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The idea of blogging is appealing to almost everyone I meet. “It looks like so much fun!,” they say. “And you can really make money?”
It is, and you can, but just like any undertaking, the bloom can fade from the rose quickly, especially if you’re not seeing the growth you anticipated or immediately finding the traction that seems — although it’s usually not — to just happen to some people.
Even more frustrating is when you’ve been blogging for a while, doing all of the right things, following all the blogging tips and tutorials you come across, and after building an audience, it plateaus. Sure, you love having a loyal following, but why do people stop coming on board?
I wanted to share some best practices for bloggers of all niches, sizes, and levels of experience. We are going back to the basics with a little Blogging 101. These best practices certainly don’t guarantee that you’ll become the next millionaire blogger, but keeping these in mind may at least keep the fun and excitement going for a while.
Blogging 101: How To Build And Grow Your Audience
When you’re first launching a site, it can be very tempting to choose a hosted platform like Blogger or WordPress.com, or to go with a free theme and the most basic of designs. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some of the most successful bloggers started or maybe even still blog that way.
But if you’re serious about growing your blog, and aren’t just testing the waters, I encourage you to go all in. Choose a platform like WordPress.org (my favorite) and invest in self-hosting. It may cost you as little as $5/month but immediately sets you up to be a more professional blogger. It opens up all kinds of opportunities for monetization, should you choose to go in that direction, and it saves you a lot of time and stress if, down the road, you decide to move to self-hosted from hosted.
I also find that committing even that small amount of money keeps bloggers motivated — it’s easier to walk away or get frustrated when there’s no skin in the game, so to speak.
And once you’re started, no matter what platform you’ve selected, make sure to immediately paint on your blank slate. Create an About page, a Contact page, a Policies and Privacy page, and set up the categories and/or tags that you think you’ll most often be using on your site. Make the navigation and design as easy and elegant as you can. Simple is fine.
EARLY ON, ESTABLISH A POINT OF VIEW
The beauty of blogging is that it’s your space. It can change as you did. When I started my site in 2007, it was under a different name and I wrote about wanting to lose weight, wanting to start running, and healthy food recipes. After a year or two, the weight was gone, I was a dedicated runner, and I’d realized that I hate cooking, so my life perspective was very different. After a series of poorly executed branding changes, I finally discovered what I’m really passionate about: helping inspire busy people to get fit and helping bloggers grow their sites using social media and marketing. BOOM.
Through these changes, I made sure that my About page and other branding was crystal clear. So if you read my site in 2007, you knew what I stood for, just as you do now. Make sure you let your readers know what they get when they subscribe to your content — and if it changes, make sure your established POV changes, too.
FOLLOW THE 20/80 RULE
You know the 80/20 rule, right? 80 percent of the time do one thing (eat healthy, for example) and 20 percent, do the other (indulge in chocolate cake!). I love this, but in terms of blogging — especially when you want to grow — I think most people think they should spend 80 percent of the time marketing their own content and 20 percent on others’.
It’s the opposite. I encourage bloggers to spend enough time on their own content to create quality posts and promote them well, but spend much more time engaging with other bloggers. Comment on, share, pin, tweet, etc. their links. If you are compelled, do a roundup of other people’s posts on your site so you have the benefit of new content on your site but celebrating the work of others. Truly, this can make a massive difference.
REMIND YOURSELF WHAT YOUR REAL GOALS ARE
One of the biggest things that comes up when I chat with bloggers — either casually or because they’ve booked a consultation with me — is that they get frustrated with their analytics. They feel they don’t have enough pageviews or Facebook fans or Twitter followers or email subscribers or insert-your-metric here.
Most of the time, though, when I ask them why the numbers matter so much, they can’t give me a good answer. I dig deeper and ask why they blog and the answers usually come down to “because I love to write,” “because I want to help people” or “because I want to make money.” The first two reasons really can’t be measured with pageviews. They can be measured in lives changed — emails from readers thanking the blogger and insightful comments shared. And that can mean bloggers with 10 monthly pageviews are a success, based on their own criteria.
Do the numbers matter? Sure, they can. If you’re making money on the number of pageviews or subscribers you have, it can be upsetting to not see them grow. And everyone wants to know that their work is appreciated by as many people as possible. But if you’re getting frustrated, and it’s taking the fun out of blogging, why not take an analytics break? Take 7, 14 or even 30 days away from checking numbers and get back to the why of blogging.
Bottom line? YOU DO YOU. The moment you try to be like everybody else, and follow the same “how-to” guides is the moment you lose the spirit of what makes your site so special in the first place. Growth comes with authentic, passion-driven posts.
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Thanks Katy: I have been getting a little frusted lately with the analytic numbers on my site, but you have reminded me to just forge ahead with my voice and hopefully some day I will “find my audience”.
Good tips, but still it gets hard. I’m getting page views, but not making the money I want. I am using a hosted site right now. I wanted to make sure this was something I could do. I’m thinking of moving to WordPress but so far haven’t Anyway, thanks for your post. Good tips.
Nicole Rose says
Beautiful post. Very, very helpful. 🙂