I’ve been blogging for many years now. It doesn’t make me an expert, but if it helps even 5% of the people who read this, it’s worth sharing my experience.
I’ll start off by saying some obvious things. Blogging is just one aspect of building your personal brand online. You could start a blog about anything, including yourself and your personal life. Treat it as an accessory to social media or the central hub of your online presence. Your blog is the plaza where your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat feeds are shops drawing in the customers.
1) Analyse everything. Statistics is key.
The most crucial aspect of growing any business is stats. Customer acquisition, reach, lead generation, engagement and sales are some of the stats a business would use. Your blog has very similar metrics that you need to use to measure the size and scale of your audience and make decisions based on these measurements. I’ll quickly list some essential tools to use with your blog:
- The St. Paul’s Cathedral of online anlaytics: Google Analytics
- If you have a Facebook page, Facebook Business Manager
- See who’s linking to you (backlinks): Moz.com
- Find out who’s writing similar content: Buzzsumo.com
- Understand who’s talking about you on social media: Socialmention.com
An important metric to consider that you can use in Google Analytics is bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who don’t click on anything on the page and just leave. A low bounce rate (sub 60%) means visitors are clicking on things on your page; links that you’ve described, links to other posts and other widgets in your blog. A low bounce rate is one of the measures of seeing whether people are truly interested in your blog. High engagement means the right people are coming to see what you have to say, which is good.
Use Moz to analyse search engines, which is basically Google since they still own 90% of the web’s search traffic. You can also use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner or Google Trends to get some stats about how many people are searching for your topic. Based on this information you can deliver relevant content to your viewers. If you have a Facebook page for your blog, converting it to a Facebook Business page will give you access to higher level analytics and make it easier to integrate with Facebook Adverts, should you ever use their advertising.
2) Figure out your traffic sources.
It’s important to have an idea about where exactly you’re going to get your viewers from. Most bloggers simply write posts and don’t do their due diligence when it comes to pulling in traffic.
This hustle, the constant struggle between you and the ten billion other things on the internet that absorb people’s attention, is what makes blogging so interesting. When you have a blog, you aren’t just competing with the 99 other blogs in your particular niche, you’re competing with the million other businesses, including giant media conglomerates that spend billions of dollars a year ‘day trading attention’ (Shoutout to Gary Vaynerchuk who coined this phrase).
No one will automatically push traffic to you. You have to go out and pull traffic towards you.
You still have an advantage though. Focusing and narrowing down, or even simply having a strategy about where you’re going to connect with interested viewers, puts you ahead of 99.9% of bloggers out there.
Some examples off the top of my head:
A fashion blog, a photography blog, or really anything that uses pictures to capture attention would do great to have a presence on Instagram. Fields like technology would look towards specific forums or subreddits on reddit. Generally posting relevant answers on Quora will increase your reach (and makes Google realise that your blog is good, so it’ll be ranked higher in Google Search). Facebook is a great all-round tool for increasing reach for any kind of blog or business. Snapchat is something that people usually ignore, but it’s currently the strongest tool to build your personal brand. Getting even one post viral on any of these platforms will obviously garner lots of traffic. It will require relevant content that brings value, and as I’ll get to in a bit, a whole lot of patience.
The great strategy for building a following is SEO; search engine optimization. A blog that’s well optimised for search will bring in consistent traffic, possibly throughout the year, depending on which ‘keywords’ they search for. There are tons of guides out there that’ll teach you SEO from the very basics, so if you’re interested, that’s an avenue you could explore. Email marketing is the tried and tested method for blogs, and a simple subscription link could build a database of loyal followers that brings a lot of value.
3) Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Content is the opposite of investment. Diversifying your bonds will only dilute them if you’re writing a blog. Unless the main reason people are reading your blog is YOU (ie. you’re a celebrity), you can’t always get away with posting anything you like. Stick to a theme, a topic, a category or a mix of interests.
If your blog is about farming tools, you could write reviews about tractors or your experience with the best barnhouse paint. Maybe once in a while you write about some quality seeds you found, or how you’ve noticed that eggplants don’t grow in the winter. It’s quite intuitive; build an audience profile and think about whether what you’re writing is relevant and interesting to this audience.
Pick a focus and stick to it
But the not so intuitive aspect is dealing with expansionism. The more diverse your content portfolio is, the higher your reach will be. Let’s say there exists 20 million people in the world interested in gardening. Your potential reach is 20 million. Let’s say there exists 10 million people in the world interested in electric guitars. If you start writing about electric guitars, that reach extends to people who are also interested in that, so your blog can reach 30 million people. More is better right?
Well, not always. A person who’s only interested in electric guitar will not appreciate your gardening content because it’s not relevant to him. Seeing “Related Posts” about gardening on your blog might drive this person away. It’ll also lead to mixed perceptions about what your blog is about.
This becomes a big problem when you’re dealing with trends, especially in the online world. Chasing the latest trend might be an enticing proposition. If your blog is about food reviews you might want to write that one post about Pokemon Go, since everyone is doing it. (And you can, there’s nothing stopping you.) But you need to consider whether
- You’re an expert in your content
- People reaching your blog to read about this new trend will appreciate the rest of your content
- You’re passionate about writing it. Passion translates across the vast expanses of the internet, even through words.
4) Be passionate about what you’re doing.
Now we’re entering the realm of the subjective, from the cozy corners of objectivity that we’re used to in the digital world. “Passion” is one of those cliche concepts that children like me begrudgingly listen to from the motivational speaker class. But it really does apply to a blog, for the simple reason that consistency is key.
This point could be named ‘consistency is key’ instead and it would still be the same. Passion is the only thing other than large amounts of money that will enable you to wake up everyday and churn out a post or two on your blog. Because good content requires effort; combining your personal experience, opinions and research into the actual content itself, along with the added factor of social media or SEO optimisation isn’t easy. Doing this every single day, and doing it continuously requires passion – a love for what you do and what you write.
The payoff you get is seeing a successful article receive a good response, and perhaps go viral. Getting engaging comments, reactions and shares is the blogging equivalent of a comedian receiving a nice laugh. You need to feed off of that energy, because you’re going to need it. Which brings me to my next point:
5) Patience is everything. Your posts don’t go viral in a day.
Your blog will not be an overnight sensation. The first post will never receive the response you hoped. All the stories about successful bloggers who base their entire livelihoods on simply writing have one thing in common; they’ve been doing it for years before they got the recognition they deserved. If you give up within the first 10 posts, or even the first 100, it’s like you never tried.
Harsh Agarwal become a millionaire by blogging about SEO and web optimisation. It didn’t happen overnight.
Jon Loomer did the same – he was pretty much unknown for the first 200 articles he wrote. He’s now a Facebook marketing sensation.
It takes years to build a consistently good audience.
Any content business requires a long-term approach. Yes, you’re thinking day-to-day about which posts to write and which obstacles to tackle next. But the realisation of your goals isn’t going to happen in the short term. Getting a million hits a month will only happen through a concentrated effort of multiple great posts, excellent reach and captivating avenues of growth. Which is why consistency is so important, and which is why you should blog only if you’re passionate about it.
These were just a few tips I could share before you begin your blogging journey. The actual process is tougher to execute, but it’s really very rewarding. At the end of the day, blogging is a great tool to consolidate your online presence and build a brand. It’s also a very good way of increasing your reach, and the avenues for monetisation, from affiliate marketing to sponsored products, are immense. So there’s really a lot of versatility in this genre that’s very liberating, which is why blogging will continue to live alongside social media, and not be replaced by it.