Friday, April 4, 2008

16 Ways to Expand Your Blog’s Reach in 2008

expand blog reachIt’s 2008 and you’re looking forward to growing your blog even more this year. You are eager to build a large readership and maybe even make a full-time income from blogging. You want greater influence and a stronger reputation. What you need is an expansion plan.

Yesterday, I spent some time planning growth strategies for my blogs and noticed that all of these tactics had something in common.

They all involved the idea of expanding the blog from a basic content publishing/opinion sharing platform to a full fledged media business.

This includes the development of different publication mediums, interactive on-site communities and social media integration in order to transform the blog from a simple diary-like content stream to something more multi-faceted. With this in mind, I did some research on popular blogs and found that some shared certain similarities.

While content remains the main draw for each of these blogs, they were doing much more than just providing articles for visitors to read. The value of each blog is increased through the inclusion of user-contributions, alternative content types as well as other factors like increased visitor interactivity/resources.

Some of these blogs also collaborated with each other to create related projects to improve their blog brand and reputation. The biggest buzz came not through the publication of excellent articles but rather the development of off-site initiatives which funneled attention and traffic to their blogs.

16 Ways to Expand Your Blog’s Reach in 2008

blog expansion
Image Credit: toyz mosaic

And so I decided to make a list of some of the strategies you can use to expand your blog in 2008. None of them have anything to do with content quality, but keep in mind that should always be your no.1 focus when it comes to growing your site.

Hopefully these ideas will be useful to you. I’ll be implementing some of them on Dosh Dosh soon so you’ll be able to see them in action. ^_^

  1. Create Multiple Channels. Pick several topics you are interested in and set up mini-blogs on subdomains or subfolders on your site. This topical division will allow you to reach out to greater audiences and is especially necessary if you feel that you are outgrowing your blog’s initial focus.

I liked how Boing Boing set up a subdoman for video posts and gadgets. Wired’s blog network and Wendy’s Emoms at Home are good examples of how different niche topics are each given equal emphasis on the same domain. This is an option to consider if you don’t want to set up more blogs.

  1. User Generated Content. Getting others to create content for your site is a good way to expand your blog’s reach. You can open up submissions of articles to the general public and publish the ones you feel most worthy. Alternatively, you can set up an account-based system whereby users will be able to register and publish content which will be moderated by editors.

I like how most of I Can Have Cheezburger’s content is created and rated by users. SEOMoz’s Youmoz is an example of an entire blog powered by user generated content.

  1. Localize Your Blog. One surefire way to reach a larger audience is to target a local market and correspondingly reach out to the local audience in its original language. This means translating your blog and making it geo-specific. Gizmodo is a good example. Check out the little country flags under the logo. Localization allows you to cover topics which major industry blogs will inevitably fail to cover. This allows you to be comprehensive as a brand.
  2. Build a Blog Network. If you already have one or two blogs, create a few more and form a mini blog network. Buy a new domain and set up a corporate HQ for media related and advertising enquiries.

An example of an independent ad network build around a few blogs is Collis Ta’eed’s Miiingle. Sell network ads and use each blog to drive traffic to the other. This is an effective way to improve the readership of all your blogs. Gawker Media is an example of an excellent blog network.

  1. Set up a Forum/Social Network. Increased interactivity is one the main reasons why you should set up a forum for your blog. You want your readers to be one of the reasons why people visit and revisit your site.

By providing a corner for readers to discuss issues, you are automatically creating a magnet (apart from your content) which encourages visitors to return to your website. Mashable is a blog with a social network and TechCrunch has a forum that’s well populated as well.

  1. Establish an Email Newsletter. Newsletters are terrific ways to reach an audience away from your blog and are important when you need to sendout specific narrowcast messages without using your main communication channel (your blog content). Create a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter and connect with your audience.

Newsletters are great for monetization and are an easy way to keep certain readers (those not familiar with RSS) close to your weblog. When combined with landing pages, they work better alongside PPC advertising when it comes to capturing leads.

  1. Clone Your Blog. Have a successful blog and want to try other niches? Clone your blog’s general look/approach/strategy and set it up for another niche. This is an easy and fast way for you to develop multiple blogs which may bring in more income. Blogs can be interlinked in articles or blogrolls to share traffic.

If your blog has been relatively well received in one niche, the same approach may bring you success in another. For instance, Daniel cloned his successful Daily Blog Tips venture into Daily Writing Tips and Daily Bits, both of which are blogs in the same format while covering different niches/topics.

  1. Participate in a Social Community. Niche social communities like forums or social networking/news websites are not only a good way to get targeted traffic but an efficient to brand yourself. Pick a couple of social communities and when you are not blogging, spend time on them to network and establish connections.

Build a reputation for yourself and your blog will grow alongside it. For example, I’ve invested a good amount of time on Sphinn and it has earned me friends, new readers and a great deal of new knowledge on topics related to Dosh Dosh.

  1. Optimize For Social Media. Social Media optimization can work in two ways for your blog. The first way focuses on allowing your readers to communicate and interact with each other and yourself away from your blog through channels like Twitter or Facebook.

Open up accounts in social websites which your audience might frequent and connect them to your blog. The other method involves marketing your blog through social media communities. To do this, pick a community that is relevant to your site, befriend the influencers and disseminate your content.

  1. Bring in New Writers. New writers = new voices and more opportunities for you to do more backend work (marketing/management). I recommend handpicking and hiring quality writers and paying them on a per-post or pageview basis. You want the best people for the job since their content will make or break your blog’s growth.
  2. Sell a Product or Service. Putting ads on your blog is an easy way to make money but you’re leaving money off the table by not having a paid product or service you can promote as an add-on. Think about it. Every new visitor that streams in daily to your site is a potential customer or client.

They aren’t only subscribers or pageviews to be counted. Create a product (ebook, software) or office a service (consultation/design) on top of what your blog. Freelance Switch’s book on freelancing is a good example of how to sell a product alongside your blog.

  1. Create Premium content. Premium content refers to exclusive content not made available to the public. They can be given for free or on a paid subscription basis. Create a members only private blog or subsection on your site and promote paid subscriptions alongside your free content.

Detailed tutorials, tools, free members-only products (ebooks), user generated content and efficient customer support on your end will make premium content attractive. SEOmoz’s premium content section is an good example of something that would work.

  1. Create an Industry Event. Start an annual competition or award ceremony to showcase and celebrate personalities, websites and companies in your respective industry. This is an incredibly powerful way to get not only links but buzz surrounding your site.

Examples of a successful award initiative are Mashable’s Open Web Awards and Crunchies, a collaborative tech awards ceremony set up by Techcrunch and other blogs like GigaOM and Read/Write Web.

  1. Partner with Other Blogs. Working together with other blogs is an incredibly easy way to expand your site’s reach. Work together with a few other bloggers for an initiative such as a social network, collaborative writing project, awards ceremony or application.

Co-brand this product and use to get attention. This builds your blog/personal brand and drives targeted traffic to your site.

  1. Make Your Blog Mobile. Some readers like to access blogs through mobile devices like PDAs or cellphones so making your blog mobile may help you to reach more people. It’s not too far fetched to imagine someone reading your blog article on a PDA and then showing it or sending it to a couple of friends. Here’s an excellent guide on how to make your blog mobile-friendly.
  2. Start Doing Video/Podcasts. Video blogging is an easy way to get some extra traffic, because you’ll allow your blog content to reach a whole new audience. Social video websites like Youtube, Dailymotion and Metacafe are high traffic venues which can bring you not only sales conversions but new readers.

Some marketers/bloggers who have been doing video for a while include Mark Wielgus, Shawn Collins and Darren Rowse. Viral marketing for videos is sometimes easier than written content and this is something you definitely should exploit.

Be adventurous and try something new for your blog. It doesn’t just have to be a simple platform for your thoughts alone. Remember that the secret to building a popular blog and getting tons of readers involves not only content quality but the development of a supportive core audience and broad distribution channels.

Seek to expand your blog laterally through social media, increased user participation, alternative content delivery channels and other relevant projects which will increase your influence and reputation. This is a surefire way to increase your blog’s readership and overall reach in 2008.

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