It’s probably the number one question that any new blogger asks themselves. You’ve got a cute new blog design, a decent bit of nice content (3 months worth minimum) and a clear, defined voice that you just know potential readers will love. So you’ve built it, but why haven’t they come?
Well, guess what. We started there too. Here is a look at our traffic growth over the years. Remember these are pageviews, not unique visitors.
- Month 1 – 2,301 Pageviews
- Month 6 -34,730 Pageviews
- Month 12 -167,160 Pageviews
- End of Year 2 -1,097,830 Pageviews
- End of Year 3 – 3,083,808 Pageviews
- Current End of Month (March, 2011) – 11, 167,107 Pageviews
Remember that we came into the game before there were a gazillion other wedding blogs to compete with so timing was DEFINITELY on our side. But, regardless, I am more than happy to tell you what worked and what didn’t work for us. Let me preface this by saying that I am 1/2 of the equation. The VERY not technical half. My husband Tait can speak to this in a much more involved way, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from the one that experienced blogging without any training or tech savvy. Feel free to chime in with your own ideas and/or questions.
Ask Others to Link to You via Blog Rolls. Duh. Obviously, right? Not so fast missy. My husband (the tech half) still believes that creating an extensive but carefully curated blog roll is the key to finding loyal readers. Once you have a blog on your own roll, you can then approach them to link to you. Simple as that, but very very effective.
Write Guest Posts for Other Blogs. Here’s the thing. It’s great to just get a link out of someone and if they offer, say yes. But it’s also nice to blog for them. Say on their day off or as a way to offer some of your expertise. This works especially well if you have an expertise in something. Ha. Here are some of the guest posts that I wrote in my early days. Creative People and their Creative Spaces on Design*Sponge / Real Weddings on The Bride’s Guide / Oh Joy! Currently Loving Series
Hold Contests and Giveaways. Every time we have inspiration board contests, we email a bunch of our blogger friends to let them know. It doesn’t always work in getting us links, but sometimes it does. Our first contest, way back in the day, found itself mentioned on Oh Joy! And that got us a lot of new readers. Plus everyone loves free stuff so people are more likely than not to help you spread the word.
Write Consistently Every Day. There is nothing better for search traffic than content. The phrase Content Is King ain’t dead people so KEEP. ON. WRITING. And write thoughtful content that readers want to devour. 300 words or more per day is a good goal to aim for.
Encourage a Conversation. One of the things that I did very early on was to create a space that was welcoming. Check out some of my earlier posts…
1. Preppy but Elegant: I designed an inspiration board for one of our readers, totally customized to her own style and wedding ideas. This welcomed readers in, letting them know that I was going to get my hands dirty WITH them, not just speak AT them. And, I set the stage for what SMP was all about. A fun place to discuss inspiration.
2. Sephora Contest: For this one, I ponied up my own money for a Sephora giftcard. Fifty bucks. Not much to most, but a lot for a jobless blogger. More importantly, I used that $50 to get a conversation going. I asked a pointed question and to enter the contest, readers had to answer in the comments section. It was a great way for me to learn more about my readers and ensure that I was tailoring content to the type of people that were out there reading every day.
3. Morning Reads: I wrote about other bloggers. A lot. And those other bloggers loved it and were more likely to mention me in some way. It was a good early strategy.
My posts were very different than what we do now, but I have been going back to them more and more as a reminder of how to get and keep loyal readers. How to encourage my writers to engage in a conversation and to create an intimate, community feel with their writing. It’s proof that if you ask questions, respond to comments and get the conversation going, your readers will stick around.
Provide a Service. SMP really started with the inspiration board. I would craft these e-boards for specific readers with gobs and gobs of comments surrounding each board citing specific ideas that I thought they could implement to achieve that look. Readers LOOOVED this. It’s always nice to have feedback from someone in the industry so readers really stuck around to read it. My point? Use what you know to gain followers. If you are a graphic designer, offer to do logos. If you are an artist, offer up a personal sketch. If you have a skill, pony it up for free every now and then and people will love you!
Advertising. Confession. When I was just starting out, I bought text ads on The Knot. I know, I know. Craziness. But, it actually did help me. It probably brought in a grand total of a 100 new readers, but because I worked really hard at engaging the readers, a lot of them seemed to stick around. Then they talked about SMP on the local knot forums and more readers came. I didn’t spend more than a couple hundred dollars and I probably would never do that again, but at the time, it did bring in a small audience.
Become Part of a Community. As I’ve started bringing on more writers, many of whom write their own blogs, I’ve noticed something. The guest bloggers have become friends. Erin Ever After is friends with Life in the Superburbs. Who is friends with Brancoprata. Who is friends with The Knotty Bride. And it goes on and on. They support each other, they link to each other, they bring new readers to each other’s sites. Buddy up with some other bloggers and you just might find yourself with a whole new audience.
Those are the things that I did very early on. And they work. With that said, there are a million other things that you can do to improve your reach. Join different web directories (like Technorati and Alltop), provide RSS and email subscription options, add sharing buttons to your posts, optimize your titles, etc. etc. etc. And we’ll make a point of addressing some of these in later posts.
But for now, this is a start. Especially for all of you bloggers that are just starting out, wondering how in God’s name you are going to build up your traffic. I really like this article on ProBlogger about those lonely first days of blogging. The point is that even though it might feel like no one is reading, if you are serious about blogging, you have to keep pushing forward. Through the awkwardness, through the loneliness. If your content is really good, they will eventually come.