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Use Showcase Sites to Boost Your Blog’s Loyal Readership

Posted By Guest Blogger 15th of September 2011 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

This guest post is by Issy Eyre of Fennel & Fern.

I’ll let you into a secret. One of the key ways I grew my traffic for my gardening blog Fennel & Fern wasn’t through clever SEO campaigns. It wasn’t through endless tweeting, or sucking up to other bloggers (although I’ve been guilty of all of those things—and more).

A showcase

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Instead, I used showcase websites to show off my content to a targeted group of users who I knew would love it. The lifestyle blogging community is lucky enough to have plenty of sites that showcase and link directly to quality blog posts, and these sites bring in a wealth of quality readers.

When one of my posts gets a StumbleUpon, I can get a thousand readers on my site within a couple of hours. But the average time spent on the site falls dramatically, from an everyday 3.5 minutes to just ten seconds, and naturally the bounce rate soars. These readers aren’t going to be digging into my site, or clicking on my advertisements, or subscribing to my emails.

But when one of my posts appears on the front page of TasteSpotting, 300 readers turn up, and the average time spent on site actually goes up to just over four minutes. The number of actions per visit is up as well, and I always see a little spike in email subscriptions. This is because showcase sites are targeted perfectly. I know that everyone who looks at my post on sundried tomatoes is a massive foodie, and so they’ll love my blog. They will read the whole recipe.

I’m such a big fan of the traffic-growing magic of showcase sites that I set up my own for the gardening blogging community, called GardenGrab. This also makes me quite popular with other garden bloggers, as I promote their content for them.

The best showcase sites

For food, try TasteSpotting, FoodGawker, Bkfst, and Refrigerator Soup.

For homes, craft and interiors, try ThingsYouMake, DwellingGawker, and CraftGawker.

There’s also WeddingGawker for anyone with a wedding blog.

If you’re a political blogger, you should try to get your content listed on the PhiWire of PoliticsHome (although many of the rules I list below about images etc don’t apply)

Word about these sites tends to spread through the blogging community they serve. A lot of blogs display badges which show that their posts are being accepted by a showcase site, so have a look at the sidebars of some of your favourite blogs for ideas. You can also search through tumblr for more showcase sites which fit your blog’s niche.

How to get your post accepted by a showcase site

A lot of showcase websites require you to register as a user and upload your post through the front page. You’ll need the full URL of the post, a description of the post, and a good quality image. On some sites you’ll upload and crop the image through the front page, while on others you’ll complete a form which pings to the site’s moderators so they can consider your post.

The first thing you need to realise about these websites is that they are entirely visually-driven. Your recipes might be the most delectable dishes ever produced, or you might be an incredible writer, but if you don’t submit a post with good-quality photos to any of these sites, then you’re wasting your time. There’s a useful guide on how to edit your photos so that they get accepted by a showcase site here.

All the sites listed above read every post submitted, so make sure yours is well-written. Most sites let you know when they have reviewed your submission by sending you an email, and the best give you feedback if your post has been rejected, normally on the basis of poor image composition.

Riding the wave

Probably the most useful post I ever read on ProBlogger was this one about surfing the wave of new users. all the principles in this post are even more important with a spike in traffic from a showcase site because your new visitors are already more likely to stick around and dig into your website.

Take this post I submitted to both FoodGawker and TasteSpotting on making sundried tomatoes. It ticks all the boxes for both sites, with eye-catching photography and an easy-to-follow recipe. But it is also ready for the readers when they come.

For starters, I’ve got a ‘Subscribe to our email updates’ button at the very top of my sidebar, and I’ve also got a related posts plugin at the bottom of the post, options for readers to share the post on nine different sites and a ‘subscribe to comments’ tickbox. All standard. But I want to give these eager foodies even more opportunity to dig further into my blog. So in the text of the post, I’ve recommended some varieties of tomatoes perfect for roasting. This shows that I’m an expert on the subject of tomatoes, and sends them scuttling over to the posts as well.

At the bottom of every recipe post I write, I always recommend my free to download postcard guides on growing the key ingredient in the recipe. It’s a great way of flagging up to the new readers that I have a product that can help them. Those cards are now the most popular page on my site, so the strategy is working.

Do you use showcase sites to drive targeted traffic to your blog? Which ones have you found most effective, and how do you engage readers once they arrive?

Issy Eyre started Fennel & Fern when she was just 21 years old to settle an argument with some friends that gardening wasn’t cool. Three years later, the blog now boasts a team of eight writers, its own gardening blog showcase site, GardenGrab, and a bunch of readers who agree that gardening is awesome. You can follow Issy on Twitter here.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. I’ve seen quite a bit of success from Craftgawker and Foodgawker in sending traffic to my site. Unlike Stumbleupon traffic, the traffic from showcase sites stays longer, visits more pages and often signs up for my email list or subscribes to my RSS feed. I see quite a few comments from first-time visitors and often see permanent increases in my traffic after submitting posts.

    In fact, Craftgawker has been one of my biggest referring traffic sources for the last few months when I’ve posted an average of 1 time per month.

    • I find the same, Lindsay. If I can manage to have a photo good enough to get accepted to Craftgawker, then I see ongoing traffic from there. I’m even considering going back and taking new photos of some of my projects and updating my posts, then submitting them. It would be worth it I’m sure.

  2. Thanks for the tips. I’m also doing a blog on Interior Design but in malay language.

  3. This is interesting, I’ve also heard people using a similar method by getting a custom blog redesign and submitting their new site to CSS galleries and design showcase sites.

  4. Nice article and I agree with your advice. In the SEO and Online Marketing space there are a variety of showcase sites that have been very helpful in bringing traffic. I’ve gotten articles on two different blogs to show up as “Hot at Sphinn” which gets the article featured on their site (and emails and tweets). In addition to Sphinn, Serpd in Blokube are a couple of other showcase sites for that industry.

  5. I’m just setting up my blog and I’d love to know how to find the showcase sites in my niche (healthy eating/womens weight loss)

  6. Hi, Issy, this was very helpful, thank you. Just got back from checking out Things {you} make, which I’m guessing is also yours because it mentions sister site Garden Grab. But I didn’t see a category for handsewn clothing. Would you recommend I submit to the category “Things”?

    • Hello, Things you make is run by a lovely fellow blogger who asked if she could set it up as a sister to Garden Grab. Submit it and see what she does! She’d be thrilled.

  7. Nice article, very useful for what I’m doing. For my food blog I’ve had most success with Foodgawker, both in terms of posts accepted as well as traffic sent back to my site. Especially lately I’ve noticed my posts stay longer on the first page, bringing in more users. On tastespotting on the other hand I’ve had several posts accepted only to see them being pushed back to page 2 or 3 within an hour or so.

    Overall I’m quite happy with the boost in traffic I get from showcase sites but user engagement is still lagging in my opinion, I do get decent RSS readers, but email subs are hard to come by even when I get hundreds of visits a day from one of the sites. I do have several links and sign up forms on my site but it’s still a slow process. Then again my site has only been around for 6 weeks now.

    • Hi Barb, would definitely recommend that you keep plugging away: six weeks is still very early days! It took my blog six months to become ‘sticky’ enough for people to subscribe etc in large quantities.

      • Thanks for replying Issy. I know it’s early and I’m not complaining either. Getting some nice traffic already but was surprised to see how hard it is to build an email subscriber list. Might be especially hard for food bloggers since there’s so many of us out there?

  8. Loved the suggestion. Looks like a really good idea. Is is possible for you to elaborate on how to find these types of sites more readily? What keywords do you use to find them specifically?

    • Hi Vala,

      I’m really sorry, but as high and low as I have searched, I can find no list of the sites, nor any productive way of finding them other than the ways listed above. I hope that the list I have provided is a useful initial starting point and perhaps other bloggers reading this might want to suggest more?


  9. I think I understand what you are saying. I have to refocus on being a participant on sites that are better known than my site but who serve my target audience. It makes sense.

  10. I think I understand what you are saying. I have to refocus on being a participant on sites that are better known than my site but who serve my target audience. It makes sense.

  11. Jan Shillito says: 09/17/2011 at 3:35 am

    Really interesting post and something I will implement when we launch our new sites and blogs. Good to hear that other bloggers had seen increased stickiness. Thanks.

  12. These are useful tips. I agree with your tips – showcase sites seem to really help anchor those targeted readers. Great post!


  13. Thanks for the post, very interesting, but I guess that you can’t find showcase websites for all topics. How can you easily find those most appropriate for your blog or website ? Tks

  14. I’ve been using these kinds of site for a while now with quite some success. The ones listed are the best I’ve found too and are consistently sending me traffic even years after making a submission.

    A couple of other sites I know are http://www.savorysights.com and http://www.cravingfor.com. They’re good if you’re not so hot on the photography side as their acceptance criteria seem to be a bit more relaxed than the other sites but they tend to generate a lot less traffic too. I use them mainly for backlinks.

    There are also a few others I’ve used in the past too but they seem to have gone inactive so I won’t bother to list them here.

  15. Issy, Thanks for the tip!! Soon I’ll be building a blog around green houses, gazebos and potting sheds would that be something that GardenGrab may showcase if I follow your above directions? Thanks much!

    Blogger and nitch site designer.
    Akron, Ohio
    Currant project – mini blog about pull-up-chin-up-bars and related fitness equipment.

  16. I have a fledgling weight loss blog, does anyone know of anyway sites that showcase these blogs? Or how I can find them?

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