Getting the benefits of a blog doesn’t happen overnight. It takes ongoing time, energy and online marketing skills. But when you’re starting out with your first blog, the commitment required can be quite daunting.
This step-by-step list will help you set your priorities and get on the fast track to blogging success.
Recently I’ve been working with John McKenna on his blogging strategy. John is a disability commentator who I met at WordCamp (a WordPress user conference) earlier this year. Conversations with people who were interested in his views on disability made John want to share his views with as many people as possible – which was the inspiration for his blog.
Set up your blog using WordPress.org
Initially John set up a free blog with Blogspot but after some online research he realised that if he was serious about blogging he needed his own domain name. He had a friend who helped him set up a blog in WordPress.org. Then he went to WordCamp to find out more about how to tap into the full potential of WordPress.
When John first told me about his blog, I knew that it had huge potential and I was excited about the opportunity to help him make it work. Plus, John is a funny guy and he has a different view of some aspects of blogging than I do, so it was a fab chance to learn some new things and have some laughs along the way.
It has now been four months since we started working together and through his blog, John has done a fantastic job of engaging with his target audience and raising awareness of topics related to disability.
Plus his web traffic is continually increasing, and, after running this article past John to get his OK, he was quick to sprook the fact that he now has 140 subscribers.
Design your blog to suit your readers
John’s blog was created with an emphasis on usability over design, so that it would be accessible by everyone who wants to read it. Some of the accessibility features incorporated into the design are:
- Big clear font
- Black text on a white background
- An audio greeting
- A tab that explains how to enlarge the font
- Alt Tags that describe all images.
You can check out John’s blog at http://www.johnmckenna.com.au/
Once his blog was up and running, here are the steps that we covered to get John on the fast track to growing his web traffic and engaging with his blog visitors.
1. Being clear about the objectives and target audience
When we first caught up John and I talked a lot about what he was trying to achieve with his blog.
Defining your target audience is really important and it allows you to promote your blog in the places where your target audience is likely to be.
John’s target audience are:
- health professionals working with people with a disability
- people living with a disability.
The objectives of his blog are to share information that can otherwise be difficult to find, and to provide a point of view from someone who has first hand experience.
Read more about why you need a website strategy and clear objectives.
2. Installing Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that provide a wealth of statistics about how your website or blog is performing.
John’s blog is built on WordPress.org so we add the “WP Google Analytics” plugin, set up a free account at www.google.com/analytics and followed the steps to create a tracking code that we copied to the plugin.
Having Google Analytics set up when you launch your blog means that you can establish benchmarks for your web visitor numbers and other stats such as Bounce Rate and Time on Site. Having these benchmarks (even if your visitor numbers are low) means that you’ll clearly see the improvement when you increase your marketing activities.
When I first started writing my blog I felt quite isolated but now that I have Google Analytics installed I am continually motivated by knowing how many people are reading what I write.
Read more articles about Google Analytics.
3. Adding information about John to the right hand sidebar
Blogging is a personal thing. What you write is based on your own ideas, views and experience. Your readers will often be interested in finding out more about who is writing the blog, so make it easy for them by adding a snippet of your “about us/about me” info to a side column, along with a photo.
4. Reviewing keywords and adding an optimised Page Title
Next we talked about the kind of topics that John will write about, discussed ideas for a tagline to describe what the blog is about and did some keyword research using the Google Keyword Tool.
For the tagline we came up with “News, Views and Reviews on Disability”.
I like this tagline because it describes the type of information that John covers in his articles. He added this tagline to the header of the blog, so that first time visitors can easily find out what the blog is about.
The tag line also includes the keywords “disability news”, “disability views” and “disability reviews”.
In terms of where to use keywords in your web copy for Search Engine Optimisation, the Page Title, which appears at the top of the browser, is very important.
For the Page Title of John’s blog, we used the tagline, because it includes his target keywords. I moved the word “disability” to the start because it is the most important keyword, so should be placed closest to the left.
Now, instead of the words “John McKenna” showing up as top line of text in the Google search results, you see this:
The Page Title is the first line that appears in the Google search results and the Meta Description in the snippet of text underneath the Page Title.
John’s meta description describes what his blog is about: “Updates on services for people with disabilities in Australia”.
Once we had decided on a Page Title and Meta Description, I installed the “All in One SEO Pack” plugin in order to add this information to the right part of the blog.
Optimising your blog articles for your target keywords is a whole separate topic that is not covered in detail in this article but here are some good tips for the Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Great Page Titles.
The keywords that you use in your Page Title should also be used in the content of your article, but it’s important not to overuse them and to use plenty of other words as well. If you need help with keyword research and optimising your web copy, please send me an email.
5. Adding an Email Newsletter sign up form and RSS feed
Once we had the blog looking good for Google and for visitors by following the steps above, we needed a way to let interested readers subscribe to receive future articles.
Serena and I love Mail Chimp for many reasons, including that it is forever free until your list is more than 2000 people. Therefore, Mail Chimp was the email marketing system that I recommended to John.
We set up a Mail Chimp account and then installed a WordPress Mail Chimp plug in that automatically sends the name and email address of people who sign up to the right list in Mail Chimp. This means there is no double handling or re-typing of email addresses of people who sign up. The Chimp handles it all.
We added text above the sign up form to make sure that people who sign up will know exactly what to expect in terms of what kind of information is sent and how frequently.
Then, in Mail Chimp, I created an email template that had a similar look and feel to John’s blog, and created a “RSS Campaign”. Now, every time John publishes a new article, it is automatically emailed to his list via the Mail Chimp RSS Campaign – without him having to do any extra work. Very cool!
Because John has advised his email recipients that they will receive a newsletter every Tuesday, if he wants to publish more than one article during the week, he publishes all articles on the Monday, and all articles are sent in the same email to the recipients list on the Tuesday.
6. Promote your blog to everyone you know and encourage them to sign up
Once we had the Mail Chimp sign up form set up, John was ready to start spreading the word about his blog.
His next steps were:
- Sending an email to all his key contacts letting them know about his blog, inviting them to sign up and asking them to spread the word to other people who might be interested.
- Getting Business Cards printed that included the website address of his blog, which he could give out at conferences and networking events.
7. Keeping a list of ideas for new articles
Often when you start a blog you have a lot of topics that you want to write about. But after a while when you’ve written about everything on the list it can become harder to come up with new topics.
To keep the ideas flowing, do some online research.
- Subscribe to blogs and newsletters in your industry to see what others are writing about
- Follow industry leaders on Twitter
- “Like” topical Facebook pages and read their status updates.
Keep a notebook of blog topics ideas.
Also, do some keyword research using the Google Keyword Tool. Type in your main keywords and see what longer tail keywords (phrases with more than one or two words) have a reasonable search volume.
Then, if you want to increase the chance of your blog articles appearing in search engine results, aim to write articles related on these keywords, which include the keyword in your headline, Page Title (refer step No.4), URL and body text. Remember to always write naturally though and don’t overuse your keywords.
8. Replying to your comments and building your community
The topics that John writes about are unique and inspiring – which is the essence of a fabulous blog – so people feel motivated to respond to his articles by commenting, offering to link to his blog and other opportunities.
Comments are a sign that your blog is reaching the right people and having an impact. Value every personal comment that is left on your blog and reply to each comment personally to show your appreciation.
9. Keep on marketing
Once you have a great looking blog set up, you’re in your groove of adding new and valuable content regularly, and your subscriber list and web traffic starts growing – keep on going!
Keep writing new articles and sharing them as widely as you can. Share your articles via Twitter, Facebook, Social Bookmarking and to email and RSS subscribers.
This is not the time to sit back and enjoy the spoils – this is the time to realise that what you’re doing is working and therefore you need to keep on doing it!
10. Review your Google Analytics regularly
Keep on eye on your Google Analytics, particularly if you try something new in terms of marketing. Once you’re used to seeing how your blog performs, you’ll know if you web traffic increases or decreases, and hopefully you’ll be able to work out why.
These are my 10 steps to fast track your blogging success.
If you have a new blog, these steps will help you prioritise what to do next. And if you’re already blogging, hopefully this info has confirmed that you’re on the right track or will give you some new ideas.
I’ve covered a lot of information here. Some parts in more detail than others so if you need more info about anything mentioned, please leave a comment below.
What other tips do you have for successful blogging?
Until next time