One of the goals I set for myself this year has been to get a reliable readership of this blog. So far this year, I have not really paid much attention to this goal. Not because it isn’t important, but because it is an uncomfortable area for me. And it isn’t marketing that really makes me uncomfortable, it is having people read what I write. Having others pass judgment on your work is a little scary. Ultimately though, I am here to give and to provide value. The only way to do that is to have people read what I write and to get feedback on what they find is valuable.
Some Blog Marketing Basics
For Christmas, my wife bought me several books that I had been wanting to read. Among them was Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez. John runs Simple Programmer and does a fantastic job of giving advice to developers.
In his book, he has a few chapters on blogging and how to build a successful blog. (He also has a blogging course that I mentioned at the end of this post about putting your work online.
John has built a successful brand and even has a premium course on how to market yourself. And one thing I have learned already this year, if you want to be successful at something, study others who are successful.
Consistency Is the Key
Of all the things that are listed in the book, consistency is by far stressed the most. If you want consistent readership, you have to write consistently. Sometimes you won’t feel like it and it won’t feel like your best work, but it is super important to have a schedule and stick to it. This is one of the areas I did poorly in last year and have been able to do okay in this year.
Often beginning bloggers don’t post because they don’t know what to write about. Here are a few tips from the book and some of my own.
- Have a conversation, debate, or argument with a friend or coworker about a particular technology or idea that you want to write about and turn that into a post. This a great way to find something to write about. And if your friend and you have fairly strong differing opinions on the topic, it is likely the post will be slightly controversial and get people to comment and respond.
- Write a response to a blog post you have read and agree or disagree with. While this should probably not be the majority of your posts, it will help fill out those days where you just draw a blank.
- Do interesting things. One of the most difficult times I have writing is when I have not been doing interesting things. I haven’t been working on games, and I haven’t been learning about games and game design. When you do interesting things, you can write about you own experience doing it. That is one of the purposes for this blog, to share the experience of learning to design, create and market video games.
- Keep a list of blog topics. Do a brainstorming session and write down ideas of topics you can research and write about. Whenever you don’t have any ideas for a blog post, go to this list and pick a topic.
High Quality = High Sharing
After you get the consistency down, you want to increase the quality of your posts. Whenever someone reads a high quality post with valuable information, they are more likely to want to read other things you have wrote and come back for more. Also they are likely to tell a friend and share it with others.
In addition to repeat visitors and their friends, another important side effect of quality content is backlinks. Many search engines use links to your site from other authoritative sites as a measure of quality and authority. This will give you a higher rank when people search for that topic. Also you will get a percentage of the readers from the site linking to your post.
Add Value on Other Blogs
Search engine traffic and other people posting links to your blog are not very likely when you start out. So what do you do about it? You comment on other people’s blogs.
Now don’t just leave a useless little drive by comment with a link to your blog. Actually try to provide value. This will net you goodwill with other bloggers and help you make connections. In his book, John suggests leaving a few comments a day on different blogs.
Share With Your Network
Use the power of social media to share your blog posts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and everything else. It probably won’t get much traffic, but it is a place to start.
If You Are Brave
Sites like Hacker News and Reddit can get you a lot of readers, at least temporarily. And if the content is good or controversial, some will stick around. A few of the blogs I read are ones I found on Hacker News. The section title is because there are some trolls and hateful people who will leave angry comments or at least try to say something harmful. Thick skin is needed for this and a good amount of confidence in what you are writing.
If you create value where you are and leave some behind where you go, you will have no trouble developing a readership for your blog. This is just another example of the universal law of “give and it will be given to you.”
This week, go find somewhere on the Internet to add value so that value will come back to you.