Is it time to give up on blogging? Blogging declined 50% among Fortune 500 companies in the last year, a recent study found. But that may say more about how large companies are currently blogging than about what small companies can (and should) be doing.
When done right, blogging can attract a huge pool of prospective customers, yet most entrepreneurs' blogs trudge along with Alexa rankings north of a million.
Your blog doesn't have to suffer that fate. Here's how to go from 0 to 1,000 daily blog readers in six steps.
1. Don't fall for blogging scams
Be wary of outfits that make bombastic promises of turning your blog into an instant cash-generating machine, such as "Beat any competitor to Google's first page in less than a week!" and "Make money while you sleep."
Remember, to grow a blog and audience you have to start at the beginning and work your way up, one step at a time. In blogging, as in life, get-rich-quick schemes work only for the ones selling the schemes.
2. Start with great content
Before you tell people about your blog, create good content for them to read when they get there. I'm not talking about lists such as "Five Books Your Customers Need to Know," or "Top 5 Software Solutions You Should Consider." Those articles are the garbage liner of the Internet.
Instead, create content that is unique and valuable. Do you have insider industry news? Address the real questions and challenges that your customers face via detailed and valuable posts that offer real solutions.
Give them something to talk (or tweet) about. Don't worry about giving too much information away. In the world of blogging, the more you give, the more will come back to you.
3. Tell everyone you know
Once you've created blog content that will impress, reach out to everyone you know via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, telephone, and any other way you can think of. Tell them your goals for the blog, and ask for their feedback—via email or, better yet, the comments section. You can even ask them to help spread the word.
Expect to get 10-20 unique visitors per day once you're past the initial spike of one-time curiosity seekers.
4. Start building a community
Invest an afternoon to find well-written, engaging blogs that are fairly new and that receive fewer than 10-15 comments per post. Leave comments, and invite the bloggers to write guest posts on your blog. They will probably be thrilled at the opportunity to reach your audience, and they will tell people they know about their guest post on your blog. And, best of all, your network will thank you for the fresh content you're sending their way. This step can bring you 50-100 unique visitors per day.
5. Borrow some authority
Now that you have great content on your site with good traffic and reviews from your blogging community, aim to boost your traffic numbers to 200-400 unique visitors per day. Do that by guest-posting on bigger blogs in your space; follow these four steps:
- Find a handful of blogs you like that have an Alexa ranking of 100,000 or lower.
- Familiarize yourself with each one, and figure out what its readers will like.
- Leave insightful comments on three (or more) posts.
- Send the bloggers a short email that pitches your guest blog ideas.
When the bloggers agree to publish your guest post, send a draft within a couple of days. Be active and gracious when responding to comments to your post.
6. Get viral
Once you have more than 200 unique visitors per day, it's time to attempt going viral. Here are two ideas:
- Run a series of excellent posts about your subject, and add an incentive for sharing, such as a drawing people can enter when they comment.
- Create an awesome piece of content, and give it away in exchange for prospects' sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. (You can do that via free services such as Cloud:flood or Pay with a Tweet.) A few such campaigns, if properly executed, can bring you 500-1,000+ unique visitors.
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When is the right time to monetize a blog? When readers love your content, selling is easy, and you have many ways to do it. What is essential, though, is that you focus on building that audience.
When people ask why a site isn't making money, the answer, often, is... nobody is visiting it. Growing your audience first will solve that problem. You can turn your blog readers into repeat visitors and buyers on your website in many ways. Conversion Rate Experts, for example, has posted a valuable article with 108 conversion-optimization tips—a great example of how good content can turn blog readers into customers!