Whether you’re an individual freelancer, looking to attract clients, or an organization that wants to strengthen its brand image, you know that a thriving and popular blog can massively enhance your chances of achieving your goals. However, the problem is that if you’re just starting out, almost every niche has thousands of blogs trying to achieve the same objectives as you are, so it’s not easy to get yourself noticed. SEO can help you to a certain extent but with Google tightening its algorithms regularly, that isn’t the most reliable strategy, not to mention it’s time-consuming.
So, is there any way to achieve growth quickly and build a popular blog even in a crowded niche?
The answer is a resounding YES!
There are countless examples, but I’ll mention just a few for you. Jon Morrow grew his blog, BoostBlogTraffic.com, to insane popularity within 1 year. Jon was an editor at Copyblogger.com, but the strategy he used to build his own blog had little to do with his employers.
Matthew Woodward is another example of someone who started from scratch and created one of the most popular blogs in the SEO and internet marketing niche. Some of the other blogs that come to mind are KISSmetrics, Buffer and The Write Life.
So, the question is, how do you actually grow your blog from the depths of anonymity to ultimate stardom?
Here’s the shortest route to building a popular blog based on the examples I’ve mentioned, and many that I haven’t.
Fundamental Components of Your Strategy
You can’t rely solely on SEO to build a popular blog; however, your blog does need to have a sound SEO foundation. I’d recommend using the WordPress SEO plugin: Yoast, to achieve that. You can read more about this here.
This strategy; however, is about how to make your blog popular without SEO. The three basic components of this strategy are all about building a platform where you can continuously provide value to your readers, generate word-of-mouth marketing, and use the strength of other established blogs and bloggers to boost your own readership.
1. Email List Building
The first thing you need in order to build a popular blog is a strong and growing email list. Despite the advent of social media websites, email lists are still the most effective way to attract returning visitors to your blog and make money from them by selling different products and services.
Many expert bloggers, including Jon Morrow and Brian Clark, recommend having at least 1,000 email list subscribers before regularly publishing content on your blog.
This is probably the most time-consuming step in this strategy, but your blog will depend on it heavily in order to achieve success quickly.
In order to get email subscribers you’ll need to do some ground work.
a. Create a Free Giveaway
People are sensitive about their email information so you need to have an irresistible reason for them to join your mailing list. The most effective way of doing this is by creating a free resource and offering it in exchange for visitors’ email addresses.
How do you know if your resource is irresistible?
Identify one core issue of your niche and create a comprehensive resource that covers every aspect of that issue. Your resource should be so good that you could even charge for it (but don’t!). I’ll explain how to use this resource later in the post.
Note: Read this post to learn more about creating awesome resources for list building
b. Use The Right Opt-in Box
Your visitors will use a subscriber box to enter their emails and get on your list. The kind of opt-in plugin you use, and the location that you choose for it, will be critical in determining the number of visitors that convert into subscribers. You’ll need to do some A/B testing in order to find the position that works best for you but in general: the sidebar, the main header, and the end of every post are good positions to add opt-in boxes.
2. Creating Lots of Content
If you want to build a popular blog creating lots of high quality content is not an option – it’s an absolute necessity. Without quality content, no strategy can build a thriving and popular blog for you. Apart from quality, the placement of your content is equally important. Remember, you’re just starting out, so even if you create the best content in your niche, there will be no one to read it on your blog. This is where your free resource will come in handy. Here’s what you should do:
a. Use Guest Blogging To Build Your Brand and List
Guest blogging is one of the best ways to attract new readers and subscribers to your blog, it also attracts valuable backlinks at the same time. A few months ago, Google’s head of search engine marketing, Matt Cutts, came down hard on paid guest blogging networks that promoted spammy and irrelevant guest posts just for the sake of backlinks. Many marketers were confused by this action and assumed that Google had completely banned guest blogging.
That assumption is not true (as explained by Neil Patel in this post).
Guest blogging still remains an extremely valuable branding strategy that you should use to its full effect. In fact, it was one of the primary ways Jon Morrow was able to attract thousands of subscribers to his new blog.
Shortlist the most relevant blogs that your target audience follows and approach them with detailed, high quality, and actionable posts. The number of guest posts you manage to land is not as important as the quality of blogs you target. For example, a single post on Copyblogger or ProBlogger can get you more referral traffic and subscribers than tens of posts on lesser known blogs. Getting published on these high profile blogs will also immediately raise your profile image and force people to take notice.
Every blog allows guest authors to include their 2-3 line introduction at the end of their guest post, along with 1-2 relevant links. This is where you should link back to your free resource. Promote it as much as you can because it is your gateway to a strong email list, which will ultimately help you launch your blog.
Note: To learn more about guest blogging on popular blogs, read this.
b. Create Awesome Content on Your Own Blog
I know I said that you shouldn’t publish content on your own blog before you have a sizable email list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create content on your blog and prepare for the launch.
When you do have enough subscribers, you don’t want to make them wait for your content. The right thing to do is to prepare 15-20 high quality posts and save them as drafts. All of them should cover the core issues and topics of your niche that are not time-sensitive.
Quality is the key here as well. If your content is top notch, you will get lots of social media shares, word of mouth marketing, and more subscribers. If the content is below par, you’ll quickly get exposed and might see many of your subscribers leave you.
Leading bloggers, like Pat Flynn and Ramit Sethi, spend 10-12 hours on every post. If that’s too much for you, reduce your publishing frequency but don’t compromise on the quality.
When you do eventually start publishing these posts, mix them up with new and trending topics as well. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of your content that will make people revisit your blog and make it more popular.
Most bloggers try to follow the two steps I’ve mentioned above. However, it is this third step that many of them forget about. All your guest blogging and list building efforts can be in vain if you don’t have an influential network to help you.
TheWriteLife.com was started from scratch and became a leading blog in the freelance writing niche solely because of its powerful network. A single recommendation from a niche leader is much more powerful than a dozen guest posts, but if you combine both of them the combination becomes irresistible.
This is really the secret behind all the popular blogs. They combine their blogging and marketing efforts with strong networking.
Here are few things you should be doing in order to build your network:
- Shortlist the most influential bloggers in your niche.
- Join Triberr – it’s the best place to get in touch with leading marketers.
- Follow all of them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Respond to their tweets and comments on their Facebook and Google+ posts. Join LinkedIn groups to get in touch with niche leaders.
- Start visiting their blogs and regularly leave detailed and insightful comments on them.
- Share their content frequently (don’t forget to tag them)
- Send them occasional thank you emails for their content.
- Once you’ve had a few conversations with them, send them your free resource for a quick review.
- Mention them in your guest posts and blog posts, and let them know about it.
- Build blogging alliances with other influential and like-minded bloggers. Many bloggers have secret alliances with others. They promote each other’s content, link back when relevant, and send each other highly relevant traffic.
Networking is not a one-time activity. It’s a full-time job that you need to keep doing in order to make it to the inner circles of influential bloggers and then stay there to enjoy the benefits.
In reality, there’s no shortcut to building a popular blog. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way. The wrong way is to create awesome content on a new blog that has no visitors and then expect people to read, share, and subscribe just because your content is great.
The right way, however, is what I’ve explained in detail in this post:
How To Make Your Blog Popular Formula
Create an awesome resource for list building → Promote it through guest blogging and your blog content → Use networking and blogging alliances to maximize your reach.
If you stick to this formula, you’ll get noticed quickly and start attracting much more readership which will make your blog more popular and you’ll have done it without relying on SEO. If you don’t, you’ll end up as most other failed blogs do.