If You Build It, Will They Click?

So you’ve come up an awesome blog idea, built it, and optimized it. You’ve patiently waited for your audience to show up. But, you’re pretty sure the only person reading your blog is your mom. (Thanks, mom!)

How do you start getting the traffic you really want?

It would easy if you could just pound on your audience’s computer screens to get their attention. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit more than that to reach the people who really want your content -- and believe us, those people are out there! They just need to meet you.

Here's how to start building that traffic:

1. Authentically promote yourself. 

Answer us truthfully: Do your friends, family, colleagues and dentist know about what you're doing? Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to put yourself out there to the people who know you best, because criticism is scary. But the truth is that you never know who you know, who might love and need the content you're putting out into the universe.

Even though you might have mentioned it in passing, email your peeps a link when you launch. Post to your personal profiles and share why you started this project and why it's meaningful. Even if these aren't your exact target audiences, they are likely to pay attention to you since they know you, and they just might know some members of your target audience too.

And whenever you publish new stuff, share on your social channels (try pinning each new post to your social profiles so it’s the first one that shows up) and via email to keep your audience coming back. It doesn't have to be every single post ever; if you like, just share the work you're most proud of, but share regularly.

2. Give something great to your chosen community. 

Where does your audience already hang? When asked what he would do differently if he had to start all over again, expert blogger Mitch Joel said, “I would spend ten times as much time adding value to the five or ten existing communities where my potential members might be hanging out, reading and connecting.

Dude is onto something. You should already know where your audience already is, what hashtags they use, and whether they're having lengthy Twitter discussions or if they're sharing gifs in private Facebook groups. Do your research and figure this out, based on what you know about your target audience, and start to hang with them so you really understand what they're about, what they need, and where you can contribute. It's the classic "give more than you get" scenario, and it's important, because people can tell if you're faking it from a mile off.

Once you think you know your audience, start participating regularly with helpful comments, questions, and observations. Only post links to your own content when it's genuinely useful, and engage with content from others, too. This is the "social" part of this whole social media thing, and if you are truly passionate about what you're writing about, this should be the fun part!

3. Expand your digital footprint. 

Now that you're active in your community, we want to see that people are checking you out. Keep an eye on your engagement: clicks on your social media profiles, comments and replies to your posts, that kind of thing. We'll also see this through your referral traffic on your blog; when you start, most people will find your content through your social media activity or by you telling everyone about your site, and not necessarily through straight Googling.

As awesome as your blog may be, you start out as a tiny blip in the huge world of The Internet™, and you've got to grow your street cred before you'll show up at the top of those search results. So use your online communities and personal connections to find out about cross-posting or contribution opportunities, so you can build your credibility and name recognition. Ask super awesome folks in your niche if you can give them some free content with a link back to your site. And don't be afraid to ask people who don't specifically say that they accept guest posts; if you reach out and propose something they could really use, they just might say yes. Other people might be more into the idea of a Twitter chat (still a thing!) or a Facebook Live interview, so be open-minded to how you could work together. The point is to build a relationship and get the benefit of shared exposure.

4. Get used to calling yourself an expert. 

Finding these opportunities to contribute is a great but super time-consuming way to spread the word about your stuff. Same can be said for PR and media opportunities, but getting your name and quote in a big blog or newspaper can do wonders for building your cred and your traffic.

HARO is a great low-cost tool to help you find opportunities to connect with the media, and it just requires a few minutes of your day. HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, and that's quite literally what you're doing. Reporters submit inquiries to find experts on anything from healthcare to dog-grooming, and those with helpful answers can directly respond. Sign up as a Source and pick your desired subject areas, and each day you'll get notifications in your inbox from journalists who might need you.

Honestly, the majority of requests might be useless, and there's not a guarantee you'll be included in an article, but it's worth the time when you do get that big hit! For example, co-founder Katie was quoted in the first few paragraphs of Travel and Leisure's biggest story of 2015 when she responded to share that Reagan Airport has solid pizza. You never know!

5. Get outside and meet people. 

As comfortable as your office chair might be, nothing beats meeting real people in person. You know, networking? Yeah, yeah, it's the digital age and all that, but 84% of people still prefer in-person meetings. If your content is based around a certain city or geographic area, this is absolutely vital.

Start with that awesome community of peers you've been hanging out with online, and ask if there are any events you should attend. Go on Meetup.com and Eventbrite to see if there are relevant groups of your target audience having happy hours or knitting clubs near you. If there isn't anything going on in your area, consider creating an event of your own! Once you’re there, make it rain business cards and follow up with anyone you meet like the good networker you are. 

Even if you just have a couple of contacts that you meet up with for coffee every month, those meaningful connections and relationships can prove their worth again and again through potential partnerships, referrals, and new project ideas. Hell, just having those supportive connections can be awesome enough on its own. (Shout out to our business besties!)

6. Be engaged.

Once you start getting a few more visitors to your blog, make sure they come back. Turn comments on to encourage conversation, and ask your readers what they want to know. Make sure your email sign-up is working, and promise some unique (and useful) content that readers can only get in their inboxes. Get those social media profiles featured on your site so readers can follow you in other ways if they just can't get enough. And if you get feedback, respond to it right away so your readers know you're paying attention.

Phew! That was a doozy of a Slice, wasn't it? Some of these tips might seem obvious, and if they are, reply and let us know that you're ready for the next level stuff. But you'd be surprised at how many people don't actually want feedback about their work, whether it's positive or negative. Step back and think about why you might be nervous to put yourself out there, and take a hard look at your content to be sure you're really satisfied with it. If you have to spend more time on it to feel comfortable, do it; nothing, and we mean nothing, beats a really good product!