UPDATED: This post was originally a guest post written in 2009. Well, a lot has changed in 7 years. So, now, I am completely bringing it up-to-date with a total re-write appropriate for where we stand in 2016. Let’s get started…
The beginning phase of a new blog is the most fun, isn’t it? You’ve come up with a great idea. You’ve done your research, and you are confident that your new blog idea is going to rock. There’s a market, there are people spending money in that market, and you’ve found your niche. The possibilities are endless.
There is infinite appeal to the research phase of creating a new blog. Because as long as you’re laying the groundwork, as long as you’re researching and “finding your niche”, everything exists in a vacuum. But as soon as you launch this sucker, it’s going to get messy!
It’s like the old Chinese saying: “as long as you’re planning a journey, you own the journey. The minute you embark on that journey, the journey owns you.” Plan well, my friends! But don’t forget that in order to succeed, you have to get out there and work it! And that’s what this post is about.
If You Build It, They Will Come (Except…)
It is anything but true.
It would be nice if you could launch your brand new blog, create some really great posts, get recognized by Google and all of a sudden begin seeing a nice stream of traffic from Google search.
Unfortunately, it hardly ever works out that way. Search engine optimization will only get you so far. Plus, a lot of SEO depends on social proof of backlinks and social shares, none of which you have when you’re first starting out.
So, unless you are just one lucky human being, reality is that you will build your blog and nobody will come.
Building a blog today would be similar to building a tiny log cabin in the middle of the vast expanse of the Montana forest. Nobody knows you’re even back there. Perhaps a stray hiker might run across your little cabin, but that would just be luck. Plus, unlike the reality of a hiker coming across your little cabin, your random web visitor thinks nothing of it and will just pass right on through and not ever return.
So, what does blog promotion look like these days?
How do you promote your new blog?
The Basic Promotion Equation
Outflow = Inflow.
In other words, the more you flow outward, the more that will flow into you.
The more you promote, the more income you will get. The more you promote, the more traffic you will get. Really, any time you want more traffic, more sales, more opt-ins… the first thing you need to answer is how can you promote more.
Now, the big mistake many bloggers make is that they think publishing a new post is outflow. No, that is outPUT. It is output from your time because you did the work to create it. But, it isn’t outFLOW because nobody knows you published it. Hitting the Publish button on a post does nothing to bring anybody to your site.
Outflow means that you’re going to be promoting your blog. You’re going to be communicating to people. You’re going to have to get out there. If you don’t do so, then you’re just the weird person in the woods living and talking to themselves.
So, let’s talk strategy…
10 Smart Blog Promotion Strategies
#1 – Stop Tweaking Your Site
Too often, tweaking our blogs is really just an attempt to feel like we’re doing something meaningful. It is us staying in our “safe zone”. We tell ourselves that if we make these changes to the design of our blog that it will lead to great long-term benefits.
Resist the urge, my friend.
The design of your blog matters not if nobody knows about it. Plus, too often, to start tweaking our blogs ends up turning into a huge project. Trust me, I’ve been there! Many times, I’ve gone in to make a few little changes, only to end up with what is practically a re-design. I justified it in my own head, but it didn’t really do much to move the needle.
So, give yourself 60 days. Just get your blog to a functional state that doesn’t look like a complete eyesore… then give yourself 60 days where you will simply NOT tweak it. For those 60 days, you go on a promotion spree and you just work on OUTFLOW.
#2 – Create Your Pillar Posts (And ONLY Your Pillar Posts)
The idea of blog pillar posts is certainly nothing new. However, it is important that you do this with the overall strategy in mind.
A pillar is a major support for a building. The pillar is a very important component of what holds the building up. This is why we use it as the analogy for our blog. A pillar post is a post created to be a major staple of your blog. It isn’t just another blog post that will soon go into the archives and be forgotten. A pillar post is a major resource post – a flagship post – and one that you’re going to promote the CRAP out of.
A pillar post is you putting your stake in the ground and creating a resource that is going to make people feel like the just hit the motherload when they get there. You’re going to decide on the topic if your pillar posts very strategically. These are major topics in your niche. And you’re going to see what other people are doing on the topic and you’re going to create something better. I like to use BuzzSumo to see what the most shared content is for my keyword and then figure out how I can make something better.
I also like to make a pillar post which puts you over and above the others in the niche. You can do this by being a content curator. You create a major resource post by combining your own unique content with some great stuff from other people. It could be other blog posts, Youtube videos and more. You combine it all into a major resource post which puts all of the best stuff into one mega-post.
You don’t have to be a content curator on every pillar post. If you’re going to be an authority in your space, you also need to bring your own game. But, keep in mind, a pillar post is designed to be a basic pillar of your blog. You’re going to refer people to it constantly. And you’re going to spend a lot of time promoting it.
That’s a pillar post.
At the outset, you should spend your time working on perhaps 5 major pillar posts. You can create more of them if you feel you should, but the important thing to bear in mind is that you do NOT just keep on blogging.
The bulk of your time is going to be spent promoting your blog, not creating more blog posts. But, these pillar posts are so that when people do come to your blog, there’s something awesome for them to chomp on. Plus, you have to promote something. And those “somethings” are going to be your pillar posts.
So, first item of business for a new blog is to create the pillar posts. Populate that blog with some major mega-posts. And when you’ve got at least 5 of them, you stop writing posts and you start promoting. Don’t ever fall into the trap of feeling like you’re dropping the ball because you let a few days go without blogging. That’s a myth.
#3 – Just Say No To Ads (And Do This Instead)
Lot of new bloggers do have ambition to earn money from their blogs. Problem is, they try to squeeze juice from a turnip in the beginning by trying to monetize using ads.
Generally, I’m not a fan of the idea of waiting a year or two to monetize a blog. If you’re going to do it, do it early. That’s my stance. However, this doesn’t mean you toss ads on there.
Banner ads are a distraction. They “uglify” your blog. Plus, they have one purpose: To draw people AWAY from your blog.
Isn’t that counter-intuitive as hell? You bet it is! And the few bucks you might earn doing it isn’t worth it.
What you do instead is build LEVERAGE. And you do this by building two lists:
- Your email list.
- Your retargeting pixeled list.
I’ve talked about the importance of building an email list many times. I say you create at least one truly effective lead magnet and you put it up there and starting building your email list. Create tightly relevant content upgrades and drop them as email opt-ins into your pillar posts. And starting putting people onto your email list.
Don’t forget the second list, however. That’s retargeting. Almost every blog owner forgets about it (or isn’t aware). Retargeting means that you can reach out using a paid ad to anybody who has visited your site in the past. It is very easy to do and usually pretty cheap to do. A blog is the perfect asset for building a base of visitors you can target this way. You’re not spending any money on this, but you are building that asset for usage later.
Image credit: Retargeter.com
At the least, set up the Facebook Advertising Pixel on your site and let Facebook begin building a custom audience of any web visitors to your blog behind the scenes. You’ll use it later. Trust me.
#4 – Find The Players In The Market
The first step of promotion is to have somebody to talk to. Promotion is outgoing communication, but if you don’t know who to talk to it is a little hard to get started.
So, you definitely need to spend time getting to know the who’s, the what’s and what-not’s of your niche. Who are the big players? Who are the smaller players? Who are the influencers?
Inside the Blog Monetization Lab, I have a template called the Market Domination Research Master File. It is a spreadsheet where Lab members will record things in their niche as they find them. You look for:
- Competing sites
- Communities and Groups
- Products for Sale
- Podcasts in your Niche
- Major Youtube Channels
There’s more to it, of course, but the idea is to – over time – create a major reference file for all the competitors in your niche. You want to know who the people are, how to contact them, what they talk about. You want to know what’s for sale and for how much. You want to know where your future audience is hanging out already, whether it be on other blogs, social communities, forums, etc.
Finding this information takes time. It never really ends. But, in the beginning, you probably don’t know who the important people in your niche are because you’ve been thinking primarily about yourself.
But, realize… your future audience already exists. They just don’t know about you yet. So, you need to find out where they are so you can reach them. And to do that, you’ve got to research the heck out of your niche and find the players in it.
I recommend you build that spreadsheet for yourself. It is a major tool in your arsenal.
#5 – Outreach (Done Without Being A Weenie)
OK, you have a huge list of many of the big players in your market (see #4 above). Remember, this list isn’t just the big, famous people in your niche. It will include them, of course. But, you want to also know some of the smaller ones. Almost every market with any size to it will have a large bunch of lower-level players, then some larger B-players, then a few large A-players who have most of the eyeballs. You want to include them all.
But, then, it is time to start making yourself known. Let the promotion begin.
Start contacting some of those people – in some way. Start getting onto their radar.
What you DON’T do is email them asking them to link to you or share your stuff on social media. That’s what weenies do. Don’t be a weenie like these people.
Realize that the more popular the blog (or person), the more email they probably get. You’re a lot more likely to be just deleted. So, the key here is to find out what THEY need and want.
It isn’t about what you want. It is about what THEY want.
Here’s a few examples:
- Do they have an interview-based podcast? Well, they’re always looking for guests. Would you make a good guest for them? Maybe email them and propose the idea.
- Do they have a product for sale? Well, they would LOVE testimonials and case studies. Can you be a stellar case study for them? They’ll promote the crap out of you, most likely.
- Do they have a blog post with a broken link or a link to an outdated article? Can you let them know and let them know if one of your awesome pillar posts might make a good replacement for it?
- Do you see that they’re asking questions about something you can help them with? Perhaps in a social post or a blog post. If so, contact them to offer assistance (for free, obviously). Just be cool and helpful.
This is not a bulk activity. This is you contacting individual people one-on-one and building a relationship. Being a person. Treating them as a person.
Don’t feel weird about it. It isn’t awkward, because you’re helping them.
Lastly, don’t be a pest. Don’t sit there and hammer an A-player in your niche until they answer you. If you don’t get a reply, MOVE ON. A better strategy would be to build up some proof of yourself first. Connect better with the B and C players in the space. Contribute to other people. Be a regular commenter on their blog or in their groups. They’ll start to recognize your name over time through repeated exposure. Eventually, you guys will connect. But, you do it because of a genuine reality at that point, not because you cold-emailed them and they don’t know you at all.
#6 – Be The Guest Expert (Both In and Out Of The Box)
Remember, your future audience is out there and they don’t know about you yet. They’re listening, watching or reading… somebody else. So, how can you get in front of them?
- If you see a lot of guest posts on a blog, see if you can be one of them.
- Find a podcast which does guest interviews? Trust me, they’re always on the look-out for guests. It would probably be fairly easy to get interviews on that podcast. Give it a try.
- Find an influential community in your niche? Be an Expert in that community. Answer people’s questions like you mean it. Become one of the “big kahunas” that people look to in that community.
But, be willing to think outside the box. Or in this case, outside the obvious confines of your niche.
Sometimes, by putting a different twist on the topic you can make it relevant to an entirely different set of people. This is the Blue Ocean Strategy at work. Instead of fighting over the same bait in the red waters, you go out to where the water is blue and there’s less competition.
For example, what if I wanted to begin working with small, local businesses. Let’s say people who run a lawn maintenance service. Here I am running a site called Blog Marketing Academy and it might seem like it has literally nothing to do with a lawn service. But, does content marketing not apply to a local business? Of course it does! So, what if I wrote a post which goes over some simple blog marketing strategies but specifically tailored to people in the lawn maintenance business? Then, I can use something like Facebook Ads to specifically put my post in front of people interested in lawn businesses. I could even geographically target a local area if I wanted to work directly with them as a consultant.
More on this in a bit…
#7 – Commenting (Smartly)
The idea of commenting on other sites as a means of promotion is an old idea. But, many people still get it wrong. They do it as a method of building backlinks. That leads to a spam mentality.
Commenting and participating in forums and social groups isn’t a way to get backlinks. It can be, but let that be a byproduct. The reason you do it is to help position yourself as an authority and to LEARN the needs and wants of your market. If that community is attached to a larger brand, blog or influencer, then this is a great way to get onto their radar. You’re truly helping provide value.
You have no idea the number of crappy useless comments we trash here at the Blog Marketing Academy. People saying shallow crap just to drop a backlink to their site. It is ridiculous. Don’t do that.
- Post comments on other blog posts only if you have something legit to add. And, use your own name to do it, not your brand name.
- Participate in influential communities in social media. Do it as an authority and simply HELP people. Don’t link-drop your stuff. Just put a URL to your blog in your signature (if on a forum) and leave it at that.
This kind of participation is as much about discovery as anything else, though. You can learn so much about what your market needs and wants through this interaction. You can then take that information back and make better content on your blog that will resonate.
#8 – Acknowledging People
Remember, communication is a two-way flow. As a blog owner, it is easy to get stuck into a one-way flow. You talk and you imagine some anonymous glob of people out there listening.
For you to really connect and create real communication, it must be a two-way flow. This means:
- You get people to talk back to you.
- When they talk to you, you always acknowledge them.
A lot of new bloggers get a little deflated when they don’t get much – if any – blog comments. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. What you should do is be an active part of the conversation wherever it happens to take place. If it isn’t on your blog comments, fine. Wherever it does happen, be there.
You need to actively facilitate two-way communication, regardless of where it resides. To get people talking to you, you should pose questions, ask them to reply. Simply start conversations. Once again, if it isn’t on your blog comments, then just go where people are. If it is on a Facebook group, fine.
And when people talk to you in any capacity, acknowledge them. Let them know they’ve been heard. Reply to your emails, reply to your comments. Sure, eventually it will become harder and you may need to set up different systems to manage it and scale it. But, never lose sight that it is a flow of communication and it needs to flow both ways. In the early days of your blog, you need to make it personal and connect with every person who interacts.
#9 – Monetize!
Perhaps this might sound counter-intuitive. Traditionally, the idea of monetizing a blog would require an established flow of traffic. But, this is because most monetization done out there relies on banner ads and affiliate links. Both of those are REACTIVE monetization methods.
See, reactive monetization would depend on an already established traffic flow and does not itself help generate traffic. Clearly, having banner ads or affiliate links on a blog does not help you generate traffic. In fact, they both suck people away from your blog.
A PROACTIVE monetization would be one which can be put in place before established traffic and can help generate traffic. And there’s pretty much only one way to do that – by offering your own product or service.
So, you sell something directly to the people who come to your website. Or at least you offer it. It might not even exist yet.
And you’ll set up a basic blog profit funnel which gives your blog the ability to generate leads and revenue. A basic funnel would have an email capture mechanism and then at least one offer behind it.
This doesn’t mean that your blog WILL generate revenue. You still need traffic to make that work. But, you’ve given your blog the potential for revenue.
How does the potential for revenue help you promote your blog?
Let’s move to our last blog promotion strategy. And this is a biggie…
#10 – Utilize the Control of Paid Media
Wouldn’t the perfect blog promotion strategy be the one you can control? The one that you do certain things and you KNOW traffic will result. This would take a lot of the guesswork out of the whole thing, right?
Well, that’s what you can do if you utilize paid media.
This includes things like Facebook ads, promoted tweets, Google ads, Youtube pre-roll ads, and more.
Now, the idea of paying money to promote your blog usually just flies in the face of most bloggers. But, in all honesty, this short-sightedness is why most bloggers never get off the ground. Quite literally, their own unwillingess to flow any money at their own little venture is their own death knell.
Traffic on the Internet today is a commodity. It is everywhere and you can buy it. To insist on growing it organically and only organically would be the equivalent of insisting on starting your own farm to feed your family when you could simply go to the grocery store. All arguments for self-sufficiency aside, it is MUCH easier to go to the store! Plus, let’s be real… even starting your own farm is going to require buying stuff, right?
Traffic can be had – easily. But, you pay for it. That’s what gives you the predictability and control.
But, how do you justify paying for it when you’re not making anything back yet? Well, go back and re-read strategies #3 and #9 again.
You set up your blog for leverage (strategy #3) and you give it a revenue potential (strategy #9)… then you run paid traffic to it. In the beginning, you WILL make less than you spend. Unless you are one lucky human being. But, what you do is you use that predictable traffic to test things and really nail down your product/market fit.
Once you have a proven product/market fit and you can acquire leads predictably and can make back your own ad costs (or at least break even), you’re now solidly on the road to being able to grow your business in a predictable way.
Now, don’t be dumb. You don’t want to have a paid at just point to your blog’s homepage. People will simply scatter from there and it is a horribly inefficient way to spend money on paid ads. What you want to do is strategically bring people into pages designed to CONVERT the person into a lead. There are a number of ways to go about it:
- Send them into a blog post which is written specifically to earn the email opt-in. And even if they don’t opt-in, you can retarget them (see #3 above) to reach out with another ad which points directly to a squeeze page.
- Send them from the ad direct to a squeeze page.
- Send them into an invitation for a webinar.
Keep in mind, this is “cold traffic” They don’t know who you are. So, don’t send them into something to buy. You need to introduce yourself, help them, give them value… and only ask for a sale when the time is right. I think presenting an offer to them right after they opt-in makes a ton of sense, personally. It doesn’t have to be a hard-sell.
Outflow = Inflow (Reiterated)
I hope those 10 strategies above got the juices flowing. But, I want to wrap this up by reiterating the basic equation of promotion…
Outflow = Inflow.
Never lose sight of that. If you want to promote your new blog, then all actions need to be pointed OUTWARD and into the world, not spent writing for your blog and tweaking and hoping for discovery.
The more you project outward, the more the world will reward you with attention. And with attention comes growth and money (as long as you’re smart about it, of course).
I’ve given you many ways here to project out into the world. And we ended off with a guaranteed way to do so.
You may have heard of the Pareto Principle. It is otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. It is the idea that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
Well, most blog owners attempt to run this in reverse. When it comes to blog promotion, they are spending their time on the 80% of “tasks” that only return 20% results. For the most part, the actual act of writing a blog post falls squarely in the 80% of tasks. And if all you’re doing is writing blog posts, publishing, then writing the next one…. then you’re likely going to get poor results.
Turn this on its head. Spend only 20% of your time creating content and the other 80% on outbound promotion. Spend that 80% time on doing the strategies in this blog post.
It’ll work. I guarantee it.
Promoting a brand new blog isn’t rocket science. It is pretty predictable and doable actually. I’m not here to tell you it is easy. Clearly, these 10 strategies take work. You can’t “hack the system” and bypass it. This is just the way it works.
Do it and you’ll win.
READER BONUS: You can more effectively promote your blog if you effectively prepare each blog post you write for maximum effect before you publish it. Download this 27-point checklist for easy reference and use it for every blog post you publish.