This guest post is by Chuck Rylant of ChuckRylant.com.
The goal was to find a single resource—a roadmap or blueprint—to take my blog with minimal traffic and turn it into something significant. I was a few months away from launching a book and needed a platform to make it happen.
The problem was not insufficient information; the problem was too much information. The Internet is full of advice ranging in price from free to six figures, promising the answer. I did not want to become a professional blogger, but I wanted to learn enough to build my blog into something that could be taken seriously.
I decided to pick one product and stick to it. That worked, and it’s continuing to work. With a publishing schedule producing only three to four posts each month, here’s what I did to bring my blog, which was ranked at 8 million, to less than 500k on Alexa, fast.
31 Days to Build a Better Blog
There were many tactics that worked well, but instead of listing everything, here are the main points that likely led to the majority of results.
First I bought 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and decided to follow it exactly, even when there were times I thought the advice wouldn’t matter much. It turned out that those things mattered most.
For example, one of the steps was to create an “elevator pitch” for my blog. This did not result in a measurable or immediate boost in traffic. It was also difficult and boring to create. However, it turned out to be one of the most important steps.
Creating that elevator pitch forced me to concentrate on my audience and get clear about my message. It took me a week of brainstorming, writing, and editing, but that allowed me to be very precise with every message I write not only on my blog, but also in social media, guest posts, and comments on other blogs.
There are several ways to measure blog success, and their appropriateness varies with your goals. My intent was to promote my book, but because it wasn’t for sale while I was building my platform, book sales would not work as a metric.
Instead, I needed data that I could measure to see results and keep motivated. I used Alexa to give me an arbitrary “score” and Google Analytics to measure actual traffic. I also used email opt-ins and the RSS feed as measures of my success.
I began commenting on several blogs. Initially I commented on any blog I could find, and paid extra attention on “do-follow” blogs—those that do not use the “no-follow” tag to prevent search engines from following comment links.
After a month of reviewing the analytics, I discovered something very important about commenting. It’s difficult to track the exact SEO benefit of each comment, but my best traffic has come from my most thought-out comments on other blogs.
I did not plan this, but when I ignored whether a blog was a do-follow or not, and instead commented when I was passionate about a topic, my visitors from those blogs spent on average four or five minutes on my on my site. That is a very long time on a website—especially when compared to traffic from other sources, which averages well under a minute.
Before beginning 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, I had an opt-in box on my blog that was connected to the RSS feed through Aweber. It offered nothing more than “Join to get the latest update.” As per the advice in 31 Days, I did two things that dramatically increased traffic to my blog.
First, I added a free PDF report bonus for those who subscribed to my RSS feed. It wasn’t a great bonus, but it was something that I had already written, and I wanted to get started rather than waiting. It’s easy to invent ways to procrastinate instead of moving forward.
Second, I added a pop-up box with the offer and opt-in box. Before the pop-up box, the subscriber-to-visitor ratio was .4%. I created a split test of the pop-up box with and without the PDF report bonus. Without the bonus, the ratio jumped to 2.9%, but with the bonus, it climbed all the way to 4.6%.
This was an important discovery. Not only have I grown my email list, but these people also receive an email every time I publish a new post, which brings traffic back to the blog and is often re-tweeted by subscribers.
Daily posts are usually the standard in the blog world. I struggled with this approach for two reasons. First, I did not want blogging to become my primary pass time, yet I wanted to write longer and more in-depth magazine style posts. Second, my goal was to build an email list and I felt that daily emails were too frequent for my market, and would lead to a high unsubscribe rate.
Without testing, I have no way to verify this, but it really doesn’t matter because I do not want to write a blog post every day. Instead I committed to three to four posts per month, and I publicly promised this in my elevator pitch. Although infrequent, this consistency greatly improved my product over the random and infrequent posts in the past.
Finally, I took a macro perspective to posting and used all forms of media to cross-promote the others. I realized there was some overlap between blog readers, email subscribers, social media, and even my occasional in-person speaking gig; however, the overlap was small. Instead of assuming readers would see my message across all media, I assumed the opposite.
By cross-promoting my messages, I’ve grown all lists and increased readership. For example, I have messages that only go to my email subscribers. Occasionally, I refer my email subscribers to a blog post or a message posted on Facebook. This gets my viewers more engaged across different media and has been very effective at spreading my message.
In the end…
I’m continually learning and improving my blog. I did not set out to be a professional blogger, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to learn and use the tools that professional bloggers use.
My little success in a short time came down to one thing—following a clear and concise roadmap.
Before starting this plan, I was jumping all over the place and chasing the next bright, shiny object instead of consistently implementing the steps most likely to create the greatest results. Perhaps you’ve experienced that too. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.