“How do I promote my blog?”

Man, if there’s one question that gets asked about as much as “How do I make money blogging?” it would be that one. For some reason, people simply refuse to believe that great content is all you need for your blog to succeed. They keep thinking there is some magic formula that will generate traffic for little to no work.

magic.jpgWell, guess what? There is a formula! But… it isn’t magic. And… it takes work. But the formula is proven to get results. You are just going to have to get over the fact that you never get something for nothing. Stop wasting your precious time and energy scanning for a “free lunch.” There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know better, and suckers.

Nobody wants to acknowledge this formula. Nobody wants to admit to it. Some bloggers bring it up from time to time, Like Maki or Skellie, and everyone just nods their heads, as if to say, “Mm-hm. That’s nice.” And you can tell they’re still hoping against all reason that the magic no-work formula exists.

Alright, enough messing around. What is this non-magic, hard work formula for blog promotion?

Well, it isn’t blog promotion.

Wait… what? Yes. That’s the secret. It isn’t blog promotion at all. Successful blog promotion is really due to something else entirely. And I can tell you what it is in a single word: giving.

give.jpg

I bet I just lost half of you right there. After all, there’s nothing special about that! That’s fine. The rest of you, keep reading if you want to know how and why. You see, the people that have abandoned this post were, in spite of everything I just said, still looking for the magic no-work formula that doesn’t exist. You who have remained are looking for realistic practical methods that work. And that’s what giving is.

Now, when I first started writing this, I was going to say that it isn’t blog promotion, but self-promotion. And even though that’s closer, it still isn’t “it.” Self-promotion is promoting yourself instead of your blog, and so by extension your blog benefits. But self-promotion is still too… well, selfish. It’s counterintuitive, but what works the best is the opposite of selfishness: giving.

I can give you some examples from my own life that bear this out:

  • I once helped someone by suggesting that he take some code he had written and make it into a full WordPress plugin. I knew he would get some traffic and benefit from that. I didn’t see anything in it for me other than the thrill of helping someone take advantage of an opportunity. I even helped promote it in social media. In purely selfish terms, it would appear I didn’t get anything out of that myself. Ah… but I did! It felt great and that person and I have since gotten to know each other better, and so now I have a friend. I didn’t do it for this reason, but I when I needed help with a coding problem (in order to help another friend!) he willingly provided it. Was that blog promotion? No. Was that even self-promotion? No. But did it help my blog? Yes, in an indirect way.
  • I spend a lot of time instant messaging other people who are not blog consulting clients of mine and I am always helping them with tips and suggestions which they appreciate. I have provided feedback on theme designs, helped with content strategies, and helped hook people up with other people where I saw they could benefit from each other. Am I promoting my blog when I do this? In a way, no, but in a more indirect way… maybe yes.
  • I subscribe to a mailing list where people who have problems with WordPress can ask questions of blog professionals. Sometimes people expect to hire someone, but often they’re just hoping someone has a quick answer for no cost. I’ve spent time helping people without charging them because it makes me feel good to do it. Making someone else’s day makes my day. That person now has a very favorable impression of me. My blog URL is in the signature of my emails. Was I promoting my blog? Not at all. But by giving and creating a favorable impression, it’s possible that I’ve had visits and subscribers from that.
  • When I comment on other blogs, I try to contribute something of value to the conversation. This means I don’t comment as much as some others, but I just don’t see how it reflects well on me to flit around leaving short, near-spammy comments that don’t contribute to the topic. When I provide real value and help boost someone else’s blog post, I get referral visitors from that blog. The quality of my comments combined with that blog’s traffic determines how much referral traffic I get. This is probably the one thing I do where I’m conscious of the “exchange” that’s taking place. But I’m always careful to weight it more on the giving side than the receiving side. Otherwise, it will totally backfire on me.
  • One of the most amazing things I’ve ever done on my own blog was create a traffic boosting promotion that simply involved me giving people space to provide their blog URLs so that others could visit them. The rule was that anyone who added their blog to the list then had to visit, stumble, bookmark, and subscribe to the other blogs on the list. People reported back they got traffic and links from it. All in all, it was a smashing success. By helping others help each other, I ended up helping myself.

There are even more I could think of, but this post is getting long enough as it is.

So that’s my big secret to blog promotion. It isn’t even blog promotion. No magic. Requires lots of work. Sorry to disappoint you with such mundane un-tactics. If you want to keep chasing illusions, there are plenty of internet marketers to dangle dollars in front of you.

photos by Gareth JM Saunders and Neal McQuain under CC license