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April 23, 2006

How to Grow Your Blog’s Readership

Posted in: Blog Promotion

Guy Kawasaki has a useful post 10 lessons he’s learnt in How to Evangelize a Blog over his first 120 days of blogging. Here’s his list with a few of my own comments (his is the ‘bold’ (and he has more to say under each) mine is the rest):

1. Think ‘book’ not ‘diary’ - I like the analogy between book and diary. The crux of Guy’s argument is that books are meant to be read and diaries are more spontaneous, unplanned, unstructured writings. I’m a big believer in planning your blog on multiple fronts (ie not just planning your upcoming content but overall direction, marketing of it etc). While some diary style blogs can be quite successful (for what they are) most of the highly trafficked blogs have some element of focus and well defined niche. If you’re writing in a business or entrepreneurial style then you will want to think through strategy (more on this in my strategic blogging series).

2. Answer the little man - Guy’s seeing little people sitting on his shoulder critiquing what he writes (as you do) but his point is solid - be your own critic, don’t just write for the sake of it, produce content that matters. Each post you write has the potential to add or subtract value to your blog and it’s worth asking yourself which it is before hitting publish.

3. Collect email addresses - This is something I go on about from time to time and is something I’m seeing a lot of the top bloggers out there utilizing. There are many ways to do it ranging from starting an email newsletter (getting permission from readers to highlight your work) to using other email lists you might already have (be a little careful with this as it’s open to abuse).

4. Collect links for blog rolling - One of the aspects of blogging that has led to it’s viral like growth as a medium is it’s interconnectedness. Bloggers linking to other bloggers helps everyone and fast tracks you getting noticed by others. I’m not a big fan of the blogroll myself and these days my preference os to be a generous linker within individual posts. I find blogrolls can become difficult to manage, actually send limited amounts of traffic, can become somewhat political and at popularity content like. However linking within posts to other blogs seems a much more organic and natural way to link to others. I find it also has more impact in terms of the traffic you can send which has the potential to not only get attention but give your readers quality and relevant content.

5. Scoop stuff - Getting a scoop is another fast track to readership. Break a big story and have the right A-list blog link to you and you’ll find not only a lot of traffic come directly from them but indirectly from the many smaller blogs that will link up as a result. The other benefit of it beyond the initial traffic and inbound links is the respect and street credibility that can come from breaking a big story. I find that once you break one story you often get others broken directly to you by ’sources’. Once this happen the snowball effect takes over and you can build a reputation for being someone in the know. More on Scoop Blogging.

6. Supplement other bloggers with a followup entries - Another aspect of blogging that I love is it’s conversational nature. Dialogue is at the heart of blogging on many levels including within comments on posts but also between blogs as they build upon each others ideas with posts. Take the work of another person and add your own spin on it either on their blog, via email with them or on your own blog and you enter the conversation. Once you’re a part of the conversation it’s amazing what can flow from it.

7. Acknowledge and respond to commenters - very important but a real challenge when your blog grows past a certain level. When someone goes out of their way to add something to the conversation you start by leaving an opinion, question, critique or suggestion it’s a powerful thing to acknowledge this in some way. This might mean leaving a comment in response but could also be a personal email response (I find this is incredibly effective) or even a visit to their blog with a comment on one of their posts (even more of an impact). As Guy says, this is not always easy once you’ve got a lot of traffic but is important to do at some level even after you’ve succeeded in growing an audience. If you don’t use your comments section, why would anyone else?

8. Ask for help - I discovered early in my own blogging that despite it’s reputation for snarkiness the blogging community can actually be an incredibly generous and supportive place. Ask for help and you could be amazed by what results. I find that people respond well to humility and to ask for help in some aspect of your blogging (from spreading the word, to helping with some technical problem you have, to helping you compile content etc) actually gives your readers a sense of ownership - something that has many benefits.

9. Be bold - Guy says to speak your mind as a blogger and not hold back from saying what you think. This is true and one aspect of ‘boldness’ that I’d encourage. Of course you want to consider what you say when you’re writing in what can be seen as an aggressive or attacking tone. My own approach to blogging is to attempt to find constructive things to say instead of just attacking others. Another aspect of boldness that is worth mentioning is that while humility is usually responded to well in blogging circles that there is often a need for a little self promotion. I’m not arguing that you need to aggressively sell yourself in a hype filled marketing blitz, but I’ve found that it can be occasionally beneficial to give readers a reason to read you by showing them your wares.

10. Make it easy to join up - Once again Guy’s on the money here by encouraging bloggers to use tools that help readers to stay connected. RSS feeds, email newsletters, RSS to email subscription services, encouraging readers to bookmark pages etc are all examples of this.

Found via an email from Dave


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