Growing Your Blog
How to grow your blog is an incredibly elusive topic. There isn’t a ton of information out there on it, and super successful blogs who do give advice often just say: work hard. Well, they are right – but there is a bit more too it than that. You may be willing to put in all the effort in the world, but if you don’t know what to do, what good is it?
I’m going to break it down and tell you what has worked for me. Do I know everything? No. But I’ve definitely come a long way from the day I started, learned a ton from top bloggers, and want to help you do the same.
In order for your blog to grow and be successful you need a good foundation: great content and beautiful pictures (if you have a blog that includes photography, of course). Without this, even if you do everything else, you probably won’t get too far. With it, the sky is the limit.
It comes down to four things. The first, Social Media, I’ve already talked about. The other big 3? Traffic, Analytics, and Monetizing Your Blog. They are like the 3 points of a triangle – you need them all. We are going to talk about why they are important, and what you need to do.
Traffic The most obvious (and hardest) part of building your blog is how to generate traffic. Whether you want to eventually make money off of adds, recipe or product development, or writing a book, those opportunities don’t arise unless people are reading your blog. Lots of people. OK, so how do you do that?
- Types of traffic: There are two sources of traffic. The first is called direct. This is when people just type in your address and come directly to your blog. The only way grow this, is organically. Essentially, people are referred to your blog, like it and come back. The second kind of traffic is referral. Other websites direct traffic your way. Let’s look at my top 10 referrers as an example.
The top 3 are virtually tied for first place. This tells you a couple of things. 1. Pinterest is an incredible source of traffic for a social media site 2. I’m maximizing my SEO terms.
Let’s break it down. Generally, two of your top referrals will be Pinterest and Search Engines. We talked about Pinterest in Social Media, and if you haven’t checked it out, you should, since Pinterest has the potential to be a major source of traffic.
Search Engines If you are totally new to blogging, you are probably thinking, ok, how can I make people search for me? By making yourself come up in their search results. How do you do this? Two ways.
- Register with Search Engines The easiest way to do this is to register with Add Me. They will register your website with the top 20 search engines so that your website is able to come up in search results. This is a lot easier, and faster than registering your blog with every search engine.
- SEO Plugins One of the first things you should do is search for and install an SEO plugin on your dashboard. (I use, and am very happy with, All In One SEO. What is SEO? Well it stands for Search Engine Optimization. And effects how highly ranked your website will be when someone searches for certain terms. Your SEO keywords have the ability to affect this, because you are able to target your audience. Once your blog has been around a while, start to do some research to see which terms are most effective for you.
Submit Your Blog To Relevant Sites One of the easiest and quickest ways to build traffic is to submit your blog to relevant sites. Personally, I have experience with food blogs, and so I’m listing the top sites for that – but if you are a Mommy blogger, or a crafter you should look into the top sharing sites for those genres. For example: if your blog is about weddings, you should be submitting to WeddingGawker. Think about it intuitively – you are obviously interested enough in a topic to start a blog about it, so where did you go to search for information and websites about it before you started your own blog? Then do everything you can to submit you blog there. Here are some examples of websites to submit food blogs too.
Side Note: Now, there is a caveat to be noted about these sites. Yes, they do have the potential to increase traffic, and it’s high quality traffic (People obsessed with food are probably your target audience). However, as time has passed, and more blogs have been created and their quality has improved, these sites have started accepting more and more submissions. And on the flip side, traffic going to these blogs to find recipes has not kept up with this acceptance rate. Long story short – what does this mean for you as a food blogger? It means that these sites are not going provide the level of traffic they once did, and it will likely keep decreasing. The bright side: Pinterest picks up where these sites leave off.
Analytics Analytics are the second component to building your blog. Let me explain why. So, you’ve submitted your blog to search engines, perfected your SEO terms, submitted your websites to other sites and you are starting to get some traffic! Awesome! Good job! Now, with analytics you’ll be able to track what’s attracting people (and what’s not), how much traffic your getting and when. When you know what’s working and what’s not, you can adjust what your posting to attract more readers.
- Google Analytics This is the gold standard of Analytics. It will effectively tract how many visitors, and unique visitors your page gets every hour, day, month week and year. You can see what pages are most attracting people, and what pages you lose most readers on. You can see where your traffic has been referred from, and if people are people are new or returning visitors. You can use this information when you create new posts to improve your content to attract readers. Essentially, it is another opportunity for you to grow your traffic. In order to install Google Analytics you need to install Google code – don’t worry, they walk you through this.
Monetizing Your Blog At the end of the day, you’ve been busting your butt trying to grow your blog – and it’s probably not because you desire mass public admiration (although that’s pretty cool too.) You’ve built a loyal audience, you have traffic, you’ve invested money, so what’s the next step? Make some money.
Now, in my honest opinion, I think you should monetize your blog from day one. Even if you make a $1.23 you are making some money, learning what works and doesn’t and how to increase your revenue. Ultimately, in order to make your blog a viable source of income you need traffic, but you also need to diversify your sources of revenue. What the heck does that mean?
Diversify: There are several ways you can make money off of your blog. The most common, and the first one that comes to people’s minds is running adds on your blogs. Even if you have the highest paying adds in the world, one source of revenue can only get you so far.
To really make your blog financially successful you must diversify and utilize all sources of revenue. Exploit every source of revenue you can (without compromising the integrity of your blog, of course.)
This is all great, and if you’ve been blogging you probably know, or have an idea of all the ways you can make money. But if you are new to blogging, and want to take my advice and begin generating income as early as possible, you may feel a little lost. So, let me give you a road map of the most common ways to make money. Just don’t forget – you aren’t picking one here. The goal is to employ ALL of them.
- Adds: This is the easiest ways to start making money on your blog. As soon as your blog is getting a steady amount of traffic – even if it’s low – apply for Google Adsense. Adsense makes you money based on how many people click your adds. The downside to this is that in the beginning, when your traffic is low, you will be unlikely to have a lot of people clicking on adds. But keep it in place, because it is a good source of starter income, and later, backup revenue.
- Publishing Networks: As a blogger there are several publishing networks you can apply to join. The benefit to these networks is that they pay at a higher rate, and most importantly, they pay based on number of views the adds receive, not the number of clicks. They generally have some restrictions in place – you can only place adds from one network on your page (Adsense is still ok to have too), adds must be in certain spots (above the fold – the top half of your page), and not all add spots are sold (sometimes you will have blank spots in your add space.) But at the end of the day the higher revenue is absolutely worth it. Some of the top publishing networks are Blogher, Style Coalition FoodieBlogRoll and Lijit. Blogher is the Rolls Royce of add net works, but you can’t apply until your blog is 3 months old, and even then you might be waitlisted or rejected. I personally am still waiting to be accepted to this program. I’m currently a member of FoodieBlogRoll. I’ve seen decent revenue from the adds I had in place, but I haven’t fully exploited it’s potential. I was experimenting with other adds and add networks to see which made me the most. In the end, FoodieBlogRoll was the best, and now I’ve placed the maximum number of adds, joined their premium network, and am excited to see what happens. Lijit is another option I was experimenting with and although I know some people have seen it be profitable I wasn’t happy and won’t be continuing with it.
- Affiliate Links Affiliate links connect your readers to products, and if they buy said product, you earn a percentage of the sale. Some bloggers are hesitant to use them, but I think it makes sense – if it’s something you actually use, support or think is great. You are providing your readers access to premium resources, and getting a cut in return. Here are some common affiliate programs you should join: Amazon, your Webhost and WordPress Theme, Ziplist (if you are a food blog), and products sold by other blogs, like ebooks and courses.
- Sponsored Adds This is when companies pay you to endorse their product. Generally, you need to have a certain level of traffic for businesses to consider your blog for sponsored adds. The most important thing to remember: you must always disclaim to your readers when an add has been sponsored.
- EBooks Once your adds are in place, you’ve joined a publishing network and you are maximizing your affiliate links the next thing you need to do is start thinking creating your own products. If you’ve built a loyal following, they are probably eager for additional content from you. Once of the easiest ways to do this is to write your own e-book. You can do this through Amazon.com and make it available for sale on your website.
- Courses Offering your readers an e-course on something that’s your specialty is another great way to offer your readers a product and generate income.
Need a refresher? Try going back and reviewing Social Media Strategies!