When it comes to social media marketing you’ll hear some people say that it is best opportunity out there for bloggers and website owners, and others will tell you that it’s a complete waste of time. In my opinion, and from my experience, social media brings a lot of potential for getting exposure to just about any website, but it should only be part of the equation.
Other types of traffic like search engine visitors, direct visitors, and those who come via links from other sites are more significant in the long-term, but getting to that point can take considerable effort and time. In fact, most bloggers who set out to build a profitable blog wind up getting discouraged and quit before they ever see those long-term benefits.
On the other hand, social media allows anyone to get some exposure for their blog almost immediately. Of course there is work involved and you will need the right content, but social media marketing provides opportunities for bloggers to make an impact right now.
This immediate impact is what most bloggers who use social media are after, but the real strength of social media marketing is that it can help you to be more successful with those other important long-term sources of traffic. Popular posts with social media tend to attract links from various blogs and websites, and those links lead to click-through traffic and better search engine rankings in the future.
Keys to Balanced Blog Growth
Although there is a lot to like about social media, the visitors you receive from these sites typically will be less likely to subscribe to your blog, to visit multiple pages, to click on ads, to buy any products, or just about anything else you want them to do. This doesn’t mean that social media traffic is useless, it’s always good to get more exposure and to help people to become more familiar with your blog, especially if it’s new. However, what it does mean is that you need to have a balanced approach that works to build traffic from a variety of sources. Get what you can out of social media, but don’t attempt to build a website or blog without focusing on other types of traffic as well. Here are some keys:
1. Search Engine Friendly Blog Theme
Search engine visitors are highly important for the long-term health of any blog. There’s not a whole lot of on-site factors that are going to make-or-break your blog’s ability to attract search engine visitors. Page titles are obviously important, but for the most part you should focus on having a site that is search engine friendly, and spend your time on producing the best content that you can rather than spending hours worry about meta tags or other details that aren’t significant.
What is a search-friendly website? Basically it involves building a site that makes it easy for search engines rather than making it difficult or trying to trick them. If your blog has a search-friendly theme, attracts a decent number of inbound links, page titles that include keywords, and content that people will search for, you will be in good shape for generating search engine traffic. To get a detailed look at the subject, see Derek Edmond’s article How to Create Search Engine Friendly Websites. The article is over 2 years old, but it has a lot of valuable information.
2. Consistent Efforts for Link Building
Inbound links from other websites are critical for long-term blog growth because of their impact on search engine rankings. There are a number of different things you can do to build links, but the effort should be consistent in order for the growth to continue. Once your blog gets to a certain point, most of you link building efforts can be spent on creating great content. A blog that has an established audience doesn’t really need that much promotion to attract links if the content is high quality, but in the beginning you need to get your content in front of people to attract links. Some effective link building techniques include social media marketing, writing guest posts for other blogs, blogroll link exchanges, and article marketing.
One of the most consistent characteristics of successful bloggers is that they are almost always very well-connected. Take the time to get to know other bloggers in your niche and take a genuine interest in them and their work. People tend to link to people that they know and like. Plus, you may be surprised at some of the ideas and opportunities that arise from having a strong network of other bloggers.
4. Efforts to Build Subscribers
The definition of a successful blog is going to be different to various people. Some would define success in terms of money that is generated from the blog, others by the amount of exposure that the blogger receives, the number of visitors, or maybe by the number of subscribers. Regardless of how you measure your own success, getting people to be interested in your content and keeping them coming back for more is critical. Gaining subscribers is a great way to improve your long-term chances of success.
5. Consistent Emphasis on Content
This point isn’t mentioned last because it is less important than the others, but more so because it is kind of obvious but still needs to be said. A blog is really all about the content, and in order to have a balanced approach to building the blog you will need to consistently put effort into creating the best content that you can. A blog with great, unique content will open up a lot of possibilities and your marketing efforts will be more effective.
Using Social Media as Part of the Balanced Plan
So now that we have seen the keys to balanced growth, let’s look at some specifics for ways that social media fits into that plan.
1. Consider Social Media, But Don’t Let It Control Your Decisions
One of the keys to getting traffic with social media is creating content that is well-suited for the social media audience. While this is a big part of building a blog with the help of social media, not all of your content should be created in this way, and it should not completely dictate what is published on the blog. In many cases your regular readers will appreciate posts that may not appeal to social media users. If you get too caught up in targeting social media, you may miss some good opportunities to build your blog in other ways. Using social media as part of a balanced plan requires that you don’t ignore other types of content and marketing opportunities in order to go after more social media traffic.
2. Don’t Rely On Social Media Traffic
Social media is often unpredictable. Sure, you can learn more about it and drastically increase your chances of having success, but there will always be a lot of peaks and valleys with social media traffic. Try to build diverse traffic sources and avoid relying too much on getting traffic from social media sites.
3. Don’t Focus Strictly On The Major Social Media Sites
One of the most common mistakes in social media marketing for bloggers is putting all of their attention into sites like Digg and Reddit. Yes, they do have potential to send much more traffic than smaller social media sites, but the chances for success are very slim. Most bloggers would be better off to spend a little bit of time on the major social media sites, and spread out some of the effort to include smaller social media sites and niche social media sites. Niche sites are great because the traffic will be targeted more effectively, and because it’s much easier to have success.
4. Publish Some Content Specifically For Social Media Audiences
I mentioned that it’s not a good practice to ignore your blog’s subscribers by publishing only content for social media audiences, but it is a good idea to publish some posts that are catered to social media. Take the time to browse through the popular items at social media sites that you use and see what they have in common. What types of posts do the users respond to? With that knowledge you can apply it by creating your own content that fits.
For new bloggers one of the biggest challenges, even with quality content, is getting the first few votes. If you don’t have a strong social media profile that will help you to get attention, you may have great content that you submit to social media and it does nothing. Major blogs can put voting buttons on their posts and get a boost that way, but newer blogs don’t have the amount of visitors that will result in many votes. One thing you can do to help get over the hump is to find some other bloggers who are also attempting to grow their blog and form a group to share votes. That way when you have content that you want to get some attention, you can email a few friends and get some easy votes to get it started. And you can help them with votes as well. Of course, it’s good practice to only vote for quality content, so be careful to choose the right partners.
5. Consider Using Voting Buttons On Your Posts
Voting buttons can be effective when they are used properly. Having tons of buttons on your posts is not a good approach because it looks bad and each button will get very little attention. But simply using one or two buttons can be very effective. Even if you have a new blog with low traffic levels, a voting button for a niche social media site may help to get you the few votes that are needed to get your post promoted to the front page.
I’ve had good results on my design blogs with the Tweetmeme button. Traffic from Twitter has grown exponentially since I added it to the blogs several months ago.
6. Consider Post Topics That Will Be Searched For
Search engine traffic is not something that I consider very often when I am working on a new post, but the few times that I have created posts for search traffic the results have been very good. A post that winds up doing well in search engine rankings could continue to send hundreds or even thousands of visitors on a daily basis.
If you have a topic that you want to cover, use a keyword tool like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Type in a few keywords and it will show you a bunch of related searches and how often they are searched. This can help you to see what people are looking for, and you can use the keywords in your post title.
Next, think about how you can create a post on the subject that will appeal to social media users so that you can attract some attention and links to the post. Using keywords in your post title is important because most of these inbound links that you draw will use the post title as the anchor text. Once you have the post idea, spend plenty of time to make it as useful and interesting as possible to get the maximum impact. Then get some of your friends to give you a hand with the initial social media votes, and hopefully it will take off from there. If the post draws links and has an optimized title, search engine traffic should follow. Of course, the more competition that exists for the keyword the more difficult it will be to achieve high search engine rankings.
What’s Your Experience?
How do you use social media in your own plan for blogging growth?