“If you build it, he will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner in an Iowa corn field, but that dream rarely comes true for the average business owner like you or me.
The first thing you need to come to grips with is that you won’t build a massive following overnight. Just like it takes a long time to build followings on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ or whatever other platforms you’re using, it will take you a long time to build a blog following.
Fortunately, consistent blogging will get the attention of search engines as you work to build a human following. I always say that we should write for real people and not algorithms, but you won’t get any attention – from humans or search spiders – if you’re not adding valuable content to your website on a regular basis. And the easiest way to do this is by blogging.
To build a blog following from scratch, start with these very basic but often overlooked steps.
Promote your blog everywhere
No kidding, right? Then why do most businesses make their blogs so difficult to find?
A link to your blog – and a call-to-action to sign up for your blog – should be easy to find on your website, your email signature and each of your social media profiles and business pages. A blog registration form and recent posts should be prominently displayed on your website.
When you’re speaking with clients and prospects, encourage them to sign up for your blog, and make sure they know why it’s worth their time to sign up. If your blog isn’t important enough for you to promote and talk about, how can it be worth my time to read it?
Share with social media groups, not just followers
Obviously, you want to share every blog post with your fans, followers and connections. But if you really want to extend your network, join the groups that members of your target audience have joined and share your posts on those group pages.
For example, I’ve joined a bunch of groups on Linkedin. Most are geared towards small and midsized businesses in and around New Jersey, but I’ve also joined larger groups with members from all over the country.
You don’t want to spam hundreds of groups, so find groups that make sense and test the waters. As new people like and share your posts and view your profile, you’ll start to build a larger following for your blog. And you may just hook a major client along the way.
Make it easy to sign up for your blog
If you require much more than an email address for someone to sign up for your blog, you’re asking for too much.
People prefer to divulge as little information as possible online. Why should you need more than an email address and maybe a name? Signing up for a blog should be fast and simple.
If you require a visitor to provide any kind of information just to read your blog, you may as well close up shop now – unless you’re the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or a brand of similar stature.
Make it easy to share your posts
When someone visits your blog, are the social sharing buttons easy to find? When someone finishes reading your post, do they have to scroll all the way back up to the top to share your post? More importantly, do your social sharing buttons even work?
Make sure you include the big four – Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ – and test each button to make sure they function properly.
Beyond that, focus on social platforms that are popular with your target audience or make the most sense for your business (for example, Pinterest for a photographer). Using too many buttons can create clutter and confusion.
We all have our automated email responses ready to go when someone signs up for our blog. Unless your blog is attracting throngs of sign-ups each day, why not send a quick personal note to thank each new subscriber?
If someone you don’t know likes and shares your post, thank them. If someone takes the time to comment on your blog, take the time to write a thoughtful response, address them by name and thank them for commenting, whether you agree with the comment or not.
A little courtesy and genuine appreciation can go a long way towards building a relationship and getting your posts shared.
This isn’t the end of the list! In Part 2 of this post, I’ll offer a few more suggestions for building your blog following from scratch – without a multimillion dollar marketing budget.