Update: I have added one more tip since I published this article. Also, I have added another useful piece of information in Tip #7.
For the first time, I am writing something that other blog writers, and not my regular readers, may find useful. As a writer, June has been an exciting month for me. For the first time, I saw my blog receive 51,000 views in a month! And this blog sailed past the big milestone of total 100,000 views! I know it’s not a big deal for a hundreds of bloggers out there, but for a novice blogger like me, it is a big deal! So here I am, writing 9 tips to grow your blog for novice bloggers.
When I started this blog in late January this year, I used to see barely 15-20 views per day and I never thought that I will see this exponential growth. In fact, every month since January I had been seeing the number of views that was higher than the total of all the previous months combined. So, I thought I will share a few tips that I learnt from this growth without using any advertisements. Of course, it is based solely on my experience and may not work for everyone.
#1: Define your niche
There are millions of popular general blogs out there with several expert contributors in their writing team. Since it is not humanly possible for many of us to develop expertise in a general topic, it is best to identify the focus area of your blog to be able to distinguish yourself from other blogs. Take for example, photography is too broad a topic but wild-life photography or nature photography can be your niche area. Of course, there still can be millions of popular blogs or websites on that topic. And yet, your blog will be different because of its writing style, or the content.
What you should do? It’s important to remember that your focus area should be evident within a few seconds of landing on your front page. Use the appropriate theme, header images and tagline to make it stand out.
#2: Use Social Network
I created a facebook page from the very beginning, and reached out to a few friends I knew were interested in the topic. They were the first ones to like my page. They would occasionally share my posts that had direct links to my blog posts. Facebook is great to get initial traffic to your blog because it can take several months before someone can find your blog by searching it on Google. Unless you have used some Search Engine Optmization techniques, it is a high possibility that Google may never rank your blog higher in its search results at least for the first few months. So, Facebook is the most reliable driver to get some traffic during the initial days of your blog.
What you should do? Use your facebook page to share updates whenever you have a new post on your blog.
#3: Use Images and not Links
Facebook lets you post links to your blog post, and it does a good job of beautifying the link description. But one thing I learnt is that people are more reluctant to click on links. So I began to post images containing a brief description about my blog post, and I gave the link to my blog post in the image description. Many people may never click on the links in the image description, but many do click on the images. And when Facebook users engage more with your image posts, I think the Facebook algorithm uses that as a sign of its popularity. And because of the popularity, that image post reaches out to a much larger audience. And consequentially, you can expect a larger number of visits to your blog.
What to do? Use relevant images that has a short engaging description about what your blog post is about.
#4: Reach Popular Facebook Pages
There are really good people out there who can help popularize your content if its really worth it. Reach out to the popular facebook pages relevant to your blog topic, and share your best blog post with them. They might share your post on their page. Within 24 hours of their posting, you might see unbelievable amount of traffic. But of course, that rise is only temporary. You need to continue to work to earn those views in the future.
What to do? Contact relevant popular facebook pages using the Send Message button available on most of those pages.
#5: Engage with your readers
Your readers may engage with you on your blog post or on your facebook post. Their engagement can be minimal (e.g. likes) or more substantial (e.g. comments). Be thankful for any feedback you get. Because they are likely to become regular readers of your blog.
What to do? Write a personal note of thanks whenever anyone gives any feedback to you. If this results in a conversation, it is better as you get more input about what they liked about your blog.
#6: Write for 15 readers
In your journey as a blogger, you will come across a few people who genuinely love what you write. And they will always be there to give you their feedback whenever you need it. So, remember that you are writing for those few readers. In a way, they are the representative of the kind of readers who love your blog but never gave their feedback. And when you write for these special readers, you can be certain that your other readers will like your content too.
Don’t try to cater to the lowest common denominator in a hope to reach more readers, as it may reduce the quality of your blog which got you some readership in the first place.
What to do? Learn from the feedback of your special group of regular readers. Understand what they liked and disliked.
#7: Understand your demographics
While it may be difficult to get the demographic information of your readers from your blog statistics, having a facebook page associated with your blog can help you figure out a few things about your reader demographics. For me, I was really surprised to see that the majority of those who liked my facebook page were men when I was writing my articles mostly for women! A closer look at those who engaged with my facebook posts showed me that it is mostly women who interact with those posts. Also, it showed me the dominant age group who engaged with my posts. This definitely helped me in tailoring my content for the dominant age group of readers.
Another useful feature that Facebook page insights give you is figuring out the hour of day when most of your Facebook page followers are active. I publish/schedule my Facebook updates an hour before that so that it reaches maximum viewers as quick as possible.
What to do? Use your Facebook page Insights to understand the demographics of your readers, and to identify the time of day when you should post an update.
#8: Have an Index Page
This tip is the most important according to me. As a reader of blogs myself, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having an index page. I have seen so many blogs out there where the front page has a never ending series of blog posts with the latest post appearing on the top. Occasionally, I might find the latest blog post interesting, but finding another interesting blog post seems like a daunting task and I just give up after some efforts.
There are several ways by which you can make it easier for the readers to find the content they like –
- Have a tag and category cloud widget on your front page.
- Manually embed links to posts that are similar to the latest post you wrote.
- Use themes that support showing excerpts of several latest posts on the front page.
The above three are really helpful but the best way is to have an index page as the static front page of your blog. An index page helps a reader to quickly figure out what posts are available. A well categorized index page encourages readers to find articles that are most appealing to them. Many a times, they might even discover articles they were not expecting in the first place.
But building an index page proved to be a little more difficult than I imagined but it was totally worth the effort. I had to read a little bit about HTML and CSS to get a decent looking index page. But I was able to do it all without upgrading from my free plan with wordpress. In all honesty, one can create an index page without going through the trouble of learning HTML and CSS.
What to do? Use a theme that supports static front page. Categorize your blog posts and create an index to all those posts in your static front page.
#9: Write regularly?
I have come across so many articles for new bloggers recommending that one should write regularly. The basic assumption is that if you write regularly, your writing will improve over time. But what does the word regular mean for you? Does it mean writing something everyday, every week, every month?
First, I agree that there are undeniable benefits of writing regularly but writing regularly need not mean publishing regularly. Let’s say you are someone who reviews new Apple devices when it comes to the market, what will you publish regularly in that long period when there are no new devices in the market? What I mean to say is that when it comes to publishing a post, the word regular may indicate a different time duration for each blogger based on the theme of their blog.
But this opens up a new dilemma: many experts say that if you don’t publish quick enough, your readers are likely to forget you. Not exactly true in my experience. Your readers begin to ignore you when you start publishing meaningless articles more frequently. Your readers take notice whenever you have a more meaningful post, and they come back to you, provided you give them some kind of an alert about a new post. Your Facebook page lets you do exactly that! I limit my Facebook posts to a couple of times in a week so that my readers don’t get desensitized to what I publish.
Still, there are ways you can employ to publish with greater regularity. For example, if you are story writer, you may publish your stories in parts in stead of publishing it complete at once after several days. If you review gadgets, you may publish follow-ups or answer interesting questions that readers pose. The approach really depends on the topic you chose to write about.
What to do? Write regularly, but publish mostly the meaningful content. Think of innovative ways you can publish regularly without loosing the track of what your blog is all about.
I hope that many fellow bloggers who are new into blogging, may find these tips useful. Please give your feedback in the comments. Happy blogging!