Last updated March 19th, 2017
Millions of people start new blogs every month but not many of them achieve success.
And while some elements of blogging can be complicated, the overall strategy is not that hard. If you look at almost any successful blog you’ll notice the same few elements.
The trick is to work consistently and cleverly on those elements while not getting distracted.
Today I’d like to talk about a simple formula that every blogger should at least think about if they want to achieve long-term success.
The formula for blogging success
I try really hard to avoid get-rich-quick type of hype here on Blog Tyrant.
Most of the blogs that give that sort of advice leave you with a lot of excitement but not a lot of substance or strategy.
And something that I’ve also noticed is that new bloggers tend to over-complicate the process. Yes, blogging is hard work but, no, it does not have to be complicated.
Let’s start with an infographic and then move on to the tofu and potatoes below:
Remember, successful blogging is not just having lots of traffic and making lots of money. It’s also about having a blog that helps people, brightens their days, solves problems and generally makes a good impact on the world.
Feel free to share this graphic around or use it on your own site.
1. Start your blog smartly
Sometimes I think that new bloggers are so excited to get started that they miss a few really important steps due to a lack of research and preparation.
Before you jump into blogging I recommend a few basics are taken care of:
- Get your own domain name and host
I really recommend that you avoid free blog hosts and pay for a domain name and your own hosting. This gives you full control over the asset that you are trying to build, and allows you customize the blog in myriad ways over its lifespan.
- Do your competition analysis
Before you buy your domain name, however, it’s a good idea to spend some time looking around your planned niche and see what other people are doing. Can you do it differently? Can you do it better? Those are important questions to ask.
- Plan your brand, look and feel
Your brand, blog’s theme and the look and feel are very important. Spend some time looking for a good responsive WordPress theme and have a good think about colors, fonts and what you might do for a logo.
There are lots more things you might want to know before you start a blog but, for the most part, these three things are important to consider before you get too far into it.
2. Make your headlines pop
The more time I spend in the online world the more I am convinced that good headlines play a massively important role. Sure, we all know they are important, but I am starting to think that maybe they play one of the most important roles in the the whole thing.
Take a look at a random section of headlines from Viral Nova:
When you visit this site (remember, it recently sold for $100m…) you always get stuck going deeper and deeper into the site due to the perfectly crafted titles.
I personally find the content itself a little bit underwhelming, but by the time you reach the end of the article you get sucked into the next post on offer. This means that they have a really low bounce rate and do very well in terms of social shares.
The next thing we have to remember is that our headlines become adverts in Google search results eventually. If you write a good headline, you’re going to increase your click through rate, even if you’re not ranking at the very top. This article I wrote called Revealed: 19 Things to Know Before You Start a Blog has a much more exciting title than most other titles on that result and, as such, it gets a higher CTR than expected.
When crafting your headlines you should always take a lot of time trying to get them right. It might even mean that you re-write them 50 or 100 times before you land on something good. Over time you’ll get quicker at it.
3. Develop a simple call-to-action
When people first start their blog I think they feel like they need to include every single possibility that a blog can offer.
For example, if you look at most blog’s sidebars you’ll notice that they are filled with ads, links, opt-in forms, images, gallery feeds, promotions, etc.
It’s too much.
Instead what you want to do is keep your blog simple. Give people fewer choices instead of more, and really focus your blog around one call-to-action if possible. You might even consider getting rid of your sidebar altogether!
I really love the way Copyblogger does this kind of thing. When you navigate around the site you’ll quickly learn exactly what their core business is and it’s always promoted in very enticing and clear ways.
4. Build an email list as a main priority
As I’ve said before, your mailing list is your protection from Google and all the changes that they make. If you have a large, engaged mailing list then you are pretty much set up for the long term.
In today’s online world, a lot of newcomers make the mistake of thinking that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are a better option than a mailing list.
It’s a bit of a trap – you don’t own your page on those sites and they regularly go through waves of increase and then decline. Just look at MySpace. If you spent all your time building your following on that platform you would be pretty much out of business today.
Email, on the other hand, only seems to be growing. People have it directly set up on their computer and phone and it is accessed many more times a day than anything else. This is especially true if people have opted in to your mailing list. It brings a much higher conversion rate.
To build the list quickly:
- Use a free giveaway
A lot of bloggers say that the free giveaway no longer works but, as far as I can tell, it really helps with conversions. A free report is a good start.
- Use a pop up or slide out box
Pop ups can be annoying if they are invasive. But if you have one that only appears after a minute or so you’ll increase conversions without bothering people too much.
- Regularly mention the mailing list’s benefits
It’s okay to ask people to subscribe, especially if you’ve got some seriously helpful value on the end on other side. Mention it at the bottom of posts, on it’s own landing page, and so on.
Here are some more tips for getting more email subscribers that have worked well for me over the years.
5. Add resources, tools and helpful extras
There is a strange blogging SEO myth going around that if you link out to other websites too much you will dilute your SEO page rank juice. Actually, it’s totally the opposite.
Linking to other blogs and websites is important because it adds value to your post. It also helps position you as an expert because your readers will associate any great resource that you provide with your blog.
But, most importantly, when you link to other bloggers you get on their radar. Back links are really important for online business and if you link to someone they will absolutely notice and hopefully share the post or become an online friend. I talk a lot more about it in my guide to blogging strategy.
Here’s another example:
Brian from Backlinko always makes his posts interactive and filled with graphs and charts and all these little features that break up the content and make it easy to navigate. There’s something there for experts and beginners alike. This is exactly the type of content that Google wants to promote in the SERPs.
6. Make your articles longer and longer
You know the old saying that less is more? Well, turns out that it doesn’t really apply to blogging.
Of course, we don’t want to be making our article long just for the sake of it. But time and time again we have seen that long form content works better in terms of Google rankings, conversions and user satisfaction.
There are many theories as to why this seems to make a difference. Personally, I feel like people are so used to dodgy little bits of social media information these days that when they encounter something long and well researched they really appreciate it. Take a look at long form news sources like The New Yorker and you’ll see that they are smashing it.
I’ve found that my 9,000-word guide to blogging has performed really well, and if you look at similar pieces like this one from Steve Kamb and this one from Glen Allsopp you’ll start to appreciate how powerful it can be for taking your blog to the next level.
7. Be distinctive
This is a really important one for new bloggers to understand.
These days it’s impossible to be first. If you have an idea for a blog it’s 99.999% likely that someone is already doing it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have success.
If you think about fast food chains like KFC, Subway, etc. you’ll notice that they are still successful even though they weren’t the first into the space. Similarly, there are millions of restaurants around the world that do well even though they came later.
So don’t let that put you off.
The really important thing is to look at ways that you can stand out from others. The wonderful book How Brands Grow really emphasizes this fact. You want to try and find ways to make your blog memorable and different in the eyes of your readers.
8. Give yourself enough time to make it work
The last thing that I wanted to mention in this post is that you really need to give yourself enough time to make it work.
In my blogging career I had some nice wins early on by selling a blog, but after that there was a lot of failures before anything else good came along.
And I’m totally fine with that.
One thing to remember is that most small businesses make a loss in the first year. A blog really isn’t much different to that – you’ve got a lot of set up expenses and things to get done in that initial time frame and it’s okay if it isn’t a massive success right away.
So where to now?
Now you might like to go back to your blog and see whether or not it is hitting all of those eight elements. If even one of them is missing you might be selling yourself short.
A blogging strategy like this one coupled with the information contained in this post should be enough to get you moving in a very productive direction for the future.
Remember, successful blogging is a long term adventure that has many ups and downs. Don’t expect it to always be perfect. As long as the overall trend is upwards then you are doing okay.
What do you think?
I’d really like to know whether you think there are any other elements needed for successful blogging. What has worked for you on your blog?
Please leave a comment below and let me know.