Welcome to my new “How To Blog” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowledge to good use and shed some light on the basic of blogging. You will learn how to set up a self-hosted blog, what are the must-have plugins, how to attract readers, how to monetize your blog etc. I’ll publish a new “How To Blog” post every Saturday.
Indeed, what most people (including me when I first started) don’t realize, is no matter how great your blog is, chances are that if you don’t promote it, people won’t find it. There are apparently over 50-60 millions blogs worldwide and your blog could be lost in a dark corner of the internet forever if you don’t “hunt” for readers.
There are basically three steps that you can take to make sure you give your blog a chance to be seen:
- SEO your blog
- Get the word out
- Connect to the blogosphere
Do you remember the time when Google was just a convenient tool to find the latest movie reviews or restaurants nearby? Well, now that you are actually part of internet, chances are you will develop a hate/ love relationship with most search engines! Indeed, the first thing you need to do after you create a blog is have it referenced. And it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Some people even turned that into a science, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), where they compete for the best spot on search results and try to be seen everywhere. I’m not a SEO expert, but I can at least give you these few tips:
- Help Google find you: if you’re not on Google, you don’t exist. Google your blog’s name and check that right away! If you don’t see your website, you can submit it for inclusion in Google’s index. Do the same with other major search engines. Google also has a very interesting page with tools for webmasters worth checking out (Google Webmaster Central). And if you’re using WordPress, check out the Google Sitemap Generator plugin.
- Submit you blog to a few directories: blog directories will also help people find you. Watch out: there are thousands of directories because apparently, a while ago, people thought they would be easy money. Stay away from directories which don’t look professional, have a low page-rank (or none) and ask you to pay big bucks to be listed. You don’t need that! But bigger and free directory are worth it: BlogCatalog, Blogorama, Superblogdirectory etc.
- Take any help you can: I personally use the All In One SEO WordPress plugin, because as I mentioned before, SEO isn’t my strength. You can also use some free online tools to check your SEO, like the SEO Tool Score, or LinkVendor.
Once this is done, stop talking to the machines and talk to humans. You know, people, behind the computer. Yep. You now need to get the word out.
- Participate in forums: an easy way to get the word out is to participate in forum. Most of them will allow you to put a link to your blog as a signature, and if you ask interesting questions or help others, chances are that you will get noticed. The two bigger webmasters/ blog forums that I know are Digital Point and Bloggeries. Both are also very useful for their tips on blogging and SEO. Don’t forget there might be forums in your niche as well (expats, travel, stay at home moms etc.)
- Be part of a blog network: In my opinion, blog communities are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are a great way to discover new blogs and networks in your niche. On the other hand, being truly active in a blog community is pretty time-consuming… and your blog should be your main focus! Anyway, some communities are fun and are worth being checked out: MyBlogLog (and their popular widget), BlogCatalog, SpicyPage… just to name a few.
- Visit and comment on blogs: That definitely should be your main focus. Blogging is a two way thing and people who don’t exchange ideas or communicate well don’t usually last long. Find blogs in your niche or on a subject you’re interested in and comment if you can. It won’t be long before the curious blog owner will visit you blog! Think of checking out blogrolls as well.
And finally, once you start getting visitors, it’s important for you to connect to the blogosphere, otherwise your readership won’t increase. So don’t forget to:
- Be active in the blogosphere: Although it’s impossible to participate every meme that you get tagged for (and you will, trust me!), doing one once in a while can’t hurt. Pick one that you are interested in (can never go wrong with the “things about me…“) and complete it, with some link back to the blogger who tagged you. Don’t forget to tag others as well! Photography hunt are another great way to connect blog. I personally participate in Graham’s monthly photo hunt and usually get a nice visitors boost to my blog. Plus, it’s fun!
- Get Stumbled Upon and Stumble/ Digg etc.: Stumble Upon is an awesome tool to browse websites, tag the ones you like and discover the best of the web. And if by chance your blog get Stumbled, you will likely experience a big traffic boost! It’s quite amazing, trust me. So while you can’t Stumble your own blog, don’t forget to Stumble the articles or posts that you really liked and chances are you will receive a nice Stumble once in a while too. Same thing with Digg that I haven’t personally tested.
- Host a contest or participate in one: Once great way to connect with other bloggers is to host a contest. I organized two contests so far (to win three free ad spots on my blog) and I experienced quite a boost in my traffic. You don’t have to give away expensive prices to have fun: ad spots, reviews, links etc. can be great rewards as well. Participating in a contest is usually rewarding as well, especially most contest hosts link to all participants.
So, I hope you are now “hunting” for readers! See you next week for another chapter in the “How To Blog” series.