Everyone and their mom have a blog about blogging by now, right? There’s a slew of books and ebooks on the subject, to the point that its novelty is beyond
dead, opening the market for quacks who offer lukewarm or altogether bad advice.
However, the saturated market helps us appreciate the genuine bloggers, and it’s always good to find books and advice from successful bloggers who now make a living from their work.
In How to Build a Blog (Create Awesome Content and Build Community), Sean Platt (The Digital Writer) and Danny Iny (Firepole Marketing; the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”), both successful examples, collaborate to explain how they reached their goals while providing actionable tips to help the rest of us get there, too.
What follows is a little primer for you – a summary of the most important parts of each chapter in the ebook, to help you get started on creating or improving your blog, and perhaps cement your desire to get the full picture.
Warning: This post is long. You’ll want to print or bookmark this.
Chapter One: Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth Don’t Work
Platt and Iny cover what I mentioned above in this first chapter: the plethora of tips being thrown at you that aren’t guaranteed to work. It’s basically their setup to show you how their ebook is different from any you’ve read before on blogging, and why it will work for you.
Your takeaway here is the 4 stages of blogging growth:
- Truly awesome content
- Build your community
- Be everywhere
- Get viral
Chapter Two: The Successful Blogger’s Mindset
Focus is always important in anything you do, and with blogging, it’s very easy to get distracted by all the different how-to’s and hacks available to you. Or worse, you’re so overwhelmed with information, you get “analysis paralysis” and do nothing at all.
Platt and Iny explain how to filter the noise and get focused in the chapter, starting with “shiny object syndrome” (getting wowed by the latest technique and veering off course to try it) and how to avoid it.
According to Iny and Platt, the 4 most popular audience-building strategies for blogs are content, community, SEO, and social media. They explain that no one strategy will realize your blogging goal, but a combination of them all, which you must find for yourself through experimentation (pretty realistic advice).
However, they say the worst plan is jumping from one strategy to the next. Do this instead:
- Study what successful bloggers are doing.
- Use that info to find out what you have on hand and what tasks you need to complete.
- Examine automation tools:
- email marketing via AWeber, MailChimp, etc.,
- social media marketing via Buffer, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or SproutSocial, and
- blog reach mulitpliers like Triberr
Chapter Three: Measuring What Matters: Traffic Spikes and Traffic Ramps
If you’re like me, then you monitor your blog’s stats daily (or some kind of often), and your heart always jumps at the traffic spikes – that unexpected increase in views. However, Platt and Iny say you shouldn’t pay attention to spikes, since a spike is only a sudden influx (usually after a new campaign or post) that doesn’t last – it eventually drops again. They’re easy to track, but they don’t matter.
A ramp, on the other hand, is steady traffic growth over time, which matters most, but is unfortunately harder to track.
Here’s Platt and Iny’s method of converting spikes into ramps:
- draw the right visitors (do recon)
- prime your visitors (make a good impression elsewhere)
- reward your visitors (create a landing page or a fresh post connected to what brought them to you)
- invite visitors to stay (encourage subscription)
Once you start ramping, you’ll wonder if it’ll ever get easier to gain traffic. The good news is it does. The blog traffic “escape velocity”, the point at which gaining new subscribers becomes a little easier, involves two numbers: 1,000 and 10,000.
1,000 subscribers, 10,000 unique monthly visitors.
That’s a goal to shoot for. It’ll take time, of course, but it’s a pretty good goal.
Chapter Four: Truly Awesome Content
Platt and Iny finally get into the stages of blog growth, starting with this chapter, which is filled with gems. They kick off by hammering the importance of knowing your reader, instead of a whole audience: define him, down to the last detail. What does your one reader look like? What kind of job does he have? What kind of movies does he like? How does he dress, where does he shop? Who does he hang out with, who does he admire?
The questions could go on and on, but the point is to use pyschographics instead of demographics (age, race, location, economic class, etc.) to define your one reader (instead of defining an audience). Once you’ve done that, you’ll know how to write for him.
From there, the gents rain a slew of killer blog post writing tips, so know that you’ll need to take lots of notes once you reach this point.
Writing to attract: Make it sexy
Tie metaphors into your content, or use metaphors from pop movies/culture to make your content more entertaining.
Your post should appeal to one of five key human drives (here are 3 for you):
- the drive to acquire: wanting more money, stuff, and power
- the drive to bond: need to feel loved and connected
- the drive to learn: curiosity, nuts-and-bolts, next steps/consequences
Writing to Retain: make it useful and entertaining: incorporate story into your content
Open Loops in Writing
Open loops are used to lead your readers from section to section in your blog post. Leave mini cliffhangers, if you will, coaxing your reader to keep going.
Here’s where you use open loops:
- the last sentence of each section
- each new subheading
- the first sentence of the next section (beneath the new subheading)
- at the end of the post
Creating Truly Awesome Content When You’re Fresh Out of Ideas
Iny basically transplanted his viral Copyblogger article in this section, listing all the different sources of inspiration you can use for fresh blog post content. Brian Clark recently recycled Iny’s post into a beautiful infographic here.
The gents also include interview tips in this section (since interviews are also a blog content source you can use), and include an interview email pitch template.
Now that you’ve taken all those notes, we move to the second stage of blog building.
Chapter Five: Build Your Community
Okay, so maybe content isn’t an issue for you. Maybe you’re bustin’ butt to produce great content to a nonexistent or very sparse audience, and it’s driving you nuts.
Good. This chapter is for you.
They start with the basics: blast your post to your network and ask for feedback (solicit subscriptions from them and comments).
Next step: embrace the nobodies. Iny got this from Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. I mentioned this in my “Guest Posts” article, but I’ll reintroduce it here. Start by going to your favorite big blogs and go down to the comments. Click the commenters’ links to find their blogs, then go to their commenters and click theirs, and so on until you funnel down to peer-sized blogs.
You can narrow and list favorable peers based on 4 criteria (here are 2 for you):
- content related to your content
- those with posts that get 5 – 15 comments on average
Once you’ve found some, start relationships with them. Leave comments on their posts, submit guest posts on their blogs, retweet their material, help them broadcast their content. They’ll be grateful for your help, and ultimately return the favor.
How Relationships Work
This subsection lays out 4 requirements to bond with your readers. I’ll share 2 with you:
- show that you think and care about them (@ mentions, RTs, etc.)
- actually be helpful
Ways to Improve Relationships
The key takeaway in this subsection is to leave a comment explaining how a blogger’s post was insightful for you, or even writing a whole response post on your own blog and link back to the blogger’s post. Sounds pretty neighborly.
Turn Readers Into Commenters
Are you struggling to get comments on your posts? This subsection lists 8 ways to get comments on your posts. Here are 4:
- tell people why they should (do you use Commentluv and/or Keywordluv, or Dofollow? Tell your readers that – they’ll appreciate the backlink.)
- ask an engaging, open-ended question
- be controversial
- make it easy (encourage their feedback or opinion)
The guys go from elusive comments to what might be the most coveted stage of blog building.
Chapter Six: Be Everywhere
Here we come to the good ol’ art of guest posting.
However, your key takeaway here is the “simulated omnipresence” technique, which is what Danny Iny used to become the “Freddy Krueger of blogging” – submit guest posts to several blogs around the same time (respectfully request the post date of the author if it’s a small enough blog) instead of spreading your guest posts out over time.
The latter will lead to traffic spikes, the former a traffic ramp (which is what you really want because you’ll stay constantly relevant).
The rest of the chapter explains guest etiquette on the day your post goes live, and how to search for relevant blogs to pitch to.
Now for the final blog growth stage…
Chapter Seven: Get Viral
You dream of your content spreading like wildfire across the web, right? Well, the guys help you with that in this chapter, giving you 5 viral content campaign ideas. Here are 3 for you:
- community survey (especially as a joint venture with a bigger blog)
- pay with a tweet giveaway
- produce an ebook of expert opinions (like Danny Iny’s Engagement from Scratch)
The common denominator in viral blog content is in making people think. I designed a slideshow of 10 inspiring entrepreneurial quotes, and within a week it became my blog’s third most popular post of all time.
The ebook doesn’t end here, though.
Chapter Eight: Making Your Blog Profitable
Here is the success point, where every blogger wants to be. First, know that this takes time. The guys provide the chain of conversions: a reader goes from stranger, to lead, to prospect, to customer, to repeat customer; and the real revenue lies in creating repeat customers out of your readers, which can be quite a challenge.
However, the chapter also lists mistakes non-profitable blogs (like yours and mine) make, blog issue diagnosis tips, and tips on how to monetize your email list (which is your main revenue source).
Hang in there, we’re coming down the home stretch…
Chapter Nine: Going Off-Road? Take a Map!
The moral of this chapter is to experiment with new tools and techniques when you need or want to, but always be sure to get back on track where you left off – no shiny object syndrome or analysis paralysis for you, k?
Also, in the spirit of marketing (especially Iny, good grief), the lads offer an email-exclusive blog-building toolbox, in which you subscribe and receive email updates with blogging tips each week (it’s not a scam, either – I opted in, and they really do email you tips).
In a Nutshell…
you’ll need to take some serious notes as you read the book and study them. The information Platt and Iny provide is so meaty, you’ll have to revisit it to retain it all.
By the way, the book is a testament to expert opinions (get viral) and recycled content – it’s comprised of many blog posts that both men have published over the course of several months on their own blogs and as guest posts on major blogs.
Compiling an ebook of your best content is one way to earn revenue from your blog, actually. However, you’ll need to be innovative, because that’s become common practice these days (remember, crowded market).
Whether you choose to take that route or not, this book is filled with actionable tips you can use right away, so don’t waste any time. It’s available for the Kindle, but don’t sweat if you don’t own one – the Kindle app is a free download in the iTunes app store. Get that puppy and drop the handful of bucks on this book. It’s a worthy investment.
Are you interested in the ebook? Do you think this info will help you improve your blog? Leave a comment below.