Your First 100 Blog Followers/ November 14, 2016
Blog followers don’t happen automatically.
It’s a hard truth that we bloggers learn very quickly:
Just because you write something, that doesn’t mean anybody is going to read it.
Even your friends and family aren’t likely to read your new blog, and you don’t necessarily want them to. As a budding blogger, you probably have a long way to go before you’re ready for widespread readership.
Blogging is a skill, and like every other skill in the history of ever, you’re not good – you’re not even proficient – when you first start.
Put effort into building that skill, and you’ll start building your core group of blog followers.
Readership is earned.
Here’s how you earn it:
Write For Your Blog Followers, Not For Yourself
Here’s the simple formula for gaining blog followers:
Write stuff that people actually want to read, and then make sure that they can find it.
Just because it’s simple, though, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Nobody reads your blog for your benefit. They read it because they’re getting something they want from it.
That’s where this whole “value” thing comes in.
Lots of bloggers manage to find the occasional reader without ever gaining the traction to turn those people into followers – value is the thing that keeps people coming back.
Add value has become the standard advice for budding bloggers, and it’s good advice.
If you actually know what it means.
Here’s the concept of value summed up in one sentence:
Value is giving your readers something for free that they would willingly pay for elsewhere.
People who buy how-to books are paying for useful information.
People who purchase dating site memberships are buying access to a community of people with similar values and motivations.
We buy education. We buy prestige. We buy a sense of belonging. We buy entertainment.
All of these things are valuable.
And none of that value comes from you talking about yourself.
Before you rush off to start typing up entertaining, informative, value-laden blog posts in hopes of attracting droves of new followers, you should know:
In order to cultivate blog followers, you need to give the right value to the right people.
It’s time to answer these 3 questions:
- Which people want to read blogs like mine?
- Why do they want to read blogs like mine?
- How do I get these potential followers to come to my blog in the first place?
Let’s start here:
Who Are Your Blog Followers?
In order to write for the kind of people who want to read a blog like yours, it helps to know a little bit about who those people are.
Your audience will evolve with your brand and your voice.
If you’re smart, you’ll allow feedback from your readers to help shape your future.
When you’re just starting out, though, you can’t ask your readers what you want.
You know, because you don’t have any readers yet.
Fortunately, you can do some basic research and make a few educated guesses that will help you start attracting the right people.
Here’s how you do that research:
Researching your readership is more of an art than an exact science.
Mostly, the bulk of your work revolves around finding other online communities dealing with similar topics, then analyzing the commonalities of the people participating in them.
Just keep this in mind:
No two blog audiences are quite the same, even when the blog content is very similar.
You’ll get better insight by comparing lots of blogs, forums, Facebook groups, and online magazines that deal with your topic.
The goal is to identify trends that most of these audiences seem to have in common.
Start by looking for other blogs like yours.
Use Google to find blogs and websites that cover the same (or a very, very similar) topic as yours, and bookmark the sites that have lots of comments on posts, user profiles, or active forums where readers interact with each other.
That reader interaction is vital, because that’s how you’re going to get to know your potential blog followers.
Those “competitor” sites could also be future collaborators, so save them to your favorites!
Once you’ve got 5 to 10 comparable sites, start digging into those communities.
What questions are people asking?
What topics prompt the most discussion?
What phrases and keywords do readers use over and over?
What trends do you notice that most of those communities have in common?
Click on links. Follow whims. Get carried away. Your instincts are likely to be more reliable than any measurable, quantifiable data, so go where they lead.
The more comparable communities you examine, the better your overall insights will be, and the more likely you are to create content that connects with the right people. By finding the common threads between lots of similar audiences, you’ll get to the essence of their interests.
Leverage the search capability of Facebook:
Facebook is doing a very, very good job of making itself indispensable for marketers.
Here’s how you can leverage Facebook’s power:
Using Facebook’s search feature, find 5 to 10 active groups or pages that cover your blog topic, or a topic that’s slightly more specific than yours.
Repeat the same process you did with other blogs, but this time, focus on the most active commenters and users in those Facebook groups.
Now that you’re in a social network, you can even click through to those people’s profiles to see what other groups, pages, communities, and people they like and interact with. Look at the links they share, the brands and companies they reference, and the types of posts that prompt the most commentary or questions.
But before you jump in, here’s a warning:
While you’re rummaging around on social networks, be careful to stay faithful to your topic.
It’s very easy to get distracted by ideas and subjects that sort of relate to your blogging plans, but don’t necessarily fit in with your core topic.
Building a solid, reliable base of blog followers is much easier when you stick to a single specific, central topic, and don’t deviate too often.
Every deviation from your core topic is a chance to bore or turn off your core readers. They come to your blog because they’re interested in something you wrote about – if the next post they read is about something else entirely, they’re not likely to stick around.
You might continue your research using tools like Google Trends, magazine advertiser press kits, direct marketing data cards, or other traditional market research methods, but as a new blogger, this isn’t strictly necessary.
Your goal for now is just to get a feel for the actual humans who might soon start reading your blog.
Odds are, you have friends or family members who fit the profile you’re putting together during this research process. Whenever you write anything, think of one of those actual people, and your posts will almost automatically get better.
Knowing who you’re writing for is one of the most important things you’ll do as a blogger.
But your work is far from over.
Help Your Potential Blog Followers Find You
Blog traffic strategy is a bigger topic than one blog post can adequately cover.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know everything in order to build a core community of blog followers for a new website.
Your first 100 followers will come from 3 main sources:
- Search engines…specifically, Google.
- Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Plain old traditional networking.
Let’s start with SEO – search engine optimization.
Getting Started with On-Page SEO
The absolute essence of SEO is this:
When you write about a specific topic, make sure that it’s easy for someone who might be looking for that type of information to tell whether or not they’ve found it.
In other words, if you’re writing about organic vegetable gardening, make sure you actually use the words “organic vegetable gardening” in your post.
Of course, there’s a little more to it than just writing a keyword and hoping for the best.
Search engine optimization is such a broad topic, there are entire websites and companies devoted to it. Personally, I recommend that you take the free beginner SEO training from moz.com as a starting point, then checking out the blog at neOnbrand.com if you want to really dive into the topic.
On-page SEO refers to things you do within the text and layout of your blog posts and webpages that help those pages show up higher in search results.
If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin makes it super easy to remember the basic things you should do in every post to help your search rankings. As you write your post, Yoast gives you a checklist to help you build good SEO habits.
Think about what someone might type into Google if they were trying to find your post, and be sure to include those words somewhere in the text.
Organizing your posts into sections with headings (like the ones you see in this post) will also help your search rankings, and as an added bonus, it will make your posts easier to read on mobile and make it easier to organize and communicate your thoughts.
There’s a lot of talk about post length, too, and for now, the correct length for your posts is as long as it takes to make your point and no longer.
Posting regularly is critical, and not just for search engine rankings.
The more often you post good, relevant content, the more chances people have to find you.
But, more than anything, focus on writing posts that your potential blog followers would actually want to read.
It’s much more important to learn how to write for people than it is to learn to write for Google, so build your basic blogging skill first. You can learn more advanced SEO techniques as you go.
Get Social, Don’t Spam
Have you ever been added to someone’s marketing group on Facebook, even though they never asked and you have no interest in whatever they’re selling?
There’s not much that’s more annoying than a friend that turns into a spammer.
I said it at the beginning of the post, but you probably need reminding: your friends and family aren’t likely to read your new blog.
When you start your blog, also start separate social media pages on the platforms you plan to use so that you can keep your friends and your followers appropriately demarcated.
On Facebook, in particular, your friends list caps at 5,000 people, but having a page for your blog effectively removes that cap and makes it possible to gather larger numbers of your followers onto one social page.
It’s okay to invite your friends to join your new pages…
But if you’re going to do that, it’s wise to only invite those friends that would have an actual interest in the material.
You can also occasionally share your blog posts to your regular pages.
Just don’t do it frequently, because spamming your friends will cause you to lose friends instead of gain followers.
Reach new people outside of your existing friends list by interacting in forums and groups, using relevant hashtags, using great Pinterest images, and including a call to action in every post asking your readers to share.
Pay close attention to which posts do best on which platforms.
Do more of what works.
Every time someone comments or interacts with you, appreciate that and respond to them.
Even seemingly negative feedback is a good thing, so don’t waste it.
Finally, don’t overlook the power of real, personal connections in driving traffic to your website.
Open Your Mouth
Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face, human-to-human communication.
Whether you’re standing in the grocery store line, passing the time in friendly conversation with the mom behind you, or you’re giving a guest lecture to 800 students at a nearby college, sharing your website with others is one of the most effective ways to gain blog followers.
Most bloggers are afraid of traditional networking.
Probably because it’s scary.
You don’t have to print out business cards and spend an awkward evening at your local chamber of commerce (though there is some value in that) to grow your readership.
Just practice being a friendly, open person, and when you run into another friendly, open person who has similar interests, tell them about your blog.
Not everyone is going to care, and that’s okay.
Talking to people will expand your audience, drastically improve your blogging skill, and will probably make you a better person in general.
Starting a new blog can go from a fun idea to a massive undertaking in a single Google search.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed!
It’s not necessary to know everything – you only need to know enough to get started.
Today, your homework is to find just 1 blog that’s similar to the website you want to start for yourself, and read a few posts.
Great bloggers read great blogs, so start right now!