In the first two parts of this mini-series, we have looked at various methods of saving money while building an effective and professional blog. First we looked at money saving tactics for general hosting and domain names, then in Part 2, we presented some ideas for hosting images and scripts on cheap (often free) and reliable servers to reduce bandwidth and hosting costs for our own sites.
For this final part of the budget blogging series, let’s take a look at methods of marketing and advertising your blog which incur very little (if any) cost.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Content is King”, but no matter how good your writing skills or how Digg-worthy your content may be, your efforts will be wasted unless you have an audience to read your blog.
In order to develop an audience for your blog, you need to market it. Persuade people to read your blog, link to your posts, recommend articles to their friends, and so on.
For many, the first marketing technique which springs to mind is advertising. Of course, if you can afford to advertise on some of the world’s most popular blogs and websites in your niche, you will develop a readership very quickly for your blog, but this can be a very expensive task. And if you are blogging on a very small budget, you may only have a few dollars left over for such marketing ventures.
Instead, let me offer an overview of some highly effective blog marketing techniques which will save you a packet in advertising costs and may prove even more useful to your ventures in the long run.
Build relationships with other bloggers (and their readers)
It’s a common misconception that other bloggers and writers in the same niche as yourself are simply competitors who should be avoided. The truth is far from it! By building relationships with other bloggers and the readers of their blogs, you offer valuable contributions to these communities and assist in establishing your own reputation as a blogger.
There are many advantages to building relationships with other bloggers. For example, you can
- Ask for advice
- Offer your own advice
- Reach a wider audience
- Establish yourself as a complementary source of information
All of these benefits ultimately provide steps to achieving your goal: encouraging more readers to visit your own blog!
Make valuable comments on their blog posts
Commenting on others’ blogs allows you to offer your own perspective and opinions their articles. But rather than simply express how good (or bad) you found the information in these posts, explain why your opinion is formed.
Valuable comments offer far more to the blog author and their readers than a simple “Great post” type of comment ever could. Instead, offer your own advice or explain the particulars of how the article in question has been useful for you. And make sure you comment regularly on the blogs you read the most rather than simply surf the web adding your comments at random. Building relationships takes time to accomplish; a simgle, random remark will get you nowhere!
Use social media to approach other bloggers
These days, most bloggers use social media outlets to help promote their content and and as a secondary method of interacting with their readers. It can be helpful (and less intimidating to both parties) if you attempt to approach other bloggers through social media channels before sending a long-winded email.
Twitter, Facebook and MyBlogLog are excellent sites of community building for bloggers. Find out which social media channels are used most often by your favorite bloggers and send a message/make friends using this channel.
Even if the bloggers you approach do not respond with inmediate declarations of friendship, it’s more likely that you will be acknowledged and remembered later on.
Send a friendly email
When building relationshops with other bloggers, there is no use asking for favors right away. Instead, a “softly softly” approach is preferred, expecially one which promises mutual benefit for all parties involved.
Make sure your first contact with another blogger is not simply asking a favor! An email requesting a link to another’s blog where no previous relationship has been formed will likely end up in the receiptant’s trash folder. Instead, I have found that it’s far mroe helpful to simply introduce yourself and explain a little about your blog. If you have had contact through social media outlets, don’t forget to mention this so the other blogger remembers who you are. And while most bloggers will not freely admit to this, a little “ego massage” does not go astray so long as it is subtle enough to be believed 🙂
If you don’t receive a response to your email, don’t feel as though your message was unwanted. Popular bloggers tend to receive a lot of emails and are simply unable to respond to them all. You are not being deliberately ignored! Just think to yourself that the blogger may be busy or overloaded with emails and try again at a later date.
Further reading on building relationships with other bloggers
- 17 principles of building relationships with other bloggers
- 12 tools and techniques for building relationships
- Build relationships with bloggers via Facebook and social networks
- Building blog relationships: make a good first impression
Guest Posting for other blogs in your niche
Writing articles to be published on other blogs is a highly effective method of marketing yourself and your blog. I have discovered many of my favorite blogs after they have guest-posted on other blogs I read regularly, and suspect that many of you reading this post have done the same.
Some blogs actively ask for guest posters. Take a look at the top-right of the header section here on Blogging Tips, for example: Kevin welcomes high quality articles from guest authors, and a by-line with a link to your own blog offers readers the opportunity to read more of your work.
If you would like to write a guest post for another blog in your niche, try sending a succinct email to the author/editor of the blog which explains the following:
- Who you are
- Where you blog/write/some other examples of your work
- A brief outline (including the title) of the post you would like to write
- Your contact details
Some experts recommend sending the entire post for perusal, though if this is a lengthy post (and consequently a lengthy email) you may not receive a timely response.
Be understanding and do not expect anything in return. If the blog owner/editor likes the concept of your post and considers this worthy of publication, they will likely email you back and ask that you send the entire post for them to read.
Further reading on Guest Posting:
- Guest posting secrets: how to get published on an A-list blog
- How to maximize the benefits of guest posting
- Why you should take the time to submit great guest posts
Utilize social media outlets to market your blog and posts
Social media outlets have the potential to drive thousands of new visitors to read your blog and posts. Utilizing social media can he a highly effective (and free) method of marketing your blog. Getting on the front page of Digg or Stumbleupon can have a massive effect on the number of visits you receive who in turn may become subscribers or regular visitors to your site.
We touched upon social media when discussing methods of building relationships with other bloggers. However, when using social media to market your blog and posts (as opposed to marketing yourself) a different approach is required.
In order to market effectively through social media, you will need to receive a lot of votes for your content. Basically, this means you will need to have a lot of influence to encourage others to vote for your content, or persuade someone who does to help you market instead.
Simply bookmarking your own posts while taking little interest in other aspects of the community will get you nowhere. Utilizing social media for blog marketing means you will need to spend time actually using the service:
- Find and vote for useful content
- Network with other members of the site
- Learn about which types and formats of content receive the most votes, and try to apply this formula to your own pillar articles.
While you will need to spend time and effort in building your blog presense through social media sites, the end-result can be a remarkable readership and many backlinks to your posts.
Further reading on utilizing social media networks to market your posts:
- How to write posts that set Stumbleupon on fire
- What I’ve learned about social media success (by Skellie)
- How to target the right social media sites
- Using Facebook pages to promote your blog
- A comprehensive guide to Stumbleupon: how to build massive traffic to your website
- Viral blog marketing via Digg and Delicious
Marketing with eBooks and white-papers
In my personal experience, this has by far been the most effective method of free marketing I have tried!
By compiling a free eBook, report or white paper which is relevant for your niche and distributing this for free, you are creating the potential for viral distribution. Provided your eBook/report features clearly visible accreditation to your site, your paper will provide effective indirect marketing and encourage readers of this content to seek out your site in search of more useful and interesting content.
Gathering content for your eBook
There are different methods you could use to generate content for your eBook/white paper. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create a collection of your best blog posts
- Research some aspect of your niche and write a report about it
- Elaborate on one of your most popular posts to create a fully featured essay on the subject
- Write a useful directory of services, sites or features relevant to your niche subject, providing your own commentary and imagery to ensure it is interesting and worthwhile
Writing your eBook/Report
When writing eBooks and reports, you must ensure the format of your publication is one which most readers can actually open. PDF format seems to be the preferred choice, though there are few free PDF editing programs which are worth the effort to download.
My favorite method of creating eBooks is to use OpenOffice.org Writer. This free, open source program allows you to create content in similar fashion to Microsoft Word, and save your finished publication in PDF format. You can download OpenOffice.org Writer for free from the Open Office site.
When actually writing your eBook/report, be sure to use many headings, sub-headings, lists and (possibly) images to break up long sections of content. Such formatting is apparant in the most popular publications of printed press, and is a tactic you should use to ensure your content is easy to read.
If you are writing a publication for free distribution, you should make it clear from the beginning how you intend for your content to be used.
For this, you will need to apply a copyright policy to your document in order to explain the terms under which your publication is offered.
Many writers choose to distribute content under a Creative Commons license. This ensures your content can be distributed for free while you retain certain rights (and prevent others from claiming your work as their own!).
Using a Creative Commons license means you can specify
- If you allow derivitive works to be made
- If you permit others to profit from your work
- How authorship should be attributed
To find out which version of the Creative Commons license is the best solution for you, visit the Creative Commons website and choose your specifications.
Distributing your publication
In order to distribute your eBook or report, you will need to host this online to allow others to download it. Scribd is an excellent and reliable host for your eBooks and publications which I have recently discovered (I wish I had known about this earlier as it would have saved me a fortune in hosting costs!). Alternatively you could make use of other free hosting solutions as discussed in the previous installment of this series.
Once you have uploaded your publication to a reliable host, you should make others aware of it’s existance by linking to it from your site. A “landing page” written specifically for yoru eBook is the ideal solution: here you can write an enhanced description of your book, perhaps with a preview or elaborative image to encourage readers to download.
Don’t forget to use other marketing strategies to ensure others become aware of this free publication: send a brief email to others writers in your niche who may be interested; inform your blogging buddies and social media friends, and link to your eBook/landing page from all pages of your blog (in a highly visible place, such as the sidebar).
Further reading for eBook marketing strategies
- You should write an eBook (by Seth Godin)
- How to make an ebook
- Using eBooks as an effective marketing tool
Low Budget Advertising Techniques
After following the advice presented in the other sections if this article, you may find traditional advertising techniques are no longer nescessary. However, for those who still wish tp pursue these avenues, here is a round-up of free and low cost advertising outlets which you would find useful for promotng your blog:
Entrecard – Banner exchange system
By using Entrecard, you display a widget on your site to earn credits from advertising banners displayed on your site. In return, you use these credits to advertise your own blog on other sites. Entrecard is also a community based system where you can find recommendations for other sites and participate in community activities.
Project Wonderful – Low cost, auction style banner advertising
Project Wonderful allows you to bid on advertising from your chosen publishers. While your bid for advertising is the highest for your chosen ad-slot (and there is enough funding in your account), your banner will remain on the publisher’s site. Learn more about the Infinite Auction system.
Stumbleupon Ads – Buy targeted “stumbles” to encourage more reviews of your site
I discovered Stumbleupon Ads after reading how Freelance Switch was promoted. Provided your content is “stumbleworthy”, this could well prove an effective and very-low cost method of advertising your blog.
While your blog may have a beautiful design and some killer articles, this proves worthless without an audience to enjoy it. In this article, we’ve looked at marketing strategies for promoting your blog and content which are either free or very cheap to use.
I hope this article has offered useful concepts and informative suggestions for marketing your blog on a very small budget. Please feel free to leave your own comments and suggestions below.Image credits: Boxed (top right) by recursion_se_recursion, Handshake by Gaetan Lee, Social Media Stickrs by Robert Scoble, eBook by Tscherno. All via Flickr Creative Commons.