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This is part 2 in my series “You Started a Blog, Now What?!” You can see part 1 here!
Congratulations! You started a blog, you picked a great hosting company, and have written a few blog posts. It’s an exciting time, but do you find yourself asking the question….
Sure you know that you want more blog traffic and you want people to comment on your posts. You may even have a goal of making money from your blog.
But do you know how to get there? Do you find yourself saying “Now what?”
When you build a house you must start with the foundation. If you don’t start with a foundation the house isn’t built on solid ground and will collapse. The same is true of your blog. Before you jump into social media or making money, you’ve got to start with a solid foundation for your blog. This foundation will give your blog a solid ground to grow on and help you achieve success much faster.
So many bloggers skip these steps and then get frustrated when things aren’t working. They get frustrated that their blog isn’t growing. They get frustrated that no one is signing up for their emails. They get frustrated that no one is engaging with their posts.
The number one way to avoid all that frustration is to start your blog with a solid foundation. The following steps will give your blog a solid foundation on which to grow, help people, and make money blogging!
Step 1: Get to Know Your Niche
One of the best things you can do for your new blog is decide who your niche is and then get to know them. I know a lot of bloggers are unsure on how to figure out who their niche is exactly. So instead they write and write without focusing their efforts on one specific group. Then they get frustrated when they don’t get a lot of followers to their blog.
The best way to avoid this is to figure out who your niche is up front and what they want. For example are you writing just for moms or moms and dads? Are you focusing on women with children or women that decided not to have children? Is your focus the career person looking to climb the corporate ladder or the stay-at-home mom?
The best way to figure out who you are writing your blog posts for is to write down who they are.
Grab a piece of paper and try this exercise:
- Who is my niche?
- Age Range?
- Spouse or Single?
- Kids in the house/Kids grown/Both or No Kids at all?
- Stay-at-home mom/Work-at-home-mom/Work-outside-of-the-home-mom
- What are their hobbies?
Give your niche a name and write her story.
Then when you know WHO you are writing for it is time to get to know them better! The goal is to know her as well as you know your spouse or your best friend. When you know your niche you can write blog posts she wants to read, create opt-in offers she wants to download, and programs she wants to buy.
There are a few ways to get to know your niche:
- Survey them and ask them questions.
- Talk to them in Facebook groups and learn more about them.
- Pick up the telephone and talk to them.
I have done all three and you know what’s been the most effective? Getting on the phone with them.
Aren’t we supposed to be bloggers that hide behind our screens and only talk over the computer?! Sure we can do that and yes options one and two work great to get to know your niche. But option three is the best way to connect with your audience.
When you get on the phone with them you can ask them open-ended questions and learn more than you would in a survey or Facebook group. You can understand what it is they really need. You also develop this sense of empathy for them and desire to help them.
Once you have all this information sit down and write your niche’s story. Write about what she wants, what she needs, what she does all day, and who is in her life. Write down her dreams and her goals. Write down her fears and her obstacles. Doing this will give you an intimate insight into your niche and how you can help her. It is a very powerful exercise!
The first step in blogging is deciding who your niche is and getting to know them. Take the time to do this and your blog will grow right from the beginning!
Action Step 1: Brainstorm who your niche is and write down their demographics. Spend time getting to know them. Ask your niche questions so you can learn how you can help them through your blog. Then write their story. Keep this information by your computer so when you are doing anything for your blog, your niche is at the forefront of your mind.
Step 2: Find Your Tribe
When you first start blogging it is lonely. You write all this great content and you get maybe 20 pageviews a day at most. Maybe a comment or two and a couple shares on Facebook.
It’s lonely! And kinda depressing!
You want engagement. You want people to read your posts, comment on them and share them. Is that too much to ask?! You want your words to matter and you want to help people. Now if you could just find them!
I struggled with this too when I first started Women Winning Online. I was writing great content and then nothing. I was hearing nothing but crickets on my blog. I loved writing but it was depressing to have no one read my words!
So I did something drastic. I shutdown my blog and stopped blogging completely. I redid my home page and put up a landing page for my best opt-in offer at the time.
I spent the next few months getting to know the women I wanted to write for. I talked to them and I got to know them. I listened to what they were struggling with and what they wanted to learn more about. I shared my expertise with them.
While I was getting to know my future readers, I was also doing a lot of research on popular bloggers. I was trying to figure out what they did to get so popular and get thousands of pageviews. I found it all came down to one word.
They weren’t publishing posts and hoping people would show up to their blogs. They were going out there and getting exposure for their blogs.
In order to get more blog traffic you can’t sit behind your screen and think “If I build it, they will come.” NO! You have to go out there and SHOW people how awesome you are. Then they will be excited about visiting your blog, subscribing to your email list, and sharing your blog all over social media.
So how do you build that tribe? That tribe of people falling over themselves wanting to comment on and share your content? You find out where they are hanging out online. You get to know them. You help them. You engage with them.
It’s that simple. If you build your tribe and help them, they will come to your blog. They will comment on your posts and they will share them with their friends.
That is how you get exposure for your blog. That is how you grow. That is how you get traffic. You find your tribe.
You know what else? Finding your tribe make blogging a heck of a lot less lonely and a lot more fun!
Action Step 2: Go out there find your people and build your tribe. Find out where they are hanging out online. Look for your niche on Pinterest and in Facebook groups. Then engage with them. Get to know them and help them. This will bring you the traffic you want and the readers you deserve.
Did you know that I have made it even easier for you to find your people with my course Find Your Tribe Online? I have found out exactly where your people are hanging out online and share it with you in Find Your Tribe Online. Then I show you exactly what you should do once you find your people to grow your blog and engagement. Check it out here: http://womenwinningonline.com/find-your-tribe/
Step 3: Write 5-10 Pillar Posts
Pillar posts are the next thing you want to work on in your blog. Pillar posts are posts that give a lot of help to your readers. They are evergreen which means the content holds true year after year. They are usually long posts with a lot of information in them.
The best way to figure out what to write for your pillar content is to look at what your niche wants to learn. This is why steps one and two are so important. If you have properly determined your niche you know exactly what they want you to write.
Pillar posts work even better if they are under a theme. For example you might write 3 pillar posts about how how to prepare for your baby’s arrival, what to expect at the hospital, and what to expect when you get home. The theme here would be preparing for a new baby.
Then you could create four more posts that continues on the path of what to do in the first 3, 6, 9, 12 months of your new baby’s life.
In this example all the content is evergreen as the fundamentals of welcoming a new baby into the world do not change that much. By creating themes like this you become a resource to your readers. From these pillar posts you will build a loyal following for your blog!
Action Step 3: Take a look at your conversations from step 1. Make a list of 5-10 pillar posts to write and get writing! Aim to make the posts a minimum of 2,000 words. Look for themes that you can create for your posts and how they fit with your blogging categories.
Step 4: Start an Email List
From day one you should focus on building your email list. Your email subscribers are your most loyal followers. They will read your posts and share them on social media. They will buy your affiliate programs and your courses. They will be the readers you form the most intimate relationships with.
Yet all too often I hear these two statements from bloggers about building an email list:
- Do I need an email list if I am never going to sell anything?
- Why do I need an email list when social media is where people are hanging out?
Yes you need an email list even if you are never going to sell anything! First you can send out email newsletters to your list with links to your posts. This will bring you traffic.
Second, never say never. You may decide down the road to share an affiliate program that has worked for you with your readers. You will get more interest to this program from your email readers than you will from anywhere else.
Third, most bloggers think if they share a post, freebie, or an affiliate link on social media that it will bring them a ton of traffic. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Is it possible to get a lot of traffic from social media? Sure, but you will get even more from your email list.
Because social media is a very, very crowded platform. Think about how you scroll on Facebook. You are on your phone and your finger is aimlessly pushing the newsfeed down, down, down. You are looking at cute photos. You are looking at funny videos. You are checking out your college friend’s latest post. That’s a lot going on in one newsfeed! Even more, that is all probably happening within five minutes time.
Social media has a lot of competition! Because of this, it is harder and harder to get your message seen, let alone clicked on. But email is a different story. There isn’t a lot of competition in email. They see your message in their inbox and they have to do something. They either have to click on it and read it, or delete it. They have to take an action with your email. That’s why more traffic will come from your email than social media sites.
Yes people are hanging out on social media, but the relationships are built from email. It’s like going to a party. At a party you aren’t going to stand in the middle of the room and share your biggest struggles with the everyone there. But you will talk to a friend or two in a corner about issues you are having with your kids or your husband.
The same is true for email and social media. On social media we put on our best face, but on email we are more comfortable sharing what is really going on with us. Your readers will talk to you over email and tell you what they need. They will tell you how you can help them. This information turns into blog posts for you. But most importantly it gives you the opportunity to connect with your readers on a deeper level and help them. Isn’t helping people why we are blogging in the first place?
Action Step 4: Make building your email list your top priority from day one of your blog. And don’t just build an email list, send emails to your list too. Start developing relationships right from the beginning! Send a weekly email newsletter with exclusive tips for your readers. Share your blog posts with them and ask them questions. Get to know your readers. Be their friend and they will be loyal to you!
For ideas on what to send in your email newsletter check out my Email Newsletter Worksheet that I use to get a 40% open rate on my email newsletters!
Step 5: Choose an Email Service Provider
Now that you know the importance of starting your email list, it is time to start it! To do this you need the right tools in place to make that happen.
Email Service Provider
The first thing you need is a good email service provider. An email service provider is not your Gmail inbox. An email service provider is a third party that you use to collect and send emails. If you used your personal inbox you would have to send emails to your subscribers one at a time to avoid getting caught in the spam folder. Email service providers take care of this by sending mass emails, one at a time.
There are three email service providers I recommend:
MailerLite is free up to 1,000 email subscribers. They have simple landing pages you can use to get more email subscribers. MailerLite is a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to email marketing. But if you are serious about growing your email list, which you should be, I would jump into a paid program sooner rather than later. You will get more features, including automations, which will help you grow your list and your relationships.
ActiveCampaign is a great email service provider to start with because it is inexpensive and you get a lot for the price. You can get started with ActiveCampaign for $9 a month and get full access to their automations and list building features. It is a little clunky to get started but their support team is great about helping you out if you get stuck.
ConvertKit bills itself as the email service provider for bloggers. I love that! An email service provider just for us! ConvertKit is a bit pricer starting out at $27 a month, but it’s setup is really easy. I find their platform to be user friendly and their support team to be fantastic!
A note about MailChimp
A lot of bloggers will start out with MailChimp and this is a huge mistake. MailChimp is free which is why a lot of bloggers use it. But free is not always good. You know the saying “you get what you pay for?” Well this is true with MailChimp.
MailChimp is known for having their emails sent to people’s spam folders. In fact, MailChimp sent me one of their own emails and it was sent to my spam folder. In order to grow your list and your blog, people have to be able to read your emails!
Another issue is the support at MailChimp is not good and pretty much non-existent. Your email list will be the bread and butter of your blog. You have to put it in the hands of a company that will take care of you and your readers. MailChimp is not that company.
Action Step 5: Decide on which email service provider you will use and set up your new account!
Step 6: Grow Your Email List
Okay you have the right email service provider, now it’s time to get people on your email list! It’s time to make your list explode and grow like crazy! Sounds fun right?!
The first step in growing your email list is to create an awesome freebie! A freebie is also known as an opt-in offer or a lead magnet. The opt-in offer is something you give to the reader in exchange for their email address.
The reason you need a strong opt-in offer is because we are on information overload. We get a ton of email these days don’t we?! We aren’t going to just sign up for someone’s email list unless there is something in it for us. Not because we are selfish, but because we don’t have time to sift through yet another email in our inboxes.
This is why the opt-in offer is so important! You are giving your readers something they want, something they need. This is in exchange for their email address. When your opt-in offer hits on something they need, they will gladly give you their email address.
So what’s a good opt-in offer? A good opt-in offer is anything that solves a problem and is actionable or resourceful. Basically it is something that gets people to take action. The key to making a good opt-in offer is to solve the number one problem your audience is currently facing.
- Good ideas for opt-in offers include:
- A list of resources they can use
The goal with your opt-in should be to solve a problem. Something I always think about when I am creating my opt-ins is “Are they going to print this out or is it going to sit on their computer unopened and unused?” I always have my opt-in offer being printed as the goal!
The reason you want people to use your opt-in offer is because they will see you as someone that is there to help them. Not just collect an email address and sell them, but to help them. When they see you as a friend, they are more likely to visit your blog and support you! A good opt-in offer is a great way to start building a relationship with your readers!
Action Step 6: Brainstorm ideas for your first opt-in offer. Then schedule time to write it. I break it up into 30 minutes a day until it is done!
Step 7: Promote Your Opt-In Offer
Now that you have an awesome opt-in offer, it’s time to get some eyes on it! You need people to see it.
One of the best ways to advertise your opt-in offer is on a landing page. A landing page is one page on your blog that offers your opt-in offer to download. It is a distraction free zone. There is no menu navigation, sidebar, or footer. The number one goal of your landing page is to share your opt-in offer and ask people to download it.
To see an example of one of my landing pages, check out my social media traffic guide for bloggers!
- On your landing page you will want to include these key items:
- Strong, catchy headline
- Subheadline to pique more curiosity
- Bullet points with the benefits, not features of your opt-in offer
- Sign up box
- Pretty graphics to pull the whole thing together and make it pop!
Once your landing page is ready to go, share it everywhere! Share it in Facebook group promo days, share it on Pinterest, share it on Instagram. Use the link for your opt-in in your profile links on social media. Add it to your email signature. Add it to the navigation menu on your blog.
Now there is one fear I hear a lot from bloggers about doing landing pages. You might be thinking the same thing right now. The fear goes something like this: “If I only share my landing page, how are they ever going to see my awesome content on my blog? What if they visit my landing page, don’t sign up, and then never come back to visit my blog?”
I hear you. I had this same worry when I first started doing landing pages. In fact I made a huge mistake and put links to my best content on my landing page. Not good!
Here’s the thing about blogging. When people come to visit your site there’s a good chance they won’t return. Not because you don’t have awesome content, because I know you do. But people don’t come back because they are busy. We are all busy! We are overloaded with messages all day long. It’s impossible to remember the name of that one great site.
This is why it is so important to get people to subscribe to your email list when they visit your blog. When they are on your email list, you can send them an email and remind them about your awesome site!
When you send people to a landing page instead of your home page, you increase the chance of them signing up for your email list. You have a 50/50 shot which is more than what you have when they visit your blog. This is why a landing page works and is one of my favorite ways to grow my email list!
You also want to advertise your freebie opt-in offer all over your blog and social media profile. Ideas include:
- Blog sidebar
- Blog footer
- Blog header
- In your blog content
- Pinterest Pin
- URL’s on your social media profiles
- Email signature
It is important to make growing your email list your number one priority. Your subscribers will be your most loyal followers. They will be your best relationships that you build on your blog. They will give you ideas on what to write about, how you can help them, and what products they need. Along with writing great content, make growing your email list your top priority!
Action Step 7: Add your opt-in offer to your blog in strategic place. Create a landing page for it, and promote the heck out of it!
Starting a blog is so exciting, but it can be so overwhelming too! There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do. I have so many bloggers email me and say, “I’ve started this blog but I have no idea what to do now! I am so overwhelmed!” My best advice is to follow a plan and build a strong foundation for your blog. The foundation is what will help you get more traffic and earn money from your blog.
Here are the exact steps I have used to grow two successful, profitable blogs:
Step 1: Know Your Niche
Step 2: Find Your Tribe
Step 3: Write 5-10 Pillar Posts
Step 4: Start an Email List
Step 5: Choose an Email Service Provider
Step 6: Grow Your Email List
Step 7: Promote Your Opt-In Offer
Next up in this series, I am going to cover what you should focus on with social media as a newer blogger and what you can forget! To see part one in this series, check out my post How to Start a Successful Blog.
What would you add to these steps for new bloggers? What overwhelms you with your blog? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!