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Do you want to grow your blog by increasingly drawing more visitors to your website?
In this guide I’ll not only show you how to grow your blog by consistently attracting more visitors to your website but also how to retain them once they visit.
If you haven’t started your blog yet check out my post on how to start a blog.
It can be very frustrating when starting a new blog because you don’t yet have an audience. When I started out blogging I read a lot of articles that tell you how to grow your blog by engaging your readers with questions or sending newsletter emails to your subscribers. But what if you don’t have blog readers or newsletter subscribers yet? How do you get people to your blog in the first place?
I have a whole section on that very important step included in this guide. I’ve written the guide under the assumption that you have a brand new site with zero visitors and then I walk you through how to grow your blog from your first visitor to a very large user base that makes money online for you.
Of course, I will also cover how to retain visitors, but that’s later in the guide. People have to visit your site in the first place before you can try keeping them as fans and customers.
A bloggers guide on how to grow your blog (more than just SEO)
Growing a blog properly is more involved than just tweaking some SEO settings and playing the waiting game for the search engine algorithms to find and rank your site.
I’ll show you the SEO tactics to get your blog off to the right start and I’ll also show you methods in addition to search that get people to your website. Just as important, the last section of the guide shows you how to retain those readers once they do visit your site.
I’ve been developing web applications since the early 2000’s. Many of my successful sites over the years have been built using the methods in this guide. A lot of the sites I build are created on top of WordPress, which is first and foremost a Content Management System (CMS). It’s most popularly used for blogging, but has so many great core functionalities and modifiable features that you can easily create all kinds of powerful websites with it.
I want to help you grow your blog the right way. Whether you build a conventional blog or an unconventional web application, I want to help you make it work and grow it to the scale you want it to be. That takes more than a few SEO tweaks.
That’s why I like to create these different guides. To give you the web development skills in addition to the marketing skills needed to grow your blog.
To grow your blog (and make money online) doesn’t have to take forever
We can make your blog profitable in a matter of months by implementing the right strategies. A lot of that has to do with marketing.
I’ll show you how to do all of that so you can grow your blog from the start. We’re going to begin focusing on growth and scalability before your article count even hits double digits.
It’s important to start seeing early success in the way of site visitor growth. It’s also a great motivator to keep you engaged and help you maintain focus so you continue building your site without losing steam and changing ideas to the next big thing.
Follow the guide for tried and true methods.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this post includes affiliate links where I receive a commission at no cost to you when you click and make purchases. However, the links I post are for the best software and services you need to start and grow a blog. I do my best to keep things fair and balanced in order to help you make the best choice for your situation.
So what’s in this guide on how to grow your blog?
This guide will show you how to develop quality articles with a content strategy, optimize your posts for search, find people interested in your content, different ways to get visitors to your site in addition to search and strategies to retain those site visitors.
How To Grow Your Blog In 3 Easy Steps
- Creating Content
- Getting Users To Your Blog
- Retaining Users On Your Blog
1. Grow Your Blog: Creating Content
What is your purpose when writing a blog? To inform? Entertain? Persuade?
Whatever your purpose, there is a method to blogging effectively. It most often gets generalized as “creating killer content”. The problem comes when it’s assumed that everyone inherently knows how to do that. Plus, once you create your content there’s still some content marketing work to be done. Unfortunately, that often gets put under the same generalized umbrella of “creating killer content”. So people spend hours on a blog post and wonder why it’s not generating the results they were told it would.
-Do you want to grow your blog?
-Well all you have to do is create killer content and the masses will flock to your site.
–Hey, that’s really great advice. I’ll do that. Thanks!
Creating Valuable Content
Let’s dive a little deeper to discover what “killer content” is and how exactly it gets created.
One more question before we get to that, though. Why do you write different articles for your blog? Why not just put everything into a single article? (OK, that’s two questions)
That sounds ridiculous, but it’s meant to highlight the first point about content creation.
Each article has a purpose
That purpose can be summarized in a short phrase which becomes the focus key phrase of the article. This key phrase should be used throughout the article, but not annoyingly so, to help focus the readers as well as search engines on the article’s main purpose.
Regardless of how the reader got to your site they are there because of their interest in the key phrase. You can write many different types of articles including cornerstone, skyscraper, 10x and pillar content. Those types of articles are great for SEO by the way. You can write shorter spin-off posts from any of those longer form articles, too. No matter what type of article you write the goal is to always provide value to the reader based on the primary the key phrase of the post.
Key Phrase plus Value
Providing value to your readers by focusing on a key phrase is the first step in creating killer content.
Your articles can be informative, entertaining, persuasive or all of the above, but they must be of value from the perspective of the reader. Maybe it’s something they didn’t know before. Or maybe you have a way of easily explaining things. They could have heard something a hundred times, but never really understood it until they read your post. Either way, if you maintain focus on the reader than everybody wins.
When writing your posts, long or short form, think about the key phrase and what questions or problems the readers most likely have. If your post helps them get from problem (point A) to solution (point B) in a simple, efficient manner than you’ve provided value for them. The easier you make it for them or the quicker you can solve their problem the more value you’re providing.
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How you structure your articles is also an important consideration if you plan to grow your blog and make money online. Let’s cover some terms and how they influence your content strategy.
There are essentially two types of blog posts, long-form and short-form.
There’s no hard and fast rule about length, but a general rule of thumb is any post that’s 2,000 words or less is a short-form article. Any post greater than that is a long-form article.
Creating 2,000+ word articles is more time consuming and research intensive than quickly publishing a 500 word article. If used properly, both forms can be advantageous to grow your blog.
- are less time consuming to write
- focus on one specific problem or micro-topic
- readers can quickly scan them for the information they seek
- easier to publish more often
- tend to be more mobile friendly due to their length
- are keyword rich, which is great for SEO
- build trust with readers because they see you’ve invested time to provide them value
- tend to get more social shares and backlinks
- establish you as an authority
- provide an authoritative page that links to many different short-form articles
I usually like to aim for 4,000 to 6,000 words in my long-form articles. Especially, if they’re written as one of the following types of long-form articles:
These types of posts are the foundation of your blog. They contain a lot of internal links to other articles on your site. They function as a major resource for site visitors to easily navigate your site to find what they’re interested in. As an example, one of my other sites is a blog that helps people achieve technical certifications. I created a cornerstone page that has a link to every single course lesson. It was the most viewed page on the site because visitors knew they could easily navigate to anywhere on the site from that one page.
Pillar posts are long and comprehensive. They tend to be in-depth explanatory articles about a topic. These “how-to” type articles rank highly in search engines given their length and keyword density. Pillar posts are a great way to cover a higher-level topic in detail while linking to many other short-form articles for more specifics about a certain topic.
10X Content is “content that is 10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic”. It was introduced by Rand Fishkin in this Whiteboard Friday video for Moz called “Why Good Unique Content Needs To Die“. It’s a simple concept. What do you want to write a long-form article about? Search for it and write an article that is 10 times better (not necessarily longer) than the top search result. This actually doesn’t have to be a long-form article. It could be a micro-site or even software that you write. If it is a tool that you create it will need some type of descriptive copy alongside it so that search engines can recognize and rank it properly. Just be 10x better than the best.
The skyscraper method was created by Brian Dean of Backlinko as a system for turning content into high quality backlinks. In addition to keyword rich articles, another great way to improve the search engine rankings of your posts is through backlinks. Those are incoming links from other websites. The higher quality the source of the link the better for your blog. Skyscrapers are another long-form post where you create a quality article that includes external links. It might be a review page or a best of list or something like that. Then you reach out to those website owners, through proven methods that I’ll cover later, to mention your article and request a backlink to it.
Those are the different types of blog posts that you can mix and match to develop a content strategy.
For example, I started this blog by creating 4 pillar posts:
- Start a blog in 10 easy steps
- Grow your blog in 3 easy steps
- Monetize your blog
- Track your blog’s success
Each of these articles has internal links to short-form content on this blog. Also included are external links where I then reached out to those webmasters for backlinks. I continue creating 10x, skyscraper and cornerstone articles as I grow the blog. In addition to simply providing content marketing posts via this blog I also include a lot of web development articles, which add even more value for readers.
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Once you’ve decided on the structure of your blog’s content, or at least a starting point, it’s time to focus on content production. Everybody is different. You might have 4 hours a day to create content or you might only have 30 minutes. You’ll need to come up with a posting schedule that fits your life.
With the research and time involved to write most long-form articles, I have found that they can take anywhere from 6 to 18 hours to publish. It’s important to create a few of these articles initially for your blog as they draw a lot of readers, are good for SEO and can link to many short form articles on your site.
Short form articles are much less intensive and can be produced faster. Once you put in the upfront work to write your long form posts you’ll have created a great resource that links to many of your short form articles. Short forms provide more detail for the reader and they’re also highly focused on a single topic. A length of 500 words or more is typically what I like to aim for. That can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on the detail involved in the article.
With that said, it’s time to think about content strategy for your blog. When starting a blog I usually focus on 4 or 5 pillar articles to get started. Those are going to take about 40 to 60 hours in total to create. If you only have an hour or two a day then it’s going to take a month+ to publish your pillar articles.
However, once you have created the foundation you’re set to start publishing your short form articles much more frequently. Figure out a schedule that works for you. Maybe it’s an article a day or two articles a week. Whatever fits your schedule keep writing and publishing quality, informative, valuable content.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to improve your rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs). SEO should be applied to all pages and posts on your blog. There are many ways to optimize your blog content for better search results and the best approach is to implement as many as possible while still providing quality content. Let’s cover a few here.
Focus Key Phrase
A focus key phrase is a word or phrase that is the primary focus of the article.means focusing on a key phrase per article.
Optimally, it should be 4 words long. This provides enough input for the search algorithms to perform query categorization. In other words, some searches require newly updated information while others are seeking historical data.
Your focus key phrase should be mentioned:
- in the slug of the url
- in the title on the page in <H1> tags. Nothing else should be in <H1> tags on the page.
- in the intro section of the page
- in some of the <H2> through <H6> subheadings
- in the meta description for the page
As previously mentioned, short-form articles are typically more than 500 and less than 2,000 words. Whereas long-form articles are 2,000+ words. To rank higher in Google, it is recommended to create high quality posts of 1,000 words or more. Try expanding those short form articles to 1,000 words while still delivering quality (no fluff).
Google’s advice when it comes to images is to “create a great user experience. Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
There are three purposes for images on your site.
First, is to provide additional context for your page content. Images are worth 1,000 words after all.
Second, your images could appear in Google Images results. The title of your post and possible even the meta description will appear under the image. They should all be related and reinforce each other.
Third, the alt=”” attribute can help describe the image for users who use screen readers or have low-bandwidth connections. Search engines use alt text to better understand the content of the page. Use your key phrase or synonyms in the alt text where applicable, but not every alt text, to help improve SEO.
Internal links are hyperlinks in your content that point to other posts or pages on your blog. They are great for users to find more information about certain topics, especially when links to short form posts originate from long form posts. They are also great for web crawlers to map out your site. Internal links should flow like a hierarchical graph with your home page at the top followed linking to main navigational pages and down the line until finally reaching the short, specific posts that have the least amount of links in the text. Sometimes pages are only visible when searched. Web crawlers won’t search your site they’ll only crawl the links. In that case, create a cornerstone page with links to those pages/posts as well.
External links are hyperlinks to other websites. Other websites linking to your blog are also considered external links, but we’ll cover those in the next section as backlinks. When creating external links to other sites you have the option to tell the web crawler to either follow or nofollow the link. Letting the crawler follow the link to the external site potentially lets the search engine add value to the article and rank it higher in search results.
If you view the source code of your page you’ll see a few meta values in the head section. The meta description is where you can summarize the page’s content. When part of your meta description is within the phrase searched for by a user, it’s more likely to show up in search results. It’s a good idea to include your focus key phrase in your meta description. Include a call to action in the meta description as well to entice viewers to click through to your site.
2. Grow Your Blog: Getting Users To Your Blog
Part 2 of the how to grow your blog guide is getting users to your blog. Even after implementing all the right SEO strategies it will take time and patience for your pages to move up the search engine rankings. So let’s discuss additional ways to get people to your blog.
Where are my people?
The first step in my guide on how to start a blog is to find a niche market. I emphasize that the niche is a market and not a product. It’s where buyers and sellers come together.
When focusing on a niche market, understand who your target audience is. You should even go as far as identifying who your perfect customer is and defining their demographics so you can produce content catered specifically to their needs. Once defined you can better understand where they are online. Then it’s your job to go there. Be it on Reddit, Quora, Slack, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
You’re writing a blog and creating content for a specific audience. They’re not just going to come to you. It’s important to promote your content where your target audience is.
Leveraging social media
Once you understand your target audience it will be fairly easy to pinpoint which social media platform they frequent. The goal behind promoting your content on social media is to 1) get it in front of your followers who follow you because they’re interested in your content and 2) have your followers share your content. All social media platforms have a certain tone and you should cater your messages accordingly.
LinkedIn is more business focused. Use it to post news about your blog and professional content.
Twitter is less formal. Share blog posts, news, images and create polls to increase user engagement.
Facebook is less formal as well. You can create a separate page for your blog and link to new blog posts and news to keep your Facebook followers informed.
Instagram is very casual. Use it to post photos and stories with a casual tone.
There are plenty of other social media sites. If it makes sense for you to join a social media site under the name of your blog then do it. Whether your blog is in your personal name or you’ve created a different domain name, the name of the game is branding. Hopefully, you were able to get the same social media username across all platforms for consistency. And you use this account to promote your blog with shareable content.
The same goes for Q&A sites like StackOverflow, Quora and even Reddit. If it makes sense for you to create an account on behalf of your blog then do so. Even if you don’t use it right away at least you’re building brand consistency and you can build brand awareness on those platforms when you decide it’s the right time.
A few things are important when answering questions on Q&A sites
- answer the question that was asked. be concise and clear. fluff is unnecessary
- provide a thoughtful answer with value for everyone who has that same question
- contribute to the community. without it there would be no demand for your blog’s content
- don’t always include a link back to your site, it’s spammy. people can always see your name and tagline and find your site that way
Backlinks are hyperlinks on other sites that point to a page or post on your blog. Growing the number of backlinks to your blog is very beneficial in two ways. First, search engines look at the quantity of backlinks going to your site and the quality and relevance of the referring site. A link to your site that’s posted on a popular, reputable website will be more important (rank higher) from the perspective of the search engine than a backlink that’s posted on some obscure site. The more reputable backlinks you get the more reputable your site becomes.
The second benefit is being able to reach the audience of the site that’s posting your backlink.
Of course, you could reach out to any website owner and request they mention your article by backlinking to it. But what’s in it for them? A better method might be to start off by using one of these well known sites. Typically, you’ll offer a quote or short review with your expert opinion in exchange for a backlink included in the text or signature block of the quote.
HARO – Help A Reporter Out provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories. To get backlinks from HARO, sign up for an account as a source and opt-in to get daily emails. Select the most relevant opportunities and respond directly via email. When your response is used by a blogger or journalist you’ll be rewarded with a backlink.
MyBlogU – MyBlogU is a place for blogger and website owners to collaborate on subjects. Similar to HARO you can provide other bloggers and journalists with quotes. Usually, you’ll receive a backlink in return.
Pen.io – Pen.io is a site where you can publish a one-page website. Since you’re creating the website you can add your own backlinks to the page. I like to use Pen.io to create landing pages and simple prototype pages to test out ideas. If successful I turn them into permanent pages, features or websites that I own. If unsuccessful I leave the Pen.io page as is with backlinks to my site.
Once you start seeing progress with sites like these you’ll be able to tell which quotes and content are most valuable to other bloggers and journalists. With that knowledge you can begin crafting better emails to individual blog owners requesting backlinks in return for a quote or short review on their site.
Guest posting is another great way to grow your blog. A guest post is a blog article that you write for someone else’s blog (or vice versa). To do it the right way it should be mutually beneficial. What I mean is when you write a guest post it should a one or two sentence introducing you and your blog. And that’s where you put a backlink to your blog. The article you write should then help out the blog that it’s posted on. It could be a review or a it could be an article from your own authoritative perspective providing information that their audience would find valuable.
Try to find complementary blogs within your niche market for guest posting. Instead of approaching direct competitor blogs for audience share, it’s best to find a blog that complements yours within the same niche. This is a win-win situation, where the audience can easily become fans of both blogs.
3. Grow Your Blog: Retaining Users On Your Blog
Part 3 of the how to grow your blog guide is retaining users on your website. By this point you’ve created extremely valuable content. You’ve promoted it through social media and by posting helpful answers related to your topic on Q&A sites. You continue to increase the amount of backlinks pointing to your site through services seeking quotes and by reaching out to individual blog owners. SEO is starting to work and your pages are moving up the
More and more readers are finding your site every day because of the work you’ve put in to implementing these methods. Since your content is valuable it will keep them on the page. The next goal is to turn them into returning visitors. The simple answer to getting return visitors is to turn your blog into a community. Make it a two-way platform. Remain actively engaged once posting your content. Here are a few ways to do so.
One of the first things to setup when starting a blog is your newsletter. You may not have anything to send out just yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start getting subscribers as you start getting visitors to the site.
The best Email Subscription plugin that I like to use is called Constant Contact Forms.
If you have a Constant Contact account, all new subscriber email addresses will be automatically added to the Constant Contact email lists of your choosing. If you’re not yet a Constant Contact customer, sign up for a Free Trial!
While managing the plugin you can edit the form fields and the data that will be collected. The easier it is for someone to signup the more likely they will. I like to modify my forms so they only collect an email address when people sign up to receive my newsletter.
Newsletter On Home Page
For TrailSix, I chose to add the newsletter signup form right on the home page. Take a look at the font size and short calls to action leading up to the subscription form. They tell the subscribers what they are going to get in the newsletter (web development and online marketing strategies) and also what they will be able to achieve by receiving the newsletter (grow your online website).
Once you create the form in the Newsletter plugin you can add it to any page with the shortcode
Newsletter In Popup
If you’d rather add your newsletter form to a slide-in on pop-over then check out a plugin called Hustle.
The plugin also allows you to modify the welcome email after a user subscribes. It’s recommended to personalize the email and address it to the individual by name, which can be done if you collect their first name in the subscription form. Also, include a thank you for signing up to the newsletter and give them an idea how often to expect an email.
This is the welcome email that I send out when a new subscriber joins the TrailSix Newsletter.
Subject: Welcome to the TrailSix Newsletter! Body: Thank you for subscribing to the TrailSix Newsletter! We'll send you one email with the latest news about blogging, content marketing and web development every week.
So once you have subscribers, what else do you put in a newsletter?
The Constant Contact Form plugin lets you create, send and track e-mails seamlessly. Within the plugin you can setup your company information complete with logo, name, motto and links to your social accounts. They can be included in the header or footer of the emails.
Number your newsletter for easier reference by you and your subscribers.
Make them available on your website so your subscribers can view the archives. Perhaps you introduce a time delay between sending the latest newsletter out and publishing it to your website so there’s additional value in subscribing. The convenience of not having to remember to check your website each week is also of value to most subscribers. A link to those archives is a good idea to include on your newsletter too.
The type of newsletter that you’re creating will depend upon the amount of time you have and the number of articles you have available to include in it. You’re aiming to provide value to your newsletter recipients. The type of newsletter format you choose depends on your goals.
If you’re trying to drive more traffic to your website you may want to publish a monthly recap of your blog posts. The newsletter would include the post title, perhaps a featured image and the introductory text of the article. The title would link to your article and you could include a button below the summary text in the newsletter that links to the article too.
If you’re writing a review or promoting a product you would include a single article in the newsletter that focuses on that product or service. Most likely you’d have affiliate links within the text or included in a call to action at the end of the review.
If your newsletter is the product itself, or rather it is the market that brings together buyers and sellers (posters and readers) then you might not need to link to external resources at all. You could profit by establishing a freemium pricing structure that information seekers would pay for access to those who hold the information.
In addition to newsletter subscribers there are those who subscribe as members to your blog. Without a doubt you want to maintain open communication with these members. They not only consume your content, but went so far as to register on your site. Whether that was to post a comment or gain access to additional material it doesn’t matter. What matters is always engaging them.
Think about asking your readers questions throughout your blog posts and especially at the end of your posts. Posing questions to your audience gets them thinking and invites comments. Those are comments that you can respond to with clarification or to prompt further investigation into a topic.
Answer questions. It not only helps your readers, but others who might have the same question too. It might spark other questions as well. Questions provide insight into potential future topics to write about. Remember, your blog readers are trying to get from point A to point B in the most efficient manner. Their questions reflect the gaps in their skills or abilities. Sometimes you even have other experts chiming in, which can be informative even if they take a contrarian stance. If enough people have the same question or the gap is big enough then it probably warrants a new article about that topic. Good for you. Your blog grows with valuable content that’s relevant to your audience!
How To Grow Your Blog: Summary
Thank you for reading this guide on how to grow a blog. I hope you agree that with a little work it’s not too hard to do.
You can drastically increase your site visitors if you’re willing to put in the work to promote the valuable content you’ve created through social media outlets and generating backlinks.
This guide contains a lot of the steps needed to grow your blog. I will be updating this page frequently with new information and resources as required so that you always have the latest guide to review.
Are you ready to grow your blog? What are your most successful ways to attract and retain readers? Let us know in the comments!
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Next up: How To Monetize Your Blog