It’s easy to get caught up discussing high-level Digg strategies and complicated metaphors, but it’s important not to lose sight of the things that make the advanced stuff worthwhile.
Without the ability to gather links, subscribers and comments, your blog can’t grow. These three basic things are the lifeblood of your blog. It’s essential to be reminded (every once and a while) of how you can keep that lifeblood flowing.
Let’s get back to basics!
18 ways to get links
1. Create them yourself. The strength of this method is that it’s completely under your control. You don’t need to wait for others to create links because you’re building them yourself. You can place links in comments, a forum signature, an email signature, exchange sidebar links with other bloggers, add links to your social media profiles… the list continues. You can create a lot of them in a relatively short period of time.
2. Create a meme. Ever seen those post formulas repeated by several bloggers, who all link to each other? These are usually called blog memes, and they’re quite easy to create. The most basic meme model involves answering a few defined questions and ‘tagging’ a number of other bloggers for whom you think the questions would be relevant. This is done in the hope that they’ll answer the questions on their blog and link back to the originator of the meme. The key to success with this method is that your meme results in a relevant and entertaining post. If so, other bloggers will be happy to participate. Another tip: don’t tag really big bloggers, as they rarely, if ever, participate in memes. Instead, tag bloggers you’re friendly with, and make sure your meme is relevant to the audience of every person you tag.
3. Hold a competition. The most direct option is to make a link to your blog a condition of entry, but this is not always necessary. An interesting competition can create word of mouth in its own right, even if entry doesn’t require any kind of reciprocal favor. Just make sure (I mean really — make sure) that the prize you’re offering is not out of proportion to the rewards you stand to yield from the competition. I’ve seen a blogger offer a MacBook Air to a random person who linked to the competition post. He received all of eight trackbacks! Often, an interesting or useful prize is a better choice than an expensive one — and safer, too.
4. Write or exchange guest-posts. A larger-scale version of #1, creating your own links, guest-posting is still a method I stand by. It is, simply put, one of the easiest ways to get a prominent link on a popular blog. If the blog is well-targeted, you can expect a spike in subscribers after your guest-post is published.
5. Go popular on Del.icio.us. Many Del.icio.us users have set their bookmarks to publish to their blogs at semi-regular intervals. Going popular on Del.icio.us means anywhere from a hundred to several thousand Del.icio.us users have bookmarked your content, and a certain percentage of those will auto-publish your link to their blog or website. This can yield dozens of new links.
6. Ask for them. As editor of Freelance Switch, a really big blog with over 23,000 subscribers, I’m always surprised to see how few people ask to be included in our links posts. I get maybe one request a day. The truth is that most bloggers who like a post and think it will be relevant to their audience will be happy to link to it, but most of us assume we don’t stand a chance, or feel that asking for links is too audacious. It’s not — really. Remember this tip: your requests will carry more weight if you use them sparingly.
7. Create a viral graphic. If you can express an idea or make people laugh with a graphic, publish it and make it free to distribute. If you don’t link to your blog or website through the image, most of those who reproduce it will link to you to give credit where credit is due. You will actually get more traffic by not placing your URL on the image than you will by doing so.
8. Create viral content. This is a good opportunity to state that the suggestions on this list are not ordered by importance. Creating viral content is the single most powerful way to generate a pile of links to your blog or website. However, like most highly effective methods, it’s not easy to do. If you’re new to the concept, viral content creates a word-of-mouth chain reaction.
9. Give something away. Generosity creates word-of-mouth. Giving without expecting anything in return is quite remarkable. Ironically, giving something away without asking for a reward generally results in greater benefits than you would have received otherwise. Do remember that links are secondary here, though. Sometimes it’s nice to just do something good.
10. Ask for a response. Have you ever found yourself writing a post and wondering what another blogger would have to say about it? You can encourage them to respond to your post on their own blog by emailing them about it, or by asking their opinion within the post itself.
11. Start a debate. Similar to #10, but you won’t be calling upon specific individuals for a response. This method shouldn’t be confused with starting a controversy just to get a reaction, which isn’t very cool. Instead, argue a case, something you believe in — even if it’s likely to be something most of your audience disagree with. Opinions encourage responses.
12. Create a stickied thread in a forum. Unlike normal forum threads, stickied threads are permanently attached to the top of a forum. They have a few common traits: they’re timeless, they’re useful, they’re well-crafted, and they answer one or many recurring questions. However, it’s difficult to 100% guarantee your thread will be stickied, even if you put a lot of effort into it. If you’re pursuing this method, it’s best to do it on a forum you enjoy, and have fun with the process. If your thread doesn’t take off as you would have liked, it’s will still be a positive experience. Of course, the most important step in the process is making sure your blog’s URL is in your post signature, or you could even place it below the introduction to your thread. I was able to drive a steady stream of traffic to one of my older hobby blogs by having a thread stickied.
13. Buy advertising. It’s not uncommon to be able to buy a 125 x 125 banner ad on a well-targeted blog for around $30 a month. If you’re willing to pay higher rates, you should receive a greater number of impressions (the standard rate is around $1 – $1.50 per thousand). If your ad is graphical, make sure your ad describes what a visitor will find when they click on it, and design it with the blog’s target audience in mind. Vague banner ads can significantly reduce click-through rates.
14. Submit your blog or website to directories. While each link is unlikely to yield heaps of traffic, it’s possible to submit to dozens of directories in less than an hour. Just make sure they are not of too low quality, or the link may do more harm than good as far as SEO is concerned.
15. Submit your work to an online gallery. Most galleries featuring user-generated content will allow you to place a link on the page dedicated to your work. You can find places to showcase art, writing, tutorials, and so on.
16. Create a blog theme and link back to yourself in its footer. Some of the best free blog themes around are used by tens of thousands of people, and most of them come with a link to the designer in the theme’s footer. That’s tens of thousands of links. Though they’re probably going to have very poor click through rates individually, the collective figure might be much more worthwhile. This is also great from an SEO perspective, as well.
17. Create a You Tube video, including your URL. Create a videoblog for your site, but host it on You Tube. Judging by the view count on even very mediocre videos, You Tube viewers have quite a bit of attention to share (or time to procrastinate, depending on how you look at it). If you include popular, relevant search terms in your title or description, you stand to gain quite a bit of exposure.
18. Get Dugg. Going popular on Digg will generally result in dozens of new links. Once again, the most effective methods are the trickiest, but you might find these posts useful: Why You’ve Got to Dig Digg to Get Dugg, What I’ve Learned About Social Media Success.
10 ways to get subscribers
1. Make every post valuable. The impulse to subscribe requires a catalyst — the sense that the visitor has found something valuable: something for keeps. Placing a lot of value in one post will heighten that impact.
2. Hint at an un-missable future. Darren Rowse calls this ‘creating anticipation‘, and doing so involves creating post series, hinting at future content, and so on. In other words, this method makes the visitor feel like they will be missing out of they don’t subscribe. It reminds them that the blog they’re viewing isn’t a static thing — it’s ever-changing.
3. Prove your record with popular posts. A compelling list of popular posts in your sidebar makes the case that your blog provides consistent value. While one outstanding post on the main page is impressive, it’s no guarantee that the post isn’t simply an exception to your blog’s usual content. A list of great popular posts reassures potential subscribers that they can expect more of the same quality in future.
4. Write or exchange guest posts on highly-targeted blogs. A good guest-post on a well-trafficked, well-targeted blog is almost guaranteed to result in a spike in subscribers. This is because visitors are arriving at your blog from your guest-post with an already positive initial opinion of what you do. If your subscriber count has reached a plateau or even dropped, a guest-post is generally all it takes to kick-start the subscriber growth process.
5. Tap into new audiences. Exposing your blog or website to the same audiences over and over again is will guarantee that your subscriber count remains stagnant. You must always be searching out new audiences and moving to greener pastures.
6. Post less instead of posting filler. A potential subscriber will want to be reassured that you aren’t going to fill up their feed reader with irrelevant or low-value posts. When it comes to growing your subscriber count, posting less often with a greater emphasis on value can be a highly effective strategy.
7. Offer an incentive. This usually takes the form of an eBook offered only through a link at the bottom of your feed. While some people will subscribe only as long as it takes to grab your eBook, you’ll find that others decide that your feed looks valuable in its own right.
8. Publish full feeds. A simple measure, but an effective one. If subscribers are highly important to you, make sure you publish full feeds. Many people who regularly read feeds don’t like having to click through partial feeds. The partial-feed format also gives each feed article less room to grip the reader and draw them into your post.
9. Write a mini sales page for your feed. I saw this recently and thought it was a great idea! Persuasion works, and there’s no reason you can’t apply it to your feed!
10. Take a break! The post ‘25 Paths to an Insanely Popular Blog‘ remained at the top of the main page of Skelliewag for over a week during my recent mini-break. Expecting a slight drop in subscribers as a result seemed logical, but instead, I found that my subscriber count had risen by over 400! I suspect this is because new visitors were seeing the ’25 Paths’ post, which struck a chord with a lot of people, as opposed to a post which was a good but not great. It’s interesting to consider whether posting only high-effort, highly time-consuming posts, but much less often (say, once a week) might actually see your blog grow faster than if you posted several good but not great posts each week. It’s something I might experiment with in future. As you can tell, I don’t mind being a guinea pig for new methods!
9 ways to get comments
1. Listen and respond to your commenters. If reader comments never get a response, they have no way of knowing if their comment has even been read, and it may start to feel like they’re shouting into a vacuum. It’s not possible to respond to every comment on your site, but do make an effort to read all of them, and do let your commenters know that you read all of them. Commenters who feel listened to are much more likely to become regulars.
2. Get to know your commenters. Most of a blog’s comments are likely to be left by regulars — people who have developed the habit of responding to your and your posts — and much of growing the comment culture on your blog involves encouraging your regulars to come back again and again. Do this by getting to know them, and acknowledging their past comments, or past interactions they’ve had with you.
3. Ask for opinions (sometimes). People are easy with their opinions. Asking your blog’s readers what they think about something is a direct way to engage with them and encourage comments, but I’d suggest that you don’t do it all the time, or it’s likely to lose its impact.
4. Ask for advice (sometimes). Your readers are probably cool people with good ideas. I know mine are. You can repeat method #3, but try asking for advice instead of opinions.
5. Let them write the rest. One fun thing to do is to create a sub-heading in one of your posts and refrain from filling it out. Instead, ask your readers to write a paragraph each. You might even choose to update your post with the paragraphs contributed by your readers. It’s a neat way to increase interactivity and engagement, while adding new perspectives to your content.
6. Quote them. Quoting a comment in a positive way lets your commenter see their name in lights while also demonstrating that comments mean something to you.
7. Answer their questions in posts. This method can provide inspiration and post ideas while increasing commenter involvement. You might use one comment as the starting point for a post, or dedicate an entire post to answering reader questions.
8. Create posts as a vehicle for comments. This usually takes the form of a post centered around a question you then pose to your readers. By creating a post solely dedicated to creating discussion, you will help your readers become more comfortable with commenting.
9. Leave comments on the blogs of those who read you. This is something we should all do more of. Though time will often curb our good intentions, it’s a nice thing to do if you can manage it. You’ll often receive comments in return for the ones you leave. Most importantly, though, this simple act will leave an impression. If you’ve ever had a blogger you admire leave a comment on your blog, you know how nice this feels!