“At the ‘Tools of Change’ publishing conference in New York, Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler revealed a remarkably simple, effortless way for authors to sell more eBooks on Amazon… or in fact anywhere eBooks are sold online.

In a survey of Goodreads’ 15 million-strong membership, he found that the main driver of eBook purchases was, unsurprisingly, ‘referral by a friend’.”

How To Build Your Audience and Grow Your Readership

A sticky situation to be sure – you’ve got this great business and you’ve been growing, expanding, tackling great hurdles, overcoming every darn obstacle, but still… only 50 of your closest friends like you on Facebook! What to do?

Though it may seem hard, growing your readership is something that is doable. Clearly defined goals and sticking to a game-plan are key – but then again, you know this – you’ve got your own business, for crying out loud! So the discipline I leave up to you, but here are the beginnings of a successful strategy for building your readership.

Let me say first, however, that Content Marketing, as well as PR, SEO, and Social Media Campaigns, are all interconnected, and though the following proposal will suggest methods to increase readership, it will also inherently work to increase your Search Engine Results Placement (SERP) as well as establish your prominence in your field. The best approach to any marketing campaign is to achieve individual goals but act with them as part of a comprehensive marketing plan. Take these tips to heart, and you should see a dramatic increase in traffic to your site.

I’d also like to outline the need for differentiation of social media and an on-site blog. Your on-site blog should be about pertinent information that other experts in your industry will find valuable. Think of it as a keynote presentation with “room for questions/comments” at the end. Your social media presence (Facebook, specifically) is the place for links to what you’re doing in the industry – a way for your fans to follow your progress and “like” your latest projects. Each fulfills a need, and the info between the two will sometimes cross over, but your blog should be about expanding your notoriety in your field.

First things first: Get some good blog posts (at least 5 [Why 5?]) on your site.

But before you do, read on.

What makes a good blog post?

Rough overview:

Find a topic you’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be exactly what your website is about – make it some derivation. For example, if your site is about homeland security, you could write about security, weapons, technological advancements in the field, home security, foreign policy… you get the idea.

Content over 1000 words. Tests indicate that the longer, more in-depth content ranks better on search engines than shorter posts. They do better with social circles, and they tend to be linked more frequently.

Relate Relevant Content – use your spreadsheets to see what posts in your field are being discussed most frequently, then use that information to draft content and research on your own.

Use graphics and examples when possible. It’s important to include at least one attributable image to your blog post as it breaks up the flow of the words and looks better on the page (not as intimidating). Examples prove your point with specifics.

Create a catchy headline. Many posts have been written about how important it is to use keywords in your headline and to assure that it grabs your reader’s attention.

Promote content

Now that you’ve got some blog posts under your belt, it’s time to promote them. It’s not enough to just have social media outlets. As you may know, it’s hard to grow your readership. Not everyone will care about children’s eBooks, but many people care about parenting, technology, what their children are reading, and how to entertain/educate them. You can use these categories to start a list of potential network connections.

Create a long list (200+) of blogs, websites, and Twitter users that are active (tweeted in the past week, the website is regularly updated, etc.)

Make sure that no one on this list sells products or services (you are not, at this point, in the business of selling. You are in the business of establishing yourself as a presence, and if you come out of the gates with an obvious agenda, people will be reluctant to heed your advice).

Get the full name, email address, website URL, and name of their website.

List potential guest blogging opportunities and then email them and request to write a guest blog for them.

Be sure to solicit successful sites, but not industry giants. Alltop.com will give you a list of bloggers in various fields, and you can then use a service like Alexa or Similarweb to check rankings to see what their traffic is like. (Aim for blogs with 30,000 – 300,000 readership hits.)

Consider linking to an internal page (not just your homepage). This encourages site click-through and promotes traffic and exposure.
Follow a template along the lines of:

Subject: you should blog about [insert your guest blog post topic]

[insert their first name], as an avid reader of [insert their site name]I would love to read about [insert guest blog post topic]… and I think your other readers would as well.

Your content on [insert existing post from their website #1, insert existing post from their website #2, and insert existing post from their website #3] are great, but I think you can tie it all together by blogging on [insert guest blog post topic].

I know you are probably busy, so how about I write it for you? Don’t worry, I’m a great blogger and have written posts such as [insert blog post URL #1] and [insert blog post URL #2].

Let me know if you are interested, I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love… as I am one.

Look forward to hearing from you,
[insert your name]

Create a list of all of the popular blogs in your target space. You can easily do this by searching Technorati (a blog and post search engine) and looking for target blogs on a specific topic. If there aren’t too many popular blogs in your space, list out all of the blogs that are somewhat in your space and are popular.

Now that you have a list of all of the popular blogs, make sure you browse them frequently (at least once a week). When browsing them, look out for social buttons on each post that shows how many people either “tweeted” or “liked” the post. The higher the number the better.

Take the posts that have over 50 or 100 social shares and list them out in a spreadsheet. These will become a resource to draw from when trying to write effective blog posts in the future and to see what your potential audience is responding to.

Spin the title. Don’t just regurgitate old information. Spin it. Outline the main points you want to touch upon, fill in the details, then revise and publish. Get a good licensed image, post, then share.

Comment – This cannot be stressed enough. It is tedious and time-consuming, but it shows your presence in your field, helps to establish notoriety and expertise and helps your SEO.

Use your real name and blog URL (not your website’s homepage). This helps give the impression that you’re “for real” and not just promoting your own agenda/business and it separates blog topics from immediate selling. In addition, Google is currently in the process of de-anonymizing the web, linking personal sites to business sites, Youtube profiles, Facebook etc. The goal of this is to increase accountability, and so it helps to establish YOU as an industry expert. Alternatively, you can create another author for your site, but keep in mind it will be this person who will be linked to the bulk of this content aggrandizement.

Respond to comments on your own blog, create a conversation, ask questions. (Pete Cashmore followed this strategy at Mashable, and successfully built it as a Mecca for Social Networking knowledge.) Social media indicators play a big role in SEO, and your readership grows when people see that this is a discussion, not a one-way lecture.

Get Reviews – Reviews are a large determinate of what sells products. Once your readership is up you can solicit other bloggers for reviews and assure them a link to their site, thus enabling cross-marketing efforts. If you have hard copies that you can offer as an incentive – a signed copy, for example – you can use this as payment for their review.

The Great Blog Post – Once a few guest posts have been written, begin writing posts on your blog that link to these sites. Write quality content, use metrics and examples when possible, and then whenever you have a particularly good blog with links to other blog owners’ sites, email them and ask them to share it in their social circles.

Make it memorable and keep business out of it… at first. You’ve got to begin, work on, and promote content that doesn’t sell your business at all. Just for a while. Nobody likes a hard sell and building readership is the same. If you begin to comment, share, and promote quality information that people genuinely care about, you begin to win what they call the long-tail game. SEO and circulation gains aren’t made overnight. Play the game as if you’re sticking around for a while.

You can really crank this up with StumbleUpon Paid Discovery. $100 here and they’ll direct over 1000 visitors to your post. The other blogs you linked to within your post will then see you as a referrer in their analytics reports and your notoriety in the field will grow.

Create a Reciprocal Tweet System – Every once in a while, with that really great blog post, you can solicit tweets directly. Using your list of email addresses, you can send them a short and sweet solicitation for a tweet. For Ex: “I would love it if you could tweet about [insert link]. Let me know if you need a tweet.” This direct approach is roughly 8% effective according to industry giant Neil Patel, so the longer the list of your potential network, the better.

Consider making a badge. Have a web designer make a badge something along the lines of “Top 100 Ebook Retailer”. Create an embed code. This not only creates perceived credibility, but you can now email out the embed code and create something of an inner circle for those that promote you and share content (and audience) with you.

Create/make images that would be useful to other bloggers. Images rank well in search engine indexing, so almost every blog has at least one. Still, it can be hard to find royalty-free images that relate to your topic. Creating infographics, photos, and Memes:

Use tools like Photoshop, Meme Generator, and Quick Meme to create your own meme like this one:

Once you have your own meme, you can start spreading the content using social sites where your target audience would most likely be on – such as targeted Facebook Groups, Stumbleupon, Twitter, Pinterest, 9gag, Tumblr, and Subreddits on Reddit. (This makes great Social Media fodder.) Using your memes on your other external content distribution campaigns (like guest blogs, slide presentations, ebooks, etc. is good practice as well.)

If you’ve seen improvements in traffic, links and brand mentions through this technique, you can start using Reverse Image Search to find sites that have used your memes but haven’t provided a link to your site. Reach out to them for easier link acquisition.

List potential website owners and make some suggestions for their site.
For example: “Dear Sir or Miss, I’m an avid reader of your blog and, being in the blogging field myself, couldn’t help but notice that you did [X] this when really you mean [Y].” OR “… did you ever think of [X]?”

Ask only for a link to your site as potential remuneration.

If All Else Fails – Buy followers. It sounds dubious, but you can solicit companies directly and pay them to write blogs about you. Many successful blogs make good revenue from this, but it should be a last resort unless you’re in a full-blown, no reservations marketing blast.

The above is an overview of the beginnings of a successful Content Marketing strategy. Social Media strategies are closely tied, but are beyond the scope of this document, though some themes like Meme generation would work well on crossover to Pinterest which, as several studies have proven, drive more sales than Facebook.

-Hudson Hornick
Alchemy On Demand

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