You’re new to blogging. You want to grow your blog but you’re not sure what’s going to move the needle. Or what you should be focusing on.
Blogging can be pretty overwhelming when you’re just getting started. We’ve all been there.
In this article, I’m going to share a bunch of smart tips you can implement to get a headstart on your blogging journey.
In particular, I’m going to focus on the advice I’ve learned over the past 10+ years as a blogger and digital marketer.
And for a bit of fun, I’m going to share a *slightly* cringe worthy screenshot of the first iteration of bloggingwizard.com towards the end of this post.
Haven’t started your blog yet? No problem. You can start a free blog with blogging platforms like Wix in minutes. This is a great option particularly if you are a hobby blogger or you want to see if blogging is for you.
1. Get clear on your audience and how you can help them
The most important first step is to focus on a specific blog niche.
You can definitely expand outwards in the future but a specific niche is critical to build an audience when you’re a new blogger.
Which niche you choose depends on you. Nobody can tell you the right niche for you but you will find it at the point where your knowledge, passion, and profitability intersect.
The more specific your initial niche is, the better.
Whenever I’m asked for advice on choosing a niche, most bloggers pick things like computing, health and fitness. These aren’t niches, they are multi-billion dollar industries.
A good way to refine your idea is with a qualifying statement that involves a type of person and a specific way you can help them.
My blog helps ____ who ________.
Here are a few examples:
- My blog helps musicians who want to market their music.
- My blog helps guitarists who want to improve their technique.
- My blog helps photographers who want to take better photos.
- My blog helps realtors who want more sales.
Once you know who you want to help and how, you can display it in a widget in your footer or on your about page. This helps people to understand exactly what your blog is about and who it’s for.
2. Identify a unique angle to set yourself apart from other bloggers
Don’t let the number of other bloggers in your niche put you off.
Competition may seem like a bad thing but it really isn’t. There’s a lot you can learn from other bloggers in your space.
But how do you set yourself apart from them?
Identify what they do well and what they don’t do well. Then fill the negative space.
Do your research and use that to come up with a unique angle for your blog. As part of this process you may realise that you can refine your niche further.
For example, a songwriter who wants to teach others how to write music may realise there is a lack of focus on topline writing. Topline writing is the writing of lyrics and melody only. This way, they can carve out a very specific section of their niche. Then expand outwards once they’ve built an audience.
3. Don’t fret about design and branding (at least not right away)
When you’re just getting started it’s easy to look at other experienced bloggers and want to have your own design & branding at the same level.
In some cases this can be an obstacle to launching a blog and creating content.
If you’re in this same position, try not to worry. Design & branding can be important but it’s a detail you shouldn’t worry about at the beginning.
The most important thing is that you launch your blog and start creating content as quickly as possible.
Design is an iterative process. You’ll see exactly what I mean with the screenshot of Blogging Wizard’s homepage circa 2013 (it’s towards the end of the post).
The idea is that you improve your blog bit by bit. By all means, get things looking tidy but don’t fret too much about the details.
Done is better than perfect because perfect is never done.
4. Plan out your monetization strategy early on
It’s a good idea to consider how you’ll monetize your blog prior to launch or early on in the process.
Some niches are notoriously difficult to monetize but there’s a good number of options available:
- Affiliate marketing
- Courses & info products
- Sponsored content
- Freelance writing
If you want a more in-depth look at how all of this works, check out my article on how to get paid for the content you create.
5. Install analytics so you can monitor growth
As the old saying goes; “If it can be measured, it can be improved.”
If you want to be able to grow your blog, you need to know how many visitors you’re getting.
This is one of the reasons why I’ve been able to serve so many visitors here at bloggingwizard.com:
It’s taken a long time but it’s been an incredible journey.
So, which tool should you use to monitor your traffic? There are a bunch of useful analytics tools on the market. Things like Google Analytics and Clicky are quite popular.
Google Analytics is free but is incredibly complicated for beginners. Clicky is a lot easier to use but the free plan is limited. Although it should be enough for most users.
If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out our comparison of web analytics tools.
6. Build an email list and nurture it
When I first started blogging, I got wrapped up in the hype of social media. So I didn’t build an email list for a long time.
While social media can be incredibly useful when it comes to building an audience, you don’t need social media to be a successful blogger.
Social media puts you at the mercy of algorithms. One day bloggers were able to reach their audience via their Facebook Page. Then Facebook took access to that audience away by nerfing organic reach.
The best alternative is building an email list. It’s personal, immediate and you have ownership of it. You’re not building on rented land.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to get started:
- Choose an email marketing service – I use ConvertKit because it’s simple to use. They have a free plan.
- Plan out a sequence of welcome emails – this could just be links to your most popular content.
- Create a lead magnet to encourage people to join your list – here’s a list of lead magnet ideas to help you.
- Create a dedicated landing page to offer your lead magnet – this is great for paid promotions or sharing on social media. These landing page plugins will help.
- Add opt-in forms to your blog.
Even if you’re not planning to send any emails to your subscribers right away, it’s well worth starting one because most visitors won’t return unless you give them a good reason to.
7. Develop a personalized content promotion checklist
You could write the most helpful or entertaining content in the world but without a plan to promote it, it will be condemned to gather cobwebs in the farthest reaches of the interwebs.
Your content deserves to be read so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
The solution is to have a detailed content promotion checklist that you work through everytime you publish your content.
This should include things like:
- Including in your email newsletter.
- Sharing on social media with popular hashtags.
- Submit to niche bookmarking sites (e.g. BizSugar).
- Submit to content aggregators (e.g. Flipboard).
- Promote with Quora answers.
- Leverage content promotion platforms (e.g. Missinglettr Curate, Quuu Promote).
I recommend checking out our article on how to promote your blog to flesh out your checklist.
Once your list is complete, you’ll need to test to see which platforms are working for you. I’d also recommend taking a look at blogs in your niche to see how they’re promoting their content.
What works in one niche may not work in another so there’s a lot you can learn from popular bloggers in your own niche.
8. Create goal-driven content (my approach)
My approach to content strategy is to assign a top-level goal to each piece of content. I have 5 different goals (I call this the RELCR method):
- Rank – Content with the aim of ranking in Google.
- Engage – Content that engages the audience you have now.
- Link – Content that earns links. it’s not always the same as what ranks.
- Convert – Content that sells.
- Reach – Content that spreads your message to new people. Typically most effective on social media.
A diverse content strategy will contain content that has a mix of all of these goals.
Just as an example, content that earns links could be long-form guides or data-driven content. These articles don’t always rank in Google but their ability to earn links can help your ability to drive traffic from Google across the board – especially when you use internal links to support other content.
If you’re in the launch phase of your blog, you should focus on publishing content that will rank in Google and/or earn links. Save your most unique and interesting ideas for later once you have an audience (this will be your Engage + Reach based content).
9. Find a schedule that works for you (not someone else)
Chances are that you’ve read articles about the best time to publish your content.
The problem with these articles is that they use other people’s data. And they can be somewhat misleading.
For example, an article tells people the best day is a Tuesday. Then everyone published on a Tuesday.
Then, it’s not the best day any more. See how this can be problematic?
Instead, find a schedule that fits your needs and your audience. It will take some experimentation.
To dig deeper into this, check out our article on finding the best time to publish blog posts.
10. Hone your headline writing skills constantly
While it’s your content that keeps people on your blog, it’s your headline that makes sure they get to your blog in the first place.
This makes eye-catching headlines critical.
But don’t expect to be great at writing headlines right away. It takes time and practice.
This is why it’s a good idea to write 25 different headlines for each blog post you publish. The first 10 are usually easy but the last 5 are usually when you get your best ideas.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of copywriting formulas you can use in your headlines. Just take a look at your favorite blogs to see how they write their headlines.
If you need help with your headlines, be sure to check out our guide to headline writing for beginners.
11. Don’t dismiss unsuccessful tactics too quickly
Lots of bloggers will try out a promotional tactic and give up on it without exploring why.
On some occasions they’ll tell their friends it doesn’t work as well. Still missing out the all important “why.”
Here’s the deal:
What works in one niche doesn’t always work for another. Success can depend on other audience specific factors including demographics. Even things like monetization channels and your own personality type can impact results.
So when you try a new tactic or strategy to drive traffic to your blog or monetize it, don’t dismiss it if it doesn’t work immediately.
- Could I have implemented this tactic in a different way? Details DO matter.
- Would this have worked better if I gave it more time? Rarely will anything give instant results.
- Does this even fit my business model? For example, review style content is not a good fit for blogs that monetize with paid ads.
12. Leverage growth-centric content types
There are two content types that excel at driving traffic and increasing a social media following. And they’re both quicker to implement than writing a 3,000 word article.
I’m talking about quizzes and contests.
Let’s start with quizzes first:
Chances are you’ve seen some of BuzzFeed’s quizzes pop up in your social media feeds. They publish a lot of them:
This is because they work.
Now, I’m not suggesting you do exactly the same thing. But it’s worth having a go with quizzes because they can be so effective.
For example, a buddy of mine started a new classic car blog. In the second month after he launched, his monthly traffic broke 6,000 unique visitors. All thanks to a few engaging quizzes. Pretty good, right?
The only downside to quizzes is that you will need a tool to create them. I recommend checking out this article on online quiz makers by David Hartshorne to learn which tool will be a good fit for you.
The second content type is giveaways & contests.
Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you’re going to have to give away some of your stuff.
While you will need a contest tool to facilitate the giveaway, you can partner with brands in your niche to offer a product your audience covets highly.
Software subscriptions are great options here because brands can offer them up without it costing them too much. Alternatively, you could always give away an Amazon voucher.
Wrapping it up
Blogging is an iterative process. Don’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate.
Blogging Wizard wasn’t perfect out of the gate. Looking back at how it looked in the early days fills me with a sense of accomplishment because of how far it’s come. Not just in terms of how it looks but the quality of content as well.
Sometimes I do cringe a bit though 🙂
And since I did promise to share a screenshot with you, here’s how Blogging Wizard looked circa 2013:
As I write this, here’s how the current homepage looks:
Quite the transformation right?
But here’s the thing:
It didn’t happen overnight. There’s been around 10 different iterations of the website since I launched it in 2012. With each iteration, I improved everything across the board. Design, branding, focus, and content quality.
So don’t worry if your blog isn’t perfect. Improve things bit by bit and soon enough everything will start to take shape.
Leverage all of the blogging tips you can find but stay focused on what matters most – your content and your audience.
It takes time to achieve growth but nothing worth doing was ever easy.
Most importantly – enjoy the blogging journey.