10 Proven Blog Marketing Tactics You Can Use Today
Just part of what I do as a digital marketer is provide consulting to companies who blog in a mix of verticals – including medical technology, marketing, web applications, and recruiting. And I don’t think I’d be nearly as effective in my recommendations if I wasn’t also an active participant of the social web.
I may be biased, but if you are client-side and working with consultants advising you on digital but they don’t participate personally – ask yourself: shouldn’t they?
With that said, today I’m going to get a little meta on you – but with a purpose. I want to share a list of tactics and approaches I’ve used/experimented with at this blog to attract from 40,000-250,000 organic visitors monthly and more than 8,500 RSS/email readers. This is in the hopes of inspiring some new ideas to help your blog or your client’s blog.
1. Invest in a custom design
In my own blogging from 2005 – 2009 I was using/tweaking various free themes, which did the job. But hiring a blog designer to create a unique, custom theme is something you should do immediately. Yes, blogs are best consumed through feeds. But a unique design is still critical even in an increasingly real-time web.
The post linked in the previous graph describes why this is necessary in detail, but one item I’d like to highlight as part of design: make sure to include multiple share/subscribe CTAs neatly throughout the theme so users can’t miss them.
On this blog, for example, there are 20 distinct share/subscribe buttons on each post. But since they’re spread throughout the template, it doesn’t seem overt. However you design your blog realize the single most important outcome for growth is that as many visitors as possible subscribe and/or share content and don’t just consume and move on. Having share buttons below posts and on the right sidebar is well and good, but try to disperse them throughout the template so no matter how a visitor scans the page, they’ll see it.
2. Take advantage of popular categories
Staying within your niche is limiting and there’s no reason you should worry about this. Give your site a wide enough thesis you can explore content in various categories and pull in a mixed audience. Niche is overrated, personality underrated. In the mix of categories you do choose, make sure you choose at least one semi-popular category even if it’s complementary/supplementary to your main topic. Remember, you need to write on topics that will generate organic links. There’s no reason not to take advantage of more popular content categories where there are more active users threading the niche. If you frame things properly, users attracted from the broader concept should still be receptive to more specific items in your content mix too.
3. Provide relevant, timely information to established media
This is a really simple tactic I came up with as a PR strategist. All you need to do is create an excel doc and add the email addresses of popular bloggers/journalists in your industry and brief description of what they cover (bonus points if you know these people well enough to do this without descriptions). Then when you see something relevant – forward it to the right person in the list . That content should not have anything to do with your business or a client, rather you’re providing something you genuinely believe that writer would use. In many cases, (but not always) you’ll get credited as the information source. As an example, see this link for a shout I received from Techdirt, one of the most popular tech blogs with more than 700,000 RSS readers simply by forwarding the blog’s editor an email.
4. Connect with social web power users
Having been blogging for a few years before starting this site and moderating web forums/boards since 2000, I was already well-networked prior to starting this blog. So I didn’t have to do too much work to get an initial community going. If I didn’t have this already, I would have created a plan to connect with power users and get them subscribed to my site. If you can build a group of social web power users who are your blog’s True Fans you’ll be in a position you can just focus on making awesome content – and your community will market your best stuff organically.
5. Drop subscription hooks everywhere
This is especially important if you are publishing content to places external of your site, which you should. As one example – note that I end SlideShares such as this one on creating remarkable digital content with a call to action:
Ensure that if you’re implementing tactics such as guest blogging, interviews, publishing photos to Flickr, etc. you include links back to a place users can subscribe directly to your content as the main CTA. External networks should be secondary calls-to-action. This positions you far better in the future than if you are relying purely on real-time services where you do not control the signal to noise ratio to direct attention. Notice all those Twitter users with 20,000+ followers but no blog/website traffic? Exactly.
6. Create projects tagging others that are not blog posts
Tagging a large group of others in blog posts is all well and good. But unless the content is something super interesting you’ll likely earn a Tweet – these days maybe a link if you’re lucky. If you want to stand out and get others to not just notice you pinging them – but share you with their networks – do something that’s not a blog post but that will still ping them. The reason this works is because it’s different than what everyone else is doing, thus more likely to peak interest. When everyone is doing something (such as pinging influencers in blog posts) it starts to be less effective because it’s so common.
Here’s a quick example. Throughout 2008, I gathered quotes from some of my favorite bloggers and published it: 22 inspirational quotes. Except I re-read the quotes and decided they were too good for just a blog post. So I made some Ignite-style slides out of them. Then, I sent each blogger quoted their image along with a link to the presentation. Several them including Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Eric Friedman and Leo Babauta – all A-listers in their categories – embedded the content/linked back. Reusing the work you’ve already done to create something new is not only efficient, but the second iteration will likely be even better.
Sample image from 2009 blogger quotes project
7. Use other social channels for distribution, but focus on your site
I don’t do too much to nurture followings in external networks, I simply feed content into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and focus my time on creating the best possible content. Building up outposts is something I still struggle finding value in – as that’s at the opportunity cost of working on your own properties. I’m not saying don’t use them, I’m just saying if you’re working with limited resources, allocate time where it will have the highest impact. For individuals and SMBs, that’s likely original content.
Note some of the most popular bloggers don’t even use other social channels besides their blog. Ultimately it isn’t a large following, it is the quality of your content that will make or break your blog. Users have infinite choice on the web and they will always vote with their mouse.
The Future Buzz Facebook page is being used primarily as just another way for readers to get content
8. Creativity first, data second
If I purely listened to data to make decisions on what I published here, this site content would look a far different than it does. There is a lot of use for data with a blog and I absolutely leverage it. But I’ll never let it get in the way of a creative decision I want to test or try. One of the best parts of blogging is you can try lots of different ideas and see what sticks – and all it costs is time.
The more you understand your industry, trending topics and audience, the less you even need the data to be successful. You can, in essence, get ahead of your audience and predict what they will want to read next. That’s not to say don’t pay attention to data, but if you are embedded within an industry your perspective is worth a lot more than analytics from past content. With that said – in categories I’m less familiar with or I’m working with clients I’ll lean on data more.
9. Pull PR
Pull PR (or inbound PR) is exactly what you think it is – it’s the opposite of traditional PR. Whereas traditional PR pros will push their messages to media and influences in the formats of press releases, pitches, etc. pull PR is, in my opinion, a superior approach: you draw media to you.
Here’s a quick example: in May, a reporter from PC Today (a print pub) found my blog through search, saw I was a digital marketer, and thought I’d be quotable for her story on web success for SMBs so she reached out for a quick chat. Check out a PDF of the print story. But you’ll note from my quote below – they included the URL to my blog:
If you do use your content to attract media, do be cognizant of asking nicely that links get included. The point of this is to get consistent mentions by trusted outlets to instill authority as well as attract new, interested visitors.
10. Make enemies
Without question, I’ve made some enemies since starting blogging. Not the type that are likely to take me out via sniper – the kind that debate with me blog to blog. It actually wasn’t a conscious decision, I simply disagreed with what people said and had my say. What did I learn? Enemies are vital – if you don’t have any, find a way to make some.
image credit: various artists from Shutterstock