For most business bootstrappers, starting a blog is the best way to get the marketing ball rolling. But blogging isn’t as easy as it was a few years ago. Readers aren’t enamored with the platform and competition for attention gets nastier every day.
Having a successful blog means more traffic, better search listings, excellent positioning as an authority and a great place to do impromptu product research.
Problem is that everyone else is in on the secret and they want a piece of your reader's shrinking attention too.
The New Blog Dilemma
Hyper-competition means that reader growth tactics that worked in 2010 won’t work now. You need an edge from outside the “blogging to blog” space.
I suggest we borrow a few strategies from Growth Hackers. Growth hackers are marketing-obsessed engineers that see attracting visitors as an engineering problem. They are systematic, obsessed, and relentless. Their tactics are cunning and refined by constant testing.
With new sites growth hackers rely on tactics that are manual and time intensive.
For example, they call every friend and invite them to join their mailing list and like them on Facebook.
They call new customers and conduct surveys using Google forms.
They cold-call prospects and won’t hang up the phone until they understand why the prospect said yes, no, or maybe.
Or like AirBnB’s case they devise a hack that automatically posts new rentals on Craigslist. Reddit created dummy accounts to fake social proof until the real audience showed up.
Like I said…this stuff doesn’t scale but they help the startup learn, test, adapt, and grow fast.
Growth Hacking Your Blog
Blog bootstrappers can apply these same tactics.
Like early stage startups, blogs publishers struggle to find a product/market fit. In this case, the blog’s editorial is the product and readers are the market.
The goal is to quickly find the editorial mix that attracts the right readers. In true early stage tradition, these tactics are time and labor intensive but they are incredibly valuable. So valuable that you need to carve out the time to do at least 1–2 of these tactics.
- Email every commenter and ask them why they visited the blog and what prompted them to comment.
- Holding a Google Hangout with your first 10 blog email subscribers and chatting about what they love to read.
- Test blog headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn turning the most shared headline into a full post
- Create a simple pop-up that asks “Did you like that post? Yes or No?” Ask for an email address for follow-up. It’s cool to see how helpful people are when they feel their opinion is respected.
- Model, Evaluate and Roll-Out — When I started Pushing Social, I spent a month identifying and categorizing the most popular blog posts in the “blogging about blogging” space. I found that the top posts shared certain characteristics. I mimicked these characteristics in my posts. This experiment yielded 5 reliable blog post templates that consistently do well with my audience.
- Follow-up with every retweeter and ask them why they hit the retweet button. Ask them what type of information they would like feed their audience on a daily basis. Ask them which blogs are on their day-to-day reading list and why.
- Go Hunting For Curators: Every audience has a few people who are very good at finding and repurposing content. Kristi Hines is a great example in the social media and content marketing space. Seek these people out and ask them to describe what is missing in the editorial lineup of the popular blogs. Pay them for their time if you need to, this information is worth it.
As I said, these tactics don’t scale one bit. Each one will take at least a week of research to hunt down people, schedule Skype chats , and so on. But at the end of the process you’ll know:
- What prompts people to comment?
- What entices readers to open their kimono and give your their email address?
- A few reasonably safe headlines to use when you write your next post.
- Why people thinks your stuff rocks or sucks
- A decent blueprint of what editorial works in your niche and how the big boys earned their stripes.
- How to get retweeted, liked, or LinkedUp
Back to You
The secret to beating the pants of your competitors by writing about stuff they missed. All of this info will come from the person you care about most — your reader.