A friend came to me today to ask me how to drive traffic to his business blog. He started his blog over the summer, posted some articles and ended up with trivial readership. Other than write articles, he did not do much else to drive traffic. He took a “Field of Dreams” attitude – build it and they will come, or more aptly, “write it and they will visit.” Guess what – they don’t come unless you take some action over and above just writing.
Dharmesh and I started writing the Small Business 2.0 internet marketing blog a little less than a month ago. From a stand still, we have now grown to about 500 subscribers and 1000 - 1500 unique visitors/week. We are also placing well on some interesting search terms on Google that are relevant to our business. What’s interesting is that we have achieved this readership through a marketing engineering effort and have not just left things to chance. Here are the best practices that have worked for us:
7 Ways To Drive Prospects To Your Small Business
1. Comment on other blogs you follow. If you are new to blogging, go to Google's blog search tool , search on topics interesting to you, subscribe to the most interesting blogs, and start to follow the thought leaders. When you see blog posts that you are interested in, leave comments. If you thought the article was interesting, others probably did too and will link to you off of your comment. Most blog commenting systems will allow you to enter an optional website link. By entering this link you are leaving a “breadcrumb.” The idea here is to make your comments insightful and further the conversation. It you do a good job of commenting, people will read the comment and follow the trail to your own blog.
2. The more you write the more readers you will get, but as a general practice, you should focus on a consistent, regular pattern of posting. We’d recommend about once a week.
3. Publish articles in the morning. Both our gut and our anecdotal evidence tells us that users read blogs in the morning like a newspaper. We are working on a very interesting statistical analysis tool that uses regression to tell us the parameters that are most likely to result in a successful posting.
4. Think about the title of your blog as much as the blog itself. They say never judge a book by its cover, but you do anyway -- same goes for blogging. Dharmesh’s blogs that have David Letterman style Top 10 lists in the title seem to be particularly well received.
5. Send an email with a link to your article out to friends/colleagues that you think might be interested. If they like it, they may subscribe to your blog, forward the article to others who may be interested, or bookmark it.
6. Put a convenient link to del.icio.us, reddit, and digg on your site. These are all social book-marking sites where people who enjoy your article can bookmark/vote on it, so that others can find it. If enough people bookmark your article, you can reach a mini-tipping point of traffic to your site where on any given day you get an order of magnitude more traffic. This is incredibly interesting traffic for a small business because it drives people to your site who are both interested in your topic and have likely never heard of you before. If your friends who you sent the link to are users of these products, you can get a head start on the linking/voting process.
7. Have an email sign-up on your blog for non-RSS users and send subscribers an email with a link to the new article every time you post.
The benefits of the Small Business 2.0 blog to us are substantial:
1. Hundreds of the people who have visited our blog have kindly signed up to be beta customers for our product. These are companies that found us – we did not make cold calls to tens of thousands of uninterested companies to get the hundreds signed up.
2. We are in the process of acquiring one company that found us through our blog and are finishing up another transaction (that we will announce shortly) that found us through our blog.
3. Our Google page rank has moved up (to 6) since we started the blog. Many terms that we never would have guessed when we started the blog are getting pretty high up on Google, Yahoo, and MSN’s search results. For example, if you search on “how small company beat large firm” on Google, our site comes up #2 on the first page. These types of search terms are driving non-trivial numbers of potential customers and partners that are beyond our collective rolodexes into our funnel.
I wrote last week about how the internet is transforming small business . We are living, breathing evidence of how the internet has tipped the playing field in favor of small businesses. Our research will continue as to how to engineer traffic and we will make sure to update you as more learning emerges. Meanwhile, if you have questions or thoughts on the topic of generating demand for small businesses online, we’d love to hear your comments.
-- Brian Halligan