Last week, I wrote a post on traffic strategies that had worked for mommybloggers, provided you viewed their careers retrospectively. But what if you are a newer blogger who is looking to build traffic and are not too keen on having to endure some kind of trauma to your life in order to build your traffic as a mommy blogger? What are your options? Well, as one of my commenters pointed out, perhaps it might be nice to feature some ideas for you as well. So today, I will share with you some ideas on traffic building, both from my own experience and from my reading throughout the web, with some thoughts on what works in this niche and what doesn’t. I hope everybody will chime in in the comments with their thoughts as well — crowdsourcing usually yields the best ideas on these kinds of posts.
For those of you who do not know this, I advertised on Dooce for about two months when I first started blogging. This was expensive. But I believe it was well worth the investment — to this day, many of my regular readers found me this way. I bought text ads, and at the time they were about $125 a week, though I think I bought them by the month and received a discount. For that amount of money, I remember getting about 60-70 click throughs a day. I later recouped the money through display ads once I was picked up by an ad network, and I viewed the money as an investment in my business.
I also bought a few ads on other blogs through Federated Media, and as a rough guide I can give you the following advice: it’s generally “worth it” to advertise that way if you’re going with a blog that gets over 100,000 pageviews per month. Under that, it is going to be difficult to get enough click throughs to make it worth the expenditures without being in the content column. This was my impression at the time, though this was over two years ago, so things may have changed.
I also have the Featured Blogger Program here at ABDPBT , which is a far lower cost option than the ones listed above, but there is also a waiting list and I’m on the lower end of the traffic spectrum at about 100,000 pageviews on a good month. If I had it to do over again I would probably go with the Dooce option, frankly — provided that is a match for your audience. You should always think about those kinds of things carefully before you buy ad space. In my case, Dooce’s audience is a fairly good match to my own in a very general sense, so it was good to pull prospects from there. This may or may not be the case for you, so bear this in mind before you buy.
- Go to conferences.
I know, this is not what you want to hear. Listen, my readership jumped like crazy after BlogHer last year, and then again after Mom 2.0 in February. The material I was able to write about after both — particularly after Mom 2.0 — was far better as well. Conferences can be stressful (they are very stressful for me) and expensive (particularly if you have to fly across the country, as I nearly always have to do), but I have found them to be the single best and fastest way to grow your blog in this niche. What happens is that you go and increase the buzz about your blog exponentially just by being there and meeting a few people, talking to a few people, who then go and say, “Did you meet so and so?” There’s just no other way to get that concentration of traffic-building buzz around your blog before and after a conference without being there. You’ve got to be there to be a part of it.
If you cannot afford to go to a conference, start aggressively pursuing sponsorships. There are tons of small businesses that would love to pay for you to represent them at mommyblogging conferences, particularly the larger ones like BlogHer. Find those companies and pitch an offer. Do not wait for them to come to you, that’s not how it works. It’s a good deal for them to pay for you to go, when viewed against what it would cost for them to set up a booth on the Expo hall. And if one company can’t swing a full sponsorship, then piece together a few companies until you have everything covered. Be clear about what you are and are not willing to do — you are the one who sets the terms. Most conference organizers will have set rules about how and where you can distribute materials, but beyond that, you should be setting rules about when you will be on the clock and when you will be free to do your own thing.
- Comment, comment, comment.
Especially in the beginning of your time in the blogosphere, it’s good to try to comment as much as possible on a variety of blogs, just to get a feel for the space and try to find “your people.” As much as you can, try not to get caught up in reciprocity for comments — it’s just going to make you resentful. People have very different views on this topic, not to mention radically different computer time budgets. But, the more you comment, the more people who will see your name on other people’s blogs, and the more used to thinking of you as a part of the community they will become. And if your comments are thoughtful, insightful, intriguing, etc., this might get a click or two, even if it’s not from the owner of the blog. Also, you never know when you’re going to read something that inspires a good post topic.
- Guest Posting (?)
We don’t do a lot of this in the mommyblogosphere, but many of the people in other niches advise guest posting as a means of building traffic. I think that this strategy works in niches like Personal Finance or Online Marketing or ProBlogging because those are so-called “useful” or “advice” topics, and the readers are always looking to find more sources of information on that same general theme. But here’s my experience with guest posting in the mommyblogosphere — it’s not so successful as a strategy for traffic building, strangely enough. It’s fun, but not always successful as a large-scale traffic builder. My theory for why is this: mommyblogging is basically a form of personal blogging, and audiences generally grow slowly over time. They develop a relationship with the blogger. A guest post might be tolerated or even enjoyed, but it doesn’t necessarily result in a huge influx of new readers. It might result, though, in a few. And if you’re looking for a few good prospects, then a guest post here or there on a blog that matches your readership might be a good strategy, provided you choose the blogs where you guest post with care.
- Become friends with powerful bloggers.
OK, so this is super manipulative, but it works, and people do it all the time. If you get in good with people who have high traffic, you end up with high traffic yourself sometimes. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you get a link from the person, just people knowing that you are friends with the person sometimes leads to higher traffic by association. The thing is, you kind of have to be around the person a lot for this to happen, so unless you happen to live in the same town as, say, Ree Drummond, you might have to actually go to some conferences and try to meet some people. And as an aside, you are probably going to find that people in other communities within the blogosphere are more open to this kind of networking than the mom blogosphere. While mommybloggers are fairly friendly and open at conferences, I’m not sure that they are as well-versed in the “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of give and take as people in the, say, online marketing niche would be. If you can develop connections in that world, they are much more likely to be open to helping you without you having to pretend that this is not the entire reason that you’re approaching them in the first place.
- Useful content.
Maybe you are wondering why there are so many sections on this blog. Well, there are a couple different reasons. First, I wanted to write on a bunch of different topics, and I didn’t want to have them all on the same feed — I wanted people to be able to subscribe separately, so that they didn’t have to look week through Personal Finance posts to get to the mommy posts unless they wanted to read both, etc. But I also wanted them to be on the same URL, because I knew that the way that the web sets up hierarchies for web presence has to do with how much information is on one URL — in other words, it’s better to have one site with a whole bunch of information on it, even if it’s on disparate subjects, in terms of page rank and SEO, than it is to have a bunch of different sites.
But the other thing was, when I started blogging, I wanted to be able to have a personal space and also a space where I could provide useful content, because the problem with mommyblogging is that it is not “useful,” and the bulk of the market for blogging is for content that solves some kind of problem. Most people come to the web to solve a problem. They enter the problem into google and go to a page that answers their problem. You have to try to be the site that answers a problem. If you are only a personal blogger, you have no chance of doing that. Sure, if you are Dooce, you don’t do that, you have never done that, and you have a big enough audience to where you probably won’t ever have to do that. But that’s not true for the rest of us. That’s right — it’s not true for any of the rest of us, not even Ree Drummond — notice her site is full of useful information, that’s why she’s so wildly successful, I think she’s about three or four times as successful (in pageviews) as Dooce now, in fact. She’s got useful information on photography, cooking, homeschooling, and home decorating. She’s fashioned her brand, in fact, so that she can provide useful information on any topic, pretty much, and she doesn’t even have to be the one to provide it. She’s like the Oprah of the internet. It’s brilliant.
What can you provide that is useful? I’m not saying you cannot be personal, too. In fact, it’s imperative that you also be personal — this is the hallmark of blogging versus other genres. But if you want to move out of the trap of the personal blogging traffic glass ceiling, you have got to start thinking about what you have to offer the audience that is coming to you.