13 June 2009

Blogging Tips : Boost Your Blog’s Profile

Develop a Plan to Boost Your Blog’s Profile and Readership Online

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is one that should help you think a little strategically about where you spend time online building your online profile.

One of the ways that many successful blogs build a readership and profile is by spending significant time and energy building up a presence on other websites. Whether this be forums, social bookmarking sites (like Digg or StumbleUpon), social messaging sites (like Twitter), other blogs or any other type of site - time invested in other websites can be a great way to build your own brand.

However…. spending time on other sites can also be a complete waste of time.

A trap that I see many bloggers falling into (and have fallen into myself) is sinking significant time into building a presence on sites without having really thought through two things:

  1. Whether it’s the right site to build a presence on
  2. What their strategy and purpose is for being on the site

Perhaps I’m describing myself more than you here - but many of us as bloggers tend to DRIFT around the web from site to site without any real direction or purpose.

20 minutes onTwitter, 5 minutes on MySpace, 20 minutes reading other blogs on Google Reader, 30 minutes checking out photos of friends on Facebook, 20 minutes checking out the latest threads on our favorite forums, back to Twitter for 20 minutes, 15 minutes following links we found on Digg……..

It’s easy to get to the end of the day and wonder what it was that we really achieved. We aimlessly drift around the web and have very little to show for the time we spend.

Can you relate?

It is a pity that so many of us struggle with this problem because spending time on other websites has the potential to really build our blogs…. however for so many people it can end up being largely a waste of time.

Your Task Today

Today your task is to do something that some of us (yes I’m talking to myself here) will find difficult. Depending upon our personality type it could feel a little too rigid - however I ask that you humor me and see where the exercise takes you.

1. How Much Time Do You Have?

Work out how much time you have each day (or week) for spending time on other websites to build the profile of your blog. Remember that you need to also have put aside significant time to spend on your own blog (writing, interacting with readers etc).

2. Describe Your Desired Reader

Spend 10-15 minutes describing the type of person that you want to read your blog. For some of you this will include very specific things like demographics (age, gender, location) but for others of you it will be less specific. Your potential readers might be defined more as ‘beginner photographers’ or ‘people interested in learning the latest patch working techniques’ (ie a description based more upon people’s needs or behaviors).

3. Ask yourself this Question

Where are my potential readers gathering online?” This is a key question be asking yourself regularly. If your goal is to build your blog you need to know what type of people you want to attract and to be on the look out for other sites where this type of people are gathering.

Of course this question is not easy to answer and it can take a lot of time to identify these types of sites. Let me give you some examples of how I’ve answered this question:

  • Flickr - for me a site dedicated to photo sharing was an obvious place for me to have a presence when starting my photography site.
  • Lifehacker - a blog with an audience with a techie interest but that was all about helping people with ‘hacks’ or tips. A logical place for me with all three of my blogs which hare ‘tips’ related blogs.
  • Twitter - until recently Twitter has been mainly used by social media buffs - it’s a logical place for me to have a presence for ProBlogger and especially TwiTip.
  • Forums - when launching ProBlogger I spent a lot of time on webmaster related forums like DigitalPoint and Webmaster World. When starting out with my photography blog I spent time on a lot of photography forums.
  • Blogs - I still hang out on a lot of blogs related to my niches but particularly in the early days of my photography blog I was a daily commenter and occasionally guest poster on quite a few.
  • StumbleUpon - image based posts tend to do really well on StumbleUpon - as a result it was a logical place for me to build a presence for my photography blog.

These were some of the places that related to my own blogs - for your niche/topic it’ll probably look quite different. Perhaps there are other social media sites (for example Facebook often has strong ‘groups’ on different topics or LinkedIn might be a more appropriate place to interact) or other types of sites that seem to attract your kinds of readers.

Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for other sites with your exact same niche/topic. For example, Lifehacker is not a blog about photography but it has a readership that overlaps with the type of people I want to read my photography blog. The Webmaster forums were not forums about blogging specifically - but they had a user group which would have had a % of people who operate blogs.

So don’t just identify sites in your own niche - look at related topics and whether there might be some kind of overlap between the readers that they have and what you’re looking to attract.

As I mention above - learning where your potential readers gather online is a long term search - but try to come up with at least a couple for the purpose of this activity.

4. What Opportunities are there to Build a Presence?

Once you’ve identified at least a couple of places that your potential readers are already gathering spend some time looking at what opportunities you might have on these sites to build your own blog’s profile.

The opportunities will again vary quite a bit from site to site. Some of them we’ve touched on earlier in the 31DBBB challenge and include:

I. Guest Posts - if it is a blog do they accept guest posts? Some blogs actively seek contributors (look for ‘write for us’ pages) while others don’t advertise it but do use reader contributions.

If you’re accepted as a guest poster pay particular attention to what types of posts work well on the site you’re writing for. Look at comment numbers and try to find out what types of articles might have done well previously on social media sites. Quite often the blogger will be willing to help you and give you examples of what has previously worked on their blog.

II. Submit Tips/News - similarly - some blogs rely heavily upon readers for story ideas and will give credit for the source. For example in the early days of my photography blog I was regularly emailing Engadget and Gizmodo when new cameras were released. I’d send them not only the news of new cameras but images that they could use. They didn’t always use my stories and link back but when they did it was a boost both to traffic, profile and SEO.

Quite a few blogs have links in their navigation areas inviting these types of tips and ideas for stories so don’t be afraid to use them.

III. Leaving Super Useful Comments - if there’s no way to share tips or write guest posts the comments section of another blog is a place that you can really build a profile. Don’t just leave quick pointless comments - go to some effort. I was speaking with one blogger recently whose strategy was to leave at least one post length comment on another blog each day.

By ‘post length’ comment they meant that they aimed to write at least one in depth comment of 500 words or more every day on another blog in their niche. The comment would extend the ideas in the posts they were commenting upon, share examples that made the posts deeper, added resources etc (not just with links back to their own blog. The strategy was to add comments that were attention grabbing by their usefulness.

The result was that the blogger was regularly asked by other bloggers to guest blog on their blog and that other readers began to visit their blog even though they rarely linked to it in their comments.

This same strategy can be used in forums. Start a new thread that is a tutorial or highly useful resources - people will want to know more about you if you do (more on this strategy of using Forums to promote your blog here).

IV. Making Connections/Building Your Network - if the site you’ve identified is more of a social networking or social bookmarking site then one strategy you’ll want to work on is making connections with others on the site. Set up an account and start making ‘friends’. Pay particular interest to making friends with other active users and people with shared interests.

It can also be well worth identifying key players or influential members on the site. Watch how they operate and look for opportunities to build relationships with them.

The key is to be a genuine participant on the site. To add value, to become a key member of the community. As you do this opportunities will arise that will allow you to promote yourself and your blog a little more.

V. Profile pages - Does the site have an opportunity to set up a profile page or have any ability to promote yourself in any way? On most social media sites and forums there is the ability to say something about yourself, share a link back to your blog, customize your presence with an avatar and/or background image and nominate some keywords as tags.

Try to keep your brand consistent across the different sites that you are building a presence on where you can. Also think about using a ‘landing page’ as the page that you link to rather than just the front page of your blog (read more on how I do this with a Twitter Landing Page).

VI. Signatures - If it’s a forum (or some other community site) you might have an opportunity to add a signature. My only tip with this is that sometimes less is more. Long, flashing or bright signatures can look quite spammy - so go for something tasteful and descriptive.

Other opportunities to promote your work exist on other sites. For example on Facebook you can promote your blog using a variety of applications that allow you to pull in your latest posts or list your blogs. See what other bloggers are doing and test to see if their strategies work for you too.

VII. Advertising - this won’t be for everyone but many sites will have opportunities to engage their readers with advertising. While this might sound very expensive there are quite a few sites that allow you to start ad campaigns that are quite affordable and with a small budget.

For example social media sites likeMySpace (disclosure: they are currently an advertiser on ProBlogger), StumbleUpon and Facebook all have advertising options that allow you to target specific demographics and even people with certain interests. They all allow you to set up campaigns with quite small budgets too.

Other types of sites might not have quite the same sort of ad opportunities but might be open to other types of advertising. If it’s another blog of a similar size to yours you might even approach the bloggers to do an ad swap - you put an ad on their blog and they put an ad on yours.

Further Reading: Run a StumbleUpon Campaign on your Blog (from the last 31DBBB challenge)

VIII. Volunteer to Help - if it’s a forum site that you’re wanting to spend time on there are often opportunities to help out by becoming a moderator. Most sites won’t take you on as a moderator straight away but contribute genuinely over time and there may be opportunity in this area. While you don’t want to abuse the privilege it - moderation status gives you a certain level of authority and profile on a forum.

5. Plan a Strategy

OK - so you’ve identified some sites where your potential readers are gathering, you’ve assessed some of the opportunities that exist to build your profile on these sites - the task now is to think a little strategically about what you’re going to do on these sites.

Don’t feel you need to have a highly developed plan or strategy - but jot down some of the following:

  • How much time will you spend there? (prioritize which sites you want to spend more time on than others)
  • What times of the week would be best to be active on this site? (sites have their own rhythms and some will be more active on some days/times than others).
  • What types of things am I going to do on this site (which of the opportunities that you’ve identified in step #4 will you pursue?)
  • Set yourself some goals. Again - they need not be highly formal but could include things like getting a guest post published, becoming a moderator, posting X number of comments a week, getting to know the owner of the site etc.

You can extend this step by actually planning out what an average day or week will look like for you as you go about your blogging. I know of a few bloggers who’ve gone as far as setting up a spreadsheet with each day and the hours on that day outlined. They then block out times for each day for certain activities. They fill up their most productive times of day with the most important activities (like writing content on their own blog) and then set aside time each day/week for spending time on other sites.

While this type of schedule might not work for everyone - I personally have used it at times where I’ve felt particularly ‘aimless’ with my time. Even doing it for a week or two can help you to develop more healthy habits online.

6. Analyze Your Current Activity

The last step in this task is to take a little tie to analyze what you’re currently doing with your time online.

  • What sites do you spend time on already?
  • Do these sites actually help to build your profile or could you be more effectively use your time elsewhere?
  • Are you being effective with the time you spend on these sites?

I did some analysis on this 12 or so months ago. At the time I was sinking a lot of time into two main social media sites - Twitter and Plurk. While I enjoyed both I realized that it was Twitter that was a more effective place for me to be interacting. While I’d become a top 10 user on Plurk it wasn’t really as effective use of time for me so I decided to stop interacting there and focus my energies upon Twitter.

Note: I’m not arguing that everything you do online has to be productive and building your profile. Some of you use Twitter more as a social thing than to build your blogs and that is legitimate - however it is worth asking yourself the question and doing a little analysis of your online habits.

Lastly - Keep Balance

My last words of advice are to not become obsessed with building your profile on other people’s sites. I’ve seen a number of bloggers spend so much time building their presence on sites like Twitter that they fail to actually build up and develop their own blogs. Identify key sites to spend time on - but put your own blog at the top of the list and set aside as much (if not more) time for working specifically upon it.

6 Posts for Suggested Further Reading:

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