Most of the blogging guides you’ll find online today focus on improving your writing or adding more content.
However, the truth is that more, or even better content, is not always the answer. Sometimes, it is smarter to step away from creating more content and look into other things you can do to drive better results from blogging, such as marrying SEO and content marketing.
There are many factors that go into building a successful blog. Utilizing the right set of data, choosing the best tools, and applying the best strategy all makes an impact on how successful your blog will be.
Quick Navigation: What’s in this guide
This guide consists of the following subjects –
- Know your audience
- Make data-driven improvement plan
- Harvest the low hanging fruit
- Collect emails
- Build awesome About Page
- Don’t use ugly stock photos
- Design your blog: Less is more
- On-page search engine optimization
- Re-read your content often
- Write content that your readers want to read
- Create a Ribbon Page
- Network with your competitors
- Load your blog faster
- Advertise on Facebook
- Build your team and expand
Data is your friend. But which?
Using data to drive improvement, but what type of data should you be looking at?
If you don’t use the right web metrics to track progress and fine tune your site, then you may be taking two steps backward instead of one step forward.
Depending upon the niche of your blog, you might look at different types of statistical data. However, there are four vital stats that every blogger should understand and keep an eye on.
- Visitor Growth Tracking how many unique visits your blog receives is one way to measure growth. Unique traffic translates into unique visitors. There is a big difference between a regular reader who visits your blog 10 times a month and 10 new visitors to your blog.
- Referrals Take a look at where your traffic is coming from. Who is sending the most traffic to your blog? What efforts are wasted as far as traffic goes?
- Bounce Rates Keep an eye on your bounce rates. This will show you if you are serving the right content to the right audience.
- Average Page Per Visits / Time on Site Keeping track of the average per page visits and the time a person spends on your site helps you figure out ways to improve your blog’s “stickiness.”
Google Analytics is a free service that will help you gather the four data points mentioned above. Analytics can also be integrated with a WordPress blog, so that you can see where you are upon logging into your WP dashboard.
Once you have a grasp of the different types of data available for your site, there are 15 practical things you can do that will improve your blog.
1. Know your audience
The better you understand your audience, the better you can meet their needs.
One of the key ways you can find success with your website is to fulfill a need that consumers have. Take the time to figure out who your typical site visitor or customer is.
What is their general age? What education level do they have? Any cultural specifics?
Once you know your audience, you can gear your blog specifically toward that audience. There are some tools that will help you figure out who your typical audience is.
- Survey Monkey (surveymonkey.com/) – This form creation tool will allow you to ask your visitors questions and help you understand them better.
- Alexa (alexa.com/) – This is another free tool that can offer a lot of data. You can use Alexa to better understand what your competitors are doing. Punch in your competitors’ website addresses and get information on where their visitors come from and who their competition is.
- Xtensio (xtensio.com/user-persona/) – This site allows you to create a user persona to share with your writers. This will help your entire team understand who your target audience is and fall in line with your goals to reach that audience.
2. Data-driven improvement plan
Once you are armed with the right data, there are some actions you’ll immediately want to take to improve your blog. Basically, you need to figure out what is working and what isn’t and channel your efforts into the things that benefit your site the most.
hat you can do in real life
- Invest more money and effort into the top 10 traffic sources to obtain more traffic. If the majority of your traffic is coming from Facebook invest in some targeted Facebook ads.
- Double up on an ad campaign that works. If you are spending $50/month on a Twitter ad that is bringing in a lot of traffic, spend $100/month and reach even more people.
- Expand on content that gives the best engagement rates or social media shares. What topics seem to be most popular with your readers?
- Revamp low performing topics, so they are fresh and meet the needs of your target audience.
3. Low hanging fruit
Low hanging fruit is pretty easy to grab off a fruit tree, and fortunately most websites have low hanging fruit for the picking as well. Basic tasks you can do in a few minutes a day can make a big impact on the overall success of your blog.
Some basic tasks you can do right now include:
- Use IFTTT to promote your latest blog posts on social media.
- Set up a social media profile specifically for your blog.
- Add social sharing buttons to your website.
- Create a contact page so site visitors know how to reach you.
- Install a third party comment system, such as Disqus. This will improve user engagement rate.
- Write a disclaimer page, so that readers know they can trust you to be upfront.
- Share content more than once; use automation tool to re-share your old contnet. By re-sharing older content, you keep it in the public eye.
- Create roundups that feature some of your best content.
- Create an infographic that further explains a popular article.
- Do some A/B testing to see how well everything from navigation to Call to Action buttons is working.
- Create a Start Here page to serve your new visitors.
- Figure out what your main theme is for your blog and make sure all the content matches up to your theme/goals.
- Check for misspellings, grammar mistakes, and typos on your blog. Nothing makes a blog look more unprofessional than multiple and consistent mistakes in this area.
- Develop a street team. This is a team of individuals who help spread the word about your blog. In return, you might send them a free T-shirt or other goodies.
- Create an editorial calendar.
- Schedule backups so you don’t lose your entire blog to a catastrophic site meltdown.
- Study your tagline? Does it grab the reader’s interest? Does it effectively explain what you’re about?
- Follow other blogs in your niche and connect with those blog owners.
- Comment on other blogs and add valuable thoughts.
- Find a mentor who has succeeded with their blog. Ask the mentor to help you make your own blog a success.
- Make your call to action (CTA) wording as clear as possible. Replace words like “click here” with stronger commands such as “get free ebook.”
- Make sure there is a balance between images and text, but that images are relevant to the post.
- Fix any broken links. You can install a plugin that will easily allow you to find broken links on a WP blog.
4. Start collecting emails
The people who visit your site have landed there because they are interested in the topic you cover. This is as targeted of an audience as you can meet. It is important that you collect their contact information so you can continue to market to these individuals.
Social media is overcrowded, but with email you are sending your materials to a very specific audience who has already decided they are interested in what you have to say. 91% of people check their email inboxes every single day. Compare that to sites like Facebook, where your post may get pushed down the newsfeed by all the noise.
Fortunately, there are some email marketing tools that can help you collect and stay organized with email marketing.
- Mail Chimp
- Constant Contact
In addition, you’ll want to use a professionally designed opt-in form, so there is no question that the user signed up for the mailing list. The last thing you want is to be accused of spamming those on your mailing list. Some of the email list tools mentioned above have built-in opt-in forms or plugins that sync up with your blog. You can also use forms made from tools at OptIn Monster and Sumo.
See how email marketing tools stack up to each other in KeriLynn’s article.
5. About Page
A truly amazing About page needs to have more than just the facts about your company. It should be the story of you and how you grew your business, what your core beliefs are and what makes you different than your competitors. Here are some key elements of a good About page.
About Page ideas to try out
Idea #1: Lead with an opening hook that grabs the reader.
Idea #2: Keep it personal.
Idea #3: Share your history.
Your About page should be a reflection of your business statement and your own personality. Make it interesting and readers will feel as though they know you on a personal level.
6. Don’t use ugly stock photos, ever
Ugly stock photos don’t add anything to your site and you should avoid them like the plague. Not only are they bland and indistinctive, but they may appear on multiple other sites at any given time, making your blog look less unique. Try to avoid:
- Photos with badly posed models. Candid shots are best as opposed to shots where the subject stares at the camera.
- Clinical white backgrounds.
- Fake facial expressions that do nothing to make your brand seem distinctive or valuable.
- Images that are unrelated to the topic. You write a post about web hosting and share a photo of a little girl riding a bike, for example.
Fortunately, you don’t have to hire a photographer and crew to get beautiful photos for your website.
There are plenty of places you can get free, beautiful photos, such as Pexels and Pixabay. You can also read our guide on where to find free images for your blog with more than 30 different sources listed. Still can’t find what you want or need something more personalized? You can take photos using your phone and edit them using Pic Monkey, Canva, or even Instagram.
7. Blog design: Less is more
When you’re looking to improve your blog, design is an obvious thing to look at. The overall look of your website is the first impression that a site visitor has of your blog. It is important to have a nice balance to the page. All the elements must come together into a usable and visually pleasing whole.
Tip #1: Don’t cramp all your content together
Tip #2: Use a simple design to minimize distraction
Tip #3: Use fewer items in your top navigation menu
If you have a lot of categories, try to come up with just a few main categories. Reduce the usage of popups. At a maximum add just one popup.
8. On-page search engine optimization
When you have better search engine rankings, you will see an increase in traffic and revenue. Figuring out the holy grail of how to rank higher in the search engines can seem overwhelming, though. While it’s true that research and improving off-page factors (such as obtaining links) are naturally important, there is plenty of low hanging fruit in SEO that many bloggers overlook.
Google regularly changes their algorithms, so it can be difficult to figure out just what Google wants. There are three things you need to focus on if you want to rank well in Google’s search engine: Content, performance authority, and user experience.
All of these factors come together and combine into what Google considers a “good” blog that is worthy of a higher ranking in their search results.
Some simple things you can do to improve search rankings are:
- Use alt-tags on all images
- Rectify all 404 errors
- Use of H1, H2, and H3
- Internal linking – make sure your important pages are well-linked internally
- Use original, useful content – Google Panda penalize sites with too many thin content pages
- Use breadcrumb and sitemap to help Google understand your site structure and content flow
- Page titles, description, and formatting. Be as specific as possible, so Google can understand what content is on each page.
- Improve search result page CTR – case studies showed that CTR affects sites’ ranking.
- Improve site engagement rate –bounce rate and time on page affect site rankings.
9. Eat Your Own Dog Food
One simple way to improve your blog is to take the time to work on old content. Read old posts regularly to:
- Find and correct grammar mistakes. Even pieces that have gone through multiple edits can contain typos.
- Write better titles and sub headlines. Check that these target the keywords you want and that they are interesting enough to capture a reader’s interest.
- Generate new ideas to promote old posts on social media. For example, can you host a Twitter chat that utilizes some of your old posts to start a discussion?
- Repurpose old content and present it in a fresh and interesting way, such as a slideshow or video.
- Create roundups of your best posts that are centered around a particular topic.
- Make popular posts easy to find.
- Recycle and upgrade your old content into something even more valuable than before.
10. Good content is not enough
There is no denying that good, well-written content is important if you want to engage your audience. But it simply isn’t enough to drive traffic to your site by itself.
You need to create content that your target audience most wants to read.
How do you know what they want to read?
Tip #1. Google Analytics
Look back to your Google Analytics. Find out what type of content your audience loves. Which pieces are they interacting with or sharing most often? Create more of those topics and less of the less popular ones (or repurpose the less popular ones to make them more like the popular posts).
Tip #2. Other media platforms
Get inspired by popular content on Podcast, YouTube Channels, SlideShare, and so on. This is a window into what people in your niche want to know more about. There is a reason that certain content is more popular at any given time.
For example, iTunes allows users to browse podcasts based on popularity. Take note of the topic as well as the way it is presented to the audience.
Use YouTube to see what vloggers in your niche are doing. Find out which videos are most popular in their channels. Turn those popular videos into blog content ideas.
On SlideShare, you can go to the Most Popular page to find out which slides are grabbing the interest of site visitors.
Tip #3. Trending on Twitter
What’s trending on Twitter? This can offer insight into current topics that your readers might want to know more about. Keep in mind:
Not everything that’s trending on Twitter is relevant to your niche. Brad’s wife might have gotten fired from Cracker Barrel, but does that really have anything to do with your business coaching business? Perhaps it does if you wanted to talk about how to overcome a social media firestorm.
You can always generate new blogging ideas can from What’s Trending on Twitter – even if it’s not exactly your niche. At WHSR – part of our growth comes from the content strategy where we merge our primary niche (blogging, web hosting, web marketing) with other trending topics (World of War Craft, Dungeon Master, Shark Tank TV series, gardening, etc.). Marrying two very different topics expands readership and offers new writing angles on your topic.
Sites where people ask questions on a topic, such as Quora can also be a good source to see what people want to know more about.
11. Create a ribbon page and feature your best content
Take a look at the different categories on your website. Are there any categories missing? Can you create a ribbon page and feature your very best content in that category? Or, perhaps you simply want to highlight a specific topic over others because your data analysis has shown that your site visitors are most interested in XYZ.
You can create charts that tie into the topics, group elements into a basic chart, and add color and interest to your site. Some of the types of content you might want to include would be:
- How-to guides on a particular subject
- Case studies
- Advanced topics
- Most popular topics in a specific category
- Topics that are trending at the moment
12. Improve your blog loading speed
We talked a little before about the importance of fast loading times for your website and how impatient people can be. Getting your blog to load faster requires that you look at many different elements. Simply compressing images isn’t enough. You should also consider:
- The speed of your servers
- If you have access to a content delivery network
- Plugins that might bog down you page and cause it to load slowly
- Multimedia features that might slow some users down who have slower Internet speeds
- The optimization of images
- Delivery of images (CDN)
- The actual theme of your website and how quickly it loads
13. Connect with your competitors
At first thought, it might not seem like a good idea to talk to your competitors. You are both vying for similar traffic after all.
However, connecting with other influencers can actually benefit you both. There is enough traffic to go around and when bloggers recommend one another, their site visitors tend to take notice.
- Reach out and link up with other bloggers. You both are targeting similar audiences, so you’ll both benefit. You also can connect with bloggers in related niches. For example, if you make wooden signs and sell them, you will want to connect with a blog that talks about DIY décor.
- Share information with other bloggers. Have you found a place to advertise that is particularly successful? Don’t be afraid to tell others. They, in turn, will tell you where they advertise.
- Exchange guest posts with one another to reach each other’s audience.
- Introduce your blogger friends to your readers by featuring an interview, putting an article about them in your newsletter, or just giving them a shout out on social media.
- Share ideas about writing and editing.
14. Grow traffic with Facebook Ad
Facebook is too big of a social media giant to be ignored. There are over 1.5 billion users on the social media giant. In 2015, advertisers spent $17.08 billion on Facebook. Because they have such a wide base of users from different locations and backgrounds, Facebook is the best option for brands and bloggers. However, you must understand how Facebook works and spend the time on optimization to make it worth your while.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Keep track of new features (Facebook is releasing them on an almost weekly basis) – be the first to use new ad formats – Instagram video ads, DPA carousel ads, local awareness ads, Canvas ads, etc.
- Use an ad tool for automatic A/B testing to cut down on ad cost and improve ad efficiency. I use Adespresso to run most of my ads on Facebook – it helps me to create and track hundreds of ad sets in one campaign easily.
- Cross sell or cross promote. Even if you don’t sell an actual product, you can still apply the idea of cross selling to retain your existing visitors. When someone visits a page from your blog, you can automatically cross-promote your other relevant content to them using the retargeting feature. For example, if one was looking at your “how to create a photography blog”, you can follow up and promote your list of “must see WordPress plugins for photo blogs” on Facebook.
- Understand how you can hone down your target audience with Facebook ads to reach the exact demographic you wish to reach.
- Study what your competitors are doing. You can even target people who have visited your competitors’ Facebook pages and push ads to them.
- Always promote a benefit, not a product. The sales of products, services, or content will come naturally from the relationship that you build with your audience. You must let your target audience know how your product/content can help them. What problem are you solving?
- Post more photos. Wishpond found that photo posts get around 120% more engagement than posts without a photo. Posts with a photo album get about 180% more engagement.
- Target your audience smartly. Facebook knows a lot about you (and which websites you visited), and it uses that information to let advertisers target their ads to select groups of people. Your FB ad performances rely a lot on how well you target your audience. Here are 20 non-interest-based targeting Facebook ad ideas.
Real life examples
15. Build your team and expand
As your business grows, so should your team (btw, this is Team WHSR). Seek out people who are trustworthy and offer high quality work for your team. Once they are trained, these people should be able to complete tasks with just minor direction from you. This allows you to expand your promotional and content efforts almost as though you are cloning yourself. The goal would be for you to eventually manage the team and leave the actual work to them.
With the right team and continued effort, your blog should continue to expand its reach. Over time, you’ll gain a loyal following and regular new traffic from other efforts. Improving your blog is not a one-time effort. You must continue to improve your blog week after week if you want to find success.