Welcome to the 2nd post in the series about my first year blogging as a business. Today will talk about blog promotion. Since this is a rather lengthy subject and there are week-long events only one this topic alone, without further ado, let’s get started.
The most important change in my promoting activities was changing the domain name. I went from a “.ro” based domain to a “.com”. I hesitated a few months before doing this and the main reason was how will I migrate legacy traffic from the “.ro” domain to the new one. I had a lot of pages bookmarked, a lot of inbound links and all of that could have been lost in case of a domain change.
3 months ago I decided to bite the bullet and did the change. I put a simple 301 redirect on the old blogÂ which basically directed all the incoming traffic (including page names) to my new domain. Didn’t changed anything in my permalinks structure so everything was expected to work fine. Of course, it didn’t.
The first consequence was that all my StumbleUpon traffic was suddenly lost. I learned the hard way that StumbleUpon doesn’t honor the 301 redirect code, showing a redirected site practically dead. Although the domain was properly changed and the 301 redirect code was working as expected, for some reason SU didn’t take this into account and showed the site as unavailable. Everything was confirmed by a SU representative after we changed a few emails on this topic.
In a hurry, I decided I have to come up with a workaround. Before that, let me tell you that although I had a decent 3 PageRank on the old domain, I didn’t get more than 10% of traffic form search engines. Around 90% of my traffic came from social media and direct bookmarks. At that time I thought this was because I was blogging in English and the domain was treated as a Romanian one. So, somehow, I was in between search engines, not getting much traffic from either Ro or En based indexes. Time proved I was right.
But right after the change I was in the middle of a small crisis. There was a trade off: how much search engine traffic would I sacrifice in order to keep my social media traffic at the same level? In other words, if I would still keep the old domain up, risking duplicate content penalties from Google, how much traffic would I lose/gain? The answer was pretty simple: at a 90/10 ratio, I gladly sacrificed my search engine traffic. I left the old domain up and did a somehow dirty workaround: 3 seconds after loading the page the user was redirected to the page on the new domain. For the humans this was almost transparent, just a change in the address bar of the browser. For the StumbleUpon bots it was like finding an old shipwreck: my old site with all the bookmarks and incoming traffic. It worked. All my incoming traffic from SU was up again and, surprisingly, my search engine traffic stopped at a decent 10%. Same as before. Weird, I know.
After 3 months I decided it’s time to let the old site die, because in the meantime I was able to gather enough new traffic and reverted to a 301 redirect. Basically, SU sees my old site dead again. But the new site is already having a lot of high quality traffic, so this is not a problem anymore.
Lessons: first of all, not all the major social media sites are honoring redirects, so you have to be very careful with that. If you base your traffic on only one major social media it will make you really vulnerable in the medium to long term. Second: the “.com” domains are definitely having priority in front of regional domains when it comes to English content. So, a “.com” domain is a must and it hugely impact your traffic.
Benefits: I learned a lot about how social media works, how you can leverage it for traffic and how you can transfer this traffic to new domains. But above all, my traffic burst was one of the biggest since I started to blog. Basically, changing the domain only tripled my traffic.
Search Engine Optimization
I do write with search engines in mind. Meaning I pay decent attention to the keyword distribution, to inbound and outbound links and to headings. In a rather mysterious way, this seems to pay off, although I didn’t get any PageRank whatsoever on my new domain. It takes a while until Google assigns a PR to a new domain, so I’m patient. Usually this is happening after 3-4 months, so I’m pretty close. Probably having a penalty for duplicate content could have made things even slower, so I might wait even more. Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m still having some search engine optimization thrills every now and then.
One of these thrills is the fact that I rank #1 in Google for being successful (or at least I do this at the moment of writing this article). I tried the search in the “.ro” index of Google and got myself in the 4th position. Umm, exactly what I’ve told you, there IS a difference.
Another interesting SEO fact is related to one of the most popular posts I had: 100 Ways To Live A Better Life. Several hours after I hit “publish” the post got featured in all major social media sites: StumbleUpon, Delicious or Reddit. But at the same time it was climbing pretty fast in Google’s index. So now I am also on the #1 position for this phrase “100 ways to live a better life” out of more than 72.000.000 of searches. And that is for a domain which still hasn’t got a PR.
And the last interesting SEO fact is related to my ebook “30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset“. In hours after I wrote the launch post, it was retweeted pretty hard and also got mentioned on other blogs. Making the ebook available through an affiliate program could have helped this fast link distribution. Fact is that less then a week after the launch, my ebook is also in the first page of Google for the “millionaire mindset” search. It seems the results for this search are one of the most volatile on the internet, they change extremely often, even several times a day. Either a lot of people already found this mindset, either a lot of people are still looking for it in various ways. Reading my ebook might help the last ones.
Lesson: even if you get the vast majority of your traffic from social media, search engine optimization still pays off. It’s just residual, effortless traffic that flows in without any hidden costs, so writing with SEO in mind is a must, regardless of your current PR.
Benefits: I’m ranking pretty well for a number of strategic keywords but I don’t see how much of the related search engine traffic I really get. When I’ll have my PR assigned I will certainly know more, for now, I’m just enjoying the mild, constant and free SEO traffic I get every day.
Nothing changed significantly in my social networking approach, a part from Twitter. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about how I use Twitter for blog promotion. As we will see, “blog promotion” is a rather foggy term, as I use Twitter for a lot more stuff, which of course includes blog promotion too.
All the “twitter promotion” I do for my blog is to post on Twitter minutes I publish a post. I do it manually for now, I used to have a plugin which automated this for me, but for some reasons I want to do it manually each time. One of these reasons is that I use a specific URL shortener, su.pr. And the reason I use su.pr is because it plays extremely nice with my StumbleUpon account and can provide some interesting information. For instance, some posts are doing extremely well on Twitter but not so good on SU and vice versa. I can see that instantly on su.pr.
After announcing the blog post is out, I usually do a 24 hours later recall. I just let people know that I wrote something the other day and maybe they have missed it. That’s it. But the real action starts when I’m starting to monitor the retweets. I’m using a tool called topsy, which seems to work pretty good. I can see all the retweets for my blog posts, the time when they were posted and who retweeted it. Topsy have an algorithm to determine if the twitterer is a normal, influential or highly influential person on Twitter. That’s something. The algorithm is pretty basic, but it does work.
Now, every time I see I got retweeted by an influential or highly influential twitterer I visit his/her profile and do a basic check. If there’s some vibe, I follow. If not, I thank you politely for the retweet and move on. Almost every time after I follow an influential or highly influential person (as a result of having my blog post retweeted by them) I get followed back. Now, how this is helping my blog promotion?
Next time I post something on Twitter they will see. And chances that they will like the content are pretty high so I’m going to get another retweet. It’s like creating a pool of Twitter subscribers. Not to mention the benefit of getting in touch with highly visible and, most of the time, really nice persons. This blog promotion is far more subtle than any other brute force attempt, but all I can say is that is really, really working. For instance, once of my posts was retweeted more than 600 times. Now combine the audience of this tweets and see the exposure. Translating this into cost per mille or even cost per click is already making me dizzy.
Lesson: Twitter is far more than a time waster, it’s a real tool. And like any other tool its force stays in the hand of the beholder. Enlarging my Twitter network based on the mutual preferences and on the fact that I follow only after a first step the other guys does is really working. It’s like waiting a little bit and see if we do share the same vibe until I made the step of actually interacting.
Benefits: Twitter is my second traffic generator now. But the traffic is small compared with the other benefits, like discovering new people and getting in line for new opportunities. Like I said, blog promotion is only one thing I do on Twitter, other important activities there being personal branding and opportunities hunting.
Writing Good Content
This is by far the most important blog promotion tool. Some people call it word of mouth. Some people call it intuition or hunch. Having that subtle understanding of what people need to read and delivering that to them. I call it work. Every time I do my work fine, the blog posts are flying like hotcakes on delicious, reddit, StumbleUpon or you name it.
There is this magic threshold after which your readers are becoming your promoters. There’s an edge after which your consumers are becoming your fans, your advertisers. This is what makes the difference between a great blog and a correct blog. The correct blog will work as expected, but a great blog will break the rules, the boundaries, the limits. Even if the sky is the limit.
This magic happens once you really touch something in your readers. Once you have the power to reach to them, see their problem and give them a good advice. Or at least a decent suggestion. Or a drop of inspiration. Or some simple motivation. But give them something. And they will give back thousand times what you offered.
Lesson: be useful.
Benefits: they’ll be useful to you.