Did you know the blog started life as an online ‘Dear Diary’ where early Internet enthusiasts recorded their deep thoughts or vapid ramblings? Justin’s Links, widely recognized as one of the first blogs ever, was a collection of interesting links that Justin Hall, then a student at Swarthmore College, happened to discover in the early days of the Web — sort of like an early StumbleUpon, which then turned into a personal diary that Hall maintains to this day.
The blog has come a long way from its humble origins to become a powerful force to reckon with in the world of brands that benefit from it and individuals who earn their livelihoods out of it. Whether you are a mommy blogger making some extra cash on the side or are the content marketing brains behind your brand’s blogging efforts, there’s one thing that lies at the core of every blog — its readership.
A blog without readers is like a guitar that is never played — full of music waiting to burst forth, but with no one to play it. You definitely don’t want that for your blog. What you DO want is for all that effort — setting it up, writing posts and maintaining it — to be enjoyed by real readers who keep coming back for each new post.
A great way of making sure your blog reaches out to the widest audience possible is by developing multiple channels where your thoughts can be published. Here’s my pick of the best marketing publication channels you should nurture for your blog.
The quickest way to get your writing in front of thousands (maybe even millions) of new readers is by posting your articles on popular blogs that accept guest posts. Now, if that were all there was to it, then everyone would do just this, right?
The biggest hurdle to guest blogging is to get a popular blog owner to agree to post your content. Well-read blogs like Mashable or Copyblogger have strict requirements from guest posts and only accept works authored by popular writers who have an established niche.
So how do you break into the big boys’ club? By starting small and keeping at it until you become big enough to play with them.
- Reach out to family, friends or professional acquaintances who have their own personal blogs and ask them to publish your posts as a favor to you. Return the favor to them to build a circle of trust around you.
- If you work for a company that has a brand blog, figure out ways in which your work can get featured on the brand blog. Chances are that it will already have a substantial number of readers and will offer you a ready-made audience.
- Shortlist popular blogs in your niche that you would like to target. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to identify trending topics, top influencers and most popular blogs in your niche.
- Reach out to the blog owners and start building a relationship with them. This article on blogger outreach breaks it down into easily digestible chunks.
- Publish your content!
Any blogger worth his or her salt puts in efforts to build an email database from day one. The whole idea of an email database is that your readers don’t have to remember to come to your blog to read your new content. They can just get it straight to their inbox every time you choose to publish a new post that you want to share with your readers.
Ensure you collect the email IDs of your readers and get their approval to reach out to them in the form of a newsletter with explicit and unmissable subscription forms on your blog. It’s a good idea to have your ‘Subscribe to Newsletter’ widget on each page of your blog to enable quick and easy signups.
Things to remember when sending out email newsletters:
- Don’t spam your readers with emails from your sponsors and advertising partners. It lowers the value of your blog in your readers’ perception and may cause them to unsubscribe from your list altogether.
- Keep in touch regularly via email, but don’t overdo it. Sending a new post a day is OK, but sending out four new posts in the form of a different email each is definitely overkill
- Pick subject lines that are directly relevant to your content. This will increase the chances of a user opening your email. It will also help users filter through your emails for important content at a later date.
Social Bookmarking Sites
Social media is not just for cat memes and blatant product plugs. Some of the most enjoyable and useful content on social media actually leads you away from social media and towards a third party site or blog that hosts this content.
Harness the power of social media and the millions of people who swear by it to publish your content as widely as possible. Post manually, or by linking your blog to each social network you are active on for automatic blog updates through your social media management tool like a Hootsuite or Buffer. Interact with your social media followers when they comment on your blog post to make them more engaged and involved with your writing.
Social bookmarking sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Goodreads and NewsVine allow users to discover new content in their niche areas of interest. They also allow authors to submit their posts so they can gain exposure to relevant audiences. Submit your blog to a site like this that matches your area of interest and get automatic traffic to your blog.
The best way of building your brand and community is undoubtedly by making your company blog the go-to resource for content and news related to your industry, without being promotional. However, who said a blog had to be all about words?
Video logs, photo sharing sites and other writing based platforms allow users to read, share and store their best thoughts and moments online.
Use platforms like YouTube or Vimeo for video content regarding your niche. Tumblr prefers short thought provoking posts which usually include a great image or two accompanied by limited copy. A Flickr channel of your own is a great investment if you have images (your own images which you have the right to publish) that users will love to view and share. Medium is a great place to write thought provoking long form content for various topics in the company of professional writers.
Q&A Forums and Sites
Finding answers on the Web is often about ‘Googling’ your query directly into a browser address bar and waiting for the results.
However, there are also a whole host of forums and Q&A sites that allow one on one user interaction in a community setup. Yahoo Answers, Answers.com and Quora are some notable examples. Many forums cater to deeper interests in specific fields like Android developers, Ruby on Rails programming etc.
Pick a forum that caters to your specific niche, roll up your sleeves and get started. Choose questions that you can answer competently and accurately. Now go back to your blog and write a post as a reply to the chosen question. Go back to the forum and reply to the question with the blog post link in your answer to the stated question. Things to keep in mind:
- Don’t post replies on every possible question you encounter. Pick a question that is genuine and seeking real information. Nobody cares to read answers to silly questions like ‘how many tigers did Calvin have?’ or the like.
- Try and pick questions that have not received too many answers yet. This will ensure visibility for your reply.
- Don’t spam the forum with your blog links or you’ll stand a good chance of being kicked off by the forum community. Worse, you’ll end up building a bunch of low quality links back to your blog; which can lead to a Google penalty that will take thousands of dollars to fix.
Have any exciting channels that you use to publish your blogs that I haven’t covered here?