It’s one of the most exhilarating feelings for bloggers. It’s waking up in the morning to check traffic stats and seeing another big boost. It’s finding dozens of new comments on posts new and old. But that feeling never lasts forever.
Before long every blogger sees growth plateau. In some cases it can even start to dip a bit. That feeling of exhilaration then gets instantly extinguished.
Like an addict, though, we want to regain what we were feeling during the growth period. We want to see our blogs soar to greater heights, eventually reaching the A-list. That takes some exceptional effort, though. In order to expand our blogs, we first need to expand our networks.
The first, and most intuitive, way to grow your blog audience is to actively recruit people. Thankfully, modern social media has made this an easier proposition than it was even five years ago.
With these real-time tools we can start discussions with people of all stripes, perhaps in the process convincing them to read our work. If they like it they can spread the word, and before long it turns into another growth period.
Here are a few smart ways to expand an online network.
Comment on Other Blogs.
This is a tried-and-true method for promoting a blog. Time was, bloggers did this as an exercise in linking. Do-follow used to be the standard in the comments section of blogs, and so people would leave frequent comments to help build backlinks. Since then, though, most blogs have gone to no-follow comments. Yet there’s still value there.
The idea is to help further the conversation. This means not only leaving your thoughts on the post itself, and perhaps endearing yourself to the blog owner, but also replying to other commenters.
These are prefect people to convert to your blog, since they not only read blogs but also comment on them. Make them think, and you might have won over a new audience.
Interact on Twitter.
Facebook might be the biggest social network of our lifetimes, but it might not be the best marketing tool for a blog. For starters, many people prefer to keep their Facebook accounts personal.
I can attest to this: I only add people I’ve actually met and know. But Twitter is a completely different demon. It’s fast, and it’s interactive. And you can make friends pretty easily.
It’s all about finding the right people to follow. Follow people with blogs you admire. follow people who read blogs. Follow people who are interested in your niche. Follow people who share other interests with you.
And make sure to use the @ reply function frequently. By constantly interacting with others, you can slowly build relationships. I know couples who met on Twitter, so anything is possible. It’s easily a place to win over new readers.
We’re getting a little meta here, since I’m guest posting. It is a great way to get your content in front of a new audience. Guest blogging is a difficult proposition, all told, and it takes a degree of balance to get it right. But once you do get it right, you can show more and more people what they’re missing by not reading your blog.
The most important thing to remember is that guest posting is for the content, not for the link. One link will do little to nothing for your search engine rankings. In fact, I suggest you throw out that idea altogether, using your blog name as the anchor text in the guest post.
It signals that you want people to read the content, rather than for google to pick up on a keyword here or there. Put your best foot forward, too: your guest posts should be at least of the quality you’d publish on your own blog, and there is an argument for using your best material for guest posts.
The good news: you can grow your blog considerably by using only online methods. Using just the three methods above, you could spend months promoting your blog without exhausting resources. That brings us to the bad news: eventually you will exhaust your efforts.
You won’t be able to stand to leave one more blog comment, you’ll have built up such a big following on Twitter that you can’t follow anyone else, or you’ve written all the guest posts you can handle. That’s a clear signal that it’s time to take your efforts offline.
There are two primary ways you can do this. Both have their complications and difficulties, but both will bring you an entirely new network of people who can help your blog grow.
Organize a Meet-up
These are often called tweet-ups, since they involve people from Twitter. Why would you organize an event for a bunch of people you haven’t met? Because meeting them in person creates a new bond that is exceedingly difficult to create purely online.
It lets you know people on a completely different level. It also helps build a further level of trust. Since people tend to help people they trust, there’s clearly something in this for everyone.
Online we can develop an emotional bond with someone. We can learn their experiences and sympathize. We can share jokes and stories, and get a pen-pal-like bond. But we still can’t add the physical aspect to the relationship — no, not that kind of physical aspect.
But there’s something to be said about seeing, hearing, feeling, and smelling someone that we just can’t get online. It helps us build trust. And that’s what helps us grow our networks.
Attend a Conference.
A conference is like a meet-up on steroids. You not only get the physical meeting, but you get so much more.
- First, a conference is a dedicated meeting of people with something in common.
- Second, a conference is full of educational panels and keynotes that can expand anyone’s understanding of any topic.
- Third, there are bound to be plenty of people smarter and more experienced than you at a conferences. It’s from these people that you stand to learn the most.
There are conferences for any kind of blogger. There are general blogging conferences, which can help almost anyone. There are also conferences for niche blogs.
For instance, there is an International Food Blogger Conference. Seriously. The conference costs some money up front, but you can save some cash by booking a flight and reasonably priced New Orleans hotels using a site such as Orbitz.
That will help keep your wallet a bit heavier. But these conferences are investments, not expenses. That is, you should plan to learn enough and meet enough people that you’ll earn back that money and then some.
There is nothing greater than the feeling that your blog is getting somewhere. Yet there are many times when it feels like it’s getting nowhere. It’s during these times that we have to be more active in our growth strategy.
There are many methods, both online and off, that can help us continue growing while other blogs stagnate. Do the normal things, get the normal results. But do extraordinary things, and big rewards are in the future.