BlogHer: How to Build Your Audience

    March 23, 2007

Elise Bauer, Simply Recipes and Learning Movable Type

Three things to thing about, with respect to building traffic:

  • Community
  • Syndication (RSS)
  • Search Engine Optimization

Community is the best leverage point you have. Engaging with an audience will do more to build traffic, and build audience, than anything else. The more you engage your community, the more they’ll link to you, and the more traffic you’ll get.

"It isn’t about you. It’s about engaging a community."

Blogging vs. a newsletter: It’s the difference between "broadcasting a message" and "engaging a peer group."

Tactics to build traffic:

  • Link out to other bloggers
  • Leave comments on their sites
  • Plan and participate in blog events
  • Contribute to the community

If someone comments on Elise’s blog, not only will she respond in the comments, but she will also go out to that blogger’s site, find something interesting, and place a comment on ::their:: site.

In no uncertain terms: Link to your competitors.

Question: But that drives traffic to your competitors!
Elise: There are probably 2,000 other food blogs. All I care about is the value of the content that I put on the page. If a link to one of my competitors enhances my reader’s experience, I do it. I am helping out my audience. It also helps with SEO (search engine optimization) — if someone searches on Google for that competitor’s name, they are more likely to find your site instead!

On RSS: Elise has over 200,000 (yes "two hundred thousand") subscribers to the Simply Recipes RSS feed. Of the 200K readers she has, 180K are through Personalized Google. One of the things she did early on was to make it easy for someone to add her subscription to Personalized Google or MyYahoo.

Full or partial feeds? Elise puts full photo and head notes in the feed, but does NOT put her recipes in the full feed. "If you do choose to do a partial feed, you need to put enough into that feed to keep them interested. You will lose subscribers if you do partial feeds that are insubstantial."

Also talked about search engine optimization, hosted by Vanessa Fox, from Google. Interesting insight: "Search is actually reverse advertising; the searcher is broadcasting what he or she is looking for" (ed. kinda sounds like VRM, doesn’t it?).

Having a blog will drive more traffic to your site. How to make it work better?

  • Discoverability — search engines have to know the site exists
    • Following links from other pages
    • Through a Sitemap submission
  • Crawlabilty – search engines have to be able to access the pages
    • Are they allowed to access the pages
    • Can they technically access the pages?
    • Can they extract text from the pages?
  • Relevance – Is a page from the site the most useful result for the search query
    • What is the page about?
    • What words are used on the page?
    • How well is the page linked and how is it described by other sites?

Text is good.

Flash…not so good.

Images…not so good.

Use the "TITLE" tag — it’s extremely important.

If the site uses a lot of javascript or AJAX, Google won’t be able to access it.

Always use ALT tags in images. And don’t use things like "LOGO" as the alt tag; instead use the name of the company.

Tools for keyword research

Both inbound AND outbound links are important.

Avoid link exchange / link farm programs. Those programs will get your banned from the index.

SEO Case study:

  • gets 21% of the traffic for "shoes."
  • Nike gets 1% of the traffic for "shoes."

Why? Nike’s site is beautiful – and a big chunk of Flash and images. Google can’t index it. The only thing that Google knows about Nike is the anchor text from other sites that link to it.