Posted in Technology

Turning a blog into a media company (part 7): getting readers and rising high on search engines

In part 2 of this series, I mentioned that it took me a year to make money (via advertising) from my blog, Muniwireless.com. You won’t attract advertisers in the first month of blogging because you probably won’t have a lot of readers.

How many visitors do you need to attract advertisers? How do you get and keep loyal readers? How do you get the word out about your blog? How do you rise high on search engines such as Google?How many visitors do you need to attract advertising?

It depends on what kind of blog you have. Muniwireless is a business-to-business (B2B) blog that appeals to a narrow audience: city officials, vendors of wireless equipment and software, ISPs, and systems integrators. If even one city decides to deploy a network, the amount of money that the city and its partners will spend, is significant. A small city such as St. Cloud, Florida spent close to $4 million to set up its network and it is paying HP an annual fee to maintain the network. EarthLink will spend over $25 million in building out the Philadelphia citywide Wi-Fi network.

So for Muniwireless.com’s advertisers, many of whom are equipment vendors, it does not matter that there are only a few thousand unique visitors per day as long as most of them are the right kind of visitors (e.g. city officials and service providers), the people who will be buying millions of dollars in equipment.

If, however, your blog covers a more general topic, for example, movies or football, you will need A LOT of visitors. Check out this piece about growing your business to an online media company with $50 million in revenues. Okay, you don’t need to compete head on with MSN, but in the consumer Internet space, an advertiser will want to see many more page views than in the B2B space.

In a future article, I will discuss the different ways of getting advertisers. You can be your own ad sales person, which is what I did in Muniwireless’s second year, or you can sign up with an online ad marketing firm, such as Federated Media, that will get advertisers for you.

How do you promote your site so people will find it?

So you have a new blog that nobody’s heard about. How do you promote it? How do you get it to rise high on Google’s search engine?

(1) Search engine optimization

It helps to optimize your site for search engines. An entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) consultants has emerged in the last few years to help people optimize their websites for search engines. I have never used an SEO consultant and if you are on a budget and just starting out, just follow a few suggestions (examples here).

Most blogging software such as WordPress (which I use for my blogs), have SEO plugins that allow you to optimize your blog for search engines. For this site, I use the All in One SEO Pack.

My tips for rising high on search engines:

– post frequently

– keep the articles focused on a particular topic. Your blog should target a narrow subject (wireless broadband, cooking, Microsoft, Web 2.0 startups)

– link love (see below)

(2) Link love

To get your blog known and to rise high on search engines, you need a lot of link love — getting other blogs that already rise high on search engines to link to your articles. That means your articles have to be original and interesting. You must have something to say. This sounds like Writing 101, but there’s no way around this.

Find the top bloggers who might link to you either because your site covers a more narrow topic which they don’t cover all the time, but which would be interesting for their readers, or your expertise in a particular area makes your posts illuminating to read.

Example: I focus on municipal wireless broadband networks so when I post articles that contain statistics on city deployments, blogs such as Gigaom and Wifinetnews, which rise high on search engines (and whose owners — Om Malik and Glenn Fleishman, respectively, are highly regarded in the tech community) link to me.

And don’t forget to give link love back. I link to Gigaom and Wifinetnews articles that I believe my readers would find interesting.

Do not copy other people’s content and post their articles in their entirety on your blog, even if you post a link. People will stop giving you link love and will tell others who might link to you to ignore you. It’s better to post a snippet with a link to the other blog post.

How do you attract readers and keep them?

Alas, there is no easy, mechanical way to do this. Not even the best search engine optimization (SEO) consultant can make hundreds of people read your posts everyday and add your blog to their RSS newsreaders.

(1) Be obsessed and stay focused

Because of the competition out there, you need to be obsessed by the topic you have chosen for your blog. Here are a few examples of successful bloggers who are completely obsessed:

GigaOM by Om Malik (broadband and online applications)

VOIP Watch by Andy Abramson (VOIP)

Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier (food)

Techcrunch by Michael Arrington (Web 2.0 startups)

Lifehacker by Gina Trapani (ways to organize your life with technology)

After blogging for a while, you will become an “expert” in your field and people who are interested in what you are writing about, will come to your site regularly. Why? Because people have no time to hunt around the Internet for information.

(2) Write with passion

You don’t have to be James Joyce, but it pays to write well. I assume most people who are serious about blogging can put together a coherent paragraph.

It’s also important to write with a strong voice. Being opinionated sets you apart from other bloggers and the mainstream press. If you read articles posted on popular technology news sites, you get the feeling they were written by a machine. You can tell that the authors have taken great pains to avoid controversy (or worse, to avoid offending a key advertiser). The result is a lifeless article.

You don’t need to court controversy or to write screaming headlines like a tabloid reporter, but it’s more fun to read articles by humans who are passionate about the subjects they write about everyday. In the crowded world of online publishing, having a strong, passionate voice is a must.

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Author:

Author of "The Secret of Angat", a novel set in the Philippines during World War II. Founder, MuniWireless.com; Founder (Mapplr.com - travel) and Shopplr.com (beauty, style).

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