Any time you start a new blog, the biggest concern tends to be “how do I build traffic?” Unless you’re hiring or have a crack team of web gurus who know the tricks for building up your blog fast, you’ll just have to do it yourself. However, if you haven’t luxury of a big budget and have minimal time, one recourse is to bootstrap your blog traffic with the same general principles with which entrepreneurs bootstrap their startup businesses with minimal funds and resources.
Here are some tips for leveraging your publishing and promotional plan to build initial trickles of traffic into much more.
- Write content and publish consistently. It’s easy to come up with a plan, even create an editorial calendar. It’s much harder to actually stick to a consistent schedule. This is a common area of difficulty for bloggers, but important to master. Let’s just say that search engines and readers both love consistency of frequency. Unless you’re running a news site, you don’t necessarily have to publish tons of content daily.
- Tweak your content to searches. You don’t want to cater entirely to site visitors’ searches, but do focus on search keywords that are relevant to your site’s niche. If visitors are reaching your site via a particular search but the “bounce” (leaving) rate is high, then they probably didn’t find the content they were seeking. Mine your site metrics for the most popular search terms for the recent past, then see if you can write content to match, while staying within your site’s niche.
- Build up your posting frequency. Start small, build up your content as time, resources or budget permits. Additional content will bring additional readers, especially if you’re leveraging your social media channels.
- Build your social networks. There are a variety of social networks, including social bookmarking sites (Stumbleupon, Delicious), social voting sites (Digg, Sphinn, Mixx, Reddit, Propeller), Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, other blogs, forums, media sharing sites (Flickr, YouTube, Scribd, Slideshare) and so on. Don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to build your social networks, so work at it daily if possible. Of course, having these networks is useless unless you leverage them to promote your content.
- Promote content on at least two social media sites. There are a variety of ways to promote your content, including the social media sites mentioned above, as well as a variety of non-social profile pages that are free for use. These methods differ in the amount of Web traffic they each bring, though collectively they can make a tremendous difference to your site. You don’t have to use all of these methods, especially when you’re starting out. Bloggers differ on what they feel is most important, but if you have to pick just two to start with, a few of my blogging colleagues have variously suggested the following pairs as being “most” effective, in their experience:
- Stumbleupon and Digg.
- Stumbeupon and Twitter.
- Twitter and Facebook.
- Twitter and Digg.
Personally, I’d pick Twitter and Facebook, but it really depends on your content and your social networks. Promoting content successfully online really is about who you know and whether they’ll share your content. If you can get them to do it regularly, even better. Your Facebook Wall or a Fan Page serve as great reminders. Just don’t overdo it, and learn to balance promotion and social network building tasks when you’re not writing.
- Deep link to your older content. For each new post that you write, you should try to link to at least two older posts in your own site’s archives. If your post is sufficiently long, you can link to more than two. Remember to link with appropriate keywords in the anchor text. The cynic might say that this is a cheap way to get more page views for your site, but linking to your own existing content from each new post serves multiple purposes
- Keep readers on your site. Yes, that gets you more page views, but is there really anything wrong with that if you’re giving readers what they want, possibly in your archives?
- Expose older content to readers who might have missed it.
- Build authority for your site for the keywords and variations used in link anchor text (more on this in a later post). From a search engine perspective, keep in mind that they all want relevant links to give to search users. If your site happens to have relevant links, why not emphasize that by deep linking? This potentially helps to reduce the waiting time it takes to rank in search engines.
- Throw a whammy at site scrapers who grab your content. They might steal your content but having a link to your own posts means you’ll at least know who did it and be able to take action, if desired.
- Use target=”_blank” in your hyperlinks. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry for now. If you do know, then use it for any links that go outside of your sites. This way, the main browser window/ tab stays on your site, hopefully keeping readers there longer and potentially building traffic.
If you are bootstrapping with limited resources and funds, you can ease into your publishing and promotion plan. Though the more effort you put in early on, the sooner you hit the point of exponential growth. If you have a blog for your business, build it steadily, keep costs to a minimum, bootstrap your way to higher blog traffic to gain leads and sale. If you get too overwhelmed, hire an intern until you can afford to hire staff or an agency such as Performancing Services.