How do you start from scratch yet create a top-ranked marketing blog in less than a year?
If I had anything close to a foolproof formula, I'd be making an infomercial right now rather than writing this article. Nevertheless, I can share some tips from my own experience to help you achieve success with your marketing blog.
Before you draw up a plan for your blog, do your homework. Find and read the top marketing bloggers (see Mack Collier's Top 25 list). Don't overlook new voices, however; they may have valuable ideas and a fresh perspective.
It's important to listen before jumping into a conversation—and that's what blogging is all about. Often the back-and-forth discussion that takes place in the comments is the most valuable part of a blog post.
I did nothing but read blogs and bookmark them for about a month before I moved on to Step 2, which is to join the conversation by leaving comments on the blogs that you read.
Rather than a bland "nice post" type of comment, write something that adds to the conversation. Why was the subject important to you? How can you use the information?
Now, when you leave your comment, here's where marketing magic begins. Most blogs have three boxes for personal information to identify the commenter:
- First, your name. Unless you are widely known by a nickname or pseudonym, always use your real name.
- The second piece of information requested is your email address; it will not be visible to readers but lets the author know that you're a real person, not a bot or spammer.
- The third blank to fill out is the URL of your Web site or blog, if you have one. When you add a URL in this space, it creates a hyperlink to your site, and when a reader mouses over your name, your blog title is displayed.
Because you've automatically generated a way for readers to find you, it's considered poor etiquette to use the comment space of someone else's blog for self-promotion. So resist the urge to hijack the comments; make your point, and use no more than one hyperlink. Most blog filters are defaulted to flag as spam any comment with two or more hyperlinks.
It's good to quote from industry leaders, but take time to formulate your opinions and express them in your own words. And don't write a lengthy essay that draws final conclusions, which has the effect of shutting off dialogue.
Learn to ask for comments in your post, and phrase them in a way that invites response.
When visitors comment on your blog, follow up with an appropriate response in the comment section. There's a fine line between dominating the conversation and keeping it going, so let several comments accumulate before you address them in the same reply.
Remember that commenters may not revisit your blog to see your reply, although this has been made much easier with new tools that allow RSS or email feeds for individual comments. Toby Bloomberg taught me an early lesson about responding to new commenters: She sent a short email thanking me for the comment and introducing herself. What a nice surprise for this brand-new blogger to get a personal email from the Diva! It started a conversation that has continued to this day.
A blog is not your only venue for interaction with readers and thought leaders. Take the conversation to another forum—a microblogging tool like Twitter, for example, or Facebook. More than 900 people follow me on Twitter, which provides many opportunities for interesting or helpful conversations. When I send a "tweet" with a link to a blog post, I always see a spike in traffic.
I do not treat Twitter, however, as just another marketing channel. Users who send only links and never engage with others will not find Twitter valuable.
Look for ways to extend the conversation to face-to-face meetings with other bloggers: Attend conferences, for example, or invite a local blogger to coffee. These connections will invigorate you and help you become better known in the marketing blogger community. When you visit the blog of a personal connection, it's like catching up with an old friend.
7. Rinse & Repeat
Don't rest on your laurels. Blogging is a long-term commitment, and you need to be aware of that—and prepared for it—going in. A writing schedule, or even an editorial calendar, can be a helpful tool to keep you producing fresh content on a timely basis. Set aside time each day to read and comment on other blogs.
Be prepared for serendipity. You never know where the connections you make online will lead. For example, an offhand remark by online friend Cathleen Rittereiser inspired me to start a breast cancer fundraising project called the Frozen Pea Fund, which came to the attention of writer Craig Colgan, who wound up quoting me in a story published in the Washington Post, and that led to... well, I'll have to get back to you.