Growing a blog is hard work but not impossible. In this post, I want to show you a few tweaks to hack the growth of your blog. The baseline is always great content!
Fasten your seatbelt because we’re ready to take off!
- Pick the perfect title
- Make your blog the fastest in town
- Time to optimize your images
- Target Google‘s featured snippet
- Use data to build effective CTAs
- Key steps for the first part
- Guide to syndicate your content
- Is blogging dead? Let’s see…
- Step 1: Start with an editorial strategy!
- Step 2: Be Social
- Step 3: The online world is your laboratory
- Step 4: Your content is like a cat. It has seven lives
- Step 5: It is time to get offline
- Rinse and Repeat
- Advanced content syndication
- How Social Networks Hooked Us
- Indexing vs. Ownership of Content
- Start with your blog
- Content Amplification Framework
Pick the perfect title
Journalists know that the title can make or break an article. It doesn’t matter how good it is what you wrote if none will open it none will read it! For how trivial that might sound, this is even truer for blog posts. With over a billion websites and over four million blog posts; the title is a great shortcut for our brain to make sense of the clutter.
To make your headline catchy, sticky but also good from the SEO perspective then there are a few factors to take into account. The main ones are,
- Is your title emotional? For instance, invoking good or bad emotions can be a powerful way to have people read your stuff.
- Is the title short? Too long would be bad for SEO. Plus none will know it. The right length would be around 55 characters.
- What are the first and last three words? In fact, apparently, when people skim content they look the first and final part of the title.
- Are there keywords in it? Those keywords are not only meant to make your content read by search engines but to capture the searchers’ intention
In other words, it has to be:
Short but meaningful
Focused on first and last three words
How to meet all those standards without hassling too much on it?
Simple, use CoSchedule Headline Analyser
That is what I did to pick the title for this blog post. Therefore, if you did open it, it may be thanks to it!
For instance, I initially picked up a title,
As you can see my score wasn’t that bad; However, I wanted to make it a bit better because it was too long and not as catchy as I wanted it to be!
I tried several headlines, and my score got worse,
Until I got the title, I was looking for!
Can you do better?
Make your blog the fastest in town
With the staggering growth of content on the web, the demand for it seems to be growing at a slower pace compared to the offer. In other words, there is so much content out there that it becomes impossible to consume it all.
Therefore, when you do find what you were looking for you finally click on it, but the site is so slow that you eventually give up! That is even worse for mobile users.
For instance, on average if your website takes more than three seconds to load you might lose up to 40% of your users! That can make or break your business. Thus, there’s no surprise that site speed is one of the most important factors for optimizing your blog.
Good news is you can now improve the speed of your site up to 30/40% in a few minutes and with no costs. Go on and check your speed performance, as I did.
I went to check my PageSpeed with Google Developers Tools, and that is what I got,
As you can see my site didn’t pass the test; Although not that bad from the desktop, it was bad on mobile. I can’t imagine how much traffic I lost due to that. How could I solve that? Google gives you some suggestions to make your website lighter, therefore faster.
Yet I didn’t want to spend too much time on it. In short, I was looking for a quick and efficient way to improve the speed of my website right on. I figured that the most important factor affecting the speed of the website is your Media folder.
That’s right! How many times did you unconsciously upload very large images? Well, now those images are burdening your site speed. It is time to compress them.
No problem though, I got the solution!
So I figured I could solve this issue very quickly through a WordPress plugin. That is called WP Smush. I uploaded directly from my WP website, installed it and activated it,
Then into the Media folder, I clicked on check images and started to compress them
After a few minutes, the compression was completed, and I had just saved almost one-hundred sixty megabytes in pictures. That’s impressive!
I checked my site speed again. I was impressed. My desktop speed went from 83 to 88. Ok not bad. What about mobile speed?
As you can see with this tweak alone, my mobile speed increased by over 30%, from 60 to 80!
That is how my website went from Sloth to Swift in the blink of an eye.
Time to optimize your images
When you write a blog post you often use images, right? We know for a fact that our brain loves pictures.
They are a faster and more effective way to communicate a thought, emotion and inspire action! Yet for how cool the image you picked for your blog post if search engines won’t understand it they won’t read it.
The consequence is that your content will be only in part read by search engines which are the intermediaries between your blog and your audience. How to solve this impasse? Use the alt attribute.
That attribute is crucial because it describes what the image is about in the context of your blog, or article. Now adding the alt attribute is not hard but time-consuming. For instance, if you add an image to your blog you will have to add the alt attribute manually as I did on this picture,
You can partially automate this process by installing a plugin called Format Media Titles.
If there’s a title for that image, the plugin will automatically save the alt attribute, which will make your image optimization faster and more efficient.
Target Google‘s featured snippet
If you’re familiar with basic SEO, you know what a keyword is. In short, each time a user searches for something on the web it does so through a search engine’s box, like Google‘s
Until not long ago when search engines scanned your page (in SEO lingo called crawling) most of what they saw was based on keywords. Therefore, the more keywords you stuffed into your page, the more you would show up in the search, which in the SEO world is called ranking.
Yet things changed dramatically when a few years ago Google updated its algorithm. The algorithm now looks more at context and the semantics behind the content you write rather than matching simple keywords.
Also, common wisdom in the past would tell you to rank for short keywords (for instance “blogging”). Those keywords while can bring you traffic won’t bring you conversions.
Therefore, if your objective is to bring more customers, you might want to change focus and look for long-tail keywords. A long-tail keyword is simply a very specific query of a user. An example? A question!
Also, addressing a specific question of a user a great way to convert that into a customer. Where do you find those long-tail keywords?
You can find them through a tool called Anwer The Public.
That is what I did. I digited “blog” and selected my target country, US:
I got 158 questions users have about “blog.”
Those questions have organized in clusters. Now I can use them to optimize my content by focusing on the specific pain-points my target has.
With those questions, I can also target Google’s featured snippet,
If you want to know more about how to get your snippet read the post I wrote on Search Engine People:
Use data to build effective CTAs
The adage says “Ask, and you shall receive.” This saying is true in life like in marketing. In fact, CTAs (call to actions) are a powerful tool to prompt your audience to take action. For instance, you can use them to inspire your audience to subscribe, purchase or just click through. How does a call to action look like?
As you can see a call to action makes it easier for the users to go toward a particular objective that you set beforehand. Yet the most effective way to use CTAs is to A/B test them. In short, you will have two versions of a CTA (for instance, one button is blue, the other red) and see what converts more. There are several free tools to A/B test your CTAs. For this blog, I use Hello Bar.
For instance, my goal is to get more subscribers. I’m A/B testing my CTA,
As you can see in the first CTA, there’s “join us!” in the second “subscribe.” Therefore, when landing on my homepage, some users will see the first version, while some others will see the second. It’s still too early to say what’s best. I will wait for at least a thousand view on each to say what’s best. For now, the latter version is performing better.
All it takes is to register there for free, create an account and follow the instructions. In a few minutes, you’ll have your A/B test ready!
Key steps for the first part
Growing a blog requires a lot of hard work. Yet there are a few tweaks you can implement to grow it fast and effectively. I showed you how:
- pick the best titles
- make your site fast
- optimize your images
- convert users into customers
- and A/B test your call to actions
Guide to syndicate your content
The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
How far from today’s reality does this statement sound? Would you say that who stated the above was a fool?
Yet before judging and feeling smart about yourself, I want you to take a step back. We were in 1995, the internet is still a marginal phenomenon, which was growing incredibly fast, but less than 1% of the world population was connected to the web.
Of course, it easy to see what’s in front of us today. It is easy to assume where the web is going. According to Internet Live Stats, more than 3.5bln people are connected to the web. Which means that over 40% of the world population is on the web!
The growth of the web was so wide and wild that none could have predicted how it would have looked like. To have a feel about it take a look at the graph below from Internet Live Stats!
Yet there is an even more staggering stat that any blogger should be aware of. If you launched a blog or website in 1995, you could potentially reach about 45million users (that was the world wide web population in that year).
“Cool” you may think, “I am better off today!“
Yet you would be dead wrong!
Why? Even though you could only reach 45million internet users, there were only 23,500 existing websites. In short, in 1995 there were about 1,908 per website!
If you just said to yourself “Ok, not a big deal!” you have to keep reading!
As of 2015, the world-wide-web population has grown to over 3bln people.
Yet the numbers of websites/blogs has grown exponentially too.
In the same year, there were well over 800k websites.
This means that in 2015 each website had only 3.7 users!
Is blogging dead? Let’s see…
By looking at those stats it easy to conclude that blogging is dead.
But is that really the case?
I don’t think so!
Blogging is still a great tool to reach an audience.
Yet while a few years ago, blogging alone was enough, that is no longer the case.
In short, in order to make your online business successful, you must think it like an ecosystem, where blogging fits your overall business strategy.
In other words, if you want to succeed in online business you have to use your blog strategically.
The time of “I will blog and see what happens” is over!
Blogging entails that you set an editorial strategy.
I know it may sound too much, but if you stay with me for the length of this article you will comprehend why you need to treat blogging seriously.
Before we dive into it, let me give you a visual hook of how your online business ecosystem should look like,
Blogging is the trigger, from which your online business cascade will fall.
The process that I am going to show you is pretty simple.
- First, set up an editorial calendar.
- Second, build the social platform, which will work as an amplifier.
- Third, test what works.
- Fourth, upgrade the most successful blog posts/articles to create a series of info-products (ebooks, online courses, webinars, and videos) around what your audience deemed useful.
- Fifth, organize your first meetup!
At the end of this process, you will rinse and repeat!
Step 1: Start with an editorial strategy!
Making content go viral is not an easy task. Yet we can optimize the process of content creation and improve our chances of having that content go viral.
As Aristotle already found out in 350 B.C. you have to leverage on:
- Ethos (ethical appeal)
- Pathos (emotions)
- Logos (appeal to our rational mind)
We can put Aristotle’s teachings in a framework that Jonah Berger built in his “Six STEPPS,”
- Social Currency (would your article make people look smart by sharing it?)
- Triggers (are you writing about something that is interesting?)
- Emotion (will your content arouse your audience?)
- Public (is it getting shared enough?)
- Practical Value (is it useful?)
- Stories (do you have a narrative attached to it?)
Although we are going to use this framework as a reference throughout this guide, our objective isn’t necessarily to go viral.
Rather we want to make sure the content we are creating will have three main features:
- Usefulness (is there a niche market for it?)
- Upgradability (can we create other content around it?)
- Non-perishability (what is its shelf-life?)
Practically speaking this framework translates in few simple steps.
How do we determine whether what we are going to write will be useful?
The concept of usefulness needs to be extremely targeted. We are not trying to be celebrities. We don’t want unneeded visibility. We are building a business!
Therefore, we are going to find a problem and a group of people with that problem.
To find a problem, we have to find a pain point that a group of people has (your niche).
Therefore, problem + small group of individuals = potential niche
The greatest lie ever told about content is to think of it as a fixed, never changing asset. Yet content itself can be reused and repurposed in several ways.
In other words, once you have picked a topic that is relevant to a small group of people, that content one day could become an e-book, a YouTube video, or a short webinar.
The question is, will the content you are creating have the potential to become an info-product?
This question can also be answered by looking at the last but not least important aspect,
Usually, when we think about content, we tend to think of it like we do with biological organisms. In other words, we look at two articles, and we tend to read the most recent.
Yet that is a huge mistake. Why? Because of the Lindy Effect!
In short, when it comes to content, the opposite is true. Take the Iliad. It was written two thousand years ago. Yet we can expect it (probabilistically speaking) to be relevant for at least another two thousand years!
There is a caveat though. Each time you are facing your laptop, and about to write content keep in mind only one question:
am I about to write something that has the potential to outlive me?
If yes, you are ready!
Step 2: Be Social
There is no need to say the numbers and stats of users of each society to understand the importance of integrating them into your digital strategy.
Yet the major question is,
Where does my niche hang out?
It is important to keep a presence across all these platforms.
Yet, it is crucial to understand where your niche hangs out and put most of your effort on that channel!
Step 3: The online world is your laboratory
So far we managed to decide what content to create. Also, we saw how to amplify it. We are ready to test what works and what does not. The next step will be to repurpose the most successful articles to convert them to other content formats. How?
Only look at your stats!
What posts had more success? Who are your marketing personas? Which article converted more regarding interactions (like and share) with your audience?
Step 4: Your content is like a cat. It has seven lives
There are several myths that affect our society, and it is funny to see how those same myths branch out.
For instance, while in Europe we say that cats have seven lives, in the US those lives become nine.
Besides the number of lives a cat has, there are many myths about content too.
There is often the feeling that content has a short life and that it can only be used once. But is that true?
Not really! It is time to have the words on your screen to jump out and become spoken words and images. It is time for some new fresh content!
Once again, the content upgrade will depend upon the channel where your niche hangs out.
For instance, if your audience is mainly on YouTube it will make sense to create a short video. If your audience likes reading and possesses a Kindle, then it may be the time to publish your first e-book!
Once again, no preconceptions. This is a business. Is your audience ready for it? Then you must be too!
Step 5: It is time to get offline
It has become so easy to interact with people through the web that we forget about the real world.
Often times we neglect our family to chat through the phones with individuals we never saw, neither met in real life.
Yet there is nothing stronger than meeting people. We can use all the senses to have others see who we are.
Also, there is no better way to build a loyal, trusted audience!
Start very small. Organize a meetup with no more than 10/15 people. Teach them what you have been writing about. Have them share their experience with you. That’s all!
Rinse and Repeat
Running an online business is not rocket science. Yet it takes time and dedication. Once you set up your process, it is time to rinse and repeat!
In this section, I want to show you how to make sure to reach a large audience each time you write a piece of content. So that the time invested in producing it, won’t be wasted!
You wrote an excellent article. Strangely each time you put together a piece of content, it feels like that is the most incredible creative work you’ve done in your entire life. Therefore, high expectations arise.
You look forward to the moment when you will hit the publish button and see that content go through the blogosphere, go viral and get featured on Forbes or Inc. Magazine.
Yet that is all a dream. In fact, as soon as you hit the publish button you barely get your dearest friends to read it. Why?
Usually, who writes for passion believes that writing alone is enough to be read. Instead, when you start doing it professionally, you realize how deceived you were. In fact, creating great content is only part of the job.
The rest is about making sure it gets found, read and shared. That is why as a content writer you need to have a framework in place to make sure each time you write a piece of content you reach at least a few thousand people that are ready to engage with it.
Also, today many believe that posting their content around the web still give them control over what happens to it. Ownership is only part of the equation. Indexing is as relevant if not more than ownership of content.
Therefore, you want to make sure your content gets indexed on a platform you control before syndicating it anywhere else.
How Social Networks Hooked Us
In one of my previous articles, I talk about the Hook Model. I explain what it is and how to use it ethically to transform your product or service into a habit for the user.
Yet one of the most powerful weapons social networks use to grow their user base is the feed.
The feed is the most addicting feature social media have. Not surprisingly we spend countless hours scrolling that feeds in the hope of keeping our excitement level high for as long as possible.
Almost like drug-addicted millions of people use the feed as the main source to get the information they look for.
In other words, the average person spends five years and four months of his/her life on social media.
That is why if you want your content to reach a larger audience you must learn how to use social media feed to feed your blog‘s traffic.
However, if you’re tempted to stop creating content on your blog and start disseminating only through social media, there is something you’re missing out.
Indexing vs. Ownership of Content
In the past all you needed was copyright. In short, once published a literary work that copyright did allow you to have control over it. Thus, you “owned” that piece of content.
Nowadays this is only in part true. In fact, the concept of ownership of content has changed. With the advent of the web and how search engines crawl it, ownership lost relevance in favor of indexing.
Indeed, each time you write a piece of content. You hit the publish button. That is how you’re claiming authorship on that.
You want to make sure to have ownership on the publishing media outlet where your blog was posted. That is why your blog is the answer.
Start with your blog
In short, what matters is not who wrote the piece of content but where it was first indexed. For instance, let’s assume you wrote an article and published it on Medium.
It doesn’t matter where you’ll post that content next. Since the article got first released on Medium, Google indexed it there. Creating an irreversible relationship among your story and a platform you don’t control!
Therefore, each time you publish on Medium, Quora, LinkedIn or any other publishing outlet it is almost like you’re giving up part of the “web ownership” over that content. Unless you use the following framework…
Content Amplification Framework
That is a framework in three steps with one objective:
GIVE YOU TOTAL CONTROL OVER YOUR CONTENT!
How? In three steps. First, indexing; second, spreading; third, experimenting.
Step One: Indexing
The first step is all about letting Google’s crawlers index your page so that your content is tied to your blog. Once drafted the coolest article in the blogosphere all you have to do is to hit the publish button!
As soon as you do so, billions of crawlers that are indexing the web will also walk on your page and understand where it belongs to. Time to take the second step.
Step Two: Spreading
Beyond the traditional sharing, you must do (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and StumbleUpon to mention the main ones). You want to syndicate your content on four major publishing outlets: Quora, LinkedIn Publishing, Medium, and beBee.
How to use Quora for Content Amplification
Quora is a social network where people post questions, and other people answer them. While Facebook is mainly about scrolling the feed passively, Quora is about actively engaging with a community of people that for the most part are interested in reading in-depth content.
As soon as done go back and create your blog there.
Go on the icon on the top right corner, click on it and then go to “Blogs.”
On the top right corner click on “Create A New Blog.”
Once done, repost your article there! Why? A few reasons:
First, Quora will give you visibility that otherwise you wouldn’t have.
Second, by having links that point back to your blog, you will drive traffic back to it.
Third, less intuitive you might also improve your rankings (still testing thisout). In fact, when Google notices that your content is getting found (the original piece of content got first published and indexed from your blog) it may traffic back to your site.
Another thing to do is to atomize your blog post and use it to answer specific questions people on Quora have.
After personalizing the answer, you can insert a link at the end of the question so that people that want to know more can go back to your blog and read the entire article.
How to use LinkedIn Publishing for Content Amplification
If you don’t have an account yet follow these simple steps:
You can use LinkedIn for sharing your content and for writing posts with an extract from your articles.
Therefore the first step is to share a post as I did below,
Since Neil Patel had retweeted my post on Twitter, I used that to reshare it on LinkedIn and get some extra visibility which brought few dozens of visits back to the blog.
Also, I got an extract of the post and written an article on LinkedIn,
You could either repost the entire article if you wish or just an excerpt from it and then a link to bring traffic back to your blog.
Among the two, the former is the most successful to amplify your content as much as possible. For instance, each time I republish an article entirely on LinkedIn publishing I get way more traction compared to just an extract.
My assumption is the LinkedIn algorithm makes your story seen more in the feed the more in-depth the article is.
But at times it also depends on the time and day it got published. Also usually LinkedIn feed is like a diesel engine, a post or update you posted a few days before will be showed again to some of your LinkedIn contacts.
One more thing to do to optimize your profile for content amplification is to add your articles to your experience,
In this way, anyone that is browsing your profile on LinkedIn will check your articles,
Time to move on to Medium!
How to use Medium for Content Amplification
Also, the audience on Medium is more selected, which makes a perfect place where to share your content.
Also, there’s an import feature that allows most to share your stories quickly. So why not to do it?
Time to the last step of this framework, experimentation.
Growing a blog is one of those things you do if you’re passionate about it. In fact, it takes a long time to build your audience, hone your writing skills and learn the marketing tactics to make your content found, read and shared.
Yet it all starts with a mindset, which is about experimenting with everything that leads to growth. Eventually, you’ll consolidate the lessons learned, leave the tactics that don’t work and compound your growth with what’s left. It takes a lot of tinkering.
For instance, when I first started to write on my Blog, I used only to share my articles on social media without syndicating my content. Then I understood I had to change. Now I use my content in multiple ways.
For instance, at times it makes sense to atomize an article and make it become many smaller posts on other media outlets like beBee, Medium or Quora. In this way, with the same level of effort, you’ll be able to get more leverage on what you wrote.
It is time for you to do some tinkering now!
The resources you need to get started with your business model:
- What Is a Business Model? 30 Successful Types of Business Models You Need to Know
- What Is a Business Model Canvas? Business Model Canvas Explained
- Blitzscaling Business Model Innovation Canvas In A Nutshell
- What Is a Value Proposition? Value Proposition Canvas Explained
- What Is a Lean Startup Canvas? Lean Startup Canvas Explained
- How to Write a One-Page Business Plan
- The Rise of the Subscription Economy
- How to Build a Great Business Plan According to Peter Thiel
- What Is The Most Profitable Business Model?
- The Era Of Paywalls: How To Build A Subscription Business For Your Media Outlet
- How To Create A Business Model
- What Is Business Model Innovation And Why It Matters
- What Is Blitzscaling And Why It Matters
- Snapshot: One Year Of “Business Model” Searches On Google In Review
- Business Model Vs Business Plan: When And How To Use Them
- The Five Key Factors That Lead To Successful Tech Startups
- Top 12 Business Ideas with Low Investment and High Profit
- Business Model Tools for Small Businesses and Startups
Popular case studies from the blog:
- The Power of Google Business Model in a Nutshell
- How Does Google Make Money? It’s Not Just Advertising!
- How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money? DuckDuckGo Business Model Explained
- How Amazon Makes Money: Amazon Business Model in a Nutshell
- How Does Netflix Make Money? Netflix Business Model Explained
- How Does Spotify Make Money? Spotify Business Model In A Nutshell
- The Trillion Dollar Company: Apple Business Model In A Nutshell
- DuckDuckGo: The [Former] Solopreneur That Is Beating Google at Its Game