Blogging can be powerful marketing, but merely having a blog doesn’t make you a marketer. So, if your blog isn’t pulling in traffic, why do you publish it? Like most things, blogging requires a certain threshold of activity before it starts to yield any discernible results.
Here’s how to find your tipping point and make 2013 the breakout year for your blog.
1. Know Why You Blog
This might sound a little too obvious to be a useful bit of advice, but it’s a question most business owners don’t adequately address, bloggers among them. Industry leaders– the people with the really big ideas– pretty much always know exactly why they do what they do. They are motivated by their vision and mission, which permeates their daily efforts. Their reasons why are simple, emotional and personal. They aren’t driven by products or features or tactics– those are just the things that help them achieve their true vision.
As Simon Sinek explains in this fantastically enlightening TED talk, great leaders have the same access to the same resources as everyone else (sometimes even less, in the beginning) but they move people, because people identify with why they do what they do.
What drives you to blog? What is the big idea that your blog is in service of? You might think that owning a home remodeling business doesn’t have any good reasons, other than to make some money. Not so. You probably believe that your home is your castle, and everyone should be lucky enough to live in a beautiful space. As an affiliate marketer, you might believe that everyone deserves financial independence. And so on.
Your blog is only what you do to convey a message. What is your driving message and why?
2. Focus Your Niche
Readers don’t find you by searching for a wide array of things; readers find you from one specific search at a time. That’s how search engines work, too. Without focus, neither search engines nor readers will understand what your blog is really about, making it difficult to gain traction.
Even if you don’t depend upon search results and instead capture traffic through referrals, social and paid sources, visitors still need to understand your focus in order to stay on your site, remember you and come back. Any site can provide shallow information, but being a deep resource is the hard part, and that takes focus. Matt Cutts of Google advises this very approach. Choose a narrow set of keywords that define your topic and stick to them.
Once you’ve established yourself in a niche, then you can begin expanding to more and more related topics, that is, if you do decide to broaden your site. There may never be need to!
3. Fill Your Hopper
Every time you write a post, there’s probably one or more ideas that you may have touched on, but didn’t explore in depth. That’s a new article topic just waiting to happen. (I could probably write eight new posts from this one.) So, when you’re composing a post, in addition to getting it live, start at least one new spin-off while the ideas are fresh. Keep your new article ideas in one place so that when it comes time to write, rather than starting from scratch, you can simply run with one of the ideas you already started.
While you’re browsing the web, you likely have some go-to blogs and industry news you read regularly. Bookmark interesting items in a Blog Post Ideas folder. Even better: when you share a post, use your own tweets and Facebook likes or updates as a source of new article topics.
4. Schedule Your Blogging
Unlike most business-critical tasks, blogging doesn’t get attention unless you find the time. Very few influential blogs are built as a side project– it takes prioritizing to make it happen. Set appointments to get the writing done, and stick to them. Use reminders, tell your friends and associates.
I like to set 50 minute “power hours” in which I have enough time to get some real work done, but not so long that I worry about ignoring other items that might come in while I’m writing. I also like to start articles early in the morning, before the pressures of the day steal my time and mental energy. Even if I don’t finish what I start, starting is often the hardest part, and I like to start at least one new article every day.
5. Give and Get Guest Posts
Guest blogging makes the world go ‘round. It gives you access to broader audiences in your niche, provides links and referral paths for new visitors, helps you scale up content production, and it makes for some real-life networking that online marketers sometimes seem to forget.
Be generous about the content you give away. You’re more likely to be found by publishing on many sites, than by hoarding all your content on your own. Besides, when you give good content, you can get a lot of great content (and social shares and exposures) in return.
6. Create a Series
ZK’s own Good Morning Sunday series is a perfect example of giving readers “appointment” reading on a regular basis. His tone and subject matter approach is truly enjoyable, mostly because it embodies his “why.” I really like reading his series. I even like the name! Another blogger writes “10 Things We Didn’t Know a Week Ago.” Many of the points are on-topic for his blog, others are there for fun and interest.
People like their habits. Make reading your blog one of their habits by giving them a regular expectation, and a payoff for sticking with you.
7. Deliver Gold Nuggets
With some 200 million English language blogs on the internet, there is a whole lot of filler content swimming around, taking up space. It doesn’t attract readers (or at least it doesn’t bring them back), and it doesn’t help build a durable web presence. Blogs that don’t have a direction, a purpose, or “gold nuggets” that readers can really use I call BINOs: Blogs in Name Only.
Filler content, or hastily written posts that are published just to get more pages up might have helped SEO and overall traffic a couple of years ago, but not anymore.
In order for your blog to deliver value to you, it must deliver value to your readers. The good news is that you don’t have to blow people’s minds day in day out. You just need one gold nugget in each of your posts. That’s enough. So when you get ready to press the publish button, make sure you’ve got a nugget in there. Otherwise, leave it as draft until you can make that point, offer up a memorable quote or a singular insight readers will remember.
8. Tap into Your Back Catalogue
Every single piece of content you’ve written is feed stock for every new piece of content you will write. Like filling your hopper to keep the ideas flowing, drawing on your “back catalog” lets you riff on topics you’ve already covered, while linking to your own pages. This post, for example, contains ideas I’ve written about before, but never quite in this way. And I’ll probably reference this guest post on my own blog in the future.
As ideas develop and mature, build upon the foundations you’ve already written. Over time, your blogging becomes a body of work, not just a string of articles, hoping to rope in some web traffic. That’s how to blog like you mean it.