I've started a blog about the post-secondary education system (hobgoblinminds.com) and have no real readership yet (single digits). What are the first real steps in gaining traction?
Are you already submitting your content to social bookmarking sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon? Those sites are great for gaining early traction. As soon as possible, start making a serious effort to convert visitors to subscribers so that you can rely less on social bookmarking sites.
Make a list of the 20 most influential writers in the space and reach out to them. At the very least, they might share one of your posts. They might even agree to trading guest posts.
Write posts that maximize outreach potential. The more people you can tell about your content authentically (e.g. "I mentioned you in my latest post."), the more pageviews you'll see.
I definitely agree with Shanelle's thoughts, but I'd also ask you what kind of content you are producing. In my years of blogging and running websites, the following types of posts have helped me gain initial traction:
- Interviews with influential people
- Responding to blog posts written by others
- Top 10 lists (egobait)
These aren't long-term sustainable usually (because you want to share your own thoughts and blog post ideas), but they can definitely help with initial traction.
Also, identify people who send out email lists. Email them personally to let them know about your content, and ask if you can be included in their next email. Boom, traffic.
I'd love to help you out more if you want!
Lots of fabulous ideas in this thread. Are you active on any social networks? If so, make sure you're letting your communities know you have a new blog and share your relevant blog posts with them. Are you active in any LinkedIn groups that are related to post-secondary education? If not, find and join 2-3 and participate. Ask and answer questions to get known. Also share your blog posts in your LI status updates. That will bring some visibility too. Do some research on Google+ to find communities discussing your topic. Join and participate.
Remember blogging and building a devoted readership is a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck!
When you're starting out, it's really good to comment on other people's posts who are writing about similar things. Do all you can to connect with people writing about similar issues as you, whether that's in blog comments, email exchanges, guest posting, or in forums. I also think content exchanges can be great- guest posts and that sort of thing.
Showing your authority can be helpful, too. Go on Quora and find all questions you can answer. Don't necessarily link to your posts, but get people curious about you and what you do. If you're providing them with relevant information on Quora, they'll be likely to check out your blog.
Make sure to stick to your targeted vertical, to ensure you're not spraying and praying with regard to content creation. If there's a focus, the traction points are that much clearer for both you and your readers/potential syndicators.
And always remember that there is a fine line between controversial and juvenile. Blogs can easily veer off the rails in this respect, resulting in not being taken too seriously.
Write blogs that answer questions people are asking online. If you do it better than your competition, you should be able to get lots of search traffic.
I looked at your blog and you have a really good writing style and do a great job keeping things topical (which is the exception, congrats). Much of the advice you've received is solid. There's no magic bullet. I would add that you may want to make the content a bit more inviting (less busy) by opening up the line-height spacing of your content. White space is a good thing.