I've built it. They're coming. What next?
March 28, 2012 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I've started a subject-specific blog and it's going well. What should I be doing to continue building an audience? What timeline is normal for a blog? What should I reading about strategy or expectations?

The blog is about a city's architecture. It's my hometown and I'm trained in architecture, so it's a topic I care about hugely and am well positioned to handle. I really love writing, research and taking photographs for it and I hope to build it into a platform for other opportunities.

It's three weeks old and I'm averaging 80-90 views a day, with a good return visitor rate and nearly a two-minute average length of visit. I'm using Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to promote posts (with some other content) and the site itself is on its own domain, running on Wordpress. I am posting M-F consistently, and the weekly visit pattern is very low at weekends, rising M-W, falling T-F. I am involved in the subject-specific networks for it, and it's getting noticed (slowly, steadily!).

(I have had numerous blogs before and have written for publication too, but this is the first time I've had a project that's all my own and getting popular, so I'm better at the mechanics than the strategy, though I'm excited to learn.)

Help me!
- What should I be reading or listening to, to understand and plan? I can't stand self-helpy entrepreneurial or SEO creepery, but there must be some good material by sane, smart people.
- What can I expect in terms of a timeline? I have a six-month period in my mind for building an audience (before I despair about numbers!), is that realistic?
- Other than researching and producing good content consistently, what should I doing to build an audience steadily?

Any advice would be really appreciated.
posted by carbide to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I can't give any advice, but I do know that you ought to learn to advertise yourself a bit better, by which I mean, your blog sounds interesting yet here no link to it so that means all who read your request will NO visit your site out of curiosity.
posted by Postroad at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: Postroad: it's against AskMe guidelines to link one's site within a question! The link is, of course, in my profile.
posted by carbide at 1:42 PM on March 28, 2012

I can figure out how to follow you on Twitter, but I can't figure out how to easily share one of your posts on Twitter etc without cutting & pasting the URL. This will build readership as your audience's followers will discover you.
posted by desjardins at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing. Building traffic on a blog takes a long time and a lot of effort, and frankly, most people are not able to do it. You're competing with thousands of other sites around the world for people's attention.

The best way to build traffic is to affiliate yourself with a more highly-trafficked architecture-related blog, such as BLDGBLOG, or some such. Maybe they would be willing to help you promote your blog by cross-posting, etc.

And, I don't know how you reconcile a desire to increase traffic with "I can't stand self-help entrepreneurial or SEO creepery." I mean, the people who build successful blogs are (1) entrepreneurial and (2) conversant at SEO and other related things. Whether you don't like them has no bearing on their utility for building a well-trafficked site.
posted by dfriedman at 2:01 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Build relationships with others in your community, both your local community where you live, and in the architecture community (or whatever communities align with your blog). Build relationships by commenting on blog posts and adding value. Make blog posts on your own blog about other websites or blogs. Post links to blogs you're interested in on Twitter and Facebook (making sure that you hace the audience for it). Fundamentally, engage with community, engage in conversations, and help out others.

On the SEO side, SEO these days means making sure you get found on the web. Have you researched keywords that people are searching for? Are your posts optimized for Search? That sort of thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:02 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congratulations on the new architecture blog, it looks very nice and it's clear that you're knowledgeable in your field. It looks like you've already thought considerably about your writing process, the design of the site, and that you have a number of quality posts under your belt. Fantastic. Though I don't have a step-by-step guide on how to grow an audience, I've managed to grow a small one myself and when people ask me how it happened here are some of the things I tell them (some of these may or may not apply to you, use what you need, discard what you don't):

-- Be prepared to do what you're doing for a very long time without worrying about the numbers. I blogged 2-4 times a day for eight months before things started to get what I considered to be 'interesting' (more than a couple hundred visits/day). In that time I honed my ability to find content, experiment with the design of the blog, try new formats and features, and generally have fun without the fear of anyone really noticing my failures.

-- Don't be afraid to scrap what's not working, try new things, and start in different directions. Think about your subject matter -- will you find this interesting in a year? Two years? How can you make things interesting to the broadest audience possible. You seem to be worried about traffic and your audience already (which is great!) but also be fair to how large you realistically think that fully-realized audience might be and what constitutes 'success'.

-- As far as building an audience I found two things to be very successful in the beginning. First: linking to and crediting your sources. Link to everyone. Link to where you read an article, an architect's website, a news article, anything. Do it all the time. All bloggers and website owners are obsessed with their stats and referrals and will often click to see where people are coming from and might become a regular visitor. This is often the best source of new traffic. Eventually these same bloggers will source things you're writing about. Second: write about interesting things that nobody else is covering. This is much easier said than done, but the second somebody hits your homepage they should see a good percentage of things they've never encountered before.

-- Embrace Facebook & Twitter at least. As much as you might not like it or if it interferes with your design. Nearly 60% of all traffic I see comes directly from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and StumbleUpon. I don't know which social networks are relevant to your field, but integrate them.

-- If you ever find yourself worrying about SEO, paid advertising, or link exchanges you're probably doing something wrong or you might need to adjust your expectations. Focus on your content -- that's 95% of what matters, if it's engaging and broad, the rest will follow.

Good luck!
posted by joinks at 2:16 PM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't send me off googling on the first click. Why are the three castles burning? And don't hesitate to include yourself, why did you photograph that particular emblem? Why is it important? Is there a relationship between that funny motto and another topic you wrote, self link.

As joinks said, have a lot of content, google searches will find you if you have unique information. But also make it interesting, tell a story. Tell an ongoing story that I'll want to check in on next week. Good luck and be prolific.
posted by sammyo at 4:23 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the helpful critique, lots to consider.

Just two things I may have muddled in the question, if there's any further input:

- The posting schedule M-F, and whether going seven days makes a substantial difference to retaining readers.
- Things I should be reading so that I have some sense of the previous question without having to ask.

I realise the nature of the question sounds numbers-focused, and should say that I'm really in love with the subject matter and the project, not doing it to hit a target and then quit or anything.
posted by carbide at 5:49 AM on March 29, 2012

The posting schedule M-F, and whether going seven days makes a substantial difference to retaining readers.

Thousands of successful blogs go silent on the weekends and thousands of successful blogs continue to post. I at least try to squeeze in 1-2 posts during the weekend, sometimes more, sometimes less.

- Things I should be reading so that I have some sense of the previous question without having to ask.

I don't think there's anything to read about this kind of stuff. Just blog for a few months and you'll start getting a sense of things. If you're this interested in the fluctuation of traffic, you should definitely get ChartBeat. It's a great way to remain continuously 'in touch' with your visitors in real time. It's one of the single most valuable tools I've found for a blogger.
posted by joinks at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be active in a community of similar bloggers, or like-minded people. For example, I learned about many photography blogs I follow via those bloggers posting (or being mentioned) on dpreview. Pushing your own stuff is great, but the real traffic comes when people in the community value your content enough to share it with each other and their outside friends.

Also, Pinterest would be a good fit for something like this.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:59 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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