Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Get 40,000 Readers Without Guest Blogging




Below is a guest post on http://kikolani.com/how-to-get-40000-readers-without-guest-blogging-2.html by Gregory Ciotti December 12, 2012 . Greg Ciotti takes an unconventional view of guest blogging. His methods might not be entirely applicable to many writers' blogs, but his comments on reciprocity deserve serious consideration. (The original article has some neat graphics. It's worth taking a look.)
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Only a few months ago, I started my recent project, an electronic music blog by the name of Sophistefunk.

Before I get into the details, let’s get with the goods:

I’ve hit over 40000 unique visitors after only being live for a few short months.

And I did it without a single guest post about this blog!

But how?

Well, that’s what I’m here today to tell you!

If you are looking for some sort of secret sauce, look elsewhere, but if you want to see some smart implementation of direct-to-success techniques that you can use in any niche, read on, this post is for you.

But first, let me address why I didn’t use guest posting for this new blog…

Seriously, Why No Guest Posts?

When it comes to guest blogging, I will give myself a pat on the back and say that I’m fairly experienced in the process: I’ve used it to grow almost every blog I’ve ever started/worked with.

Almost.

What they don’t tell you in the blogging world very often is that sometimes, guest posting is not always a viable option depending on the niche that you are in.

Sure, there are always ways to post about your blog (no matter the topic) on “blogging about blogging” sites (only a small fraction of which contain any useful info, luckily Kikolani is part of that small fraction).

The thing is, these types of visitors aren’t always ideal: their main interest is in blogging, not necessarily the topic that your blog is about.

I really encountered this problem with my electronic music blog: music blogs almost NEVER accept guest posts, why should they?

Most posts on a music site are going to be media focused (videos & audio) and are relatively short, there’s no need to bring in another author.

So, for all of the support that guest blogging gets (and rightfully so), when it comes to a niche where you can’t realistically use it as a traffic generating method in a consistent manner, what is a blogger to do? Totally give up on the niche?

NO!

Where there is a will, or more specifically, a will to do some legwork, there is a way

What Guest Blogging is Really About…

As great as guest blogging can be for direct traffic, building awareness, and indirect traffic in terms of backlinking & SEO, the real benefit behind guest blogging is that is allows you to build relationships with people influential in your niche.

In reality, providing a ton of value with a great guest post can go a lot farther than a handful of new visitors to your site: by providing value to an author of a popular blog, you plant the seeds to build a relationship which can result in this author doing a lot more for you than just accepting your post.

In my interview with Leo of the BufferApp, Leo stated that he believes one of the most powerful aspects of guest blogging is that it typically leads to reciprocation between the guest post submitter and the blog’s author.

That is, if you provide a ton of value to another blogger with a guest post, they will often reciprocate by checking out your content, and if they like what they see, they’ll share it with their followers not because they feel indebted, but because they want to share awesome content.

These types of relationships are absolutely essential if you want to build a popular blog in a target niche, and guest blogging is really only a means to that end, rather than the actual end itself.

So I knew I could succeed in the end goal of building relationships, the only thing I was really lacking was the use of guest blogging to serve as the “ice-breaker” to the influential people in my niche.

Then it hit me.

What if, this time around, other bloggers were NOT the most influential people in my topic?

How To Build Relationships

I began to realize that in my niche, it was actually the musicians who were the most influential in terms of having large followings and receptive audiences: music blogs are a dime a dozen, so building relationships with artists was a surefire way for me to stand out.

I began to realize that I didn’t need guest blogging in this circumstance, and my findings lead me to 3 main points which I’m going to discuss with you today:
  1. Why email is the greatest “social network” of all 
  2. Sometimes it’s best to network with those around you, rather than those “above” you 
  3. Social media, when used correctly, helps small ideas blossom into bigger projects 
All 3 of these techniques played a vital role in creating the consistent traffic that I see today, and below I’m going to show you exactly how I went about it.

1.) Email Is King: Bow Down to the Greatest “Social Network”

I’ve always had a saying when it comes to blogging that shocks many people when they first hear it, but I stand by it to this day…

You should be spending almost as much time in your email client as you do writing posts in order to build your blog!

It might sound crazy, but as many experienced bloggers know, email is where all of the magic happens!

Sure, social media is a great traffic generation source, and keeping in touch with people on social networks is a great place to build relationships (will get into that in a bit), but the fact remains is that the “meat” of your business dealings will take place behind the scenes, using email.

You should be as fluent with proper email writing techniques are you are writing blog posts.

Think about it: do you know the best way to approach someone for a guest blogging submission?

How about for bigger requests, like interviews, collaborations, or asking them to support your content because you think they’d be interested in it?

It might sound scary, but you are going to need to know how to talk to influencers via email and know how to capture their attention.

I used email as the absolute backbone for grabbing attention for my blog.

Generally speaking, my two most popular post types (keeping in mind that this is a music blog) are:
  • Interviews with artists 
  • Premieres of brand new tracks
Neither of these things could be accomplished without the use of email, so no matter how many tweets I sent out, I can safely attribute to my blog breaking the “initial hump” solely by my consistent quality of content and my effective use of email.

There are a few key points that I want you to know about when it comes to email (and I’m a guy to both sends and receives a ton of email…)
  • Always keep your messages short, unless you’ve come to agreement with the recipient to talk about a topic at length 
  • Keep your subject line as straightforward as possible, and use numbers so people can gauge time commitment 
  • Try to reference a past experience with the person in question, even if it’s just something like “enjoyed your latest video/project/blog post” 
Here’s a sample email that I’ve used to land interviews with popular musicians:

Subject Line: 3 quick interview questions

[Notice how I address what the interview is about, use a number and the word "quick" to signify a small workload, and get right to the point]
Hey (Artist Name), 
Just wanted to shoot you a quick email, I’ve had your latest album on repeat lately and I’ve been featuring you a ton on my blog Sophistefunk.com, big fan of your music. 
I was wondering if you had the time to answer 3 quick interview questions for me and my readers, I know they are always raving about your work and it would be my pleasure to feature some of your thoughts on my blog. 
I’ve done past interviews before with [Example] and they turned out really well:http://LinkToAPastInterview 
Here are the questions below, thanks again for your time and keep making great music, and I’ll keep supporting it =)

You’ll notice I advocate a 3-5 paragraph max, with no more than two sentences per paragraph.

Really, the shorter the better, this one was actually a bit longer of an example because I wanted to fit a few strategies in.

You’ll also notice that I start off with “I’m a fan”, signifying some loyalty to the person I’m reaching out to.

I also state the benefits in a direct manner: “My audience would enjoy…”, telling the person that I have an audience that they could get more exposure to.

Lastly, I post a the best example I have, one of mine is an interview with Michal Menert, which got over 180 shares in 24 hours.

2.) Networking With Those Around You

When it comes to creating real connections and doing smart networking, most people have the right idea, but far too often I see people attempting to network only with people “above them”, and they often miss out on the great connections that are in plain sight around them.

The thing about networking with the “little guy” is that they are much more likely to reciprocate, and by showcasing their content, you are putting the spotlight on an up-and-comer, which is much more interesting than posting about the “big guys” that everybody already knows about.

This kind of networking can be really rewarding, just look at how Tom Ewer’s post on 5 Non A-List Bloggers You Should Be Following got mentioned on one of the biggest Problogger posts of the year, and how I’m mentioning it right now!

So, how was I able to utilize “helping the little guy” to build my blog up to 40,000 visitors, and more importantly, how can you do the same?

When it comes to running a music blog, the artists are king, since they are really the content providers for your site (although I published my thoughts and the occasional electronic music podcast, artists still rule the roost).

I began realizing that my featuring of much smaller artists had a larger relative impact, in that by featuring their music or by linking to them, I was sending them a respectable amount of traffic, but a mere blip on the radar to huge, popular artists.

By featuring a larger artist’s music, I wouldn’t even get a friendly tweet (that’s not to disrespect them, with more popularity comes less time for networking with small to medium sites like mine).

Yet, when I would feature an independent or “just getting started” artist, they would almost always share the post on social networks, send me a thank you email, and much more (such as providing unreleased music, just for my site!)

Think that this strategy is exclusive to my niche?

Try replacing the word “blogger” with “artist” in the paragraphs above.

You can pursue the same strategy, reaching out to “up and comers”, by connecting with and featuring soon to be superstars in your niche.

My personal take on this strategy?

I started a weekly feature called “Follow Friday” where I would feature 7 independent artists who had submitted their tracks to me.

By pairing up these talented but not yet established artists, I would 7 separate personalities (and their growing following) sharing the same post all at once.

This not only provided a unique feature for my site, but it instantly got me more links and social shares.

Funny how that works: people with a lot to gain from you mentioning them will be grateful in return.

How to apply this to your blog:

Outside of just doing a featured post or linking to other bloggers, engage with them directly!

As an example: I did an interview with Rafal Tomal for my marketing blog Sparring Mind.

This post got a tremendously positive response, and it was because I took two talented WordPress designers who were established, but not so known as to make them “over-discussed”, and I got them to dish out their real opinions on what kind of blog designs convert well.

I took a topic people wanted to read, found under-appreciated talents that knew what they were talking about, and put them together for one dynamite post.

What kind of interviews & collaborations could you be forming with up-and-coming bloggers in your niche?

I had to ask myself that very question for both of these projects, but for my music blog I decided to go with musicians over fellow bloggers, but the general concept remains the same: collaborating with unique talent is a great way to build rapport with talented people and also provide useful content along with it.

3.) Using Social Media Correctly (Saving Time & Sanity)

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with social media.

On one hand, it’s great as an “icebreaker”, and creating connections that have long term positive effects for your brand, as well as being a good traffic source.

On the other hand, unless you are actively pursuing these end goals, social media can be a complete waste of time, even worse, it makes you feel like you are “working on your business” when in fact you are doing a whole lot of nothing.

The thing with a “cold” email is, without recognizing you, some people might simply ignore your initial contact or be hesitant to respond back to you.

I’ve found that for my blogs, social media (especially Twitter), is fantastic for laying the groundwork for future email discussions, which are usually where the real work gets done (I’m telling you, email really is top dog).

It’s often as simple as “tagging”, by utilizing mentions on either Facebook or Twitter to let a blogger (or in my case, a musician) know that you’ve mentioned them in some way.

I’d often do this for new music premiere’s, and many artists would gladly retweet to their large following, just as a way to say thanks.

Noted Psychology Professor Robert Cialdini (author of the popular Influence book) would describe this process as reciprocity, one of the 6 key ways to being more influential.

Giving to others often leads to them giving back, and scale is important in determining whether they will reciprocate and in what fashion.

What I mean by “scale” is how much your initial act effects them, that’s why connecting with those “around you” works so well: your impact on them is much greater.

Social media is your way of alerting them that you are doing do, and a great way to “pursue” traffic and increase the influence of your network, rather than just sitting around and waiting for these things to happen.

I use social media for two very specific purposes for my blog, one that is something general that any blog can do, and another that is very niche specific but brings me in a lot of traffic. (Hopefully they will serve as inspiration to you).

The first I briefly touched on above: I use social media as an icebreaker for larger projects.

I typically do this by starting a conversation with the a specific person’s latest tweets, and later I let them know I’d like to chat with them via email.

When people see you are interested in discussing something via email, they are generally receptive if you’ve shown yourself to be a coherent human being with good social media etiquette: that means it’s likely your email will most likely be interesting for them.

The second is simple notification, it’s something I use to practice effective guest blogging and it’s also something I use for my music blog.

On a guest post, alerting people via social media (or if you’ve established a relationship, via email) is a great way to notify them that you’ve featured something they’ve on a big blog. They will likely reciprocate by sharing the post with their followers, since it features them and they want repay you for the mention.

With my music blog, I would instead notify all of the independent artists who I feature using Twitter mentions and Facebook tagging. The thing is, 95% of people would then share the post, grateful that I had taken the time to feature their music.

Bloggers are likely to do the same, especially if you are connecting around you like I mentioned above (big bloggers don’t always have the time to reciprocate).

So, don’t just use social media to share links and post about your thoughts, use it to be social, notifying people and breaking the ice, which will hopefully lead to more productive discussions via email.

Q. How can you apply Ciotti's methods to your own blog?

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