Setting up a blog is as easy as it gets—getting traffic is another proposition altogether. Yes, blogs by their very nature are supposed to be search engine optimization ready but there is a catch: Your blog needs to break free from the millions of blogs jostling with each other for attention. And there is no magic wand to do this for you.
You could, however, seek out Philip Kotler for some inspiration—his 4Ps of marketing can work for your blog, too—without spending a dime or morphing into a nerd.
No matter how sleek a car, it is of no use if it does not run. The same goes for your blog—unless you want to attract only monkeys, no one will care to read about the bowl of nuts you enjoy sitting under a tree. Content is everything; this is your product and the first P.
“Start by asking why you are writing a blog. This will bring clarity on who you are writing for, and this in turn will help you determine what you are writing,” says Rajesh Lalwani, founder of Blogworks, a strategic consulting firm helping brands and corporates with their blog and social media strategy.
Readers will come to you only if you carry something impactful, informative or even humorous for them. Just because so many blogs have little more than incoherent ramblings of the owner does not mean you have to subscribe to such low denominators.
And here’s more to make your product buyer friendly:
Quantity does not beat quality: While frequent postings may help you go up the search rankings, don’t do it for the sake of doing so. Ask yourself if anyone would care to read what you are writing. Post once or twice a week if need be but ensure it is quality writing. You don’t want to turn away readers or bury your good pieces under the debris.
Is it unique? Unless the first blog Rip Van Winkle goes to after waking up is yours, your content is valuable only if it is unique. Search engines such as Google can now catch those who copy content from other sources. Spooky, but true. “A combination of originality and quality works beautifully—it takes you higher up on the search engines,” says Lalwani.
Is your content ‘buzzworthy’? It can be if you offer scoops or write controversial stuff—but be careful and don’t go over the top. A positive buzz will get people talking about you and send links and traffic your way.
If every good product sold on its own, David Ogilvy would not have had a job. Even when you have hit the sweet spot with your product, you need to promote it, which brings you to the second P. Try these ideas—based on a mix of conventional thought and the science of how bits and bytes behave in cyberspace:
Get other sites to link to you: In an ideal world, everyone you want will link from their site to yours. Poof, and you could be in business overnight. If wishes were horses! “You just cannot get results fast enough. It was only after a year of blogging that things started happening for me. Other sites will link to you only if your content is good—period,” says Amit Agarwal, a professional blogger whose three-year-old blog Digital Inspiration figures in Technorati’s Top 100 globally.
Get yourself some links: Till WSJ.com does not link to you, visit the site and other blogs and leave comments on topics of shared interest—with your link. “This is one way to generate some traffic faster—find blogs in your niche area and leave meaningful comments on posts with your blog’s address. If it adds value to the conversation, other readers will click on your link to know more about what you are doing. Someone else may already have the audience, and you are doing nothing unethical or illegal in trying to attract them too,” says Agarwal.
A social media strategy: “Sites like Facebook and MySpace are a rage—have a profile there and link to your posts from there. Being active on StumbleUpon, where you share content, can also drive traffic,” says Priya Florence Shah, Internet entrepreneur and blogger at Naaree.com.
Link to others, selflessly: Provide links to blogs you like without expecting anything in return. These respective blog owners might come visiting to know about yours and someday do something for you too.
Grab all the free ad spots to publicize your blog: These include your visiting cards, email signatures, letterheads, mobile messages, bumper stickers and other such communication. Let your daily emails end with a prompt to a recent post of yours relevant to the recipient.
Be proactive: Respond to all those who leave comments on your blog or seek further information—make their effort seem valuable. Let them feel a part of your blog community—and they will tell other people about you.
Send out mails: Mine every email address you have in your desktop and workplace, and send a message. Pitch specific posts, not necessarily your blog, to entice greater interest.
Make friends in the blogworld: And write guest posts and comments on each other’s blogs. Exchange links, too. There is no such thing as being competitors here. “You have to realize you cannot be selfish—it is all about give and take to get ahead,” says Shah.
The title of your post matters: A simple yet overlooked factor that makes a big difference. “Most people read blogs on RSS (really simple syndication) feeds. The title helps them decide whether they want to click on it or move to the next entry on the feed. Also include keywords in your title that people are expected to be searching for,” says Agarwal.
But some believe in traffic coming their way by just doing a good job. “I did not do any promotions though—over time, people just found me because of the work I was doing,” says Kamla Bhatt, blogger for four years now and publisher of the highly popular KamlaBhattShow.com connecting Indian diaspora around the world.
This P denotes distribution—will you travel 10 miles just to pick up a KitKat or settle for a Dairy Milk an arm’s length away? Ditto for blogs—make it easy for readers to find you. Not once, but again and again. Try these tips:
One click sign-up: People read your posts mostly through emails and RSS. Make it easy for them to do so—sign up with free services such as FeedBlitz and FeedBurner to manage all your sign-ups and mailings automatically. And place the forms, chiclets, links and icons they provide on all your pages and even emails you send for your readers to subscribe with one click.
Maximize your storefronts: Nike and Starbucks generate volumes by ensuring a presence in all marketplaces to make for easy access; links to your blog are your storefronts. Make these present on as many websites, blogs, comments you leave and emails you send—never be too far from your customer, who is the reader in this case.
The 4th ‘P’
It is usually the price, but content being free on blogs is almost a given. At the same time, the fourth P is relevant for adding other ingredients to the marketing mix, and these could be:
Positioning: Is your blog about getting high traffic to generate advertising revenue or catering to an audience seeking quality content? “Why does someone visit a blog? Because they want to learn something. My audience is the thinking Indian. Quality causes stickiness. If I only wanted traffic, I would be doing very different things,” says Bhatt. For Lalwani, his blog achieves its purpose when someone reads it and leads to some consulting business; he does not need to be in the numbers game like Agarwal does.
Presentation: Keep your layouts neat and easily readable. Let not the untidy, garish blogs be your inspiration. Try to write good copy, with catchy headlines and minimum language errors.
Passion: Be passionate about what you write—it is like a book writer who has to feel for the subject, to be with it for years while writing it.
Patience and Persistence: “If you are on the quality path, it will be a long and lonely marathon. Do you have it in you to undertake it?” asks Bhatt.
Did you have a good blog lying packed away because you could not get readers? It may be time to do some spring cleaning, and start off again.
Ajay Jain is a technology analyst and journalist who blogs at www.TechGazing.com. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org