In the mountains of advice on blogging, it’s hard to know which advice to use, especially when so much of it can be contradictory. After reading and researching for months before launching my new site (which included listening to lots of Blogcast FM interviews), I finally settled on some methods that seem to be working.
Here are the 10 best tips that I’ve found.
1. Create flagship content
Chris Garrett has a free ebook called “Creating Killer Flagship Content” and in it, he talks about how it’s important to have content on your site that shows what your site should be known for and conveys the overarching message of your site. For example, many sites have manifestos in ebook form that talk about the general principles of the site.
I decided to create an infographic which gives an overview of a process that I’ve created. This infographic is not just a good intro to my site, but it’s very spreadable which is another benefit to creating flagship content.
2. Getting into a busy niche is a good idea
Derek Halpern (who I’ve learned so much from that I could write a “10 things I’ve learned from Derek Halpern” post) is one of the only people I’ve heard who says that busy niches are a good thing because you know there’s an audience. So much advice seems to focus on finding a unique niche that this was a revelation to me.
I had put off creating my site because it’s in a busy niche (Disney World trip planning) but after hearing Derek say that, I realized I could jump in and add my own take on the topic and know the audience would be there.
3. Set up an email list right from the beginning
Lots and lots of successful bloggers will tell you (and have told you in many Blogcast FM interviews) that creating an email list is still the most important thing to do in order to communicate to your audience. Based on their advice, I had email signups right when my site launched. My goal was to be able to communicate with people when new content was published (RSS subscriptions aren’t so popular outside of geeky niches).
What surprised me is that the email list has been a really great way to build connections. People routinely hit reply and let me know their thoughts, allowing me to get to know the readers and communicate with them one on one.
4. Seem bigger than you are
Chris Guillebeau wrote in his ebook “279 Days to Overnight Success” (one of his pieces of flagship content) that he suggests being bigger than you are. This means that you treat your blog in a professional way and write as though you are speaking to a large audience even when you’re just getting started and the audience isn’t there yet. Chris suggests that you think of yourself as a member of the establishment, allowing yourself to approach larger, more mature sites as though you are one of them.
5. Turn off comments (at least in the beginning)
This is another tip from Derek Halpern that I really love. When you go to a site and see that it has lots of comments, those comments can serve as a kind of social proof that makes you think more highly of the site because so many people are obviously reading it.
The absence of comments can do exactly the opposite and scare people away. Until you have enough daily visitors, it might make sense to turn them off. Since only about 1% of visitors will bother to leave a comment, it could be a while before it makes sense to turn them on.
6. Split your time evenly between creating and connecting
Chris Guillebeau has often said that he spends 50% of his time creating and 50% of his time connecting. Many bloggers think if they build it, people will come, but they won’t come unless you spend time getting the word out. Notice that he doesn’t say he is selling or marketing; he says that he’s connecting. Although marketing activities fall under the category of connecting, it takes on a different feel if you are genuinely trying to connect with people rather than pushing yourself onto people so they will promote you.
7. Find your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
The idea of a USP has been around since being used in advertising campaigns in the 1940s, but many bloggers don’t think to apply it to themselves. You need to look at your competitors and figure out how you want to approach it differently. As Derek has said, “you may not have unique ingredients, but you’ve got a unique recipe.” Sometimes your personality alone can be a way to create your USP.
8. Use sites other than Google as traffic sources
We often think of Google as a main source of traffic, but there are many other sites that have huge audiences that you can use to funnel people to your site. The infographic that I created, for instance, has been pinned on Pinterest hundreds of times and Pinterest is my 2nd highest referrer.
Another site with a huge amount of traffic is YouTube. As James Wedmore has discussed, you can create videos that not only list your URL in the description, but you can direct people to your site from the video. YouTube visitors to my site spend an average of over 13 minutes viewing content which is the highest duration of any referrer I have.
By the way, my traffic from Google is negligible until I get more content and can get more visitors with long tail keywords that other sites in my busy niche may not have covered yet.
9. Identify your target audience very specifically
Ramit Sethi is very big on identifying your target customer (I’ll ignore for a minute that he often says he doesn’t market to mid-western suburban moms which describes me perfectly. I’ll still be a fan of his!). If you don’t already subscribe to his email list, I highly recommend it as his emails contain more valuable info than just about anything else I’ve found (and they’re free).
In one of his emails, he talked about defining your audience in a very specific way. He suggests defining it generally and then adding more detail until you get to a narrow enough niche that you can target your content to that audience.
For me, that meant that I defined my audience generally as people who are traveling to Disney World, but by the time I got more specific, it became “first time visitors to Disney World with children under 12 who don’t mind saving money but aren’t necessarily frugal.” People outside of that description regularly read my site, but I always have that specific audience in mind when I create content.
10. Treat your day job as an angel investor
Many people have sites with the hope of giving up their day job to pursue their site full-time. That means that most people will work a full-time job while working on their site in the evenings and on weekends. It’s easy to get disgruntled and antsy during this time.
Dyana Valentine suggested a new perspective in her Blogcast FM interview; she suggested looking at your day job as an angel investor for your side business. This slight switch in thinking can be the key to getting through this transition period.
Blogcast FM has taught us all a lot of great blogging tips. What are some of your favorite tips that you’ve learned?