When it comes time to start marketing your blog, you’ll want to get your blog ready first.
Then, before you start putting any marketing strategies into play, there’s some basic research you’ll want to do, especially if you’re new to the topic area you’ve chosen to write about.
A Word About Topic Selection
If you have difficulty with any of the exercises or suggestions here for getting to know your niche, the problem is more than likely that you’ve picked too large a field.
For instance, if you decide you’re going to write about cars, it’s going to be tough to interact with the top blogs, since many of them will be run by corporate entities, not other solo bloggers.
Even “dropping down” within the niche to foreign cars won’t help all that much. Remember that in blogging, your ideal niche is likely to be “an inch wide and a mile deep.”
The car blogger, for instance, might keep “niche-ing down” his subject. Instead of all cars, he might pick cars from Scandinavia. And he could continue this niche-ing down process until he gets to a subject where he can quickly get traction:
At this point he could probably start a blog and be pretty confident of finding other bloggers to connect with, and a readership he really understands. If Volvos are his passion, he’s got a great topic from which to get started.
Not only that, but as his blog expands in readership and influence, he’ll be able to move laterally, and then back up the topic ladder, providing lots of room to grow.
Doing Your Homework
Good marketing often requires good research. The more information we have about the market we want to reach, and the hopes, dreams, and frustrations of the people in that market, the better we’ll be able to address them.
And of course the first requirement is to find those readers. How are you going to do that? Research will help.
And everyone has to do it. One of the first questions I ask bloggers I’m consulting with is this:
“If I asked you, could you name the top 5 or 10 bloggers in your niche, topic area, or genre?”
You need to be able to answer this with a resounding “Yes!” to make the best start on your blog marketing.
So that’s going to be your first assignment:
Assignment #1: Identify the top 5 or 10 blogs in your topic area. In an earlier post, I talked about the tools I use to evaluate blogs. But the blogs you’re looking for should also meet some criteria:
1. The people who are reading these blogs are the same readers who would be interested in what you are writing.
For instance, if I’m writing a blog about the curious behavior of Siamese cats, the audience for a blog about keeping your cat healthy will likely contain good candidates to become readers of your blog.
And you don’t have to worry that these bloggers are your “competition.” The blogger who has built a following in your niche isn’t your competitor, she is going to be your colleague.
She has already accomplished what you are only setting out to do, and because of that she is extraordinarily valuable to you. More on that in a minute.
2. The blog is current and active.
You only want to add to your “Top Blogs” list those that are publishing content with some regularity, and where there is clear evidence that people are reading and interacting with it.
The easiest ways to see at a glance how a blog measures up to this criteria are:
- Publication dates on blog posts
- The blog archives, if available, that will show the post frequency
- Current articles that have comments from readers
3. The blog is run by a person or a group of individuals.
Don’t bother with corporate blogs or those attached to a company which seems to be mostly interested in promoting its products.
We’re looking for people we can connect with, network with, perhaps even partner with on joint ventures or other promotions. That means real people, not companies.
4. The blog has an active strategy of building an email list.
Is there an email sign up prominently displayed on the blog? Does the blogger offer an ebook, a course, a newsletter, or some other content of value in exchange for your email address? That’s a good sign.
As you’ll learn as you develop as a blogger, most of your opportunities to make money from your blog depend on your email list. So if you see a blogger who is building a list, chances are they will be a good partner for you when it comes time for you to do the same.
Power tip: Create a special set of bookmarks in your web browser for your top blogs, and keep them handy. You’ll be visiting them repeatedly, so save yourself some time now by organizing these important links.
Knowing and Getting Known
Now that you’ve identified these top blogs, you can move along to the next part of your assignment:
Assignment #2: Sign up for everything each of these blogs offers.
Power tip: Bloggers and internet marketers often set up specific email addresses to track email more easily. For instance, you can create an email address that you only use for subscriptions. It will help keep your inbox clean and allow you to focus on the mail from these bloggers when you set aside time to do so.
This is very easy for users of Google’s Gmail, which allows you to vary your email address while stlll directing all email to the same account, where you can filter it into different folders or keep it out of your inbox altogether.
For instance, if my Gmail address is Joel@thebookdesigner.com, I can create a variant like Joelfirstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail will still direct email sent to this address to my inbox. I might use this address just for subscriptions, and create other variants for other specific uses.
This is basic business research. Sign up for their email lists, newsletters, blog updates, everything.
And don’t just sign up, but watch what they mail, how they speak to you as a new reader, what kinds of subjects they discuss, what kinds of offers they make.
All of this will teach you about the audience you’re trying to attract to your blog, while also familiarizing you with the backgrounds, methods, and approach of the people who are already successful in speaking to this audience.
This research is invaluable, and will give you many insights into these bloggers that other people just never get around to finding out. This knowledge can give you a real and effective advantage.
After researching, identifying, and signing up to follow these top blogs in your field, you’re ready to put the first steps of your blog marketing into action.
And surprise: In an upcoming article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish some of the most effective blog marketing, covering your entire niche, in as little as 20 minutes a day.