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There s an old adage in the business world: If you want to improve something, you first have to measure it, whether it s the number of widgets coming off an assembly line or the number of readers your blog delights. While it is a little tricky to do so, given your readers could be visiting your blog via their web browser or reading your blog s RSS feed via their preferred RSS feed reader, it is still doable. If you re going to get serious about increasing your audience, you need to get from the how many read me to the what do they like data, and that s going to mean going from free tools like Site Meter and a free FeedBurner account to programs like Google Analytics and a paid FeedBurner account.
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Once you know your numbers, you can improve them in any number of ways: Join blog networks where appropriate and informally network with as many bloggers as you can. Do guest posts for other bloggers and invite other bloggers to post at your blog. Take the time to research, write, and present really valuable posts for the people who read your blog and others like them. Take the time to participate, share, and engage with social bookmarking networks, both by making it easier for those networks to notice your posts and by contributing to the network in general. Step beyond the confines of your blog to provide value on the topics you blog about, be it via Squidoo, through newsgroups, or by contributing to Wikipedia. As I said at the beginning of this chapter, there are no magic bullets when it comes to building readership. However, consistency is a key component. Keep doing what works, add in a few readership-building efforts, and you will see your audience increase.
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Having covered how you measure your readership and influence, and four major ways to build your readership, here s a longer than usual list of small but useful things you can do to build your blog. We ll start with some basic, cover-your-bases stuff and move on from there to more advanced techniques. Know your stats. At a bare minimum, you need to know where to find your stats in your blogging software and/or have a Site Meter badge. As RSS continues to ramp up, get that free or paid FeedBurner account! Who are you Don t be coy about your About page and profile if you want to garner readers. Even if you are blogging anonymously, give your readers something. Master basic social skills. Whether you love or hate social bookmarking sites like Digg and del.icio.us, at least some of your readers love them, so make it easy to vote for your posts. There s a multitude of ways of doing this, but the simplest is Socializer, a free automatic bookmarking tool by Pierre Far (http://ekstreme.com/socializer). Check it out. RSS above the fold. For blogs, above the fold means before you need to scroll, and that s where you want your RSS stuff standard, FeedBurner, or specific RSS reader badges to reside. Making it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your blog and save clicks pays off. Get listed. Multitudes of blog directories are out there. Three you should make the effort to check out and get listed in are Blogwise (www.blogwise.com), Globe of Blogs (www. globeofblogs.com), and Blogarama (www.blogarama.com). Looking for more blog directories See RSSTop55 (www.masternewmedia.org/rss/top55) for an excellent list.
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Get listed, part 2. Don t forget website directories that accept blogs, such as Yahoo Directory (http://dir.yahoo.com, paid), the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org, free), and specialty directories in your industry or geographic locale. Respond to comments. At the risk of boring you, let me say it again: Blogs are a conversation, and that means you absolutely should respond to comments. Doing so will turn first-time visitors into loyal readers. Be contrarian post on weekends. Conventional blogging wisdom is you shouldn t post on weekends because fewer people read blogs then. By the same token, there are fewer posts competing for attention. Show your back stock. One way or another, get a list of your best/most popular posts onto the front page of your blog. There s no better way of turning a chance meeting into the start of a lasting relationship with your blog. Give credit and links where they are due. Simply put, the more links out of your blog, the more people will link to your blog. So even when you can t pin to a specific post, link to that blog or website and give credit where it s due. Post when your readers expect you to post. When you post creates expectations. If you post twice a day for months then not at all for two weeks, your readership will drift away. Know what your posting goal is and keep to it, and don t be shy sharing that with your readers. Make use of trackbacks. When you re blogging about some major blogger s post, either positively or negatively, use your blogging software s ability to send a trackback to that blogger. You will be surprised how often the trackback recipient will comment on your posts. This technique works only if you re blogging in earnest, not fishing for links. All done Here are more ways to get more readers that take more effort: Make friends with fellow bloggers. That means follow their blogs, be helpful, get to know them, and comment intelligently. Don t ask for links up front. Don t expect instant acceptance. Don t be irrelevant. And don t nag! Use photos. The right photo triples the impact of a good post. Take them yourself, find them at Yahoo Flickr already permissioned at www.flickr.com/creativecommons (2.7 million and counting), or spend a dollar each at http://istockphoto.com. Post your photos at Flickr. People are interested in seeing themselves and other people. If you take digital photos, post them to Flickr and include a Flickr gallery on your blog (Google Flickr Gallery for the right widget for your blogging service). Participate in newsgroups. While newsgroups have faded in recent years, you ll find at least one very active newsgroups covering just about every topic imaginable. Dive right in. And don t forget to include your blog s URL in your signature line. Use Squidoo. Build one or more lenses to showcase your best blogs about a given topic, or which together form a great tutorial, or just to establish your reputation as someone who knows a thing or two.
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