This is the third post in a series offering my mediocre advice on blogging. I usually start by saying that I’m not even that good at it and maybe you shouldn’t take advice from the likes of me. But people keep emailing me about it and over the past few years I really have learned some stuff.
The most important thing you can do to grow your audience is to write good stuff. The biggest growth my blog has seen has not come from guest posting or advertising or writing for bigger outlets. No sir. There’s no magic formula. It’s been when we publish something awesome that people want to share. If it’s genuinely good stuff, people will want to read it. The end.
Leaving comments. Some people swear this is the most important thing you can do. I think it helps but it’s tiiiiimmme consuming. I want to dedicate my time to my family, writing good stuff, watching TV, hanging out with my friends drinking wine, and playing on my iPad – in pretty much that order. So if leaving comments is an item on your to-do list, be smart about it or it will take up all your time. I’d pick the couple of blogs you really, really love and leave frequent, thoughtful comments there.
One more thing about leaving comments as a networking tool, if you’re only reading a blog or leaving a comment to promote yourself it sort of… Comes across that way.
If you do not ask, you will not get. Guest posting or writing for a big website is a really awesome way to get your stuff out there. If you love a blog or a blogger and want to write for them, send them something! What’s the worst that could happen? Put yourself out there and pitch ideas to the blogs and websites you want to work with. Be willing to do some stuff for free to help get your work out there.
If your favorite blogger is about to have a new baby, maybe she’d love a guest post. Perhaps someone you admire has a book coming out and they would be grateful for a review or a give-away. Maybe they have a project/event coming up and need help promoting it.
If you want to write for Babble or Huffpost, pitch to them! Get in touch with those folks via Twitter or Facebook. Be polite and professional and ask for advice. If you know someone who knows someone who you think might be able to help you, ask for an email introduction. And of course, offer your help in return.
Be generous and pass on all the help you get. If people (be they friends, connections, readers or strangers) have been kind enough to read your blog, provide feedback or advice, share information, or promote your work – you should do the same to the people who reach out to you.
Find the audience that is just right for you. My best writing speaks directly to my own experiences. The old adage “write what you know” is actually really good advice for folks starting out. Who better to appreciate and relate to your blog posts than other women/parents going through the same stuff? When you’re getting started, this is also a helpful strategy because if the audience you’re looking to connect with is like you – you already know where to find them. You know what sites they enjoy reading, what message boards they’re on, and what they’re likely to click on. So start there.
Pay or don’t pay? A lot of folks suggest paying to promote your blog. I’d encourage you to think about that for a couple of reasons. Most new bloggers are making almost no money. Spending money to promote yourself before you’ve found your groove (and have a decent amount of good content) is probably a mistake. You should also consider WHAT to pay for. Examples: paying to invest in growing your platform (Facebook ads, for example), promoting a specific post, or just trying to get your blog’s name out there. Be strategic if you’re going to spend the money.
Right now, my blog’s traffic is super dependent on Facebook. This is both good and bad. If you’re going to pay to grow your online presence, try to make sure you’re covering multiple bases where social media is concerned. Of course if I knew how to do that, I wouldn’t be at the mercy of Facebook.
Something else to consider when paying to promote your stuff: I’ve found that when a post does well and reaches a wider than normal audience, some of the new folks who end up reading my blog are like: “YUCK. This is not for me.” Sometimes they click away and sometimes they leave a few nasty-grams before they depart. In either case, that’s both cool and the gang. Because for me slow growth, among folks who find me and like my work and get it, is waaaaayyyy better than a huge influx of new people who get directed to me, don’t like my work and think I’m a big stupid.
Find a tribe.
I’ve been very lucky but for the past couple of years, I’ve found a small group of bloggers who are willing to always return my emails when I have a question, when something goes wrong with my html coding, when Facebook won’t f*&?!ing cooperate, or when I really need to bounce some ideas off someone. They also have been my best source of help in terms of figuring out what I’m doing, helping me get over it when something fails, cheering me on when something goes well, and sharing their contacts, recommendations and even their audiences with me.
This year, I was incredibly lucky to be included in an anthology of 36 bloggers called “I Just Want to Pee Alone”. Those women have given me an education in just a few short months. It’s been awesome, uplifting, humbling and incredibly eye opening. If you can find a group of bloggers to connect with and they are nice people – I really encourage you to find a tribe.
Now for a couple of things not to do:
Don’t ask for S4S (“share for share”). Most bloggers I know think it’s spammy and just delete the requests.
Don’t be aggressive or pushy. If you don’t hear back or you don’t like what you hear, just move on.
Don’t agree to do something and then blow it off. Pretty straightforward. If you do mess up, apologize and explain what happened. Offer to make good on your promise.
Don’t leave nasty comments or bash someone else’s work publicly to get clicks or attention. It happens all the time. Even if you can’t stand them, despise their work, and hate their guts, it’s not cool. This also includes writing something yucky about someone (or their work) and then tweeting them about it. And also? It’s an invitation for people to do it to you. Why invite that kind of yuckiness into your life? I say leave it alone and move on.
Don’t spend more time promoting your blog, than writing it. For that matter don’t spend more time on your blog than on your life. It’s really easy to get caught up in the fun of it, but trust me – what’s really right in front of you is much more important.