Are you trying to build a successful blog? Does it feel like an uphill battle? When I first started blogging, I had so many questions. I suspect that you do too.
Last week I was lucky enough to join Denise Wakeman on her show, Adventures in Visibility, where we talked about blogging and its power when leveraged effectively. Below are forty things you wish you knew before starting a blog. Whether you're new to blogging or looking to improve your results, these tips will help you boost your blog performance and effectiveness!
1. Your purpose
If I asked you why you were blogging, could you answer? You have to know why you're using a blog to market your business before you can make it a success. Ask yourself why you write, what purpose it serves and how your blog will support your overall marketing goals.
2. Commitment matters
Get clear on your blogging commitment. Know how often you can blog and stick with it. Knowing this will allow you to stay consistent. Because consistency can be a deal killer. Think about it. When was the last time you revisited a blog that wasn’t recently updated? Probably never. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by making this big mistake.
3. Take a look at the competition
Do your competitive research and learn what’s working for your competition and what’s not. Find holes within their strategy and fill them. A great big audience is dying to hear what you have to say. If you want to leverage your competition, read this post from Debra Trappen, a Business Consultant with D11 Consulting, and find six ways you can get to know them...fast!
4. Research keywords
Research the top keywords and phrases that your audience is using to find you. That’s the valuable insight you don’t want to overlook. Take the guesswork out of your research and use tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMRush.
5. Clearly identify your topic
Get focused on your topic. What are you passionate about? You'll burn out quickly if you don’t write what fires you up and gets you excited.
Once you identify your topic, use a tool like BuzzSumo to find top-performing content. Identify what's resonating within your industry and then lend your voice to that topic. Figure out how you can write about it, but with your unique point of view.
6. Write down your goals
What doesn’t get written down doesn’t get done. Write down your goals, identify your desired outcome, and celebrate your milestones.
7. Get crystal clear on your audience
If I asked you who your target market is, would you know the answer? (Hint: the answer is not everyone) To succeed, you need to know who you’re talking to. Have a deep understanding of your market and what they’re looking for. Don’t assume you have the answers. Do your homework.
Social Mention is a nifty tool with a ton of functionality that will help you get to know your audience. Dissect, analyze and research content based on keywords, phrases or Twitter handles. Begin by looking at your industry-specific keywords and then drill down into the blogs, tweets, and posts that pull up in the stream of most recent content shared.
8. Niche down
As the saying goes, "The riches are in the niches," and it's absolutely true. If you want to grow your blog, you need to niche down. As I mentioned above, get crystal clear about your target market. Talking to everybody means you’re speaking to nobody. Show your readers how much you care by researching who they are and what it is that matters most to them.
9. Speak to an audience of one
Make your message targeted and designed for your perfect buyer, client, or consumer. Identify your core reader and understand what they're looking for when they land on your blog.
How to Identify Your Core Reader
- Put yourself in the shoes of your target market. What challenges do they face, what questions do they have, and what problems do you solve?
- What is your competition talking about? Does that seem relevant to your audience?
- Now look to the Internet. Research keywords and phrases that your audience would type in if they were looking for your product or service.
10. Know your limitations
What are you willing to talk about, and what are taboo topics? Knowing you're limitations will make it easy to stick within those boundaries. For many, there are moral or religious reasons for staying away from certain topics. Whatever the case is for you, know them before you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
11. Create a content calendar
I live and die by my editorial calendar. I am a checklist girl and what isn’t on the list doesn’t get done. That holds true in my business and flows through to my blog and social media. Create a calendar and map out specific topics like:
- Company milestones
- Upcoming events
- Hot topics
- Industry news
- Core values
12. Never stop learning
Never stop learning and growing as a blogger. Become an avid reader and find ways to improve your blogging abilities. Write daily and know that every word better connects you to your audience. Be a student of your craft and learn from others who are succeeding within your industry or field. Then take that knowledge and make it your own, unique to you.
13. Edit ruthlessly
Take your time to spell-check and review your article before you post. Eliminate any needless words or phrases. Keep it short and to the point, removing any adjectives or adverbs that only belabor a sentence. If you struggle with grammar, pass the review to a colleague or Virtual Assistant.
14. Make your content easy to read
While it might be typical to talk in industry jargon within your office, don't make it a habit on your blog. Using fancy words or terminology doesn't make you sound smarter; it leaves your readers scratching their heads. Speak their language and make your content easier to read with a tool like Hemmingway. Simply copy and paste your post, then look for your score for guidance. Update the misspellings, grammatical errors, or complexities in a matter of moments.
15. Rework your opening paragraph
You have one chance to grab your reader’s attention. Don’t miss the opportunity to craft an opening to your blog post that seizes your audience’s attention from the moment they land on your blog. Take these tips from Copyblogger to open your blog post with a bang:
- Ask a question.
- Share an anecdote or quote.
- Invoke the mind’s eye.
- Use an analogy, metaphor, or simile
- Cite a shocking statistic.
16. Walk away
Ever find yourself staring at the screen, longing for inspiration? Yep, me too. At that point, it's time to take a break. Get up, stretch, walk around the block, and grab a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, relax your mind and your body for a few minutes. It will do wonders for your creative juices, I promise!
17. Offer an Enormous Amount of value
Don't be afraid to give away your knowledge and years of experience. Take the advice of Pauline Cabrera, the savvy mind behind TwelveSkip,
An article will spread naturally if people can learn something from it. If the content contains information that readers can use in their lives, then the article will be read by a lot of people. When you write your articles, make sure that you’re providing useful, well-researched, and credible information.
18. Give a sneak peek into your world
Let people into your day. Share what you do to help customers and how you've solved their problems. Give unique insight into your industry or niche that allows your readers to make an educated decision. We all love to see behind the scenes. Your readers are no different and will appreciate the chance to get to know you better.
19. Build relationships with fellow bloggers
Build relationships with other like-minded bloggers. Go beyond the four walls of your blog and create conversations across other networks, including social media. Join blog groups that have created Tribes of individuals who share the same interests and will support spreading your message.
My top resource is Triberr – an amazing community designed to amplify your message and expand your reach. I’m also a big fan of Social Buzz Club. You find/connect with your fav bloggers, add your blog and start sharing others' content!
20. Build relationships, not numbers
I understand that your blog's purpose is to draw potential clients in, but bashing them over the head with boring stats and constant promotional ads is not the way to build relationships. Your blog audience wants you to woo them. They want to get to know you and understand how you can solve their problems. Share your value, but do it in a conversational way.
21. Build your list
One of the biggest mistakes I made initially was not building my list. I had a list I'd built within my business, but not one specifically centered around my blog. Don't make that same mistake. If you want to get the word out about your blog, building a list is a great way to do it. Write amazing content that goes out to just your email subscribers. Get them excited and involved in your marketing efforts.
22. Schedule your marketing time
Promotion is almost a bigger part of your blog than writing your posts. Commit time to get the word out. Create separate images for all social networks to match each size requirement.
23. Use eye-catching graphics
Use images to create brand awareness and as an instant identifier. Be recognizable! Use the same layout, font, and design to connect people to your company better. Allow people to connect with you and that essence that makes your business special.
24. Create graphics specific to the social network
I create separate images for all social networks to match each requirement. For example, if you’re using images on Twitter, ensure that you’re creating them correctly. Peg Fitzpatrick, a Social Media Strategist who consistently uses images in a creative and highly effective way offers this advice,
“The best size to use for Twitter graphics and images is 1024 pixels by 512 pixels. Batch your images and create a design template. This makes it easy to quickly create a series of tweet graphics that are ready to use when you need them."
25. Find content everywhere
One of the top questions I'm asked is, "Where do I find blog topics?" My answer? Content is everywhere! It's wherever you go, whatever you do, and in every conversation you have. Begin to look at everything as potential content for your blog. Did a client ask a question that your readers might find interesting? Answer it and then offer advice on what best to do. It will position you as an expert and an authority on the topic.
26. Use what you have
Look around at all of your current marketing collateral. Everything from old newsletters to emails can be repurposed to become fresh content. Why reinvent the wheel when you have everything you need right at your fingertips?
27. Create content by listening
Listen to your readers. Comb through their questions and find ways to solve problems. Offering a substantial amount of value builds trust and will establish you as the industry authority. Remember, trust takes time and will not happen overnight.
28. Find your own groove
While understanding your competition is smart, watching their every step can be unhealthy. Stop mimicking everything your competition is doing. Every blog is different and every audience is unique. Do what feels right to you. Test, tweak, and find your own rhythm.
29. Stop blasting only promotional stuff
Stop promoting and instead focus on being an invaluable resource. While traffic and views matter, people aren't going to take an interest in your blog until you show that you care about them. Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics offers advice every blogger should take,
These days, I do make money, and lot more than I used to when I first started blogging, but money is a side effect of solving problems and helping people. If I had to put a dollar value on my responses to comments and emails, I probably would be in red. But how could you put a price on helping people?
30. Share your blog...everywhere
Add your blog post to all of your marketing, including postcards, email signatures, newsletters and other promotional items. Share your latest blog post across all of your social networks and tweet it multiple times throughout the week. Change up the verbiage to test what works and what doesn’t. A common misconception is to tweet or post once. Never assume everyone in your audience saw it. Share, share, share!
31. Track your stats
Install Google Analytics and track your stats. Not reviewing your statistics is like driving at night without your headlights on. You may get to your destination, but the ride won’t be pretty.
32. Make your title powerful
Don’t forget the power of your blog post title. Take the time to create an attention-grabbing, descriptive, SEO-friendly headline. Tips to create a great blog post title:
- Evoke emotion
- Personalize the content
- Solve a problem
- Simplify a process
- Encourage an action
Use Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer to test your title. Submit your blog title and see how it ranks based on their Emotional Marketing Value analysis.
33. Get commenting
A promotional strategy often overlooked is commenting on other blogs within your niche. It builds relationships and reciprocity. Someone who makes this look effortless is Adrienne Smith. If you want to become a blog commenting superstar, she is the one to follow!
34. Let others share...easily
Make sure your share buttons are prominent on your blog. Don’t make your readers hunt and peck to find a way to share your content.
35. Know your best times to share on social media
Are you testing and analyzing when sharing across social media is optimal? Use the tools available to you, from Google Analytics to Facebook Insights, to understand when your fans and followers are online.
36. Make your blog a destination
Share your knowledge and expertise by giving readers and subscribers the content they really want. Make your blog a destination and one they cannot live without.
37. Use a call to action...always
You’ve written a great post and are ready to go live. Don’t hit that share button quite yet! Make sure you’ve added your compelling call to action. Your call to action (CTA) is the exact next step you’re asking your readers to take. Whether it’s a subscription or download, give clear instructions. You never want to assume they know what you want them to do.
38. Join the conversation
The single most effective way to build loyalty and trust is through conversation. A blog allows readers to get to know you on a very intimate level. If you let comments sit without responding or even acknowledging them, you are giving away a valuable opportunity.
39. Have fun
Nothing is worth doing if it's not fun, right? Have fun with your blog. Just because blogging is a commitment doesn't mean it can't be an enormous amount of fun.
40. Stop selling and start serving
Stop selling and start serving your audience. When you create content from a servant's heart, amazing things begin to happen.
It's no secret that your blog is a powerful tool. It's the foundation of your online presence. Knowing best practices and mistakes to avoid can save a lot of time and energy. If you want to succeed at blogging, you need to be strategic, focused, and totally zeroed in on your audience. So what are you waiting for? What changes can you make today to build a blog that your audience looks forward to returning to time and again?
About Rebekah Radice
Rebekah Radice, co-founder of BRIL.LA, has traded narcissism for purpose. When not driving growth, you'll find her tricking family into thinking she's Emeril Lagasse - likely covered in marinara. The spotlight was fun, but impact is better. These days she's using 20+ years of brand brilliance for good.