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).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
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.