Stellar Content vs. Great Marketing: Which is more important?
Have you ever read a popular novel by a well-known author that had sold hundreds of thousands of copies, only to discover that it was complete crap? I have. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes to mind. (You can hate me if you want. There’s only so much I can take of a guy having coffee before I need an actual plot.)
I’ve also read fabulous novels that I loved, but they got much less attention and sold far fewer books. For example, my good friend, Rebecca Coleman, has written several novels, all of them better than that Stieg Larsson yawn-fest. My favorite is called Heaven Should Fall. It’s beautifully written, well-paced. The plot is compelling and the characters are dynamic, vivid, and well-researched. There’s not one scene in which a character broods in a coffee shop. (Seriously, you should buy this book.)
In my opinion, Heaven Should Fall is far better than Dragon Tattoo, but it didn’t sell nearly as many copies. You might not have even heard of it. Why is that? Shouldn’t a better book translate to more readers? Well, it should. But it doesn’t. The difference is marketing. Stieg Larsson was a famous author. His publisher spent a ton of money pushing his book. They made sure that it was on the shelves of every book store, prominently displayed. They sent it around to all the book reviewers. My friend’s book had a much smaller marketing budget, so fewer people saw it. You can’t fall in love with a book if you’ve never heard of it.
The same thing can be said for blogs. If you want people to read your stuff, then your first job is to write interesting and useful posts. I’ve written several articles on writing skills and edits that can help bloggers make their posts more interesting and readable, because a great piece of content has a better chance of attracting readers than some slapped-together, nonsensical garbage.
But your second job is get out there and make sure people see it. You need to sell your blog, and you need to sell yourself as a blogger. This means talking yourself up. Cultivating a reputation for yourself. Getting people to click, comment, and share, share, share. In other words, you need to make people believe that your blog is fantastic, and then deliver.
Wait. If I “Make People Believe” Something, Is That Lying?
I got into a friendly debate with a blogger I follow on Twitter, Mark–AKA The Honest Father. (Thanks for the exercise, Mark!) He wrote a critical post about bloggers, and what he considers to be our spiteful, unexceptional communities and deceitful self-promotion tactics. (And I’m actually nice-ing that up a little. This is a family blog!)
If you ask me, most of us bloggers are hard-working, friendly people. For some, their blog is their business–a website showcasing their talents so that they can sell services to their readers. Others just want people to read their stuff. A lot of us are out there in cyber world promoting our blogs with the zest of a thousand blood oranges, but we’re not liars. OK, we’ve been telling our kids that we’re leaving the house in 5 minutes for 16 straight hours, but it’s not a lie if we believe it.
Now, I’m not taking issue with everything he wrote. It’s true that there are some bloggers who buy followers in the form of lifeless bots. Those people are sad and phony. And, like my Twitter friend, I’m not a big fan of the politics behind blogging awards. (Though you can bet I’m gonna brag whenever my blog is recognized for it’s greatness. Obvs.)
What bothered me was the overall tone of the post. It cast bloggers as a group of petty, vindictive queen bees who shamelessly lie and fake our stats just to get unsuspecting companies to send us free
shit stuff. (Sorry. Family blog.)
Now, to be fair, Mark did qualify these statements by saying that he didn’t feel this way about all bloggers. But it sure sounded like he was casting a wide net.
Mark seemed to be making the point that many of us don’t care to write great content. We just want to get all our blogger friends to click our links and leave manufactured comments so that we can pretend our blogs are engaging and well-written. He discussed various self-promotion techniques we bloggers use and called them all a bunch of lies. And in fact, if our blogs were any good, we wouldn’t need to promote them because the readers would just come to us. Content is king, as they say.
So which is it? What makes a blog popular? Is it compelling content, or effective promotion? The truth is, we don’t have to choose. And actually, a successful blog needs both.
You may not want to take my word for it, though. I am, after all, a member of the mom blog tribe.We meet monthly at that pioneer woman’s place to swap cookie recipes and insist we’re better known than Martha Stewart. Then we run outside to shout about our 10 million page views and chase down any challengers with a rolling pin. It’s a little exhausting, but I got a free apron out of the deal, so win-win.
OK, we don’t do any of that. But it seems that some people think we’re under-handed con-artists determined to get that free swag by any means necessary.
The truth is, all bloggers want people to read their stuff. There is no point to writing, otherwise. And while it’s true that great content will attract more readers, that can’t happen if nobody knows your blog exists.
For those of you who are new to blogging, here are a few of the methods bloggers use to market our work, and my thoughts on each.
Write for Other Blogs
One of the best methods for getting your work in front of a new audience is to write for somebody else. I’m a contributor to HuffPostUK Parents and Red Tricycle. I’ve also gotten my stuff featured on Crowdfire’s blog, “Going Big,” Thought Catalog, and Lenore Skenazy’s blog, “Free Range Kids,” to name a few. All of those sites have many more readers than I do, and thus, they’ve sent quite a few page views my way. They’ve also given me those coveted “back links.”
Getting your blog posts on major sites takes a lot of persistence. I submitted quite a few articles to HuffPost before they invited me to contribute. But if you write well and you keep at it, you can get your stuff out there. Here’s how to submit to a few of these sites:
As a freelance writer, I’ve also gotten my work into a few paid online and print publications. I can’t begin to make a thorough list of these, but the fabulously resourceful Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog has a pretty great one, complete with detailed information on how to submit, how much they pay, and the type of writing they’re looking for.
Get Other Writers to Contribute to Your Blog
You don’t necessarily need someone to write an entire blog post for you. I’ve gotten other bloggers to simply send me a quote to use in an article I wrote. This is actually how one of my blog posts ended up on the Free Range Kids blog. I wrote an article on Parent Judging, and since Lenore Skenazy is a well-known thought leader on that topic, I emailed her and asked for a quote. After I published the post, I sent her the link. She loved the article and shared it on her blog. The post even attracted the attention of a radio DJ in Canada who had me on his show to discuss my article!
You can do this too. It’s easy. Make a list of the top 100 blogs in your niche. This will take a bit of research, but if they’re popular enough to make your list, they should be pretty easy to Google. Every blog has a “contact me” page. Go there, email the blogger, and ask for a quote for your next article. I can almost guarantee that at least 1 out of every 10 will respond. They may not necessarily post your article on their site, but you’ve got a pretty good chance they’ll share it on social media. Voila! You’ve just expanded your audience.
Of course, there’s no reason to limit your blog to contributions from world-famous bloggers. I’ve also written several posts in which I quoted bloggers who are about as popular as I am. This benefits them because they get their stuff in front of my audience, plus a backlink. And it benefits me because the other blogger shares my post. Win-win.
Here are a few of my crowd-sourced posts:
So where are you supposed to find all these bloggers to contribute to your site? Well, to do that, you’re going to have to network, babe. I know, I know. As a writer, you just want to sit behind your computer and hide. (Unless you prefer to sit behind your computer and expose yourself, in which case, I think you’ve come to the wrong blog.)
In my opinion, there is no better way to meet and network with other bloggers than to join a Facebook group. There are literally thousands of them, and most only require you to show some evidence that you’re an actual human blogger to join.
The key thing to remember is that Facebook groups are for networking and support. Use them to meet other bloggers who can answer your questions and help your blog. Don’t spam the groups by dropping your links all over their walls. Nobody likes that.
Now, I’ve been told that some groups are full of back-biting and politics. Apparently, the Honest Father has been banned from quite a few. (What did you do, Mark???)
I am by no means knowledgeable about every single bloggers’ Facebook group out there, but here are a few of my favorites that I’ve found particularly useful:
The Mamapreneur Revolution: This group, founded by Aby Moore of You Baby, Me Mummy, is a friendly community that supports all things blogging. Aby runs a tight ship, so there are no spammy link drops on the wall. Members help each other with tips, advice, and answers to questions about the ways we can best grow our blogs and businesses.
Beyond Your Bloggers: This is the Facebook group connected to Susan’s blog that I referenced above. I’m not totally sure how much longer it will be around, as Susan has said that she’s retiring BYB. But for now, it’s still there. If you are interested in getting your writing published in paying outlets, this is the place to be.
UK Parent Bloggers Crowdsourcing: This group is run by my friend, Martyn Kitney of Inside Martyn’s Thoughts, plus Emma Harris, Jayde Loynes, and Naomi Beth-Anna. Its purpose is just like the name sounds: Crowdsourcing. Bloggers can request quotes or entire posts from other bloggers, and they’ll link back to your website if they use your contribution. This is where I crowdsourced several of the posts I linked to above. Fantastic group!
Blogger Opportunities Galore: Here, bloggers and businesses can post requests for sponsored posts, reviews, giveaways, and more. If you’re looking to write sponsored posts for money or for free products, this is a good place to look. Or if you’ve written a giveaway post, this is a great place to share it.
Facebook groups are great for finding your tribe, but if you really want to be a professional blogger (whatever that means!) you need to be active across social media. Set up a Facebook page. Get on Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and Quora.
And don’t just share your blog posts. Engage with people. Follow other bloggers. Post interesting thoughts about your niche topic. Comment on other people’s posts. Answer questions. The more you interact and contribute interesting things, the more people will see you as an authority in your niche. And when you DO share your blog posts (which, um, you really do have to do), your followers will be more likely to click the link and READ it. And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
There are a LOT of blog directories on the web, and quite a few readers go to them to find new blogs to follow. Brands also use them to find bloggers to work with. Here are a few free directories where I’ve listed my blog:
Top Mommy Blogs: Just like the name implies, this directory is only for mom bloggers. Members’ listings move up in the ranking based on reader votes. (And hey, if you want to help me out, click on the Top Mommy badge at the bottom of this post to vote for me once a day. I actually get a decent amount of traffic from here, so I’d appreciate it a lot!)
Feedspot Top 100 Humor Blogs: I actually didn’t sign up for this directory, the administrator contacted me. However, you can submit your website for consideration. If you write a funny blog, it’s worth a shot!
On Top List: This is a fairly well-known directory for bloggers in almost any niche. They have free and paid options for listing. I use the free option.
Blog Fusion: Another popular directory with free and paid options. Again, I use the free one.
Linky and Link-up Parties
I’ll be honest. A year ago, I had no idea what a linky even was. So if you’re as lost as I was, let me explain: A linky is hosted by at least 1 blogger on his or her site. Once a week, they open it up for anyone to post their blog links.
There are usually rules. For example, on some you can only link up humor posts, list posts, or some other category. But the idea is, you get to share your link, and the other bloggers participating will read your post and leave a comment. You also have to comment on at least 1 other linked-up post.
The goal is for every linked post to get a few comments. The reason this is so great is because comments equal engagement. Blog posts with a lot of comments tend to get more attention on social media, and show up more often in searches. The original comments you got from the linky are the yeast that helps more comments grow!
I’ve found so many blogs that I love to read through linkies, and I’ve also gained a lot of loyal readers who found my blog this way. But you do have to be careful not to get carried away. I used to do anywhere from 8-10 linkies a week, and I know some bloggers who have done as many as 20! All that commenting takes a lot of time. My advice is, don’t spend so much time on the linkies that you don’t have time to actually write your blog. Find a balance. For me, 3-4 a week is enough. For you, it might be a different number. Just find what works for you.
You can find the links to some of my favorite linkies at the bottom of this post, as I’m sharing it in some of them this week!
Use Your Personal Network
This one may seem obvious, but you need to be sharing your blog with all of your family and friends. I don’t mean that you should spam everyone you know whenever you write something new. But it wouldn’t hurt to send out 1 email to everyone letting them know that you have a blog and asking them to sign up for your list to receive future posts.
Share every post you write on your personal Facebook page too. I get the vast majority of my page views from Facebook. The links I post on my personal page get a lot more attention than those on my blog’s FB page, and that’s because my family and friends are my best readers.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful. What are your thoughts? Do you have other ideas for publicizing your blog? Please let me know in the comments. I love hearing from you!
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This blog post participates in some of the following linkies: