Hey there bloggers, it’s Darren Rowse from ProBlogger here. Welcome to episode 161 of the ProBlogger podcast. As I said, my name is Darren and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com. A blog, podcast, event, job board and series of ebooks all designed to help you to grow your audience and to make money from your blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger at problogger.com.
In today’s lesson, I want to highlight three things that I see a lot of bloggers ignoring or at least not paying enough attention to. These are three things that by ignoring, you could be actually limiting the potential of your blog.
It can be so difficult to know where to turn your attention to when it comes to blogging, what you should be focusing upon. Whilst we need to find out our own way through this, we need to work out our own priorities based upon our blog’s goals, these three things I think are very important when it comes to building your traffic and building an income from your blogs. If that’s what you’re interested in, building traffic, building a blogging income, today’s episode is for you.
Recently, I was on a panel at a conference and was asked by the moderator to name three things that most bloggers don’t pay enough attention to on their blogs, three things that could be limiting those bloggers in their blogging.
The question was one that I really enjoyed pondering. Luckily, I was the second person to answer it so I did have a little bit of time to consider my response.
In today’s episode, I wanna share the three things that I said. Each of these three things are not things that will kill your blog, not like if you ignored them, they’re not gonna kill your blog.
I have three things that could be limiting the potential of your blog and how far your blog could rise. They could actually on the flip side bring a lot of life to your blogging if you do focus upon them. Let’s get into them.
The first one is search engine optimization. Before some of you are ready to hit pause on this podcast because it’s something that you just started a lot to do, can I encourage you to listen on just for a few minutes?
I want you to answer this question, where do you put most of your effort in terms of building traffic to your blog? Currently, where do you put most of your time in terms of driving new traffic into your blog? I asked this question to a group of bloggers at the ProBlogger event, we’re having lunch together and we kinda went around the circle and answered it. Where do you put most of your attention in terms of building traffic?
The responses were really varied. There was like seven or eight different responses from seven or eight different bloggers. One blogger said they put a lot of time into Pinterest. Another one put a lot of time into Facebook, another one LinkedIn, one other was guest posting, another wrote on sites like Medium and all put time and effort into advertising their blog and driving traffic with paid advertising. Another one put a lot of time into networking with influencers.
I love the answers. I love the variety of the answers. I actually think that there’s a really good spectrum of places that we could be focusing upon to drive traffic. I found it fascinating that not a single blogger in that group, including myself, said that search engine optimization was the number one place that they put time into driving traffic.
I then asked the same group another question. I asked, “Where do you get most of your traffic?” And it was fascinating to hear the response. Most of the bloggers said that their number two wave driving traffic was the thing that they just mentioned that they put time and effort into, but most of the bloggers around that table said that their number one source of traffic was Google.
They were putting time into something else but number one was Google. I kind of liked the fact that they were putting time and effort into something else other than Google because I do think we need to diversify traffic. That strikes me that there’s this amazing source of traffic from many bloggers but we’re not really putting any attention or time into driving traffic from that source. I wonder what would happen if we put more time into SEO, whether we could actually drive even more traffic from Google. It strikes me that most of the full time bloggers that I’ve ever met, their number one source of traffic is definitely Google. In many cases, it’s between 40% and 60% of their traffic, this is full time bloggers.
My two blogs, it’s around that kind of mark. On Digital Photography School last month, Google sent me 47% of my traffic. On ProBlogger last month, Google sent me 42% of my traffic. Search is not going away. Whilst so much energy and effort is put into giving tips on how to drive traffic with social, I wonder whether we need to go back to search again. It’s sometimes seen as an old fashion source of traffic but I actually don’t think it’s going away. I really do think that as bloggers we should be putting a little bit more time and effort into thinking about search engine optimization.
Social media is great. Don’t ignore it. Don’t ignore it as a source of traffic. Don’t focus upon it obsessively because there are other great sources of traffic out there. I see a lot of bloggers putting hours and hours everyday into their Facebook in the hope that one of their posts there might go viral and that they might get a big spike in traffic. That’s great. If that spike comes, good, that’s great. Leverage it.
I personally would rather put a little bit of time everyday into SEO and increase my traffic everyday from the search by 10%. I think that’s a much better investment of time than going after that one big spike in traffic from Facebook every now and again. To me, I’m trying to get that going viral on social is almost like buying a lottery ticket. It might happen but it’s not likely. Maybe a better way to earn money is to get a job. For me, SEO is a little bit more like that. I’m not sure whether that was the best metaphor but for me, social media being like a lottery ticket sometimes, there’s definitely that feeling about it.
SEO, I think it’s really important. For many bloggers, it’s something that we considered to be too hard or too technical. The reality is that it need not be that way. I’m the most non technical person I know and yet I’ve seen the benefits over the last year or so of putting a little bit of time everyday into SEO.
You can spend a lot of time on SEO and you can become very obsessed by it. I do know a few technical bloggers who do get a little bit obsessed by it. For most bloggers, I think there are a few simple things that you can do to increase your traffic from Google.
Number one, get your blog set up the right way. I can link in the show notes today to some articles on that. At the very minimum, get a plugin like a SEO plugin installed and get it set up the right way.
Number two, learn how to optimize your content, learn how to use headings and get your keywords in headings and get your keywords in the title, get your keywords in different parts of your site. Again, I’ll link to some further reading on that in today’s show notes.
Number three, think about the keywords people would be using to search for your content. As you’re writing a blog post, be thinking at the back of your mind, what’s someone going to be typing into Google to find this content? Then, use those phrases in your content, in your title. Get in the habit of putting yourself in the shoes of your reader and what they would type into Google.
The fourth thing I would encourage you to think about is just how can you get a few extra links into your site. I talked two episodes ago, Episode 159, about a technique that I’ve used over the last few months to get more links into my site. That helps a lot.
I had this realization late last year that I was spending several hours a day on social media and no time at all on SEO. I decided to flip that around a little and begin to focus more on SEO over that time. For me, five or ten minutes a day of that link building exercise I mentioned in Episode 159, that was part of it. Another part of it for me was learning how to optimize my content to appear in Google’s featured snippets. That’s something I can share a link in the show notes today. Just by spending a few minutes everyday on those two things, I’ve definitely seen an increase in our SEO traffic already. I really would encourage you to learn those things and to implement those things too.
If you want to learn a little bit more about SEO, there will be some links in the show notes today. Also, listen to Episode 94 of the ProBlogger podcast in which Jim Stewart and I go through five SEO mistakes that bloggers make.
SEO is the number one thing that I think most bloggers don’t pay enough attention to. I really would encourage you to dedicate some regular time to it.
Number two is email. Another source of traffic that many bloggers ignore is email. Most bloggers I know have some guilt around email. We know we should be doing email because we hear everyone talking about how powerful email is but we tend to get stuck at one of four places. These are the four places that I want to go through.
Before I do, I want to just share with you how important email is. It is such a powerful and important part of my own business. Most full time bloggers that I meet, it’s a very important part of their business as well. For me, it drives traffic not as much as search, perhaps not even as much as social, but it drives traffic with intent. People come from my emails with intent to either read content or to buy a product or to engage in a community discussion. It drives traffic with intent.
Number two, we use it to drive people to community and to areas of engagement. We use our email to drive people to our Facebook group. We use email to drive people to comments on a blog post or to our Facebook page or to other social activities going on. Email is very important for building engagement on our sites.
Number three, email really is the ultimate source of sales of our own products and our affiliate promotions. Even you can drive it to sponsored content as well if that’s the way that you monetize your site. Email is so important if you want to monetize what you’re doing.
For me, it’s also just great at building a brand. For me and my readers, email is probably the most regular touchpoint for many of our readers, particularly those of our readers who aren’t as social media savvy. Some of our readers do see our stuff on Facebook or Twitter everyday but many of our readers aren’t on Facebook everyday, many of our readers aren’t on Twitter at all or on Pinterest or on Instagram. Email is the number one touch point for those readers.
I think people like my father, he’s on Facebook every now and again, it’s probably once a week, maybe twice a week, and he’s unlikely to see a message in there because he’s not on it a lot. He uses it more to interact with his family but he gets our email every week. That builds our brand, that’s so important.
Email is so important. Many bloggers get stuck in one of these four areas. Either they get stuck in starting with email, it’s just so important to start your list, to start collecting emails. When you start out with email, it feels like a bit of a waste of time. I remember when I first started my email list for Digital Photography School, I started that list because of my dad. He didn’t know how to subscribe any other way, he wasn’t at the time on social media, and so he wanted to get our tips. I started this little list for him and people like him.
I remember that first week that I started the list, it came time for me to send my first newsletter. It’s been a week, I’ve been collecting emails, and I had 17 emails on the list, one of whom was my dad, one of whom was me, one of whom was my wife who sneakily unsubscribed to make sure it was working. Then, there were 14 other people that I didn’t know. I remember pausing before I put that newsletter together. I remember thinking to myself, is it really going to be worth my time to spend an hour putting a newsletter together for essentially 14 people? I decided to do it and I’m so glad I did because the next week it was 30 people, the following week it was 45, and it gradually grew week after week after week. I’m so glad I started to collect those emails and I started to send regular emails as well.
Today, we have over 700,000 subscribers to that list. It started with 13. Can I encourage you to start? It will feel slow in the early days, it will feel like a bit of a waste of time, but it will grow over time. The more you use it, the more you use that list, the more powerful it gets. Start. It will feel small but get started. Sign up with a service provider like AWeber or Mail Chimp or Convert Kit, there’s plenty of others out there, I’ll link to some of the providers that we recommend in the show notes. I really encourage you to start collecting. That’s the number one area, the number one thing you need to do.
If you’ve already started, can I encourage you to optimize how you collect those emails? This is another area that many bloggers get stuck with, they start collecting but they don’t actually optimize how they collect it. Most bloggers have a widget in the sidebar and that will get you some subscribers but it will only be a small percentage of what you could get. There are many other ways to get those subscribers. You can call them to subscribe regularly in your content, you can put a widget underneath your content, underneath blog posts. You can use a tool like SumoMe or OptInMonster. Again, I’ll link to them in the show notes today. They have a variety of different methods for collecting email addresses. You could create an opt-in, this is where you give something away for free in exchange for the email.
We’ve done previous episodes on this very topic. If you want to go back and listen to Episode 68, I talk about tools like SumoMe and OptInMonster. In Episode 69, I talk about opt ins. The key here isn’t to copy what I do, it’s to start to experiment, to see how you can increase the rate of subscribes that you get. This is something that I see so many bloggers completely ignoring. To be honest, it’s something that I ignored for many years as well. Optimize how you collect those emails.
The number three area I see a lot of bloggers getting stuck with email is sending emails. They collect emails, they’re not actually sending anything. I talked to a blogger the other day, they had over a thousand subscribers to their list. They added a few everyday, three or four everyday. They’ve been doing it for over a year and now had over a thousand. I said, “How often do you send emails?” They said I’ve never sent an email, I’m going to send my first email when I’ve got something to sell.
The problem with that is that those people who subscribed over a year ago have no idea that they’re on your list, they’ve forgotten. That list is cold, it’s not going to be effective. You need to get into the rhythm of sending emails. Don’t just use your email when you’ve got something to sell. Even those who do remember are going to feel ripped off because you’ve never delivered them any value with your email. It’s really important to get in the regular habit of sending emails, useful emails to people. Develop a rhythm of that.
At least once a month, if not more if you can. We send a weekly newsletter and it’s basically just an update of the content that we produce on ProBlogger and on Digital Photography School. I know many of you subscribed. Sometimes, we add in a little bit of extra content and a little bit of bonus content. Sometimes we highlight some of the content in our archives, sometimes I send out a promotional email as well. Get in the habit of sending emails. The more people hear from you with regular useful, valuable content, the more warm they are and open to hearing from you.
The fourth area that a lot of bloggers get stuck with email is automation. This is something that many bloggers kind of do the first three things but they don’t actually automate anything. Every email they send, they have to manually put it together. That’s fine on some levels but you can achieve so much more if you build a little automation into what you do. Simply using a sequence of the emails that get your readers on board and introduce them to your site, highlighting your best content in your archives.
These types of things don’t have to be manually done. You can set up a little autoresponder to help walk through that process. Again, if that’s something you’re interested in learning more about, go back and listen to Episode 70 of this particular podcast. That will help you learn how to drive traffic and sales and to make income through autoresponders.
Email is so important. If you’re feeling stuck in one of those four areas, can I encourage you over the next week to just push through it? Start that list, optimize how you collect emails, start a regular sending of emails, or build some automation into what you do. It’s a scenario that you can really lift your blog a lot.
The third area that I see a lot of bloggers not putting enough effort into is what I described on the panel as the big picture of editorial. I see a lot of bloggers are really good at creating daily or at least weekly content. Most bloggers, their habit of creating content and the system of creating content for them, is very much done in the moment. It’s I’m going to sit down and I’m going to write a blog post today. I’ve got to think of what I’m going to write about and I’m going to write it and I’m going to publish it. We do this all within half an hour or an hour or within the day. We don’t actually think ahead about the content that we’re going to produce over time.
One of the things I see a lot of bloggers implementing that brings life to their blog is the creation of an editorial calendar or simply thinking ahead about the content that you’re going to produce over the next weeks and months and even years. I came across a blogger the other day who thinks two years in advance with their editorial calendar. For me, that’s a little bit too advanced. We think a few months in advance on my blogs. But simply by thinking ahead about the content that you’re going to create, it helps you to be more thoughtful with your content and to create content that’s going to take your readers on a journey.
I like to think about it as creating a pathway for your readers. What’s the path that you want to lead your readers down over the coming months? Thinking about it in that way, you can create content that builds upon each other, takes your readers in a journey in that way.
Way back in Episode 11, I ran through a simple exercise that can do this for you if you want to go back and listen to that. I suggested creating a before and after description of your reader. Who are your readers before they come to your blog, who do you want them to be later. And then thinking about that change or that pathway that you want to lead your readers on, you can then begin to create content that leads them down that pathway.
Before your readers come to you, they’re in one situation and you want to change them in some way, you want to help them to become that second person, the after shot, what content do they need to create to get to that point? What do they need to know? What changes do they need to make? How do they need to be inspired? What skills do they need to develop? What confidence do they need to develop?
Simply by identifying those things that you want to see change in your readers, you can then begin to create content that takes them on that journey. Map out those things, map out how you want to change your readers and begin to plug in those changes that you want to see and the things that you want to build into your readers into an editorial calendar. It can really help you to create that content that doesn’t just help people in the moment but gives them a sense that you’re going to continue to create content that builds upon what they’re reading in that moment. That’s the kind of content that people will want to get more of and that’s the type of thing that will drive them to subscribe and become a regular reader of your blog.
There’s three things that I think most bloggers could put more time into. Search engine optimization, email, and creating a bigger picture of their editorial. Actually, mapping out a pathway for their readers and creating an editorial calendar.
I would love to hear which of those you’re going to spend a little more time on over the coming weeks. Also, what you would add to that as well? What do you think most bloggers should spend some more time doing as well? They’re just the three answers that I gave, the other panels gave other insights as well. I’m open to hearing from you on that.
Hope you found today’s episode useful, I’d love to hear what impact it has had on you and what you’re going to do as a result of it. Leave a comment over at problogger.com/podcast/161.