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.
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 :/Twitter 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.
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.Recently, 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.
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.
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.Webcomic 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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