Finding your niche, developing your website and writing content are relatively straight forward compared to figuring out how to promote your blog. The key to success in marketing your blog is making sure you understand who your target readers are and where they “hang out”. The blog promotion methods highlighted below are approaches I have used in promoting my own sites. Not every method will apply to your site, but they should get you thinking about what’s necessary to get your blog noticed.
Good luck with promoting your blog and let me know in the comments section if any of these tips worked well for you.
Search Engine Marketing/SEO
If you check on the traffic sources for virtually every successful website/blog you will see organic (meaning “non-paid”) search engine traffic as the number one source. The three big players in the search engine market are Google, Bing and Yahoo. From a market share perspective, Google controls about 67%, Bing is at 18% and Yahoo stands in third at 11%.
SEO is a whole discipline in itself with complexities and nuances which can’t be succinctly stated. There are, however, several easy steps that you can take that will dramatically increase your traffic from the search engines. For each article/post that you publish, you should:
- Choose a target keyword/phrase – you should be selecting a target keyword that your article will be about. Ideally you should select your keyword with some insight into how hard it will be to rank on the search engines. My favorite tool for this research is Market Samurai.
- Use your target keyword in your page title, page URL, first paragraph, header and alt image tags – this reinforces to Google what your page is about.
- Write a killer Meta Description – this is what gets displayed in search engine results. The “catchier” this is, the more clicks you will get to your site.
Search Engine Advertising/PPC Marketing
Search engine advertising is when you bid on search terms in a marketplace to have your ads placed on the top of search results. Google’s advertising program is called Adwords, while Yahoo and Bing have teamed up for their advertising program referred to as Bing Ads. Many internet marketers refer to search engine advertising simply as PPC (pay per click) marketing because you only pay for the ad when a user clicks on it.
I am continually amazed at how often bloggers ignore the potential of search engine advertising. When I was working in the corporate world we used PPC for virtually all of our products…but it’s always easier to spend someone else’s money – isn’t it? I’m not sure if the reluctance comes from the feared complexity, the thought of spending a lot of money, or the uncertainty of the results.
When I first experimented with Adwords on one of my own niches, I was blown away by the results. I was hoping to break even (my increased revenue would match how much I spent in advertising). Furthermore, I was expecting a trickle of new traffic to the website. The reality was far more dramatic – within the first month I was generating thousands of dollars of incremental profit (i.e., my new revenue from the advertising campaigns exceeded the cost by thousands of dollars).
PPC Marketing may not work for every niche or every blogger but it is definitely something you should consider. With PPC marketing (on both Google and Bing/Yahoo) you can:
- Determine which keywords you want to bid on.
- Set a maximum bid amount – the most you are willing to pay for a click.
- Set a daily maximum budget – the most you are willing to spend.
- Specify start dates and end dates for your campaign.
- Select regions of the country/world where the ads will be shown.
For more advanced PPC marketers, you are able to:
- Specify different bids for mobile users versus desktop/tablet users.
- Select different bids depending on the time of day.
- Choose your ads to be displayed on websites other than search engines.
- Target your ads by interest/topics.
If you have a strong monetization model on your website, and just need more traffic – then PPC marketing may be the answer you were looking for.
If you’ve already exploited search engine advertising with success and are looking for more traffic from diverse sources there are plenty of avenues to look at. I have tried and had success with the following advertising channels:
- Facebook – sophisticated ways to target users (like Lookalike Audience). The best ads will drive engagement and cause users to “share” or “like” your ad.
- Twitter – you can pay for “Promoted Tweets” and help build your followers or drive traffic to your blog.
- StumbleUpon Paid Discovery – I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of traffic that my initial “Paid Discovery” campaign generated. Unfortunately, the new traffic did not convert well!
These are some advertising methods that are “on my radar” but I have not had the chance to try yet:
- Linked In
- Direct Advertising – oftentimes websites will allow you buy advertising directly from them
- Advertising Networks – such as AdRoll, Advertising.com, and AdBlade
Forum Marketing/Be an Expert
Every niche that you could possibly target probably already has at least one active forum already associated with it. These forums are a goldmine for your niche. Researching these forums can help you identify:
- New article topics to write on.
- Questions that users struggle with.
- Who the other players are in the niche.
From a traffic promotion standpoint, there are several opportunities for you to explore. The ultimate opportunity for you is to become a trusted expert in your niche on a highly trafficked/credible forum. In this case, being an expert is NOT continuously posting meaningless comments with a link to your site in your signature. To become a trusted expert you need to provide meaningful advice to users posting questions on the forum.
When I was researching how to use DFP for an ad server, I stumbled upon a Google Help forum dedicated to DFP. When I was reading through the various threads, I kept being impressed by the responses of the user “oncalladops”. Her responses seemed well thought out and weren’t “salesy”. Additionally, she had earned badges for “Top Contributor” and “100 Best Answers”. Several months later when I needed some DFP consulting, I remembered her username and ended up hiring her. She was excellent, and I also (later) recommended her to other users on the same forum.
Best practices for becoming a forum expert:
- Find a trusted, well-trafficked forum in your niche. Search “your niche” +forum in Google to start the search. Visit the forums and see how up to date they are and how many threads are active.
- Remember that your first priority for posting in the forum is to provide useful advice to the user. This should be a higher priority than promoting your own blog.
- Keep your self-promotion to a minimum. You should never directly promote your blog by referring to it or linking to it in your comment/post – you will instantly lose your credibility.
- Use your forum signature and profile to describe yourself/your site and provide a link.
Networking/Know the Players
Every niche will have existing players who have already established themselves as authorities. These “power bloggers” will have well-trafficked websites, large twitter followings, and will be quoted/referenced in many other websites. You need to identify these power bloggers and learn from them. You need to study their sites, subscribe to their emails, follow them on twitter and comment on their sites. Ultimately you should be striving to develop a relationship with them. Developing a relationship with them will take time, persistence and perhaps some luck. Don’t blast them with spam, seeking advice or offering them something…this never works. If you do, however, develop a relationship with a power blogger, the opportunities are enormous – a tweet, link or endorsement from a power blogger can dramatically help establish yourself as a player in the industry.
Here are some ways to help start a relationship with a power blogger
- Leave meaningful comments on their posts. Many bloggers pay attention to the comments on their posts – especially the early comments. If you can leave comments that expand on their topic or enlighten them, you may be surprised at the attention you will receive.
- Selectively retweet some of their tweets with genuine comments or feedback.
- Engage them on Facebook and tag their Facebook page.
- Mention/link to their blog from your site. Often times they will notice these links through pingbacks, trackbacks or Google Alerts.
- Seek opportunities to connect with them in person at networking or speaking events. Off-line networking is very powerful…don’t overlook it.
Many bloggers underestimate the potential of promoting your blog on YouTube. Depending on who you ask, YouTube is either the second or third largest “search engine” in the world. Each month over 1 billion unique users visit YouTube. Since Google started adding YouTube results to their default search, the opportunity for marketing on YouTube has only increased.
To take advantage of YouTube, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Create a branded channel – creating your own branded channel (with a custom URL) is a must. You will be seen as more professional.
- Keep your videos short and engaging – keep your videos shorter than two minutes. Short and engaging is the key to success with videos.
- Insure your videos are high quality – you don’t need to hire a production company to produce high quality videos. Personally, I have created some high quality videos by converting a high quality powerpoint slide presentation to a video format (it’s a native feature of the later versions of PowerPoint). All of the graphics, animations, transitions and timing can be accomplished in power point and then output as a video.
- Leverage Annotations – annotations are a YouTube feature that lets you put links or text over your videos. These annotations can be humorous commentary, appeals for subscriptions, or links to your blog. Annotations, if used correctly, can boost your views and traffic.
Depending on your niche, Social Media can be a huge driver of traffic to your blog. Here are the social media platforms that you should consider/prioritize:
The potential of each of these sites depends on your topic and desired audience. Pinterest and Instagram are great platforms if you have a visually interesting niche (like food, style or design). LinkedIn and Google+ work well for more professional related content.
No matter which platforms you choose to prioritize, the best approach to leverage social media includes:
- Sharing valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis.
- Encouraging your visitors to share/like your content.
- Joining relevant groups – Both Facebook and LinkedIn have active groups in virtually every topic.
Other Opportunities to Promote your Blog
Social Bookmarking Sites – promoting your blog/content on “Social Bookmarking” sites such as Reddit, Stumbleupon, Digg or Delicious can be a good avenue if your topic matches up with the sites demographics/tastes.
PR/Public Relations – may be considered “old school” by some, but it is still plenty effective. If you can be a resource to traditional media outlets, you can generate credibility for yourself/your blog. You can try developing relationships with journalists who cover your space or consider sites such as helpareporterout.com or reporterconnection.com which connect journalists with experts.
Leverage/Share your Content – I have had some success with taking existing content, reformatting/repackaging it, and sharing it on sites such as slideshare.net, scribd.com and docstoc.com.
Provide Answers – besides industry specific blogs/forums, you may try answering readers’ questions on generic answer sites such as Quora or Yahoo Answers.
Your Network – don’t forget to leverage your personal network. Friends, family, past work colleagues can all help get the word out about your blog. Leverage your personal Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as your emails…just don’t overdo it!
How do you promote your blog? Share your own best practices by leaving a comment!