Blogging seems both young and old to me. The first blogger ever, Justin Hall, started typing away in 1994. Twenty-four years doesn’t seem TOO long ago, but a quarter of a century sure does!
Blogging was simple back in the olden days – people wrote about their lives and day to day activities. In 1999, there were 23 blogs on the internet. Guess how many there are today? Well, on WordPress alone, there are 75 million websites!
How many of those websites are used by bloggers trying to make a living? A darn lot of them. How many succeed? Way too few. The Blogging World is like the wild west without guns, horses, cowboys…okay, not a great analogy…but you get the picture.
But the truth is solid: you have to be a great blogger, writer and business person to succeed on the web. And, since every tidbit of advice helps, I created a 2-part article on mastering blogging. Without further ado, here’s part one:
Write With That Dreamy Goal in Mind
At any given time in your business, you should have no more than one or two goals. Otherwise you risk losing focus. What you blog about, your strategy, has to serve the goal you have set for your business. Without a specific purpose, your writing has no clear direction and probably won’t bring you the results you’re looking for.
Not everyone’s goal is to sell (I know, unbelievable, right??). Some bloggers want to work on their mailing list and others want to increase their authority in their niche. Most everyone’s eventual goal is probably to make mountains of money, but it might be hard to jump straight to that goal and skip all the rest.Once you decide on a business goal, you need to base your blogging strategy on it. Click To Tweet
Once you decide on a goal, you need to base your blogging strategy on it. You always want to write about your niche, but depending on your goal, your blogging should be nuanced. If you’re looking for sales, your blogging would probably serve you best if done in a series of posts that naturally lead to a sale. If your goal is to be perceived as an expert in your field, then well-researched, in depth and insightful articles would better serve you.
This is another reason why I suggest you plan your content marketing AT LEAST three months ahead of time. You need the ability for foresee what will support your goal, whether it be multiple posts leading to the sale or less common but more in depth articles.
Automate the Heck Out of Everything
Now more than ever you have the ability to automate various tasks in your business. Blogging is no exception. Some people assume blogging is all about writing, but we bloggers know that’s just the beginning. Besides the writing thing, you need to edit, schedule, publish and promote.
[Start whiny voice] Buuuut, that’s so much to doooo… Yes, it is an awful lot, and that’s why you need to take advantage of the Glory of Automation. Here are some quick examples of what you can automate:
- Forms for collecting email addresses; email sequences – MailChimp
- Triggers for automatically connecting applications – Zapier (or free version IFTTT)
- Blog post scheduling – WordPress
- Content Curation – Feedly
- Editing – Hemingway (although you shouldn’t rely on this; use it to doublecheck your work)
- Graphics – Keep folders of many different templates in Canva
- Pair automation with a detailed schedule and a To Do list (I love Things, but there are tons of different options) and you have a blogging system that’s almost completely automated.
These are just some of the tools you can take advantage of. Different programs and websites abound, paid and free, for automating all the above tasks. Give it a break – automate! (That’s pretty catchy, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll try some lyric writing…)
Always Lead the Dance with Your Reader
Never leave your readers hanging. You must always give them a next step to do. When they get to the end of a blog post, tell them exactly what they should do next. You may think it’s obvious for your reader to click a button or share a post, but sometimes they just need a reminder or a small nudge (please don’t shove your readers).
Remember the action you want them to take can be anything that pushes you closer to your goal. If your goal is to make six figures this year, lead them to your product’s landing page. If your goal is to grow your email list, get them to download your freebie. The next step doesn’t have to be earth-shattering – it may just be a reminder to read a follow up article or to comment on a post.
It certainly can’t hurt to point someone in the direction you’d like them to go, but you might miss a big sale if you don’t get that pointer out and use it! If you don’t ask for that next step, you’ll never know where it may have led.
Selling Isn’t Just Okay, It’s Awesome!
Many entrepreneurs have this issue before they make their first couple of sales. It’s the idea that somehow selling is a less than desirable activity, meant to do in a dark alley with a trench coat full of shady cheat sheets.
Not true. Well, let me qualify that. Not true if you go about it the right way. Realistically, someone that opts-in to your email list is going to expect some type of offer at some time down the road. However, you don’t want your first email to scream, “Buy my book now or you will turn to dust and blow far, far away.”There’s a bit of an art to selling, but it’s not a difficult art. Especially if you provide tons of value upfront. Click To Tweet
There’s a bit of an art to selling, but it’s not a difficult art. Especially if you provide tons of value upfront. For instance, in a typical opt-in/welcome series, your first “gift” to the reader is a lead magnet. Throughout the next few emails, you’ll probably offer tips, freebies and valuable personal experience. And though there’s no hard and fast rule for timing, sometime at the end of your series you will ask for a sale.
And that’s where the Rule of Reciprocation comes in. According to psychological types, because you’ve given so much value to your reader, they will likely feel compelled to reward you with a purchase. This is all good and helps the selling world go round.
Reply To Everyone (Especially Your Mother!)
When you are new to blogging and social media, it’s easy to keep on top of reader comments and brand mentions. But when you get super popular, and I know you will, it may become harder to keep up and even feel like drudgery.
Don’t stop replying to folks. The people trying to interact with you could be customers, potential customers, possible collaborators or your future sister-in-law. You should be careful not to burn any bridges. Besides, it’s just plain good manners to answer a question or respond to a compliment. Do you have to answer everything personally? Probably not. At some point canned responses and assistants come in handy, but the point is to show up.
And, you don’t have to let this consume every hour of your day. You have several tools at your disposal that can help you streamline the whole process. Free and paid programs like Mention, Google Alerts, and Buzzsumo, will send you a message when your name, brand or other keyword is found on the web. If the option is enabled, WordPress will send you an email whenever you get a comment so you don’t have to keep checking your blog posts. And, social media tools, such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social, have excellent reporting and tracking tools for social mentions and sentiment.
Don’t Let a Cranky Website Bring You Down
With everything else you have to monitor and remember to do, it’s easy to forget that even basic website issues can affect your blog’s ranking (SEO) and popularity (human satisfaction).
One of the most important factors to consider is your website’s page speed – the time it takes for a page to fully load on desktop and mobile. Page speed is one of the items Google considers in its performance metrics because it relates directly to user experience. What causes a slow loading page? Several different problems could be the culprit including a lack of caching, unoptimized images or bad hosting. Many website problems can be fixed with plugins or a better hosting company, but there are other fixes that may help too. To test your page speed, try using Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom or GTMetrix.
Website outages can also be troublesome for search engine rankings. They can be caused by any number of factors including hardware malfunctions, coding errors and server maintenance. Also keep an eye out for broken links, tag issues, incorrect redirects and indexing. Admittedly, some of these topics can be complicated, so don’t be afraid to do a little Google digging or to ask a tech savvy acquaintance for assistance.
Day One = Show Me the Money
Part of planning a new blog, unless you’re doing it as a hobby, should be deciding how you will make an income from it. Goals should include how soon and how much. Do you want to make money right away or do you want to focus on growing traffic for a while? Do you want this to be your full-time gig or do want to use it for a little rainy-day fund? Sometimes people put so much emphasis on their niche, ideal customer, competitors and branding that they forget to plan how their business is actually going to make money for them.Sometimes people put so much emphasis on their niche, ideal customer, competitors and branding that they forget to plan how their business is actually going to make money for them. Click To Tweet
There are a number of ways you can make money from a blog. You just have to make sure it’s the right fit for you and the desired fit for your target customer.
Consider these options:
- Online courses
- Affiliate marketing
- Services (design, writing, reviews)
- Google Ads or other ads services
And remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one method, you can combine any number of these options to achieve your target income.
True Love Could Be Just Around the Corner…
Guess what? Finding things to blog about can be completely painless. You need to have a system though, and it might take a little getting used to.
Your Awesome Idea System should consist of two parts – pre-planning and impulse ideas.
Pre-planning: This part of the system is based on research. You want to find out what type of content is popular on your blog and in your niche.
For your blog, use Google Analytics to see which of your posts are the most popular. Jot down the subjects and type of post. Use this information to decide what subjects to write more about in the future. Also, see if there’s a type of post (like a list post) that performs really well and use that type as often as you can.
For your niche, use the free or paid version of a content analyzer to see what topics are performing the best. Some examples of websites you can use include Buzzsumo, which offers limited free searches, ContentStudio, Social Animal or Epicbeat, which also offers free basic searches.
Impulse Ideas: This part of the system is based on ideas that magically appear in your mind. You need a method for capturing these nuggets for the future. You always have the paper and pen option, but you should consider one of the great notetaking apps in the market. The ones listed below have software options for desktop and mobile, so you can always have access no matter where the magic happens.
Connect With Influencers, But Be Cool About It
Success is all about who you’re connected to, right? Well not totally, but it certainly can help a great deal. In the world of content, important people are called influencers. It doesn’t take long to find them either. Once again – the web comes to the rescue!
You can simply search for the phrase, “[content marketing] influencers” and several list articles (don’t even use the word “listicle”) will pop up. Alternatively, you can use those content analyzers again. Several of them also have searches for influencers: Buzzsumo, Social Animal and Epicbeat all have free or paid searches.
Choose a few influencers you’d like to connect with and grab their contact details. Join their groups, sign up for their newsletters, follow them on social media…it’s sort of like stalking, but in a productive way. Start commenting on their blogs, share their articles and generally provide some value for them. When the time comes, they should remember your efforts and respond positively to you. Note: Please don’t start by contacting influencers and asking them for stuff. Trust me, it won’t go over well…
Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Reanimate…
You’ve probably heard a lot about repurposing material, which means reusing your content in different methods and on different platforms. For instance, if you had 5 pieces of content you had to write, imagine how long it would take to research and write about separate topics for each one. Now imagine instead, you start with a topic, do your research once, and then break it out into 5 different types of content.Imagine your productivity if instead of 5 different topics and tons of research, you just focused on one topic and then had 5 different types of content to publish. Click To Tweet
You could also use this method after the fact if you’ve already written something. You may have a popular blog post you’d like to repurpose in different ways. This could quickly and easily bring you traffic because you already know it’s a popular topic.
Or, you could plan ahead (I know…it’s hard). Choose your topic in advance and decide on 5 methods of sharing it. For example, you could choose a blog article, a Facebook post, a YouTube video, a Twitter message and a Pinterest pin. Write the longest piece first, probably the blog article, and then use parts of it for the different platforms you chose. You may have to add or change a few items depending on the method, but almost all the hard work is done in advance.
Write Like You Talk Unless You’re Mean
“Yo, take this advice and make it happen – no excuses or I’ll make you wear a pink bunny suit and whiskers for a week…” Is this how you sound when you talk? Would you say this sort of thing to someone? Yes? Then use it in your writing! This is your personality, your talent, your unique viewpoint. No one else sounds just like you and we all want to hear the real you.
Don’t write like you’re quoting historical events from an encyclopedia. Boring! Write like you talk, use the phrases you like to use, act like a friend giving advice, be funny! Readers will come back to you again and again if you entertain them and teach them valuable lessons in an interesting way.
Now, sadly, we’ve come to the end of my first part of Master Your Content Marketing – Blogging. I know you’re bummed, but Blogging Part 2 is just a click away!