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Looking to grow your blog following? You might be surprised that the best way to gain a following is to focus on other people’s blogs.

Outreach is key to having a blog that actually works for your business, yet it’s the one element many professionals ignore. And it’s contrary to most competitive thinking because it involves spending time away from your blog.

Done correctly, however, reaching out to other bloggers in your field will actually create more business opportunities, increase traffic to your own blog, and enhance your business brand more than any other tactic you could employ.

Here’s how:

Reaching Out On Social MediaIn taking this one step, you will be setting yourself apart from the majority of business professionals who skip implementing this important element in their blogging plan.

What do I mean by blog outreach? I’m talking about strategically participating in the blogosphere with the goal of boosting your visibility, driving traffic to your blog and enhancing your credibility.

It’s not just about spreading your own message, although that’s important. Outreach is about building community and personal relationships among your peers, your colleagues who are also writing blogs, and the people in the blogosphere who are reading blogs in your industry. And yes, some of those people may be considered competitors.

Don’t be afraid of your competitors; you can learn from them and connecting with them may present new opportunities for your business.

Find Blogs in Your Niche

Where do you start? First, you need to find a few blogs in your industry that you enjoy and will consistently read. Choose blogs that will give you content ideas along with the relationships you’re seeking. Blogs can be found in practically every professional and business niche, and a quick visit to a few websites can help you find them.

Technorati is the web’s largest blog search directory and is a good place to start. Be warned, this site can be overwhelming the first time you visit. You can search for blogs or blog posts by keywords in your field. I recommend you set up an account and make sure your own blog is listed so it can be found by others.

Technorati

Use Technorati to find blogs and blog posts relevant to your niche.

Another site is Google Blogsearch. Like any Google search engine, it’s going to return a list of links based on your keywords, only this time the links will be sites for blogs and specific blog posts.

Use Subject-specific Directories

My current favorite for finding the best of the best in subject-specific blogs is Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop.com. It’s a curated site, which means blogs must be approved in order to be included. You can create your own collection of blogs to watch and read. Here’s an example of my Alltop list of business blogs.

TIP: Make sure you submit your blog for inclusion on Alltop.com!

There are more than 200 blog directories, some of which are subject-specific and others are general. Blog directories come and go, and each has its own list of criteria for which blogs it includes. You want more blog directories? A comprehensive list of blog directories is posted here.

Engage in Smart Commenting, Building Relationships

In all likelihood, you will find many blogs in your niche that have similar audiences. What do you do when you find one of these good blogs?

Start engaging! Read and comment on posts that interest you. Smart bloggers allow comments, although sometimes they are moderated to keep out the spammers. Always include your name, blog URL, your email address and your thoughtful, useful comment.

The guidelines for commenting are simple: use common sense and respect. There are no rules, but being courteous will help you establish positive relationships within the blogosphere. When you comment on a blog, follow the same etiquette that you’d follow in conversation at a cocktail party.

In other words, you’re not going to approach somebody at a cocktail party and say, “Hi, my name is Joe and you should buy my widget.” You would be a little more subtle. Listen and add to the conversation in a meaningful way. Talk with and get to know the other person first. Start establishing a relationship.

Share Expertise, Not Marketing Offers

Using blogs to promote your business requires you to act like a professional when commenting. And etiquette dictates that you don’t promote your business on another person’s blog. Instead, share your expertise.

You can demonstrate your expertise in many ways. Add something the author may have overlooked. Add historical context or suggest a book in which the ideas are discussed. Add your perspective, experience and opinion.

Be polite and add something new to the conversation. Writing “Nice post, I agree” is not adding to the conversation.

If you think this all sounds very basic, please just bear with me. Every business owner has a different level of familiarity with the online world, particularly the world of blogging. I see these mistakes every day in comments on my blog as well as on those I read.

So what does this all mean?

Resulting Visibility = Opportunity

By engaging with other bloggers (in other words, your colleagues), you are making yourself known (visible) and laying the groundwork for creating opportunities to partner with them.

Often you need to actively reach out and build relationships with the people you want to work with. Start slowly and see how your relationship unfolds. When you find a good match, you’ll know.

Keep in mind that opportunities can show up in many forms: new leads, new clients, more traffic, and media attention. A pithy comment on a colleague’s blog may attract the attention of a journalist doing research on the subject.

Blog outreach is an important part of effective business blogging. The more you’re connecting outward, the more you’re going to be drawing traffic and opportunities inward. It doesn’t require a lot of your time… 20 minutes a couple of times a week to read and comment on relevant blogs can pay off big in the long run.

Action Challenge: Since I know from experience with my clients that most business bloggers don’t comment very much on other blogs, I challenge you to find three blogs in your industry that are publishing top-notch content and subscribe to get their blog updates. Read and comment on the blogs two to three times a week for the next month. Let me know what shows up for you in the way of new connections, traffic and opportunities!

Have you tried any of these approaches? What are your thoughts?  Please comment in the field below.

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dip108/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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