This the second part of a series on 10 Ways to Get More Readers for Your Genealogy Blog. The first part covered planning and designing your site. This part covers how to make people aware of your site and get them to visit it.
#6: Hand-Delivered Content
You want to provide a way for your lazy readers to keep up to date on the site. For most blogs this means getting an RSS feed, and possibly sending out automated emails whenever you post. A quick Twitter and/or Facebook update is a good idea too, although tweaking your tweets and status updates is a more in-depth topic that I won’t cover here. (Googling “social media marketing” will provide more information than you could possibly use, if you’re interested.)
Basically, assume your reader wants to follow your site but doesn’t have the time to check back every however many days. Give them an easy way to remember you exist and read your new stuff in the format they like.
- How to Write Tweets that Get Clicks and How to Build Your Facebook Profile and Drive Traffic to Your Blog are good guides for the two largest social media sites. Feedburner has an awesome set of help files to help you get started with it.
- Go to Feedburner and get your feed burnt!
#7: Spread the Word
Tell everyone you know that you have or are redoing your blog: your family, your friends, your co-workers, your hairdresser, your mechanic. You interact with a very large network of people daily; make use of it. Many of them, even if they aren’t passionate about genealogy, will at least look at the site and tell you what they thought.
Stick your blog’s URL in your signature file for posting on mailing lists and message boards, and in your profile on LinkedIn or Facebook or GenealogyWise. Put it in your business cards, invoices, and bios for speaking engagements. Make sure that everyone knows you have a website.
- Not much to do except go out and do it!
#8: Search Engine Optimization
No longer the sole purview of slimy internet marketers peddling over-priced e-books, SEO is important because you want people to be able to find your website when they go to Google. To do that, you have to understand how search engines rank your site and the pages within it:
- URLs. If hosting on a service like Blogspot, choose your username wisely, as it will show up in every URL. If hosting on your own, choose your domain name wisely. Also, pay attention to how your individual posts’ URLs look. This will let Google and other search engines index your pages better.
- Page titles. You will have varying levels of customizability based on your blogging platform and hosting. You might have to learn a bit of CSS and HTML but it’s pretty straightforward and very rewarding. Remember that Google cuts off anything after the 65-70 character mark, so make sure they’re succinct.
- Headers. Anything written using an <h1>, <h2>, or <h3> tag is prioritized in that order. This is why your headings and post titles should be descriptive, instead of cutesy.
- Keyword density. Don’t be stupid with this and try to stuff your page full of keywords. It looks forced and silly. If you have a moderate command of the language your page is written in, you don’t have to worry abut keyword density.
- Backlinks. Authoritative sites linking back to you really helps with this, but don’t be tempted by offers of link exchanges. Search engines are smart enough to recognize these and they will invariably hurt your ranking. For a better way to get others to link to you, see “Community involvement”, below.
- Learn about SEO at Google.
- Determine which keywords are important to your site: “Manitoba genealogy”? “DAR application”? “Organizing genealogy files”? “John Queazer family tree”?
- Look at your URLs, page titles, and headers to ensure they reflect your focus. If using WordPress, Yoast’s Definitive Guide to Higher Rankings is a must-read. Blogspot bloggers will want to go through this checklist made specifically for them.
#9: Community Involvement
This is also known as “networking for people who hate the term networking”. It consists largely of commenting and guest posting on other blogs; participating in blog carnivals, mailing lists, and forums; signing up for genealogy-related websites; and contributing useful, unique, or interesting content that makes people want to click on your name and find out more about you. Don’t try to consciously self-promote or spam people. Restrict yourself to saying quality things on the web and people will come to you.
Guest posting in particular is an excellent opportunity, not to be underestimated. Some of you will find it ironic that I’m guest-posting about guest-posting, but there you have it. By guest-posting on other blogs, or having others guest-post on yours, you are “cross-pollinating” your reader list.
- Visit Ramit Sethi’s guidelines for guest posters on his blog. Although he targets a different market (personal finance), his tips hold true for you.
- This week, scour the genealogy-related web and leave at least one quality comment on another blog, or one good post on a message board or mailing list.
- Offer to write a guest post for one blog you follow.
Special note: If you would like a step by step guide to guest-posting and are okay with paying for the information, I highly recommend Guest Post Secrets by Erica Douglass. It’s a very affordable product (twenty-seven bucks) that takes you through the process step-by-step, complete with email templates to use. Please don’t think this product is the only way to go; there are tons of other great, free resources for guest posting (just Google “how to guest post”). I only mention it because it has been so helpful in my own blogging journey.
#10: Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, and GenealogyWise are common places for genealogists to hang out together virtually. You would be wise to go to these sites and create an account and interact with people. If you fear that you don’t have the time to keep up, there are a number of tools to help you manage the often voluminous output of these sites. Twitter streams can be syndicated as RSS feeds, and you can tweak your Facebook email notifications too. If you really don’t have time for it, though, your best bet is to create a dummy account and say something on your profile to the effect of “I don’t participate in [social web app]; the best way to contact me is through [preferred media].”
Each of these sites also has their own rules and cultural norms. You need to learn these, otherwise you risk alienating the very people you want to attract. Googling “[social media site] etiquette” usually gets you what you need to know. GeneaBloggers also has an extensive Twitter Cheat Sheet you should look at.
- Read The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook.
- Create an account on one social media site of your choice. Link your profile to your website and, if desired, redirect people to a better form of communication. If you will actually use the site, spend one hour getting it set up.
I hope the second half of this series gave you some ideas to increase your traffic. Despite the length of these two posts, we have still barely scratched the surface. There are a number of specialized resources that I just didn’t have the space to include, and a number of topics that, due to space restrictions, were glossed over entirely. Below are four more free resources to help you:
- 279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau. Chris was the first person who showed me that being a digital entrepreneur was possible and viable. Plus he does other cool things, like aim to visit every single country in the world by the time he’s 35.
- Blog Success Manifesto by Erica Douglass. Erica is great at breaking things down into easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. This guide is simultaneously one of the most comprehensive and most concrete I’ve encountered. It is stuck behind a “give me your email address” form, but you can always use a throwaway. (Though I stayed signed up afterwards, because Erica rocks my socks!)
- Ramped Blogging by Robb Sutton is specifically aimed at people who want to make money from their blogging, but it’s still got lots of useful tips, because you can’t make money off a website if no one visits it. Robb wins points for doing automatic follow-up on the material in the book once per week for 7 weeks. This is useful if you’re like me and tend to forget about all the projects you’re in the midst of doing! (Also behind a “give me your email” form.)
- Free Marketing Courses from Naomi Dunford. Choose the most appropriate one for you and go to town. This covers marketing yourself online, with a slant towards making money, but again, there’s no reason you can’t take the tips and apply them just to get greater exposure. (As above, stuck behind an email form an sent out at a rate of one per day for 7 days.)
About the Author: Katrina McQuarrie is a Gen Y genealogist who believes in making family history more accessible to non-nerds and young people. She runs a genealogy blog of her own called Kick-Ass Genealogy.
© 2010, copyright Katrina McQuarrie