Part 1 of the Series: Preparing to Start a Business Blog
Part 2 of the Series: Writing Your Business Blog Posts
In the first two parts of this series, we've covered how to set up a business blog and the strategy behind actually writing your posts. However, one of the main purposes of your blog is to drive valuable traffic to your site; you're certainly not just writing it for your health.
While an increase in organic rankings for your blog posts will drive new traffic, there are also more proactive and immediate methods to send traffic to your blog posts. These actions can be accomplished pretty quickly and are well worth it, in order to draw attention to something that you invested serious time into.
Post to Social News Sites
One of the leading sources of traffic to our site are social news sites around the web. These sites allow you to submit your recent blog posts and then the site members vote them up or down. As your post gets more "up votes," it rises through the rankings and hopefully to the front page of the site, making it visible to everyone who visits the site.
There are dozens of popular social news sites, and many of them specialize in a particular niche. It's important to make sure that the content you're posting is relevant to that audience. If you post something deemed spammy or outside of the site's target, you not only won't get any up votes or traffic to your site, but you also risk being permanently ostracized by the other members of the group.
Here's a list of some popular social news sites and the audiences to which they cater:
- Reddit - One of the most popular social news sites, Reddit has dozens of subreddits (e.g., Web Design Reddit, Programming Reddit, etc.) that cater to every imaginable interest. Find the Reddit that is most applicable to your post and submit to it. We've found that it's almost guaranteed that a submission will garner at least a few dozen unique visits from subscribers to that group. If you reach the front page of a popular subreddit, you're in for a couple thousand uniques.
- Digg - (In)famously the most difficult of the social news sites to gain real traction on, Digg also has the largest audience. Unlike Reddit, where you can create your own sub-category if one doesn't already exist, Digg limits you to a preselected list of rather specific categories. Reaching the front page of Digg will get you tens of thousands of unique, but it also takes the most work and likely some coordination with other strategies - it's extremely hard for a post to organically reach the front page.
- Hacker News - This news site still has a very niche focused on programmers and entrepreneurs. It's the network with which we've had the most success getting on the front page, but all of those posts have been very technical in nature. This community is very selective, and you will be spurned for posting links unrelated to the community's core target. A front page post here will get you a solid 600-2,000 unique visitors.
- Sphinn - Dedicated to online marketing, blogging, and SEO, Sphinn has a dedicated following of online marketers. To be honest, we've used this site in the past with little success. Unless something reaches the front page, it doesn't seem to earn much traffic at all. The most popular articles here are aimed directly at online marketers and tend to be anecdotal or lists.
- Undrln - A relatively new social news site aimed at designers, CSS coders, and entrepreneurs. The site's growth appears to have slowed some, but the content here is usually high quality. A submission that makes it to the front page has a very long lifespan, however, due to it being new, don't expect more than 100-150 uniques from a successful post here.
- Dzone - This site's subtitle says it all "fresh links for developers." The content here is heavy on the technical and is a great option if you target programmers. We've had good success reaching the front page (and top spot) here, which generally translates to 200-300 uniques.
- InboundMarketing.com - This is a brand new site, but I could see it having success in the future. Go figure, but the most popular posts here are aimed at inbound marketing and online marketing. Currently, front page posts have a pretty short lifespan as they get bumped down by others, and it seems like almost no one gets more than two or three up votes. Again, the site is very new, so don't expect more than 50 visits, but given its potential, I think its worth getting acclimated to posting related content here.
- DesignFloat - The most design-oriented of all these sites, your submissions here should focus heavily on design or CSS tricks. The site has a pretty avid following and you will see good traffic for reaching the front page, however, voters are pretty picky and it's not easy to get too far in the process.
This list is just a few of the popular/up and coming social news sites. I tried to spread it out pretty evenly between design, programming, and entrepreneurship. There are dozens more out there for every imaginable niche.
No matter where you're posting, it's important to remember to only post content relevant to that specific niche. Also, avoid posting spammy content that is only meant to give you Page Rank points, as it will likely be deleted by the moderator and you risk being banned from the site. It's also in good taste to make sure that your title submitted on the site matches almost identically the actual title of your blog post.
These sites will not only generate direct traffic, but they also expand your content's reach to other bloggers who will hopefully reference your content on their blog or elsewhere.
Leverage Your Social Network
Depending on the size of your digital footprint, you may be active in a number of social networks. While social news sites are akin to giving a presentation to strangers and hoping that they enjoy it, your social network is similar to sending information over to friends and counting on them to check it out/pass it along.
Post your link as your status feed in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These are people that have "opted in" to your stream of thoughts and recommendations. They're very likely to check out links that you recommend to them, and also chances are high that they'll pass it along to other friends (i.e., retweet, post on their blog, etc.) and your content's message will gain a life of its own.
Some quick guidelines when posting status updates about your content:
- On Twitter, make sure to cap your promotion at 100-120 characters, allowing ample room for people to add a RT@_______ in front of your message to pass it along. If you force followers to copy-edit and shorten it on their own, they're less likely to quickly retweet it for you.
- Make sure, in all of your social networks, you have a good amount of actual content and interactions mixed in with the self-promotional links. If the only things you ever post as status are your own links, people are likely to screen you out as "noise," and someone who doesn't actually understand the space.
- Be sure to respond to comments and @'s regarding your status or link within the medium. If people have been kind enough to take the time to read your full article and then interact with you, it is essential that you respond to them and let them know you value their time.
- When tweeting about your article, add relevant hash tags (i.e., #). Many people have continuous filters set up to pull content that interests them into their Twitter application. By tagging your content, interested readers will easily find it. For example, we attach a #jquery to all of our blog post tutorials on jquery.
In our experience Facebook has been the most solid referrer of traffic, but we are much more active in promoting on Twitter. We save Facebook for big news, whereas we post all of our content on Twitter.
Whatever social network is ideal for you, just be sure to be genuine in interacting with others and to thank them for their commitment to reposting your content or commenting.
Build a Relationship with Readers
The first two methods are very action-oriented and place the initial responsibility of promotion on you. However, by equipping your site with an RSS subscription or email registration, you have the ability to instantly push content to that audience without any extra effort on your end.
By placing a prominent RSS option on your site, readers that enjoy your content will subscribe and have it automatically pushed to their RSS reader of choice. This is the most passive promotion possible, as you're doing nothing other than publishing your post, but also instantly engaging a larger audience.
Of course, in order to earn RSS subscribers, it's essential that you publish good content and push interested readers to the site by using the methods above.
In order to set up an RSS feed on your site, I recommend using Feedburner, which is a free service that makes it extremely easy to set up a feed and allow people to subscribe.
Similar to an RSS feed is a newsletter subscription. Allow people to register for your monthly newsletter on your blog and simply push out the top posts to them at the end of every month. Again, this strategy allows you to engage readers that have prescreened themselves as interested in your content.
I recommend that in addition to republishing blog content in the newsletter, you also have some newsletter specific content, as many of the recipients will also be RSS subscribers.
At a fraction of the time it took to write your post, you can publicize it to an audience that is potentially in the thousands. It's important that you do this for every post, as sometimes it's the most unlikely content that takes off and garners a lot of attention and traffic.
Are there other methods with which you've had success? What strategy has consistently driven the most traffic to your site?
To show that we eat our own dogfood, this post has been posted on Twitter, submitted to Reddit, scooped on undrln, and added to inboundmarketing.com.