This is the story of a blogger. He started his blog, taught himself about copywriting, and figured out who the one person he was writing for really was. He worked his tail off creating content.
But his blog was a ghost town. There were no visitors, no comments … nothing.
In a mad rush to find traffic, he created a Twitter account and followed every blogger he could think of. He tweeted and tweeted, but didn’t get much traffic.
A week later, he realized that Facebook might be a better way to go. He created a Fan page, added a Like button to his blog, and messaged all of his Facebook friends about his latest post.
It didn’t go viral, so he moved on to SEO. He bought a couple of courses, got himself listed in a bunch of directories, and created a linkwheel or two.
This went on, and on, and on—to commenting, social bookmarking, PPC, email marketing, and back to content. And still, no traffic. Even worse, when anyone would search for him, they would find a dozen different half-finished social media profiles and pages.
And this could all have been avoided…
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)
This fictional but archetypal blogger suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).
SOS is a serious problem, particularly for online entrepreneurs. Here’s the general definition from Karen Greenstreet: “It’s not quite ADD/ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”
Why is this so common for new bloggers? It’s a combination of two things:
- You care about your blog, and really want it to succeed. You want to make the very best use of limited time and resources, provide for your family, travel around the world and live the exciting Internet lifestyle, and your attitude is that you just need to be shown what steps to take, and you’ll take them.
- You’re inexperienced, and don’t really know what works and what doesn’t. Everything you know is by observation and hearsay—you believe it’s true because you heard it from this authority blogger or that Internet marketing guru.
That second item is a huge problem. They say that the person in an argument who has the strongest frame wins, and whenever it comes to traffic or blogging, no matter which authority blogger or guru you’re reading, their frame will always be stronger, because they’re farther than you are. The only problem is that their advice all seems so contradictory!
What’s the best strategy?
There are tons of strategies out there for growing a blog audience. Here are some of the big umbrella strategies:
- Content is king. You’ve heard this before—very simply, it means that your strategy starts and ends with creating truly awesome content, which Corbett Barr calls “epic.” To implement this sort of strategy, you need to understand your readers, and learn how to write really, really well.
- Community is king. This strategy is all about being a part of a community—finding the communities that you want to be a part of, and getting involved in the conversation until you’re a fixture there. To do this you have to build relationships with larger and smaller bloggers, eventually leading to content exchanges and guest posts.
- Social media is king. This strategy is all about being on Twitter, Facebook, and using all of the latest apps and solutions like Buffer and Triberr to make the most of them.
- SEO is king. This strategy is all about writing content that will get ranked on search engines, so that your traffic will ultimately come from there. To do this you have to steer clear of sleazy “black hat” tactics in favor of honest and effective strategies, and maybe find some good SEO software to help.
Of course, each of these strategies comes complete with a host of different tactical options for you to choose from as well, and they aren’t mutually exclusive (for example, even if you aren’t a “Content is King” purist, you probably agree that great content has to go with whatever strategy you choose).
Now, I do have my own favorite blog growth strategy, which is a combination of some of the above, but the most important thing is to avoid the worst strategy…
What’s the worst strategy?
I like some strategies more than others, but the absolute worst strategy is to keep on jumping from strategy to strategy and tactic to tactic.
Whether your strategy of choice is content, community, social media, or SEO, it will take time, respectively, for your writing to get really good and in tune with your audience, the community to get to know who you are and what you’re about, your social networks to notice what you’re doing, or Google to realize that your content is good and you aren’t a fly-by-night operation trying to game their algorithms.
Whatever strategy you choose, you’ve got to give it the time to really start getting some traction, and gurus proclaiming astronomical overnight results notwithstanding, these things really do take time. Just as a for example, I’ve written over 20 guest posts since the beginning of the year, and only now am I starting to feel the benefits of a tiny bit of name recognition on the Internet.
These things take time, particularly in an environment that is so shell-shocked from scams and empty promises bandied about by self-proclaimed gurus.
What’s your strategy?
You’ve got to pick a strategy, and stick with it—for two to three months of intense work, at the very least. But which strategy should you choose?
Here is a checklist that you can use to evaluate whether a strategy is right for you:
- Does it make sense? Marketing hype aside, does it really make sense that this strategy will work, based on your understanding of how the internet and your audience function?
- Is it compelling to the audience? Imagine that you’re on the receiving end of the strategy—would it be compelling to you? Would it drive you to subscribe, engage in a conversation, or become a customer? Or would it just annoy you?
- Do you understand what is involved in making it work? Is everything clear to you, or are there questions that you still need answers to?
- Is the time commitment realistic? Different strategies require different investments of time—do you have the time to invest that this strategy will require?
- Is this strategy consistent with your skills and temperament? Will you have to do things that you either don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do, in order for this strategy to work?
- Is it consistent with your brand? This is important—if it will give people the wrong idea, then it doesn’t really matter if it drives traffic, does it?
- Will this strategy have a broad enough reach? If everything goes well (or not so well, because no plan works out perfectly), will it reach enough people in a compelling way to get you to your objectives (or at least to the next step towards those objectives)?
Is it time to find a new strategy?
Having chosen a strategy to focus on, it is absolutely critical that you stick with it long enough for it to make a difference and get some traction, and that usually takes longer than you think. Here are some questions that can guide you in deciding whether it’s time to move on to a new strategy:
- Have you given your current strategy two to three months of hard work? An hour or two per week doesn’t count—however you’re measuring your effort, you should have put a lot of it into the strategy for a significant amount of time before bailing on it.
- How is this new strategy different from the old strategy? What are the fundamental assumptions that suggest the new one will work when the old did not?
- If you’re planning on adding the new one to the old one, instead of replacing the old one, is that really practical? Will you be able to spend the time that both strategies need to be effective?
- Have you asked for help to make the old strategy work before jumping to a new one? There are lots of talented, generous, and very capable people out there who would be more than happy to give you a pointer in the right direction when you need it.
Okay, over to you. Can you think back on a strategy that you might have abandoned too soon, or that you never should have tried in the first place? What motivated you to do it? What strategies are working for you now? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!