This guest post is by Heather Baker of the B2B PR Blog.
When I launched my first blog, the B2B Guide to Social Media, in 2010, my strategy for building its readership relied heavily on blind faith.
I must admit, it was difficult to maintain my enthusiasm for researching and drafting interesting blog posts, day after day, while I watched my Google Analytics figures hover in the single digits, and the only consistent Facebook likes I got were from my mum.
However, I pressed on, slowly gaining traction, and eventually building a solid monthly readership of 5,000 and a close-knit community of great guest bloggers. It was a slow process, but provided an excellent opportunity to learn what it takes to build a blog’s followers.
Fast-forward almost two years: I’ve been able to apply all this learning to help my latest blog, The B2B PR Blog, gain over 1,000 readers in its first ten days. Here’s how I did it.
- I chose my subject carefully: there are two elements of the new blog that have helped it appeal to followers. Firstly, it covers a niche (B2B PR rather than PR in general). Secondly, its core topic has not been covered in detail elsewhere on the web.
- I used a web designer: my blog is targeted at professionals, and therefore needed to look professional. I was not able to create a blog of this standard myself, so I brought on a designer who could (and I was fortunate enough to be able to pay him).
- I wrote my first ten posts before launching: I run a communications business and can never be sure when I will be able to find the time to blog. But I wanted to demonstrate to readers that the blog would be regularly updated with quality content. So I stockpiled my first ten posts, ready to upload daily for ten days.
- I asked a professional to do the on-site optimisation: I knew that if I were to rely on Google to drive searchers to my blog, I would have to make my site Google-friendly. Unfortunately, I am no technical expert in this area, so I got a professional to do it for me.
- I did keyword research: Using the Google Keyword Tool, I was able to identify what people in the industry were searching for, and insert these terms and phrases into my posts. The result was that in the first ten days, 108 people found my blog on Google.
- I used my social networks: I made a point of tweeting every post and sharing it on Facebook. I also joined the relevant LinkedIn groups and posted a link to every post with a relevant question on at least three discussion boards. This alone led to 561 visits in ten days.
- I used my contacts: On the day the blog launched, I sent an email to my friends, business associates, and family, telling them about the new blog and asking them for honest feedback.
- I added the link to the blog to the website of my PR company and email signature: to give more people the opportunity to find it. This drove 32 visitors to the blog in ten days.
- I commented on other blogs and articles: I found people who were writing about similar subjects and commented with a link back to my blog. This got an additional 46 visitors.
- I used social sharing: Between digg and StumbleUpon, the blog got over 26 visitors in ten days.
- I started guest blogging: I created a list of blogs covering similar areas of interest to mine (such as the CIPR or the PRCA’s blog) and pitched them with ideas for posts. Because I was offering unique content that I had researched and tailored to their audiences, these were accepted, and I was able to insert links to my blog into these posts. My first three guest posts referred 28 visitors to the blog.
- I kept the content unique, valuable, and relevant: because I had chosen to blog about a subject I knew well, I was able to identify the gaps in content on the web, and try to fill them. For example, while many B2B PR programs require research, no one had ever before produced a price comparison table for the major research houses. I knew that would be useful to the industry (because I had needed it myself at one stage), so I put the time into producing one (you can check it out here).
- I was happy to be controversial: Without being downright mean, I decided to highlight examples of poor B2B PR practice in my Steaming barrel, a section dedicated to the worst of B2B PR. While I would never be deliberately nasty about someone, I feel strongly that our industry gets away with too much. I therefore decided to be the one to put my head above the parapet and highlight shoddy practice.
- I remembered my manners: When someone did share my posts on Twitter or LinkedIn, I made a point of thanking them. And when people got in touch with ideas for guest posts, I responded even if they weren’t relevant.
- I monitored my analytics: Every morning I would log on to my Google Analytics account to see what was working and what was not. Then I would tailor my blog promotion activity for that day accordingly.
While building your blog’s following is by no means difficult, it is time consuming and labour intensive. It’s also frustrating as you never know in advance which marketing activity will turn into that big-ticket-audience-generator.
For the B2B PR Blog, so far it’s been a combination of actions. But what has been your big reader magnet? I’d be delighted if readers would share their experiences of their most successful blog marketing tools in the comments below.
Heather Baker is managing director of London B2B communications consultancy, TopLine Communications and the editor of two popular marketing blogs: The B2B Guide to Social Media and The B2B PR Blog. She is also currently an Executive MBA student at the London Business School.