By ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke.
Has your blog got a grand total of three subscribers? (You, your test account, and your mum?)
Maybe you’ve got a little bit further than that. You’ve got 10 or 20 or 50 readers signed up to read your posts or your newsletter.
But you don’t know where to go next.
I’m going to assume that your blog is currently in reasonably good shape. If there are any key things that you need to do or fix, then get those sorted before proceeding. (For instance, if your About page is currently a single line saying About page under construction, don’t try to attract readers until it’s actually finished.)
Before we get underway, let’s quickly deal with a trap some bloggers fall into:
Forget About Getting “One Big Break”
Maybe you think that if a big-name influencer tweeted a link to one of your posts, you’d get thousands of subscribers overnight. Or maybe you’re crossing your fingers, hoping to get linked to by Buzzfeed or mentioned on The Huffington Post…
Stop waiting for that big break to come. Even if you do have a particular stroke of luck, you want to be in a great position to capitalize on it – not sitting back and twiddling your thumbs.
A surge of traffic may look great in your stats – but it won’t necessarily result in many new long-term readers.
Instead of thinking just about traffic, you want to focus on getting subscribers: people who keep reading your posts day after day, week after week, and month after month.
A great first goal is to get 1000 subscribers to your blog, either through email or RSS subscriptions. (Unless you’re writing about techy things, you’ll probably find most readers prefer to subscribe through email.)
When you’re just starting out, though, with just a handful of subscribers, or none at all, 1000 can look a long way off. Here’s how to get there, step by step.
Step #1: Tell Family and Friends About Your Blog
I know this one sounds a bit obvious – but if you’ve not already told family and friends about your blog, do so! Even if none of them are at all interested in your topic, they’re interested in you … and they might well know people who’d love to read your posts.
Obviously, you don’t want to overwhelm people with a flurry of messages. I’d suggest:
Send out a single email to family, friends, former colleagues and anyone else who knows you. (Make sure you use BCC for their email addresses – most people don’t like their email address to be shared with a group of strangers.) I’ve put suggested text for this email below.
If you’ve created a Facebook page for your blog, send out one invitation to your family / friends on Facebook to ask them to “like” the page. Don’t pester them if they don’t do so, though.
Link to your blog in your email signature’s footer (if appropriate – e.g. it probably won’t be in your work emails). Giving the title, URL and tagline is fine here.
Here’s a sample email you can use:
I’ve just launched [my first blog / a new blog], called [name of blog]. It’s about [topic / tagline]. You can find it here:
[link to your blog’s homepage]
I’d love any feedback about it, and if you’ve got a friend who you think would enjoy it, I’d be really grateful if you’d pass the link on to them. Thanks!
Step #2: Find Blogging Peers to Connect With
Chances are, your pool of family and friends is not vast – and many of them won’t have a particular interest in your topic.
Your next step, then, is to find other bloggers to connect with, particularly those writing about the same topic as you – or similar topics.
I’ll be very clear here that you do not want to be targeting “big name” or “A list” or “influencer” bloggers at this stage.
Of course you’re no less worthy than those people – it’s just that they’re very likely to be extremely busy, and they get a heck of a lot of emails and tweets from new bloggers all the time. They’re unlikely to be able to give you much help or attention.
(This isn’t to say that they’re forever out of your reach, of course. Once you’re a little further along with blogging, you may well be able to build up a great relationship with them by sharing their content, linking to their posts, or guest posting for them.)
Instead, you want to look for the “little guys” of blogging. These are bloggers who are at a similar stage to you: working their way up to 1000 subscribers. They might be a bit further along (with several hundred subscribers) or not quite so far along (just launching their blog) – but they’re essentially your blogging peers.
You can find them by:
- Searching on Twitter for phrases like “first blog post” or “launched my blog”.
- Looking in the comments section on blogs that you read: click on people’s names to check out their blogs. Some may have massive blogs, but many will have quite new or small blogs like you.
- Looking in forums where bloggers gather, or where people interested in your topic gather – you could start a post asking if anyone else is blogging. Membership sites like Platform University and Authority have private, moderated forums where you can easily meet other ambitious bloggers; if you want a free public forum, you could try Warrior Forum (be warned, it’s very focused on internet marketing).
And, of course, you can post in the comments below to tell us that you’re working on getting your first 1000 subscribers and you’d love to meet other bloggers on the same journey! Mention your blog’s topic or tagline and make sure you fill in the “URL” field so that your name is linked to your blog. (Your comment may get held in the moderation queue if you include a URL within the comment itself.)
It can take time to build up a network of blogging peers – but these people will be some of your best supporters and connections over time. Help them out by sharing or tweeting any of their posts that you really enjoyed – and hopefully they’ll do the same for you.
Step #3: Leave Comments on Other Blogs
One very simple way to start getting noticed not just by fellow bloggers but also by blog readers is to leave comments on blog posts.
Readers who like what you wrote may well click on your name to look at your blog, and if they enjoy the content there too, there’s a good chance they’ll subscribe.
In general, the earliest comments on a post get shown at the top of the list of comments, and these are most likely to get read. Don’t aim to always be first – but do check out when posts normally go up on the blogs you follow and try to read and comment promptly.
A thoughtful comment that adds constructively to the discussion will also be appreciated by the blogger (this is a much better way to get noticed than by sending them emails asking “please help me” or “please tweet this link” or “please check out my blog”).
Be careful that you don’t end up looking like a spammer, though. That means:
Use your real name (or your blogging pseudonym) when commenting. Avoid adding the name of your blog or any other tagline to the “name” field. Definitely don’t use a keyword as your name. (E.g. “Ali Luke” is great; “Ali Luke – Writer and Blogger” is best avoided; “Expert Writing Tips” is definitely out.)
Write a comment that says something worth saying. That probably means writing around 50+ words. “Great post, I loved it!” doesn’t really add much. (If you really want to tell a blogger that you loved their post, send them an email.)
Avoid including links in your comment unless they’re super relevant. This often looks self-serving. Also, comments often get held for moderation if they include a link, meaning that yours may not appear for several days after the blog post goes live (by which point, far fewer people will be reading it – and the comments).
Step #4: Link to Other Bloggers’ Great Content
Hopefully, by this point, you’re starting to build up a loyal audience of readers. If you’re not already doing so, now’s a great time to begin linking to other bloggers’ posts, either on your blog or on social media.
If you’re linking to someone’s post on social media, make sure you tag them (e.g. include their @name on Twitter or tag their business or blog’s page on Facebook) so that they can see your link. They may well retweet you, share your Facebook post, or simply thank you.
Linking out isn’t just a great way to get noticed (and hopefully to get some reciprocal shares). It also demonstrates to your audience that:
- You read within your industry or niche area, and you’ve got lots of up-to-date knowledge to share.
- You’re a valuable place to go to for links to posts they might have missed.
- You’re a generous person who wants to share great content that will be useful to your readers – you’re not just linking to your own posts all the time.
Step #5: Craft a Guest Post for a Blog You Follow
You might worry that you’re not ready to guest post yet – perhaps you thought you’d need at least 1,000 subscribers.
The truth is that most blogs don’t care how big your own audience is: they just care about how well you can write for their audience.
When you’re looking for a blog to write for:
Target established blogs with a larger readership than your own. I tend to recommend going for blogs with ten times as many readers as you, or more.
Start with blogs that you already read regularly: you’ll likely be a good fit for their audience, you know what sort of content they do (and don’t) publish, and you may well already have connected to the blogger or editor through comments, tweets and so on.
Check that the blog you have in mind currently accepts guest posts. (Just because they did in the past doesn’t mean they do today!) Their “Contact” page will often have details and many larger blogs have specific guest posting guidelines.
When you guest post, you’ll almost always get a “bio” where you can write a bit about yourself and/or your blog, and include one or more links.
I always recommend linking to a specific blog post rather than to the home page of your blog – this is a much stronger call to action, especially if the piece you’re linking to is closely related to the topic of your guest post.
For instance, instead of: Ali Luke blogs about the art, craft and business of writing at Aliventures …
I’d use something like: If you enjoyed this post by Ali Luke, check out her thoughts on Why You Should Be Blogging … and Why You Shouldn’t.
Step #6: Optimise Posts That Are Getting Lots of Traffic
Once you’re getting traffic to your blog, whether that’s through search engines or through the links in your guest post bios, you’ll want to make the most of all those new readers.
While I’m definitely no SEO expert (I rely on my friend Joe for that) and I’ve struggled to deliberately create posts that rank well and get a lot of traffic …
… even I can login to Google Analytics once in a while to check which posts are bringing in the most visitors.
If you’ve not already got Google Analytics set up, WPBeginner has step by step instructions on doing so.
Once your Analytics account is up and running, login and look at your website’s stats at least once a week.
To find out what content’s most popular, Navigate to Behavior Flow > Site Content > Landing Pages.
This should show you the top few pages on your site, by the number of visitors. Here’s mine for the past month:
You may well find, especially if you’ve been blogging for a while, that just a small handful of posts are outperforming all the others. As you can see above, my top post got 2027 visits during the past month and my 10th post got just 363 visits – quite a difference.
Why not capitalize on posts that are already performing well? That could mean doing one or more of the following:
Giving the posts a quick update to remove any broken links, out of date references, etc. You might want to go further and give key posts a full overhaul.
Linking forward to posts that you’ve published more recently (which, obviously, you couldn’t link to when that post went out).
Adding a call to action to encourage readers to subscribe to your blog.
Creating a whole new piece of content (a “Content Upgrade”) on the same topic as the post, but which goes further – you can use this as a highly specific email-sign-up incentive.
Including links to any relevant products or services that you now have.
This doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but it could really pay off by converting casual readers into long-term fans.
If you follow this plan – and keep on commenting, writing guest posts, and optimizing content that’s working well – you’ll be well on your way to 1000 subscribers.
Do drop a comment below to let us know where you’re at right now and what your next steps are going to be. Don’t forget to include your blog’s URL (if it’s already up and running) in the URL field, so we can click your name to check it out.