Bloggers have it tough nowadays. An overcrowded blogosphere is filled with blogs in every niche you can imagine, social media is growing without driving blog traffic and posts suddenly need to be over 1,000 words to get search engine positioning. Creating a successful blog has become a full time job – even when it doesn’t earn full time pay.
What’s a blogger to do? Throwing in the towel is one option, sure, but you can build traffic to monetize your blog and create a career as a freelance writer from it, if you learn to work smarter. Here are 4 ways to blog smarter to build your traffic – and your income.
Be Someone’s Hero
Bloggers always think they are not good enough for success – not smart enough, not popular enough, not shared enough, not yet viral –but that’s not true. If you have 1,000 page views a month, you have something you can teach the blogger with 100 page views. If you have 100 page views a month, you have value for the person who just launched their blog, and so on. Wherever your blog is today, you can help someone behind you. Think about the last time a bigger blogger helped you. There are a lot of bloggers, even at high levels, who have a reputation for going out of their way to pay it forward and that’s because that generosity launched their own success.
You can also be a hero to a small brand. After attending Blogger Bash this year, I was impressed with a brand new toy for girls that fit my niche perfectly. I spoke with the owner and, although the brand is still getting off its feet, I volunteered to help because they are promoting a wonderful cause. The owner told me I was very kind, and hopefully we can work together (with a budget) if her product takes off. I’m excited to be on the ground floor with this brand. How can you be a hero – paid or unpaid – to a brand that speaks to you?
Be someone’s hero and you will establish that reputation as being a “go to” person, even if it’s for a bigger or smaller blogger. I’ve written before about how I helped Leah Segedie’s campaign for labeling GMOs many years ago which led her to hire me to as a columnist.
Recently, I called her to find out how I might help more. She choose to send me to her big event, ShiftCon, in exchange for volunteering. After that, I will be taking on more paid responsibilities. In serving her needs, I have leveraged more work and critical contacts with brands in my niche. Whose hero will you be? Consider brands, smaller bloggers and high-level bloggers who fit your niche and what they need that you already know.
Invest in Your Blog
This was the first year I invested several hundred dollars on a new blog theme, design and matching business cards. The response made my rebrand worth every penny, and I’ve also invested in a next-level blogging course and a small mastermind group. My investments came directly from income I made off of my blog.
If you are going invest money into your blog, choose wisely.
Investment: $15-50 per month
Blog Productivity Tools: There are many that help you save precious time so you can promote more effectively. You may want to consider the editorial calendar CoSchedule, a robust email marketing system like AWeber or social media analytics tools like SumAll.
Investment: $50-100 for a month or two ($200-300)
I will recommend Facebook ads or promoted Pinterest. These can bring in excellent traffic quickly. The caveat? Make sure you have tried other options before spending $5 a day on ads. Read how to boost your Facebook ads on Boost Blog Traffic.
Take a course on a specific strategy you’d like to learn. There are intensive online courses in everything from growing your blog from scratch to monetizing Pinterest, Facebook ads or growing your Instagram traffic. Get a recommendation from another blogger on what courses brought a return.
Attend your niche’s top conference. Remember that attendance will require hotels, dining and travel in addition to the ticket price. Many conferences call for volunteers in exchange for a ticket, or you can pitch a sponsor or apply to speak to save money. The last conference I went to earned me back my ticket price and then some with a recurring writing project!
Make the Sweeping Changes You Are Afraid To
I’d had my blog for 13 years and, while I knew there were many things I was unhappy about, I was afraid to change. The URL didn’t convey what I was passionate about and it brought me the wrong traffic. My design was “okay” but it didn’t stand out. I sat down and ruthlessly re-evaluated everything on my blog – and it all came up short of my blog’s mission. I knew that “embracing imperfect” was the essence of my brand and wanted to convey that idea with a look and feel that made people feel relaxed.
I hired a designer and only made a handful of changes to her first mockup – so I knew I had a winner. The soft, subtle theme is welcoming to visitors, a hit with my colleagues and, more than that, it inspires me to write focused for my niche – an unexpected bonus!
I thought my rebranded blog would be a serious blog about treatments, toxic foods and special diets for kids with disabilities– but it didn’t feel right. I considered the fun I’ve had writing my blog – and it wasn’t a somber approach to helping kids. Now I’ve taken the more authentic POV of a mom who has FUN raising her kids despite their special needs. Bingo! People really respond to my level of optimism and I finally have the right fit with my blog’s mission.
These pieces all need to fit: your voice and writing style, your blog’s aesthetic (for example, do your post images match your design), look and feel, theme, mission, and most importantly, how you want your audience to FEEL when they visit you.
Relaxed? Energized? Happy? Angry enough to take action? Ask yourself these questions on every element – from your URL to your social media, and then make sweeping changes to line everything up for your brand
Do Less Work
Finally, if you’ve been churning out posts without traffic, it’s time to drop that down and focus on traffic. I went from 5 per week to 2-3 per week – sometimes more, sometimes less. Here’s how I’m still keeping the blog active while writing less:
- I’m re-publishing old quality posts, putting in a pinnable image and optimizing for search engines.
- My weekly newsletter links to older relevant posts (i.e., back to school tips).
- I participate in group contests that others organize that target my niche.
- I post relevant PSAs and press releases from trusted sources and alter it for my audience.
- I request guest posts from trusted bloggers when busy and do the same in kind. Hey, you never know – this might make you a hero!
- Expert interviews are a quick write and your guest will share, providing more exposure.
- Curated content posts are pretty easy and great visibility for the bloggers you share.
The investments and changes I’ve made this year have inspired me and brought my old blog in line with my vision for my readers and my content.
It’s also gotten me invitations – two in one month – to write and teach webinars! Taking the time to be a hero to someone, to strategically invest in your blog, to make sweeping changes to correct what isn’t work are ways that you can blog smarter for the next season. The goal is to bring in more traffic with less work. What steps will you take in the right direction?