Scrupulous readers should have noticed that blogging is not just about writing and get their opinions, rants and random stuff online. In fact, a blog is just a tool for publishing and conversing online. Every opportunity to enhance communication and reach out through various media should not be taken lightly.
As part of the online marketing mix, blogging plays a significant role because right now much of the marketing effort still revolves around driving people to your web site. When you want your prospects to buy something, you want them to visit your site and proceed to the order / payment page. If you want them to find information or read content, a web site is still the most ideal place for this.
Among those, audio and video content consumptions have shifted from computer to portable devices and TV screens. However, at the end of the process, you still need to take the audience back to the Web to increase ad views or complete the purchase. (Driving people to offline store is out of the scope of this post.)
A blog is no longer used to merely publish blog type content. Modern blog software allows you to format the layout to resemble magazines, corporate web sites or for syndicating videos. Taking advantage of this has become more important than ever in order to grow your business.
Quick advice: combine web publishing and other media to reach your audience. Not only they are cost effective but you are providing richer content experience across multiple platforms and that can bring good things to your business. Even just for online media, you can implement multi-channel marketing.
- Email newsletter. If you haven’t developed a way to reach your prospects or customers without having them to visit your site, you are far from getting the most out of your content and traffic. Despite many claims about email digging its own grave, email marketing remains a simply because it is still effective in drive prospects and customers back and to engage them regularly.
- Blog RSS feeds. Many people prefer to receive content only when they want to. RSS feeds provide them with fresh content without having them to give away their information. Consumers should have control and RSS feeds fit perfectly into this strategy. The good news is, all blog software automatically provide this feature out of the box.
- Podcast feed. Podcast feed is a convenient way to deliver audio, video and other content formats to subscribers.
- Other content feeds. Twitter, FriendFeed and almost every new web service now include RSS feeds as an alternative to receive updated content. Create a strategy to get people into consuming content and engage with you repeatedly.
- Webinars and teleseminars. Telephone and video seminars are capable of providing training in every topic you can possibly imagine.
- E-books. Free e-books have higher perceived value than articles. Content in this format tends to establish your expert status faster than anything else. A collection of your best blog posts can be turned into e-book. That’s just one simple example to re-purpose content.
How to Get the Words Out with Content Marketing
When I first used the term content marketing, almost no one was talking about it. Not that people didn’t do it but Larry Chase was one of the first to use the phrase. Other marketers refer to it as educational marketing. Just recently, it becomes the buzz word.
Marketing suddenly becomes fun once you approach it from the content angle. Rather than calling out to random people who are more likely not interested in what you have to offer, content marketing attracts people in. People come (call, contact, or ask) you about your product or service instead of you selling them aggressively. And when the approach you, often they feel as if they’ve known you for a long time.
It all starts with superb content.
Content marketing is effective but at the same time doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. Sure, there are expensive ways to create and distribute content. More power to those who can afford them. But for most of us, here are some cost effective tips and strategies for content distribution and promotion. (See above for tips on affordable content creation strategies.) Don’t underestimate any one of them, as they can be far more powerful than the costly methods:
- Optimize your content for search engines. Learn basic SEO. If you don’t have the budget to spend, you can do this yourself and still get good results. Many web users refer to search engines to find information. I’m not surprised if bloggers claim that 40-60 percent of their traffic come from search engines. So like it or not, a lot of the following strategies will help you get more traffic from search engines.
- Break news. This is possible if you have insider access to news, but if you don’t, being one of the first to blog about a story may result in links from A-list blogs and news outlets. I’ve written about content filtering and keeping up with industry news in previous post.
- Send out press releases. They have to be news-worthy. If done right, you may get a lot of publicity in additional to links from authority web sites that will strengthen your positions in search engines. Media coverage may bring in a surge of traffic to your blog. Read Darren’s post on how to get media coverage for tips on how to do it.
- Hold a contest. Contest is an effective way to generate buzz around the blogosphere, especially if you are able to have other bloggers and influencers blog about it.
- Participate in contests. Bloggers often hold contests or group projects to encourage others to blog about certain topics. This may result in both links and referral traffic for your blog.
- Participate in blog carnivals. Even though you have great content, it can be hard to get links from other bloggers when you are getting started. By participating in blog carnivals, you are able to kick start your inbound link strategy quite easily.
- Linkbait. Certainly it is not the best word to describe what it does. Linkbaiting is simply the act of creating solid piece of information that catches people’s attention. It has nothing to do with baiting people into fads. Being remarkable is the idea behind linkbaiting. With great content and a bit of promotion, others will notice and start linking back to your blog.
- Write and promote your free e-books. A free promotion in one forum may bring hundreds or even thousands of downloads, which distribute your message to more audience. A freemium — to steal the term from direct marketing — is effective to get visitors to subscribe to your email newsletter.
- Become a guest blogger. Like what I am doing right now. Everyone should like the idea of stealing traffic from other bloggers ethically. Provide great content and help out other bloggers. In return, they will be more than happy to let you communicate with their readers. This in turn will drive traffic back to your blog.
- Contribute to article directories. Article directories are still good sources of targeted traffic, mainly because of their authority in a lot of topics. I regularly get 5-10 new subscribers to my e-course every day from this source. Focus on high-traffic sites to save your time.
- Visit forums regularly. Discussion boards are places where people with the same interest hang out, discuss and share opinions. By being a forum regular, and by contributing back, you will be able to establish your expertise and drive traffic back to your site. Some forums also accept on-topic articles.
- Use micro-blogging platform. Twitter is by far the most outstanding micro-blogging tool. At first, you may not be able to drive significant traffic using Twitter, but realize that it is also a networking opportunity. More about this in the next section.
- Lifestreaming. FriendFeed immediately comes into mind. With it, your audience will be able to get up-to-date stream of web pages, photos, music and videos that you share. I use FriendFeed’s room feature to share interesting stuff around blogging. Businesses who tap into blogging don’t have time to monitor hundreds of blogs every day, but they will be able to get links to interesting stuff online by subscribing to the feed. I’m going to push this idea further this year. Although more than 95 percent of the content I share is not mine, but over the long haul, being resourceful will be rewarding.
Connect and Build Relationships with Others (It’s Social!)
Blogging requires you to reach out and connect with your readers and other bloggers. Relationship is an important part of it. “It is who you know.”
Building relationships with other influencers should be on everyone’s agenda. Over time, you will need bloggers to help you spread your content, product or service. By the time you need them, it is usually too late to start networking.
While certainly there’s more things to consider than just “who you know,” influencers are people who have the capability to generate buzz and bring you traffic and business. Average content can become outstanding with the right people endorsing it, but superb content remains unnoticed without proper promotion.
With the word “social” everywhere, “where to network” is no longer the right question to ask. It is more about prioritizing your time to get the most out of social sites and activities.
Here are some useful online networking tips that I hope I’ve learned years ago when I got started:
- Leave comments on other blogs Comments with nofollow attribute is still valuable because what you seek for is connecting with the blogger. I know some bloggers who leave comment in 50-100 blogs every day. If that sounds too aggressive a goal because of time limitation and others, aim for 5-10 authority blogs to start with. A tip: If you are able to grab the blogger’s attention, you will increase the chance of getting them to reply to your tweets or emails later.
- Help other bloggers. Guest blogging, as mentioned above, is just an example. Do whatever you could to help out bloggers. They will certainly pay attention to you more than to people who blatantly ask for links.
- Find the right timing. Don’t spam tens of bloggers with the similar messages. You need to personalize email and get in touch with the right blogger at the right time. A tip I learned from Maki of Dosh Dosh is to create a using your news reader. It is a neat way to track your network even if you have hundreds of them.
- Don’t overlook mailing lists and groups. People are still exchanging hundreds of messages in popular mailing lists and virtual groups such as Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. As with other strategies, the key is always in providing value. Don’t self-promote in your first message unless you want to be kicked out of the circle.
- Connect with a purpose in social networking sites. You can certainly befriend your family members or school mates, but if you are to grow your business, look for like-minded people and build relationships with them through those social networking sites.
- Use Twitter. Twitter is all the rage nowadays. While people may visit Facebook or MySpace once a week, they regularly use Twitter several times a day. This may be a more effective way to get in touch with influencers, even better than email and perhaps phone (for some people). At least warm up first and avoid cold calling.
- Meet bloggers in person. Industry events and seminars are great places to meet people besides getting cutting edge information, of course. When meeting others in person, it often results in closer relationship and joint projects. After all, people who visit those events are also interested in business.
Although social networking sites allow you to syndicate your blog’s RSS feeds and post links to your blog posts, several social sites are created just for the purpose of finding new and interesting content.
Here are some ways that will help you leverage your content and drive traffic through social sites:
- Disseminate your content through social sites. Squidoo and HubPages are just two examples of social sites that allow everyone to publish their own content and knowledge. This will increase your visibility as people start finding your content and blogs through various places.
- Provide value and steal more traffic! Digg, Propeller, Reddit and Stumble Upon are just several huge players out there. You can find niche specific social news sites and drive tons of traffic to your blog if you really work on it. Care should be taken that traffic from these sites may not be sticky, but they can still be made effective. When using such sites, remember that networking is also important to get your content noticed and endorsed.
- Help others find answers. Yahoo Answers and Mahalo Answers are just two examples where you can help others with your knowledge. Others will notice what you have to say, which in turn may drive business to you.
Diversify Your Profit Streams
For most bloggers, make money blogging is about selling ad space or getting sponsorship. While we should expect to see changes in the advertising industry and there are still untapped market for ads, bloggers should really expand their monetization options beyond displaying adverts on their blogs.
The easiest profit stream that comes to my mind is creating information products. After all, bloggers are already content creators, so this should not be hard at all.
An e-book is just an example of info product. CDs, DVDs, membership sites, seminars, group coaching, and even consulting can be considered information-based products.
Information marketing is one of the underutilized profit sources for bloggers.
The benefit is enormous. While you can increase your blog revenue at the same time, these products are also marketing tools. They make you more credible, not to mention about the additional businesses generated from consumers of the products, if you happen to over consulting and other services.
Selling other people’s products as an affiliate also has a great potential. No one could ever make products or services fast enough to satisfy all of their audience. By offering high quality and proven products to their visitors, they are doing a service. Don’t promote just for the sake of earning affiliate commissions though. Be honest, that will make you more money in the long run.
If you look at the list above, you should agree that it can be overwhelming even for most productive bloggers. If you only get one advice from this article, it should be that you should not attempt to do them all at once by yourself.
Instead, prioritize. Successful bloggers focus on what they know best and exploit a handful of different marketing channels to the maximum, systemize them, and whenever they are able to offload some of the stuff, pick another channel to explore. You will be surprised that even if you do one thing well, you will see significant improve in traffic and revenue to your site.
Final recommendation: spend a weekend to plan out your blogging business. It will be time worth spending.
Next post, which is the last post in the series, talks about the metrics you should be tracking so you know which strategy brings you result and which needs a fix. Not knowing your numbers is like shooting in the dark and hoping you will hit the bull’s eye. It isn’t going to happen. Driving traffic and growing a blogging business need a strategy, and based on the feedback you adjust things and take even more actions.
So… stay tuned.
Hendry Lee helps bloggers overcome strategic and technological challenges in starting and growing their blogs. He also writes about make money blogging on his blog Blog Tips for a Better Blog – Blog Building University. While you are there, download your free eBook and subscribe to his blogging e-course where he reveals his secret about blogging and content writing!
Follow Hendry on Twitter (@hendrylee).