If you build it, they will, well, probably go somewhere else.

Your target audience probably doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm that you have toward your new website/redesign/mobile app/digital venture. More than likely, they won’t even notice. They’ll go about visiting their normal destinations online; checking Facebook, maybe Twitter, and dipping into their pool of RSS subscriptions.

But your target audience almost definitely won’t just come to your website because it happens to be there.

Launching your endeavor is a big first step. But it’s just the beginning of a long, long marathon.

Here are some things you can do to make sure more than tumbleweeds check out your new online offering.

1. Update early and often.

visitors

Image by chris_reed

There’s the launch party. The announcement to your friends and family. The Facebook status update. The press release. Maybe even an initial surge of praise (and a few visits). And then the radio silence.

We launch expecting a hit, and what normally happens is a thud. Your audience has too many distractions and conflicting priorities to make your website a part of their daily ritual just because it happens to be there.

You’ve got to earn your audience each and every day, and you do that by creating content – fresh content – that will give readers (and search engines) a reason to come back to your site.

About 55% of small businesses update their website only quarterly (or less frequently). If you’re not willing to frequent your own website, what makes you think your target audience will?

2. Leave comments on other blogs.

What used to be an SEO technique (i.e. get inbound links to your site via blog comments before the era of “nofollow” links) is now a networking technique.

More than Retweets and Facebook likes, bloggers love getting comments. It’s hard enough getting visitors, but getting them to fill out that little box at the bottom of your post is even more difficult. Bloggers know how busy their readers are, and there’s no doubt they notice the people who take time out of their schedule to leave a comment on their post.

You won’t get an SEO boost or much direct traffic from leaving a comment on another blogger’s post, but you will get something even more valuable: the attention of someone who clearly already has an audience. Besides, this is the easiest way to:

3. Write guest blogs for other bloggers.

Given the amount of work you’re cranking out on your own site (see #1) and the time you are spending reading and leaving thoughtful remarks on other people’s sites (a la #2), it may seem even more daunting to consider the prospect of creating content for somebody else.

But guest blogging  is one of the most effective ways to build your name, pique people’s curiosity, and tap into thriving, existing audiences. (It’s what I’m doing right now!)

Blogging mastermind Stanford Smith shares some ideas on how to get your pitch to write guest posts noticed by busy bloggers here.

3. Interview people you meet via social media.

It’s a great way to get more (than your own) knowledge on your blog and it also helps to firm up budding relationships. Besides, there’s a likelihood that the interviewee will share the interview with their own network.

A quick Q&A with a Twitter contact gets you an easy post and incentivizes someone else to market for you.

4. Link to other blogs.

Bloggers check their referring links. Many of them get alerts when a new site links to them. Aside from the ego stroke and the start of the reciprocity effect, it also puts your site on the radar of other bloggers in a very real way. You exist to them now.

5. Go to real life events and introduce yourself.

Social media is a microcosm of the real world. And in the real world, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know.

Get to as many industry events as possible and socially network in real life. Be a good listener, be a nice person, and if it makes sense, mention your blog – as long as you keep it natural and non-salesy.

It’s also a great time to ask people if they’d like to be interviewed (see #3).

Building an audience will be a struggle and it’ll take some elbow grease, but if you want your growth charts to point in the right direction and your stakeholders to smile instead of grimace you’ll stop patting yourself on the back after launch, and start pounding the proverbial pavement.

Because remember, that website ain’t gonna visit itself.

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About Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.

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