Ready to grow your blog in 2017? Have you been spinning your wheels without catching much traction? It can be so easy to get lost in the mundane details, overwhelmed by all the articles, and confused by so many conflicting ideas. Try these easy tried-and-true tips to help grow your blog like never before:
1. Schedule your social media
I’ve tried a lot of things to make my business life less chaotic over the years, but nothing else has had the same impact as scheduling my social media in advance.
Being consistent on social media is one of the most sure-fire ways to grow your blog, but we know as well as everyone how much easier that is said than done! Still, social media is imperative for blog growth. In early 2015, Forbes reported that social media accounted for 31% of all website traffic. That was up from 23% the year before, so we’re sure it’s even higher this year!
So how can we make social media work for us without completely overwhelming our lives?
Scheduling! I think about my social media once every two weeks. Every other Saturday, I sit down and put together my Instagram schedule. (In 2017, I’ll be adding Twitter to my queue. Facebook doesn’t work well for me, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. Different platforms work well for different people, blogs and/or businesses, so try them all out and see what works for you.). When you’re planning out your posts in advance, you’ll be much more intentional about your content. Seeing the big picture will help you come up with new ideas that you’d never have thought of if you were winging it every day. Being strategic about your social media will give you an advantage that others don’t have. You’ll likely provide more benefit to your followers because of your intentionality, and the “preview ” mode of these planners (more on that below) will easily allow you to architect your feed in a consistent, beautiful way.
Later and Planoly are our favorite Instagram schedulers. Planoly is gorgeous, so if that’s important to you, you might fall head over heels. We love the sleek interface and planning your posts is easy as pie! Upload a photo and drag it onto the calendar:
Then, add a caption and schedule it for the time you want to post:
We love Later because you can preview your feed before you post (and if you don’t like the way your photos look in the order you selected, you can just drag things around until it looks good to you):
When it’s time to post, you’ll get a little notification on your phone that prompts you to open up Instagram and post your scheduled photo (Instagram doesn’t allow third party applications to post on your behalf).
Now, this doesn’t eliminate the need to make connections on social media, but without having to brainstorm new photos daily like I used to, I feel like I have so much more mental capacity for the fun part of social media, like connection!
Buffer is the last app we’ll mention, and it’s more full-functioning than the two above. You can connect your Facebook, Twitter AND Instagram accounts to Buffer (as well as others, like G+) and schedule and push out your posts in advance. We’re not as in love with the Instagram scheduling on Buffer as we are on the other two programs, but if you want to simplify your life, there’s nothing wrong with using Buffer to schedule Instagram, too.
You can choose which platform you want to schedule a post for, get your post written up and then schedule it.
You can even quickly schedule it for all your social media platforms at one time if you want:
2. Create an editorial schedule
Once upon a time, most bloggers didn’t think beyond the week when it came to content. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. If you blog because you enjoy blogging, good for you! That’s all I do on my personal blog, and it suits me just fine. My objectives aren’t to grow, grow, grow or to reach loads of readers. My main objectives are to have fun and to vent a little. If you’re reading this, though, chances are you’re trying to grow your blog traffic and take your blog seriously. In that case, an editorial calendar is a must.
Organization is important if you’re trying to establish yourself as a leader in your industry and differentiate your blog from the thousands of others out there like yours. Editorial calendars are extremely helpful in getting your blog organized.
I was a journalism major (While I ultimately took the advertising and PR track, I started out on the print journalism track). Editorial calendars are a necessary facet of any journalistic track. If you’re a blogger, your profession is strikingly similar to that of a journalist. In essence, you are a journalist, producing your own publication.
An editorial schedule is any document you use to plan out your blog’s content in advance. This can be as simple as a lined notebook or sheets of paper stapled together or as complex as something like CoSchedule (if you’re on WordPress). Of course, we’re big fans of our free printable planner, but use whatever works for you! It provides a bird’s eye view of your blog’s future content. It helps you see the big picture, it relieves you of the need to give thought to your content every single day and it allows you to batch (more on that later).
Just like we touched on in the above section, planning out your posts in advance makes you more intentional and much more likely to be consistent.
3. Brand yourself properly
If you’ve already built a solid foundation for your blog’s brand, you can skip on ahead to step number 4. But if you’ve been bootstrapping it thus far, let’s have a little chat, friend.
If you’re targeting females, aesthetics play an even greater role.
But more important than making your blog pretty is making your brand recognizable. One of the biggest purposes of branding is to make yourself easily recognizable.
In today’s Pinterest world, that’s become even more important for bloggers. If you spend a little time on Pinterest, you’ll likely start to identify pins as coming from certain bloggers. A few blogs that come to mind are Olyvia.co:
Both blogs have instantly recognizable graphics. When I’m quickly scrolling through Pinterest, I immediately know when I’ve come across one of their pins. They have great brand presence and this lends legitimacy and authority to their blogs.
Grab our free branding guide in our library and learn a bit more about what it takes to create a solid brand foundation.
Then, pick a color scheme and a few fonts and stick to that. If you’re skilled in Photoshop or Illustrator, create some templates. If not, grab our free templates (also available in our library) and adjust them to your own blog’s color scheme/typefaces. Then, stick to those templates. If you’re not quite ready for Photoshop, create your own templates in Canva.
4. Become a content machine
Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole. We don’t actually want to become content machines because then we’re not producing quality content. Quality content separates the good blogs from the spammy, yucky, we-don’t-want-to-be-anything-like-them blogs.
Providing valuable content is essential. This can vary – drastically – from blog to blog. There are still lifestyle blogs that do very well, but even those blogs must be providing value to their readers. Maybe that’s style advice, round-ups of the best baby products or gift guides. But in 2017, it’s more important than ever to be in constant give mode. Make your readers think, “That’s FREE?!” You’ll need to earn their trust before you can ever begin to monetize your blog.
Your posts should be 1000 words or more. They should be detailed, specific and thorough. If you’re writing a how-to blog (or your focus is on teaching your readers), this should be one of your top priorities. Remember that you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of bloggers, and standing out takes a lot more today than it did ten years ago.
When I’m creating a new post, I like to close my eyes and imagine I’m a beginner to the topic. What didn’t I know when I first began to learn about (blogging/baking pies/wearing leggings/being snarky)? Start there and branch out. Sometimes I even head to the library for inspiration on the topics I’ve chosen to write about.
Choose quality over quantity, always. When I first began blogging, I thought it was more important that I be blogging daily than that I spent entire work days on one blog post. Now, I do things differently. Our blog traffic grew considerably once I implemented a quality-over-quantity mindset. If you only have time to craft one well-written blog post each week, then post one well-written blog post each week. Your readers will appreciate quality content far more than they will frequent, subpar posts.
Then, see above about branding. A good blog post must include at least one graphic. Pinterest! Need I say more? Visuals are important in 2017.
Stay tuned, because we’re working on an epic blog post all about how to create irresistible content!
5. Make your posts easily shareable
Once you’ve made awesome content, it needs to be shared! Don’t make your readers hunt for a way to share your posts. Nothing will kill your share rate like no easy way for your reader to share a post.
If your template/theme doesn’t have baked-in share buttons (ours do!), you’ll want to be sure to add some. If you’re on WordPress, SumoMe is a great option. For Blogger, you can use something like ShareThis or AddThis.
Make sure you have a Pinterest hover button installed on your blog so your readers can easily pin your gorgeous graphics. For WordPress, this is a great option. For Blogger, try this tutorial. On Squarespace, all you need to do is enable the button.
You can take it a step further and use the Click to Tweet plugin if you’re on WordPress.
6. Make your site easy to use
This is a huge pet peeve of mine as a graphic designer, but please make your site as simplistic and easy to understand as possible. As well as being trendy, minimalistic web design is functional and will pay off over time.
Imagine being a new blog reader who lands on your blog. It can be tough to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never set eyes on your site before, but it’s important!
Does your new blog reader understand what your blog is about without having to dig around?
Is your navigation easy to understand and uncluttered? Hint: if your nav menu spans several lines, it’s too much.
Make sure your blog is mobile friendly. Google will now actually punish your blog in search results if it’s not mobile friendly. Plus, over half of all searches now take place on a mobile device. If you care about your readers (you should), you’ll want your site to render well on a mobile device.
7. Make your posts easy to read
Similar to step 6, making our posts easy to read is important. While creating amazing content has become more important than ever, stringing together long posts can actually hurt you without some simple tips to take into consideration:
- Short paragraphs – This is easier on the eyes and less daunting for your readers. Try to break up your paragraphs as frequently as you can.
- Subheadings – These are your friend! When I learned about subheadings, it was like the clouds parted and angels sung. Seriously though, it makes your post so much easier on the eyes. The brain can break up the content into chunks, which makes it less intimidating and easier to scan.
- Lists – Lists are great for social media (10 steps to…5 ways you can….3 easy tips for…). They’ll always perform best! They’re also easier on the brain. Let’s compare
- Long paragraph: Wings breve grinder rich cream arabica beans cinnamon french press as americano, caffeine filter java steamed, et frappuccino brewed bar robust. Decaffeinated ristretto, frappuccino acerbic crema, acerbic, cortado barista kopi-luwak coffee plunger pot crema doppio beans variety bar crema wings medium rich saucer chicory latte id coffee aromatic doppio chicory, crema at steamed cup ut sugar cortado whipped. Barista, ut grinder that, aroma, robust, single origin, cup trifecta barista sweet americano frappuccino crema single shot organic lungo body medium macchiato instant black decaffeinated. Sweet robust sit roast, acerbic, body, cup shop, white that blue mountain, café au lait blue mountain plunger pot, redeye flavour, organic bar decaffeinated black coffee cortado turkish. Coffee, blue mountain viennese latte, medium chicory bar cinnamon brewed cup, cinnamon, et con panna a frappuccino, blue mountain cream iced cream grounds cup, mocha ristretto grounds espresso viennese, variety latte eu, est coffee aged extraction shop. Latte, single shot spoon percolator, mug cup as redeye white, filter, caramelization brewed white, cup coffee sugar so beans plunger pot grinder, cortado lungo galão grounds aroma mazagran, trifecta, turkish beans that kopi-luwak and kopi-luwak robust café au lait seasonal. Affogato grounds filter bar instant french press single origin brewed coffee trifecta caffeine instant, latte organic carajillo grinder half and half milk half and half filter cup milk iced aroma.
- Affogato grounds filter bar instant french press single origin brewed coffee trifecta caffeine instant, latte organic carajillo grinder half and half milk half and half filter cup milk iced aroma.
- Coffee, blue mountain viennese latte, medium chicory bar cinnamon brewed cup
- Wings breve grinder rich cream arabica beans cinnamon french press as americano, caffeine filter java steamed, et frappuccino brewed bar robust
- Barista, ut grinder that, aroma, robust, single origin, cup trifecta barista sweet americano frappuccino crema single shot organic lungo body medium macchiato instant black decaffeinated
- Highlight the important stuff – Use bold or italicized styling on important information
- Use graphics – Like we talked about in the branding section, using graphics is incredibly important in 2017. High-quality visuals make your post more aesthetically appealing and serve the added benefit of being shareable on places like Pinterest.
- Use legible fonts – Alright, I’ll own up to this being another pet peeve as a graphic designer. Especially as one who designs blog templates! Nothing sends my heart racing like seeing someone take our clean fonts and muck ’em up with cursive, illegible fonts for things like blog posts (Ack! Agony! The horror!). Do your reader a favor and make sure your fonts are easy on the eyes, large enough and require no visual straining.
8. Optimize your posts for search engines
We’re moving on to the more advanced stuff now. The word “SEO” gives some of us the heebie jeebies, I know. Blog Tyrant puts it simply:
Google has developed automatic algorithms that rank your site. They send out what are called “spiders” to “crawl” your site and check it for over 100 indicators that determine whether your site is valuable or useless. These indicators include things like backlinks, domain age, traffic, fresh content, etc.
SEO is the art of making sure those spiders are happy with what they find. It is an extremely complex field that is constantly changing but in all that chaos there are a few constants that have remained true since the beginning.
Optimizing your blog for search engines is what makes it easily discoverable by potential readers who are searching for terms relevant to what you’re writing about. Digging too deep into the world of SEO might make your head spin (I get it! It makes my head spin), but with a few simple steps, you can improve your own blog’s search rankings.
SEO is an ever-changing field. Google changes its algorithms frequently, always aiming for more relevant content for its users. This is a good thing, as we’re all internet users and should be able to appreciate things that make our lives easier! Plus, they did away with algorithms that used to reward spammy companies from using annoying and shady tactics to try to game the system. Yay! But this means that we need to understand a few concepts to best optimize our sites.
- Focus on 1 or 2 keywords for each post – This doesn’t mean keyword-stuffing. You’ll get punished by Google if you’re loading your posts with your keyword, not to mention turn off your readers. No one wants to read an obviously keyword-stuffed post. It should feel natural, like a conversation.Pick a relevant keyword (or 2) and try to make your post revolve around it. This serves the added bonus of keeping you on track and better organized. Intentionality, guys! It changes the game.While your keyword can be one word, using long-tail keywords can have a greater impact on your blog traffic these days, distinguishing yourself from the thousands (millions?) in your niche. Not sure what a long-tail keyword is? Check out this post for lots of information!
- Do keyword research ahead of time – Hubspot has already written the book on this subject (with a free template to boot!), so check out their post to help you get your keyword research optimized in 2017!
- Produce valuable content – Remember that Google’s main objective is to give its users good, relevant content. They’re a business, after all, and keeping their customers happy is a top objective. It wouldn’t make most of us happy if the first three pages of search results landed us on spammy sites, right? So the most obvious step, and the one that will become more and more important as Google continues to refine its algorithms to produce relevant content is…to produce valuable and relevant content. We’ve already covered what that means and why you should do it earlier in the article.
- Backlink…properly – The term backlink refers to when another site links to your site from their site. In Google’s eyes, this means you’re more relevant and you are producing quality good enough that others want to share. Don’t ever buy backlinks. Repeat: don’t ever buy backlinks. A few years ago, the Berkey company sent me an email asking me to remove spammy comments on my personal blog that someone had made on their behalf that linked back to them. When Google made one of their many algorithm changes, they were punished – severely – for having hired an SEO company who employed shady tactics like leaving spammy comments all across the internet. Don’t do it. Remember, SEO is no longer a way to game the system. It just means being intentional about your blog content.So how should we get backlinks? Create awesome content. Sensing a theme? Truly, though, if you’re churning out amazing content and sharing on social media and connecting with other bloggers, you’ll be rewarded. There are no more get-rich-quick or get-blog-famous-quick schemes. You have to be patient with your blog growth. Organic blog growth is what we should be after, and that will never happen overnight. Ask to be a guest poster on bigger blogs. You’ll want to have examples of great, thorough content on your blog before you begin to reach out to others, but many bloggers are actively seeking out high quality guest posters. Like us! 😉 Finally, you can backlink to yourself, as well. In your posts, make sure you link back to older posts that are high quality. Just be sure to use a relevant keyword for your anchor text.
- Comment on other blogs – Leave (real and thoughtful!!) comments on other blogs, especially those that are authority blogs in your niche. This can give you backlinks, so from an SEO perspective it can be a positive thing, but it serves the better bonus of growing your connections with others in the blogging world.
- Permalink adjustments – Your permalink is a root and an extension.My root – getpolished.net/
My extension – grow-blog-2017/In WordPress, change this by going to Settings > Permalinks and adjusting the settings. The best option to use is just the post name. So you should select Custom Structure and then add /%postname%/
You can also adjust it in each post, and I would recommend doing this for any post going forward (but not for old posts, that will break your backlinks). After doing your keyword research, target your keyword in your URL, like I did for this post. In WordPress:
In Blogger, you can only change the permalink on new posts (which is all you want, anyway). In the post editor, you’d choose Custom and type out your desired permalink…make sure not to use stop words and use hyphens, not underscores).
- Use a plugin (WordPress users) – If you’re on WordPress, you can use a plugin like Yoast to help you optimize your SEO. In its most basic form, it gives you helpful suggestions and ranks your SEO within posts.
- Refine & organize – There are some simple steps you can take that help your ranking. This isn’t gaming the system, but basically just being ultra organized. When you upload a photo, give it a name that pertains to your post (keywords are good). Try to use your selected keyword(s) in your post title and in your meta description. Use relevant tags/labels.
9. Connect with your readers
When people comment on your blog posts, respond. When they comment on your social media posts, respond. One of my biggest frustrations with focusing on monetization is the lack of community it promotes. To be blunt, bloggers who employ shady tactics that clearly communicate they only care about themselves and how much money they can make off their readers (auto-commenting bots on Instagram, anyone?) drive me bonkers. Nothing will destroy the world of blogging like inauthenticity and self-serving behavior.
If you want to grow your blog authentically and you desire to help your readers, then connect with them. It doesn’t have to be a daily task. Maybe you pick two hours each Saturday afternoon to go through and respond. If that’s all the time you can carve out, that’s absolutely perfect! You may find that someday, you’ve grown too large to respond to all your comments, and that’s fine. You can give yourself grace then. But if your readership is still manageable, your readers would love to connect with you.
10. Create/nurture your list
Do you have a mailing list yet? If not, it’s time to start. If you’re serious about monetizing your blog, having a list is more reliable than having a large social media presence. Why? Because, as we’ve learned over the years with Facebook and now Instagram, algorithms change. These companies are trying to monetize the same as we are, so they’ll start giving priority to big names, people willing to shell out money for advertising, etc. Very few businesses are able to use Facebook successfully (and most of them had an established presence before the big algorithm change). For most business owners I know, it’s just an afterthought. Perhaps they’ll auto-post things from Twitter or Instagram to their Facebook business page. The same is beginning to happen on Instagram. We can’t rely on social media as the predominant source to connect with our audience. You never know when your traffic is going to dry up.
A mailing list, on the other hand, is yours. If you eventually decide to create an e-course or sell products, you can leverage your existing readership easily if you have a mailing list. Plus, it’ll help you stay top-of-mind. There are a lot of great blogs out there, but I read absolutely none on a regular basis. I don’t use Bloglovin’ and I don’t subscribe to anyone’s blog via any sort of RSS service anymore. My time is precious and I feel constantly overloaded, so that was something I took off my plate ages ago. But I do subscribe to a few of my favorite bloggers’ mailing lists because I think their posts are valuable enough that I want to get reminders right in my inbox.
So how do we grow our mailing lists? Freebies! When you write your awesome content, create a freebie to go along with it. It should be something relevant (obviously). Promote that freebie in your post. Make the freebie available to your blog subscribers only. You can easily do this in both Mailchimp and ConvertKit.
I’ve only been focusing on my mailing list for the last two months, and it has grown almost as much in those two months as it had in the four years prior. Crazy, right?! I just made it a priority to begin to create more freebies, then advertise those freebies to existing customers and on my social media channel. I added a “Create new freebie” task to my Google Calendar schedule every other week so that I can be intentional about it this year.
Nurture your list. You care about your readers, right? So give them good, valuable freebies and don’t overload them with spam or too many emails. I’ll unsubscribe in a heartbeat from any mailing list I’m on if I start getting emails more than once a week, or emails that are overly spammy and don’t provide value. I’m in the mode to simplify and a cluttered inbox is a huge pet peeve. I’m not alone! I aim to only send helpful emails. If I’m actually trying to promote something to sell, I’ll only do it if I’m including some bonus – usually a big discount – to my subscribers.
My hope is that this blog post helps you narrow your focus, decide what’s important and what to focus on in 2017 to grow your blog. If you slowly implement these tips, your blog traffic will grow! But you must be persistent, patient and hard-working. Blogging may seem glamorous, but it’s a demanding job when done correctly, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Making your blog an income earner is totally doable, but takes the same sort of resilience, commitment, consistency and perseverance as owning a business. Now go out and rock your blogs, friends!
Don’t forget to grab your blog planner from our freebie library!