You’re working your socks off.
You write compelling headlines.
Your blog posts are conversational. Your content is uber-useful.
And still … just a handful of readers turns up.
It’s sooooo frustrating. What should you do?
Throw your computer out of the window? Wait for traffic to snowball? Or work even harder to build a Twitter following and get circled on Google+?
In this post you’ll learn the technique I’ve used to drive traffic to my blog, but let’s briefly side-step in the offline world first …
Imagine launching a new glossy magazine
Let’s say your magazine is about cycling holidays.
You write an article about airlines and transporting bicycles across the world. You write about about cycling adventures in Thailand, Spain, and the UK. And of course, you source great photography.
Your magazine is going to be a fantastic hit among cycling enthusiasts. You’re feeling good about it.
The magazine is rolling off the press.
Of course not. We all know you can’t launch a magazine without promotion and distribution.
But why do we think that our blog posts can go viral without any effort? Without distribution? Without promotion?
Online marketing mimics offline marketing more and more
Just like in offline marketing, you have to know who your audience is and put in the work to connect with them.
But how do you reach readers online and tempt them to browse and read your blog? And then sign up to your newsletter?
Social media can work. But if you don’t have an engaged audience yet, it’ll take a long time to gain traction. And counting on Google to send you traffic is tricky as you need to establish your site as a quality source of information first.
The smartest strategy for a new blog is to find readers by guest posting.
Start with marketing basics
To gain readers and clients through guest posting, decide who you’re writing for and what they’re reading online.
With my guest posts, I want to reach small business owners and marketers who understand the value of great copywriting. They might want to hire a copywriter or improve their own writing skills – in both cases they’re a great audience for me. And I can find smart people like you on blogs like Copyblogger, KISSmetrics, Shopify, and Unbounce.
Your guest blogging strategy will only be effective if the readers of your guest post match the target audience of your business.
Now, let’s go back to your cycling magazine.
Imagine you’d like to sell it at the biggest chain of cycling stores in the UK. Would you just ring up the buyer and say “Hey, we need to talk!!”?
Of course not. You try to get to know the buyer first. You might engage her on social media – you both love talking about cycling so that should be easy.
Before you pitch your guest post idea, you interact with a blogger
When a blogger recognizes your name, you have a better chance your post idea will be accepted.
Don’t become a stalker, but follow them on social media and make meaningful comments. You don’t need to tweet, like, and plus all their posts. You don’t need to comment on everything.
Add an insightful question or an additional thought. Show you know what you’re talking about, and don’t give the impression you’re just buttering up a blogger. Just be good and helpful.
Before I picked up the courage in December last year to pitch a blog post idea to Mark Schaefer, I’d followed his blog for a year. I’d left a few comments, I tweeted some of his posts (always including his Twitter handle!), and I had even quoted him in a couple of guest posts – each time I sent him an email to let him know.
I didn’t connect just to pitch a guest post. I wanted to build a relationship and get to know him a little.
Once you’ve established a connection with a blogger and you’re sure you have a blog post idea that his audiences will love, you’re ready to sell your idea.
You have to *sell* your guest post idea
You might not like the idea of selling.
But as bloggers, we’re all selling ideas.
Influencing people means selling ideas.
Think about your cycling mag and the buyer at the cycling chain. How would you sell your magazine idea?
You probably point out what you’ve learned when researching the market. You tell her how excited you expect her shoppers to be; and how she can sell more cycling gear if her shoppers take up long-distance cycling.
Now, think about a blogger and selling your guest post idea … What would make him or her say yes to your post idea?
Like a buyer cares about her shoppers, a blogger cares about his audience. He’d like a post that helps and inspires his audience. He’d love a post that will be popular with his readers.
You need to demonstrate to a blogger how much his readers will love your post:
- Graft a deliciously seductive headline — it’ll make a blogger curious, too
- Briefly explain the content of your post and why it’ll inspire his readers and solve their problems
- Prove your idea will resonate with a blog’s audience – you may want to refer to a similar post that received a great number of comments or social shares
- Show your credibility, such as other guest posts you’ve written
When I pitched my first guest post idea to Mark Schaefer, I referred to a comment I made that received a lot of up votes, suggesting that his audience would like my idea.
Guest posting can bring many additional benefits. You’re building relationships with other bloggers. They’ll help you with social shares or links to boost your search engine rankings. They may even write an awesome recommendation for your latest book.
The truth about your blog traffic
Don’t expect your blog traffic to snowball.
Don’t think just tweeting and sharing and plussing your own posts will lead to masses of readers.
Just like in real life, the online world is built on meaningful connections.
Go out to find your readers.
Captivate them. Inspire them. Entice them to read your blog.