Ever read posts by popular bloggers like these …
And felt demoralised?
Because you’re struggling to grow your blog and getting nowhere.
Right now, those posts about getting incredible traffic just feel like slaps in the face. Because none of the steps they include for how you can get traffic in such quantity actually work in the real world (as far as your experience tells you, right?)
That’s why I wanted to write this post…
To let you know that you’re not alone. I know what it’s like getting nothing back from all the hard work, hope and dreams you put into your blog.
I’ve had 3 blogs fail and I know how it feels when none of the tactics, techniques and strategies that work for those “overnight success” bloggers worked for me.
This blog is my forth.
Following the failure of my third blog, I didn’t start this blog straight away. At time of writing this post it’s been a little over two and half years between that third blog and this blog.
In the space between, I’ve been working out what it takes to really grow a blog; to get traffic, readers, subscribers and earn a decent income that finances the life you want to lead.
And what I’ve learnt and am now putting to use in growing this blog is starting to pay off already.
No, I haven’t had a gazilion readers flocking to my blog and no, they haven’t turned my first blog post into a virus that’s swept through the blogosphere overnight.
Instead, I’ve got tremendous feedback from influential bloggers who’ve been generous in their support and feedback, including comments like these ….
“Damn, Tom – now this is how you make an entry! … Many would have taken the easy route and just linked out for clickbait – kudos on making this valuable instead of generic. Here’s to your new blog!”
– Danny Brown, dannybrown.me (in response to my first post on this blog.)
“So it is with humility and great sincerity that I would like to send out a major thank you to Tom Southern, who is one of those people that found me and keeps coming back to remind me to keep going.”
– Mark Hermann, rockandrollzen.com (from How To Say Thank You Like a Depraved Rock Star – 10 Steps to Building an Army of Raving Fans)
And they’ve shared my first post on Twitter. At time of writing there’s 33 comments on this post. Honestly, half of these are my replies to readers. But even so, the comment count is twice as many as the whole comment count on my 3 previous blogs put together.
While still mourning the failure of those blogs, this blog you’re reading now is already promising success. It’s vindication in action. Vindication that both the time and effort I’ve taken to discover what really works for growing a blog was worth it. There is hope now where once there was frustration, disappointment and despondency.
If you’re going through anything like the same experience as I have, the tips you’re going to discover here should perk your interest.
The first point about blogs that seemed blessed with overnight success is that there is often a blogger who is already well known for something, maybe not blogging related, maybe it’s in a field like DJing, or sport, or maybe, they already have a popular blog with a massive audience that they can rely onto spread the word their new blog.
The thing is, they probably already have a network of influential people that they’ve built somehow, ready to support them and promote them and blast them out into the spotlight.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong in their using their success to promote their new blogs and launch them to a large and ready-made audience. Why shouldn’t they? It’s what you or I would probably do given their success.
Success is not given or granted. Not real success. It’s born of hard work, dreams broken and reshaped, hope, frustration, disappointment and a lot of feeling like nobody cares and you’re alone in the world.
But one thing is certain. There are no truly overnight success stories in blogging. Or in anything.
And for most people, you and me, growing a blog that is successful takes commitment. How much committment? Probably more than you’re putting in now. You need at least 20 to 30 hours a week.
Most of these hours won’t be swallowed up writing content. No. Most of these hours will be swallowed up by dealing with technical issues as you learn the hard way that the mechanics of having a blog are fragile. And, if you ever want to grow your blog, those hours left over from sorting out your technical issues will be spent creating and nurturing a network of influential people that those “overnight success” bloggers already have. The hard work and smart strategies that will actually grow your blog will be put to use in these two areas.
With this in mind, it’s time to discover the 23 tips for growing your blog that will get you on track for real success, even if you’ve failed several times in the past like I have.
1. Pick a topic you’re interested in that solves a real-life problem for people
You need to get both parts of this tip.
First, you have to pick a topic you’re interested in. Forget what keywords tell you is profitable or popular. If you’re not interested in the topic of your blog, your readers will find you out. And desert you.
Second, you have to make sure that people have a problem they want help with solving or information about how to sort it out.
2. Stop writing content
I first wrote about this in this guest post I wrote for Danny Iny’s blog,
The old “Content is King” mantra was dethroned back in 2012 with by Derek Halpern. Google’s algorithm updates, Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird and other changes that have raised the quality of what gets published online these days. Good job I say!
To write quality content like this you need to know what your readers will class as “quality”. To do this, you need to spend time reading other bloggers. Not just bloggers, writers. Read content, online, in books, wherever it reaches you, content that sparks fire in your heart. You probably know who some of these writers are if you’ve been following anyone online.
Read them. Study them. Read what their readers say about them in the comments sections or in feedback on the social media.
Do this so that you start to see what content people want to read and share with their friends. Do this because you need to know what those people who will become your readers want to read.
3. Don’t waste time on keyword research and SEO (search engine optimisation)
“any bona fide SEO expert will tell you keywords are only a tiny part of it. “
-Jon Morrow, BoostBlogTraffic.com
Yes, I know this probably sounds like sacrilege. But I’ve heard the bloggers I’ve learnt the most valuable lessons about growing my blog from make similar statements.
Personally, I find SEO and keyword research not only dull as dishwater but misleading, ending in no traffic and definitely no growth for my blogs.
In the beginning and until you’ve a healthy sized audience who do half, if not more, of your content’s promotion for through their avid sharing of your posts, forget SEO. Instead, focus your attention on writing content that you know people will want to read. Read and share.
“Shareable content is the engine that drives your blog.” -Corbett Barr
And SEO Consultants are now no longer selling SEO services for this reason.
4. Realize that success online takes hard work
Truth is, blogging isn’t easy. You’ll discover that you spend longer than two or three hours on your new blog. Blogging doesn’t work like that any more.
Overnight success doesn’t exist. Those bloggers who seem to have such good fortune have spent time; months, weeks, days, hours, preparing the way for their “overnight” success. Corbett Barr’s “18 Months, 2 Blogs, Six Figures” manifesto is an example of how much work goes into so-called overnight success.
You have to work at making your blog successful. Sometimes, you’ll wonder why you bother. Sometimes, your blog will blip for no apparent reason and spit out errors like watermelon seeds. Other times, you’ll achieve things that will inspire you like nothing else can.
5. Reach out to other bloggers
To grow a blog your blog you need to find readers who are going to be interested in what you’re blog is about. How – or rather where – are you going to find them?
No, not in the search engines. As Peep Laja of ConversionXL.com puts it:
“don’t wait until “people find your content on their own” or until “SEO kicks in.” The world doesn’t work that way.”
So, where do you find them? There’s a good chance that they’re reading other blogs on the same topic of your blog. Make friendships with the owners of those blogs. Sincere, genuine friendships. Sharing their content is a good place to start. Linking to it in your content works too. As your friendship grows those bloggers will probably link and share your content. Each time they link to or share your content they are recommending it to their readers; telling them that they should check out your content.
How long does it take do get such recommendations? As long as it takes. Don’t force these friendships. Friendships take time to grow in real life. The same is true of online friendships with fellow bloggers.
It’s worked for me. I’ve had links from several influential bloggers who I’ve spent time creating and building relationships with. I keep making friendships like this because I enjoy their content, get a lot from their advice and feel affinity with their messages.
6. Focus on your readers’ interests, not your own
Before you start writing each post, ask yourself “Why will a reader care about this post?”.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your blog for the first time…
How do they arrive? What brings them?
Most likely they come because they saw a link to one of your posts. Now they’re reading your blog. But they know nothing about you. They don’t know what your blog is about – Or why they should continue reading passed that blog post whose link brought them…
What will you do to make them read on? Not just passed the first few lines of that post but beyond; to click through to read your other posts, or to sign-up to your email list?
I’ll give you a clue:
You won’t get them to stay beyond those first few lines writing mostly about yourself because that will have them gone, never to return, before you know it.
Truth is, they don’t care about you, unless you can show them that you can solve their problems and understand at least a little what they’re going through.
Do that and you’ll have a much better chance of growing your blog successfully than 97% of most people who fail do.
7. See competition as positive
Realise and accept that there’s nothing you can do about competition.
Instead recognise competition as a sign that people out there are interested in your topic and want to know more.
This should encourage you. Your best strategy is to find that one driving force inside you that inspires your interest in that topic. Then find influential bloggers who share your passion and interests. Create and nurture those friendships with them that I talked about earlier. You aim is always to promote content that you believe in and which interests you and motivates you.
8. Work hard to create attention-grabbing headlines
Headlines (the titles of your blog posts) are important. Because they’re the reason people will read and share your posts – or not. If you’re not convinced about the importance (or power) of headlines, think about those popular magazines and tabloids whose headlines capture attention: Alien Virus Kills Babies, 12 Genius Ways To Get Unstuck, My Teenage Son Stole My Wife and so on.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you want to read the articles, or posts, to find out more, right?
Spend as much, if not more, time on creating reader-grabbing headlines as you do on writing your actual blog posts. Start learning to create headlines now and build up a swipe file of headlines that grabbed your attention and got you reading something. Copyblogger.com is a great place to start for finding out how to write headlines that will grab your readers.
Also, I recommend this handy little cheat-sheet by Jon Morrow because it gives you simple templates for writing headlines that get readers.
9. Write some “how to” and “list posts”
There are certain types of blog posts that get more shares and more readers than other types. Some blogs that have grown into massively popular blogs with telephone number audience figures did so by concentrating on these types of posts. One type in particular outshines all others. List posts.
Like it or not, these posts top the bill. Followed in hot pursuit by “How to …” posts.
You should write other types of posts too of course but list posts and How-to … posts are the posts that will get you seen on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Check out the examples of these post types and study them to see why they’re so popular, like this post and this post and this post.
10. Write some guest posts
Writing guest posts for those blogs where your potential readers are reading currently is a great way to get on both their radar and the radar of the blog’s owner.
Guest posting is not easy. You have to study what content works on the blogs you want to write for. You then have to write guest posts that are geared to your those blogs readership but that are also related enough to your own blog’s topic to perk their interest in visiting your blog to check you out. It’s a skill.
Once mastered, it can pay off big time and grow your blog faster than any SEO tactic can. Do a good job in getting traffic to your guest post, the blog owners may help you getting traffic for your blog in return. Best-selling author, Tom Corson-Knowles writes about how his blogging fortunes took off with guest posting in his book Guest Posting Goldmine”. He’s not alone. Jon Morrow, a former Associate editor of Copyblogger, built an email list of 13,000 members before launching his own blog, BoostBlogTraffic (one of the most successful launches in blogging history).
Others have had success too, if not in such large numbers. It’s certainly grown their blog. And it can grow your blog too. Take time to learn the ropes of guest posting (aka: guest blogging). How much time? Three to four months at least. The more you practice, the better at it you’ll get.
11. Mingle with your readers
Your readers want to know that you value their attention. They could be reading someone else’s blog but they’ve chosen to read yours instead. If you them to come back then make them feel welcome and valued. Read their comments and reply to them with questions that encourage them to respond further. Thank them for taking the time to leave a comment. Tell them you look forward to them coming back.
Go that little bit further and send a brief thank-you email to a new commenter too. Few bloggers do this. It pays off big time.
12. Ask people to subscribe to your email list
Set up an email list as soon as possible. Before you launch your blog if possible. That’s what I did. Now I’ve got a small but engaged list of people ready to read my posts when I publish. They get to know when a new post goes live before everyone else does. This means each post gets a few comments and shares so when people come to a post for the first time, they can see other people have read it too.
Having a list is a useful tool for engaging and getting to know your readers too. You don’t have to just sell them stuff. You can communicate too. So, ask them to subscribe. The most obvious place to ask them is at the end of your posts. A little prompt that says something like:
“Enjoyed this post? Join my list to be amongst the first people to get news of my posts as soon as I publish them. Cheers!”
13. Invest in at least one social media platform
Don’t under estimate the power of social media in growing your blog. You don’t need to spread yourself across the whole spectrum of social media that exists because they are many.
Concentrate on one or two and spend time getting to grips with how things work there. Twitter is my favourite. It’s simple and I’ve discovered a lot of great content and it’s helped me get to know a lot of other bloggers out there.
I recommend you use these free tools to help you get the most out of Twitter: TweetDeck and Tweroid. TweetDeck helps you schedule and create lists of people, hashtags and topics that you want to keep up to date with. Twitter is also a great way to create and nurture connections with other bloggers. And Tweroid gives you analytics feedback on when the best times to tweet are so that the biggest number of your followers get to see your tweets so that you have the best chance of getting your links shared. Both TweetDeck and Tweroid are free (although Tweroid does have a premium option too. Please note: I’m not an affiliate of theirs)
Traffic may not start showing up day one. You need to spend time mixing and mingling with others on the social media. Start off by sharing other people’s content that you really like and want others to read too.
If in doubt for how to start: Share the kind of content you want to read and watch what kind of content is popular in your topic. Here are two fantastic posts that will help you get the most out of Twitter:
14. Don’t stress about your blog’s design
Invest in self-hosting. To begin with there’s nothing wrong with using a free blog template from WordPress.org. What’s important is the quality and usefulness of your content. If in doubt, look around at other blogs that deal with the same or similar topic to yours to see what kind of layout seems popular. Remember though, that the people who own them may have more funds to invest in design that you do at the moment. So, don’t stress if you can’t compete just yet. Stay simple. Simple is often best.
Once you’re getting traffic and your blog is growing then you can invest in more design if you like but you should only do so if the change or update warrants it. Don’t just do it for the sake of it.
You can also get a lot of help and support out there. Tom Ewer of LeavingWorkBehind has this free support service for new bloggers starting out.
15. Take time to decide what your blog’s ultimate purpose is (and don’t get distracted from it)
This needs to be something more than money. Money is a bi-product of your achieving your desired outcome. Making money your desired outcomes turns into an endless game of “catch-me-if-you-can” because you will never have enough.
What brings you alive? What would make you feel that you’ve made your mark on the world? What do you want the world to think of you at the end? Your answers will define what your blog should be focused on creating for you. They will also be the reasons why people will be attracted into following you and joining your audience.
You should take time everyday, if possible, to think about these questions and answers and reflect on them as much too. To get started watch this TEDtalk from Simon Sinek:
16. Don’t let your previous failure threaten your current plans
“It’s the ability to use failure that often leads to the greatest success.”
– JK Rowling
I’m not going to pretend that failure is pretty or something it’s not. At some point, however, you need to turn your failure into something more useful than disappointment and frustration. The best way to “use failure” is to find motivation from it. For example, I could keep starting blogs and following tactics that don’t work. Or I could do what I’ve done and stop, study what successful bloggers have done to become successful and follow those steps too.
The driving force behind growing your blog successfully now should be to use what you’ve learnt and add it to what you learn from other bloggers who have reached the goals you want to reach too.
17. Don’t stress about “finding your voice”
Just practice being yourself, adding your own thoughts to what’s being talked about out there. Don’t deliberately upset or “troll” anyone. But say what you really feel inside. Use your experience to reach out to others who are going through what you’ve gone through.
Reading other bloggers writing on your topic you’ll discover the ones who stand out because they let themselves into their content and find their audience from people who think along similar lines. Examples of this are bloggers like David Cain on his blog Raptitude.com, Andy Fossett on Ballsify.com and Demian Farnworth on TheCopyBot.com.
18. Beware of trends
Blogging is full of trends. Be wary of what everyone starts talking about. Don’t just do something because popular bloggers start saying you should. Trends are like fashion, they come and go. Some last longer than others. In 2014 AuthorRank was the “new black” in blogging terms. You had to implement it if you were going to be anyone in blogging because it was how Google might be ranking bloggers. Then Google scrapped it.
Follow what works for bloggers. Watch what they do on their own blogs. If you see some tactic or strategy works long term, then use it. Always keep in mind how any strategy impacts or impedes your goals for your blog’s growth. Use your instinct. If it doesn’t sit right with your purpose or how you feel comfortable doing things, leave it alone. Or stop using it if you use it but aren’t comfortable with it.
19. Get to know what your potential readers want
By reading other blogs that they’re reading too you’ll get to see what it is that they want. The clues are in the popular posts and in the comments sections. Look for questions readers ask there, or statements they make about how they feel about the topic they’re responding to.
Make this one of your recurring tasks because you’ll discover more about who your potential readers are and why they will be attracted to reading your blog.
20. Most of your blog’s growth is based on what you write about
“When your audience responds enthusiastically to one of your posts, a light bulb should go off. “Ah ha! They dug this post, I should do more of that!””
– Corbett Barr
If you follow tip #19 and discover what your potential readers are saying about your topic and what they’re wanting more answers to this should be what drives your content.
Your blog’s growth depends on it. Confirmation that what you’re writing is actually hitting the spot for your readers comes in their responses. What posts do people comment on more than others? What posts do they share? Paying close attention to how they respond to everything you publish like makes it much easier to identify what your readers like.
21. Learn as much as you can about becoming a better writer (even if you don’t want to write, or think you can’t)
Read “On Writing” by Stephen King, even if you’re not a fan. What you’ll discover about Writing will take you a long way down the track to becoming a better writer. Read blog posts by Jon Morrow,Demian Farnworth and Mark Hermann.
Better writers are better because they read other writers who write hugely popular content.
And if you’re worried about if you’re any good as a writer or not then I’ll let you into a secret – just by worrying and asking yourself if you can write, you are a better writer. Because, it’s a little known fact that every great writer worries about whether their writing is any good or not. Their worry is what makes them work hard to produce great writing. So, keep striving to be better, keep studying the popular bloggers out there.
22. Invest in some quality training
The advantages are numerous and plenty. Not only will you get access to great tactics and tips, you’ll get access to fellow students. As the course progresses you’ll find students you can bond with and form a supportive network that supports and helps you grow your blog.
The biggest advantage is that you get access to a popular blogger. Here’s your chance to get to know them, have them answer your questions, help you solve problems and learn how to grow your blog.
If you can’t invest in their training, sign up to their email list. Attend as many webinars they hold, or appear on as guests as you can. Ask questions. This links back to Tip #5.
By far the best way to get access to a popular influential blogger is to invest in their training. Some of the bloggers I read who are making waves in their topic after only a short time, have done by investing in training and becoming active students in the course forums.
23. Keep in mind that (almost) 80% of your readers will be beginners
Don’t ever under-estimate this fact. It can be hard to believe at first but not realising just how many of your readers are total beginners may lead you into leaving them out of your content, believing that you need to impress with your knowledge, skills, experience and numbers.
Listening to a Question and Answer Google Hangout recently, I heard someone say that they didn’t realise they could leave comments on a blog post. They said they thought the comments they’d seen were from “special” people the bloggers knew.
There’s nothing in wrong in not knowing something. Your job as a blogger wanting to grow your blog is to remember the “80% will be beginners” rule and include them in the content you create.
Yes, write indepth content for those who know quite a lot already. You shouldn’t ignore them either. The trick is to know who your readers are and where they are on their journeys of discovery when it comes to your topic.
Well, that’s about it for now. I hope these tips give you ideas for how to grow your blog and use your previous failure to lead you to greatness.
Blogging needs you. It needs your ideas, your purpose, your talent, your creativity and your greatness.
If you’re looking for more tips, then read my post: 101 Incredibly Powerful Traffic Resources To Take Your Blog From Invisible To Popular. It’s a huge list of posts I’ve collected over the last few years that have helped me learn about growing blogs. Dip in and pick out posts that answer a question you have. Use it as the resource I want it to be.
If you prefer something a little more quick to read, this post will also give you a good head start on getting traffic: How To Start Getting Traffic To Your Blog.
And, if you’re struggling to get readers, this post will help you change that: Why Nobody Reads Your Blog Posts (And What To Do About It).
Lastly, know that you’re not alone in your blogging journey. If you reach out and have a sincere wish to help others, you’ll discover blogging is full of friendly people who want to see you succeed and are willing to help you do so.
You can always send me an email or tweet me at @CopyByTom with a question, or just to say “Hi!”. And, to keep in touch and stay up-to-date with posts here on Traffic Smart Marketing, enter your email address in the box below.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what frustrates you most about getting traffic to your blog and what your experience of blogging has been up until now and your plans and dreams for the future.
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