To stay relevant and winning in the blogging game, you need to actively improve and grow your blog.
Many factors go into building a successful blog. Utilizing the right set of data, creating the right content, applying the right traffic tactics, and choosing the best tools – all make an impact on how successful your blog will be.
In this guide, we will look into many things that you can do to continuously improve and grow your blog.
So You Want to Own A Successful Blog?
This is part 3 of 5 of my Blogging 101 Guide. If you are new to blogging, also check out:
How to start a blog from scratch
Finding the right niche for your blog
How to grow your blog traffic
Practical ways to monetize and make money blogging
My approach to growing a blog is similar to “Kaizen” – a term that usually refers to the statistical process that improves quality in every aspect of a business (originally, manufacturing) operation. We will focus on using data / specific web metrics to define our actions.
Some of the tips I mentioned require very little effort and can create instant positive results; while others take more time and skills to complete. It's like playing RPG video games – some levels are easy while some take longer time/effort to master the necessary skills and breakthrough.
Data is your friend, but which?
Data is crucial to measure your blogging progress and drive improvements.
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 nature of your niche and level of understanding, you might look at different types of statistical data.
At first look, Google Analytics reports can be overwhelming. So many numbers! And you may not be familiar with some of the metrics or concepts.
Well, fear not because…
- The numbers/concepts are not that complicated, and
- Honestly, I don't think bloggers should spend too much time in grinding Google Analytic reports.
Go simple. Your objective is to build a better blog for your users, not spend hours after hours learning the technicalities behind Google Analytic numbers.
Hence, I am suggesting only four Google Analytics numbers to track. And here are the three vital stats on Google Analytics that every blogger – regardless of the size of your blog or the niche you are in – should understand and keep an eye on.
1. Users / New Users
To obtain user acquisition info, log in to Google Analytics > Reports > Acquisition > User Acquisition.
Tracking how many new users visiting your blog is one way to measure growth. If your blog is acquiring more sessions this month than before, then surely you must be doing something right.
2. Traffic Acquisitions
To obtain traffic acquisition info, log in to Google Analytics > Reports > Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition.
The new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) groups traffic sources into multiple channels: Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Unassigned, and Organic Social. These numbers show where your traffic is coming from. Is your blog getting organic search traffic? What other sites are sending your traffic? Can you invest your resources in these traffic sources so you can get more traffic from them next month?
3. Average Engagement Time
To obtain average engagement time info, log in to Google Analytics > Reports > Engagement > Pages and Screens.
Average engagement time is a good measurement of your content or traffic quality:
- Are you serving the right content to your audience?
- Are you targeting the right audience with your content?
A low engagement time is not necessarily a bad thing. It can mean your readers are getting what they want in a quick manner and they leave your blog after getting what they were looking for.
Hence “Average Engagement Time” is an important metric that triggers the “why question”.
Why is there a sudden surge (or dip) in your blog's average engagement time? Is the blog loading slowly? is the blog layout broken after an update? Is the blog getting new types of users from different traffic sources?
Things You Can Do to Improve Your Blog
Once you have a grasp of the different types of data available for your blog, here are some of the practical things you can do that will improve your blog.
1. Focus on the Winners
The first thing to do is to figure out what is working and what isn’t for your blog.
Is there a particular type of content that works extra well for you? Are traffic coming from social media converting better? Does your last month's link campaign bring you extra users from organic searches?
Identified the growth tactics that work well for your blog and double down on those tactics.
Here's one personal example.
We run a periodic check on our content performance at WHSR. For articles that were logging long average engagement time – we will expand and improve this content in various ways, including adding expert interviews, the latest statistic numbers, new featured images, and screenshots; as well as converting the content into video content.
The key is to focus on winners and make the best out of them.
2. Cover the Basics
Blogs are like large machines that run on multiple small parts. One easy way to improve a blog is by taking good care of these tiny parts. These basic tasks which you can do in a few minutes a day can make a big impact on the overall success of your blog.
These basic tasks include:
- Set up a social media profile specifically for your blog
- Use IFTTT to automatically publish your latest blogposts on social media networks
- Create a contact page so site visitors know how to reach you
- Create a media kit so potential advertisers can learn more about your blog
- Install a third party comment system, such as Disqus to improve user engagement rate
- Write a disclaimer page to improve your blog's trustability
- Create a “Start Here” page to welcome and serve your new visitors
- Routine check for misspellings, grammar mistakes, and typos on your blog
- Schedule backups so you don’t lose your entire blog to a catastrophic site meltdown.
- Identify and fix broken links on your blog
- Interlink your relevant blogposts to improve SEO
- Create an editorial calendar
- Follow other blogs in your niche and connect with those blog owners
- Comment on other blogs and add valuable thoughts
- Create roundups that feature some of your best content
- Add descriptive alt-tags to all images
- Rectify all 404 errors on your blog
- Add breadcrumb and sitemap to help Google understand your blog structure
- Add a table of content to your blog post
- Optimize your blog by using headers, sub-headers, bullet points, or numbered lists. This helps your content to appear more organized
- Break up your blog content into sections or paragraphs
- Avoid using fancy fonts. Stick with web-safe fonts such as Arial, Georgia, Times, etc
3. Collect Visitors' Emails
The people who visit your site have landed there because they are interested in the topic you cover. This is as target of an audience as you can meet. You must 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 news feed by all the noise.
Fortunately, there are email marketing tools that can help you collect and stay organized with email marketing.
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.
How to target and grow your email opt-in: Tips from Adam Connell
One of my favorite [list building] techniques is using ‘category targeted opt-ins’.
It’s a similar idea to content upgrades but it’s far easier to manage.
The idea is that you use opt-in forms to offer exclusive content that is relevant to a topic that someone is reading at the time.
For example, if you’re running a blog about food, you’d offer a different ‘lead magnet’ to people reading the category about meal recipes than you would those viewing the breakfast recipes category.
It’s what we used at UK Linkology to increase email sign ups by over 300%:
Here’s a quick outline of the process we used:
- Re-organize & condense our blog categories to 4-5 core topics
- Created a lead magnet for each core topic
- Installed the Thrive Leads WordPress plugin which can target opt-in forms to specific categories
- Setup opt-in forms to promote each lead magnet (we focused on sidebar, in-content and popover opt-in forms)
- Activated category targeting to ensure each opt-in form would appear on the correct category
The key here is to offer a lead magnet that is closely related to what someone is reading at the time.
That way, they’re far more likely to subscribe.
– Adam Connell, Adam Connell dot me.
4. Beef Up Your 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 ideas to try out:
Keep It Personal
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.
5. Add / Improve Visual Elements
It takes the average person 0.05 seconds to make a judgement about your website. That translates to 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression on your visitor. In 50 milliseconds, it’s doubtful the person has time to read much of your text. What does that mean? That means most people’s first impression of your website is made based on the design and images, which the brain processes faster than text.
Generally, here's what I suggest with your blog visual elements:
- Use relevant, clear screenshots and charts to add value to your post
- Use an infographic to summarize your points
- Use irrelevant, ugly stock photos that do nothing to make your brand seem distinctive
- Use photos with badly posed models
Create Your Own Images
With so many free resources and web applications on the Internet, it's super-easy to create stunning images by yourself – even if you are not a graphic designer by profession.
Want original graphics for your next blog post? Create it yourself by following these steps:
- Take photos using your phone
- Find free icons and vector art at Icon Finder / Freepik
- Merge and edit these elements using a graphic editor like Canva
Or, you can record your screen and turn it into GIF images using ScreenToGif (Windows) and Kap (Mac).
6. Read Your Own Writings
Take the time to work on old blog posts and read them regularly. Find and correct grammar mistakes. Even pieces that have gone through multiple edits can contain typos.
Consider re-writing your titles and headlines for better content flow and user engagement. Great copy converts – This is the mantra all bloggers need to maintain throughout their lives.
Generate new ideas and content from your old posts. For example, you can:
- Host a Twitter chat that utilizes some of your old posts to start a discussion
- Repurpose old content and present it freshly and interestingly, such as a slideshow or video
- Create roundups of your best posts that are centered around a particular topic
7. Know Your Audience Better
Who is your audience, really? What is their general age? What education level do they have? Any cultural specifics? Why are they at your site?
These lead you to the most important question: How can you do better to serve your blog audience?
If you don't know who are your blog readers, you are shooting in the dark.
Interview people in your readership zone
Start with people you know, then expand to names in your niche. Collect information, and make statistics and graphs. As a blogger, you may find surveys and polls useful tools at hand. Polling your blog audience helps determine your demographics.
Use Google Form, Survey Monkey, or even Twitter Polls to find out who is reading as well as who might be reading — their ages, genders, occupations, interests, walks of life, etc. Invite them to contact you and introduce themselves and talk about what they like about your blog. Why did they choose to follow you? What kind of posts are their favorites? What is it about you and your content that lends you credibility in their eyes?
During my good old days running WHSR Newsletter, I always invite WHSR subscribers to hit “reply” in the newsletter so I get a chance to connect. You should do the same.
Visit forums relevant to your blog
Forums are good to see what’s boiling in your field and what your audience is finding interesting and relevant at a given time.
Webmaster World and Web Hosting Talk are two typical examples of how a niche forum can give you an incredible amount of input to understand what people in my industry are concerned about.
One warning before you hop on though – don’t let the noise distract you from your goals. Forums host the good and the bad apple of the user base, so make sure you filter out any irrelevant discussions and only focus on what matters — especially topics that are basically help requests, as they give you background material to write an answer piece.
Learn from other bloggers / content creators
Get inspired by popular relevant content on Podcast, YouTube Channels, and SlideShare. 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.
8. Create Hub Pages
Take a look at the different categories on your website. Are there any categories missing? Can you create a hub page (some call it 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
9. Load your blog faster
Getting your blog to load faster requires that you look at many different elements. Obviously simply compressing images isn’t enough. Consider:
- Using a server with higher capacity
- Compressing all your images
- Using CDN to deliver your static content
- Choosing a minimalist blog theme
Learn from the Pro: Daren Low
Extensive testing is required to optimize the loading speed of your website. It involves day-by-day fine tuning to achieve the best results, but your investment in time will pay off in terms of enhanced search engine optimization and conversion rate.
The one thing I consider most important is GZIP compression for your website. This is a method of compressing the webpage into small, easier and faster loading data files.
Fortunately, this is easy to accomplish with WordPress, via any number of specialized plugins. The one I use (at Bitcatcha, InMotion Hosting) is W3 Total Cache, which also caches your pages in addition to GZIP compression.
– Daren Low, Bitcatcha
We have covered extensively on website speed issues in our article, to learn more please read: How to improve your speed.
10. Scale up your blogging operations
A few years back we asked establish bloggers if they hire freelancers for their blogging tasks. To our surprise, more than 2/3 of our interview guests said “yes”. In case you wonder where to find freelancers – majority of the bloggers we spoke to use Upwork (31.3%), Fiverr (18.8%) as well Freelancer.com and Peopleperhour (both with 12.5% respectively).
So – As your blog 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.
Final Thoughts: Enjoy Your Blogging Journey
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.
This article is part of my Blogging 101 series. If you wish to blog better, also check out my other guide: