Real Talk Time. At the end of last year, I was very seriously considering giving up blogging. I have been on this here space for almost five years now, but I felt a disconnect. I was blogging because I liked it and I liked meeting people – that was that, nothing behind it and I could feel my heart slowly leaving this place.
I knew that if I was going to keep this blog going – I was going to need to get serious and take it to the next level. I have been wanting to write this post for a while. My blog has gone through some big changes and grown so much, and I’m always being asked that question – how can I grow my blog? So let’s tackle it head on. If you’re just starting or you feel a little lost with your blog, this post is for you.
If you feel like you’re floundering, not sure what to do, what to post, what social media to join. Stop. Go back all the way to the beginning, dig deep, and define your blog’s purpose and ideal readers.
DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
It all starts with asking yourself a very simple question – Why do you blog? Answering the why was huge for my blog. I realized more than anything, I wanted to help people by sharing helpful tips, resources and strategies. I realized a long time ago that what I want to do in life is help people get to the information they need in order to better their lives (that is, after all why I want[ed] to be a librarian). However, I never translated that into my blog. There’s so much misinformation or outdated information on how to run a website, making the most out of WordPress, design and branding and I realized – what’s what I wanted to make this place, a resource for others – and it was life changing.
Your Turn: what’s the purpose behind your purpose? Write it down!
DEFINE YOUR IDEAL READER
Defining my blog’s purpose was a definite game changer for me – I knew I wanted to help people but that’s still pretty dang broad! People?! What people?! There’s 7 billion people in this world! So my next question was who do I want to help? Knowing who your ideal reader is will give you focus when writing blog posts and planning what’s coming up – you will be talking to a specific audience and appealing to them. There aren’t many absolute truths in life but one of them is that you can’t appeal to everyone – so don’t try!
For me, “my people” became clear very easily. As I began thinking more in-depth about my blog’s purpose, I realized it went hand-in-hand with my business. Because of this, I aligned my ideal reader with my ideal client – Passionate women bloggers and creative entrepreneurs.
Your Turn: Dig deep! Who do you want to help or reach with your blog? What are their needs and wants?
Creating a strong and cohesive brand is so important for bloggers. For a long time the thought has been that branding is for businesses only but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The second misconception about branding is that it’s all about the visual – your colors, logo, font. Nope and Nope. Branding started in step one – focus. Without getting clear about your purpose and your readers, you can’t move onto the next steps – Tone + Visuals.
But before we talk about those two, why go through all the trouble? Branding creates trust and trust creates engaged and loyal readers. People like to see that you communicate in the same way (tone) whether it’s on your blog, social media, or emails. You want that consistency. The same goes for your visuals and consistent visuals will also create brand recognizability. Readers need to be able to recognize your posts from the images used whether they encounter them on you blog or on social media “out in the wild”. Being able to continuously recognize your brand, makes you memorable and keeps you at the forefront of their mind when someone asks for a recommendation.
Branding is all about creating a full experience – from why you’re communicating, with whom you communicate, to how your communicate. On step one you defined the why and the who. It’s time to define the how. What are your key phrases? Do you say y’all or not? Finding your voice is key – but want to know a secret? You already have your voice, you just need dust it off and put it to use. A simple advice – if you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t type it online.
Will your blog be laid back and funny? Quirky and cute? Maybe feminine and sophisticated? The answer to this question will definitely pay into the tone you use when writing your blog but will play a similarly big part in how your dress your brand. Will you use bright colors or blush pink? Script fonts or block serif? All of these seemingly small decisions can have a huge impact on how readers view your blog and whether or not they stick around.
Your Turn: Write down your blog’s personality. Quirky or sophisticated? Then write down how you can express this personality in writing and how your visuals will “outfit” your blog’s brand.
3) Ace Your Content
Content will always be king. You can have the most kickass blog brand statement, you can have the most beautiful visuals in the world – but if your content is less than? You will get nowhere fast.
You want to write high content quality. That is to say, content that your audience can relate to and from which your audience can gain insane amount of value. You know who your readers are and your purpose in blogging – now ask your self, what are the concrete ways in which I can fulfill my blogging purpose and help my readers with what they are currently struggling?
Your Turn: All the answers you’re coming up with? Write them down. These are your blog posts ideas. Then write an outline for each post and make sure you thoroughly answer your readers’ questions (whether they are asking them out loud or not)
4) Master Social Media
Somedays I wish blogging was like the good ol’ days (4-5 years ago) when you could build it and they (the readers) would come. But it ain’t like that no more, my friends. You gotta build it, promote the crap out of it, and then they might come.
Social media is the number one way to promote your blog when you’re first trying to take it to the next level. But here’s the one mistake bloggers makes – they try to be in every single social media platform available and they promote, promote, promote. I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s going to get you nowhere, fast.
You have to find the social media platforms where your readers spend most of their times, and yes – promote. But you also have to make sure you’re putting the social into social media. Spend time getting to know your readers so you can serve and provide them with value even better.
Your Turn: Take a minute to think of where your ideal readers spend their time – is it Twitter or Facebook? Once you’ve zeroed in on that, build a strategy that helps you reach and engage with them on there.
5) Email Marketing
Yesterday I saw a quote from Chris Lema and I wanted to high give him through my screen – “No one has ever regretted collecting emails earlier than they think they should” #MicDrop
No one has ever regretted collecting emails earlier than they think they should. #newsletters
— Chris Lema (@chrislema) November 3, 2015
I always see bloggers say they’re waiting to build their following before they start their email newsletters. I get it. I used to think that way too and I learned the hard way that this is the wrong way to go about it, friends.
I love social media but here’s the thing – you do not control those subscribers. If Twitter decides to go bye-bye next month (which some experts are saying might happen), you lose all those followers. You can’t export them into another social media platform. You can point them towards Facebook and Pinterest but that doesn’t mean they’ll follow you there. Email subscribers? You’ve got those. Forever. Or until they unsubscribe. But it’s not like you can’t take them from MailChimp into ConvertKit. They are YOUR subscribers.So start collecting those emails NOW and start a an email marketing plan NOW. You will not regret it.
Your Turn: Open up that MailChimp account, create a list, and put a sign-up box on your blog. You’ll be surprised at the number people that will sign up even without a “freebie”.
6) un-WTF SEO
Those three little letters – S. E. O. Bloggers love to hate them. And I love to break it to bloggers everywhere that SEO isn’t dead, it will never be dead, not until the zombies rise and the Internet explodes, and Google goes away with it all.
Here’s the thing to understand about SEO – it’s a long term strategy. Which, if you’re going through all this work, I’m guessing you’re in it for the long haul, so learn about SEO little by little, implement SEO best practices, and watch traffic come to you day after day months, even years, after you’ve published a post.
Your Turn: Get started on SEO by reading about SEO first on places like Moz.com and Yoast.com (I know they’re a WordPress plugin but they have TONS of info you can apply to your site even if you’re not on WordPress).
7) Plan It Out
If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing it’s because you want to take your blog to the next level. Here’s the thing – this isn’t a one time rally and done. Successfully blogging for years requires a long term plan. This was my mistake (one of my many mistakes) in my early blogging years. I would have this great 6 month rally, reach a goal, and then deflate. Don’t deflate – plan out for your goals for the next 6, 12, 18 months and revisit these goals often (every 3-6 months) and adjust as needed and plan ahead some more – because if your 3 year plan is 3 years old, there’s something wrong, my friend.
Your Turn: Write your goals + how you’ll accomplish those goals for the next 3, 6, 12 months. Revisit in 3 months.
Ready to take your blog to next level but need a little more guidance, some more help, and the prospect of going into some hunt for the information you need tired you just thinking of it? I’ve got your back.
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