The terms SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Social Networking meant nothing to me before I became a professional blogger. However, I learned quickly how vital these online marketing tools are for a successful sports blog. Allow me to share with you three tips on increasing the readership of your blog or website at only the cost of your time.
1 – Write for the Web. I used to blog professionally for a newspaper website. My blog numbers always well above everyone else’s on the website. This is significant because I was competing against actual sports writers and authors. These beat writers were published in major newspapers and magazines and were regular sports talk radio guests. By all rights, a blog by me on WrestleMania shouldn’t have beaten an article on the World Series by a Phillies beat writer. Yet, it always did. Remember, it is more important to know how to write for the web than what you are writing when it comes to blogging.
These journalists were great writers, but they were writing print material for the web. They would worry about coming up with witty titles, rather than titles with critical keywords and search terms. It may not be as catchy, but an article about a Philadelphia Phillies game entitled “Philadelphia Phillies Lose To NL Foe” is going to get a hell of a lot more traction than something like “Fins Eat Away At Bullpen”. My blog titles aren’t always witty, but they always include major keywords.
The same SEO principals apply to the opening paragraph and abstract. Take a look at my first paragraph here and notice how I strategically placed my keywords. A lot of print writers like to set up their stories with a long paragraph or two to draw suspense. That is great if you are reading a book or newspaper. However, that does nothing for visits on the web. Your abstract needs to be heavy in keywords. Search engines generally take the first 160 characters of the paragraph or abstract, so make sure your first sentence is a good one. Don’t get too crazy with the same keyword. That may get you banned from some search engines.
2 – Social Networking. Social networking is a lot more than just creating a fancy Myspace page or adding a thousand friends on Facebook or Twitter. Social networking for me is about networking with other sports bloggers, forums, and websites to get the word out there about my website. One of the biggest mistakes I find with my fellow bloggers is misunderstanding exactly what social networking is all about.
Understand that there are more options to social networking than Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter. Search around the Internet and look for other social networking websites. Look for websites that allow you to post your content and link back to your blog. I don’t like to post my stories on websites that expect you to post the full blog. I prefer websites that allow you to post a title, an abstract, and a link. There are plenty online and you need to know where they are. Google around and see what you come up with.
Persistence is the biggest key when it comes to these sites. You may not see an increase immediately but don’t give up. Your first 50 stories may not get any traction on some sites, but all it takes is one. I constantly posted my stories on one of these websites for two months with very little response. That all changed when one story in particular hit a nerve and was placed on their front page for a few weeks. I am still getting visits from this story. If I would have given up after my first 50, I would have lost tens of thousands of visitors.
Learn how to maximize Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. Network your blog on Facebook’s Networked Blogs. Post your links daily, but only once on Facebook. Make sure to consistently post your titles (SEO-friendly) on Twitter with links to your story. If you write a story about Donovan McNabb and McNabb happens to be a big search query on Twitter, people you don’t even know will find your story. Make sure to post links to your stories on both your blog and the bulletins on Myspace.com.
3 – Visit Forums Often. Message boards are huge on the web and you need to know where they are. There are millions, yet only a few get serious numbers. Go to these sports forums and become a daily contributor. Reply and start topics on the boards. The idea is to promote your blog, but don’t be too obvious. A one line throwaway sentence with a plug will get you kicked off the board in a second. I try and find 10 boards and make 10 quality posts a day. Start low with 3 and move up as you find you have more time or confidence in your website.
Utilize Yahoo Answers as a promotional tool for your website. Yahoo Answers allows people to ask questions about anything. Users are then allowed to respond and leave a link to a source (your website). Find your niche whether it is baseball, football, fantasy football, etc. Leave simple, yet informational answers and opinions. I started doing this throughout the week and after a month I had a ton of traffic coming daily from Yahoo. It is a nice little tool that you can optimize at no cost but your time. Once again, be careful and make sure you aren’t giving an obvious infomercial for your website. This is a forum you don’t want to be banned from if you are a blogger.
They are wrong. In addition to these suggestions, find a few SEO message boards and blogs and follow them. There is priceless advice being given away on the web for nothing. I am proud to say that by using these and other techniques, I have turned my blog into a full time gig. The biggest cost to marketing online is time. If you can budget the time, and follow the basic SEO principals, the opportunities will be endless for you and your blog no matter what the subject matter is.