Reader Question Session: Beginning Traffic
Zane Dickens of kungfucabbage.com dropped me a line to let me know about his entry into the Complete Blogging Package contest but also asked me a great but difficult question that I’ve chosen for this week’s Reader Question Session. He asks:
What would you say is the first and most important thing a beginner can do to get traffic (other than content – that’s on its way…)
Like I said, it’s a difficult question. To be honest, my initial response was “There’s no right answer to this.” and in fact, there really isn’t. I mean every blog is different and there’s really no one “right way” to turn it into a success. However, that seemed like a bit of a cop out and I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. So, as long as you realize this really is an impossible question, I’ll go ahead and try to answer it for you.
I’m sure Zane wasn’t suggesting that there’s one sort of “golden bullet” but the unfortunate truth is that many bloggers believe there is such a thing. In reality the only thing that comes close, in my experience, is quality content. Now I realize that Zane said “other than content” but I just can’t get around the fact that content is what drives a blog. Think of it this way, no matter how much promotion a network puts into a new show, if it stinks, chances are not many people are going to watch it. If a big budget movie turns out to be horrible, chances are it will be a box office flop. What I’m trying to say is, yes, it’s nice to have a huge marketing budget or a large following to leverage to help promote your site, but the truth is, your content is going to play the biggest factor in whether your blog is a success or not.
I realize I’m not telling you anything you probably haven’t heard from countless other bloggers before but let me give you a few places great content can help your blog gain a larger following of readers and fans.
Guest Blogging – Almost every blogger out there is willing to accept guest posts from their readers. However, just about every one of them has on main criteria for what they are willing to publish – quality. If you submit a great post to an already popular blogger, chances are they’ll publish it. Not only will that get your name and your site out there in front of people but they’ll be able to see the quality of content they’ll be getting once they do subscribe to your blog. This a fantastic way to gain exposure and readers.
Socially Driven Sites – You’ve heard me talk about social bookmarking sites or social networks such as Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Sphinn etc. While there are all sorts of tips and tricks to having your content featured on these types of sites, they are all based on the premise that you have high quality content that others would want to read and share with others. Many times, if you write exceptional content, the social sites will take care themselves as readers take it upon themselves to submit your content for you. Once again, it all goes back to the content.
Comments – Commenting is one of the most over looked arena’s when discussing quality content. I’ve provided a case study of what commenting on other blogs can do for your site but one thing I didn’t mention in that post is the quality factor. I can’t tell you the number of people I see make it into top commentator lists on nothing but “great post” or “hey thanks for the info” type posts. Not only do I hate those comments, but I’ll also never visit the site they link to. If you can’t take the time to post a worthwhile comment, why would I think there’s anything of value to be found on your blog? On the flip side, I’ve found some of my favorite blogs by clicking through from comments on other sites. If someone leaves a well thought out response that I agree with or hadn’t thought of before, that person’s like just earned themselves a new reader. So, when you’re thinking about the quality of your content, don’t forget, that goes for all the content your site is associated with, including comments on other sites.
For example, I enjoy playing football from time to time. I’m not, however, all that good at it. In fact, I’d venture to say I’m incredibly average when it comes to pigskin. For that reason, I wouldn’t for any reason spend 6 months trying to get every scout in the country to come watch me play. In fact, if I did have ambitions to play in the NFL, I’d probably try to make sure that NO scouts saw me play UNTIL my level of play was to a point I thought I could impress them. That example might seem ridiculous but that’s essentially what thousands of bloggers are doing every single day! By then spending a ton of time marketing their site despite the fact that their content is mediocre, bloggers are essentially trying to let as many people possible know that their blog isn’t very good.
Now don’t get me wrong, no matter how much time you spend on your content you’re always going to be learning and hopefully improving. I don’t want to make it sound like you have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to have a successful blog. I’m certainly not getting book offers or winning any awards for my writing, however, I always strive to provide my readers as much value as possible. I’ve found that if you have great content as the foundation of your site, the marketing stuff is a whole lot easier and infinitely more productive. So, what do I think is the most important thing to do to get traffic? Write high-quality, compelling content.