10 Tactics to Improve Blog Readership – Whiteboard Friday


Posted by randfish

If you’re looking to increase traffic to your blog, there are many tactics that can significantly boost your progress. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand lays a roadmap for the journey, offering 10 of the best tactics for you to keep in mind along the way.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re answering the question, “How can I improve the readership and reach, the interactions, sharing, and of course, the links which will all help me get rankings and traffic to my blog?” So a lot of people start investing in blogging, and I actually think a blog is a wonderful thing to invest in, assuming you meet the criteria for what you’re trying to achieve with a blog as opposed to separate content sections. And that means having, you know, a person at least, and potentially, a team of two, three, four people who can contribute content on a regular basis and who have an affinity for and stylistic you know ability to contribute at a very high level because it is tough to blog.

So you know, a blog is essentially just content that is put out in a consistent fashion, in a timeline sort of view. Blogs are great because they can help you do things like earn traffic, and build your brand, attract links, and shares, and rankings, grow your addressable audience. And this can also… a blog can also help you create affinity with and a connection with your community, which means a blog can help you and has definitely helped me, and a lot of times, manufacture serendipity. Serendipitous things that wouldn’t have otherwise come about; do come about because you have a blog, because you’re creating content on a regular basis. And that’s touching people who can potentially help you achieve what you’re trying to achieve in business.

Now over time, it is absolutely the case that creating a successful blog has become more and more challenging, more and more difficult. So, when people look at the Moz Blog and they say, “Gosh you know how did you achieve this?” One of the things that you have to remember, it’s not like I started or we started as blogging geniuses, right? I mean, go back and read some of the posts from 2003, 2004; they kind of suck. They’re pretty terrible. But, we were very, very early on, right? If you think about a time frame for blogging, remember that over time, you’re getting a different set of the audience. So, I think about this a lot like Clay Christianson’s innovator’s dilemma. And you have these sort of innovators, and these innovators are much less picky, they’re just interested in anyone who’s talking about this subject matter. So you know, in those early days, not many people were blogging about SEO; there were probably four to ten other blogs total and not many of those had tremendous readership. And so, starting a new SEO blog was pretty easy. Today, there are tens of thousands. If you’re starting a new blog on the topic of SEO today, you’re competition is insane, and you have to be massively differentiated and just remarkable in order to compete.

Meanwhile, if you’re starting a blog on a topic in a niche that very few people are covering, where there’s just not enough—so if you, say, a year ago or two years ago were writing a blog about cryptocurrency—man you could be the dominant force, right, the dominant editorial force in that industry; and that’s pretty fascinating. Over time, right, early adopters and early majority, late majority, and then finally your laggards come in. And I would say, Moz is probably somewhere between the early majority and late majority stage in the SEO field. But, this becomes dramatically more difficult to reach this audience once content brands are already established producing great stuff in these spheres. This is why it pays to either be an early adopter and/or differentiate your blog dramatically from what’s already out there. And by differentiate, I mean, in terms of content, voice, focus, the user experience—the UI and UX, and the format—the types of content you’re sharing. So potentially, you know, video or interactive content, or you know, podcasting, potentially. That was maybe a little bit more a few years ago.

These are some additional tactics that I think can help if you’ve done these things right. You’ve sort of chosen wisely, you know that a blog is for you, you have the ability to do these things. And now, you’re looking for what’s going to move the needle. These are ten tactics that we’ve found to be especially effective time and time again and I think can be helpful to you.

So, the first one, if you want to earn participation on your site, and by participation, I mean people contributing comments, I mean people sharing on social media, I mean people replying to you, people sending you e-mails about the content that you’re putting out, people inviting you to contribute in other places, potentially in-person talks, or do this video, or would you do this webinar for us. Whatever it is, if you want to earn that participation, you need to participate first. And this is something that I did a lot when I started, so I actually I spent my early days in the forums, right, which was kind of like the precursor to the blogosphere in the SEO world. I participated tremendously in probably about six or seven forums all the time. I was on there at least a few of them every day, writing back and forth and contributing, and that helped me to earn my first bits of knowledge and to have something to write about, too. And that participation also extended over to the blogosphere itself. So, I was commenting on, you know, Aaron Wall’s blog and Donna Fontano’s blog, and you know, Danny Sullivan’s blog, all the time. And so, when they came to my site, they’d sort of be like, “Oh yeah, I know this guy, I’ve heard of him, I recognize him. He’s added substantial, thoughtful, you know; he didn’t just comment spam me or he didn’t just say, “Nice post,” he really added something to the conversation. (Don’t look this up; I’m not sure if I actually added that much to these conversations. But it was early days, right?) That participation that you perform will be visited back upon your own blog. People will get the idea that you should.

The second really critical thing here is the first, people who contribute, the first people who participate; you want to be building personal connections with those folks right away. So, the first few people who are commenting on your blog, go check them out if they’ve left an email address, or a Twitter profile, or they’ve connected to their Disqus profile… whatever kind of commenting system you’ve got, make sure that you are going and figuring them out and at least at the very least, sending them a thank you over email or over Twitter, and potentially, even doing more than that, saying like, “Hey, I checked out your site, I thought this was great. I really liked this and I appreciate the comment,” those kinds of things. That will reinforce this idea of them coming back. I can’t tell you how many times our community team here at Moz has seen someone tweet something nice about us and as soon as they get that first response, it builds that engagement and respect and fandom for life. It’s very, very powerful; you can see this with a lot of brands across the social media sphere. When Alaska Airlines tweets at me or the Oregon Shakespeare Festival tweets at me, I suddenly feel that personal connection. That’s much more powerful than just, “I know their brand and I like their product.”

Number three, so many people make this mistake; never, ever, ever use a subdomain or a separate root domain to host your blog. Reason being, your ability to generate domain authority and the potential rankings boost that comes from the rising tide of domain authority, sort of lifting all the ships on the domain, will be split if you put it on a sub domain; and of course, will be completely split if you put it on a separate root domain. Keeping it all in a sub folder is the best thing that you can do for your SEO.

Number four, mention, quote, include, and reference influencers. I see this advice a lot actually. This, sort of like, “Oh, you know, if someone’s influential in this sphere, yeah, you should talk about them and mention them, and you know, potentially cite articles of theirs because then, they might see you and share it, and those kinds of things. That can be wise but even better advice is segment your influencers, right? They’re sort of what I’d call hyper-influential influencers; people who get things, you know, talking about them many, many times a day. And therefore, your blog mentioning them or saying nice things about them is nice, it’s meaningful, but it may not attract their attention nearly as well as if you choose those mid-range or early-stage influencers. Those folks are tremendously excited to be mentioned even once somewhere; and they are much likely, much more likely to become proponents and advocates of the content you produced if you’re mentioning them. This can be a very, very powerful tip. I like going after the not big influencers, but niche influencers. I think that’s a much more powerful way to do this.

Number five, this is just becoming universal truth and in the past, it was not this way; which is, better content is outweighing more content. This might seem surprising, right, because you, a lot of the advice you’ve likely heard about blogs and blogging is be consistent, write every day, produce something of value at least three times a week or something like this. I have actually found that those blogs today that are earning outsized influence, outsized voices can often be those that are only producing content once a week, once every month, couple times a month. You don’t want to go like a whole quarter without producing something. But in can be the case that if you know that you only have a certain amount of time to invest and you would rather produce the most remarkable thing that you can once every thirty days, rather than try and write every day or every night, I would bias to make that decision today.

Number six, experiment with home grown or self-created visuals, and in addition to visuals, data. Reason being, visuals and data are the two things that I find most in the content world, the blogosphere included, but the entire content world that get referenced and reused. This is kind of the way that I’ve found most effectively to earn links in what I’d say are link saturated and content saturated fields, is you want to have that stuff that other people are citing, other people are including in their work, visuals and data. Especially by visuals, what I do not mean is go onto, you know, Meme Generator or Cheezburger or something and, you know, take an image and then edit it a little bit; I mean, truly creating your own visuals even if they suck. I have seen really sucky, seen, never mind that; I have made really sucky visuals. Tell me, is this beautiful whiteboard artwork? It’s not. This is kind of crappy, like, look that’s a curve that is clearly not done by an artist. But, these visuals get repurposed and these visuals get cited far more so than just text alone and far more so than visuals that I’m embedding from other sources or ones that I’ve just, you know, screenshot and edited. It’s that home grown nature even if it’s amateurish, that gets you the citations. The same thing is true for data.

Number seven, please invest in email subscriptions. If you’re building a blog, one of the best ways to get repeat engagement and consistently have your voice out there is to have people who are subscribing to your blog via email. This used to be the case that RSS was kind of very powerful for this. With the death of Google Reader a few, a couple years ago now, and the death of kind of blog readers in general, and more and more people switching to social for finding, you know, the things that they do read, email has actually re-emerged in my opinion as a very, very powerful way to get people. I think it never actually stopped as a powerful way to get people to your blog but it has certainly reentered the consciousness. And, it can be a great way to make sure that your content is consistently in front of the people you want to be in front of.

Number eight, create a self-service method for two of the most common ways your blog is likely to earn interactions that lead to links. And, those are translation and repurposing rights. If you have something in your footer on your sidebar that says, “Want to repurpose, reuse, or translate our content? Get information here about how to do that, or we’re under a creative commons license,” whatever it is. That can actually nudge more people. You sort of have a higher conversion rate with that, than if people go, “Gosh, this is really cool content. I wonder if they’d let me use it. Well, I’d have to dig around for their email address and try and figure that out. You know what, I’m not going to bother. Let me go somewhere else.” This is why having it somewhere right on the page, sidebar, you know, footer, bottom of the post, that kind of thing, can be helpful.

Number nine, I don’t always urge people to create controversy, especially not for the sake of creating controversy, but having disparate opinions and challenging the status quo is a very powerful way to build up a unique voice and a unique audience. Therefore, what I would encourage you to do is to challenge thought leaders and challenge conventional ideas but do so in a very respectful way. When I see people who’ve said, “Hey, Rand you are dead wrong about this and here’s why and here’s the evidence, and they’ve done so in a very thoughtful and respectful way. There extremely likely to earn a link or a citation from me at least, at the very least, a social share, and often times, even a relationship. And I see this happening with many, many people in many fields. I think this is a great way to go. It’s a way that I’ve actually built some audience over the years, challenging notions and theories from, you know, venture capitalists, and technologists, and other bloggers, people like Fred Wilson, or Robert Scoble, whom I have argued with over the years; those kinds of things.

Number Ten, my last one. When you’re using social, a lot of the time people think of social media as a fire-and-forget way to get their content out so they blog, they produce something, they share it across their networks, and they’re done; that’s the end of the engagement. I saw a graphic that I really liked, tremendously simple graphic but a great graphic none the less. This came via Kissmetrics, I think Cyrus Shepard had retweeted it, and I retweeted him. And it shows basically, you know, different networks; Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and in this case, Tumblr, and when to share on each of them. So it’s says, you know, on publish, share across all five, all four of those networks. Two hours later, you might want to share again on Twitter because you’re likely reaching a new and different audience. And the next day, you do want to share on Twitter and probably, on Tumblr again. And the next week, you share on three of those. And the next month, you share on a different three. And, you know, two months from now, you might share again on all four of them.

This is the right way to think about social sharing. It is not fire and forget; it’s being thoughtful about messaging in a timely fashion to different audiences because remember that time delta means that you’re capturing different people via social and creating unique messages, unique formats. So you might see that my Twitter account will, on occasion, reference a blog post I wrote months or even years ago and say, “I have a reminder about this,” or “Don’t forget, this still matters,” or “Hey, I’m going to share this graphic via Facebook or Google plus or Twitter that is taken from this post, and I just want to remind folks of it,” those kinds of things. This can earn a lot of extra traffic and a lot of extra engagement to posts that you’ve already put a tremendous amount of effort into, and that’s why it’s so valuable. All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week! Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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About Author

Colin Cooper is the CEO of Boost Your Business, the leader in marketing and business development for both large and small scale businesses. As one of the most innovative marketing specialists for over a decade, Colin and his team of business and online experts collate their years of know-how and experiences with the Boost Your Business: Body Armour for Business, an online magazine created to provide a holistic resource avenue for everything business, health, and wellness.