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17

Aug 2015

Promoting Your Webcomic: Part 1 – Free Options

Posted by / in Blog / 42 comments

Hey everybody.  A while ago I posted a blog post about how we use Google Analytics to track how our readership is doing, and specifically how to track how ads we’ve purchased are faring.  Since then, I’ve had some discussions with people about successful promotion ideas (tumblr?  Ads?  Skywrite your URL?!), and even wrote up some thoughts on a reddit thread about it, which has left me wanting to put all my thoughts together nicely in a blog post of my own.  Bear with me, I’m going into details about numbers and stuff again, as I try to talk about ways to promote your comic and increase readership, for FREE!

If you make any creative endeavor and post it online, you often start off thinking that just by sheer virtue of how good it is, how much thought and care and effort you’ve put into it, everyone should like it and it should magically go viral and get popular.  While sometimes that happens, normally it doesn’t.  There is SO much content out there already that you normally have to put a lot of work into promoting your stuff and getting the attention out.  I am by no means an expert, but I have been working at promoting my own work for years now, and I’d like to think I’ve been decently successful at accruing a decently sized audience.  I’m going to share several of the FREE things I’ve done, in no real particular order, besides MAYBE a little bit of simple to complicated.

1. Social Media: 

Making social media accounts for your project may sound like a no-brainer to some of you, but not everyone does it.  It is free and relatively painless to create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google Plus page, etc, for your project/brand.  While you CAN just use your personal one, sometimes it is nice to have an “official” one that fans/readers can follow, to keep SOME semblance of privacy to your life.  There are many different social media sites, and while it doesn’t hurt to have an official presence everywhere, I’ve realized that for myself I need to focus more on what I already use and what works for me the best.  For me, that’s Facebook and Twitter.

FacebookVisits

On Facebook, I mostly just post page updates (Monday’s and Thursdays) on the official page, share it on my private page and on one FB group that allows “update spam”.  I’m sure there are more, but it hasn’t been worth the effort to me.  As you can see, I’ll get a couple dozen hits from FB each day I post about a new page, and mostly people just look at a page or two.  These are mostly returning readers just catching up, very rarely a new readers pops up from Facebook.  I haven’t done any ads or promoted posts with Facebook ever since running one early on garnered us like 1500 fake likes that do nothing but minimize our reach :/TwitterVisitsTwitter has been a bit better for me, but for reasons other than number of visitors and page views I get.  In terms of traffic, favorites and RTs, twitter doesn’t really provide me with a ton of traffic, but I do get people checking out new pages that when I post them, as well as occasionally throughout the week because I use twitter as my primary social network for talking to people.  One thing I will recommend that I’ve enjoyed is including a teaser image/panel, but not the full page, on update tweets, to encourage people to visit your page and not just view it in twitter.  Having some image though draws the eye better than just text and a link.

There are of course other social media sources like tumblr, google plus, digg, reddit, etc, but I get even less traffic from them.  I do know that those sites work well for some people though.  Often it seems to be things that are more shareable, like humor strips.  Since my comic is long form, requiring an investment in the whole story, a single page is not that shareable, really.

RedditVisits

Here you can see two of the best pages I ever shared on reddit. I was able to come up with a sexy-sounding post title for them, and drew in a LOT of visitors, but with very little retention.  The vast majority read one or two pages and disappeared, never to return.  So I personally got discouraged and stopped posting there.  But, I still do get some readers who originally found me on reddit, so it definitely CAN be worth it.  She is just a fickle mistress and the downvotes can be very discouraging.  I have had the best experiences there by finding smaller niche communities and being part of them and occasionally sharing what I do, instead of just posting to /r/webcomics or /r/comics.

Mike G, of Antares Complex, shared in the comments some ideas to maximize efficiency on some social sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt.  Basically, use keywords/hashtags effectively to improve your work’s searchability on those sites and on search engines.

 

2. Link Exchanges, or in other words, Comic Friends: 

One of the best free ways to promote yourself and increase your traffic is when other comics link to you.  How you accomplish this is primarily one of two ways.  One, you participate in some sort of organized link exchange. An “I’ll put your link on my link page if you put yours on mine.”  I am not that big a fan of these, as they aren’t as meaningful as the second option: someone is your friend as so they link to you.  This takes more work (which I’ll get in to later), but is much more beneficial, and not just for numbers.  A couple of examples.VanguardVisitsRecently, my friend Dan Butcher, creator of the excellent British superhero webcomic Vanguard, let me submit a poster page ad of The Demon Archives which he put up on his site for a day during a break between chapters.  He said some nice things and recommended his readers check me out.  About 100 of them did, reading most of the archive, and more importantly, sticking around and visiting multiple times.WhatItTakesVisits

What it Takes, another amazing post-apocalyptic comic by my friend Kez, simply lists The Demon Archives in the sidebar of every page under “Post-apocalyptic comics that [protagonist] would read.”  Over this past month I got 24 new visitors JUST from her listing me there, as well as returning visitors who keep coming back and reading.Repeat this a dozen times around different comics made by people I’m friends with who link to me because they like me and they like my stuff, and that’s a significant amount of traffic.  For $0.

This leads me to the bigger point of this section: MAKE FRIENDS.  Real friends, not just fake friends you hope will pimp your links occasionally.  If you actively put the effort to actually get to know and care about people, the rewards will be vast and much more significant than the traffic you will also probably get.  That’s my favorite part about Twitter, actually.  Using it to interact with the other creators I’ve met and become friends with.

 

3. Reviews:

I personally enjoy submitting TDA to review sites to get feedback.  I know that this isn’t for everyone, and it really isn’t a good source of traffic, but I enjoy getting some critical feedback, and quotable lines from reviewers to potentially use when promoting my work.WebcomicPoliceVisitsWebcomic Police gave us one of our first ones.  With reviewers, you tend to have people who are either super supportive and positive and spout rainbows and wonder about your work, or you have extra critical reviewers who can’t seem to be pleased.  WP is a little more in the second camp, but they were still fair.  This was probably over a year ago, and yet I STILL get an occasional new user, or visits from people who originally found us there, who then read a large number of pages.This holds true on most of the places where I’ve gotten a review.  Occasionally I’ll get a visitor who normally reads a lot of the comic and sticks around.  Low number, high quality.  PLUS you get good feedback.  /r/comic_crits, on reddit, where I posted the initial thoughts that inspired this blog, is a nice pretty low key place for initial critiques and reviews if you don’t want to jump straight into asking for reviews from various review blogs.

 

4. TopWebComics.com:  

TWC is one of the major webcomic ranking/listing sites around, which allows visitors to vote for their favorite webcomics every day in monthly ranking competitions.  It is completely free to register your comic there, and they provide you with a link you can share with your readers, asking them to vote for you, as well as the capability to create vote incentive images to entice them to do so.  Just by us being in the Top 100 (which takes about 30 votes a day or so), and therefore on the first page of listings, I’ve gotten over 500 new visitors this month, as well as continued visitors from people who’ve found us previously.TWCVisits
These numbers on this graph look more impressive than they are because Google Analytics continues to count and sort returning visitors based on where they initially found you.  I’m 95% certain than many of those sessions this last month didn’t click on a link on TWC to come find us, but just came back on their own to read more.  Which isn’t bad, I’m just trying to not promise the moon on clicks from their site.TWC also sells ads, which I’ll talk more about in the not free section.Other notable webcomic lists/rankings where you can put your comic that should be mentioned include piperka.net, belfrycomics.net, thewebcomiclist.com, comicrocket.com (also a way for readers to follow and be notified of updates), and probably more. Comment with them and I’ll edit them in.

 

4 1/2. Art Contests:

Thanks to Glenn Song, of This Mortal Coil for reminding me about Art Contests, specifically TWC’s.  Entering into a contest requires labor on your part, but no money, and can draw eyes from the contest page to you and your work.  The prizes are also sometimes quite excellent.  I’ll talk about this more next time with ads, but we won some free adspace on TopWebComics by participating in some of their contests.  Definitely worth it.

 

5. TV Tropes:

TV Tropes is awesome.  And my destroy all your productivity, so be careful.  And while TvTropes doesn’t QUITE fit in here, I get a consistent number of visits from them from having a page set up there.  It’s free, and you can set it up yourself (better yet, get a reader to).TVTropesVisits
And I haven’t done anything with my TV Tropes page in a long time.  It’s a pretty good source of traffic once you get it set up.

 

6. Forums, groups and comment sections:

This may sound repetitive from making friends and having meaningful interactions, but you’d be surprised how much traffic you can get by being part of groups, forums, and actively participating in comment sections on other comics.  I’ve gotten many readers over the years, as well as made friends (see above) by being part of the Comic Underdogs forums and Facebook group.  Many comment sections also allow you to include your URL as part of your commentor profile.  Make good comments, and sometimes mention your own comic, and you’ll get a surprising number of hits.UnderdogsVisits
Not much more to say there.  The numbers aren’t high, but it’s significant.  And this is with my not even being that active there anymore. I used to get more when participating in threads like “comment on the comic above you” and etc.

 

7. Guest Art:

Doing guest art for other comics is a great way to promote yourself.  Fan art, guest strips, the like, the odds are that whoever you make it for will end up posting it and linking back to you, often driving a lot of traffic.  I know that we always do, at least ;) I’m the writer, not the artist, but occasionally there’s a good opportunity to do a guest art and I’ll ask Seba to help out.  Recently, that was for Martin Kirby’s excellent sci-fi comic, Freelancers.FreelancersVisits
All of these readers came from clicking on that guest art we made, and many read a lot of our comic and have stuck around since.

 

Alright, that’s it for free ideas I’ve got for today.  Anyone have any other things that anyone has tried they’d like to share?  Just comment them below.

I have finished up Part 2 – Paid Advertising. :D

  • Best WebComics

    Very nice article! We like to use the intro to reblog it on Best-webcomics and redirect to this page. Is that ok with you?

  • Useful list, lots of good ideas, especially the guest comic one. Though sometimes I’ve seen that go ignored which is all kinds of disheartening.

    An idea to throw into this pile is, things like DeviantArt & Tumblr (without getting into the logistics of the inherent problems with those sites) is they support keywords/hashtags.

    It’s good to sort out what keywords fit what you’re posting: comic, scifi, indie-comic, femaleprotagonist, webcomic. Or what’s happening in that specific piece: spaceship, sword fight, gunfight. It’s important to lay that out so DA and (I assume) other search engines find your stuff if someone searches it.

    It’s probably also a good idea to have some form of description as this also can be picked up by searches it’d also be a key idea to link back to your actual comic site or just have in SOME form, the name of your comic written out. For search engine finding.

    That all said, you have to be careful not to spam words out because search engines are smart these days and know spam when they see it. Google can read your text, not your images, which is why it’s important to have the site content spelled out so it can pick it up. It’s not an instant process but it’s a good way to get picked up on searches.

    I’m hoping this made a lick of sense, it’s hard to describe it on the sleep I’m running.

    • Nice ideas! Stole part of them (and credited and linked to you and to this comment) and put it up in the main post under “social media”

  • Melissa J Massey

    Good stuff as always, Dan. I love that you include an analysis of your Google analytics. I’ve been having a hell of a time getting readers lately, but this certainly gives me some ideas…

    • Yeah the worry is that people will either think i’m bragging or will brag about their better numbers, but I feel like we don’t talk about them enough. This gives some (of my, at least) cold hard data to compare with, on efficacy of various promotional ideas.

  • Best WebComics

    Indeed good list, still we’re missing Reddit. With a couple of upvotes, you could easily get between 300 or 400 visitors on a day.
    If you get even more upvotes and reach the first page of /r/comics/, you would easily get 1000 visitors.

    • I included Reddit in the “social” section as an honorable mention, but didn’t go into it, because it HASN’T been a good tool for me. It seems to favor humor comics, and the few times I have done well, those visitors only look at just a few pages and don’t stick around too well :/

      But I should beef up that section a bit, because it CAN be very effective for some people.

  • Awesome article. I would love to do fan art for other comics, so count me in that camp. I never thought of doing a TVTropes page. Also, I’m curious, does using Disqus over, say, WP’s internal commenting system, give posts some more social exposure?

    • Well I happen to be looking for guest strips/fan art for an upcoming hiatus… ;)

      I don’t know about social exposure. I’ve had people in other places ask me where my comic was, not thinking to click on my public disqus profile to see my URL or even my other comments, so I don’t THINK it’s that effective. I prefer Disqus though because of the notification settings and etc that I find more effective than WP’s internal system.

      • I’ll admit though, I actually need to sit down and read Demon Archives before I do any fanart. :)

        • I don’t have a problem with that ;)

          • BTW, what dates are you looking for? What kind of quality for fan art/strips?

          • Hiatus will probably start next week, so anytime starting next week going up to a month (depending on how many I get!)

  • To expand on your Top Web Comics ideas, about two months ago I started pushing harder on TWC. All free stuff, no paid ads yet. So, here’s what I’ve done to bump my rank from around 400 up to about. 200. As you pointed out, it’s hard to see if this is helping, but it feels like it is.

    1. Preview panel for the next comic. Readers who vote get to see the first panel of the next page. I already cut up panels for Tapastic, so they’re ready to go. And, you can queue up a bunch on TWC if your pages are already finished.

    2. Page updates. You can also have TWC post your latest page. This gives you a little visibility on TWC’s front page until you get pushed off the list by newer pages. What I discovered is that when you enter a date for the page to go live you can also put in a time. Picking any time other than the default will increase your visibility. Be sure to check the “Active” option or the page won’t show up.

    Also, you can queue posts on Facebook, which is great. Set it and forget it. Until the queue runs out.

    • So that’s how the page update works on TWC. :) I should maybe try that.

      Here’s my cheat for TWC, which is now going to ruin this trick forever. You can vote for yourself at least 4 times while sitting at home:

      1. On your computer vote anonymously (via your wifi/ethernet line)
      2. Log in to TWC and vote again (via wifi)
      3. On your mobile phone use the cell network and vote anonymously
      4. Log in via your cellphone and vote.

      Since TWC only tracks IPs you’re basically allowed two votes per IP (logged in and anon). If you’ve got time, or you commute to work, or happen to take walks/runs around the neighborhood, you could in theory add to your count by hopping onto other wifi networks or switching cell towers, and you can do this everyday. It takes maybe 5-7 minutes for the four steps above, so if you’re nimble and diligent you can get 120 votes/month, and that’s not nothing. Potentially, other folks will more likely find your work and vote too. Of all the traffic I get, it’s really the TWC traffic where folks stop and reach the archive, at least that’s what my GA metrics tell me.

      So, assuming you didn’t know that trick already, let the tragedy of the commons commence! :D

      • Drats, you found out my trick as well ;)

        From talking with owners of the site, they don’t really care, as long as you aren’t using botting/scripts. They are aware of this backdoor, and just haven’t come up with a better way of sealing it, really.

        • Yeah, I remember reading something similar on their site. There was something about driving around and voting on different wifi networks. Maybe you just need to write a bot and upload it to a google self-driving car and have it scan for wifi (which google did at one point, invasively and illegally, while the streetview car drove around) and vote off of people’s unguarded networks. I guess you could also try and infect everyone’s computer turning them into zombies and try to ensure that they don’t all vote at the same time for your comic, but I realize this is venturing into the “How to Promote Your Webcomic, Part 3: Gray and Illegal Options.” :)

      • I’ve been using all of these except the anon login. I vote twice on my phone, once on wi-fi then switch to cell and refresh. The anon should be easy, I have several browsers installed for web development. :) Thanks!

        • You can only vote once per anon per IP, not per browser. So unless you’re cheating with like TOR nodes or something… :P

          • Nothing like that, it’s just faster for me to launch another browser than log out and back in every time. Although I guess incognito mode would accomplish the same thing. :)

    • Hi There. Thanks for this article!
      @ Andy P. Where can you set the ‘time’ option on TWC?

      Is it something you type in, like: 08/31/2015 14:30 ?

      • Yep, you got it!

        • Thanks Andy, I’ll give it a go. I think in the ‘How to Make Webcomics’ book, they suggest an optimum international time to post… I’ll check and get back to you all.

          • Actually it relates to Tweeting. Apparently 9am, PST is optimal because it intersects with 3 major break times around the globe. West coast: starting work / East Coast: 12 noon – Lunchtime / London: People getting off work.

  • Izumi Ryu

    I can definitely vouch for the guest pages after that week of pages for Between Failures.

  • Adriano

    Wow, thanks Dan ! I never saw you did that thing, it’s very helpful !
    Me iz very excited about being able to launch my webcomic next year (around spring or summer, depends how it goes).

    • Glad it was useful! I look forward to seeing what you end up making :)

      • Adriano

        Me too ahah xD

  • Michael

    Hi, Dan! Thanks for the sharing, your thoughts are really useful.
    But I have a question. I’m blogger, write about online casinos like casinonsvenska.eu, and I wanted promote it but I faced with problem – most of my attempts to promote my blog perceived as spam. How can I solve this problem?

    • Hmm, that’s probably just a content issue. I would personally assume any ad about online gambling, with a slavic sounding name/non “normal” url (very US centric of me, I know), would be spam too :/

      So I don’t really have any great tips for that. Your best bet if promoting to English speaking/US audiences is to make sure that your grammar and spelling and whatnot are as correct as you can make it, and make sure your blog hosts real, interesting articles. Since a lot of fake blogs/websites have crappily auto-generated content, having a real looking blog would definitely help.

      But your best bet would actually probably be google adwords. People who want to read webcomics, look on other webcomics and webcomic sites. People who want to gamble online, I imagine use google search for key terms. Buy adwords on those terms and etc?

      Good luck.

      • Michael

        Thanks for so fast answer!

        • You managed to catch me while sitting at my computer XD

          But yes, while your English IS good, it still doesn’t sound native (for example, instead of “for so fast”, it would be “for SUCH A fast”), so anything you can do to keep improving it (along with the multiple other languages you probably know, you fancy smart European person ;) ) will help with promoting to English-speaking audiences.

  • Thanks for posting this article and including all the pics from Google Analytics! :)

    • Not a problem! I’m not ashamed of my numbers, and I think it’s really helpful to show and see it all. Hopefully these ideas (and the ones in the 2 followup articles) help you :)

  • Pingback: Google Analytics for Webcomics: Part 3 - Excluding Specific Spammers and "Secret.Google.com" Language Spam -()

  • Maduabuchuckwu Udeh

    Great article! I am really confused on #5 concerning Tv Tropes. I’ve never been on that site before. I visited it and made an account and then I was lost. I was unsure where I was supposed to make a page for my webcomic. Can you go a little bit more in-depth on that? Thank you.

    • TV Tropes is a bit confusing, and it has an old wiki style editing format and etc that isn’t super intuitive if you aren’t used to it.

      Honestly, it’s probably better to get some of your readers working on making on for you than setting one up for yourself. But if you want to make one, they have FAQs and tutorials on the site, and you can look at other comics’ pages for ideas and example formats and etc.

    • revfitz

      Try purusing TV Tropes for specific tropes (say “dark humor”) and add an example of a specific comic to the list. This has given me good traffic and something the reader was already sort of interested in. After adding my comic to a bunch of examples a reader actually assembled all of them on a page for me :) Hope that helps!

  • revfitz

    This was very helpful, thank you! I will try and implement some of your examples and let you know how they work for me :)

    • Good luck! And check out my followups, about using ads. Assuming you have the budget for them XD

  • Very good suggestions, love it! I had a webcomic years ago that fizzled out. Been posting on webtoons and Tapastic with mixed success. So I’m Thinking of making a new site. Would be a lot more efficient and I could have ads to try and at least pay for hosting..