With the number of blogs online growing every day, it is increasingly difficult to stand out and achieve success with your blog. In the end, many bloggers that start out with high hopes and expectations wind up deciding that blogging really isn’t worth their time. Those who have some patience and a plan to achieve specific goals with their blog will have a much greater likelihood of long-term success.
In this post we’ll look at 7 things that you should be doing to set yourself up for success and to avoid common pitfalls. The topics covered here should prove to be helpful for bloggers who are just getting started or for those who have been feeling like their efforts haven’t been producing enough results. Here are 7 things that all bloggers should be doing.
1. Finding Their Role/Voice
There are a lot of different types of blogs out there. Some break news, others provide though-provoking articles or commentary, and there are always corporate blogs, and the list could go on. For example, in the design industry there are several different blog types, including: news, tutorials, inspiration (lists/showcases), in-depth articles. Of course, most blogs publish posts that overlap into a few different types, but in general an established blog will have developed some sort of role that keeps readers coming back.
Every blogger needs to find their role and develop their voice within the industry in which they are blogging. Having a variety of different types and styles of blogs is good for an industry, but frequently new bloggers try to duplicate what the most popular or successful blogs are doing rather than finding their own role and focusing on what they do best.
How can you go about finding your role or your voice? My advice is to start with what you do best and find what you have to offer to readers in your industry, as opposed to seeing what other blogs are doing and trying to duplicate it. This is often a process that involves some change or evolution as the blog progresses.
2. Evaluating Reader Response to Post Types and Topics
Readers are ultimately what determine the level of success of any blog. Successful bloggers will pay attention to how their readers are reacting and interacting with their posts, and will use that information to help determine what topics and types of posts should be published in the future.
The evaluation process involves observing comments that are left on posts, paying attention to emails from readers, seeing which posts get tweeted or shared on Facebook, watching the social media votes that are received, and analyzing statistics such as page views. All of these things can help to tell you what content your readers are most interested in, and what content they really don’t care to see very often.
3. Networking with Other Bloggers
One thing that almost all successful bloggers have in common is that they are well connected. Having a strong network of other bloggers and influential people can help your blog in countless ways, including link building, recommendations, guest posting opportunities, partnership opportunities, social media votes, general advice, and so on. It’s very difficult, and very rare, to build a successful blog that is recognized as a leader in an industry without becoming well-connected within that industry.
Networking can be done through social media, email, IM, Skype, in person, or even simple blog comments. Your network doesn’t have to consist of all the most successful people in the industry, in fact there are a lot of benefits to have connections with others who are at your level even if you are just getting started with your blog. One common mistake the bloggers make is that they only try to network with the top bloggers in their industry, when really there is just as much to be gained by being connected to other bloggers who are motivated to grow their blog over time and are committed to making that happen.
From my experience, one of the best ways to network with other bloggers is through guest posting. Almost every blogger is interested in getting more quality content to publish on their blog, and if you are willing to provide that content to them it is easy to develop a connection. When it comes to guest posting, most bloggers see the primary benefits as being the inbound links or clickthrough traffic to their blog, but many times the development of a new relationship will be far more significant in the long run.
4. Developing Diverse Traffic Sources
Every blog needs traffic. This is one of the biggest struggles for many bloggers, and ultimately it is what discourages some to the point that they give up on their blog. If you are able to develop diverse traffic sources you will be drastically increasing your chances for long-term success.
Simply getting traffic to your blog is really not enough, that traffic should also be coming from diverse sources in order for it to last. Social media sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Digg are the focus of many bloggers because they are capable of sending thousands of visitors in a short period of time. But the key is that without diversity that traffic is shortlived.
Ideally, a blog will receive traffic from search engines, from links on other websites, from subscriber clicks in RSS feeds and emails, from social media sites (including voting sites like Digg as well as networking sites like Twitter and Facebook), and also from repeat visitors that type the URL into their brower or return to a bookmarked page. The longer a blog has been around the easier it is to develop search engine traffic, subscribers, and links from other sites. For newer blogs that are still working on gaining diversity, building links from reputable blogs in the industry will help with search engine rankings, clickthroughs, and also with building a reputation within the industry. One of the keys to developing diversity is being in a lot of different places. This includes guest posting on other blogs, leaving intelligent comments on posts throughout the industry, and being active at social media sites that are popular with others in the industry.
5. Planning for Sustainability
Most bloggers fail because they give up. One of the most common reasons is that the results do not come fast enough to keep them motivated. Maintaining a successful blog takes a lot of work, and there are plenty of times when it may not seem to be worth the effort. In other cases it may not be an issue of motivation, but maybe there are not enough financial resources to keep the site moving forward. Whatever the case may be, a sustainability plan can help to get through the difficult times.
Planning for sustainability includes identifying your goals to know your true motivation for blogging, establishing a posting schedule and setting hours aside to work on your blog, identifying any areas where you need help from others (such as outsourcing content development, marketing, or design work), and determing how the blog will generate income to keep itself in operation (and maybe how you will sustain the blog until that time when it starts to produce something of value).
Without considering these things you’ll be more likely to fall into that large percentage of bloggers that start out with high hopes but fade quickly. But with a plan you’ll have a more realistic idea of what you will need to put in before you are able to benefit from your work.
6. Developing a Monetization Plan
As was mentioned in the previous point, developing revenue from your blog is critical to things moving forward (assuming we’re talking about blogs that are in existence for business purposes). When the subject of blog monetization comes up, advertising and AdSense are often what comes to mind, but there is a lot more to blog monetization.
Making money from a blog can be done in any number of ways, and it can even be done somewhat passively. For example, your monetization plan may have noting to do with ads or selling products, but maybe you want to use the blog to position yourself as an expert in an industry and to provide some type of service. In this case, the blog is passively marketing your services. Some bloggers have even used their blogs to land book deals, which is just another example of how it is possible to profit from a blog.
In many cases a blog’s monetization plan will change over time as new methods of making money are explored or developed. Some common ways to make money from blogs include, selling banner ads, selling text link ads (not recommended due to potential penalties from Google), AdSense, affiliate programs, product sales (such as e-books), membership or premium content, and promoting services.
7. Developing New Ideas
New ideas are critical to the success of any blog. This includes ideas for post topics, strategies and directions for the blog, new monetization ideas, design modificantions, and more. When running an active blog it is easy to get caught up in all of the work that is required to keep it going, but it is also important to take some time to step aside and just work on new ideas for the blog. New ideas are often difficult to develop when you are overwhelmed with work and are focused on just getting things done.
What’s Your Experience?
If you are a blogger, what have you found to be important for long-term success?