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XI. Academic Blogging: Building an Audience

Dec 05, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

With the proliferation of blogs, academic or otherwise, you might be asking yourself, who is going to read this, anyway? A better question is, how is your audience going to find your blog? Here are some tips on getting people to your blog.

Provide timely content. The first tip is to be timely by writing about what’s going on right now. It doesn’t have to be about the news (although if your area of expertise or experience overlaps, then go for it!), but it can be about a current disciplinary debate, a report that just came out, that op-ed everyone is talking about, or what other academic bloggers are talking about.

Engage with other bloggers. Another way to grow your audience is to directly engage with what other bloggers are discussing on their blogs, either in the comments of their blog posts or directly in your own blogging space.

Link to yourself and to other bloggers. Make sure you always link to your posts in your comments on other blogs, and to other bloggers on your own blog. By doing so, you show yourself to be a good community member and leave a breadcrumb trail for others to find your blog.

Target online media. You should not be afraid of commenting and linking to your own relevant blog posts in the comments of mainstream media pieces (articles, op-eds, video reports, etc). This opens your blog up to a new audience, as well as potentially exposing your writing to editors. It goes without saying that you should make sure that you are constructive and proactive in your comments and commentary. Again, this shows you to be a good community member, as well as a potential expert for future reporting on the same issue.

Use Twitter. Use Twitter and other social media tools to promote your blog and to connect with your target audience. Hashtags help organize tweets and put them in front of your target audience. For example, one big boost my blog received was when I wrote a post about a discussion going on at the annual MLA conference. I was timely, linked to what was available online, and then used the conference hashtag (in this case, #MLA11) to promote my tweet on Twitter. I even used the hashtag in the title. I had the largest one-day total of hits, and that post grew my audience a great deal.

Optimize for SEO. Speaking of titles, you need to relearn how to write titles for your blog posts. Academic titles are typically Catchy Line—colon—what the article is about. For blog posts, it needs to be the opposite: Don’t bury what the post is about. Say it directly and up-front. When I googled “academic blogs” and “academic blogging,” the top hits were all posts that had that phrase directly and almost immediately in the title (including one of my own that I had forgotten about). If you want people to find your blog and your blog posts, then you need to understand how Google finds you.

Offer to do guest posts. Another good way to build an audience is to offer to do guest posts on established blogs that share your audience. One of my biggest breaks came when I answered a call for contributors at the University of Venus (they’re still looking, too!). I was able to link to my home blog in my short bio and get my writing out to a larger audience. There are opportunities to do these kinds of things if you are willing to be proactive and ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say “no”! But, then again, you will be on their radar.

Don't be afraid to promote yourself. Many of these promotional activities will seem strange and a little intimidating at first. It is one thing to relearn how to write your titles so Google can find them, and a very different thing to paste a link to your post in the “Comments” section of the New York Times, or hit “send” on a pitch for a guest blog post on a larger site. These are important skills to cultivate and will provide you with a new audience and greater visibility for your work.
 

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