Building a loyal following on your blog isn't going to be easy. It's going to take some time. And while our network of sports sites does get substantial traffic and you will benefit from that traffic, in order to turn your blog into something that makes $100, $200, $1,000 or even $5,000 per month it is going to take a lot of work on your part. It's not going to be easy. But hopefully it'll be fun.
As a blogger the most important thing you can do is write quality content. This builds readership. Quality content also gets linked to from other sites. If a person reads your post and they run a blog, they are quite likely to post a link to your blog because they like your blog and think their readers will like it too.
But after writing you will need to be proactive in trying to market your blog. The single biggest misconception about the internet is the old saying "if you build it they will come." This is simply not the case. As a rule you should be spending almost as much time marketing your blog as you do actually writing blog posts. This comes as a surprise to people, but if you really want to earn money from your blog this is the truth. Keep in mind that making money from your blog is not mandatory. If you just want to write about sports and don't care about the money, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Writing can be fun, educational, and very therapeutic - which is reward enough. But if you want to try and turn your ability to write into money, read through the rest of this post.
All the things that people and companies do to promote themselves in the online and off-line world could probably work for your blog, too. Below is a list of some simple things that you can do to get things started but this is by no means an exhaustive list so be creative and try and come up with other ways, too.
Getting inbound links to your blog is at the core of every marketing effort you will do for your blog. Inbound links simply mean getting people on other websites to link to your blog. Any inbound link is good. The importance of inbound links really can't be overstated. The links will bring people over to your blog and often times once a link is in place it will remain in place for a long time. In addition to the people who click over to your site through these links, inbound links also work as a way for the search engines to find and rank your blog. The more inbound links Google finds leading to your blog the more authority they will give your blog for the keywords that people type into their search engine. So as you think about marketing your blog always keep an eye out for opportunities to get inbound links.
One easy way to get inbound links is to get people to place our "Headline Widget" with your username in it. The "Headline Widget" displays the titles, a snippet of your blog posts, and a link back to your blog on their webpage. It's a small bit of HTML code that they place on their page and our server feeds in your blog posts dynamically. It's free, easy, and can provide quality content to other webpages.
There are lots of other sports blogs out there. Find them, read them, and post intelligent comments on their blog (you can usually place a link in your comment to your blog). If people read your comments and like what they read, they're quite likely to click over to your blog.
An easy way to start this process is to comment on other blogs within our own sports network. Every comment you leave on a blog post in our sports network posts your icon and a link back to your blog. This is a quick simple way to start to build a following of readers.
Once you've established yourself on our sports network branch out and start commenting on other blogs. Do a Google search for your favorite team plus the word "blogs" and you'll most likely get a whole bunch of blogs about your favorite team. Another great way of finding blogs it to look at Technorati's blog listing page at: http://technorati.com/blogs/directory/
Once you've found a few blogs similar in scope to your blog, read a few posts on these blogs and post comments with a link back to your site.
In addition to other blogs, you can usually find online forums related to your blog. Again, when you post comments in these forums you will often times be allowed to put a small link back to your blog.
One word of warning, you can actually do yourself more harm then good by quickly jumping onto blogs and forums and posting not-so-intelligent comments. You can be banned from the blog / forum or worse, ruin your reputation as a quality writer. The whole point of this process is to gain readers, which you can only do by adding intelligent, insightful, comments. Comment spam is wide speard and highly frowned upon by nearly everyone - so don't be a comment / forum spammer. Add to the discussions on these other sites and people will be happy to click on your link and check out your blog.
Once you've established relationships with other blogs by commenting on them, you might consider writing a "guest post" for that blog. Guest posts are very common and are simply a blog entry posted by someone other than the blog owner. Blog owners love this because it's quality content for their readers without having to do much for it. And it's good for the guest blogger because at the end of the blog you'll be able to post a little bit about yourself and a link back to your blog. Email the blog owner and tell them you have your own blog and that you'd like to write a guest post for their blog. Send them a link to your blog and pitch them an idea for a blog post. It's quite likely that they'd love to have your guest post.
Another way to get inbound links is to ask other bloggers to review your site and tell them you will review their site in exchange. You can easily write a quick review about their site and link to them and they are usually happy to do the same for you.
Another great way to start to build an online reputation and network with like-minded fans is to build a presence on social news sites like Digg (www.digg.com) or social link sites like Stumble Upon (www.stumbleupon.com). If you've never used these sites, they're basically a community of people who recommend news stories, websites, blog posts, or anything that's online to each other. Each site works differently but they are all basically the same idea - users recommend content to other users. Join the site and learn how it works and become a part of the community. We have a mini how-to here if you'd like to learn more about how to increase traffic to your website using social media websites: http://www.nbabasketballonline.com/bloggers/weblog/3899/how-to-use-social-media-websites.html
Our network of sports sites is already set up for this sort of online promotion. When you post a blog entry you'll notice that you see a bunch of icons underneath it which link to these sites. Once you have an account with the site you can just click the link and submit the story. There is still a lot to be done even once it's submitted, but these icons make submitting very easy. Getting your post to the top of these sites takes some work and the actual process differs from site to site, but basically once submitted you rate it and try and get your "friends" to rate it too, and try and get your friends to pass it along to their friends, etc. etc.
Again, though, these sites take some time to build up a good reputation and gain trusted friends. Joining for the sole purpose of promoting your own blog probably isn't going to amount to much. But joining and using the sites as they are intended and then promoting your blog is a great way to have fun and build readers at the same time. If you can get your blog post to the top of the different lists on these sites it can literally mean hundreds of thousands of people finding your blog in a very short amount of time.
As you network around the internet and let people know about your blog what will happen is that Google and other search engines will start to notice your links and rank your blog higher and higher in the organic search results.
The great thing about all of these sites is that once you've got a few links on them those links remain a part of the web for a long time. People will continue to go back to the blog posts in the future, find your comments, and then click over to your blog. A solid link goes a long way.
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