How to Grow Your Blog with the Rule of 10 by Neil Patel

 According to Seth Godin, the secret of marketing is: the first ten. So who are the ten? These are your early customers, the ten people who will listen, read or buy whatever you are selling. If they don’t love it, you need a new product. Which means you will have to start over. But if they love it, your idea will spread. Your business will grow… probably not as fast as you want, but faster than you could ever imagine. So now that you understand the concept of “10″, here is how you can apply it to blogging:

Step #1: Find the 10 Getting your blog off the ground is hard. You might spend weeks, maybe even months before you get your first comment. If you watch the analytics, you may even notice people showing up on your page. But you haven’t quite got that following yet.

Here’s what you need to do to help encouraged the growth of that ten: Publish content frequently – you can’t expect to build up a following if you don’t have anything to give them. So you need to write every day and learn how to write popular posts. Write for other bloggers – right now guest posting is the best way to gain attention for your blog and to develop your audience of ten. Read this quick and dirty guide on your first guest post to get tips on how to do it. Engage the social web – it’s important that you find where your readers are hanging out. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Google+? All three? Go there and spend time replying to posts, liking posts, sharing posts and contributing your own content. Comment frequently – if you want to encourage that ten to start following you, then you need to spend time on their blogs. While leaving lots of comments consistently is a great way to encourage people to follow you to your blog, I’ve found that simply emailing the blog owner is one of the best ways to create a conversation. Make sure you have an email signature with your blog URL in it so they can check you out. I’ve picked up readers this way and even created business through an email exchange like this. Really, this first step is all about getting online traffic.

Step #2: Nurture the 10 As your blog grows, you’ll start to notice a few people who consistently comment or share your articles on the social web. Here’s what you need to do to keep these folks happy: Create a comment competition – I use a widget that shows who comments the most on my blog. The top five are displayed, encouraging this behavior as other people look at the commenters and then follow them to their websites. It’s all about rewarding loyalty. Thank the 10 – anybody who comments or shares your content on the social web, you need to thank them. And the sooner you do it, the better. You can do it in the comments or even email them. Return the favor – if you really want to encourage the ten then start by follow their blogs. Comment on their posts and share them on the social web, always giving them credit so your audience sees you recommending them. Keep the focus on the blog consistent – too much off-topic posting is one of the reasons that readers unsubscribe from blogs. Don’t do that. Leave your ego at the door – remain humble with your ten and treat them like they are the most important thing to your blog. This means leave the excessive self-promotion at the door, too.

Step #3: Unleash the ten Eventually your ten will be primed to help take you to the next level. Here’s how to encourage them to become super-advocates or your blog. Run a contest – even if you only have ten readers, that doesn’t mean you can’t run a contest with them. For example, you could offer to give away ten books you’ve recently read for the person who tweets your content the most. Or perhaps helps you drive more traffic to one particular topic. Competition is a great motivator. Limit the restrictions – don’t slow down your readers from sharing your content. Allow them to reprint and repost without your permission… as long as you get a link with credit back to your name. You may want to protect your work from piracy, but really a lack of money isn’t most bloggers problems… it’s a lack of popularity. Take a hint from Leo Babauta: the more freedom you can give readers to share your content, the better. Open up your archives – encourage your readers to dig into your archives to get more page views and more content they can share.

But how do you do that? Your first step is to make sure you have a search box on your blog. Next, use a plugin that highlights the most popular posts and a plugin that includes related posts at the bottom of each of your new posts. Always link to other articles in your blog, reaching back as far as you can. Finally, write compilation posts that highlight posts in the past. This works as a top 20 of the year or for series when you wrap up the subject, kind of like a table of contents. You can also resend old content. I’ve seen this trick work where I’ll re-send an old article via email and it will drive more traffic to that post. It makes it look like you updating frequently.

Step #4: Ride the ten As you work to grow your blog by leveraging the ten who love you, you’ll eventually get a bump in traffic and readership. It might be from a post you wrote that went viral or that guest post gig at Mashable. Here’s how to take advantage of that sudden flood. Don’t get used to the traffic – first off… you might have a really busy day or two, but things will slow down and get back to normal. Relax, enjoy the traffic and make an effort at capturing that traffic as best as you can. Make your blog sticky – the design of your blog is important. You should have a clear place where new readers can subscribe. Also, provide pathway pages that help new readers know what to do next. For example, do you have a “Start Here If You Are New” link? This will give new readers your cornerstone content. Make your post sticky – each individual post should be scannable and there should also be clear places that new readers can subscribe. Also include related post links so new readers can start crawling around your blog. And if you have an email newsletter, don’t forget to provide a link to subscribe to that, too. Post a follow up quickly – when you get a boost in traffic from an unexpected source, like a big blogger or media site, the best thing you can do is follow up with another post as soon as possible. This way you give new readers something new to read, which helps keep the momentum going. For example, if a post on “How to Publish an eBook” that got a surge in traffic, follow up the next day with a post on how “How to Promote your eBook.” Don’t let the criticism get to you – a rise in traffic will naturally attract people who want to criticize what you do. Feel free to ignore them, because they come with the territory. Don’t forget your ten – if that sudden surge in traffic brings you fifty new readers, don’t forget about the original ten. They are your core and will probably prove more loyal than the fifty. Don’t forget to take care of them. Conclusion Building a blog by focusing on your ten core readers is a sound model that’s been proven by bloggers like Darren, Pete Cashmere at Mashable and Leo Babauta.

So what are you waiting for? Go out there and leverage your first 10. What other ways do you know that can help you leverage the rule of ten?

This blog post was originally written by Neil Patel on January 3rd, 2012.

About Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of 2 Internet companies: Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. Through his entrepreneurial career Neil has helped large corporations such as Amazon, AOL, GM, HP and Viacom make more money from the web. By the age of 21 not only was Neil named a top 100 blogger by Technorati, but he was also one of the top influencers on the web according to the Wall Street Journal.