Blog Marketing – Referral Marketing
When we first start blogging it’s too easy to get carried away with visions of grandeur, it’s quite normal to imagine your blog taking the internet by storm. We all think our blog is better than the rest and we all imagine our blog will go to number one in the search engines; not without a marketing plan it won’t!
Sorry to be so blunt, marketing your blog is just as important if not more important than anything else. It doesn’t matter how good your design is or how engaging your content is; if nobody gets to read it it’s not a blog. Marketing is the key to all successful blogs, you can try to beat the system if you want but take it from me; you’ll struggle to get noticed amid the millions of blogs out there if you fail to have a marketing plan.
The Marketing Plan
Don’t be put off by the idea of developing a marketing plan, it doesn’t have to be complicated, you’ll probably do most of it without knowing. I know when I think of marketing I think of slick salespeople coming up with quirky ideas in a bean bag filled office, that’s not what your marketing plan is about. Obviously if you’re rich and have money to waste then you can get one of these companies to do your marketing for you but this article isn’t about that.
As newbies we are forced to do our own marketing which is great because it means we learn how to do it. Down the road you might outsource your marketing but if you don’t understand how it’s done then how will you know if you’re getting ripped off?
Your marketing strategy can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. If you think about it all you’re actually doing is sharing it with like minded people, these are people you associate with already, if you haven’t got something in common with these people then you might be in the wrong niche.
Types of Marketing
This post isn’t a definitive marketing strategy nor is at an “everything you need to know” type article, there’s simply too much for one sitting. Instead I want to give you an overview of the kind of marketing you need to be thinking about then in other posts we will drill down into the mechanics, tips and tricks of promoting your blog. I want you to think about marketing in terms of online and off, obviously it’s entirely up to you which route you take; only you’ll know which marketing works best in your niche.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization has been crucial in the success of blogs over the last few years but what is it? Think Google, in short a search engine is website where people can enter keywords, the site will then serve up relevant websites, blogs and information. Although there are hundreds of search engines Google has positioned itself as number one which is good for them but dangerous for webmasters; more about this later.
Companies such as Google and Bing use an algorithm to crawl websites and blogs, when somebody enters a search query this algorithm serves up relevant information or at least that’s the idea. There’s no point in getting hung up on how it all works; you will not be able to figure it out, if you want to know more about search engines have a browse at Search Engine Land or Search Engine Watch.
What you can do is set your blog up to give it the best chance of being picked up by the search engines, indexed and subsequently put in front of people looking for the information you have. This is known as search engine optimization in other words optimising your blog for the search engines.
I will discuss how you use SEO properly in other posts but let me revisit why SEO alone is dangerous for webmasters. Google has allowed people to game their system; people have been able to get to the top of Google’s front page simply by using an exact match domain name and some other tricks, in the latter part of 2012 Google pulled the rug and killed business overnight. They changed their algorithm which meant sites enjoying top positions disappeared, in short incomes dried up and blogs were out of business.
I’m telling you this because I want you to build a blog that will last, your business model absolutely cannot rely on one source of traffic, this fact has been learned the hard way by many bloggers even though they were told!
Your marketing efforts should be a combination of activities; that way if one isn’t doing so well you have others to fall back on. It’s also worth mentioning that when one traffic source is working well and driving lots of traffic to your site the others seem to get a boost and start sending more traffic as well. Search engine optimization should play a part when you’re building your blog, it does no harm at all creating a search friendly site and the free traffic they send you is always welcome, just don’t rely on them; you’ve been warned!
PPC – Pay Per Click is a term you might have come across online. I’m not a fan personally especially when you’re new to blogging but it does work for many and I’ll never rule it out for future promotion.
PPC essentially means you place an advert for your blog on a third party site, when somebody clicks on your advert you get charged a click fee which can be cents or dollars depending on your niche. Google Adwords is probably the PPC you’ll have seen, the sponsored ads when you search on Google are predominantly pay per click, it works very well for Google and the advertiser but in my opinion it’s not a route new bloggers should be taking unless you have a product sales orientated blog.
I will write about this further but I wouldn’t concentrate on this type of marketing early on in your career, others will disagree with this but I want to teach you how to blog without breaking the bank and this type of promotion costs money.
Social – Social Marketing is one of those things, it can work really well or it can be absolutely crap. The issue is not social marketing itself; it’s how you use it. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are basically part of our lives these days, we interact daily with friends and like minded people, we share interests with each other and we meet new people, in short we have a captured audience and this is perfect for business. I have a lot to learn about social marketing and will be writing extensively as I figure it out, for now look at it like this:
To build a business built on the social model you need to stop selling stuff, interact with people, add value to their lives, offer solutions, expect nothing in return and softly introduce your business over a period of time. If you do this right your friends, followers and their followers essentially become your marketing team, they introduce you to new people, they endorse your blog, your ideas and quite often they buy off you or sell for you. This is essentially viral marketing and if you get it right you’ll send your blog into the stratosphere.
There are so many social platforms both mainstream and niche you need to consider which ones are best for you, it call comes back to knowing your market and interacting with it. I mainly use Facebook and Twitter but I know these are not the best for my business, as I learn more I will be writing about it so don’t forget to sign up for my email updates.
As I said the main social platforms I use are Facebook and Twitter, to be honest I have a Facebook page for SUMARKETING and that’s the extent of it, I haven’t made much effort to capitalize on it. I am in the process of checking out successful Facebook pages so I can figure out how they utilize this asset, then I will copy that process. Don’t be frightened to research success and learn from it, I’m not.
Twitter drives a lot of traffic to this site; this is probably because I actually enjoy using Twitter (@Sumarketinguk). Each time I write a new article I share it on Twitter, you can do this using a WordPress plugin or third party service, I do it manually, I do it myself because sometimes I write stuff that is strictly for my subscribers and I like that control. Also I like to interact on Twitter and I don’t want every post to look like I’m selling something, remember what I said about building relationships.
Direct – Direct Marketing can split opinion on what it actually is; this is my blog so obviously my interpretation is what matters. I call direct marketing anyway you use of going directly after a target market. I am a big fan of email marketing, in short this means I build a list of people who want what I have, I can approach them “directly” if I want to sell something.
Another way I can put my blog in front of the right people is by advertising on other sites that are in my niche, this costs money so I suggest you wait until you have some success before even thinking about this avenue. When I advertise on a blog that’s associated with my niche I know the people seeing the advert have an interest in what I’m doing, this I suppose could also come under passive promotion because I’m not actually doing anything once the ad is up.
Passive – Like direct marketing there’s much debate about what’s passive and what isn’t for me passive means once I’ve done it I can leave it alone and it will continue. This isn’t strictly true because in reality if you do something and it works why would you stop doing it?
I’m a subscriber on many blogs and forums; I actively participate and try my best to add value to the discussion. Every now and again I drop a link to my site into a post or I might have my electronic signature linking to my site, this is passive marketing as the links stay on that site for others to see.
A word of warning about using this method, if you join a load of forums and spam them with links you will get banned, I really hope you get banned in fact if I see you spamming forums I will report you as a spammer; I hope you get the message.
Use forums wisely and they will work for you, social means exactly that; be sociable, join in, be helpful and don’t abuse them; they are worth the time invested in them. Another benefit of using forums and blogs is that you meet people in your niche, quite often you build up relationships with these people and these relationships are not contrived. You never know what might come from meeting these people, I am not suggesting you build up a rapport simply to get something out of it but many a successful working partnership has blossomed in this way.
In keeping with this idea I like the scratch my back philosophy, if you are mixing in the right circles and bringing something to the party your friends will often talk about you on their own blogs, I know I do, I have no problem promoting someone if they are creating useful content or developing something useful and of course I do this for free.
In my business there are only a few opportunities to market offline, this is mainly due to the fact my business is about being online. That doesn’t mean I don’t bother it just means it’s not where my focus is. During normal life I talk to people, quite often the conversation gets round to money or jobs, without knowing it I promote my blogs and how anyone can do it. The conversation usually ends up with me giving out a business card with my blog address on it, in other words offline marketing.
Your niche may lend itself to advertising offline especially if you are blogging about local issues; again it comes back to understanding your niche. I appreciate this section is a bit thin so here’s a bit of a case study on one of my other blogs, I’m not going to give you the URL ( I will Later) until I have proven what I’m doing works:
I have a blog in the disability niche; the blog has been reinvented at least four times in 12 months because I’m never been happy with what I’m producing. I understand this niche better than most so that’s not the problem but I haven’t put my finger on what I actually want the blog to do, I’ve tried sharing information, selling products and offering discounts but it just never feels right, I feel as if I’m short changing my audience so I take the blog down and start again.
I may have mentioned I’m very interested in email marketing and I think it could work for my disability blog. My idea is to have a monthly newsletter sent directly to people who have opted in for specific disability related information, quite often disability is a taboo so privacy is important and a personal email is a great way of delivering it, what has this got to do with offline marketing I hear you ask?
I am convinced I can use magazines, flyers and even health related events to drive people to my blog then hopefully they will sign up to my newsletter. I can then provide factual information and review related products where people can digest and possibly buy in the comfort of their own home. Ironically I couldn’t care less if I make any money from this blog because it’s the information that matters, I think this is the reason I keep taking it down because it becomes to commercial and I start beating myself up about it.
The point I’m trying to make (badly) is that only you will know what works, building a business online is all about getting in front of the right people, if it’s relevant don’t ignore offline opportunities as they too can be great traffic sources.
So there we have it, a short introduction to marketing a blog. It was never meant to be a how to guide just an overview to give you food for thought. I will be writing about all of these marketing strategies in depth and will be giving my subscribers exclusive tips and updates on what I’ve learned, of course I will also follow up on how my disability blog is doing or not.
Marketing is the key to any successful business, it’s even more important to online business because if nobody sees your blog your out of business. If you take anything from this post is should be this:
- Marketing needs to be structured
- You need a dynamic plan that includes multiple strategies
- Your niche will dictate which type of promotion works best
- Learn from people who are doing it well
- Network with people in your niche
- Give free advertising to the movers and shakers
- Don’t be frightened to change direction
- Don’t pay for it unless you have to
- Keep doing it
- Final Word
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