How to Grow Your Blog
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There are 5 main strategies to growing your blog but keep in mind that none of these will work unless you create good content that visitors like and/or find useful. There are advantages and disadvantages to them all and so some combination of all of them will be important. This is going to be a brief overview of all of them but you will want to do more research on each one before you get started.
Why Social Media
Social media has been the cause of some websites' quick rise to fame and profits so it has potential to have a large impact on your growth. However, the more realistic goal of social media is likely a slow and steady process. Use the following you have to help you grow and attract more followers.
Which Social Media Sites
What social media sites you use, will depend highly on what your website is about. Facebook is the one that everyone should be on. It does not necessarily have to be one you focus on, but make sure to have a presence by starting a page. The other social media sites you join however, will vary by website. For example, if you have a lot of great unique images, make sure you are on Instagram and Pinterest. Those are places where images are the focus. Instagram is a more younger generation user base and Pinterest is more of a women user base. So keep those things in mind when trying to decide which one to focus on. Other places to keep in mind are Twitter and Periscope. Periscope is the newest up and coming social media platform that is great for people that want to show their face and talk live with their following. It is a great way for your audience to connect with you and can really help you grow a base of dedicated followers.
On a similar note, make sure that it is really easy for your visitors to share your content on social media sites by adding social share buttons on your website. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that will make this easy for you to do (more on our favorite plugins later in the last section). This gives you a better chance of being found and is one of the best free "advertising" strategies. People want to share good content so if you create good stuff, people will share it and will help you be seen by more and more people.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a term used for sending email as a marketing strategy. For most websites/bloggers the most common use will be to send a weekly/daily newsletter. The email could be made up of recent blog posts you have published on your website or content that you share only to people on your email list. No matter what it is that you send, your goal it to use this list to grow a following.
How to Effectively Implement Email Marketing
The key to email marketing is to convince visitors to sign up for your list so that you have permission to email them. This could be as simple as telling the visitor that you will email them when you have new blog posts. If you make a great first impression on the visitor, that might be enough but it's likely that most visitors will need more incentive than that. You can also create some piece of content that you give away but the only way the visitor gets it is if they sign up to your email list. This strategy can work, but you need to keep the reader interested in your writing by continually delivering them with content they enjoy. If you send them emails they do not like, they will just unsubscribe and then you can no longer email them.
Why Email Marketing is so Important
Not implementing email marketing on a website is the biggest mistake a lot of bloggers make. Email marketing is the most important strategy and almost all the experts will agree with us. It is the most effective way for you to stay connected with your audience and turn a visitor into a follower. If you do not capture a visitor's email address, they are very likely to leave your website and never come back. But if you convince them to sign up for your email list, you now have their permission to tell them about all your new blog posts and you are more likely to turn them into a dedicated fan.
How to Get Started
To get started you will need sign up for an Email Service Provider (ESP) to handle this for you. We use Aweber as our ESP for all of our websites for a lot of the same reasons we use WordPress for our websites. It's easy to use, and it's one of the most widely used ESPs so there are lots of add-ons that you can use for free and then make it work specifically for what you need.
Monetization Through Email Marketing
Email is a great way to monetize you blog as well. You could do any of the monetization strategies from step 8 and put them in an email. This is easily the most effective form of monetization, if you do it correctly. Use your personal connection you have with your following to share something of value with them and they will be happy to purchase something that you share.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a term used for building your website in a way that gets search engines (like Google) to rank your website higher in their search results. The higher the ranking, the more traffic you get. Google delivers over 3 billion search results a day and it's all free traffic to websites so the competition to be ranked at the top is extremely high.
How it Works
Search engines have extremely advanced algorithms that determine what order they show results. Their goal is to show results so that users can easily find what they are looking for and then come back to use them again. So it's important that you understand what the search engines want so you can build a website they want to show in their results. When a user types their search query (called keywords) into a search engine, Google displays the most accurate results, according to the search engine algorithms.
How to Effectively Implement SEO
To put it very simple, you need to create something that people want. No matter what SEO tactics you use, if users do not like your website, search engines will know and they will not want to show your website in their results as frequently. After you have that completed, there are a few other things that you will want to concentrate on to help you:
- Write about something that people are searching for - You can have this great piece of content but if people are not searching for it, then there is no way you will get traffic to it.
- Go for Long-Tail Keywords - For example, let's say you create a website about exercising and you want to create a new blog post about running shoes. You cannot expect to get ranked for a term like "running shoes." This term will be dominated by multi-million dollar companies. But maybe there is less competition for a term like "running shoes for men with wide feet." That is a more specific term that will be searched less (called long-tail term) but will likely have less competition and might be easier for you to rank for.
- Links to your website - Search engines rely on many factors to determine if your website is trustworthy. One of the most important factors here is other websites linking to your website. Search engines see that as a "vote" for your website. If your website was a horrible site, people would not link to it. So if you do not have links, search engines will think you do not have a website that other people will want to visit, and then will not rank you high in their search results. However, keep in mind that Google is very good at knowing when a link from a website is a real "vote" or not. Do not try to get links by paying for them or using a website that allows anyone add links. These will be flags to Google that could actually have the opposite effect on your website. The best way to get links that will boost your website rankings is to create consistent great content that other websites want to link to.
Not all websites need to have an SEO strategy if your main plan is to put a lot of money into advertising, but most people do not have a lot of money to put into advertising when just starting out, so use SEO as free advertising. But keep in mind, SEO is typically the strategy that will take the longest. You have to gain the search engines' trust and that takes time. Your goal should be to get ranked in the top 10 of Google for specific keywords. Very few people go to the second page of search results and so anything higher than 10 is going to be almost no traffic.
Why It's Important
Unless you already have a following of people before you start your blog, the only people that will be reading your blog are your friends and family. You can't just start a great website and hope people will just find you. So you have to start advertising.
What Does it Cost?
Advertising cost is going to depend on a lot of factors so there is no way we could say, but there are ways to do this for free. The downside to free advertising is that it will take a lot of time but we understand this is the approach many people will take when starting off (both of us had very little to spend when we started so we understand). However, if you can put as little as $1 a day into advertising, it will help you grow.
Where to Advertise
There are numerous places you can advertise so the key here will be to test and find out what works best, but here are a few of the places that have worked well for us:
- Social media - Facebook is one of the most talked about right now because it has the unique ability to target very specific demographics. What this means for you is that you can show ads to only people that you think are most likely to want to visit your website and/or purchase your product. This should make advertising cheaper but keep in mind this takes a lot of testing to get it right and you may spend a lot of money just testing. Pinterest is the social media site we have had the best luck with for advertising. They allow less targeting but it's still fairly new so there is less competition.
- Google Adsense - Google Adsense is similar to how Facebook works, in that it allows some great targeting, but it is used for advertising banners on websites, rather than on Facebook news feeds.
- Make Trades - This is a great way to not spend any money. You could connect with a website owner that is in your niche and make a trade to advertise their website in exchange for them advertising yours. This could be a swap of banners, so that you show their banner ad on your website to as many visitors as they do. It could be a list swap so that you send an email to your list of subscribers in exchange for them to send it to their email list. Or you could do a share on your Facebook page in exchange for them sharing something on their Facebook page. You are just trying to find something of equal value so that you are both happy
Make Connections in Your Industry
Why Connections are Important
There is a lot to learn when starting a website. Although we have tried to be very detailed in this guide, there is still a lot to learn. The best way to learn is to connect with someone in your industry that can help you. It won't necessarily be someone that you go to for every single question you have, but the person you might go to when you just cannot find an answer, or someone you can bounce ideas off of. This one can be overlooked but it is extremely valuable.
How to Get Started
However it can be a difficult thing to do as you start off. People tend to be very secretive and are hesitant to connect with an unknown and unproven website owners. Depending on the person you are trying to connect with, they may get 100s of emails a week from people trying to sell them something and they have to decide who is important enough to respond to.
The other hard part of this is that you, as a new blogger, may not have a lot to provide to a more established blogger with a larger following. So you will have to find a creative way to connect. But our biggest suggestion would be to try to provide a large amount of value to the person you are trying to connect with and tell them what you can do for them that will have a large impact on their website.
Where to Look for Connections
There is no one place to go so just go where people that you would want to connect with go to. Here are a few suggestions:
- Forums - There are thousands of forums on the internet that are free to join and an easy way to start talking with other people. Join one that looks to have people you would want to connect with. Start by introducing yourself to the forum and then looking around where you might be able to provide value to someone and start up a conversation.
- Google Search - Search for websites in your same industry and look for one that you might be able to help out. You will likely have to try to connect through their contact page. Your success rate is going to be very low so this will take a lot of time. Come up with something you think could be very beneficial to them so that they want to email you back.
- Start a Mastermind Group - This would be a group of people that come together once a week, or once a month to discuss how their businesses are going and a group of people that everyone can bounce ideas off of. This could be an in-person group, over Skype, or on the phone. By forming this group, you can reach out to people with your plans and you might have a higher likelihood of getting responses from other bloggers.
Our Closing Suggestions for Advertising
Once your website is started, create a page specifically to "sell" a visitor on how great it will be to join your mailing list and maybe even give them something free for joining. Put a sign up form on there and set up Aweber to automatically send that free gift over email once they sign up. Then start testing different advertising options for $1-$5 a day and see what works best for you. Find something that is working for you and then keep doing it. Lastly, reinvest your website earnings into more advertising to keep growing your following. It's key to get a good base of strong followers. As your followers grow, they will help you grow more.