Note: This is Part Three in my series on growing your blog platform. You can catch up here on Part One: How to Grow Your blog platform and Part Two: Guerilla Facebook marketing tips.
It seems ludicrous, doesn't it? And yet... when it comes to your blogging presence, have you ever been an impatient platform-builder? It's human nature to want the big pay-off for very little effort. We're too impatient to build a proper foundation, and then wonder why others seem to have more success than us.
Today, we're getting back to the basics of platform building. These are the essential tools you'll need to set your blog up for success and begin building a following.
Set your blog up for success1. Create an opt-in incentive.
From day one, you should have a free product on offer when someone subscribes to your blog. Without an "email magnet" such as this, your blog is like a leaky boat - the traffic comes, and the traffic goes. Your product should be tailored to meet the felt need of your target demographic. It could be a resource list, a cheat sheet, a free printable, an e-book, a special report, or any number of other products. After a year of blogging, I'd amassed just 150 email subscribers. I offered a book to my followers and gained 1000 new subscribers in the space of three days. Incentives work!
2. Create a landing page.
This is the page on your blog that showcases your opt-in incentive. You can see mine here. You'll see why you need one soon.
3. Own your list.
Don't rely on Feedburner - your email list is your most valuable asset as a blogger, and you need to own it in case you ever need to migrate. Rumours have been floating around for a couple of years now that Google is going to shut down Feedburner altogether. I don't know about you, but I don't want my number one asset at the mercy of the capricious Google gods. I recommend Mailchimp, which is free until you reach 2000 subscribers. With this program you can set up an RSS feed to email campaign, so your blog posts will be delivered automatically to your followers. Once you have a solid list, your need to "hustle" in order to promote your blog will markedly decrease!
So you have the ground work in place... now how do you get the subscribers?
Get your name out there1. Comment on blogs.
Find blogs that speak to your demographic and become a part of the community. When you comment regularly and contribute something valuable to the conversation, bloggers get to know who you are, and so do other readers. Quick tips:
- If the comment form includes a place to add your blog link, link back to your opt-in incentive landing page, rather than your home page.
- Create a system for commenting. You could bookmark a list of all the blogs you wish to hit in priority order, or try using a blog reader such as Bloglovin' or Feedly. Consistency is key.
- Comment on both big and small blogs. It could take a long time for a "big" blogger who gets lots of comments to notice your presence, but the traffic payoff could potentially be bigger. It's also worthwhile to connect with smaller bloggers and those at around your level. They'll appreciate the comments, and networking can lead to genuine friendships as well as opportunities to help each other grow.
2. Post in subject-specific forums.
I started out frequenting the online forum of a popular blog, and to this day have followers who "found" me there and still loyally read my blog. Once again, the golden rule is to contribute something worthwhile, and don't be a "me monster." Take the time to interact with and promote others, too.
3. Guest post.
It's the number one way to increase your exposure online. You're essentially leveraging your online presence by tapping into someone else's hard-earned audience. Find blogs that target your ideal demographic, and become an active commenter first. Once you've established yourself as a community member of substance, write a killer query offering to guest post on a topic of value, and follow through with a post that delivers the goods. Lastly, in the bio of your published piece, you guessed it - link back to your landing page.
4. Become a contributor.
The longer you network in blogging communities, the more opportunities will come across your path. Bloggers will sometimes put out an open call for new contributors (that's how I landed my first contributor spot for my DIY blog), or you could try pitching yourself as a possible contributor to a blog you've regularly interacted with or guest-posted for in the past.
5. Join up with linky parties.
I have a bookmarked folder of link parties for every day of the week. If I publish a post on a Monday, I jump into Monday's folder and link up at all the parties that go live that day. Link parties are a big thing for DIY and home bloggers such as myself, and can lead to special features and lots of click-back traffic. Whatever field you write in, there are likely linky parties relevant to you. If you can't find any, why not join forces with a group of like-minded bloggers and start your own? InLinkz is a great tool for this.
The task of building your blog platform can sometimes feel like filling a swimming pool with a drinking cup. For the longest time, it's going to seem like you're not getting anywhere at all. Just keep at it. Those drops of water all add up, as long as you stick to your strategy and don't give up.
Let's chat: Which of these ideas do you already use? How do you think you could you do them better? Are any of these strategies new to you?
Find the rest of the series here:
How to Grow your Blog Platform
Guerilla Facebook Marketing
Supercharge your Stats
Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 150,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Pinterest.