Many people start blogs—whether for personal or business reasons—and then wonder: Why is no one reading it? Even executives at Fortune 500 companies with massive resources can publish blog posts that go essentially unread. And it happens for a number of reasons: poor content, lack of frequency, not knowing the audience, and so on. However, the most basic reason no one is reading your blog is this: Nobody knows it exists.
Your small-business blog requires more than a build-it-and-they-will-come strategy. Rather than thinking of it as marketing channel that you can just turn on, think of it as a service, one that requires its own marketing. Consumers won’t line up to receive advertising and direct-marketing messages. So if that’s the type of content your blog offers, it may be better to reset your expectations now.
Assuming your small-business blog offers interesting, valuable content, the following should help you generate ideas for marketing it.
How to get found
1. Optimize for search
Despite having said that you can’t just build your blog and expect reader to come, if you build it optimized for search, then they might come, after all. Among his “4 Tips for Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts,” Sam Axon suggests not only including important search teams in post titles, but limiting the terms, as well. As he says, “You're not likely to win strong ranking for more than one or two search terms at once, so minimalism is a virtue here…Focus on one potential search term, then if you want to rank for a second term, write a separate and unique post specifically with it in mind.” He also suggests linking key terms within the body of the post to previous posts, and, again, don’t overdo it.
2. Build links
If you want to see the community active on your site, start by being an active member of the community. Look to other sites where your readers are and join the conversation. As you comment, you can generate awareness for you –and your own blog. You shouldn’t be as obvious as “hey, check out my blog…” (although we’ve all seen that), but you can find ways to mention and link back where appropriate. Often, if people find your comments interesting, they’ll search to learn more. And where your own content seems like a good fit, offer to write a guest blog.
Social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Digg and Delicious can also help build links to your blog. And with a little research, you could find more specialized resources within your industry or target audience. (Traffikd offers a great list, plus additional articles on how to build traffic for your blog.)
4. Enable others to share for you
By adding share tools such as Facebook Like and Tweetmeme to your site, you enable readers to easily share content with their fans and followers. In his “5 Ways to Use Social Media to Amplify Your Content,” John Jantsch talks about these and other plug-ins that can make your site both easier to navigate and more share-friendly. Jolie O'Dell also offers tips in “How to Add Social Sharing Buttons to Your Website.”
Share with readers
In addition to finding your audience on other sites they visit, look to other social media channels they’re using. Are they on Twitter? Facebook? YouTube? Develop a presence where they are, and you’ll build up your social media profile. This doesn’t mean you have to spend too much time on every channel, but enough to see where your audience is most active. And as you build that profile, remember to cross-promote. Add your blog URL to your Twitter bio and elsewhere; incorporate tools on your blog that allow readers to follow you on Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter is a great tool for listening to your audience, which can help you learn how to join the conversation—and even produce better blog content. In his first tip on succeeding in The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how he used search.twitter.com to find what wine enthusiasts and experts were talking about. John Jantsch offers “7 Insanely Useful Ways to Search Twitter for Marketing,” including how to target by location and occupation.
As you participate in these channels, though, remember that the key is sharing. On Twitter, for example, you should expect to retweet others if you want them to retweet you. And even when you’re posting your own update on Twitter or Facebook, there should still be something in it for the reader. In his interview with MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley, Guy Kawasaki offers some killer content strategies that include tips for the “perfect” tweet and Facebook update.
Integrate your marketing
Just as you should add your blog URL to your Twitter bio and other social profiles, you can extend that to your other forms of marketing, such as direct mail, advertising, e-mail, business cards—even your e-mail signature.
Sarah Kessler provides some great examples small business owners used to promote social media efforts offline, including adding online elements to offline events. In the example she provided, a company invited guests at an event to vote on images posted to their Facebook page. But it could be simpler than that, as well. Think of the times you attend events and give presentations—or promotional items and materials; is there a place to add your blog URL? Or what about the business cards you hand out? Erica Swallow’s “12 Social Media Friendly Business Cards” offers some ingenious examples.
These are just some basic points to start, so I welcome additional suggestions below. For those more experienced with social media, what’s worked best for you? Or what hasn’t worked?