You can read all the blogging advice in the world, but none of it matters unless you take action.
To set your blog up to be a massive success, you have to ruthlessly focus your efforts on things that work, and stop spending precious time on things that don’t.
Today I’m going to make it easier for you to take the action you need to take to make your blog better. All you have to do is set aside 10 or 15 or 60 minutes to tackle one of the 21 simple steps below.
The more you complete, the more progress you’ll make.
You’ve probably already completed some of these, but I guarantee you haven’t done all of them. If you have completed all of ‘em, please tell me in the comments. Better yet, share one of your own extra tips.
Update: We’ve specifically created a 13-week course for people trying to successfully launch their own blog and have massive success. How to Start a Blog That Matters can help you create a blog that will change your life and the lives of your readers.
Action #1: Start Building an Email List (20-30 minutes)
Why this is important: If you aren’t building an email list, you’re missing out on the most powerful and consistent way to drive repeat visitors and customers to your website or blog. With an email list, you become less and less dependent on external sources of traffic, and gain more ability to interact with your blog’s audience.
Start building an email list in 20 minutes:
- Sign up for an email marketing account with AWeber or MailChimp.
- Create a sign-up form for your email list. Use these instructions for AWeber or MailChimp.
- Put your sign-up form on your blog, both in the sidebar and on your about page.
- (optional) Offer a free giveaway for people who subscribe to your list. Offering a workbook or an ebook or video series (or even a whole toolbox of resources) can drive many more signups than not offering something.
Don’t wait to start your email list. The sooner you do this, the faster your list and your blog will grow.
When you have an email list, you can create forms and ask people to sign up for email updates like this: enter your email below to get updates from Think Traffic and access to the subscriber-only toolbox of resources:
That took me 30 seconds to add to this post and now I’ll get more email subscribers
Action #2: Start a Post Ideas Journal (10 Minutes)
The best ideas for blog posts don’t always come while you’re sitting down to write. Try keeping a simple journal of blog post ideas so you don’t miss out on the best opportunities.
You can write this in a Google Doc, an old-fashioned notebook or by starting a quick draft in WordPress for each idea.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, the point is just to keep a running list to work from.
Action #3: Add Facebook “Like” Buttons (15 to 20 minutes)
People who visit your site represent a massive marketing opportunity. If your visitors like what you’ve published, some of them will share your content with their friends, but usually only if you make it easy.
Over 500 million people are on Facebook, making it the biggest social network in the world. Chances are, a lot of your readers are on Facebook. Give them an easy way to share your great content by including Facebook “like” buttons on your posts. You could get a ton of traffic from Facebook. Here’s how.
Add Facebook like buttons to your posts in 20 minutes:
- Head over to the Facebook Like Button configuration page.
- Configure your Like Buttonsas you wish. The page will show you how they’ll look on the fly as you make changes.
- Copy the codeFacebook provides.
- Paste the codeinto your blog posts, anywhere you want the button to appear.
- (optional) If you’re up for the challenge (or if you have a tech person), you can add the Like Button to all of your posts, either at the beginning or end of each post, or both. This will require editing some PHP files for your WordPress theme, and the specific instructions depend on which theme or platform you’re using. Here are sample instructions for the Thesis theme.
While we’re at it, if you like this post, I will love you forever for clicking the like button here:
Action #4: Add Twitter Retweet Buttons (15 to 20 minutes)
Twitter is another huge potential source of traffic for your blog. This site receives hundreds of visitors every month from Twitter, and it takes very little time to gain those benefits.
The method for adding a retweet button to your blog is pretty much the same as adding Like Buttons above. First you’ll need to head over to the Twitter Retweet Button configuration page (I actually prefer the TweetMeme retweet button because it seems a little more accurate). In either case you’ll want to copy the code provided for your configured button and paste it into your posts (or optionally add it to every post by modifying your theme files).
Action #5: Make a List of Every Blogger in Your Niche (30 minutes)
Whatever you blog about, chances are there are other people who blog on the same topic. Your job is to become friends with as many of your fellow bloggers as possible.
Why would you want to become friends with your “competition?”
It’s simple. In every niche I’ve studied, the bloggers who succeed fastest are the ones who band together and help each other out, instead of trying to protect turf. Don’t think of other bloggers in your space as competitors, they’re actually your best chance of making your blog a massive success.
The strategy is simple: make a list of everyone who blogs on similar topics to you. Don’t just include a-listers. Include your peers and up-and-comers as well. Now prioritize the list based on who you think you’d naturally hit it off with.
If you blog in a huge niche, this doesn’t really need to include everyone who blogs on the topic. If you blog in a tiny niche, you might want to expand a little beyond your space.
Making the list is the first step. Next comes the real work. Make it your goal to reach out and create genuine relationships with as many people on the list as possible.
Special resource: start with these tips on how to connect with people online.
Action #6: Add Social Proof to Your Blog (15 minutes)
Social proof is a powerful influencer. When people see that other people are doing something, they’re more likely to do that thing themselves. If they see lots of people are subscribed to your blog, they’ll be more likely to subscribe as well.
You have to be careful though. Social proof only works when the numbers are impressive. Showing new visitors that 23 people are subscribed to your site probably won’t drive new subscribers. In fact, it might actually repel people (social proof works both ways).
If your blog is established, you might be able to show RSS or email subscriber numbers, or monthly readers. If your blog is new, you might want to show Twitter follower numbers (Twitter followers tend to be easier to come by), Facebook fan page subscribers or something else that looks more impressive. You might also simply need to wait until you have something with enough momentum to display.
How to add social proof to your site in 15 minutes:
- Decide on which form of social proof to display(use whichever seems more impressive – avoid numbers less than 500 or 1,000). For most people, displaying RSS subscribers or Twitter followers is a good option.
- To add an RSS subscriber count, you’ll want to use either Feedburner or some other service that keeps track of your subscriber count. In your Feedburner account, look for the FeedCount link under the “Publicize” tab.
- To add a Twitter follower count, TwitterCounter is the standard choice. Start by configuring your widget here.
- Once you have your Twitter or RSS widget configured, you need to copy the code provided and put it somewhere on your site. An easy place to put your widget is the sidebar of your blog. Just add a new text widget and paste the code in there.
Action #7: Refine and Explain Your Blog’s Unique Selling Proposition (30 minutes)
Why this is important: to attract and retain visitors to your blog, you have to answer the question “why should I read your blog instead of the hundreds (or thousands) of other choices out there?”
To answer that question, you need a point of difference or unique selling proposition. Your blog needs to be different in some way from other blogs in your space.
If you haven’t thought about this before, start with this guide to finding your unique selling proposition. It shouldn’t be hard to identify several ways your site is or could be different.
Once you’ve identified your “special sauce,” you need to communicate it to your visitors. Do this either through your tagline, in your sidebar, in your about page or within your blog posts. You’ll probably want to explain your USP in several of those places, and remind your visitors regularly.
Action #8: Learn SEO Basics (60 minutes)
Why this is important: Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those things that takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. By just learning the basics, you can set yourself up to take advantage of a ton of opportunities over the coming months and years for your blog.
Special resource: check out this free SEO primer from Rand Fishkin of the leading SEO company SEOMoz called Using SEO To Build Your Brand & Get More Customers.
- The Simple SEO Strategy You Can Build an Empire Around (Complete With Beginner’s Intro to SEO)(Think Traffic)
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO (SEOMoz)
Action #9: Implement a Call to Action (5 minutes)
The best way to get visitors to take a particular action is to explicitly ask them to. This is known as a call to action.
Want more email subscribers? Ask people to subscribe.
Want more retweets of your post? Ask people to retweet.
Try this in your next post. Ask your readers to do something you want them to do. If your content is good and you’ve provided genuine value, some of your readers will be happy to help you out. Just ask politely and try different tactics to see what works best for your audience.
Once you dial in your call to action technique, make a habit of using a call to action whenever you want your visitors to take action.
Action #10: Show People Your Best Stuff (15 minutes)
When someone comes to your site, you need to put your best foot forward. The easiest way to do this is to link to some of your best posts in your sidebar or within a special “start here” page that you link to from your main navigation menu.
How you determine which posts are your best is up to you. You could show your most linked to posts, your most commented posts, your most viewed posts or something else. You could hand pick the posts you think best represent what your blog is all about.
If you want to show popular posts, you can use a widget to do the work. There are several good ones in the WordPress plugin directory. If you’ve never installed a plugin before, it’s pretty easy, but you might want to read the instructions first.
Action #11: Take Down the Ads (5 minutes)
When your blog is new, one of the worst things you can do is to plaster advertisements all over the place. If your blog is small, those ads won’t earn you more than a few bucks, but could be costing you big. You’ll turn off readers and stunt your growth during your critical formative months.
Is it really worth limiting your growth potential over a few bucks?
Once your site is bigger, you can start to introduce advertisements if you really want to in a tasteful and relevant way. Better yet, use a more effective way of earning income from your blog like affiliate marketing or consulting or developing your own products.
For now, take down the ads and focus on growth.
Action #12: Develop a Facebook Fan Page (60 minutes)
I already mentioned above that Facebook has 500 million registered users. In addition to adding “like” buttons to your posts, you should also consider setting up a Facebook fan page for your site.
The Think Traffic fan page has over 1250 members and is a top 10 referring site here. I’ve done very little to publicize the fan page and it doesn’t take much time to maintain.
I’m not an expert on Facebook pages by any means, but luckily my friend Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income blog has written an excellent Blogger’s Guide to Facebook.
Pat’s guide has just about everything you need to know about how bloggers can use Facebook. If you’re in a hurry and just want to learn how to set up your fan page, start with his 6-minute video on how to set up a page.
Even if you don’t plan to completely build out your Facebook fan page now, set one up sooner than later so readers who prefer connecting via Facebook can. At a minimum you can simply add an entry any time you write a new blog posts. Eventually you can expand the page to build community and interact with your members in a deeper way.
Action #13: Commit to Updating Your Outposts Regularly (10 minutes daily minimum)
Why this is important: outposts are an important concept in blogging. Your blog is your central platform, but outposts like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. can help you find and interact with new readers where they already hang out.
The key to making the best use of outposts is to get in the habit of updating them regularly. If you have multiple outposts you might want to focus on just one at first until you get the hang of making regular updates. You need to make regular updates to show your visitors you’re committed to the platform and that you’ll be providing additional value there.
How to commit to updating your outpost regularly:
- Set a reminder on your calendarat first to update your outpost every day.
- Study examplesof other blogs (preferably in your space) which have a thriving outpost. Observe the types of content they post, how they interact with members, and the frequency of posts.
- Make sure you don’t just treat your outpost as a glorified RSS feed (where you post only links to your recent blog posts). If you want your external community to thrive, you need to provide extra value.
Action #14: Try a New Content Format (90 minutes)
If you’re only writing similarly formatted blog posts, you might be missing out on some big opportunities. For example, maybe your audience prefers video over written content. Maybe you’re better at producing audio content than you are as a writer. Maybe you should be writing quick inspirational Seth Godin style posts instead of your usual standard 800 word posts.
Whatever format you’ve been using for blog posts, here is my challenge for you: get out of your comfort zone and try something completely new.
Choose from a format on the following list that you’ve never tried before:
- 2000 words or more
- 400 words or less
It doesn’t matter what you choose, the point is to get used to trying different content types. You need to find out whether your audience responds better to something you haven’t tried, or if you’re better at producing certain types you haven’t tried before.
Start with one new type now, and come back here later to try additional new types.
Action #15: Check Your Mindset
Why are you blogging? There are lots of valid reasons for blogging, but there’s one reason that has to be at the top of your list if you want to build a massive success.
You have to want to help or entertain people (or both).
If you don’t help or entertain, why should someone read your site? Your blog needs to solve problems, address needs, fulfill desires and enlighten or inspire. Whatever personal reasons you have for blogging need to take a back seat to delivering value to your target audience.
How to check your mindset in 10 minutes:
- Write down all the goalsyou have for your blog (money, fame, recognition, and anything else that comes to mind).
- Write down why you chose this particular topicto blog about.
- Write down why you are uniquely qualifiedto blog on your topic.
- Now check your answers. If one of your goals isn’t to help your readers, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic. If you didn’t choose your topic because you really care about it, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic. If you aren’t specially qualified to blog about your topic, you should reevaluate your motivations and topic.
Action #16: Write a Rant
Why this is important: common views yield common results. If you want to grow faster than everyone else in your space, you need unique views and bold opinions. When you feel strongly about something, you’ll make an impression on and form stronger relationships with your readers.
How to write a constructive rant in 60 minutes:
- The key here is to write a constructive rant, not just any rant. You want to write about something that could be improved or thought of in a better way.
- Think about the topic you blog about.What bothers you about the conventional wisdom? What do you think everyone is thinking but no one is saying?
- Make sure this is something you’re actually passionate about, don’t just choose a view counter to common opinion simply because it’s different. You want your passion to show in the post.
- Write your postin a stream of consciousness to begin with. Just let it flow. Edit after your first draft instead of while you’re writing to let the emotion come through.
- Watch the reaction to your post. If it isn’t well received, don’t be discouraged. Try another topic next time.
Bonus example: I wrote a rant earlier this year about why typical online marketing advice is worthless (or worse). That post became a mantra of sorts here and helped me to refine my unique selling proposition.
Action #17: Interview Someone Influential (90 minutes, including prep)
When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to have all the answers. Your visitors don’t expect you to, and you need to give yourself time to find your voice and form your opinions.
During the early stages, it can help to think of yourself as a facilitator instead of as an expert. Your job is to bring great information to your audience instead of creating all of it yourself.
Interviewing someone influential in your niche can be a great way to bring useful content to your audience. Interviewing an expert also helps by associating you with the expert in the minds of your readers. It also helps you create a relationship with the interviewee and potentially to borrow the interviewee’s audience if he or she links to your interview.
Action #18: Set Aside Weekly Content Planning Time (30 minutes weekly)
Shooting from the hip doesn’t always produce the best content. A little planning can help you produce much better content, and more importantly, much more consistent content.
How to plan your content for maximum results:
- Block out 30 minuteson your calendar each week. I like to do this on Monday, but the day doesn’t really matter.
- During this time, review and update your post ideas journalfrom above.
- Keep a running list of post typesyou that have been effective for you in the past. For example, I keep post categories like “interviews,” “ask the readers,” “monthly reports,” “writing epic shit” and so on. Look back at previously successful posts for ideas for new posts.
- Make a tentative plan for posts you’ll write over the coming week and month. This isn’t set in stone, but it will help you each time you sit down to write if you have ideas ready.
Action #19: Ask for an Outside Point of View (60 minutes)
When you get close to a project for a long time, it becomes hard to see things as other people see them. To become a successful blogger, you’ll need plenty of help from friends and colleagues along the way to help you see things through fresh eyes.
Try asking a friend, colleague or consultant for a quick critique on a blog post, your about page, your design, your branding or anything else you suspect might need to be refreshed or revised. The ultimate goal is to make a habit of doing this whenever you feel stuck or stale.
The bonus to this action is that it gives you an excuse to reach out to a fellow blogger and form a stronger bond. Offer to help by returning the critique service whenever your colleague needs it.
Action #20: Ask Your Readers
Building community around your blog is a great way to make your readers feel appreciated and committed to your success.
Your posts don’t have to be the only things that deliver value at your site. The comments can also be a great place for extending the value of your content and encouraging your visitors to interact. Those interactions can lead to other opportunities for your readers outside of your site.
Comments can also be a great way for you to learn about opportunities for new content and products.
If you want more comments for your site, you need to do a few things. First, write about topics that have multiple possible right answers. Second, write in a way that leaves the door open to discussion (don’t force your readers to agree or disagree with you, it stifles comments). Third, and most importantly, you need to ask for your readers’ opinions.
I like to do this with formal “ask the readers” segments here about once a month. You can run a series like that at your own blog, or simply ask your readers for comments at the end of your posts.
Either way, just make sure you ask.
Action #21: Get Some Accountability (60 minutes)
A big part of building a successful blog is staying motivated and staying committed to your blog long enough to see success.
One of the best ways to ensure you stay motivated is to become accountable to others. When you know other people are expecting certain things from you,
How to get some accountability for your blog:
- Decide where you’d like to be held accountable. There are three possibilities I recommend: a formal mastermind group, a blogging forum or your own blog.
- To join a formal mastermind group, you’ll need to find two or three other people to participate, or find an existing group that needs a new member.
- To use a blogging forum for accountability, you’ll need to find a suitable forum. Problogger has an inexpensive forum that could work for this purpose. Traffic Schoolalso has forums where people are holding themselves accountable.
- To use your own blog for accountability, you’ll just need to announce your goals on a regular basis in a special blog post series (see my monthly reports for an example of this, or Scott Dinsmore’s annual goal setting post)
- Whatever you decide, the principles are the same: regularly announce your goals for a set timeframe (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly is best). With each announcement you should also review your performance during the prior period.
You can of course try to hold yourself accountable privately, but public accountability is much more effective at driving action. It’s easier to opt out when you don’t have people waiting to hear your results.
The key to making many of the actions above work for you is consistency. Many of them need to become habit before you’ll experience maximum benefits, but taking the recommended actions above will get you started.
You don’t have to do everything on this list, just pick the ones that you think will work best for you.
The key is to take action. Try something above and let me know how it works for you. Most items above only take 30 minutes or less.
What would you add to this list? Let’s hear it in the comments.
If you liked this post, please share it on Facebook, Twitter or StumbleUpon.
Thanks to Adam Baker for the inspiration for this post’s format. I borrowed the structure and title from his killer post titled 24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Can Change Your Financial Life Forever
photo by Gueоrgui
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