07 March 2009

Blogging Tips : How to Expand Your Blog Audience when Traffic Plateaus

This post belongs to a series on how to grow your blog once it gets past launch phase.

Many bloggers that I chat with tell me that their blogs hit plateaus in terms of traffic after around 6 months of blogging.


They launch with enthusiasm, great content, significant time invested into networking with other bloggers and the results pay off with a steady growth in traffic. However in time the enthusiasm dries up a little, life gets busy, networks don’t seem to produce the results that they once did and traffic levels out.

It can be confronting and depressing to realize that your blog has stopped growing.

If this describes you - then the time might have come to put some time aside in the coming days to put a more concerted effort into trying some new ways to grow your traffic. The time has come to look for opportunities to expand your audience.

Of course growing readership is a task that bloggers of all levels will be wanting to explore but as a blog grows new opportunities do arise due to your blogs profile and loyal reader power.

1. Partnerships and Relationships with other blogs

Look at your niche and work out what others are doing and if there are opportunities to work with them or cross promote each other.

I’m not just talking here about ‘getting to know’ other bloggers in the hope that they might link to you one day - actually attempt to build more strategic partnerships with other blogs - partnerships that are mutually beneficial to both of you. For example:

  • offer to run a banner ad for another blog in an empty ad slot on your blog if they do likewise for you
  • do a guest blog swap once a month with another blogger - where you write on their blog for a day and they write on yours
  • promote each other’s RSS feeds or newsletters in posts

These types of relationships can really take many forms and are only limited by your creativity. They can feel a little weird at first because effectively you are promoting a competitor - but from what I’ve found there is plenty of room in most niches for numerous blogs and to work together can actually mean everyone grows. I personally don’t mind if another blog in my niche doubles their traffic if I do too!

It gets easier to get the attention of other bloggers once you become established so you might want to raise your sights a little and even begin to cultivate relationships with bloggers a little higher on the food chain than yourself.

2. Reader Evangelism

Once your blog has a core readership (even if it is smallish) you have one of the most powerful forces for growing your blog right in front of you - people who already read it.

The key is to find ways to release and encourage them to promote your blog for you. Here’s something simple that I did last year which worked on my photography blog:

invite-friend.pngI simply added an invitation in my weekly newsletter to pass on the newsletter to a friend.

It sounds incredibly simple - too simple in fact - but it worked. You can see the invitation pictured to the right - notice that I also included an invitation to subscribe for those who got the invitation from a friend.

What I found is that the ’subscribe’ link got a lot of clicks (you can track this with Aweber) and I started getting emails from new readers who’d had friends recommend that they check out the newsletter and subscriber numbers went up considerably the week I first did it.

There are of course other ways to mobilize readers to help promote your site. Another way that I did it early last year was to run a competition to see who could recruit the most new forum members. I’ve also seen others run competitions where to enter you have to write a post about their blog. Another option is to add an ‘email this to a friend’ link at the bottom of posts.

These competitions and tools do work - but so does simply asking readers to tell their friends about your blog. Of course you need to have a blog worth recommending to a friend for it to really work - the more useful your blog the more likely it’ll be for your readers to pass word of it along to their friends without you asking.

3. Social Media

It can be difficult to have much success on social media sites on a blog that doesn’t have much of a readership - but as it grows a blog can naturally and organically grow in this area as more and more of your readers will be active on these sites.

I wrote a little about this in my post ‘How to Build a Digg Culture on Your Blog‘.

The key at this stage of your blog is to give your readers easy ways to pass your blog on to others. It can also be well worthwhile to do a little familiarization of different social media tools that your readers might find useful (a post about it educating them of the tools) and also be able to promote your blog with.

Then to add social media buttons can also work (although i’d advise just picking a small number that relate to your niche rather than adding every one available).

4. Look a Little Outside Your Niche

There comes a time for some bloggers where they feel like they’ve networked as much as they can within their niche. They know all the other bloggers, they’ve done guest posts on all of the blogs, they have good profile in that niche and there’s not a lot more that they can do to grow their readership through that network.

One of the ways forward out of this situation is to look at surrounding niches and find ways to network and produce content that appeals to those niches.

Example: again, with my photography blog (it’s the one I know best so easiest to pull examples from) I hit a plateau in traffic about 12 months in. At that point I started to think about what connecting points my topic of photography might have with other niches. One that I had some success with was the Mommy Blogger niche by writing a series of posts on How to photograph Children. Writing posts like this and then doing a little promotion to a few key blogs in that niche saw a whole influx of readers from blogs that I would never have previously considered might read my site.

Similarly I had quite good success by pitching some of my posts to sites like Lifehacker and even Gizmodo. These are blogs that were not ‘photography blogs’ but which had some overlap in topic as they were tech focused.

Sometimes lifting your sights a little beyond your immediate niche can have great results and find you a whole new untapped readership.

Add Your Tips

Of course there are many other ways to promote a blog and find new readers. This post could literally go on and on…. and on. I’ve compiled a lot more tips on how to find new readers for your blog here but would love to hear your tips - particularly tips for blogs that have been around before and not just blogs finding their first readers.


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