Something that all successful bloggers will have in common is that they are well connected to influential people in their industry and they have a strong professional network. Regardless of what industry or niche your are blogging in, and regardless of what monetization strategy you take with your blog, your network will play a role in your success.
Blogging and networking go hand-in-hand. You could say that successful bloggers have a strong network as a result of having a successful blog instead of the blogging success being a result of the strong network. The truth is, a strong network helps a blog to grow, and a successful blog makes networking easier. Regardless of how you see it, networking with other bloggers, social media users, and blog readers should be a priority when attempting to grow a blog.
In this chapter I’ll cover some of the reasons why networking is important for bloggers, and the chapter closes with some tips that you can put into practice for your own networking efforts.
Why Networking is Important
Links from other blogs and websites that lead to yours are called “inbound links”. Building links is important for a few reasons. First, as your blog is getting started, you’ll need all the traffic you can get. Links from other sites will send visitors to your blog. Of course, the amount of traffic will depend on several factors, most importantly, the popularity of the site that is linking to you.
Second, links are one of the most important factors in determining search engine rankings, especially for Google. Search engines essentially view a link as a vote for your website, or for the specific page that the link is pointing towards. The idea is that the other site is linking to you because there is something valuable or useful on your page. In that case, pages with a lot of links must be pretty good, and that can be used to influence search engine rankings. So if you want to attract more search engine traffic to your website, you’ll need to get links from other websites and blogs.
Third, links from other sites can help to build the reputation of your blog. If your niche or industry has one website or blog that is highly respected as being a leading authority, think about how readers would view your blog if that leading site was linking to you. If a number of trusted and respected sites are linking to you, people will take notice and your reputation will benefit.
Link building can be a pretty complex topic because there are a ton of different strategies that people use to get links to their sites. One of the best things you can do for the long-term success of your link building efforts is to improve your network. Bloggers tend to link to people that they know and like, and the same thing can be said about social media users.
When I started my first blog I got to know several other bloggers in the industry who were starting their own blogs at the same time. Those relationships were important in the growth of our blogs because we found ways to help each other out. I would always try to link to a friend when they had a post that was relevant to something I was mentioning in one of my own posts, and they would do the same for me and for their other friends. This type of thing is pretty common, because people like to help their friends.
Guest posting (writing a post for another blog) is one of the most common and most effective methods for link building, and I’ll cover it in depth in chapter 7. Having a strong network also makes it a lot easier to get your guest posts published at other blogs. If you become friends with other bloggers in your niche, they’ll usually be happy to publish your guest posts and include a link back to your blog. When I was in the first year of my blog I exchanged guest posts with a few friends who had blogs in the same niche. It worked out great because I would get content for my site (written by someone else) and I would get to have my content published on their blog, with a link back to my own blog. And of course, the other blogger got the same benefits.
Social Media Promotions
Another important benefit from having a strong network is the possibility to get more traffic from social media and social networking websites. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest can send a lot of visitors to a blog post, especially if the links are shared by influential users who have large followings.
Creating a popular blog post that goes “viral” is of course possible without a network, but it is much more likely and possible with a network of other social media users. Most bloggers are also involved on at least the major social media sites, and in some industries there are niche social networks that are also popular among bloggers.
For the last several years I have gotten requests every day from other bloggers who want help promoting their content on social media sites. In most cases these requests come from other bloggers that I have had the chance to get to know at some point (When I say “get to know” I’m just referring to online communication through email and social media. I’ve never met any of these people in person). If their post is worth sharing, and in most cases it is, I am happy to vote for it at a social media site or tweet a link to it. In the past, when I’ve had an important post that needed a little extra boost I could ask them for help.
As I go through my feed reader each morning I look for some quality blog posts to share with my followers on Twitter. I’m always quicker to share a link if I know the blog owner, and I believe the same thing is true with a lot of other bloggers and social media users. It’s just human nature to be more interested in helping the people that you know and like.
If you’re looking to make money by promoting affiliate products or by having affiliates help to sell your own products, the importance of a network is absolutely huge. Let’s start by looking at it from the perspective of you being the affiliate promoting someone else’s product. Popular products have hundreds, if not thousands, of affiliates promoting them. Most of these affiliates are doing the same thing, putting banner ads on their site or using text links within blog posts or website pages. If you have a relationship with the person who is selling the product you’ll be in a better position to have an advantage over those hundreds or thousands of affiliates. One example would be advanced notice of a new product. With really popular products one of the best ways to make money as an affiliate is to be involved and promoting it at launch time before there are so many other affiliates promoting it, and when the buzz of a new product can help to generate sales. If you are well connected to others in your niche and if you have a relatively popular blog, it’s likely that you’ll be contacted when someone has a new product that they are launching and are looking for affiliates to promote it. In some cases you may even be able to get an advanced copy so you can have a review to publish at the time of the launch. Having that personal experience with the product and being able to share your own recommendation from that experience can make a huge difference in terms of sales.
Another advantage of being well connected is the commission that you can make as an affiliate. If people are coming to you and asking you to promote their product, you may be in a position to ask for a higher commission than they are offering to the general public who are promoting their product. For example, the affiliate program may offer 25% commission to affiliates, but if you are well connected and if you have a blog with a strong following, you may be able to get a higher commission, like 40%.
On the opposite side, if you have your own product and you are looking for affiliates to promote your product, having a strong network is equally powerful. As I already mentioned, people who run popular blogs get emails every day asking for them to promote products as an affiliate. In most cases these emails come from someone that they don’t know. They are pretty unlikely to promote most of these products because they don’t have the time to review the product to make sure it is worthy of their recommendation. However, if that person that runs the popular blog knows you, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your product promoted. If they already know and respect the quality of your work, they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable promoting your product.
With affiliate marketing, these connections can be worth thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, or even more. Having your product endorsed and promoted by a few people with popular blogs or newsletters can make an incredible difference for the success of your product. If you plan to sell your own products, building a network is one of the most important things you can do.
Every now and then you’ll have something important that you’ll announce at your blog. You’ll probably also make these important announcements through your social media profiles, and your email newsletter. This could be an announcement about a new product or service, a new freebie that you are offering to help grow your newsletter, a new blog or website that you are launching, some important and significant change to your blog, or anything else related to your blog or business that has a big impact on your audience.
Whenever you have these types of important announcements, the more attention and publicity you can get, the better. Some bloggers submit press releases, with mixed results, but if you have a strong network of other bloggers in your niche you may be able to get their help. Most of your friends would at least be willing to help you promote your announcement by sharing it via social networking, and some may even be willing to publish an announcement at their own blog for you. An example would be if you are launching a second blog that is somehow related to your first blog and the audience of both blogs would overlap. Of course, you would want to announce the new blog launch on your own existing blog, but wouldn’t it be a great help if you had several friends who were willing to also announce the launch from their blogs? With this type of help from your network you could drastically speed up the process of growing the blog, and it may be able to start making money in the first or second month instead of taking about six months.
Of course, networking and friendships are two-way streets. If you hope that others will help you with these types of announcements and promotions, you should also be willing to help your friends when they have something to promote. You’ll find that if you are willing to help others, the favor will usually be returned at some point.
The idea of networking being a two-way street is really evident in the area of cross promoting. For bloggers, cross promoting could be any number of different things. It could mean that you help to promote your friends’ blog posts by tweeting links, and they do the same for your blog posts. It could mean that you post an announcement for them and they post an announcement for you.
One example from my own experience involves blog giveaways. I had a friend who asked me about running a giveaway on my blog to provide some promotion for one of his products. Normally I charged a fee for hosting a giveaway, but he also had a popular blog with a similar audience and I had a product that I was looking to promote. So instead of charging each other we decided that we would each host a giveaway on our blogs to promote the other’s product. The result was that we both made several hundred dollars in sales and our blog readers got a chance to win some great products.
The possibilities for cross promoting really are endless if you use some creativity. I know some people who have done cross promotion on “thank you” pages to gain more newsletter opt ins. In this case, blogger A would put a recommendation for the newsletter of blogger B on his thank you page, and vice versa. So when a visitor subscribed to blogger A’s newsletter the visitor would be led to a page that said something like “Thank your for subscribing”. That page would also include a recommendation for the person to subscribe to blogger B’s newsletter as well. And blogger B would do the same thing to recommend blogger A’s newsletter to his subscribers.
Cross promotions can be used to promote blogs, newsletters, products, services, or just about anything else that you have to offer. One of the keys to making cross promotions work is to have the right connections. If you get to know other bloggers in your niche and you’re both open to using some creativity to help each other, there are all kinds of possibilities.
Tips for Networking
So now that we’ve taken a look at some of the benefits of being well connected to other bloggers in your niche, you may be eager to get out and starting making those connections. Here are some tips to help make your networking efforts more effective.
Remember That Networking is a Two-Way Street
One of the most common mistakes made by new bloggers when it comes to networking is that they tend to think only in terms of how the network can benefit them. Regardless of what type of industry you are in, whether it is a traditional business or an online business, in order for networking to be effective it must be mutually beneficial. If the relationship only benefits one person it won’t last. For example, if a real estate agent sends referrals to a mortgage broker and that agent never gets any referrals in return (or if they don’t get any other type of benefit), they’ll start sending the referrals to a different mortgage broker. The same principal applies to networking for bloggers.
If you approach networking in the right way you can find plenty of opportunities for mutual benefit. If you approach it as only looking out for your own best interests, you’re unlikely to ever build a strong network.
Look for Opportunities to Help Others
It’s always important to look for ways to help other people when you are trying to build your network. Because most people are only looking out for their own best interest, if you go out of your way to help another blogger in some way you’ll stand out, and they’ll remember you.
This is especially true when you are just getting started with your blogging and networking efforts. When you have a popular blog, networking is pretty easy. People will come to you and when you do contact other people they’ll be much more receptive because they’ll want to have you in their network. But when your blog is new and relatively unknown, you’ll have to work harder to build your network.
Know What You Have to Offer
Going along with the previous point, it’s important to know what you have to offer. If you want to help others, how can you do it?
Maybe you have some experience with HTML/CSS and you can help another blogger to make some tweaks to their blog that they can’t do on their own.
Maybe you can help a fellow blogger by promoting an important new post from their blog through your Twitter and Facebook profiles.
Maybe you have a newsletter and you can promote their product or an article on their blog.
Maybe you have the ability to write a helpful guest post for their blog.
Maybe you can link to them in an upcoming post.
Maybe you’ve used their product and you can provide a great testimonial.
Maybe you could interview them and publish it on your blog to give them some publicity.
Maybe you have experience with podcasting or video blogging and you could help them with their first podcast or video post.
Maybe you can introduce them to someone in your network that would be able to help them in some way.
You’ll always have something to offer, you just need to think about it and use some creativity. If you approach your networking efforts by looking for opportunities to help other bloggers and you know what you have to offer, it can be easy to make some key connections. Before you know it you’ll have a growing network of really strong connections because people will appreciate what you have done for them.
Don’t Start with an Agenda
The best networking is usually done without an agenda. Your network can help you in so many different ways, try to avoid approaching networking for one specific purpose. Make it your goal just to get to know the other bloggers in your niche and try to help them in some way. Don’t approach networking as a way to build links to your website or a way to get more tweets for your blog posts. The benefits of networking will come with time since there are so many possible ways to work together.
Start by Networking with People at a Similar Stage of Blogging
Another common mistake that many new bloggers make is that they go straight to the leading bloggers in the industry. It’s far more effective to start by networking with others who are at a similar stage with their blog. For example, if your blog is only a few months old and it has a small audience, don’t make it your first priority to get to know the blogger who has 100,000 subscribers and the most popular blog in the industry. Those who run popular blogs have so many people contacting them every day that it is really difficult to get their attention. However, people who run smaller blogs and are working to grow their blogs will be much more receptive to your networking efforts.
That doesn’t mean that you should never reach out to the leading bloggers, just that you should start smaller. Get some experience networking, build up your own contacts while growing your blog, and keep reaching higher.
Although having connections with leading bloggers is definitely a great thing, getting to know others who are at a similar stage as you can be really helpful too. These people will know exactly what you are going through with trying to grow your blog, and you can help each other along the way. This is how the strongest relationships are often developed.
Be Easily Accessible
Networking can involve a lot of proactive efforts, but it also involves responding to other people when they reach out to you. If people want to get in touch with you, make it as easy as possible. Have a contact page on your blog with a contact form that can be filled out, or at least list an email address on the contact page. Make the contact page easy to find (include it in your main navigation menu if possible) so you’ll never miss out on networking opportunities because people can’t find a way to get in touch with you.
It’s also helpful if you have active profiles at popular social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If there are other social networks that are popular with bloggers in your niche make an effort to have a presence there as well. Many people will prefer to contact you through social networks instead of filling out a form on your blog.
Probably the most important principle of networking is to be proactive. Don’t sit back and wait for other people to come to you, take action and reach out to other bloggers in your niche. Most bloggers do only a small amount of proactive networking, so if you are more assertive in this area you can be ahead of the game.
Don’t be afraid to fill out a contact form at another blog in your niche just to introduce yourself. I’d recommend keeping it brief, you’ll usually get the best results this way. Just introduce yourself and your blog and mention that you are trying to get to know other bloggers in the niche. Tell them that you would appreciate the chance to get to know them, and they can contact you if there is ever any way you can help them. Most bloggers (aside from the busiest bloggers who run the most popular blogs) will be pretty receptive to this and at least respond.
A similar approach would be to contact the blogger, introduce yourself, and tell them that you’d be happy to help with sharing links on Twitter or Facebook when they have a post that needs some promotion. Bloggers always like added exposure, so this is usually appreciated, and many will return the offer to you. Hopefully as you help each other with promotions you can get to know each other and build a stronger connection.
When it comes to networking, the specifics of what you do in your networking efforts isn’t as important as the fact that you simply do something. Doing something always beats doing nothing, so make a conscious effort to be proactive and get to know other bloggers in your niche.
Show Your Personality
As you are networking with other bloggers don’t be afraid to be yourself and show your personality. This applies to private conversations (email, IM, private messages through social networks) as well as to your public content that is published on your blog. People like working and connecting with individuals that they enjoy, and showing your personality makes it easier for others to connect with you.
For new bloggers, networking can be pretty intimidating. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have a whole lot to offer or it seems hard to believe that other bloggers might want to take the time to network with you. I get emails fairly often from people who say something like, “You probably don’t have any interest in this” or something to that extent.
Don’t sell yourself short. When I get emails like that it leads me to assume that whatever they are pitching to me is a waste of time. If you show a lack of confidence in yourself or what you are contacting others about, they will also have a lack of confidence in you.
When you’re reaching out to others present yourself with confidence. Respect the other person’s time by keeping your message brief, but don’t apologize for contacting them and don’t show that you expect them to not be interested.
Focus on Long-Term Relationships
The success of your networking efforts will be determined more by the quality of your network than the quantity. Having a few strong, long-term relationships with other bloggers is better than having one-time contact with tons of different bloggers.
The ultimate goal is to be well-connected and respected throughout your blogging niche or industry, and then to also have a small group or “inner circle” of a few specific bloggers with whom you connect. These will be the more significant long-term connections where you and the others in your inner circle reach out to each other occasionally for advice, help, to offer assistance, or just to say hi.
In my case, I have about 5 other bloggers in my industry that I would consider to be my inner circle. I’ve known all of these people for 3 years or more, and we all have been active with our blogging over that time. We’ve all gone through similar blogging stages and been able to help each other along the way. I don’t have regular or frequent contact with any of them any more, but because our relationship goes back a few years we’re always willing to help each other whenever needed.
When you’re focusing on long-term relationships within your network, one thing that you will want to keep in mind is that many bloggers wind up abandoning their blogs. Try to find people who seem to be as committed to their blog as you are to your own. That way the relationships that you are building will be able to last long-term because the other bloggers aren’t likely to give up and disappear.
Of course, it’s not always easy to know which bloggers are seriously committed, so it may still happen even if you try to avoid it. Generally, you’ll want to look for bloggers that have at least several months of blogging without any big gaps of time between posts. It’s also ideal if the other blog seems to be producing high-quality content that you think will be noticed and appreciated by readers, even if it hasn’t yet been discovered by many people.
Identify Key People
Your networking efforts will help you to become well connected to other bloggers in your niche in general, but there will also be times where you identify a specific person that you want to get to know. This could be a situation where it is someone who has a popular blog or some influence in the niche. In most cases this will be someone who is further along in their blogging efforts than you, and so it may take a little more effort to get them to notice you.
When you have identified a popular blogger that you want to network with, there are a few steps that I would recommend following. You may be able to have success by simply reaching out to that person directly without any prior contact, but if they are busy they may not pay very much attention to your message.
I recommend starting by commenting actively on their posts for a while. It could be a couple of days or a few weeks, it just depends on your time frame. Check their blog every day and if there is a new post make an effort to read the post and leave a comment. Don’t just comment by saying “Great post” or something generic. Add some value by interacting with their content, build on one of their points, express what has been helpful to you, or even respectfully disagree with their points if you can back up your views. You can even answer questions left by other commenters if the opportunity is there. Actively contributing in the comments is one of the best ways to get other bloggers to notice you.
In addition to blog comments, make an effort to share their posts via social media. Twitter is great for this because you can retweet their tweets or include an @ response so it will show up in their feed. If you’re commenting on posts and sharing via social networking you’ll increase your chances of being noticed.
After you have been active in the comments and shared some posts via social media, it’s a good time to contact the blogger and submit a guest post for their blog, if they accept guest posts. By this time they should at least recognize your name from interacting with you in the comments and from social media, and chances are they will be more receptive to you than they would be to someone with whom they have never had any contact. We’ll go over more about guest posting later in chapter 7, but it is a great way to network with other bloggers. If you’re able to get your content published on the other person’s blog you’ve definitely got their attention and they like the quality of your content. Now you’ve got a connection to a popular and influential blogger, and hopefully you can continue to network to get to know them even better.