Exactly a week ago I started promoting my blog. It had been on-line for longer, but nobody knew. And hence, the statistics consistently showed exactly one visitor: me! That was okay since I felt I wasn’t ‘ready’ yet.
Now, I decided to announce its existence to the world. Not that the site is ready now, it will never be! But with a handful of pages and nine blog posts (a tenth in the pipeline) it was ready enough. I had worked on the blog in the skunkworks for long enough and wanted the blog to actually see the daylight. See how well it fits with the rest of the world.
With earlier blog attempts I never got that far to actually promote the blog. So this is totally new for me. I made a few simple steps and learned a lot from them. Here’s my report!
Status updates in Facebook and LinkedIn
My reach on Facebook isn’t that big but on LinkedIn I have plenty of contacts. The nasty thing of both Facebook and LinkedIn is that my friends and connections may or may not get my status updates in their feeds. I have no control over that and I get no indication either. Also, I couldn’t be sure about how eager my friends and connections would be to actually have a look at my site.
Obviously, some people showed interest. The Jetpack plugin that I have installed showed quite some traffic. On Friday when I announced the blog, I had 42 views from 15 visitors (2.8 views per visitor). On Saturday, 21 views from 10 visitors (2.1 views per visitor). Sunday a peak at 61 views from 15 visitors (4.07 views per visitor). Monday still had 22 views, from 4 visitors (5.5 views per visitor). After that, things slowed down to ‘normal’ again.
While a large number of visitors is great, the number of views per visitor is much more important. This is an indicator of how interested the users actually are. Or rather: how well do they fit in the tribe that I’m looking to set up. A higher value is obviously better. I prefer a smaller number of visitors that do fit in the tribe than many visitors that simply disappear again. (This is also expressed as bounce rate in the blogosphere: a large bounce rate means that visitors leave quickly again.)
Facebook Page and feedback form
I shouldn’t use status updates in Facebook and LinkedIn for promoting all updates that I’ll do on my blog. That would result in spamming and annoy more people than the status updates would attract. Instead I should see to that the people who visit also show interest. Then I know who to reach and promote my updates to.
For this I created a Facebook Page where I can shamelessly promote my blog updates. (please join if you didn’t do that already!). Also, I added feedback forms on the different pages on the site to encourage visitors to leave feedback and, most importantly, email address. In hindsight I should have added those feedback forms before starting promoting my blog. Take that as an extra learning point.
I’ll think of this as my first steps to building a community around my blog rather than just attracting visitors!
Search Engine Optimization for Google
It was time to see to that the blog would be found via search engines. The most obvious one is Google but we also have Bing, Yahoo and Pinterest. It seems like Pinterest is the one that gives the most immediate results. But since Pinterest is highly visual, it seems to take some effort to create attractive graphics for each blog post that I wish to promote. Optimizing the blog for Google is supposed to be much easier, but it takes more time until we can see effects.
Optimizing for Google seems to start with the free Yoast SEO plug-in. This plug-in connects to Google Search, Bing and Yandex (a Chinese search engine). When setting up this plug-in for Google, I realized that I hadn’t activated Google’s search functionality for my site in the first place… Note that once a new site has been registered at Google Search it may take a few days before Google actually indexes the site.
Yoast then helped me for each page and post to improve the readability of the content. Once I add a focus keyword, Yoast will check the text and tell where improvement is necessary. This helps both getting a higher ranking in Google and general readability for users. Also, one can enter a ‘snippet,’ a custom text that Google shall display together with the link to the site in the search results.
From the beginning, I thought I’m quite a good writer. But proofreading ones own text captures only a few of the grammatical errors. Getting feedback about a number of issues (many thanks!) and looking at the comments from Yoast was a bit of a humiliating experience.
I realized that the Jetpack plug-in also provides grammar-related verification. I thought I had switched it on but never received any feedback. When I looked better in the settings of the plug-in, I noticed that the many individual checks were actually switched off! Switching them on gave a lot of extra feedback for each page or post while editing.
With these plug-ins I went through the different pages again. It was rather hard work to optimize the readability but the result is certainly worth it. As a side benefit, I’m sure these suggestions will make me a better writer as well.
Besides this post, I didn’t check the readability and searchability of the earlier posts yet. Also, a few pages still need work. I’ll take care of that the coming week.
Redefining the categories
For bloggers, Facebook Groups is usually suggested as a platform for finding and engaging with a community. One could set up his own group, or simply join existing groups. Simply be active there, build a reputation for yourself and respect the rules when it comes to promoting your blog. Simple.
Except for that when I started looking for suitable groups, I realized that my categorization needed some work. The term ‘automation’ is very general and while the existing categories were valid, they didn’t really resonate with terms in existing industries. All I needed to do is reframe and rename the categories to define the niches better. At the same time, it became easer to find matching groups.
I’m sure the new categories will make it easier to build a community around.
Up till now I didn’t have any routines for when to write blog posts. Now that I’m trying to grow a community, it would be good to have some regularity in publishing new posts. Suggestions that I read often are a new post once a week with quality content. This would be at least ca 1000 words.
With the baseline of over 10 posts may aim will be to divide my time between writing and promotion of the blog 50/50.
What do you think of the new categorization? Is there anything that I should add? What do you think about the posting schedule? How do you consider the readability of this post?
Please leave your comments below.