How to Grow Your Blog (While Having Fun and Staying True to Yourself)

How to Grow Your Blog (While Having Fun and Staying True to Yourself)

how to make friends onlineWhen I asked last month on the MMD facebook page what you all wanted to know about blogging, I got a lot of questions about growing your blog. Getting comments. Increasing pageviews.

I understand. When I began blogging, these questions were at the top of my list, too.

And it wasn’t because I cared a lot about numbers, or because I cared (much) what people thought. But I have found that the most satisfying aspect of blogging–for me and countless other bloggers-is the relationships formed online. And it’s hard to find relationships online if no one’s reading your blog. Personally, I’ve found blogging to be worthwhile for its own sake: I love the process of taking the thoughts out of my head and putting them down on paper (or a computer screen). But it’s the engagement that makes the whole thing sing.

So how do you get there?

I am not an expert. I’ve only been at this thing for a little over a year. But I can tell you what’s worked for me–and I’m confident that you can do it, too. In my experience, the key has been to…

Make friends online.

I’ve racked up 18 months or so of blogging wisdom–which isn’t a lot. But it’s long enough for me to know that the key to my personal blogging happiness has been the relationships I’ve built online. And I’ve made those relationships in 3 ways:

Comments

An easy way to make some friends online is to comment on other blogs. I know the common recommendation is to make friends with bloggers “in your niche,” but I didn’t think the niche I was aiming for was well-established when I started blogging. I wasn’t sure it even existed. So instead, I just committed to regularly reading–and commenting on–blogs I liked.

I didn’t really read blogs before I started blogging myself. Some of my first internet finds were Moxie Wife (f/k/a Betty Beguiles), Already Pretty, and Simple Mom’s network. I hung out on those established blogs as I was figuring out how this whole blogging thing worked, and I commented on them–regularly. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was thrilled when they all linked to me at about the same time. I remember how excited I was on those days! Those links–and the readers they sent over–gave me the traction I needed to establish a regular readership and consistent engagement: the things that make blogging worthwhile.

Carnivals

When I started blogging, I relied heavily on carnivals to drive traffic to my blog and build a readership. My favorites were the Works For Me Wednesday carnival hosted at We Are That Family and 7 Quick Takes hosted at Conversion Diary, because the readers were smart, literary-minded, and likely to enjoy my blog. I got tons of visitors from those carnivals, and many of them stuck around.

I’ve learned a few lessons about carnivals: a catchy title is important. Early linkers get more traffic. And blog-hoppers won’t come back unless the content is interesting. If you play by these rules, a good carnival can drive a lot of traffic to your blog–for the long-term.

Social Media

Social media can also drive lots of traffic to your blog. In my experience, facebook helps you connect with your readers, Pinterest brings in lots of browsers, andΒ twitter helps you form new–and often lasting–relationships. I was a latecomer to Twitter: I only connected late last summer, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. If you want to form new relationships, don’t wait: get yourself on twitter.

I know twitter can be overwhelming to new users, but it doesn’t need to be. Just set up an account and wade in slowly. Becky at Weaving Influence has created a 31 days of Twitter Tips Ebook, and she’s offering it for free during the month of August. I highly recommend you go pick up your free copy now, and work through it at your leisure.

Now that I’ve shared how I got started online, would you share how you got your start in comments?

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37 comments

  1. Zarah says:

    Good tips! I’ve really enjoyed this series, as I’m just trying to get back into blogging after a hiatus. I’ve always been intimidated by blog carnivals… I’ll have to try one out!

  2. Tim says:

    Great tips, Anne. You know I don’t have a blog of my own, but I do write guest posts for other people’s blogs. One great thing that has come out of that is when I alert my interwebz friends to a new guest post and they go check it out, it results in those host blogs getting new readers who would not have found them without the guest post. I don’t have a face book or twitter account, so I rely on email and announcing guest posts in blog comments*. It seems to work well so far.

    If I do ever get a blog of my own, perhaps I’ll set up twitter and facebook accounts too so that people can connect mroe easily. I already know some of the blogs I would include in my blogroll (such as MMD and Anne with an E!).

    Cheers,
    Tim

    *Case in point – I have a new guest post up at Aimee Byrd’s place today. Linked it through my name above; hope you and other MMD readers get a chance to check it out and comment there. I know Aimee would be stoked at the traffic!

    • Anne says:

      You’re a peach, Tim. Off to check out your guest posts now πŸ™‚ And I would absolutely read any blog of yours that made it into the realm of reality!

  3. Malisa says:

    Loved your tips, Anne!

    The way I got started blogging was reading TONS and tons of blogs. What I realized was these were “my” people and I loved beginning to write about things that mattered to me. I’ve been blogging consistently for over a year now and am loving the friendships I have made because of my blog. I’m also so happy about the personal revelations I’ve had due to being honest with what’s happening in my life.

    • Anne says:

      Malisa, that has absolutely been my experience. I didn’t know so many of “my” people were online…but I’m so happy to have found them!

  4. I will have been blogging for two years this October.

    But my pageviews only started picking up last summer. I credit that to a few things:

    -I started writing more interesting, relevant, relateable posts
    -I wrote very consistently, almost every day
    -I started reading, following and commenting on a lot more blogs
    -I discovered and started participating in linkups (or “carnivals”)
    -I started a facebook page for my blog

    I now link-up my posts to at least three or four blogs (sometimes up to six or seven, or more, if I link one post more than one day) every. single. weekday. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, but it’s been the main source of most of my traffic in the last year.

    I also wrote a few “controversial”/sensational posts–about submission in marriage, marrying young, why I’m in college, my dream of being an at-home mom, etc. Those drew a lot of traffic.

    I’ve been gaining followers slowly, but steadily: a couple new ones every couple weeks, or more. It’s not a lot, but I just hit the 75 follower mark, and for me that’s huge.

    I’m not on Pinterest, and I’m not on Twitter, because I spend way too much time on the internet as it is. I know doing those things would help… but I’m not going to yet. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for these ideas, Anne!!

    • Anne says:

      Jaimie, thanks so much for sharing yourexperience.

      I understand what you mean about spending too much time on the internet. I have to be careful about spending too much time on twitter–but that’s because I like it so much, not because I feel like I “need” to be on it πŸ™‚

    • Jaimie, I recently just started picking up fans and pageviews after two years of blogging. My best friend in blogging has been Pinterest – not because I use it, but because a few of my posts have been pinned and repinned driving over 25,000 pageviews to one post! (This post on 25 Activities to do with your 6-12 month old: http://catholicnewlywed.blogspot.com/2012/07/25-activities-for-your-older-baby-6-12.html). I’ve learned that readers really like DIY and advice posts, but that’s only part of who I am so I mix them in with everything else I write!

  5. Anne,

    I love that you mentioned 31 Days of Twitter Tips – I really do think that it’s full of helpful ideas, for everyone, but especially for those who are still newby Tweeters. πŸ™‚ You might have noticed that @weaveinfluence gave you a little shout out this morning on both Twitter AND their FB page. πŸ™‚

    • Anne says:

      Becky’s a doll and full of good information. I wish I’d had her twitter ebook back when I first started! But even now, I know I need to do things like sort the people I’m following into lists, and I appreciate her walking me through it.

      • Karina Elizabeth says:

        Thank you for information on the ebook. Just downloaded it. I amazed by but completely intimidated by Twitter. This is a great find!

  6. Anne, thanks for these tips as I’m a pretty new blogger myself! My question is, what does your schedule look like for reading/commenting on blogs and keeping up with social media? I don’t seem to have time for it all since I’m also working. I’d appreciate any tips or suggestions!

    • Anne says:

      Steph, it really depends on the season I’m in with blogging. Recently, I’ve been using most of my blogging time to wrap up my ebook, and I’ve not been reading blogs as often as I would like. But when I first started, I set aside 30 minutes a day to read and comment on blogs. I do focus more on creating my own content than I do on commenting on others’ blogs–although I’m quick to tweet a link to a great post. It’s a fast and easy way to promote other bloggers and help others find great content.

      I’m pretty disciplined with social media for work (and not goofing off) purposes. I spend 5 minutes on hootsuite in the morning scheduling posts, and then check in once or twice throughout the day to see what’s new online and to reply to notifications. It works for me πŸ™‚

  7. This is a great list!

    I used to have a blog that did okay comments wise, but I didn’t like it, so I shut it down and started two new ones. And now I’m beginning the process of building up readership again…

    I like carnivals and Pinterest, but I must admit all of those symbols I see in Twitter posts give me a bit of a headache and I haven’t joined yet. I must be getting old.

    • Anne says:

      I felt the same way about twitter, until I joined up and got used to it. Until then I didn’t really get what any of the @#@# meant. You could do it πŸ™‚ Although I certainly don’t think it’s essential. (But it has been helpful for me–and a lot of fun, to boot.)

  8. Beth @ dot in the city says:

    Anne, these are great tips! I learned something new: calling a link up a carnival. Love it, so fitting! and I love how you say “engagement makes the whole thing sing” so true! These are really great things to think about.

  9. Katherine Willis Pershey says:

    I have been blogging at the same site for eight years. I have made great friends through blogging, it was a significant factor in getting a book contract, and has been a natural platform for marketing the book now that it has been published. But, its never really taken off in other ways. Commenting was much higher several years ago. Most of my original blog friends have shut down their blogs and decamped to Facebook. I’ve never had a post picked up on social media – you know, like the posts that get shared hundreds (or thousands!) of times. I admit that sometimes I am jealous of other blogs that get so much more attention – and I dislike this about myself so much that I recently deleted my stat counter. It was feeding the wrong wolf. Thanks for this reminder that above all else, blogging is about relationships.

  10. Michelle says:

    Yes! These are wonderful tips…and a complete reassurance to me. I’ve been a long time blog devourer but have only recently pushed myself to comment more. I have also started participating in a weekly carnival (5 Minute Fridays)…even in just three weeks, I’m starting to see some traffic uptick, but more importantly, I’m enjoying conversation on my blog (and others) for the first time. So, so good.

    I have mixed feelings about Twitter at this point, though: I just started using it and don’t see much conversation going on. Mostly it seems to be a lot of scheduled click-my-link posts or retweets…but nothing beyond that. Just my experience so far.

    • Anne says:

      Michelle, it took a while for my twitter feed to get to the point where I could actually see conversations going on even if I wasn’t participating in them. It’s because you only see tweets from people you follow: you won’t see a conversation unless you follow all the people participating. Once you find your own “twitter circles” you’ll notice a lot more conversational activity–not because the conversations weren’t happening before, but because they weren’t showing in your feed.

      Also, a third party app like tweetcaster lets you view conversations and not just a timeline.

      5 Minute Friday is a great link-up. Thanks so much for pointing that one out!

  11. I spend so much time developing my own content that it leaves little room for other engagement. Doesn’t work too well! I like your 30 min tip in an earlier comment.

  12. Julia says:

    In my opinion, thoughtful comments in other blogs are the best way to attrack traffic to one’s blog. Being featured in a larger blog also helps, that’s how I’ve found a few good blogs. By the way, I found you via a link from Small Notebook, which in turn was featured in Apartment Therapy.

    My thing is that I’ve tried to open blogs and write my mind, but after 7 years in the blogosphere (since late 2005, time flies!) I realize I’m a far better reader than a writer. I’ve opened blogs and got a ton of traffic during the first week because I was already known to other bloggers who were interested in reading me, but I’m not a writer and my blogs die from inanition and lack of motivation (that would be a good topic, I guess), and not from lack of visitors.

    I also feel a little guilty and ashamed because of that.

    Telling your family and friends that you write a blog usually doesn’t get you anywhere. I’m not sure why. I write a library blog and I share my favorite pieces on Google+, but I don’t get much traffic from there. As I said, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because a virtual environment allows you to connect to people at different levels, to develop and explore very personal interests you may have and not share with otherwise close people?

    • Anne says:

      Julia, I just love Small Notebook. I’m so glad you popped over. And I didn’t even realize Rachel had been featured on Apartment Therapy! I’m going to have to go track that down.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience from 7 (!!) years in the blogosphere. I don’t get much traffic from friends and family, but that’s probably because I haven’t told many of them!

      I am so interested in your library blog–would you mind sharing the link? I’d love to go explore!

      • Julia says:

        Hello!

        I just noticed a monstruous spelling mistake in my original comment, horror of horrors! And also I should have said ‘starvation’ instead of ‘inanition’. That was a little Spanglish… ; )

        Here’s my library blog: http://biblioiie.wordpress.com/ it’s in Spanish but I feature many things in English. Are you curious because of my comment? Or are you keen on libraries? it’s an engineering library in Montevideo, Uruguay… hmmm.

        My latest blog in English was http://crossingsofmymind.blogspot.com but I haven’t written all year there and I might shut it down soon.

        Here’s the post that linked to Small Notebook http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/meet-rachel-meeks-of-small-not-143687 and this is the link that posted to yours http://smallnotebook.org/2012/05/27/good-reads-for-the-weekend/

        So, you were ‘good read’, and that you are!

        A few years ago AT linked to Yvestown, a dutch blog I liked and kept reading. In one of her reading roundups she linked to Yarnstorm, the quintessential English blog on domesticity. I still read both Yvestown and Yarnstorm, and many other blogs featured on AT, but I don’t AT anymore because it’s overwhelming.

        Oh, I remember another very important thing: treat your readers respectfully. At first you’ll be very grateful for comments and messages and you’ll be able to respond everyone’s comments and what not, but then it may get a little out of your hands. Well, if you need to approve comments before they’re published, then approve them. Don’t let them lying there because it’s terribly frustrating for readers to say something thoughtful and it never gets published. I stopped reading “The Simple Dollar” the day I realized the author thought himself too important to impart his wisdom but didn’t care one bit about his readers’. English actor Stephen Fry seems to fall in this category too but I’m a little more lenient with him (still I think he should have published my comment on his post about Dieter Fischer Dieskau). The wonderful blog ‘Letters of note’ announced it wouldn’t accept any more comments because the author couldn’t keep track of trolls, but you can reach him via mail, twitter or facebook. He was very honest and that’s super important.

        Star bloggers Heather Armstrong (dooce) and Holly Becker (decor8) have both replied to emails I’ve sent them (in plural – yes, I’m bragging). Alright, their replies weren’t more than a line, but I wrote positive emails and received real feedback. I don’t know what would have happened with less than positive content, but I’m not planning on knowing either. Young House Love is another blog that takes its readership very seriously, they approve each of their comments (and they have hundreds!) and sometimes they reply them too. In my perception they are amazing!

        The worst blogger I read for a while was Annoyed Librarian. I liked her annoyed tone, cutting the crap and etc. but then someone sent her a very valid message with a couple of mistakes, and she replied publicly very sarcastically. I thought it was completely out of line and never read her again. And no, I didn’t leave a comment “I thought you did bad, I’m not reading you again”. I simply unsuscribed from her feed and stopped reading and sharing her articles, even if I thought some were good.

        I guess they know better than me what to do with not pleasant readers, so I can’t help there much. Just, in a nutshell, be honest and respectful of your readers and you’ll get that in return.

        For me the hardest thing about writing a blog is keeping motivated. I don’t seem able to keep a blog for longer than a year. I just seem to work in yearly cycles…

  13. Mama Leigh says:

    Thank you so much for your tips on getting your blog going! Your tip about blog carnivals is especially true. I found your blog on Conversion Diary about a year ago, and have been reading it ever since!

  14. Good tips. I’ve been blogging steadily now for about 3 years. I’d made attempts before that but they were pretty half-hearted. I knew that authors were “supposed” to blog, but I hadn’t gotten much traction. Finally decided to keep at it, and readership has grown sloooowly… I get a bump when a new book comes out, but then see how many of those people become daily readers. Some. So that’s encouraging. I have a list of blogs I try to read and comment on at least once a week, and am trying to add more into the mix as I find like-minded folk. It can take a lot of time, but I find if I give it a time limit it doesn’t have to take *too* much time.

  15. I think these are good tips – after all, that’s how I met you, through a comment on my blog, and I’m now a dedicated reader of yours. I think you put a lot of effort into filling your blog with good content as well. πŸ™‚

  16. deborah says:

    I have no idea what a carnival is and I’ve been blogging since the 11th grade! I’m gonna embark on blogosphere expedition to see what this is all about! Thank you for your tips. Although sometimes I toggle between my comfort levels of sharing my guts with the universe, I do hope that maybe the things I learn in life might somehow be encouraging to someone else πŸ™‚

  17. Pingback: Working Out On Your Terms While Having Fun | Original Stage Magazine
  18. Hi Anne

    I really appreciate your tips. I’ve been blogging consistently since April. My biggest problem seems to be time management. I seem to be glued to my computer for 8 hours a day, but never really get anywhere. Following your tips, hopefully will change that. Thanks again.

  19. Allyson says:

    Thanks for the tips Anne! We’ve just started out and have had our ups and downs with getting followers. It’s hard when we’re working hard on posts, but know that not very many people are reading what you’re writing πŸ™ We’ve been tackling the social media world, but need to start focusing more on “making friends”. Thanks again!

  20. The Writer says:

    I didn’t put my real name because my blog is anonymous. I got my start by reading other blogs, beginning with food blogs as I looked for interesting recipes to make for dinner and slowly branched out. I had always wanted a blog, but for the longest time I only read food blogs and “mommy blogs,” so I didn’t realize I could write a blog about whatever I wanted (thus, my blog’s title, Miscellaneous Musings of a Writer-to-Be) until I started reading MMD. I only started mine about two weeks ago, but I love it πŸ™‚

    • Anne says:

      I started my blog anonymously, too. I was so embarrassed to tell anyone about it! (Okay, maybe I still am, a little. πŸ™‚ )

      Congrats on getting started! And btw I adore your post about the reasons you love England. So, so fun. (But I’ve never seen Dr. Who. I’m sure I’m missing out on something I’ll love when I finally get around to it!)

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