A recent comment and e-mail is prompting this entry from being posted earlier than I had been planning. I had wanted to set some foundations prior to this post and achieve some bench marks I had set for myself prior to my pontificating on this subject. But I'll post anyway... If you're garden blogging or just blogging in general you're probably hoping that you're not just wasting bandwidth and there are people reading what you're blogging about. Maybe you'd heard about blogging and about the fame/notoriety/popularity some blogger had achieved and you're wondering why nobody is visiting your blog. You have just as interesting a blog as anybody else and you're worthy of being noticed, and if you're not there are some things that can/should do to get visits to your blog.
In a recent e-mail (more info on that later) someone commented that from my blog she could tell that I either had a background in graphic design or marketing. Well she was half right. I don't have a graphic design background but I know a little about photography and Photoshop. I do however have a degree in marketing communications (though I don't work for any agency) and have been putting my little degree to use for my little gardening blog.
Well before I tell you I should tell you that there are a lot more qualified people than me who have written books and have sites devoted to the subject. After you read some of the buzzwords here you could do a search and see what the big boys are saying. I'm only going to give a brief outline of the steps that I've taken thus far and touch a little on the results.
If you're using blogger make sure you have three things taken care of. Your blog should be broadcasting a feed and you should allow your blog to ping blog aggregators, your blog shouldn't be set to private.
Submit your blog to search engines. This is a rather simple but effective tool that webmasters do but one that any blogger can and should do if they're looking for visits. So far I've only submitted my blog to Google, Yahoo and MSN. I did a search for "submit your site to (search engine name here)" and found the page for each of the search engines where you submit your site. It was simple all I had to do was provide the url and a brief description and in some cases you can add the url of your blog's feed. Then you wait, and sometimes you can wait for month's before the search engines start crawling (visiting and reporting your content) your blog. Google provides about 80% of my visitors and around 85% of them every day are new. I think Google pretty much owns me. It's ok, I like them as a company, love their services and I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds me.
In the meantime you will be getting visits here and there from all of the blog aggregators that you are pinging automatically every time you create a new post. If you're using a service like Feedburner than you have the option of pinging even more blog aggregators.
I can't express just how important I think forums are to blog marketing. I've read where some people don't give them much credit but according to my site stats that Feedburner provides (for free) I get a large chunk of visitors to my blog from forums I participate in. What you never want to do is spam your links. It's bad form and people will not put you on their Christmas card list. What you can do is take advantage of your profile on whatever site you are on. Put a link to your blog in your profile or signature along with a description of yourself and your blog. The more interesting you make yourself seem the better the chances that someone will care to follow your link. Remember; do not spam! If you're not on any forums find a forum about something you like or that's related to your blog
Ask for a link swap. They're important because you can trade visitors to your blogs that way. Even if you don't know another blogger ask around you never know who you know or who knows who. Maybe you have a friend, nephew, grandchild on something like MySpace or your sister has a home page from her internet service provider where she uploads all of her family pics to share with you and other family members. Ask for a link on that page. Give yourself a link swap if you have more than one blog. Subscribe to your own feed ask your family and friends to subscribe to your feed. It's really an unobtrusive way of getting readers because they see your blog headline on whatever home page they're using.
Look for other places where you can add your link. I use flickr and upload photos there and comment on photos and I get a few visits from there a month. Whenever I upload a photo I always give a description of my photo and will place my links in my photo descriptions. Accept invitations from people who come across your photos there and add them to your friends list. Every person you have listed as a friend has the potential of bringing your blog some visitors. It's the whole six degrees of separation thing.
Comment on other blogs where they allow you to add your url. Make friends with other bloggers, if you have a similar post leave them a comment and ask them to come check out your post or blog. Do it hundreds of times over. Don't just stick to the blogs in your niche, think outside the box. Find blogs from famous people or famous blogs and comment on there, again think outside the box: if your blog is about gardening visit political blogs, blogs about your favorite television show, current events celebrities. Find a celebrity who blogs and become a fixture (I'll tell you my Rosie O'Donnell story some day) in the comments. Every inbound link to your blog counts towards your page rank. The more popular the site/blog the better it is for your blog. There are a lot of periodicals that publish on-line and allow comments to the stories leave a comment on there. Soon I may post an example of this that ties in with this part of the entry...
Find blog directories in your niche and submit to them. I'm too cheap to submit to the ones you have to pay for consideration but I've taken advantage of a lot of the free ones. See my left sidebar for some of the directories I'm on. A lot of them already have popular blogs that dominate the tops spots in your niche so find those directories where you will not be competing with the most popular blogs in your category for the same exposure/clicks.
Look at your site stats and see what searches are bringing people to your blog and expand on your previous posts. If you see people are searching for something and arriving at your blog but you don't have any knowledge on the subject consider asking a guest blogger to post and give them back a link to their blog/site or contact info if they're a pro.
Do you do seed or plant trades? Print yourself a few business cards with your blog url and put them in with your plant or seed trades. Print your blog's url on t-shirts/bumper stickers (you get the idea) and make yourself a walking advertisement for your blog.
Go out and photograph the top tourist destinations in your town or state and blog about them. If you're garden blogging hit up the parks, gardens and conservatories and write about them on your blog. A while back I blogged about the Lincoln Park Conservatory and I'm still getting hits from that post. Don't forget to include any famous names that may be associated with the place you're blogging about. Do some reading on Search Engine Optimization, your blog can benefit from what websites to do get traffic to their sites.
I think this post is getting rather long so I'll stop here but if you have any questions or comments go ahead and ask.