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Expert: Darren Rowse, Problogger.net

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About the Expert

Darren Rowse is author and owner of ProBlogger, a site dedicated to helping other bloggers learn skills, share their own experiences, add income streams and promote the blogging medium as well as Digital Photography Blog, a source of news, reviews and tips for digital cameras. Darren started blogging as a hobby back in 2002 and quickly grew to love it. Today he has more than 15 sites and is a co-founder of b5 media. Today, Darren splits his time between his blogs, blog consulting, speaking engagements and running a teleclass for bloggers entitled Six Figure Blogging. Chitika is thrilled to have Darren, one of today’s best and most renowned bloggers, write on increasing your blog audience.

How do I get my blog beyond the initial launch phase and actually find readers beyond my mum, girlfriend and work mates? Launching a blog and getting a few regular readers (usually friends and family) isn’t the hard part of blogging (although it’s not ‘easy’) – the challenge comes in trying to find a way to take things up a notch and hit some sort of ‘tipping point’ where you hit a new level of readership. In this post I’d like to explore some basic techniques on how to grow your readership beyond your circle of friends and family.

Before we begin – One little ‘secret’ for you before I give some ideas on how to grow your readership – no matter how big your blog gets, there’s always another ‘next level’ that bloggers strive for. I spoke to a blogger this week who has 70,000 daily readers who asked me how to go to the ‘next level’. Blog readership is like money – no matter how much you’ve got, most people seem to always thirst for more.

So how do you get out of the plateau that your blog is in (whatever that level is)? There are many answers that could be given to this (for example I wrote 19 tips for finding new readers previously) – but as I’ve pondered the question today two main ideas came to mind.

1. Learn to Leverage Big Traffic When I first started blogging, I had romantic notions of an incoming rush of traffic hitting my blog. A couple of months in I began to realize that that wasn’t going to happen. I remember the light going on in my mind one day – the rush of traffic just wasn’t going to ‘appear’. Of course there was a trickle of traffic that did just ‘appear’ – but if I wanted traffic in large numbers I was going to have to find some way of going and getting it. I began to ask myself a question: ‘where is my potential traffic?’ At any given moment, millions of people are using the Internet – a certain percentage of them were interested in and even searching for the information that I had written – so where were they and how was I going to get them?

So where are your potential readers? I can’t answer that question for each of you (because it varies, depending upon your blog’s topic) but here are a few suggestions of where your readers may already be gathering:

  1. Forums – yep, they are Web 1.0 (or 1.3 maybe) in many ways – but the reality is that people are probably discussing your topic every day already on a forum somewhere in large numbers.
  2. Social Sites – sites like Digg, Reddit, Flickr, YouTube and MySpace are generating massive traffic at the moment. Many of them won’t have the kind of traffic that will naturally relate to your site – but increasingly social networking and bookmarking sites are arranging themselves around specific topics and verticals.
  3. Bigger Blogs – on most topics there is already a blog that is at least covering a related topic.
  4. Bigger Sites – don’t just look at the blogosphere – doing so will limit yourself so much. Ok – the above list is pretty general but it’s hard to be more specific without knowing the topic at hand. The key is to find those places where your potential traffic is already gathering and then to think about how you can become a part of those sites/communities in a way that draws traffic to your blog. In general I find that other site owners are more than willing to share a little link love around IF you provide them with some value too. Notice I said IF you provide them with value. It doesn’t mean:
  • sending an email asking for a link or offering to trade links
  • spamming their site’s comments/forum
  • manipulating their site or readers into coming to your site

Find out a way of genuinely enhancing their site and becoming a valued part of their community.

  • Write them free content
  • Genuinely participate in comments in ways that add value to the conversation
  • Use a signature in your communications with people in the community (as long as it’s within the rules to do so)
  • Provide them with some link love (even if it’s not returned)
  • Get to know the authors – thank them for anything that they do do for you

Over time (and this isn’t usually an overnight process) you’ll find that the more you add to and participate in larger sites, the more you’ll personally get out of it.

2. Get discovered one reader at a time The second piece of advice I’ll give is to not get caught up in finding the big incoming link that will bring a rush of traffic. Yes you should be on the lookout for these opportunities – but don’t forget the readers you’ve currently got and don’t forget the small trickles of traffic that you already have from smaller sources.

Google and other Search Engines – millions of people start their search for information here every day – while it’s a long term thing to grow SE traffic it does add up over time. Learn some basic search engine optimization techniques and incorporate it into the way you blog. While search engines like Google will only ever send you one reader at a time – they can do so in very large numbers over time.

Reader Recommendations – one of the most powerful forces at your disposal as a blogger is your current reader. 10 readers who each find two new readers for your blog each month who each find two new readers for your blog each month will see you end up with a readership of over 40,000 within 12 months. While that might not be a reasonable expectation – the fact remains that blogging is by its nature a viral medium. Tap into this – concentrate on providing value to your current readers and you will find over time that you could be on the receiving end of some viral growth.

Smaller Blogs – Getting a link from a larger blog or website can be a huge rush (for example last week I got a link from the front page of Yahoo.com as a featured article and it was a fun thing to watch) but sometimes it’s the links from smaller blogs that have a more lasting impact upon your blog. Build relationships with other blogs in your niche (not just the powerful ones) and over time you’ll find that the traffic that they send will not only bring you new loyal readers but that the links will help your search engine ranking.

Bonus Tip – Live with an Attitude of Openness to Opportunity A few years ago I had a business coach. The main thing I took home from the time I spent with him was that he was someone that was constantly on the lookout for synergy and opportunity with those that he met. He didn’t do it in a manipulative way – but he had this ability to connect with people and spot potential connecting points between what he did and what the other person did. Almost as if every conversation he had led to a new mutually beneficial business partnership, customer or product idea. The result was that his business grew. As bloggers, I think this is an attitude that all of us could learn from. Don’t expect the large rush of traffic to land in your lap – it rarely comes. DO look for opportunities and DO be willing to act quickly upon them and in time you’ll find the growth will come.

  • This post was inspired by a question that one of my readers (thatedeguy) recently asked at ProBlogger.

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