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Using Your Blog to Attract New Clients

This week’s article on A List Apart caught my attention:

A weblog’s ability to attract client work is one of its most overlooked benefits. JustReachOut’s Dmitry Dragilev shares some simple ideas on how to create content that generates real interest in our work.

I’m a big advocate of blogging — though I tend to spend more time redesigning my blog than I do publishing to it! I’m making a concerted effort to change this, inspired in part by Susan[1], who recently put her energy into blogging over tweeting. Given the dumpster fire that Twitter has slowly evolved into, perhaps blogging is a good habit to cultivate.

Anyway, I digress. At a high level I agree with Dmitry: people working on the web should use their websites, not only to showcase their work, but also to share their ideas, and contribute to the many ongoing discussions within our industry. While I don’t necessarily agree that you should tailor your content to what ranks well on Google, I can see the merits of being strategic in choosing what to write about, especially if you’re looking to raise awareness about your particular skills and expertise.

I also like the idea of interviewing interesting people and publishing their responses. In fact, only last week I thought about contacting a particular design agency I’d like to learn (and write) more about. And sure, go ahead and add a call to action below your blog posts; hustlers gotta hustle!

However, as the article continues, things start to get a bit murkier. Some of Dmitry’s advice includes:

  • Finding similar articles on a topic that you intend to write about, and using these as inspiration to “create an even better version”, perhaps by including points that were missed, or for which you have a different opinion or experience. I suspect people’s interpretation of inspiration will differ wildly!

  • Using tools to see who shared or linked to those similar articles, then contacting those people to see if they’d be willing to share or link to your article as well.

  • And of course, all the usual SEO best practices, such as:

    Focus on one search keyword or phrase you want your article to rank for, then use different variations of it throughout your article, especially in your article headline and section headings.

By the end of the article, the advice all starts to feel, as Dmitry says in his opening introduction, “hollow and vaguely manipulative”.

I can’t tell you how many emails I receive that have a similar tone to the examples shown. While it might seem like a clever strategy, its blindingly obvious when somebody has contacted me simply to get a link to an article on their website — typically from a post that is ranked highly on Google[2].

Frankly, I’m tired of those who view the web solely through the prism of page views and social engagement. It only ever leads to approaches like those described, and often results in soulless, non-sensical and keyword-stuffed content that serves little purpose beyond attracting clicks. And besides, the Googlebot will show you little longterm loyalty; it frequently changes its mind about what’s relevant (and not SEO-gamed).

Want my advice? Write about what you love! And the stuff you don’t, but probably less of that[3]. Hopefully this will include topics relevant to your peers, but if you’re a well rounded individual, you will have plenty of other things you’ll want to talk about too. Jeremy often remarks that he considers his audience to be somebody just like him. I think this is a useful mindset, and certainly one that will encourage you to write using a more genuine tone.

And so with that, I begrudgingly acknowledge that I’ve accepted Dmitry’s closing challenge, to write one article in the next three weeks. Was this the sort of thing you were expecting Dmitry? 😉


  1. Ben Terret is another blogger whose (loose and conversational) writing style I admire. ↩︎

  2. I assume these posts rank highly, but as I don’t use analytics or tracking on my site, I can’t be certain. ↩︎

  3. Note to self. ↩︎

Remarks

Show all remarks Dmitry Dragilev Paul Robert Lloyd

Dmitry Dragilev

Hi Paul! Thanks for you note and I’m happy to see you actually take the challenge, this is exactly the type of thing I was expecting you to do! Write about something you’re passionate about and engage in a dialog with folks by including your article as a relevant example!

Nicely done, haha!

  1. You had a question about the advice I gave to find topic which is going to rank really well on Google and write something about it. The trick here is to first find a topic which you are passionate to write about and only after try to find what has already been covered and written about extensively and what hasn’t? All I am trying to tell you, write something unique which hasn’t been said before which you think is valuable to people. Don’t just write about something which has been talked to death already on every single blog. Make sense?

  2. You had a question about the advice I gave about promotion of your article. These tactics are meant to help you think of ways to gain traction for your article. I 100% agree with you that you should not do anything which seems disingenuous or fishy or spammy, the ideas I share are just tactics to inspire you to promote your article once you write it.

    What you are doing here is perfect, comment on relevant articles with your response, great way to get traffic back to your site and promote your blog.

    The thing is, most people write an article on a topic they feel very passionate about and forget about it. They don’t have any promotion strategy for the article and they think that the more articles they write the better traffic they’ll get on their blog.

    It’s actually quite the opposite. The more thought you put into writing the article and promoting it the more exposure you’ll get on your blog.

    So all I’m trying to say here is you need to think of a plan of how you will promote your article.

  3. You had a question on the “finding someone who tweeted a similar article and contacting them” advice. Again – you are not emailing them to ask for a backlink, what you’re doing is you’re starting up a discussion with them on Twitter or on their blog by reacting to their tweet with something complementary and possibly better which you have written. The idea is to get them to possibly promote your article by tweeting as well. And again, only do this if it feels genuine and makes sense. If you are actually referencing someone in your article it makes perfect sense to let them know and reach out to them.

    Much like yourself, I hate the crazy amount of cold email I get asking me to comment or promote someone’s articles. I’m not suggesting you spam a bunch of people with your article. I’m just suggesting you do what feels natural in terms of promotion, starting up conversations with relevant people who you mentioned in the article is a good way to do so.

Sorry for such a long comment. Does this make sense?

Paul Robert Lloyd

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post.

In many respects, you could say that in writing my response, I was following the spirit of what you are suggesting, if not the exact techniques!

Ultimately, I guess it’s a question of personal ethics.

The thing is, you happened to touch on a trend that I assume is considered best practice for getting inbound links. It used to be the case that people would be encouraged to write comments on blog posts, feigning interest and then linking to an article on your own site.

Because people like me got tired of all this behaviour – in amongst the lower grade spam – and turned off comments, the advice now appears to engage with site authors over email, i.e. “I noticed a typo on one of your articles”, or “I just shared an article you wrote” and after a few messages, ask for a link to be added. It’s actually hilarious the lengths people will go to now to get a link added!! It seemed like your article was basically offering the same advice. If that’s not the case, regardless, I’m afraid it will soon become ineffective because people will again get tired of entertaining these methods. Make sense?

Anyway, as I said, some useful tidbits in here. For the rest of the advice, I’d just edge closer to being less interested in looking for Google-juice as an outcome, and more focused on building lasting relationships based on shared interests. That way, the links will flow naturally.