Now we’ve arrived at one of the most important steps of the process: finding your readers! I say finding your readers instead of letting them find you, because this is a pretty active part of the process and a big reason why lots of people have great content but a small audience. You can write the best travel blog on the planet, but if nobody knows about it, how will you be able to grow a readership?
The following are essential things to learn in order to grow your readership month-over-month.
Search Engine Optimization
Ideally, a big chunk of your traffic will come from search engines. Most readers find Be My Travel Muse by searching for various topics and often stick around or become regular readers.
Since you’ve already installed WordPress SEO by Yoast, this process will be a bit easier. Ideally, your blog name will already have a travel-related name without a lot of search competition which will help with Google rankings. Most importantly, however, your posts each need to be optimized. This means that the title, URL of the post, and keywords in the post itself and “focus keyword” box for the SEO widget will match.
Try to pick something that you would search for yourself and don’t make it too broad. For example, when I wrote about hiking Mt. Bromo in Java without a tour, I was targeting a very specific set of keywords, which has helped it come up close to first on Google. That post gets lots of search traffic from people looking for that exact set of information.
SEO is something you should never stop learning about. It is ever-changing and, like it or not, Google is the main player in this category, and what you really need to do is optimize to their constantly evolving algorithms. A myriad of companies out there focus on just SEO and charge a boatload of money for their consulting service. By learning about it yourself, you can essentially handle it in-house.
I’m always reading books on the subject, increasing my knowledge of SEO and writing in general. I’d highly recommend reading the following books for your blogging journey:
As with social media, don’t assume you know it all, and never stop learning.
Link building is also a highly important part of SEO. It helps Google to determine the trustworthiness of your site. The more high-quality websites point to your blog, the more Google decides to push you higher in the rankings.
In order to gain links, I recommend guest blogging. I blogged for other travel blogs constantly in the beginning of my blogging journey. As I freelance more, I have less time for guest blogs, but this was an essential part of my initial growth strategy for finding readers.
There are lots of blogs that accept guest posts, and lots that don’t. Take a look at your favorite blogs and see if they have guest posts. If so, maybe they’d want a post from you! Send a pitch to the owner of the blog and see if s/he likes your idea. Go for blogs that have a higher readership than yours, and be sure to check out Google PageRank checker, which measures the trustworthiness of a site, to make sure their page rank is higher than yours (the lowest is 1 with most travel blogs falling between 1 and 4).
The following blogs accept guest posts and are a great place to get started:
Where Sidewalks End (especially interviews)
Write travel tips for Traveldudes
and many, many more.
Connecting With Your Audience
Your audience is everything. They’re the ones who will share your stories, follow your advice, and help you to grow. I invest a lot of time in replying to emails and comments, as well as in meeting up with readers abroad. Even though none of these things directly translates to cash in my pocket, I know that appreciating and responding to readers is the key to developing a following.
As seen by some email excerpts in the first post of this series, I have amazing readers who take time out of their days to read what I say and who often email me about their hopes and dreams. I can’t emphasize enough how much this all means to me and how important it is for you as a blogger. By always responding kindly and appreciating the time that they put in, you’ll help to cultivate these important relationships.
I’ve mentioned a Dave Kerpen book earlier in this series and am mentioning another one of his books now. Read Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver.
Though this one is more business-focused and partially has to do with handling employees, it also has tons of invaluable information on how to best serve your customers, which are your readers. Dave’s books are highly worthwhile, and if you only buy one book to start with, make it one of his.
In the next and final installment of this series, we’ll discuss how to make money with your blog. Stay tuned!