Blogging is not an exact science, but there’s some science to it, and thankfully these days it’s easy to track your growth and success.
If you start at the very beginning, then you can take a detective’s view right from the ground up. Before you even buy your domain name, it pays to do research and planning.
The fact is, blogs do fail. Your blog doesn’t have to be a failure, but you’ll need to keep some pragmatic things in mind. Blogs most often fail for the same reason that many retail businesses fail… someone says to themselves, “You know, I’ve always wanted to sell fairy hats,” and they go and open a store of fairy hats but the business flops because the owner didn’t do some research first. It’s a fact of real-life business that you can’t simply follow your passion blindly if you want to build a business and make some real money. What do you need to make money? Customers. And what do customers want? – That’s the thing you’ve got to find out.
So before someone dives in selling fairy hats, first they should find out if anybody actually wants to BUY fairy hats, and if they do, then where are those customers? Where do they shop? What do they look for? What aspect of this niche is yet untapped? Could you sell dress-up fairy hats… children’s fairy hats… dolls with fairy hats… handmade fairy hats… etc? Embrace your passion, embrace your chosen niche, but do the research to find out who your customers are and what problem they have that you can solve. Maybe there are fairy fans out there, but rather than fairy hats, they want to buy fairy dresses. Or maybe a fairy parties business would be the way to go, if there’s a market out there for it. Yes, there are some compromises when it comes to making money, but they’re not the end of the world. After all, a fairy party service can still sell fairy hats to those who want them; you just don’t need to rely on that micro-niche to bring you the dollars.
Likewise, if you want to run a blog, whether it’s on fairy hats or F1 racing or anything in-between, you need to do your research before you dive in. Otherwise you might pour a lot of hard work and money down the drain; if you get no blog visitors, traffic and conversions, then you’re potentially wasting a lot of time and effort.
This is not to say that you cannot write or blog about the things which interest you and which you are passionate about, but if you want to succeed in getting plenty of visitors to read, purchase or click on your ads, then just like a business you may need to compromise somewhat. And that’s OK… but find it out now, not after you’re knee deep in boxes of the “wrong kind of fairy hat”!
Get out your magnifying glass, Sherlock… we’re going to have a look at 7 tips to help you build a popular blog.
Tip 1: Choose a realistic niche – Here’s where you have to really dig deep in your research. It’s not hard to tell which niches are overdone – payday loans, credit cards, diet and weight loss, acne, breast enlargement… Avoid these, dear Watson! They are not worth your time as there are companies out there who already dominate these niches with their sheer mass of website content and highly-paid SEO experts. Obviously, don’t get too narrowly focused as that will prevent you from going in any other directions later, but pick a niche in which you can realistically succeed. Ideally, the sweet spot will be where “your passion/interest” and “what people want” intersect. If you can find a niche like this, and there isn’t much competition there, then you’re set!
Tip 2: Look at the best blogs in your existing niche, and don’t plagiarize or make it look like you’re copying them but do learn what they are doing and emulate parts of that. There is clearly something to learn from these blogs because one way or the other they have succeeded in the same way you want to succeed. Also, do some general research into what makes a successful and popular blog – check out a comprehensive resource such as Problogger as a starting point.
Tip 3: Learn some basic on-site SEO and implement it from the start. Although you don’t have to get carried away with SEO – remember, “content is still king”. You need a little SEO, though, as this is what will allow you compete with other blogs in the SERPs (search engine rankings) so that other people can actually find your blog when they search in Google, Yahoo, etc.
Tip 4: Get in touch with people who are running similar blogs so that you can participate in the online community, link into the networks, and send and receive reciprocal links. This will not only make your blog look more alive, it will also result in more traffic and hopefully some good advice from the successful people in your field/niche.
Tip 5: Assess your blog and reassess your blog – there needs to be a cycle so you do all the above things and then assess again to see if you are getting what you want. What do you need to change to do even better? Contact someone who runs a blog you respect and ask them to look at your blog and give their honest opinion – “what do they think as a visitor of your blog”. Use tools such as Ethnio and CrazyEgg to find out what people want and where people are clicking on your site.
Tip 6: Keep your blog active, reply to comments, and utilise social media such as Facebook. The static website is now “so yesterday”. Keep your blog regularly updated, keep people informed even in person as well as online, and remember you have a global and local presence as well as within the online network. Print business cards and tell people about your blog. Participate in blog carnivals regularly.
Tip 7: The ultimate key to a successful blog is to give your visitors what they want while keeping it interesting for them and for you. If you want people to keep coming back, then it is important that you stay in touch with your blog’s theme and not post garbage or late night drunken rants (save that for your private Facebook friend group!!) In taking the Sherlock Holmes approach, keep evaluating what you are doing all the time (assess, reassess, reasses!) and don’t become complacent in case a competitor rises up in your place while you weren’t looking. Finally – make your visitors repeat visitors just as a retail business seeks repeat customers. Keep people coming back for more on your blog; get them on your email list and provide value, not just advertising. This way, with a strong readership, you won’t have to rely solely on search engine traffic, which makes your business more independent. And that’s elementary, dear Watson!