OK, so you've got your blog started - you've set the table and put the kettle on and now you just need some visitors. So how do you go about enticing people to your site?
Obviously you need to have great content but even if you've got the best blog in the world, people won't know you're there if you're doing the online equivalent of hiding in the kitchen at parties! You're going to have to get out there and meet some people. Here's a few ways to do that...
Link, link, link
The first thing that any article on this subject will tell you is 'link'. There's a very simple reason for this - it works. At least a third of my visitors to both this site and The Diary Project arrive here via other bloggers who've linked to me in their posts or on their sidebars.
Linking is, quite simply, the foundation stone of the blogging world. Sure, you can blog successfully without ever linking to anyone else but you'd better have another promotional strategy worked out. I don't use links much over at The Diary Project because of the type of blog it is, consequently I have to work a lot harder at promoting it. This site, where I link to a lot of other artists, has snowballed for me in a way that the Diary Project just hasn't yet (although I keep hoping it will).
Linking just works. And it's easy: find someone whose work you like, nab one of their images *unless they prohibit that*, host the image on your site so you're not stealing bandwidth, write a little bit about their work and what you like about it and voilà, almost instant blog content with the added advantage that you might have drawn the artist or blogger in question back to your site.
Be generous with your linking, link to people you like or who've done or said something that interests you. It's OK to link to people that you'd like to be noticed by but don't make those the only people you link to. Be genuine and think about linking in terms of good karma, not in terms of what it might bring you. And don't expect to be linked back - you might be, but it's not automatic and it doesn't mean anything if you're not, so don't get huffy about it.
Tell People You Know
You've already got a ready made audience in your existing friends and family - send them all an email to let them know you've got a new blog. You should also change your email signature so that you're automatically letting people know about your blog every time you send an email. If you've got a mailing list, let them know too. Do you have profiles on other sites, especially networking ones? Go round and update them to include your new blog address.
Watch Your Numbers
Get Google Analytics or a similar programme installed on your blog and keep an eye on your numbers. It's helpful to know your baseline and encouraging to see the numbers gradually rise. Plus you can usually spot when you've been linked somewhere. If you are linked, nip over to the person's site, check it out and leave a comment or email to say thanks. Obviously, if you get really huge, it might not be possible to say thanks to absolutely everyone (you've got to leave some time for the studio!) but give it your best shot, especially in the beginning.
NB: If you have already linked to me and I haven't thanked you either by email or in your blog comments, then it almost certainly means that Technorati has missed the link so I don't know about it.
Make Some Cards
A couple of months ago I bought a box of 100 Moo cards to advertise the Diary Project and I've gone through two thirds of the box already. I carry them in my handbag and give them out to people who seem like they might be interested - you know, bus drivers, random people on the street, small children in pushchairs! OK, I'm kidding, I only give them to people I'm already talking to but I do know that people often do visit the project after taking a card because they often email me to tell me they have.
You don't have to get Moo cards made (although they are fab) but you should already be carrying some sort of visual card to hand out to people you meet, so you might as well have your blog address on it too.
Leaving comments on other people's blogs is a good way to meet people, make connections and get readers back to your own site. If you leave a comment on here, I'll invariably go and check your site out because hey, I'm nosy! I'm not alone in this, it's common blogging behaviour. I don't end up regularly reading everyone's blog but I have discovered some great new sites this way.
Most blogs have a fairly open comments policy and it's usually easy to leave comments, although some sites do moderate to avoid spam so your comment might not appear instantly.
Leave your name and URL so that people can find you. Oh, and definitely make sure that you get your own address right - I'd accidentally been leaving the slash off the end of this blog address in other people's comments for about a month before someone kindly pointed out that hey, they couldn't actually get to my site that way. Boy, did I feel stupid! I can't believe that I could make such an elementary mistake despite being on the net for about 12 years, but I did...
Link To Yourself
If you have more than one site, make sure you link to your other sites in your sidebar or profile. All your sites should link up to each other - it sounds obvious but it's a step that many of us forget about. Looking at my numbers, I can see that both this site and The Diary Project get about 15% of their visitors from my other sites.
Remember my mantra of Make It Easy For People, well it applies here too. If you've got a cool project on the go, a nice little blog or a great new site, don't make people go hunting for them: the information should be right there, out in the open and very easy to spot. When I added a 'My Other Sites' section to the sidebar of The Diary Project, my visitors to this site from over there absolutely rocketed. This site was already mentioned and linked to in the profile, which was right at the top of the sidebar but for some reason having that extra 'My Other Sites' section made a huge difference. Sometimes you've just got to make things really obvious.
You should use this approach in your blog writing too - link to your sites or projects when you mention them in posts. It's not shameless self promotion, it's making it easy for people to investigate this neat thing you're talking about. Treat yourself with the same consideration that you would give to other artists or sites that you were talking about. If you find it uncomfortable to link to your own stuff, then ask yourself, "if this was someone else, would I put a link here?" - you'll probably find that nine times out of ten, the answer is yes.
Submit Your Site
This is something to do with the bigger sites rather than individual blogs. Most of the big hubs on the web have a submissions page where you can enter your details. Work out where your work fits and then submit to those sites. This is something I do regularly with The Diary Project - since I don't use links much in the project blog, I have to raise interest in other ways.
A couple of weeks ago I submitted the Diary Project to Craftzine and when they blogged it (thanks Craftzine!), I got a big increase in numbers and visits from that site have continued to steadily climb.
You can also submit your stuff to individual blogs but that's a technique you should use only sparingly because it can be a bit spammy. I know many of you discovered this blog through Alyson Stanfield who kindly blogged about my Why Artists Should Be Online article. I had emailed Alyson directly to tell her about the article because I thought she'd be interested and fortunately she was. However, I already knew her slightly through commenting on her blog and because she'd linked to a previous article of mine, so it wasn't a complete 'cold call'. This is yet another good reason to build up your blogging relationships through commenting - it makes approaching possible allies a lot less daunting.
I should also point out that there's absolutely no obligation to try to improve your visitor numbers - if you're happy with a very personal blog that has a small intimate readership (or even none at all!), that's completely fine. It's a valid way to blog and one that I've used for many years over at Livejournal. Just don't expect it to be a particularly effective way to promote your art career.
Get more help
If you'd like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.
I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.