(courtesy of Robyn Gallagher.)
One of our goals at Open Salon has been to help bloggers find the audiences they deserve. As the site continues to grow, we've been thrilled to see many of you do just that. Browsing through the most-viewed tabs on the cover, many of your recent posts have attracted thousands -- and tens of thousands -- of readers from around the world. But if you're a blogger still wondering how to grow your audience – or a blogger who simply wants more, more, more! -- here are a few easy steps you can take to help bring readers to your blog:
Make your blog more SEO-friendly
Much of the traffic to Open Salon comes from search engines like Google or Yahoo, when your posts appear in search results. There are a few basic steps you can take get your blog to appear higher up in those results and maximize the traffic to your blog – a process called search-engine optimization (or SEO). SEO is a notoriously imprecise science, but we've boiled down a few tips we think work:
• Use keywords
The easiest way to rank higher in search results is to include in your blog post “keywords," or popular search terms. Examples of recent keywords include: “Susan Boyle,” “Oprah twitter” and “Somalia pirate.” To find the most popular keywords of the moment you can check out Google Trends. To maximize results, the more keywords that appear in your post, and are used as tags, the better. Also, it helps to include the most important keyword in the title of your blog post, which also becomes part of your post’s URL. (Having keywords in your URL are believed to help improve search results, as well.)
• Write direct headlines
Give your post a title that tells readers exactly what you're writing about. Yes, you want your headline to be as attractive to as many people as possible, so you want to be clever and smart. But, as stated above, it helps to include the keywords from your piece in the headline – if you're blogging about Oprah joining Twitter, you're better off with the keywords "Oprah" and "Twitter" both appearing in the headline. When people are searching for stories on a specific topic, your clever, evocative title might not rate as highly as a similar post by someone else with a clearer headline.
An easy way to find a very big audience, very quickly, is to become popular on a social bookmarking site like Reddit, Digg, Delicious, or Stumbleupon, (all located in the tool bar at the top of each Open Salon post). How can you do that? First, you need to really become a valued participant at one of those sites:
• Build your Reddit Karma:
When you join Reddit, a Karma number and a Comment Karma number appear next to your name on your profile page. Increase those numbers, and you’ll increase the number of people who see the posts that you submit. To increase that number you need to participate on the site by submitting popular posts, commenting on other people’s submissions (it helps if one of your comments leads to a new comment thread) and making new friends on the site.
• Spend time on Digg:
As with Reddit, the more active you are on Digg, the more widely-read your submissions are likely to be. There's no exact science, since Digg keeps its algorithm secret, but the following steps should help: Customize your profile, make new friends (especially friends with a high "popular ratio," which is listed on their profile page), Digg other posts and comment on other people’s submissions and chances are they’ll return the favor.
• Get involved on Stumbleupon:
Like the other social bookmarking sites Stumbleupon doesn't publicize its algorithm, but there are some logical ways to build up "fans" on the site: Rate and review other stumblers' submissions, and submit posts yourself that you think will be popular.
• Get linked:
This probably goes without saying: Develop a rapport with as many other bloggers (or one really popular blogger who likes your work) and you can be rewarded when they link to your work. It's widely believed that the more links to your blog, the better it will rank in search results. But a strategy note: You're better off finding like-minded blogs that will want to you link to you because you're doing something similar, or creating content that might be helpful,to them. Don’t expect charity.
Find logical ways to promote your posts – like:
• Use Yahoo Answers to your advantage: See if your post answers a specific question posed on the popular Yahoo Answers site. If it does, register and post a comment and paste the URL to your post as an answer.
• Make sure to link to your blog on your social networking profiles (Myspace, Linkedin, Facebook, etc.).
• Facebook: Set up your Facebook profile to automatically import your Open Salon blog RSS feed. To do this, click on the "settings" button on the top right hand corner of your profile wall, and, under "Imported stories," click on "Blog/RSS." Then input your Open Salon blog RSS feed.
• Twitter: Let your Twitter followers know when you've blogged by putting out a Tweet with a link -- or set up your RSS to do it automatically. To do this, you'll need to use an external import (like Twitterfeed).
• E-mail: Send an e-mail blast to friends and family when you've created a great post. Include a link to your blog in your e-mail signature.
We'll update this post over time, as we discover reliable strategies. But we want to know what works for you, too! We hope you'll suggest your own winning strategies in the Comments below.