Building your blog and officially launching your website is only one part of the equation.
What should you actually do once you’ve hit publish on your first few blog posts?
How do you begin driving traffic to your blog so that you can accomplish all of your goals?
This a question I hear time and time again from my readers and podcast listeners alike. And, it’s one that separates the successful blogs from those that are only read by your mother and a few spam bots.
The truth is, you can have the best content in the world, but if you’re looking to drive traffic and build a successful business from your blog—you need to know how to promote your content, attract readers, and do that better than others in your industry.
Over the past four years, I’ve grown my blog to more than 2 million yearly readers, over 52,000 email subscribers, and a podcast with nearly 20,000 monthly downloads. Consistently driving traffic is something I’ve perfected, and it’s lead me to signing consulting deals helping some of the world’s top startups like LinkedIn, Zendesk, CreativeLive, and Adobe to launch successful growth campaigns as well.
Pulling from my own experience growing multiple blogs into the millions of readers, here are the most effective strategies I’ve used to get in front of new readers (and keep them coming back for more).
1. Guest Posting.
Your ideal blog readers are already out there consuming content online.
Guest posting on other relevant blogs where similar content similar is regularly published, is one of the best ways to quickly connect with an established audience—with the goal of eventually bringing some of those readers back to your own site.
When I first started my blog, I began guest posting very early on. I’d make spreadsheets of the websites that had strong content in my niche (that already ranked well in organic search results), and started to reach out to the editors and blog owners asking if they’d be willing to accept a guest post from me.
At first, rejection was by far the most common reply to my outreach emails, but over time as I landed my first handful of reputable guest posts and had more content examples to highlight on my own blog, it became much easier to pitch my offer. After enough guest posting, there will be a tipping point—for me that was landing my first guest post on the Buffer blog, which significantly increased my authority as a writer. Having that in my portfolio made my future guest post pitches much more successful.
It might seem like a lot of work, but those early guest posts are what helped me to build the foundation for having my own audience. What’s key, is that you want to look for places where your audience already exists and find a way to make yourself present there.
2. Landing a Publication Column.
Similar to guest posting, getting access to regularly publish your content to a relevant online publication gives you priceless access to your target readers.
While it’s certainly an unrealistic goal to launch your blog today and hope that you’ll be able get a column writing for Entrepreneur magazine next week, it’s very attainable to start smaller with a more industry or niche-focused publication.
Sticking with our theme of reaching the right readers for your content where they’re already spending time online, begin your niche publication search by asking yourself a few basic questions to determine which ones would be good prospects for taking your content:
- Which industry publications do I already enjoy reading?
- How many monthly readers do they appear to get? (Use a traffic estimator tool like SimilarWeb or Alexa to get a rough baseline for this, and aim for sites with at least a couple hundred thousand monthly readers and up to the low millions as a range.)
- How much engagement does their average article get? (You’ll want to make sure their content gets at least a few dozen social shares and a few comments, otherwise it’s not very likely that you’ll get much of a return for your time investment.)
Once you’ve built some credibility by writing for a few industry publications in your space, it’s much easier to start writing for more mainstream sites with millions of readers. And in time, having a publication column with high-traffic sites will pay off tenfold once you’re ready to start monetizing your blog with affiliate links, launching your own product, selling your freelance services, or otherwise.
3. Creatively Leveraging Social Media Marketing.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat. Whichever platform best suits your niche and has your audience, is the right one for you.
That’s an important caveat to remember. There’s no point trying to promote your content on every single social media channel. Instead, look for the ones that’ll give you the best return in the long run. It’ll take some experimenting in order to see what works for you.
Each social network appeals to a different niche and type of reader. This is a bit of a generalization, but here’s what is currently working best on each major social platform:
- Facebook: Videos and curated content
- Instagram: High-res photos, quotes, and Stories
- Twitter: News, blog posts, and GIFs
- LinkedIn: Professional content and career news (native video is hot right now)
- Pinterest: Infographics, step-by-step photo guides, visual content
- Google+: Blog posts you want to rank well in Google search results
- Reddit: Comments about topics in your niche
I know, it’s a lot. And on top of that, there are plenty more social channels that have a very specific focus and purpose that you may want to invest time in—YouTube, Tumblr, Periscope, Flikr, Musical.ly, VSCO, to name just a few.
While this can quickly get overwhelming, my advice is to choose just one social network (maybe two maximum if there’s a compelling reason) to focus all of your attention on, in order to maximize your opportunities for connecting with your ideal readers.
For example, after seeing that my in-depth guide to choosing the right side business idea was picking up a lot of traction on Pinterest, I began investing time and resources into making sure each new article for my blog would get a Pinterest-optimized image. On top of that, I now regularly spend time networking with other pinners to get my content exposed to new audiences on the platform.
4. Participating in Groups, Forums and Message Boards
Being an active member in targeted forums and online communities can often give you a better return on your time than social media, and is definitely a smarter investment if you’re still developing your idea and perfecting the messaging of your blog.
Start by looking for a topically relevant group to join. For example, if you’re creating a blog about photography, you could consider joining Facebook groups like Nikon Digital Camera & Photo Enthusiasts (26,000+ members), Nikon D750 Users (27,000+ members), and Nikon UK Photography (13,000+ members).
If your blog is relevant to anyone with a DSLR camera, you’re sure to find enough people who’d be interested in reading your posts within those groups. Remember though, these aren’t just places to dump links to your blog posts and shamelessly plug your own content.
You need to provide value before asking for anything in return. Start by building relationships and engaging with people there. Plus you never know, you might come up with some great ideas, find other bloggers to collaborate with, and pick up more traffic driving strategies in the process.
Driving traffic and building a regular audience around your blog isn’t a walk in the park. However, the more authentic, excited and engaging you are with your content (and communities), the more your early readers will resonate with you—and want to tell their friends about your blog.
Create truly great content, connect with other bloggers & readers in your industry, and enthusiastically share everything you’re learning. The traffic will follow.
Ryan Robinson is a content marketing consultant to the world’s top experts and growing startups. He teaches more than 2 Million yearly readers how to start and grow a profitable side business on his blog, ryrob.com.