This is a guest contribution by Marya Jan, blogging coach from Writing Happiness.
What’s the biggest excuse you hear from people who are not getting the results they want from their blogging?
“I don’t know anyone online.”
Not ‘my content might not be good’. Not ‘I don’t a clear idea of what I am doing’. Not ‘I know it takes time and I am learning everything I can’.
None of that. It’s always because they don’t have any connections with the big shots.
Allow me to put up my hand and say this … I have over 1,000 subscribers (multiple times over actually) and I have done this under 18 months of blogging AND without having connections with any famous people.
I did meet Darren Rowse, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, Tim Ferris and Annabel Candy at the Problogger Conference in 2011 but I was so new that I was too scared to even introduce myself properly.
I am pretty sure this doesn’t count. So what does? So glad you asked.
If you are someone who has been blogging for a few months, you know how hard it is to attract readers. You spend insane amounts of time creating content but nobody takes you seriously. You hope to get a few shares, but all you hear is dead silence
You might be new-ish but you have quickly realized this reality: Blogging is hard work and sometimes it seems downright cruel..
You know honeymoon period is over
Creating quality content is getting you nowhere (assuming it is high quality) and you need a plan B. And you can’t come up with anything to save your life.
I have another suggestion. I propose that you go back and revisit your plan A. Identify loopholes, see if you could improve things so that you actually don’t need any other plans.
That’s how I did it.
Your first plan might look something like this:
- Start a blog
- Pick a topic
- Identify your audience
- Create useful content
- Promote that content
- Differentiate yourself from others (All of this within 2 weeks)
- Form relationships with influencers
- Grow your blog by leaps and bounds
So basically after about two weeks worth of work, you are relying on getting your blog off the ground by befriending people in high places.
Let me tell you, this is not a particularly smart strategy.
Through own my experience and by through coaching other clients (Yes, I am a blogging coach), I have found that most influencers won’t take you seriously unlessyou have some sort of proven record.
Allow me to explain: Influencers are super busy people. They are very, very, very busy people. If you need to earn their attention, you need to prove you are worth it. So in my experience, you can have meaningful relationships with A-list bloggers but it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Not for most of us, anyway.
It takes time and lot of effort BEFORE they notice you. (And nobody will tell you this.)
If you trying to do this too early on, you are going about it in the wrong way. Instead, you should focus your time on your blog just so that you know what you are doing.
You need to do things right enough that you have a 1k subscribers worthy blog so you have the skill and confidence of approaching them properly.
So let’s have a look at the plan again, shall we?
After delivering hundreds of blog reviews and coaching many clients, I have found these to be the primary causes of why people don’t get their first 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000.
1. Poor first Impression
Your blog looks amateurish, tacky or just plain spammy.
When someone new lands on it for the first time, they get no sense of what the blog is about, who is writing it and if it’s any good. There are too many flashy ads, or too many images, colours, links and tabs competing for attention. The content doesn’t seem appealing. The headlines are boring, images are of poor quality, and everything is a big chunk of text.
Your blog title doesn’t tell them anything about who you are about and how you can help them. Your visitors are so confused that the only option that makes sense is to leave.
The easiest way to fix this is to make your site clutter free and get rid of all the unnecessary elements adding to the chaos. You want to make it as easy as you can for your readers to navigate.
Most people cram their sidebars with lots of information in order to look like they have been around for a while. That they know what they are doing. Please don’t. Things like tag clouds, categories, search boxes, links to other bloggers aren’t really helpful. Not really.
Don’t stuff your sidebar with ads either. I am guessing you don’t have enough traffic to make any decent money anyway.
2. Unspecified target audience
You are not making it clear who the blog is for. You are not saying to a particular group of people (maybe you aren’t sure who they are?) that this blog is for them.
For instance, let’s say you are a business coach. However this is a very general term. If you don’t make it absolutely clear that you are writing for start-ups, or small business owners, or mid sized business, or executives; you are just confusing your readers.
One great way to make it happen is to say that in your tag line or in a mini author bio that you display on the sidebar. You’ve got to have people saying, ‘Yes, this seems perfect for me.’
3. Incomplete About page
People are really interested in person behind the blog. They want to know who that creative soul is. They want to like that person. They want to be that person.
A lot of people totally mess this up. Either they talk too much or too little.
Often they present the information in the wrong order. They start off with their story and why they write the blog and then barely touch upon how they can help you. People lose interest.
People want to know who writes this blog but more importantly they want to know why they should care.
Tell them why you are relevant to them, and follow it by your story and other details. And keep it brief.
4. Negative social proof
One thing that will make the most difference to the number of readers you get is the display of social proof.
When people come to a place where they see others hanging out, they feel confident in making the same choice. For this reason, focus to create content that gets shared, liked and get commented on.
From day one, add credibility building elements to your site. The most popular of them all is the ‘As seen on’ testimonial. You want to land guest posts on popular blogs and then proudly display their logos on your site.
5. No point of difference
This is something that many new bloggers struggle to answer in their earlier days of blogging so I won’t say to worry too much about it. That being said, if you spend some time thinking about what makes you different from the rest, you will find it easier to create content and would be more focused in related tasks.
There are several ways to help make you stand out from the crowd.
This is the thing; you are the most unique thing about your blog. There is nobody else just like you, with your point of view, insights and experiences.
The more you accept that and highlight it, the more chances you will have to appeal to those who are truly the right people. So really hone in your voice and bring out that personality of yours for the world to see. People can’t get that anywhere else.
They love the snark in Ashley Ambridge’s voice. They love Danielle Laporte’s soul. They adore Darren Rowse for a kind, down to earth spirit. What’s your secret sauce?
Yes, you are providing solutions to somebody’s problems but why are you doing it, really? What is your big idea? What do you stand for?
Do you believe life is an adventure? Chris Guillebeau
Do you want to show people how work less and play more? Tim Ferris
Do you want people to focus on the essentials? Leo Babauta
Do you want to empower women in business and life? Marie Forleo
Do you want to offer personal development advice for smart people? Steve Palvina
If you believe in something, people will believe in you. Tell them now.
The way you dress
Your design, colours, logo, tag line, images – everything speaks volumes and appeal to a certain kind of person.
Want to attract go getters, how about choosing red or maroon in your theme? How about appealing to gentle, earth loving souls with the light green colour? Inspiration is your game then might soothing blue is what you need.
Your design needs to support your theme, mission and content and make you stronger. Marie Forleo is hip, Mars Dorian is bold, what are you?
Your specific market, your content, the needs you solve and the exact solution you provide based on your expertise is often enough to differentiate you from others.
Derek Halpern teaches you marketing based on research findings. Corbett Barr teaches you how to get traffic because he has done it. What have you got on offer?
6. No incentive to sign up
Many new bloggers are finding it super hard to find new readers and to keep old ones also. One reason is because they don’t get them on their list. They don’t place a subscription box in a prominent position and don’t give them any reason to subscribe.
Shouldn’t the blog itself be good enough reason? Yes, it is, but adding an incentive to your sign up box works really well.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just put together some old posts and offer as a freebie. One, nobody cares and even if somebody did, they won’t take you seriously.
But you don’t have to spend days or months creating something. Jon Morrow says the best opt-in offers are those that offer some sort of short cut of doing a task. A cheat sheet of sorts (His Headline Hacks is a great example).
Teach people to do one thing and do it really well. People don’t find long freebies appealing that take too long to read and would take months to implement. A report, mini ebook, white paper or a short webinar works well.
7. Lack of self promotion
Finally people never sign up because they don’t know you exist. You have to actively go out and promote yourself.
Again, you might feel compelled to remind me that that’s why you need relationships with famous bloggers so they can promote you. Let me tell you that is not the only way you can drive traffic to your blog.
You can guest post on mid-sized blogs. Often they don’t publish many guest posts so their audience might be more inclined to follow you. You can create YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, answer questions in forums such as yahoo answers and Quora.
And no, I am not snubbing social media. But social media does take a while to work, especially if you are new. By all means participate in social media but don’t make it the main focus of your traffic generation efforts.
The point is: you have to promote a lot. Spend 20% of your time creating content for your own blog and the rest on promoting it.
Being smart or talented is not enough to build a successful blog
Then what is? Creating super useful content. Being able to stand out from the rest. And for the right people too. And to be worthy of getting some attention from A-list bloggers. Then you can approach the bloggers you worship. There is a good chance you’ll hear back.
Marya Jan is on a mission to help bloggers get their 1,000 subscribers. She is a blogging coach at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook ‘9 New Rules of Blogging – Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours.