Make Your Blog Content Work For You
Finding that narrow slice of the greater internet readership that wants to hear what you have to say can be one of the most challenging aspects of blogging. Through some small promotional tactics and careful cross-linking, you can start to grow your readership.
These days, it’s common for the average designer to maintain a blog. They come in all shapes and sizes, but there are always a few common reasons why the blog was started in the first place. Some designers write about design to gain credibility, others use it as a promotional tool, others simply use it as a cathartic outlet.
For those that take their writing seriously, gaining and keeping steady traffic can be frustrating. Maybe you have stellar writing skills, but few are listening—you just need that giant word-of-mouth tipping point that will send your referrer logs through the ceiling.
From my experience, that tipping point rarely—if ever—comes. You might get an article Dugg or get linked by Kottke, spiking traffic for 48 hours, but it always recedes back to a quiet stasis when the casual reading crowd wanders elsewhere.
The term “organic” has been butchered, dissected, abused, cannibalized and sodomized by every buzzword-blaspheming marketing site on the net, but the concept of natural growth has true metaphoric weight when discussing a site’s traffic pattern. Getting an article on Digg is the equivalent of dumping a bucket of water on a cactus. A few drops will be absorbed and be a legitimate part of the growing process, but 99% of the water is going to run right through the soil and never do a darn thing to help the cactus.
Growing a plant takes patience and consistent nurturing. A site’s traffic is no different. Writing consistently and well is only half the battle—you can’t just plant a tree and hope for the best. Getting the right audience to read your blog takes time and a lot of small promotional moves.
Five Ways to Make Your Content Work For You
Luckily, you have great content. Some of the most effective site promotion tactics reside in how you handle your existing work. If everything is just buried in an archive, no one’s going to find it. If it has no links, it’s not very web-friendly. And if you never let search engines know about it … well, then no one will find it. (I know that last one was tough, but try to keep up.)
So make your transcendently incredible writing work for you by following these short, easy and free steps.
OK, this one is a bit obvious. Not everyone can write with the wit of Zeldman, the punch of Godin or the uber-cool polish of Storey. But you can do two things before you hit publish: spell check and ask someone else to read it. In both instances, you’ll be amazed at what you find, and your readership will appreciate (albeit unconsciously) your refined delivery.
Link Link Link Link
Link profusely. Link to other sites when you talk about them, link to Wikipedia for a term your audience may not understand, link to supporting or dissenting views at other blogs. People will follow these and discover new things, and more importantly, some people will follow them back and discover you.
And just as importantly, link to your own articles. Have you said something important in the past? Maybe there’s something that supports your current argument, or just something totally awesome people should read. Keeping visitors on your site is just as hard as finding them in the first place, so give them something else to read.
Following the above point, provide a contextual menu of related articles separate from the current article content. If the reader liked the first article he landed on, they might dig further, and if they like what they find, they might perform the golden act of bookmarking your site or grabbing your feed. This tactic was also mentioned over at ProBlogger; the blogger in question saw a 50% jump in page views when he added a short list of “related articles” next to each entry.
In ye olde days of the web, seeing a “bookmark this site” button was a regular appearance on most Geocities sites. This small but effective marketing tool has become even more powerful with the advent of social bookmarking, since the bookmark now reminds both the original visitor and the rest of the world to come back and visit your site. Most blogging software comes with a plug-in to manage this, but at the very least, append a del.icio.us link to every post. If you can get Digg, ma.gnolia and others in there as well, so much the better.
To construct a simple del.icio.us link, use:
<a href="http://del.icio.us/post?url=YOUR.URL"> Bookmark this entry at del.icio.us</a>
Replace “YOUR-URL” with the URL of the post’s entry. This would ideally be built into your template, and the URL a variable. (For instance, Textpattern would use
<txp:permlink /> to render the link.)
For Digg, use this link (all one line):
Using Tags to Ping
Technorati is a well-traversed labyrinth of content, but its means of discovering blogs and their content relies on tags, special links that ping the Technorati engine to let them know you’ve added content related to specific keywords. To contribute to this search engine, simply add “tagged” links to your post, like so:
<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/blog" rel="tag">blog</a> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/promotion" rel="tag">promotion</a> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/content" rel="tag">content</a>
Of course Technorati isn’t the only site that takes advantage of tagging. Ping-o-matic lets you submit your content to multiple sites at once, including Weblogs.com, My Yahoo and others.
Writing a blog consistently and well takes effort, but can be a huge promotional engine for a designer if done well. The hardest part about writing good content is not coming up with ideas or editing or even the design—it’s finding that narrow slice of internet audience that wants to hear what you have to say. And finding them and keeping them can be done with content you already have, by cross-linking and social bookmarking and putting your site out in the wild for search engines to discover. It’s silent word-of-mouth marketing, and with patience and careful pruning, can send just the right audience to your corner of the web.