Bloggers who are looking to increase the traffic to their blog should start thinking not in terms of links but in terms of opportunities.
Because it’s opportunities, more than anything else, that are going to get you that traffic in the long run.
What do I mean by opportunities?
There are so many, and I list some of them below, but basically I mean opportunities to collaborate with others, to grow your blog, to attract new readers, to create a brand, to reach a new audience, to help others, to network.
The problem is that many times we don’t recognize an opportunity when it comes along.
Someone might email us about a link exchange, but because we have a policy not to do link exchanges, we pass on the opportunity. Should we do link exchanges, then?
Not necessarily — but someone emailing you is an opportunity to make a friend, to work with another blogger, to gain a reader. Seize it if you can, by being friendly to the person, by suggesting an alternative, by finding other ways you can help each other out.
Sometimes we feel like we don’t have time to take advantage of opportunities, that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And that’s true — sometimes we have to turn opportunities down, regretfully.
But instead of outright turning them down, see if they can be put off until you have more time to re-evaluate your commitments.
Let me give you a great example: when I first started Zen Habits, I emailed a bunch of high-profile bloggers to ask them to do a short interview with me — I would email them a few questions and print their answers on my blog.
Many turned me down outright, a few accepted. One of my favorite responses was by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger: he honestly told me he was busy with a conference for the next month or two, but said maybe afterwards he would have time. I wrote back to him two months later, and he accepted!
The lesson here is that Darren didn’t reject the opportunity to be interviewed, even though his site doesn’t need the extra publicity from a small blog like mine was then.
He didn’t have the time to do the interview then, but he asked for me to check back with him — and then he took advantage of the opportunity to be interviewed when he had more time. Perfect way to capitalize on opportunities when you don’t have much time!
The key here is to look at everything and ask yourself, “What’s the opportunity here?
How can I use this to my advantage, to grow my blog and my brand and network with others?” And then, if you can, seize it.
Here are just a few examples:
1. Great posts.
One of the most important opportunities, of course, is the post you write every day. How powerful are the ideas for your posts? How useful are the posts? How readable are they? How good are the headlines?
Take care to use every post as an opportunity to serve your readers and write content that will make your blog take off.
2. Social bookmarking.
One of the best ways to get some surges in traffic, the social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit, et al, can be difficult mistresses to keep.
Most of your posts won’t make it there, but sometimes you’ll write one so awesome that bigger sites will link to it and send you some traffic, and that’s an opportunity to get in on the social bookmarking traffic. Seize that opportunity!
3. Guest posts.
If other blogs ask you to write a guest post, do not let that opportunity go! Make the most of it and write the best guest post you possibly can.
And if you aren’t asked to write a guest post, make your own opportunities and contact other bloggers to see if they’d be interested. It’s a great opportunity to reach new audiences and build your brand.
4. Blog networks.
Here’s another opportunity you can help create: contact blog networks, the ones that are just good blogs that are affiliated with each other, and see if they’ll let you join.
Be sure to only join those with quality blogs, but if you can join a good network or two, that’s an amazing opportunity to use the power of a group to boost the traffic of all of your blogs, and to work with some great people.
5. Help others.
If you see an opportunity to help another blogger — perhaps by giving them free services, or promoting their best posts on the social bookmarking sites — take it.
Helping other bloggers succeed is a great way to help yourself succeed. Their success will come back to you in the long run.
6. Reader comments.
When a reader comments on your site, this is a golden opportunity to interact with a potential long-term reader that you shouldn’t let pass you by.
Now, depending on the number of comments you get, you may not be able to respond to every single one, but if you only get a few, you should cherish each one and interact with them positively. Encourage them to continue to participate in your growing community.
7. Reader emails.
The same applies to each time a reader emails you. Sure, this is extra work, but think of each one as an opportunity to help someone, and to win a life-long reader in the process. This is how long-term readership is built — with genuine interaction.
When I was first contacted about doing an interview, I was a bit hesitant, because I’m not someone who naturally likes to share personal stuff. But I did it anyway, even if I’m a little shy.
And I think it was a great opportunity, and I don’t regret it a bit. If someone wants to interview you, unless it’s a horrible, horrible website, don’t turn it down! Be flattered, and humbled by this request. It’s also a great way to reach a new audience and build your brand.
Similarly, reach out to other bloggers and offer to interview them, if you find them fascinating.
There are dozens of blog carnivals out there, on almost any conceivable topic. Most blogs don’t participate, because they are too busy to submit stuff every week.
But guess what? You get lots of links with each carnival, and you reach lots of new readers. Seize this opportunity whenever you can.
10. Link exchanges.
From time to time, other bloggers might contact you about doing a link exchange. Now, your policy might be different, but mine is not to do such exchanges, only because I don’t see the value they add to my readers.
However, don’t just reject the blogger’s offer and move on! Seize the opportunity to network, and to help out another blogger, and to build a relationship. Suggest other ways to help each other out and collaborate. Some of my best blogging friends were built this way.
11. Article submissions.
There are lots of good websites that will accept article submissions and print them. You get credit and a link back to your blog.
It’s a lot of hassle submitting your best stuff to these sites, but it’s worth the time. It’s another great opportunity, yet again, to reach new audiences and to build your brand.
12. Sponsored products.
I get a lot of emails from people with new web products or books or other such things that they’d like me to review or promote.
Now, I don’t do those kinds of reviews, and I don’t promote products. However, this is a great opportunity to offer advertising at a low rate to these companies, and even if they don’t take you up on your offer, at least stay in contact with them and build a relationship that could pay off in the long term.