If you blog then you know the feeling of sitting at your keyboard staring at an empty Word doc or WordPress page, thrumming your fingers on your coffee cup, and trying to decide what to write. Some days I have a hot topic in mind and I can’t wait to get to my desk. Other days I’m lost in thinking “What do people want to know about?” and I end up reading RSS feeds until I find inspiration.
I often coach businesses on how to blog for increased corporate transparency, better relationships with customers and business partners, and as a way to develop their vision in a larger conversation. For an individual it’s not that much different. A blog, whether for a CEO or a grad student, is a way to reach out to others to engage in dialogue. The concept of dialogue or conversation through blogging is important to me. It’s not a monologue I’m writing here. It’s not a soap box. It’s the opening volley of a conversation. “I think this. What do you think?” and then I wait eagerly for comments, rebuttals, additions etc. However, if I want those conversations then I have to keep in mind who is reading and write about things they’ll want to comment on, not just read and close. So we end up where we started, writing something that will please others rather than just expressing our own ideas. It’s not a bad place to start but it can stump you if you don’t know who is reading your blog.
Back when I was blogging on my Second Life Education Research blog I had huge traffic. It was a very niche blog with an observant, engaged audience but since I moved to Ubernoggin (a move I made because I’m not teaching this semester) I’ve struggled to reestablish a significant body of readers. I’ve watched the traffic in response to certain entries, kept up with link backs etc. to stay in the conversation, but it’s been a real experiment in practicing what I preach to other bloggers about how to build traffic and establish a steady readership.
So, after all this pontificating, I want to make a list of the ways I try to increase the number of readers who come to participate in the conversations I start here:
- Be sure your blog is registered with search engines like Technorati, google, and Pubsub so people can find you.
- Use categories in WordPress. Be sure the category tags are descriptive, specific, and popular with your desired audience.
- Write often. The more you write, the more your page is updated and the higher your search rank. If you don’t have time to write often, write several entries at once and post date them to post later in the week.
- Use headlines that are descriptive of the content not kitch or puns.
- Let your network know you’ve written. Don’t spam your friends with your blog address but posting it as a Twitter message, a Facebook status update, or even a gmail status will let your friends know you’ve written something they might be interested in.
- Link to other blogs you like and pay attention to your trackbacks. If someone references your blog go read what they have to say and participate in the conversation on their blog.
- Include your blog address in your email signature and on all online profiles.
What would you add to this list? How do you drive traffic to your blog? How do you encourage conversation? (btw, ending with a question will encourage people to comment and engage in your conversation as well!)