Blog planning: marketing and user engagement

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This week I'm writing a three-part series about how you should approach planning and strategy when starting a blog. In my last post, I went over important decisions you should make regarding your content. Once you've got your content all figured out, it's time to come up with ideas to get people reading your blog.

I'm going to break this post into three small sections. First, you'll need to take advantage of your connections to get your first readers. Then you'll need to figure out how to attract new readers. Then you should consider what you can do to make sure all your readers keep coming back. Let's dive right in...

Who will your first readers be?
It can be really hard to stay motivated when no one is reading your blog, and most online marketing strategies can take months to start showing results. I suggest that you leverage your personal relationships to try to get some initial readers. This is sort of like using training wheels when you're riding a bike. It's not a long-term solution, but you it will help you learn what you're doing and build confidence.

There are a number of different places to look for your first readers. It's a safe bet that you can convince your family to read your blog. You can also look to friends that are interested in your topic. Once you've reached out to all the obvious choices, you should try to find people you know with connections to large audiences. For example, if you're writing about sports, you might be able to get help from anyone you know that plays on local teams, works at radio stations, etc.

How will you grow your readership?
This may be the most daunting aspect of blogging, but it's absolutely necessary. Unless you're one of the rare few who somehow strike gold right from the beginning, you'll need to market your blog online to find new readers. I don't recommend spending too much time planning this out (because your strategy is sure to change), but you should make sure you're familiar with some of your different options. Here's a list of things you can do to increase your blog's visibility on the internet:

  • Use SEO to make your blog more search engine friendly
  • Find other blogs in the same niche as yours and comment on them. Become known in the community
  • Guest post on more popular blogs
  • Post on other sites and link back to your blog
  • Join social networking sites like Facebook or twitter and connect with potential readers
  • Mention other blogs or websites in your posts. When you link to someone else's site, there's a good chance that they'll notice and they may reciprocate
  • Join online message boards and question and answer sites

This isn't anywhere near a comprehensive list, but it's a decent start. The main thing is that you should understand that there is a lot of work involved in promoting your blog, and you'll need to be comfortable going out and networking with other people on the internet.

How will you engage your readers so that they come back?
Getting a bunch of new traffic to your blog isn’t very useful if no one ever comes back. You should think about things you can do to really engage your readers so that they want to come back over and over again. The best way to do this is to make sure that you’re not just broadcasting information to your readers, but you’re also giving them a way to get involved. You should be building a community where your readers are just as involved as you are.

If you’re looking for ideas to get the brainstorming started, think about enabling commenting on your blog, starting a message board, creating a newsletter, or even hosting in-person events where your readers can meet each other. By giving your readers a way to feel personally connected with you and your blog, you're increasing the chances that they continue coming back and/or tell their friends about you.

To summarize, when planning out your marketing strategy, I suggest you understand what will be involved in getting a few readers right away, finding new readers using online marketing, and engaging your readers so that they keep coming back for more.

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