Finding readers and creating a community around your blog is something most bloggers set out to do. A blog without community is not a good blog and likely won’t last long. Having great readers you can connect and share with is one reason why blogging is so rewarding.
Yet some bloggers manage to gain readers and get traffic better than others. Some blogs in the health and wellness niche have more than a thousand readers and thousands of visits to their blog each day. When you first start a blog, or even months after starting, you might not have any readers. It happens. There are millions of blogs out there and thousands of new ones are started every day. It takes some hard work and time to grow your blog readership to a high level. It is possible if you are committed and stick with it.
One thing to note about health blogging is that the biggest blogs have unique angles and bloggers behind them. They are not cookie cutter copies of each other. There are tons of healthy living blogs out there – so if you want people to read yours, you need to be different from the rest. What is special about your story or what you do? What makes your blogging voice unique? Don’t be afraid to be honest and even personal in your blog. People will read partly because they want to know more about you, the person behind the words. Even blogs teaching fitness tips or offering food suggestions can allow some room for personality. If you want to be an anonymous blogger that just copies what the big blogs do, I suggest you quit now. There is always room for another unique health blog, but the niche doesn’t need any more copycats.
Once you realize you need to write in your own voice and do what comes naturally to you instead of copying someone else, you are ready to implement some tips that will help you grow the readership of your blog. This section will focus only on community building and finding traffic via social methods. The next section will teach you how to get traffic from the search engines.
There are many ways to increase the number of people that visit your blog because of your social activities online. By using the following social techniques you can drastically increase the number of visitors to your blog.
Guest posting is the fastest way to get more traffic and capture the attention of people in the health and wellness niche. There are already many popular healthy living blogs that exist and a guest post on any one of them will put you in front of a large audience. By guest posting you participate in a blogging community that already exists and in return you receive an influx of traffic to your own blog.
How do you get guest posts? Just ask. Some bloggers clearly allow guest posts or even have a weekly spot for guest posters. These blogs may even have a page setup that explains their guest posting guidelines. Other blogs may not allow guest posts on their blog. Send the blogger an email with your ideas for a guest post and ask politely if it is something they would be interested in. Do not contact bloggers asking if they want a guest post and then ask them what you should write about. It is up to you to decide what to write. Bigger bloggers are busy and have a lot of emails, so don’t waste their time with vague emails about guest posting. Being clear about what you want to write and what you can contribute to their blog highly increases your chance of getting a guest post that will help out your blog with new traffic and readers.
Most bloggers who accept guest posts will be happy to work with you if you contribute something worthwhile. If you are a new blogger try to make some connections by commenting or with social media before you ask for guest posts. Bloggers are much more likely to accept posts from someone they have had other contact with first, especially if you are blogging to sell something or only to make money.
Josie from Yum Yucky has used guest posting regularly while growing her blog’s traffic. She shares her tips for successful guest posting:
As your blogging voice is firmly established through consistent, quality posts and relationship building in your niche blog community, your work will undoubtedly speak for itself and garner guest posting attention.
Once your guest post is featured, treat it as if it’s been published on your own blog. Promote the post through social media and interact with readers as they comment. I suggest you even take time to visit the blogs of the commenters on your guest post. All of these methods are added opportunities for relationship building and serve to grow your own reader community.
Successful health bloggers are not passive. Whether it’s a post for your own blog or a guest post, you get out of it what you put into it.
Many bloggers offer guest posting spots on their blogs. If you are interested then contact the blogger about it using their preferred contact method. When you contact a blogger about writing a guest post don’t just ask if you can write one. Have one or two ideas for the guest post in mind before you contact the blogger and suggest those options as your potential guest post and why it would work on their blog. Then follow through with an excellent post for a successful guest posting experience.
Comment on blogs
This is a time consuming but effective method of finding new bloggers who will become readers. Commenting gets your name out there on other blogs and shows people you exist and are interested in interacting. Interaction is what the blogging community thrives on. Make sure you contribute something worthwhile to the conversation instead of leaving two word comments. Other commenters will see your great comments and click over to your blog as will the blogger whose blog you commented on. Over time leaving comments on a blog will build up a rapport with that blogger, so that even if they don’t visit your site on the first try they will eventually. Leaving several comments shows you aren’t going anywhere and want to communicate with the existing healthy blogging community. When people do this I almost always click through to their blog, comment, and subscribe.
An important note about comments: do not spam. Do not leave promotional links in your comments. It is annoying to most bloggers and completely unnecessary as your name will be linked to your site. Doing so just creates more chances for bloggers to decide your site isn’t worth checking out. It also might send your comment straight to spam and bloggers who never check spam filters will delete your comment every time.
At first glance Twitter is a confusing and hard to use social media service. But once you get a handle on it, Twitter can provide both great relationships and traffic. Twitter has helped my blog grow immensely and has allowed me to interact and become friends with many of the bloggers I admire.
Twitter is an online messaging service that allows users to communicate using only 140 character messages, either publicly (tweets) or privately (direct messages). It is an excellent tool for finding other healthy living bloggers and connecting with them. It is also an excellent tool for connecting with companies that you love and may want to develop a relationship with for future reviews or advertising purposes.
How do you find people you might want to connect with? You can search twitter for the keywords that represent what you are blogging about by typing them into the search field. After searching you can join the conversation by replying to interesting tweets about the topic.
Another way to find people is by using Twibes or We Follow. These services allow people to sign up for a list under the topics they tweet about. You can search for a list related to your blog and then start following people on the list. Once you find a few healthy living people on twitter you can check out who they are following and who is following them to find more related Twitterers. You can also check out lists they have created, as there are several “healthy living bloggers” lists out there. This will cut down your search time significantly as you know that these Twitterers are already interested in the niche. You can follow them and then start interacting naturally by commenting on their tweets and retweeting interesting tweets.
To build your followers list you need to have interesting tweets and engage with other people on Twitter. Much like blog commenting, using Twitter is about building a rapport with people. It’s all about engaging in a conversation. If you plan on signing up just to tweet links to your own blog posts you might want to just skip it. For Twitter to be effective you need to be interactive. Just clicking follow won’t necessarily mean you get followers in return – some people don’t even check who is following them. Unless someone sends me a tweet then I usually don’t know they exist. Don’t be scared to chat with other bloggers on Twitter – they are friendly people and willing to chat about interesting and related topics when they have the time. I know I do! Add me on Twitter, I’m @amerrylife… then say hi!
Beyond chatting and meeting new people on Twitter it is great for getting more traffic to your site. You can sign up for Twitterfeed to automatically tweet your new posts or do it yourself every time you post something new. Followers interested will click on the link and follow it to your blog. If you want to schedule these tweets – for times when you don’t actually want to be on twitter but out there living (or exercising) instead – you can use Hootsuite. It is a web based Twitter client that lets you manage multiple accounts, monitor searches, and schedule tweets for later times.
You can post about your new blog posts as many times as you like, but be careful not to do it too much. A few times a day is plenty, and if all you are doing is posting links to your stuff not that many people will be interested. Some people on twitter like to follow certain ratios, but just make sure you mix up your tweets with posts of your stuff, retweets, and replies to other people.
There are many ways to use Facebook. You can gather existing fans, find new ones, interact, create a fan page and promote your blog.
You don’t actually have to create a fan page for your blog. It all depends on your personal preference. If you don’t want something else to take care of that will eat away your time – then don’t start a fan page. Just start using your current personal Facebook page to promote your blog. Add your link and start publishing rss updates to your feed. If you do decide you want a Facebook fan page – you want to blog anonymously or don’t want to mix the blog with your normal life – then it is easy to start one. It is up to you to decide. I know many people that have created fan pages, and many that don’t want the extra trouble and just use their regular account to promote their blog.
Most people think of a Facebook fan page as a place for your fans that exist to already congregate. You can create a fan page for your blog then invite all of your existing Facebook friends and blog readers to join it. This gives you a great place to interact with your readers, or “fans,” outside of your blog. These people already will know you and want to become a fan because they care about what you are doing. It is easy to answer questions quickly, post new links and recipes, and interact with your fans. Having a fan page is a great place to share more information you don’t want to devote a full blog post to.
You can also use Facebook to find new fans. You can do a search on Facebook for those interested in the same thing you are. You can then visit the fan pages and groups in the niche. Those areas are where people interested are already coming together on Facebook – a place where you can position yourself to interact and invite those people to become fans of your own page.
While you are interacting with readers and finding new ones remember to promote your blog. It’s great to get Facebook fans, but if they never click through to your blog then it is pretty useless. You need to have your link on your front page, in the info, and regularly showing up in your status updates when you have new posts. The best service on Facebook to share your blog posts is Networked Blogs. This service takes your rss feed and then publishes short blurbs with a link and photo each time you update your blog. You can use this on your personal Facebook page or on your fan page if you have created one.
Tips on Social Media
If you wanted to learn anything about social media then learn this: social media is HUGE for bloggers. Essentially it is visiting where your present and future audience already hangs out online and letting them know you exist and want to interact. It’s how you tap into existing community and build your own.
Jennipher from Fit Bottomed Girls explains exactly why she and her blogging partner Erin use social media so often,
Social media is so important! On the blog, you can get comments and interact that way, but Facebook and Twitter allow you to communicate regularly with readers on an individual level. You can give them a behind-the-scenes look at the blog, ask them for feedback on what they’d like to see on the blog, promote your new posts, and develop relationships and partners with other bloggers. Plus, it’s fun, and you can call it work.
In the beginning I wouldn’t worry about using sites like StumbleUpon or Digg or other social media sites. For most healthy living blogs these sites will not provide much traffic and what they do provide won’t stick around very long. You can put the buttons for them on your blog posts, in case anyone wants to share them on those sites, but generally time you spend trying to work those sites won’t produce great results. Stick with Twitter and Facebook – they will provide traffic that is targeted, wants to read about what you are writing, and provides instant feedback in the form of blog traffic and sharing.
Forums related to your blog topic are a great way to find readers for your blog. Every topic has some sort of large forum community on the web. For some, like weight loss, there are several huge communities and many hundreds more of a smaller size. The technique for gaining traffic from forums involves becoming a valuable member or the forum community. You don’t want to go into the forum and publish links to your blog and never interact. This will only gain you enemies who could have otherwise become readers. Instead, become part of the community by interacting and posting on different threads. Become part of the conversation and put your blog link in your signature. When you are contributing, people will begin clicking on your link. Over time you will build goodwill in the community, and you can start sharing more of your blog in the forum to generate more traffic. Just like other social media, this is about building relationships with people first in order to get them to your blog.
Getting press mentions of your blog can be considered a social way to get more traffic. (They also usually help with SEO if they link back to your blog.) There are two methods for getting press: do something incredibly awesome or seek out press mentions. The first is obvious, but very hard to do. You have to do something extraordinary, something most other people are not able to do. People who are good at this are those that have done something most people haven’t done. A great example is Tyler from 344pounds.com, who lost over 125 pounds in a year. His rapid weight loss on his own was something most people can’t do – and it resulted in press coverage in CNN and Newsweek, as well as on local television and radio stations.
If you aren’t doing something spectacular and exciting but still want press mentions, you can seek them out. One of the easiest ways to do this is to sign up with HARO, or Help A Reporter Out. Three times a day this service sends an email to your inbox full of reporter queries on different topics, including a Lifestyle and Fitness section. Basically reporters are looking for sources for their stories and they send out the topic and information about the story. If you fit what they need for the story you can reply and talk to the reporter. You help the reporter out by letting them write about you or set up a television appearance. If the story is online often you will also get a link to your blog sending even more traffic your way.
Giveaways are something that happens commonly in the blogosphere. Bloggers give away items because giveaways bring more traffic to their blog since giveaways are spread much more often than regular posts. Giveaways are a valid way to bring more traffic to your blog, but make sure you do it the right way. Here are a few tips for giveaway success.
Give away something people want. It doesn’t have to be super expensive to work but it needs to be something people want to receive. While giveaways of items $50 and over do really well, I’ve done giveaways for $10-$20 items that have garnered a lot of attention. Empty gift cards are always a good option in the $20-25 range for a quick giveaway.
You can either buy things to give away on your own or contact companies for products. Anything you get for free you will have to disclose in your post, due to FTC guidelines. After you’ve been blogging for a while, companies will start contacting you about products to give away. When this starts happening you can pick and choose which products to review and give away. You can also start charging companies for your time spent on reviews and giveaways. Many companies won’t respond favorably to this, but if you are serious about making money through blogging then you need to make it clear that you don’t work for free. If you don’t have a problem doing reviews and giveaways for free then accept the product and be happy with the traffic and new readers it gives you.
Set rules for the giveaway. Set a clear start and finish date for your giveaway. Be clear about how people can enter. Don’t leave anything to chance. If people can only enter by linking to the giveaway – say that. If they have five different ways to enter but have to leave a separate comment for each entry – make sure that is stipulated in the giveaway post.
Promote the giveaway. You already have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, and some online contacts. Tell them about the giveaway. Tell them to tell their friends. You don’t have to be pushy about it, but telling everyone about the giveaway may push some of them to visit your blog even if they haven’t before since people like to get free things.
Submit it to giveaway blogs. Did you know there are blogs devoted solely to giveaways? There are actually quite a few. Submit your giveaway to the giveaway sites and watch new visitors and interest roll in. Don’t expect all of them to stay,
because many of these visitors will get in to try and win, and then leave. But the links and tweets and interest created by the giveaway will be enough to keep some of the new traffic once they discover how great your blog is.
Here are a few of the giveaway sites you can submit your giveaway to:
Contestgirl.com – Minimum $25 value
Tipjunkie.net – Minimum $25 value, deadline must be within 7 days
Acontestblog.com – Free listing
Prizey.net – Free listing after signing up
Once you list your giveaway you will have more visitors coming to your blog which creates more chances to turn them into readers and grow the community around your blog. Successful giveaways require a lot of effort and promotion. However, the work behind doing a successful giveaway may not outweigh the benefits for you. You will get a bump in traffic for a few days when you do a giveaway, but unless it is a huge prize you won’t get outstanding numbers. Some new visitors will stick around, but the majority will not. You need to know this beforehand and decide whether doing giveaways on your blog is worth the effort.
Why Community Matters
The benefits of growing your blog readership are almost endless. From the warm fuzzies you get via comments and social media to the possibility of making money from your blog, getting more traffic and subscribers is always a good thing. But getting traffic just for an ego boost shouldn’t be your main goal. Instead you should focus on the idea of building an online community of loyal and interested readers around your blog. All of the tools that build traffic in a social manner are in essence community building tools, so even if you don’t set out to do it you will be building a small community.
One of the best at online community building in the healthy living niche, Carla from MizFit Online, shares her thoughts:
If I could give one tip with regards to blogs and community building it would be that in order to truly create a thriving community your goal can not be money, SEO hits or anything other than, well, your community and care about the individuals in your genre/field etc.
You should WANT to read their blogs and feel moved to comment at least sporadically. You should feel their successes as your own and authentically long to help lift them up when they are struggling. You should be hardpressed to *stop* yourself from responding to their comments on your posts, to their emails, & to their tweets.
In my opinion if this piece of the blog-puzzle feels like work then, perhaps, you are blogging about the wrong topic. A successful community can’t help but be created when you are blogging your passion.
But why does it matter? Why do you need to respond and care about your readers? Because people know when you care about them. They know when they are part of something bigger, something that matters to other people. If you are interested in getting people to truly care about you and your blog – which you should be – then listen to Carla’s advice. Care about other people and in return you will get them to care about what you are doing. A little online goodwill goes a long way in making your blog successful.