writing

Seven ways to grow your blog in 2014

http://www.photogen.com/free-photos/free-stock-photo-1269/
(image via Photogen)

The topic of “growing a blog” or increasing your readership is kind of a touchy one in the blogging community. Lots of people like to point out (and rightly so) that you should blog for the love of it and not for a set number of followers, but let’s be realistic: we all want more exposure, right? Whether blogging full-time is your dream or you just want to connect with the blogging community at large, you probably want to increase your followers and create some regular contacts. So, caveat in mind–blog because you love it!–here are seven ways to grow your blog in 2014.

I’m going to cover each of these points in more detail starting on Sunday, with a new post each day throughout the week; but for the purposes of this post I’m keeping it brief. If you want to read more about each of these points be sure to check each day next week, or follow me via Bloglovin’ or Twitter to get updates when new posts are published!

1. Clean up that homepage. A clean background, with a bio and contact links above the fold, lets people easily navigate your page. But it goes further: tons of cluttered ads and other sidebar distractions are just annoying to users, and besides hampering navigation they can cause your pages to load more slowly. No bueno! With all of the tutorials on Pinterest and personal blogs, designing your blog is fairly easy and there’s no need to pay a pro unless you’re really pinched for time or creativity, so don’t let the big bad scary HTML keep you in the dark. This Sunday I’ll show you how to give your blog a professional facelift and make it more reader (and PR!) friendly!

2. Fix your info! If you’re at all serious about networking, you need to sharpen up  your “about” and “PR” pages. Write a short bio that can be easily cut and pasted onto your other contact pages, like Twitter, and pair it with a clear, professional photo of yourself (not one where you’re holding a beer bottle…unless that’s your blogging niche). Make sure it’s easy to find your bio and contact e-mail, along with any social media links. On Monday I’ll show you some examples of blogs with great “about” pages and talk more about things like creating a professional e-mail signature.

3. Produce great content. This is kind of a “duh”, but lots of bloggers get hung up on trying to produce content that they think an audience will like, or posts that they think will have good potential for being widely shared. It’s true that some trends can help boost traffic to your blog, and the pageview stats on your posts might show that some posts are a bigger hit with your readers than others. But don’t let the push to churn out tons of posts or jump on every trend in the blogosphere water down the quality of your posting. Proofread for errors and clarity, take great photos (more on that later), and make sure everything is presented in a professional format. It takes more time to write great posts than to slap together quickie so-so posts, so maybe you’ll only publish a few times per week rather than daily, but this is one case when quality trumps quantity every time. I’ll expand on this subject on Tuesday.

4. Take lots of (great) photos. When I started blogging I rarely included photos in my posts, and now I realize that was a big mistake. Posts with large, bright, well-framed photos are more attractive to read and especially if you’re reviewing a product, they’re essential to holding the interest of your reader. Plus, they’re Pinnable! Good digital cameras can now be had for less than $100 and there are tons of photography tutorials available through Pinterest to help you brush up on your photography skills, so get clicking! Another alternative is to snag free photos (here’s a great list of sites you can use), but be careful of going into Google Images and downloading whatever you find–it’s copyright infringement and can land you in legal hot water. I’ll be talking more about this topic on Wednesday and giving you links to some of my favorite photography tutorials and image sites!

5. Use your social networks wisely. Some people will tell you that you should follow as many people as possible on Twitter and other networks, but I personally believe you should limit the number of people you follow so that you’re not buried under updates and posts you don’t really care about. If you find yourself constantly skimming past a user’s updates, trim them out. Again: quality, not quantity. As to posting: no one likes a timeline that screams “look at me!”, so don’t just flood your followers with link spam. Retweet, re-pin and re-post other things that interest you–links to other posts from other bloggers, pictures you find interesting, articles you read and liked, and so on. You don’t have to talk at length about your personal life if you don’t care to, but being a little chatty and personable goes a long way toward connecting with followers. I’ll talk more about the importance of social networking on Thursday.

6. Reach out. Start networking and don’t stop. Follow other blogs that interest you and comment on their posts; interact on Twitter; join blogging groups and participate in challenges. These are all great ways to meet bloggers with similar interests and you’ll potentially increase your readership at the same time. Jump in with networks like The SITS Girls and participate in Twitter chats that pertain to your blog niche. Networking requires a little extra time and effort but it’s an essential part of growing your blog. You don’t have to be a social media maven and you don’t have to be glued to Twitter at all hours, but you can’t just sit back and expect people to find your blog by magic. You’ve got to push it out there. On Friday I’ll tell you more about networking with other bloggers and with brands and give you some tips to get you going!

7. Join group giveaways. These are great for multiple reasons: It’s less expensive than paying for products out of your own pocket, since each blogger in the giveaway only has to chip in a small amount toward the prize. The prize is often a gift card, so there’s no shipping worry. Your readers will love the chance to win something. You get more exposure for your blog from the cross-traffic. Ask some of your fellow bloggers if they’d be interested in pairing up with you, and use Rafflecopter (it’s free) to create the entry form for a hassle-free and uniform way of collecting entries. I’ll be wrapping up the week of posts on Saturday with some tips to make your giveaway run more smoothly, plus some legal info you need to consider before you decide to host!

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