote. Hosting guests usually brings more readers than the other way around. There are a couple of issues however. It’s unlikely that you’ll score a guest posting opportunity on a blog that has a substantially larger following unless you have a relationship outside of the online world. It’s important that the guest post benefit both the writer and the host.
6. Join a blog hop.
These are hosted by highly trafficked blogs. It works like this: You paste your name and link in the blog hop post. Then you commit to visiting a couple other blogs on the list. Promote the blog hop through your social media channels, and hopefully other bloggers will do the same for you! This works to build your blogging network, but I’d warn against spending a lot of time with blog hops because they usually aren’t readers in your target audience. They are usually fellow bloggers. You need to build connections with both!
7. Connect with bloggers in a meaningful way through commenting.
This is one of the most effective ways to grow your blog following. Leave thoughtful comments. Decide where you want to comment — on the blog directly, or where it’s posted online (via Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.). There are benefits to leaving both types of comments. Commenting right on the blog creates a backlink to your site, and if it’s especially thoughtful, you may find the blogger (and other commenters) come over to visit you. Engaging on social media doesn’t leave a backlink to your blog, but it does create a sense of community and “aliveness” (yes I made that up), which will help build your exposure on whatever platform you’re on. Commenting on social media also gets your name in front of potential non-blogging readers.
8. Develop a brand.
I have a whole other article on branding, and the importance of developing an online presence that is easily remembered and specific. You can start by creating a tagline, picking six keywords that you want to focus on, and developing a logo. All of your social profiles should carry the same logo and tagline as well.
- Clawing your way to an online presence — the importance of building a brand — Coming this week on Fabulous Blogging!
9. Practice writing.
Many people have this association that blogging is a substandard form of writing, and in truth- there are a lot of blogs that are rundown, poorly written, and full of meaningless rants. That is why when someone stumbles upon a blog written well, there is a much higher likelihood that they will return again and again.
- Quotes on writing from famous writers
- The 22 rules of storytelling according to Pixar
- Secrets of well rounded blog content
10. Stand out.
You must find a way to stand out among the millions of bloggers and overwhelming amount of material that can be found on the Internet. Getting someone to land on your site is the easy part; getting them to stay and then return, takes work.
11. Use social media strategically.
Each platform has its benefits and you should plan to study the unique rules and etiquette so you don’t annoy or piss people off. It’s so easy for bloggers to see social media as one big megaphone to their content, but you must develop an online presence that is engaging and helpful, without being spammy.
12. Show, don’t tell.
This is a famous saying for fiction writers, but the same principle works for bloggers as well. When you are describing a story, show the reader how it felt to be there, don’t tell them. Use specifics whenever possible. Pictures and videos are important as well. Draw your reader into your life, your crafts, or your advice.
13. Pay it forward.
Whenever you can, thank your blog followers and fellow writers by mentioning them in your posts. A tribute type blog post is not only a great way to show gratitude, but increases your chances that your post will be broadcast through multiple channels. And share, share, share content that isn’t yours! Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.
14. Create a list of small goals.
Blogging can be discouraging when you have a bad day of traffic. If you write up a list of small goals like:
- Write a guest post for one blogger
- Comment on at least 5 new blogs
- Find and follow 3 new bloggers on twitter
You can feel like you are moving forward on the things that you DO have control over. Ultimately, traffic is out of your control. Do what you can do, and focus on that. There is no sense in wasting energy worrying about how you will get others to follow you.
15. Live a life that is worth writing about.
Get out and live. Do something extraordinary. Take a risk. When you are in the real world, finding solutions, making connections, and building relationships, you have more material to write about. People will be drawn to your experiences.
16. Provide a solution.
While a humorous and sarcastic post is fun to read, blogs that have a solution- be it in the form of inspiration, a tutorial, or a step by step guide, will ultimately attract more return visitors.
17. Start (or join) a group.
If you are a photoblogger, consider creating a group on Facebook where you all can collaborate, share resources, and support each other. You can do this for any blog niche, and you’ll feel less like a small fish in a big pond. Now you’ll be part of a school! If you don’t want to start one, join ours! Google + is a fantastic place to start if you want to network with other people.
18. Experiment with video logging, or vlogging.
This is a new trend in blogging that is proving to be quite popular. Even if you are not comfortable with a camera, you get readers closer to you as a person if you use various media. Try a vlog once in a while and you may catch a few new readers in the process.
19. Develop an email newsletter.
Some bloggers offer a free monthly newsletter or other goodies when readers sign up for a blog subscription. You start by having an email widget in your sidebar so people can easily plug in their address to receive updates. Then, once a month, write an email exclusive newsletter with tips and tricks for your particular niche.
20. Register with blogging directories.
Find a directory in your niche and sign up. You may have to put a badge on your sidebar, but this will help you get noticed by other bloggers who write on similar topics.
21. Start another blog!
If your main blog is a commentary on education, why not start a different blog for your other interests? You may gain a different audience and once in a while, you can cross reference. Since I’ve started fabulous blogging, I’ve gained more traffic on my personal blog as a result. This also works if you start writing for other sites like HubPages and Squidoo. You will find new communities of people to connect with.
With every article I write on blog traffic building, I remind writers of this key principle; patience is crucial. Though many people claim to have the answer to immediate and viral success, gathering a group of loyal readers takes time and energy. In the meantime, enjoy the process of blogging, and don’t concentrate too much on the numbers.