How to Attract Visitors to Your Blog

The blogosphere is rapidly growing, there’s no doubting that. Way back in 2006, Technorati tracked its 50 millionth blog and found that the blogosphere is doubling about once every six and a half months with 175,000 new blogs being created each day. So, it’s now 2010… you do the math. That’s a lot of blogs!

With such a plethora of blog content out there, the natural question becomes, is anyone actually reading these blogs?!

Just last Thursday, eMarketer reported that 51 percent of U.S. Internet users (113 million people) currently read blogs on a monthly basis, which is predicted to grow to 60 percent by 2014. With 26.2 million people updating a blog at least once a month this year, it’s good to know at least some people are listening.

But how do we get the other half to listen as well?

The techniques outlined below should get the growing number of U.S. bloggers on the right track to attract more readers:

  • Link to blogs you read in your blogroll: This may seem like an obvious blog characteristic, but by linking to other blogs, you show that you’re truly involved in your industry or blog theme and, hopefully, the blogs you link to will return the favor and link back to your blog.
  • Comment on other blogs: Commenting on other blogs in your area, like the ones in your blogroll, will further establish your involvement and showcase you as a thought leader on select topics. On most blog commenting platforms, there’s usually an area for you to list your name and link in addition to your comment – entering in the link to your personal blog here will direct readers back to your site and provide some credibility to your comment.
  • Produce content for other blogs or websites or create a blog on a broader blog network: Many sites look for outside content where you can syndicate your blog or create a new column. Being able to link back to your site will drive more traffic and increase your readership. Being a guest blogger also increases your credibility and spreads your name. We’ve seen this strategy work first hand as March’s Managing Partner, Cheryl Gale, writes a guest column for Examiner.com.
  • Get others to post on your blog: Inviting already influential bloggers to write a guest post for your blog is a great way to draw in a whole new audience. The guest blogger likely already has his/her own site with a dedicated readership where they can link to their guest post on your blog, thereby directing all their readers to your blog. This also helps you establish good relationships with other bloggers in your area of interest/expertise, which can be another great networking tool.
  • Use social media outlets: Sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Digg are great networks to promote your blog and its content. It doesn’t even have to be extra work – both Facebook and Twitter have tools so you can post automatic updates each time a new blog post goes live. As a true blogger, it’s almost expected that you’ll be posting to Twitter since Technorati found that bloggers (73%) use Twitter much more than the general population (14%). The more you can get your blog link out there, the more readers you’ll ultimately attract.
  • List your blog: Listing your blog on sites like Google, Technorati and other blog directories like Blog Catalog or Bloggapedia (see more complete list here) is another great strategy to direct more readers to your blog.
  • Optimize your blog: Use tools like SEO, tagging and trackbacks to make sure your blog is fully optimized for eager readers searching for content which could be found on your site. Trackbacks are a great tool that shows relevant articles on similar topics in the comment section. Whenever you cite another article or blog post and link to it on your blog, by sending a trackback, your blog post link will appear on the article you cited, pulling in more readers who are interested in that topic. Such a simple tactic, yet often underused.
  • Attend blog conferences: There are a variety of blogging events in and around major cities, like Blogtoberfest, happening October 21st in Boston. These events can help you network, spread the word about your blog, and generate new ideas for content. While you’re there, why not see if any other bloggers are interested in having you write a guest post for their blog, or writing one for yours.
  • Advertise: If you want to go the paid route, this is the obvious option. Advertise your blog on other sites through banner ads or pop-ups – depending on the amount of traffic you get, who knows, before long, other blogs may want to start advertising on your site!

So, for the reported 34.7 million people in the U.S. who will be creating blogs by 2010, perhaps some of these techniques will help them establish a better readership.

On a side note, Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report is due to come out in November, and it’ll be interesting to see further growth in the trends that have been steadily escalating for the past few years.

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communications‘ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

All that Twitters Isn’t Gold

Social media is changing the way that companies do business.  Rather than throwing content at people we assume are interested, social media provides an arena where marketers, advertisers, and employees of all levels can interact with their customers.  By increasing the flow and relevancy of information, customers are happier and companies are more knowledgeable about their consumers.  On top of that, it’s an extremely effective sales tool.  The advent of re-tweeting, “liking” on Facebook, and Digg has created a culture of shared content and free advertising.  Users share products, links, and information with their network, who in turn share it with theirs, creating a snowball effect that touches myriad times more people than the initial experience did.

But what we often do not hear about is the negative side to social media, as any company with a bad review on Yelp is brutally familiar with.  Unhappy consumers can give a company a poor review any time, from anywhere.  If a restaurant gave someone food poisoning, charged a little too much for a steak, or if the server wasn’t attentive, news will spread fast.  Word of mouth has repeatedly been named the most influential form of advertising, so a negative review on the internet can do irreparable damage.  Just think – when your friend tells you not to bother with that new restaurant down the street, are you ever going to second guess her and try it anyway?  We trust what our networks tell us, especially what Ashton Kutcher tells us, and very rarely do something in spite of negative reviews.

The good news is that a solid social media program can help increase positive mentions and lessen the blow from negative mentions.  Many companies focus their efforts on replying to negative Tweets; although this strategy may not solve the problem, it does make an unhappy customer feel important.  Knowing that a company is acknowledging their complaint is often all that a person wants, so that small bit of attention recognizing the problem can typically prevent further negative reviews.  Beyond that, many companies will offer coupons or special deals to negative reviewers in hopes they will have a more pleasant experience on a return visit and amend the original review.  Every company has their own strategy, but the important thing to remember is that any conversation is better than none.

Let’s take a look at how US cities stack up in Twitter usage.  A recent study done by NetProspex looked at the most active Twitter cities.  Although Boston’s workforce is the fifth most active Twitter population, we fell short on business-related Twitter use, coming in 13th.  All the usual suspects can be found in the top 10, so at first glance, 13 seems like a respectable ranking.  But to give you some perspective, Wilmington, DE, ranked #10.

Boston, we need to step up our game and start contributing to the conversations taking place online about Boston organizations!  Even if you have nothing interesting to say (which I’m sure is not true), at least show up to the party to see and be seen because if you aren’t tweeting about your company, someone else will – but they might not be saying what you want them to say.

This post was first published by Cheryl Gale on March Communications‚ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

Are press and analyst briefings at trade shows/conferences a waste of time?

According to PR pros the answer is no.  According to some media the answer is yes.

For about 50% of our clients the only way we can get face to face meetings with influencers is at trade shows and conferences.   Because some of our client’s management teams are based in the UK or Europe, they can kill two birds with one stone when crossing the pond to participate in the conference.

The approach we take is to first make sure our client has something compelling to say and if we are smart, we’ve already been working with them on the message – whether it’s a new product release, new research findings, interesting take on today’s trends etc.  Next is to work on the timing as we all know releasing „news“ at some conferences and trade shows is useless as it will get lost.  Often it’s better to release beforehand and use the news to suggest a meeting at the conference to go in to more detail.  You could also preview research findings (under embargo) …as we are embarking on for two clients at Interop.

Whatever you do don’t annoy the reporters you are trying to reach with irrelevant pitches. It happens too often and really makes the rest of us look bad.  And really think twice before you suggest an announcement at a conference.  I know the sales‘ teams want the buzz but it’s unlikely to happen.   Below is an excerpt from a conversation Sam Whitmore had with Brian Madden.  It’s straight from the horses mouth so if you won’t listen to me listen to Chris…..

I’ve received about 100 emails (seriously) from vendors who will be exhibiting at VMworld next week and who’d like to schedule time for briefings. By and large these emails are a waste of time for two reasons:

First off, probably 75% of the emails are about some cloud bullshit that I don’t care about. I wish that the PR folks would pay attention to my coverage area. I’m fine with a quasi-generic mail-merge type email about the announcement.. but if you’re going to send me five emails and call me three times, at least make sure that I cover what you’re talking about. (Oh, and you won’t believe how the PR folks try to tap dance on the phone and claim that their product is relevant for desktops. „Yeah, we do VM monitoring… but we can monitor any type of VMs, even desktops!!“

Second, just about every vendor is making their announcement DURING VMWORLD. So the calls and emails I get now are them trying to schedule briefings with me as long as I agree to not disclose anything until the actual announcement during the show. And while I’ll happily agree to the embargo, I’m really thinking, „Your product has no chance in hell of getting noticed amongst the fray of 150 announcements that all hit the wire at the same time.“ If vendors were smart, they would do their announcements a week ahead of time and let everyone talk about them in the run up to the show.

This post was first published by Cheryl Gale on March Communications‚ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

Are Products Following Me Online?!

Recently, I was debating a purchase from CSN Stores of a hanging corner bookcase, but wasn’t entirely sure it would go with my décor, so, I decided to just put it in my shopping cart and come back to it later.

Then, the next day, as I was listening to my latest playlist on Grooveshark, there it was! That same bookcase appeared in a CSN Stores ad on the right side of my screen, along with the two rugs I had contemplated buying the week before!

What was going on?! Was it sheer coincidence, or was my PC stalking me, trying to tell me that my life would be empty without that bookcase hanging in my living room?  I decided the latter and bought the bookcase.

I’ve seen ads pop-up before for general areas of interest that I had done searches on (in this case, furniture), but I had never seen ads for specific products I had viewed. Since my startling realization that my computer was stalking me, I actually discovered that this tricky little technique is what advertising folk call personalized retargeting or remarketing. This technique isn’t new, but has certainly become more precise as of late.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who has noticed this increasingly targeted marketing strategy. A recent New York Times article highlights how a pair of shoes followed Julie Matlin around the Web after she contemplated buying them on Zappos. The same article notes that, “In the digital advertising business, this form of highly personalized marketing is being hailed as the latest breakthrough because it tries to show consumers the right ad at the right time.”

Breakthrough or not, companies will have to decide carefully if this is something they want to start implementing since there’s been concern over privacy issues. As consumers recognize these personalized retargeting ads, many are also coming to the conclusion that this means there’s some kind of commercial surveillance system watching their every move as they browse the online shopping aisles. In reality, this technique only uses cookies (a common online tracking text file – not the delicious baked good – used for things like advertising, authentication, and storing site preferences or shopping cart contents), but, nevertheless, can make consumers feel uneasy as products follow them around the Web.

It’ll be interesting to see which companies put retargeting ads in place and which opt out as the technique catches on. What do you think; is this kind of marketing creepy or effective?

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

Things Today’s Kids Will Never Experience

Each year, Beloit College releases its Mindset List, which provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. According to the list, the class of 2014 does not wear watches because they have always had cell phones, they’ve never written in cursive and they think of Nirvana as a band that pops up on a classic oldies station. I recently came across an article by TIME that looks at other „bygone experiences“ today’s kids will miss.

Although I do not consider myself „old,“ it’s hard to believe that today’s generation may never have watched an episode of Saved by the Bell or attended an N’Sync concert. Here’s what TIME lists as the top 10 things today’s kids will never experience:

  • Camera film– Personally, I miss the excitement of dropping off my disposable camera at the store and the suspense of seeing how my photos turned out! However, the quality of my pictures on a digital camera is much better.
  • Landline phones– I always felt awkward calling people’s house phones when I was younger since their parents usually answered, but with cell phones, this is no longer an issue.
  • Real books– Who needs the real thing when you can read on a Kindle or an iPad? For me, I will always love flipping through the actual hard copy of a book.
  • Being lost–  With the use of GPS technology, kids will never experience the adventure of being lost or driving around endlessly.
  • Music videos on MTV– I don’t think anyone can remember the last time they watched a music video on MTV. These days, it’s all about Teen Mom and the Jersey Shore.
  • Walkmans– No more changing batteries! I do not particularly miss these devices since the iPod came out and I am able to create a playlist with multiple artists.
  • Nick at Nite– I used to watch classic TV shows from my parent’s generation on this channel, but now you can catch reruns of Malcom in the Middle.
  • Tan M&M’s– Who doesn’t remember when blue won the new color contest?
  • Czechoslovakia– Will any kids of today remember when this battle for democracy was finally won?
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator– In the eyes of today’s generation, he is only seen as California’s governor.

I found this list to be quite interesting and it made me realize just how much technology has impacted our society– I can only imagine the products that my kids will someday grow up with. Is there anything else you can think of that the class of 2014 will never get to experience?

This post was first published by Danielle Sherman on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.