So you’ve got a brand-spanking new blog.
You’ve set it all up in WordPress, picked a shiny new theme, deleted the default “Hello World” post, and started to write your own stuff.
That’s when the realization hits you – nobody is reading.
Your blog has exactly three subscribers: you, your mom, and your other email address.
Other than that, there’s nothing.
No traffic, no subscribers, and nobody reading your work.
Where do you go to kick-start your blog into action?
One Strategy to Rule Them All
There are lots of great ways to get more traffic to your content (great content is a given, by the way – if your content isn’t great, then you have to fix that first!).
There’s social sharing like Twitter and Facebook.
There’s search engine optimization, and search marketing.
There’s the hot new platform of the day (today it’s Pinterest).
And the list goes on and on.
Each of these strategies has its uses, and might deserve a place in your arsenal, depending on where you are in your blog’s growth cycle.
They aren’t great if you’re just starting, though. If you want good traffic to a brand new blog, then hands down, the best strategy is guest posting.
Why Guest Posting?
Unlike blog commenting or forum posting, guest posting actually gets your content in front of readers.
Unlike search engine traffic, it can (and will!) get results right away.
Unlike search marketing and PPC, it doesn’t cost a fortune.
And unlike a number of other strategies, it will build relationships with other bloggers in your industry, with the benefit of an implicit endorsement from the blog owner.
If the owner of a blog (like Ana) thinks that a post is good enough to share with her highly discerning readers, that’s a great vote of confidence in the post author!
And that’s the beauty of guest posting: if done properly, everybody wins.
The writer gets access to a new audience, the host gets great content without having to write it, and the readers get to a new viewpoint without having to go find it by themselves.
Okay, so we agree that guest posting is a fantastic way to build a popular blog, right?
But the hard part isn’t deciding what to do… it’s doing it WELL.
So let’s talk about that.
Start by Identifying EXACTLY Who You’re Writing For
The first step is to figure out exactly who you’re writing for, and you do it by creating a detailed profile of the ONE person that you want to target.
You do this by thinking through two things: demographics and psychographics.
Demographics means everything that you’d expect to find in a census report:
- the target’s age,
- relationship status,
- whether they have kids,
- where they live in the world,
- what they studied in college,
- what sort of work they do,
- how much money they make,
- what kind of car they drive…
…the more detailed you can get, the better this is going to work.
Psychographics means everything that’s going on inside their heads:
- their hopes,
- the things that keep them up at night,
- the movies that they like,
- the books that they like to read,
- the political parties that they vote for…
…the more detail you go into, the clearer and more useful the picture in your mind will be of who you’re going after.
Once you know all that, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out exactly what they want and where they hang out – and that’s exactly what you need in order to give it to them.
Give Them EXACTLY What They Want (No Guessing!)
Giving them exactly what they want is more than just picking a high-level topic of interest.
It means picking the precise subjects that they want to read about and even structuring it in the way that they want to read it.
And in case you were wondering, this takes research, NOT guesswork.
Start by making a list of all the blogs that your audience likes to read and spend some time reading posts and comments.
You’ll figure out pretty quickly if your ONE person is there or not and you’ll also get a sense of what sort of posts they respond to best, both in terms of content and in terms of structure.
This is absolutely critical, because you don’t ever want to pitch an idea to the blog owner unless you know that it will provide real value to the readers.
This is not the time to be saying: “I think they might like a post about…”
You want to be saying: “They’re going to freaking LOVE this!”
So how do you create content that they’re going to freaking LOVE? Easy: more research!
How to KNOW Exactly What They Want
You don’t need to guess at what they’re going to like, because it’s all right there for you to see.
You already know where your audience is hanging out, right?
Well, then look at those blogs, one by one, and start looking at the content.
Not all of the content, mind you.
That would just be confusing, and take forever.
What you need to look at is the blog’s 10 most popular posts, based on comments, shares, or whatever else the blog tracks (if they don’t list their most popular posts, then you can manually find them out of the last 30 or so).
Now you can start looking for patterns.
Specifically, look for topics that are shared by several of the posts and blog titles that keep repeating.
You’ll probably find that over half of those posts are about the same 1-3 topics and 1-3 title structures.
No reinventing of the wheel needed – this is what the audience likes best, so use these templates and get to work!
It isn’t enough for people to like your proposed post – you need them to comment on it, share it, and get excited enough that they go looking for more of your work.
And this research will help you do it and get it right the first time.
And of course, when you do, there’s got to be great stuff waiting for them…
Have Great Stuff Waiting for Them
Guest posts are great for getting in front of new readers, and if the post is good enough, they’ll click through to learn more about you.
That’s when you’ve got to grab them, and hold them.
Except that there’s no way for you to do that, so what you’ve really got to do is give them a reason to grab and hold on to you.
You do that – you guessed it! – with content that is custom tailored to the needs and interests of those same readers.
Do the exact same thing that you did to write the amazing guest post, all over again, and publish that second post on your own blog.
If a reader loves your stuff on someone else’s blog, and then loves your stuff on your own blog, then to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, and the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or as a free download). The latest and greatest thing you can get from him (for free, of course) is his Naked Marketing Manifesto, about marketing that really works!
Image source: incredible photo by Aleksey & Marina