Thursday, November 27, 2008

Getting them and keeping them

So I got an email from a friend asking "I just started a blog and wondered if you had any advice on attracting readers (or in my case, viewers)."

I'm sure there are no shortage of blogs out there offering professional advice on how to get people to read your blog. But this is just a few of my tips. Regular readers can feel free to offer up their own tricks.

First of all, getting people to link to your blog helps. So in this case, the friend asking the question was John Andrews and is new blog can be found here. Some of the first people to link here were John Gushue and Ed Hollett. Without them, I don't think anyone would have known I'd existed the first four months this blog existed.

Is it always that simple? Well, no. I've had other people ask me to link to their blogs in the past and for various reasons I've said no. So why say yes this time? Two reasons. First, John is a friend of mine. We survived the Transcon wars when I was associate editor with The Express and John was in charge of layout. Not just of that paper, but a whole whack of them. Plus, whenever a paper was in need of a redesign, they called on John.

It's an under-appreciated skill, but John's probably one of the best in all of Atlantic Canada at newspaper layout design. He also worked for the Independent, and whatever complaints people might have had about the editorial direction of the paper, it was a damn good looking.

So yeah, I'll link to him. Plus, I want this image on a t-shirt, which I will buy from him if he makes it, and I'm not above sucking up to him to do it by mentioning him on the blog.

Tell me that's not cool.

But what are other ways to get people to your blog? Well, set up Statcounter on your blog. It's addictive, but you will see how much traffic you're getting and how they're getting to your blog. Through links from other blogs or what keywords on your blog are being caught by Google or Yahoo.

John wants to do mostly an image blog, but I think a bit of writing to go along with the images will help drum up some extra traffic.

What else? Get involved in networking and linking. That means joining different blog groups. My blog's traffic was minor until I joined the Newfoundland and Labrador blogroll. Then it essentially doubled in a month. Being involved in the Nunavut blogging community has also increased the traffic.

Post to people's blog. Blogger has this new thing where you can be a "follower" of someone's blog. If they list who follows you on the blog (like I do) it's free advertising for your blog. Post comments on a wide variety of blogs. You do kind of have to dive into blogging communities, either by territory or area of speciality.

Some believe in making sure certain keywords are in blog posts because it drives traffic to your blog. Clare has joked that he gets more traffic for people looking for information about Purple Saxifrage. You guys would be appalled if you knew how many search requests I get from people looking for pictures of naked curlers because I did a joke post on it two years ago.

But above all, you have to post regularly. I try to post every day and it's hard. People think I'm nuts. There are people who post multiple times a day and I think they're nuts. But you've got to post several times a week. Otherwise, people are just going to give up and stop coming to the site. There are a lot of cool blogs out there. If you're not giving people something new and interesting to look at on a regular basis, then forget about it.

I care about who comes to the site for, admittedly, strictly ego reasons. I don't have ads on the blog. I don't make a cent off the blog. If you're blogging to try and make money, I imagine there's a whole different level you can take to promoting yourself and getting people to your blog.

But if want to start with a modest readership (I'm getting about 200-250 unique viewers these days which, trust me, is very modest), then these are the basic tricks to get them to come check you out.

Once you get them there, well, the rest is up to you to be interesting. With John, I'll be curious to see what else he comes up with his artwork, so I'll keep coming back.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Last Five
1. This silence - Ian Foster Band
2. Take me with you - Tori Amos
3. Families - Neil Young
4. North American for life - Matthew Good
5. The littlest birds - The Be Good Tanyas


John Andrews said...

hey craig
thanks for the high praise and the advice... good tips. i'll look into t-shirt options.

Anonymous said...

Participating and hosting carnivals is a good way of attracting readership, especially if you have a more topic specific blog. I find commenting on other's blogs tends to spike my stats a little. Just another way of putting yourself out there.

The guys at 10000 Birds (admittedly a specific interest blog) have done a lot of thinking on how to increase traffic. They get over a thousand regular visitors a day. They have some links on traffic that make for good reading (or at least they used). will get you there.

I think the really big blogs tend to generate more controversy. Everyone loves an arguement.

Aida said...

great post. i hv no advice, you pretty much covered everything though in keyword sense, something funny cropped up on my admin site. its someone or maybe a few people did a search on "my kid watch me like a hawk". it was on my blog and there was about 15 hits to the same post. i thought that was hilarious.

Amy H. said...

I have found that causing ridiculous controversy and getting the local newspaper to feature an article about the pre-marital sex you had, and your beliefs about abortion really helps. =)

MoneyGrubbingLawyer said...

You've covered most of the big ones... Kiggavik's point about blog carnivals is a great one- even if your blog isn't targeted at a specific niche, you may have individual posts that could be submitted to carnivals within certain niches. Controversy works well too, but that can be a dangerous road to go down!

And to keep readers coming back, make sure they have a way to subscribe to site updates through something like Feedburner.