To those of you who have emailed me lately, asking if I have a moment to have a look over your blog and offer some suggestions for improvements, I have to sadly decline. Unless you’re happy to pull out the checkbook. I don’t want that to sound mean, I just want to keep my priorities in order. That said, I do have something very important to say to you…
In fact, this post is dedicated to anyone who is grieving over the fact that after months of intense blogging (the massive effort of concentration, the lost hours of sleep, the painstaking search for the ideal accompanying picture, the link-building work and slice after slice of cold pizza…), after all that effort, the stats keep telling you that no-one is coming. There’s just nobody out there!
And you’re left asking yourself what on earth could the success formula be, that explains the meteoric rise of a (seemingly) lucky lucky few, and the slow realization of the great majority… that they’re going absolutely nowhere.
(I can imagine the pained strains of a Wagnerian requiem in the background as I write this!)
Well fellow try-hard bloggers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s the real reason why nobody reads your blog:
- it’s not the content, assuming your writing good meaty stuff;
- it’s not the inbound links, assuming been diligently submitting links back to your blog here and there and everywhere;
- it’s not the consistency, assuming you write a half-decent blog post more or less every 36 hours;
- it’s not the readability, assuming your blog doesn’t have red text on a black background;
- and it’s probably not the SEO, assuming your blog is not extraordinarily badly constructed and promoted…
No, it’s probably none of those things, the things most people blogging about blogging carry on about endlessly.
The real reason why nobody reads your blog is this: massively successful blogging is about establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. It’s all about who you know. Really!
Here’s the guy who (I think) makes a perfect case in point…
Tony Hung’s First Fifty Days
Now, compare your first 50 days of blogging to Tony Hung’s. Tony has had a stellar rise to fame in tech blogging circles. He’s the Assistant Editor over at The Blog Herald, he’s a B5 Media blogger who took over from Darren Rowse in the hotseat over at ProBlogger earlier this month, and he blogs prolifically and insightfully on his own blog at Deep Jive Interests. (If you read my blog you need to be reading his blog as well. Good complimentary content.)
In mid-September last year, after 50 days of blogging, Tony wrote a summary post covering the highlights of that first month-and-a-half-or-so of blogging. Because I’m making such a point of analyzing what he writes I am reproducing all 21 points he makes here:
- I switched to our own domain, deepjiveinterests.com
- I realized that I had accidentally aped another wordpress theme by a virtual doppleganger of myself in my own city (scary, actually) so hastily made my own.
- I was glad I did that, because I liked it better — and some others have liked it too.
- I got accepted as an SOB (thanks Liz).
- DelightfulBlogs seemed to think this was a … well, delightful blog.
- I was also accepted into the BlogBurst Network, and am ’syndicated’ at TheStatesman.com (more on that later)
- I posted endlessly about Digg.
- My naive notion that that A-List bloggers reply to their email got quashed.
- I got a mention at the BlogHerald (thanks Matt!).
- Then, I got hired at BlogHerald (thanks Matt!).
- People wanted to start contacting me
- So i put up a contact page.
- I chatted with Jason Dowdell on the phone (a classy guy with a fascinating story).
- I discovered that a top Digger was in my City (go TO!).
- I met some really nice people.
- One of my more creative rants were picked up by Chris Pirillo and News.com
- Bokardo, the Guardian Unlimited, Jason Calacanis, and Techmeme seemed to have appreciated a post on Digg’s controversy.
- In fact, Techmeme really seems to love me now.
- My feedburner subs have peaked at around 120.
- I started getting enough spam I needed to install Akismet.
- Stephan Tual thought of me as an influential blogger.
Ok. Read through all that? Now, read it again and identify how many of those bullet points have nothing to do with other people. Read it again.
Now, there is no doubt Tony is a great writer. No doubt at all. But I have a question: did all these people just find his blog, fall in love with his writing, start spontaneously showing him with awards, and invite him to join their networks? Is that what happened?
What proactive steps did Tony take, by way of an initial approach in their direction? Whatever the answer to that question, I want to highlight a general principle, which is key: that your big early successes as a blogger — the successes which will dramatically drive up your traffic levels and bring in a lot of “organic” inbound links — will come from the efforts you make to get to know the A-league bloggers in your niche, and the subsequent referrals to your blog coming from them.
Alister Cameron’s First 30 Days
My first month of aggressive niche blogging is recounted in a previous post, but I want to go back there to reinforce this principle of relationships again.
Chances are you would never have found my blog or be reading it now, were it not for the ton of inbound links I have received over the last month. These links mean that there are more and more people talking about and linking to my site (to various posts, not just the front page), but where did it start?
Well, I started by writing really meaty posts that had link-bait written all over them. And link-bait posts are fine as long as they’re legitimately of value to your readers. But from day one, behind the scenes I started:
- dropping emails to a select few high-profile bloggers in my niche, inviting them to consider if my post might be of relevance to their readership. Never an explicit request for a link. Never. Never a request for feedback (I assume they don’t have the time… and who am I to them, anyway?);
- surfing the big blogs in my niche, looking for opportunities to add comments that gave me a legitimate (non-spammy) reason to add a link back to my post.
What happened? Well, some of these guru-type guys liked what I wrote enough to link to me. Not a whole post dedicated to me, but a “speedlink” or a mention at the end of another post, maybe. Or they saw the link in my comment under one of their posts, and thought enough of the post of mine to link to it in a subsequent post of their own.
Hi Gord. I took Lee’s list and created a Google-powered search engine out of it. Initially, for my own purposes but then I realised it probably had value to others:
I will be keeping the list of indexed sites up-to-date with Lee’s list. The cool thing, from my point of view, and the reason I created this, is that the RSS feeds are blog-only content, yet these blogs are often components of wesites that have a lot more good stuff on them and I wanted to be able to search “it all” in one hit.
Hence the “Search Engine Marketing Search Engine”!
Gord “took the bait”, followed the link, liked what he saw, and wrote this post a couple of days later:
Don’t you love one-up-manship?
I posted earlier about Lee Odden’s must read search blog list. Now, Allister Cameron has turned it into a search engine, complete with code you can cut and paste on your own site. Pretty cool. It searches the content of all the sites Lee included on his list.
Now, given the audience, will we become obsessed with improving our own rankings on this niche engine?
Every time I post something half decent, I go looking for places to drop comments, gurus to email, etc. I’m not obsessive about it and I’m careful not to hammer any individual person, but I am consistent and determined. Why? Because I know the future of this blog is entirely dependent on qualified traffic, and by far the easiest and best way to get it is via a referral from a guru blogger in whatever my niche is.
So here are some question you must ask yourself, and get really creative about answering:
- Who are the guru bloggers in your niche? List them. Bookmark them. Have them all in your feed-reader.
- Write posts that link to them all (eventually). They will see the trackbacks. Yes, they will! So you’d better say something insightful
- Comment on their posts. A good comment on a heavily-trafficked guru blog will easily generate you more traffic than a post of your own. Think about that! So, if it makes sense, don’t just rely on the link under your name, but drop a link into the comment itself to a relevant post on your site.
- Ask yourself how you could serve a guru blogger. What do they need? Offer them help of some kind. They just might take you up on it.
- Go to the same conferences and events they go to. Be ready to say something better than “Hi, I really like your blog” when you meet them. And definitely meet them; don’t just stand at a distance. Network network network.
- If an A-league blogger lives near you, ask him/her if there is a local blogger meeting they attend, or a place they hang out where informally they’d be happy to meet you. Some have coffee shops where they go to blog and are happy to have you rock up for a drink and a chat. Ask first.
- If you’re up for it and you can be very specific about your area of interest, ask to interview someone. You’ll want to have had some sort of interaction with them before that, but why not give it a try? The worst they can do it say no.
- There’s more… I’ll keep thinking about it…
Are you hearing me? It’s about relationships. We are humans… we’re created to relate. You MUST get past the fact that all your blogging happens on a computer, to realize that it’s just people, really! If you’re a hermit and you can’t relate to people, you’re going to be in trouble.
Follow the Trust Meme Links
Have you noticed the trust meme going around at the moment? It’s an absolutely BRILLIANT game/meme because it lets you and me get behind the top blogs to the people themselves, and to the most important connections between the A-listers. So you wanna know who the guru bloggers are in the SEM/SEO/SMO area? Follow the trust links…
Start here. Map it all out on a piece of paper. Research the people if you’ve never heard of them. Understand that what you have here is the top SEO guys telling you who their most important relationships are. Gold!
The Inestimable Value of a Picture
I’ve mentioned the guy putting together the 2000 Bloggers photo-wall. I don’t know how popular his project will get, but if it travels all over the blogosphere, I won’t be surprised. Why? Because he’s got the same secret ingredient that makes MyBlogLog so addictive: people’s faces.
I don’t fully understand it myself, but I know that there is something about seeing another person’s face that gives their blog immediate warmth, credibility, approachability, etc. We can see so much in a person’s face and it makes it so much easier for you as a blogger to build a “rapport” with your readership when they’ve seen you. It just does.
So, if you don’t have your face on your blog, do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t look like a supermodel, it matters that you are revealing yourself from behind the relative “inhumanity” of a webpage. There is a reason why most of the top bloggers have pictures of themselves. There’s a reason why 99% of social networks invite you to upload a picture of yourself as part of the sign-up process.
How has the “relational dynamic” helped you grow your blog? How have you gone about building relationships with A-league bloggers in your niche? Don’t tell the story in the comments here. Instead, write a blog post about it, then come and comment here briefly, with a link back to your post. I’ll write a “highlights” post in due course. This is your chance to back me up on my thesis!
Over to you…
- Jan. 24, 2007 – I should do better research before I post! There’s a great series of posts over at ProBlogger (of course there is!) about this subject of blogging and relationships. You need to go over there and check it out, as it rounds this topic off really well…
- Jan. 24, 2007 – Also found a nice piece by Liz Strauss talking about the relational aspect. Great post, Liz. A completely different take on it, which is great.