We all want our blog traffic to grow, that’s a given. At this point, I really hope it’s also a given that you HAVE to be networking in meaningful ways with other bloggers in order to make this happen. What do I mean by meaningful ways? Well, there are lots of ways to make new friends, but in the blogosphere, effective networking will almost always include commenting thoughtfully and sharing other’s content on a regular basis.
I’ll assume you know that. I’ll assume you know that a thoughtful comment is more than just “Great post. Thanks!” I’ll assume you know that you have to tag people or let them know somehow when you share their stuff or your generosity will go unnoticed. That’s networking 101. Ready for the next step?
Today we’ll talk about how to set up the perfect blogger outreach strategy for you; how to pick the right bloggers to spend time with and how to keep them all organized so you know who to visit and when. Read carefully, because doing the things I’m about to teach you is absolutely crucial to the success of your blog.
Blogger Networking Step One: Setup
To handle all your commenting/sharing efforts most efficiently, you’re going to want to pick a syndication platform with an interface you enjoy. There are plenty to choose from, but since I use Feedly, I’ll talk you through my process there. I’d imagine you can set up a similar structure in Bloglovin or whatever you prefer.
Here’s how I subscribe to blogs I’d like to add to my network:
I installed an RSS subscription extension in Google Chrome that puts the orange RSS icon in my URL bar whenever I visit a new site.
If I find a site I want to subscribe to (more on that later) I click that icon and then the option that either says “RSS” or “Feed”.
Since I already have an account set up with Feedly, that automatically brings me here:
It’ll show you a list of the most recent articles posted on that site. Assuming the articles match your expectations, you’ll most likely want to click the green +feedly button to add them to your list. Once you do, you’ll see a screen like this one pop up on the left side:
Now, don’t be alarmed by those categories. Those are categories I made up; you can create your own.
As you can see, you can check the “Must Read” option if you want to make sure posts from that blog don’t get lost in the crowd. Otherwise, choose the appropriate category to put that site into. I’ll get more into choosing good categories in a minute.
When you’re ready to start reading, sharing and commenting, then all you have to do is click a title within your home screen and either right click –> open the link in a new tab (I usually do that because you can’t comment within Feedly to my knowledge) or read the article within Feedly.
That’s why headlines are so important! If people are looking at your posts this way, sometimes the headline really is all they use to judge whether or not they’ll read your post. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL that you have a good headline. For some tips on how to improve yours, read this article.
Blogger Networking Step Two: Organization
As you see from my category list, I currently have my subscriptions in four groups: Marketing Bloggers, Mom Bloggers, Mormon Mom Bloggers and Bloggers Who Share. I do have some blogs that show up in more than one category, however. Here’s why I chose those categories:
I love marketing and I find myself gravitating toward reading blogs in this niche because the titles are most often better than those in any other niche and I’m a sucker for a good title. But most importantly, I go to those blogs to grow my network and establish myself as an authority in the blogging/marketing niche, which is important to my personal mission as a blogger. When I visit these blogs, most of them use CommentLuv, which means that whenever someone sees my comment they will also see the most recent post on my blog. That’s why I felt it was important to separate out that side of my blogging niche onto a separate site from my personal blog– so that I could ensure I always had a relevant, compelling link to leave with my comment. But I’ll explain that a bit more in a minute.
Another great reason to network with marketing bloggers is, of course, because they have a lot of great tips to share– not to mention the all-important benefit that they often have larger and more engaged networks than your typical mom blogger whose social media followers stand to come mostly from link parties and other “follow for follow” trading.
When you choose the blogs you’ll subscribe to, remember that you’re not just connecting with them, but if all goes well you’ll also be connecting with their audience.
How Do I Know If a Blog Is Worth Subscribing To?
That is a GREAT question. These are the things I consider when I evaluate blogs to add to my list, in no particular order. A blog doesn’t have to meet all of these criteria to be worth your time, but it should at least meet one or two of them. Keep in mind that some of the smallest/newest blogs can also be some of your greatest allies, so it’s not always about big traffic, but:
- Does the blog get a lot of comments?
- Do their posts get a lot of shares?
- Do I have something valuable to add to the conversations being had here?
- When I comment here, does the blogger respond or even better, visit my site?
- Does this blogger seem to know a lot of the same people I know?
- Does this blog use CommentLuv?
- Does this blogger have a decent social media following?
and, probably most importantly…
- Do I enjoy what I read on this blog?
Obviously, these are my peers as well as my target demographic for the Mommy Blogger Academy. They’re also the people I most want to share the posts from my personal blog with. When I comment on those blogs, I usually leave the URL to my personal blog.
Mormon Mom Bloggers
This is a more specific area of my niche that I wanted to keep separate because sometimes our shared faith has a slight bearing on the types of comments I leave. You can get as specific as you want to get with your categories, as this can help you know with whom you’ll want to share the links to different types of posts.
Bloggers Who Share
In my opinion, this is the most important category and the one you’ll want to devote the most attention to. People in this category are the best– they’re the ones who comment generously, share sometimes and otherwise make your visits feel worthwhile.
You can hold people in this category to as high a standard as you feel comfortable, but don’t expect people to comment on and/or share everything you ever post. That won’t happen all that often, and that’s okay. But there is a certain type of blogger you’ll want to target, and those are the bloggers who are looking to give as well as receive.
Looking for a place to start? Check out the IBA’s blog directory for some great folks looking to expand their networks.
Blogger Networking Step Three: Maintenance
So now that you’ve got your subscriptions all set up (and of course you’ll meet people along the way that you’ll want to add– I look for regular commenters on other blogs for new people all the time). You’re ready to start networking.
I set aside a time each day (although I don’t get to it EVERY day, but I try) to visit all of the blogs in my feed whose headlines catch my eye. I even visit some with less-than-stellar headlines just because I know I like the blogger as a person… but not all that often.
When I visit, I leave a comment, and I always try to show that I’ve read the person’s article and remember what it was about, AT LEAST. More often, I think hard about anything new that I can add to the conversation, questions I could ask, or stories I could tell that relate to the subject of the post.
If I share (which I often do, I have my favorite blogs set up to automatically be shared via Twitterfeed to save time) I always make sure to tell them in the comment so it doesn’t go unnoticed. Most of the time if I’m on one of my “Mom Blogs” I pin the article to Pinterest because that’s how I most like my articles to be shared and I try to give the way I want to receive.
I also do it that way (manually as opposed to automatically) because since most of my peers do regular link parties and sponsored posts, I don’t feel comfortable assuming that all their content is shareable. No offense. Just like I wouldn’t share a toilet paper commercial on YouTube, I’m unlikely to want to share your promotional post– UNLESS it’s super awesome, witty and interesting.
If you feel confident that you can expect consistently high-quality content from a blogger, I would highly recommend auto-sharing their posts because it’s a SUPER easy way to get noticed if you do it for long enough. Just make sure you tag them properly on Twitter or they’ll have no idea it happened.
If you’ve got a pretty full roster of bloggers in your subscription feed, the process then becomes really simple. Read, comment, share, repeat. Ask for nothing (or at least very little) in return. Watch and see how great the results will be.
The only other maintenance item you’ll want to keep up with is regularly pruning your list, or it can quickly spiral out of control. Now, while you don’t want to be selfish in your networking, you also don’t have to run yourself ragged trying to get attention from bloggers who aren’t giving you the time of day. Move those people out of your “Bloggers Who Share” category or even delete your subscription altogether if you don’t feel like the relationship is going to go anywhere. That will free you up to spend time with bloggers who’ll give you a greater return on your investment– or at least write stuff you enjoy reading!
NOTE: I keep some blogs on my list that I don’t comment on because no one responds or cares, but I still like to read them. That’s cool too. But do comment if you have time, because you never know where it could lead!
If you haven’t yet gone through this process or one like it, do it now. Don’t waste your time marketing your site in less productive ways. This is the best one. Trust me. It might take time to get just the right group of people on your team, but it’s worth the effort to find them– not to mention you get to read a lot of awesome posts in the process!
Over to You
How have you build your blog’s network? Do you have any tips to share? Leave me a comment, won’t you?
P.S. If I could make one little shameless plug, I hope you’ll consider my personal blog and/or my professional blog when you go to build your network. I love to share quality work and read new posts I see in my CommentLuv!