This is the second part on how to get your blog a certain amount of success. This entry deals mostly with what to do once you have a blog with some content. Here‘s the first part, dealing with getting your blog up and running.
Letting People Know:
Once you “build it”, it’s not enough. After all, if people don’t know about how hot the content in your blog is, they won’t come and read it, would they?
Be advised, because this takes time, and because of how people work, new visitors are not going to visit most of your older blog posts. This means that if you have truly mind-blowing posts you want a lot of feedback on, you might want to save them for later. This is not to say that the early posts should be throw-away, because if they are, people won’t come and read your future posts, defeating the purpose.
So it’s best if you begin slowly, mainly commenting on others’ blogs and letting friends know, and only going the big-gun route (of aggregators and re-posting) once your blog has enough on it to keep people there and to get them to return once they visit.
The basic is to leave comments on other people’s blogs. You’re blogging about something. Whatever it is; role playing games, computer games, anime, music, etc., there will be other people who also blog about this subject. You are hopefully blogging about a subject that excites you, so you should find people with blogs and blog entries that excite you, and comment.
If you make interesting comments, if you say something worth saying, and sometimes even when you don’t, people will follow you from the comment back to your blog. This means that when you blog somewhere, you should look for the option that gives your blog’s URL, usually tying it to your name, and use that. When you leave a comment on Blogspot, pick Name/URL for instance, if you leave a comment on WordPress and it asks for your Name/Email/URL, be sure to give it the URL.
The blog owner where you post, especially if you comment regularily, will surely come by, but chances are good that so will other visitors to the blog. In fact, this is one of the _main sources_ of hits on my blog, for instance. And this isn’t really work for me. I’m enthusiastic about the topic, so I comment.
Look up and sign for a Gravatar, it’s basically an Avatar tied to a specific email address, and when you post on sites which work along with Gravatars, your chosen avatar will load up. This is helpful, because you want that when people see you across the net, they’ll connect your name/nickname and Avatar to your site. So try to use the same Avatar that you use on forums across the net, and the same username as well. Repeat exposure works.
Blogs that have CommentLuv installed (wordpress self-hosted blogs), are even more helpful. Once you provide your site’s URL, wait till they finish fetching it before you post your comment, and your comment will also have a link to your latest blog entry. Which will result in more visits, of people who care for what you wrote about (provided the entry’s name is telling).
If you comment on a big enough blog, like me commenting on some WordPress.com news posts as the 5th comment, you’ll get many hits anyway. But these are mostly useless as they have no interest in what you blog about. But if you leave a comment on a very big site which is about the same topic you’re posting about, it might work.
I’ll be honest, blog exchange might be nice for the soul, but it doesn’t lead to that high a number of hits, regularily. I check where people come to this blog from, and what they click on my site, and links to other blogs usually don’t work that great.
The reason they usually don’t work that great is one of quantities: Your blog’s name and/or banner usually appears without any more details amongst anything around 15-40 other blog entries, and this is not conductive to people knowing why to click on your blog and not on others’. This is why my Links page is set up as it is; I want to help people find the links that will interest them, and I want my friends to get hits that are relevant to their sites.
An exception to this is perhaps how Gunstray and Snark set up their blogroll page. On Gunstray’s site, the sites most recently updated are moved to the top of the list. So if your blog often, people will click your site, as your site will get moved to the top of the heap. Snark’s blog (Taikutsu Remedy), leaves the order static, but it tells people how long ago the blog was most recently updated. Which again, helps drive people to your blog so long it’s routinely updated.
Blog exchange is nice though, it feels nice that people link to your blog, other people appreciate when you link to their blogs. It’d also help a new blogger to approach people with blogs of interest (and roughly the same desired impact-size) and ask for a blogroll exchange. Most people would accept, and it’d be a good step to get your first few regular visitors. After all, you’re already on their blogroll, and many people seem to use their blogroll to check up on friends’ blogs.
There are sites which do not create original content, but merely catch your feeds and send them to interested parties. Find out if and where these feeds are for your areas of interest, and ask them to carry you. Like blog-roll exchange, you will usually have to have at least one month’s worth of steady posting before they will carry you, as you need to show them that your blog is and will remain active. These sites are huge contributors to your future hit-count. So make it work.
Such sites include Animenano for anime (and Japanese culture) oriented blogs, Tsuki-Board for anime figures (and Japanese culture) oriented blogs, and Planet Story Games for that sub-culture of RPGs. You might also find entries of interest here.
I’d also count Twitter aggregators on twitter here. People who pull articles of interest from across the net, animefigures is certainly helpful when I post figure related posts. Also, sites where you can just drop a small message of “I updated my blog.”
Digg, reddit, etc. work better if you have something that is really hot, like if you went to an early screening of an A-list movie, but I don’t find them too useful these days. It seems most people moved on, but maybe other subcultures still do use them. I don’t know.
Friends and Reposting:
Friends are more useful to begin with, at least if your friends dislike commenting on blogs, as most of mine are, and re-posting is more helpful later.
Friends amounts to posting on Facebook and Twitter, and telling friends via sites you all frequent every time you write an entry. It might get you some traction, but usually not too much.
Re-posting is when you find a big site, or a forum (which is usually a big site), and you take a post from your blog and re-post it there, making minor modifications to make it fit the site. I sometimes do this with RPG related entries on Story-Games, and with otaku related posts on Figure.fm. I give them the whole post, and I tell them both at the beginning and the end (at least on Figure.fm) where they can go and read more of my entries. This works quite nicely.
Categories and Tags:
These help with getting people from other blogs to hit your site. These also help with google searches and such, but unless you really dominate a term that many people search for (for a while my other blog was at the top 2-4 for “CSI Games”, though I’ve used the acronym for other things), then the hits are just ok. Keep these updated mostly to help people who use the sidebar widgets to navigate your blog, and to know readers what the entry is about. You can use too many tags. I’ve recently been doing this, I’m afraid.
I have hinted so several times before, but repeat visitors are important. They account for a large segment of your hits (in fact, I have a relatively low number of “New Visitors” every week, meaning that most of my hits come from repeat visitors), and give you the fuel you need to keep going: Comments.
Harvest your repeat customers, be nice to them, and realize that you’re having a relationship and commitment to them. What matters a visitor who leaves a “Lame” comment on your poll, or gives a post a low rating? Very little, as it’s quite possible you won’t see them again.
And while it’s certainly nice to see how many hits you get, it’s much nicer to see someone took the time to write down and engage with you. So even if they write comments about the topic you wrote your post about, but not what you actually wrote about, it’s ok. You are enthusiastic about the topic, and they seek to engage with you. Be thankful.
And ignore this advice if you have an academic or semi-academic blog, and people just miss your point or go on tangents. To everything a time, and a time for everything.
This is important, this is even the big one. It takes time to write entries, and it takes time to cultivate both a readership and one-off hits. Some people who comment on my blog only seem to visit once a week and comment on all the new entries. I’m ok with it. I’m thankful that they take the time to come and read all the entries. I am thankful that they take the time and effort to converse with me.
It takes time. Your first few entries will get only a few hits, and then more, and then you might keep getting more, more than you’ve expected. And some entries will not talk to your main audience, and you’ll feel demoralized when they get few hits. But you don’t cater to your audience only, you write what you care about. They read you because they care for most of what you care for, so keep writing about what you care for.
Your early entries will get mostly ignored, and they’d never truly pick up in momentum once you do have a readership. You will have days when you don’t post and your hit counter will drop. It’s ok. You’re blogging for the long-haul.
Keep blogging, keep commenting on people’s blogs. When you find aggregators approach them. And keep writing. I also think that if every week you’ll find another blog or two to comment on it’ll also help, but we have a limited number of days.
You also need those “ignored” posts, because when someone comes to your blog, for them to be transformed into a regular and repeat visitor, they better see an abundance of posts that catch their eyes. They won’t go all the way back to your old entries, but they’ll return for the future ones. But without those older entries, they are not as likely to return in the future.
Part of it is, “What you put in, you get out.” If you can only write one post a week, then write one post a week. That’s ok. Do what you can, do it out of enthusiasm, and the results will fit the effort. Sure, you can always get more hits. But it may not be worth what it takes. Be patient, and thank you.