To find readers for your blog, you must first develop a thick skin.
When you start a blog one of the things you first notice is that, unless you’re writing for an established brand or company, you aren’t going to have any readers.
This kind of thing is to be expected, of course, but the next question becomes (assuming you are blogging because you want to be heard, not for some mindless search engine optimization exercise) how to find readers for your blog?
Not only must you compete with literally millions of other blogs for attention, you’ve got social networks like Facebook and Twitter to distract potential visitors away. What’s worse? Most young blogs rely on those same attention sucking social networks to bring people to their blog in the first place!
I have found that persistence, patience and the ability to have thick skin are all key in growing your blog.
So what is a blogger to do?
Until you build up a readership that reaches critical mass (large enough that your readers will promote your content for you) you’ll just have to suck it up and use Twitter, Facebook, search optimization, link sites like Stumbleupon, Reddit and other blogs to find traffic.
The last thing that you’ll want to do, after writing a long-form, thoughtful blog post is to go and promote it. But, promote it you shall, if you want anyone to read.
Here are a few resources you can use to make the process of promoting and finding readers for your blog.
Twitter can be, and usually is, a great way to promote your content. Problem is, everyone uses Twitter this way. So how do you do that without getting trampled by everyone else desperate to promote their stuff?
First, I’d recommend a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. These are sites where you can schedule tweets to be sent out at defined intervals (or in the case of Buffer, at random times). From my experience, you’ll want to make sure you tweet out a link to your blog posts more than once. As you know, people tend to follow hundreds if not thousands of people on Twitter. What that means is your link can quickly be lost in a sea of other links in the feed. Since you are going to be tweeting the same link numerous times (don’t be a jerk and spam it more than a few times, several hours apart), you might as well play around with alternate ways of promoting your tweet. Try using #hashtags with keywords that reference the subject of your tweet (for example, a post about SEO might have a #seo tag).
I actually tend to get more interaction and clicks on my blog posts via Facebook, so don’t discount using that. The people you are connected to on Facebook are, by definition really, you’re friends. Most of the folks I follow on Twitter (or who follow me) are total strangers. Friends tend to take a look at what you’ve written and better still, comment. Just don’t expect them to comment on your blog itself unless you made it really easy for them. Installing Facebook Connect as the commenting engine for your blog, for example, increases the chance of your readers commenting.
Stumbleupon is a cute little gimmick to get web traffic and some views. I only really care about qualified views on my site, but some people want to goose traffic numbers. Stumbleupon is really just what it sounds like – a site to go to to be fed random links. The idea is as you are served these random links, any links you have submitted to the service get showed to someone else, etc. Typically there isn’t a lot of loyalty with visitors from Stumbleupon, as you might expect.
Reddit has made a resurgence in the demise of Digg. In its simplest form, sites like these are social news site where stories bubble to the top as a result of the community voting on them. The potential to draw lots of traffic to your blog with a site like Reddit makes it worth submitting links to, if you have something that appeals to its tech savvy audience. I wouldn’t expect a lot of traffic from Reddit if you are blogging about health care, education or anything non-video game or pop culture related. Your milage my vary.
Ass kissing helps in any endeavor
Pressing lips to backside never hurts in the pursuit of traffic (or even attention) to your site. Many a social media expert was born by retweeting and writing summary blog posts praising a particularly popular internet celebrities. Everyone likes to feel special.
I can assure you I don’t resort to this particular tactic, but I can also assure you that I know it works.
Reading and commenting on other blog sites, especially written by people you admire and respect, yields positive results over time. Be a part of the communities that spontaneously pop up on other sites, contribute something worthwhile and maybe those people will check out your site.
Speaking of things everyone else does? Blog comments and links. It makes me feel dirty, but even in 2012 this still works to get links to your site, as well as traffic. If you must leave a link to your site in the comment of someone else’s blog post remember two things. First, try to make your comment at least thoughtful. For the love of god, have something to say, don’t just drop a link and click send. Secondly and most important, don’t get bent out of shape when your comment is trashed. For some reason, bloggers think that if you let someone who left a constructive comment on their site then you are stealing their audience. Its pretty ridiculous, but such is life. Many blogs these days moderate comments, and I’ve seen about a 80% rate of comments with links never making it past moderation.
The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. Along the way, search engines will find your huge mound of fresh content and start to assign your blog posts to search results. If you have been optimizing your content (or just wrote something good from the start that is highly informed/relevant) you shouldn’t have a problem finding natural traffic coming to your site. It will take longer, but its one of those self-sustaining types of things that will let you focus on the content and not so much the promotion. And who doesn’t want to do that?
If you are doing your job, and writing well-researched posts, then you probably have at least seen another post somewhere on the web that you got an idea from, disagree with or just thought was interesting. Link to that post in yours. This provides a great service for your readers, enhancing your content, and might earn you a reciprocal link down the line.
Finally, ask questions.
One of the most frustrating parts of blogging, at least for me, is spending an hour writing a 1200 word post that gets zero comments. I know people are reading (by checking analytics) but why aren’t they replying? Did you ask them to reply? Maybe ask their take on your post, or if they have any tips or tricks they’d like to share.
Speaking of – these are my suggestions for building your blog. Many of them I am implementing here on my site. Do you have any others to add to the list? Let me know!