To make your blog successful you have to do more than read blogging advice. You have to take action. Here are steps to follow.
Blogging can be a great marketing tool. It can establish you as an expert, get your business found in search, and provide useful information for your customers and clients. But all the content in the world won’t help you if no one reads your blog.
To set your blog up to be a massive success, you have to ruthlessly focus your efforts on things that work and stop spending precious time on things that don’t.
Today I’m going to make it easier for you to take the action you need to take to make your blog better. All you’ve got to do is schedule a little bit of time to tackle one or more of the 23 simple steps below. Some won’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Some will take a little longer.
When you finish one item, schedule time to do the next. The more items on the list you complete, the more progress you’ll make. If you’ve already completed some of them, cross them off and move on to steps you haven’t done yet.
1 – Start building an email list (20-30 minutes)
Why this is important: If you aren’t building an email list, you’re missing out on the most powerful and consistent way to drive repeat visitors and customers to your website or blog. With an email list, you become less and less dependent on external sources of traffic and gain more ability to interact with your blog’s audience.
Start building an email list in 20 minutes:
- Sign up for an email marketing account with an email marketing service.
- Create a sign-up form for your email list following the instructions and tools provided by your email service provider.
- Put your sign-up form on your blog, both in the sidebar and on your about page.
- Offer a free giveaway for people who subscribe to your list. (optional) Offering a workbook or an ebook or video series (or even a whole toolbox of resources) can drive many more signups than not offering something.
- Add the offer to multiple pages on your website to attract signups. Don’t wait to start your email list. The sooner you do this, the faster your list and your blog will grow.
2 – Start a post ideas journal (10 minutes)
The best ideas for blog posts don’t always come while you’re sitting down to write. Try keeping a simple journal of blog post ideas so you don’t miss out on the best opportunities.
You can write this in a Google Doc, an old-fashioned notebook or by starting a quick draft in WordPress for each idea.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, the point is just to keep a running list to work from.
3 – Add Facebook “like” buttons (15 to 20 minutes)
People who visit your site represent a massive marketing opportunity. If your visitors like what you’ve published, some of them will share your content with their friends, but usually only if you make it easy.
Over 500 million people are on Facebook, making it the biggest social network in the world. Chances are, a lot of your readers are on Facebook. Give them an easy way to share your great content by including Facebook “like” buttons on your posts. You could get a ton of traffic from Facebook. Here’s how.
Add Facebook like buttons to your posts in 20 minutes:
- Head over to the Facebook Like Button configuration page.
- Configure your Like Buttons as you wish. The page will show you how they’ll look on the fly as you make changes.
- Copy the code Facebook provides.
- Paste the code into your blog posts, anywhere you want the button to appear.
- If you’re up for the challenge (or if you have a tech person), you can add the Like Button to all of your posts, either at the beginning or end of each post, or both. This will require editing some PHP files for your WordPress theme, and the specific instructions depend on which theme or platform you’re using. Here are sample instructions for the Thesis theme.
4 – Add Twitter retweet buttons (15 to 20 minutes)
Twitter is another huge potential source of traffic for your blog. This site receives hundreds of visitors every month from Twitter, and it takes very little time to gain those benefits.
The method for adding a retweet button to your blog is pretty much the same as adding Like Buttons above. First you’ll need to head over to the Twitter Retweet Button configuration page. You’ll want to copy the code provided for your configured button and paste it into your posts (or optionally add it to every post by modifying your theme files).
5 – Make a list of every blogger in your niche (30 minutes)
Whatever you blog about, chances are there are other people who blog on the same topic. Your job is to become friends with as many of your fellow bloggers as possible.
Why would you want to become friends with your “competition?”
It’s simple. In every niche I’ve studied, the bloggers who succeed fastest are the ones who band together and help each other out, instead of trying to protect turf. Don’t think of other bloggers in your space as competitors, they’re actually your best chance of making your blog a massive success.
The strategy is simple: make a list of everyone who blogs on similar topics to you. Don’t just include A-listers. Include your peers and up-and-comers as well. Now prioritize the list based on who you think you’d naturally hit it off with.
If you blog in a huge niche, this doesn’t really need to include everyone who blogs on the topic. If you blog in a tiny niche, you might want to expand a little beyond your space.
Making the list is the first step. Next comes the real work. Make it your goal to reach out and create genuine relationships with as many people on the list as possible.
6 – Add social proof to your blog (30 minutes)
Social proof is a powerful influencer. When people see that other people are doing something, they’re more likely to do that thing themselves. If they see lots of people are subscribed to your blog, they’ll be more likely to subscribe as well.
You have to be careful though. Social proof only works when the numbers are impressive. Showing new visitors that 23 people are subscribed to your site probably won’t drive new subscribers. In fact, it might actually repel people (social proof works both ways).
The quickest way to add social count numbers to a WordPress blog is to use a plugin. Choose Plugins from your dashboard, and click the Add New button. Type in Social media counts in the search box. Choose and install one of the choices, and then follow the Plugin instructions for adding social media services.
7 – Refine and explain your blog’s unique selling proposition (30 minutes)
Why this is important: to attract and retain visitors to your blog, you must answer the question “Why should I read your blog instead of the hundreds (or thousands) of other choices out there?”
To answer that question, you need a point of difference or unique selling proposition. Your blog needs to be different in some way from other blogs in your space.
Once you’ve identified your “special sauce,” you need to communicate it to your visitors. Do this either through your tagline, in your sidebar, in your about page or within your blog posts. You’ll probably want to explain your USP in several of those places, and remind your visitors regularly.
8 – Learn SEO basics (60 minutes)
Why this is important: Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those things that takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. By just learning the basics, you can set yourself up to take advantage of a ton of opportunities over the coming months and years for your blog. Here’s the easiest and most important SEO strategy to implement:
Use descriptive page titles and descriptions
Each page on your website and each blog post should have a unique title. The title let readers and search engines know what the page is about in just a few words. Most website building software gives you a place to create a description of the page in addition to writing the page title. Fill that in with more information about what’s on the page. Try to use words in your description and title that your customers or clients would search for. These are called keywords and help your pages show up in search results.
Page titles and descriptions are often displayed in search results. As searchers skim through the results, they’ll click on whatever title and description promise to provide the information they were looking for.
9 – Implement a call to action (5 minutes)
The best way to get visitors to take a particular action is to explicitly ask them to. This is known as a call to action.
Want more email subscribers? Ask people to subscribe.
Want more retweets of your post? Ask people to retweet.
Try this in your next post. Ask your readers to do something you want them to do. If your content is good and you’ve provided genuine value, some of your readers will be happy to help you out. Just ask politely and try different tactics to see what works best for your audience.
Once you dial in your call to action technique, make a habit of using a call to action whenever you want your visitors to take action.
10 – Show people your best stuff (15 minutes)
When someone comes to your site, you need to put your best foot forward. The easiest way to do this is to link to some of your best posts in your sidebar or within a special “start here” page that you link to from your main navigation menu.
How you determine which posts are your best is up to you. You could show your most linked to posts, your most commented posts, your most viewed posts or something else. You could hand pick the posts you think best represent what your blog is all about.
If you want to show popular posts, you can use a widget to do the work. There are several good ones in the WordPress plugin directory. If you’ve never installed a plugin before, it’s pretty easy, but you might want to read the instructions first.
11 – Take down the ads (5 minutes)
When your blog is new, one of the worst things you can do is to plaster advertisements all over the place. If your blog is small, those ads won’t earn you more than a few bucks, but could be costing you big. You’ll turn off readers and stunt your growth during your critical formative months.
Is it really worth limiting your growth potential over a few bucks?
Once your site is bigger, you can start to introduce advertisements if you really want to in a tasteful and relevant way. Better yet, use a more effective way of earning income from your blog like affiliate marketing or consulting or developing your own products.
For now, take down the ads and focus on growth.
12 – Develop a Facebook page (60 minutes)
I already mentioned above that Facebook has 500 million registered users. In addition to adding “like” buttons to your posts, you should also consider setting up a Facebook Page for your site.
Even if you don’t plan to completely build out your Facebook fan page now, set one up sooner than later so readers who prefer connecting via Facebook can. At a minimum you can simply add an entry any time you write a new blog posts. Eventually you can expand the page to build community and interact with your members in a deeper way.
13 – Commit to updating your outposts regularly (10 minutes daily minimum)
Why this is important: outposts are an important concept in blogging. Your blog is your central platform, but outposts like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc. can help you find and interact with new readers where they already hang out.
The key to making the best use of outposts is to get in the habit of updating them regularly. If you have multiple outposts you might want to focus on just one at first until you get the hang of making regular updates. You need to make regular updates to show your visitors you’re committed to the platform and that you’ll be providing additional value there.
How to commit to updating your outpost regularly:
- Set a reminder on your calendar at first to update your outpost every day.
- Study examples of other blogs (preferably in your space) which have a thriving outpost. Observe the types of content they post, how they interact with members, and the frequency of posts.
- Make sure you don’t just treat your outpost as a glorified RSS feed (where you post only links to your recent blog posts). If you want your external community to thrive, you need to provide extra value.
14 – Try a new content format (90 minutes)
If you’re only writing similarly formatted blog posts, you might be missing out on some big opportunities. For example, maybe your audience prefers video over written content. Maybe you’re better at producing audio content than you are as a writer. Maybe you should be writing quick inspirational Seth Godin style posts instead of your usual standard 800 word posts.
Whatever format you’ve been using for blog posts, here is my challenge for you: get out of your comfort zone and try something completely new.
Choose from a format on the following list that you’ve never tried before:
- 2000 words or more
- 400 words or less
It doesn’t matter what you choose, the point is to get used to trying different content types. You need to find out whether your audience responds better to something you haven’t tried, or if you’re better at producing certain types you haven’t tried before.
Start with one new type now and come back here later to try additional new types.
15 – Check your mindset
Why are you blogging? There are lots of valid reasons for blogging, but there’s one reason that has to be at the top of your list if you want to build a massive success.
You have to want to help or entertain people (or both).
If you don’t help or entertain, why should someone read your site? Your blog needs to solve problems, address needs, fulfill desires and enlighten or inspire. Whatever personal reasons you have for blogging need to take a back seat to delivering value to your target audience.
How to check your mindset in 10 minutes:
- Write down all the goals you have for your blog (money, fame, recognition, and anything else that comes to mind).
- Write down why you chose this particular topic to blog about.
- Write down why you are uniquely qualified to blog on your topic.
- Now check your answers. If one of your goals isn’t to help your readers, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic. If you didn’t choose your topic because you really care about it, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic. If you aren’t specially qualified to blog about your topic, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic.
16 – Write a rant
Why this is important: common views yield common results. If you want to grow faster than everyone else in your space, you need unique views and bold opinions. When you feel strongly about something, you’ll make an impression on and form stronger relationships with your readers.
How to write a constructive rant in 60 minutes:
- The key here is to write a constructive rant, not just any rant. You want to write about something that could be improved or thought of in a better way.
- Think about the topic you blog about. What bothers you about the conventional wisdom? What do you think everyone is thinking but no one is saying?
- Make sure this is something you’re actually passionate about, don’t just choose a view counter to common opinion simply because it’s different. You want your passion to show in the post.
- Write your post in a stream of consciousness to begin with. Just let it flow. Edit after your first draft instead of while you’re writing to let the emotion come through.
- Watch the reaction to your post. If it isn’t well received, don’t be discouraged. Try another topic next time.
17 – Interview someone influential (90 minutes, including prep)
When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to have all the answers. Your visitors don’t expect you to, and you need to give yourself time to find your voice and form your opinions.
During the early stages, it can help to think of yourself as a facilitator instead of as an expert. Your job is to bring great information to your audience instead of creating all of it yourself.
Interviewing someone influential in your niche can be a great way to bring useful content to your audience. Interviewing an expert also helps by associating you with the expert in the minds of your readers. It also helps you create a relationship with the interviewee and potentially to borrow the interviewee’s audience if he or she links to your interview.
18 – Set aside weekly content planning time (30 minutes weekly)
Shooting from the hip doesn’t always produce the best content. A little planning can help you produce much better content, and more importantly, much more consistent content.
How to plan your content for maximum results:
- Block out 30 minutes on your calendar each week. I like to do this on Monday, but the day doesn’t really matter.
- During this time, review and update your post ideas journal from above.
- Keep a running list of post types you that have been effective for you in the past. For example, I keep post categories like “interviews,” “ask the readers,” “monthly reports,” “writing epic shit” and so on. Look back at previously successful posts for ideas for new posts.
- Make a tentative plan for posts you’ll write over the coming week and month. This isn’t set in stone, but it will help you each time you sit down to write if you have ideas ready.
19 – Ask for an outside point of view (60 minutes)
When you get close to a project for a long time, it becomes hard to see things as other people see them. To become a successful blogger, you’ll need plenty of help from friends and colleagues along the way to help you see things through fresh eyes.
Try asking a friend, colleague or consultant for a quick critique on a blog post, your about page, your design, your branding or anything else you suspect might need to be refreshed or revised. The ultimate goal is to make a habit of doing this whenever you feel stuck or stale.
The bonus to this action is that it gives you an excuse to reach out to a fellow blogger and form a stronger bond. Offer to help by returning the critique service whenever your colleague needs it.
20 – Ask your readers
Building community around your blog is a great way to make your readers feel appreciated and committed to your success.
Your posts don’t have to be the only things that deliver value at your site. The comments can also be a great place for extending the value of your content and encouraging your visitors to interact. Those interactions can lead to other opportunities for your readers outside of your site.
Comments can also be a great way for you to learn about opportunities for new content and products.
If you want more comments for your site, you need to do a few things. First, write about topics that have multiple possible right answers. Second, write in a way that leaves the door open to discussion (don’t force your readers to agree or disagree with you, it stifles comments). Third, and most importantly, you need to ask for your readers’ opinions.
I like to do this with formal “ask the readers” segments. You can run a series like that at your own blog, or simply ask your readers for comments at the end of your posts.
Either way, just make sure you ask.
21 – Have a feedback and/or contact us page (15 minutes to set up)
Readers may want a way to contact you without leaving a public comment. If your blog sells products or services, they’re also going to want to know how to contact you if they aren’t satisfied or have a question to ask. Feedback and contact us pages give those readers a way of reaching you. Just be sure to answer all incoming questions promptly.
22 – Use categories on your blog (1 minute to create)
Once you have a lot of blog posts, it can be difficult for your audience to find the information they want. Make it easier by dividing your blog into categories where appropriate. Creating a category in WordPress is simple and quick using the Categories option in the right panel.
23 – Get some accountability (60 minutes)
A big part of building a successful blog is staying motivated and staying committed to your blog long enough to see success.
One of the best ways to ensure you stay motivated is to become accountable to others. When you know other people are expecting certain things from you,
How to get some accountability for your blog:
- Decide where you’d like to be held accountable. There are three possibilities I recommend: a formal mastermind group, a blogging forum or your own blog.
- To join a formal mastermind group, you’ll need to find two or three other people to participate, or find an existing group that needs a new member.
- To use a blogging forum for accountability, you’ll need to find a suitable forum.
- To use your own blog for accountability, you’ll just need to announce your goals on a regular basis in a special blog post series
- Whatever you decide, the principles are the same: regularly announce your goals for a set time-frame (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly is best). With each announcement you should also review your performance during the prior period.
You can of course try to hold yourself accountable privately, but public accountability is much more effective at driving action. It’s easier to opt out when you don’t have people waiting to hear your results.
The key to making many of the actions above work for you is consistency. Many of them need to become habit before you’ll experience maximum benefits, but taking the recommended actions above will get you started.
The key is to take action. You don’t have to do everything on this list, just pick the ones that you think will work best for you.