This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit, which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In the book Start Your Own Blogging Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and marketing expert Jason R. Rich explain how to start a profitable business as a blogger by generating income from advertisers, subscribers, merchandisers and more. In this edited excerpt, the authors reveal how to grow your audience.
The first order of business for promoting any blog is letting the search engines--like Yahoo!, Bing and Google--know about it. Submitting your site to search engines simply alerts them to your presence. They'll add your blog address to their web crawler queue, and eventually you'll be paid a visit by their web crawler robot for site scanning and potential indexing.
To be one of the first listings web surfers see when they use specific keywords or search phrases that relate to your blog's content, you'll need to handle "search engine optimization" or "SEO." As a blogger, you need to become aware of what keywords or tags (which are directly relevant to your blog) will attract the attention of search engine web crawlers, and then get into the habit of using those words or phrases with your titles, descriptions, photo captions, content file names, and within the actual blog entries.
There are many tools on the internet to help you determine a word's popularity among search engines. Use these tools to help you decide which keywords or tags are more popular than others:
Tap the Power of Social Networking Sites
Depending on your target audience, becoming active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or one of the many other popular online social networking services is a great way to build an audience for your blog, grow your popularity and reach out to your target audience.
These services allow you to post public bulletins, email members directly and find others who share your interests. If you become active on them, you can easily generate free publicity for your blog. In addition to popular social networking sites, find services, websites or blogs that are similar--with a focus that relates to your target audience--and become active on those sites as well.
Search Engine Advertising and Marketing
As a blogger, you can utilize search engine advertising in two ways. First, you can pay to run ads that promote your blog. Second, you can display ads from other advertisers within your blog to generate revenue.
Using search engine, or keyword, advertising as a fee-based way to promote your blog and build an audience is an almost immediate way to begin appearing on search engines. Top search engines--Google, Yahoo! and Bing, their respective content partners, as well as Facebook, for example--allow you to place an ad along the side, or across the top, of search results pages for related searches. This is an incredibly fast-acting, powerful and cost-effective way to reach your target audience, because your advertisement will only be shown to people who are searching for your content.
Search engine marketing (SEM) involves using a service--such as Google AdSense, Yahoo! Search Engine Marketing or Bing Ads--to place well-targeted, extremely short, text ads on the various search engines (and partner sites) that appear when a user specifically enters a search phrase that matches a list of keywords you've pre-created that relate to your online content and ad. Again, similar ads can be purchased to appear on Facebook.
A blog or news aggregator is a tool that retrieves RSS, Atom or XML feeds from news sources, blogs and other publishing platforms, and pulls them all together in one place. The largest blog aggregator on the web is Technorati.
The use of aggregators that's most applicable to bloggers' needs is in the creation of online blog directories. Blog directories pull together billions of posts from millions of blogs and index, categorize, and place them in easily searchable databases. Many visitors to these directories are looking for interesting blogs to read, and if yours isn't among them, you're missing out.
When establishing your blog, be sure to enable the RSS, Atom or XML feed feature on your blogging platform, and submit it to all the aggregators you can find. For no extra work per post, you can make sure your blog is included in the search results of these popular tools.
Swapping links with other blogs is a great way to cast out a large net across the blogosphere and pull in a lot of readers. Blogger referrals have a high conversion rate because readers most often trust that if their favorite blogger says something is interesting, it is.
Contact other websites and bloggers to request a link exchange -- offer to display a link to their site (or blog) if they'll do the same for you. Choose sites that reach your same target audience but that aren't your direct competition. You'll often find bloggers are amenable to informal link exchanges because both parties benefit from new traffic to their respective sites. Many sites and blogs create a "Recommended Links" section specifically to showcase links to websites and blogs their visitors might be interested in.
Blogrolls are simply a list of links to other relevant blogs that bloggers often display in their blog's sidebar. It'll be worth your while to visit blogs that have content similar to yours, that are in--or about--your geographic location or are even just the blogs created by your friends, and ask to be included in their blogrolls. Ask in private e-mail and never in the comment section of the other person's blog--and aim high. There's no harm is asking high-profile blogs to include you in their blogrolls. Being linked from a well-regarded, high-traffic blog will boost both your traffic and credibility. If your request is accepted, you'll be asked to reciprocate the link in your own blogroll. Be sure you comply.
Become a Guest Blogger on Other Blogs
One way to promote your own blog is to pinpoint a handful of already well-established and successful blogs that target the same audience, and offer to be a guest blogger for those blogs. In exchange for contributing articles or blog posts, you'll get credit for your work that can include a link to your blog.