How To Grow Your Traffic By Working With Competitors
There’s one gargantuan difference between the world of traditional business and the blogging industry, and it’s not the technology.
It’s the idea of competition.
When you start a company, one of the first things you do while you’re writing your business plan is research your competition, and you should absolutely do the same thing in your blog business plan.
But those people aren’t truly your competitors.
They’re potential collaborators.
Here’s the thing about blogging:
A great blog is built on a foundation of value – the mission of a good blog is to give away lots of valuable content for free to a devoted audience. That value is what keeps people coming back.
Sharing other great blog posts and content increases the value you can give to your audience, which is why you see links on this blog to places like Pat Flynn’s website Smart Passive Income and Neil Patel’s blog. I could tell you the same things, but you’ll get more information and better results if you use their resources, too.
The truth is this:
Even though there’s a slight element of competition between bloggers, especially those that sell similar products, there’s far more cooperation and collaboration.
Most people aren’t going to stop reading Pat Flynn’s blog because they start reading mine – as long as a reader is getting value from both, he or she will read both.
It’s not like shopping in a physical store, where you’re probably going to choose between the Trader Joe’s store or the Whole Foods for most of your purchases. Bloggers share traffic happily, and it’s good for everyone involved.
You can leverage your competition to build traffic.
Don’t Be A Jerk
That might be a tiny bit of an oversimplification, but at the core of a successful blogging strategy is this basic premise:
Act like a human.
If you want people to send traffic your way, give them free publicity. Approval and endorsements by a third party are always appreciated, and that kind of credibility can’t be manufactured or faked.
So, when you write an honest, real recommendation for one of your so-called competitors, of course they want their potential customers to see it!
That means that they’re likely to send traffic to your site, and often in large amounts. Some of those people are going to read only that one post, but if you’ve done a good job designing your blog, some of those people are going to stick around to find out who you are.
And what if you write something nice about another blog or business, and they don’t send any traffic your way?
Still Don’t Be A Jerk
You’re going to build tons of traffic by interacting with the blogging community, but your main motivation should never be the traffic you can potentially get from other websites.
Your motivation should be providing the best possible information, entertainment, or other value to your audience.
Yes, I’m presenting this post as a traffic building strategy.
And it is.
But it won’t work if your mindset is “What’s in it for me?”
Let’s Build Traffic
Of course you’re ready to jump in and start driving crazy amounts of traffic to your site, but in order for this to actually be good for you, there’s a commandment you absolutely must follow:
Know Thine Audience.
There is such a thing as bad traffic, but the more common (and intensely frustrating) problem is useless traffic. What’s the point of having 200,000 unique visitors per month if your conversion rate is 0.001%? By the way, that comes out to 2 people, for those of you who are math impaired like I am.
There’s no point in driving traffic to your blog if it’s the wrong people. Yeah, they clicked on your site and your pageviews skyrocketed for a day. So what?
That’s why it’s so important to know who reads your blog and to work with others who have a similar audience.
With your head in the right place, and your focus firmly on your readers, you’re ready to start collaborating!
Step 1: Find Your Peers
Maybe you already have an idea of who is already making waves in your niche, but you’re still going to need to do some homework.
Use social media, Google, forums, and ask friends or family with related interests who they follow and shop from. Start reading and following good blogs – as an added bonus, the more you read good blogs, the easier it will be for you to write great blog posts yourself.
A spreadsheet will help you stay organized, and be sure to bookmark your favorites and return to them regularly.
You can work with anyone who is geared towards a similar audience…
But you’ll get the fastest and best results if you focus on bloggers and businesses who have these easily identifiable markers of good habits:
- Their posting schedule is reliable
- They have comments on lots of their posts, and they answer their comments (on social media AND on their blog)
- They focus on one topic only
- Their blog posts include links to other websites
- They write content that you enjoy reading and that your own readers would like
Step 2: Join The Community
Once you’ve started building a list of your peers, start interacting. Comment on their blogs!
Make absolutely sure you follow comment etiquette!
Lots and lots of bloggers become spammers when they start their traffic building campaign. Go to any popular blog and scroll down to the comments, and you’re likely to see hoards of small-time bloggers writing comments like this:
Wow, that’s a great carrot muffin recipe. I wrote a carrot muffin recipe too! You should check it out! [link to crappy blog post that nobody cares about]
Don’t be that guy.
That guy’s an asshole.
Here’s the thing about that strategy:
Some people might click on your link, but it’s unlikely. Those readers don’t scroll down to the comments wondering if any other bloggers have written about the same thing – they scroll down to the comments to express their thoughts on that post, or to see if anyone has tried it and has any feedback.
On top of being largely ineffective, you’ve just burnt a bridge. You disrespected a popular blogger in your niche, and if you later want him or her to collaborate and share traffic, she’s likely to already think of you as a spammer.
Nobody likes spammers.
So, yes, go comment on other people’s blog posts…
But follow the rules:
- Don’t spam your links.
- If you’re commenting on a post, you should be commenting about the post (unless you’re joining in an existing conversation).
- If there’s a place to enter your website information, go ahead. If there’s not, leave it out.
- Don’t ever comment with the intention of stealing traffic. Comment to add value, join the conversation, or otherwise support that blog post.
- If you don’t have anything valuable to say…don’t say anything. You don’t need to have an opinion about every idea, and commenting just for the possibility of name recognition is obvious and counter-productive.
In other words, if you’re going to comment on people’s blogs and social media posts, treat it like a conversation with that person. Before you post that comment, imagine you’re face-to-face with them: if you wouldn’t say that thing to their face, don’t say it in the comments.
The whole point of commenting on other blogs and becoming part of the community is to get into the habit of adding value and working with others in your niche.
Sure, you’ll probably gain some name recognition if you do this well, and when you eventually ask that blogger to work with you later on they might be more inclined to do so.
But interacting with others is primarily a way for you to keep track of trends, get a clear picture of where you fit, and engage yourself in a world that’s bigger than your own computer desk.
Step 3: Start Promoting Other People
Now, you’ve got an idea of the major players and a clear view of the playing field.
It’s time to write some well-informed content.
Your knowledge of the overall landscape in your niche is a valuable thing. You’ve taken time and effort to gain perspective, and the people who follow you will appreciate anything you share that helps them gain similar perspective.
Use your blog as a platform to expose your readers to other great bloggers and businesses.
And don’t just mention that these things exist…
Explain exactly who these people are, what they do, and why they’re so wonderful that you’re excited to give them free advertising.
Some people prefer to do this through roundup posts, such as The Top 10 Fashion Bloggers in Canada, but in my personal experience you’ll get more traction and more value by featuring 1 blog in 1 post.
Don’t feature blogs that you don’t read, or people you’ve never heard of that you found in a quick Google search for the sole purpose of writing a post about someone.
These spotlight style features work when you know there’s value there, you love what they’re doing, and you genuinely think they’re worth talking about.
Step 4: Tell Them You’re Promoting Them
After the post is published, it’s perfectly reasonable to reach out and tell that blogger or business owner you’ve featured them.
You’re not asking for anything.
You’re not even suggesting that they promote your post to their audience.
All you’re doing is sending a quick message – an email, a contact form, a Facebook message, or even a Tweet – to let them know that you’ve featured them on your blog, and if they’d like to see it, they can click the link.
Now, let’s review blog comment etiquette for a second…
Unless there’s literally no other way you can find to contact that blogger, which is highly unlikely, you shouldn’t be sending this communication through their blog comments.
In fact, if it’s at all possible, you should reach out in some kind of a private forum like an email or a direct message.
Choose a communication method that you think is likely to be received – if they’re incredibly popular on Instagram and have hundreds of thousands of followers, they might be getting a lot of DMs, but if they regularly respond to Tweets from fans on Twitter, you can already tell that they keep up with their messages on that account.
The best contact method might not always be clear, but don’t spam them!
Send 1 message through 1 platform, and wait. If they don’t answer within a week, you can follow up on the same (or on a different) platform, but they’re under no obligation to answer you, so don’t pester them.
But what if they don’t share my link with their followers? Isn’t that the point?
The point is that you’re writing great content that is good for your audience, and doing it this way sometimes brings in extra traffic.
Nobody is obligated to do anything for you.
Nobody is required to read your blog posts (not even your friends) or sign up for your newsletter or like your Facebook page.
All you can do is build a great blog that has useful, entertaining, and worthy content that people want to read, and trust that your good habits will pay off.
If you’re consistent and your intentions are honorable, they will.
Step 5: Reach Out for Collaboration
You can stop at Step 4 if you want.
Just promoting other people regularly (not every post though) will start increasing your traffic numbers.
But why not take it to the next level?
All this time you’ve spent commenting on blog posts, checking out the competitive landscape, and promoting other people, you’ve been putting together a powerful network.
You can leverage that network to solidify your position as an industry expert, explode your traffic numbers, and make even better connections.
First, you need to have a relationship with another blogger. You’ve exchanged a few emails, you’ve promoted one another, you recognize each other when you comment on blog posts.
Come up with an idea to work with them on a blog project.
Perhaps you want to have some kind of friendly competition.
Or you might have a virtual party where you and several other bloggers each post about a component…example here.
You might review the same book or product, write posts on the same topic, or hold a vote among your readers to determine who can come up with a better life hack.
Whatever you decide, make sure you have an idea of what you’d like to do BEFORE you email them!
Imagine you got an email like this from someone you’d tweeted a couple of times:
Hi, Ms. Blogger! Remember when I promoted your blog on mywebsite.com? That was fun. Hey, I was thinking we should work together some time and do something that will benefit both of us. What do you think?
That email simply doesn’t have enough information to say “Yes.”
But it has plenty of information to say “No.”
On the contrary, imagine instead that you received this message:
Hi, Mr. Blogger! That last post you wrote about carrot muffins got me thinking. Remember when I promoted your blog on mywebsite.com? I remember you saying there was a boost in your traffic for weeks after that. I’d like to do something like that again, but this time, I think we should work together in a little bit of friendly competition. What if we both post our favorite vegetable muffin recipe and let our readers vote to see which one they like more? Talk to you soon!
It’s not a perfect email message, but it does get to the point.
You know that blogger wants to work with you, why, and how they want to do it.
There still needs to be a conversation to work out the little details, but because there’s already an idea and you know that working with this person benefits your traffic numbers, you’re much more likely to agree…or at least to continue the conversation without an outright denial.
Are you ready to try it out?
The first step towards making your competitors work for you and with you is knowing who those people are.
Today’s homework is super easy.
Just read someone else’s blog.
Your goal right now is to find another blogger who targets a similar audience, and bookmark them for future reference.
If you’re not already reading similar blogs, you can check for posts in Facebook groups, ask your readers who else they visit, or simply use Google.