Have you blogged in the past and stopped because you couldn’t find an audience?
Did you decide it wasn’t worth your time?
Did you think there had to be a better way to generate leads and traffic?
Let me guess. You answered yes to all 3 questions… right? 90% of people who start blogging give up in the first 6 months – so that was a safe bet.
When you answered yes, yes and yes – you were wrong. You made one bad decision and two bad assumptions.
- You were wrong to stop blogging.
- Blogging is worth your time.
- There’s no better way to generate leads and traffic than content marketing – which is essentially blogging with a defined strategy to promote your business.
Seth Godin once said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” – and that was way back in 2008 when content marketing was in it’s infancy. Godin is called the “godfather of modern marketing” so he should know.Today over 70% of adults in the developed world are exposed to content marketing every day.
More recently 60% of Chief Marketing Officers agreed that creating engaging content is essential to success in today’s hyper-informed economy.
And they were also right – which is unusual for CMO’s. Because most businesses suck at content marketing – especially big corporate ones.
And if they think it’s worthwhile we should pay attention.
Because if bad content marketing’s working for them… imagine what good content marketing could do for us.
The internet has democratized the distribution of information. No matter what level you’re playing at, you can get your message in front of the right people very effectively – if you know how.
It’s now quicker and easier than ever in the entire HISTORY of humanity to get MASSIVE exposure for yourself and for your business. But maybe not for the reason you’re thinking. Because if you’re thinking you can gain the exposure you want and need through search powered marketing – you need to think again.
Search powered traffic may be a level playing field… but it’s a crowded pond – and Google makes all the decisions as to how many people find you that way. I have 3 blogs rotting away in some forgotten corner of the internet to prove it
I did everything I was told. SEO, social media, sharing, guest posting, link building… I worked on “build it, optimize it and they will come”.. But nobody came.
In truth search powered marketing is not dead… it does work. It just takes too long.
And who’s got the time/money to waste waiting for it to happen?
At the end of the day, the myth of starting an internet business based on a search powered blog is exactly that… a myth. It’s time has passed.
That’s not to say search can’t help you once you’re established and have had time to build your authority and ranking in Google – because it can. But it’s just no longer the right way to start a new business and get the traction you need fast.
So what is the right way?
Content marketing – properly executed is the way forward.
What is content marketing?
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”.
That’s a good definition… it comes from the Content Marketing Institute. They should know. But they left one crucial thing out. Just one word in fact. We’ll get to that shortly.
What is quality content?
First lets look at what it’s not…
Quality content is not about you. Blogging started as an “online diary”, but quality content has nothing in common with your diary. Your diary is about yourself. Your readers are only concerned about themselves and solving their own problems. Unless you’re a celebrity… don’t blog about yourself.
Quality content is not about pitching. If your content is perceived as a sales pitch, you’re dead. Believe me – all internet users are sick and tired of being pitched and will leave as soon as they pick up a hint of a pitch. The traffic you worked so hard to capture will leave in droves.
Quality content is not light reading. It has to be helpful to your readers.
It’s born out of:
- Knowing WHO your audience is
- Knowing WHAT they want
- Knowing HOW to help them get it
And if you don’t have this knowledge – you need to go out and find it.
It starts with choosing the right topic for your blog post. You need to find out what’s trending in your area of interest… and why. Because if you write about what’s trending – you have a much bigger potential audience for that blog post.
How do you find out what’s trending?
There are a bunch of ways to do this and it’s not difficult. Essentially you want to find trending keywords, search terms and shared social content. Here’s a list of places you can look.
Google search, Google Trends, Twitter, Social Mention, Keyhole, Buzzfeed, Reddit, Topsy. Spend a little time at each and choose the ones you like best. Get to know those well and it will pay off handsomely in time saved as you move forward.
OK… so you’ve got your topic. You’re ready to go. But before your fingers hit the keyboard ask yourself this question:
Who Needs Another Blog Post?
Think about it… there are millions of blog posts out there.
I can help you get your blog post found, but unless there’s something unique about it – it will have no impact on you or your business. You need your post to be shared and you need readers to subscribe to your blog.
Those are the only results that matter.
If that happens… your posts reach more people and you establish a direct line of communication with those people. So you won’t have to get out there and find them again to read your next post – and you can start to build a list of potential customers.
But unless your readers are informed, enlightened and entertained by your blog post, it won’t happen.
So how do we do we make it happen?
OK, you’ve found your topic. Your audience is people interested in that topic. You now need to find out more about that audience. You need to discover everything about the typical person who would read your blog post and get the most out of it.
That means research, analysis, synthesis, and a desire to create value.
It requires an investment in time to find out who they are, where they hang out, where they’re currently looking for answers, what words and phrases they use. You need to know how they think about their problems, who they currently regard as authorities, and what motivates them.
The more you know about them – the better you can relate to and influence them when you write.
Think about it this way.
You’re at a party. You’re in a strange town and you know hardly anyone at the party. You see a small group of people and work up the courage to to go introduce yourself. It’s a little awkward… but then you discover you all share a common interest – golf.
The ice is broken and you’re soon chatting comfortably with them. You share golf anecdotes and news, you use the same terminology, you understand each other.
Online it’s easier in one respect… because you take the face to face part out of it. And you already know when you join a group or discussion that they’re interested in the topic.
So… this is where you start.
- Look for relevant Facebook pages and join them. Take part in discussions. Read back through old discussions and make notes.
- Do hashtag searches in Twitter and follow relevant accounts. Check what’s being retweeted and take notes. Get TweetDeck and set up alerts for keywords. Engage.
- Look for questions being asked on Quora. Ask questions on Quora.
- Look for web forums on your topic and join them. Get involved in discussions. Read recent discussions. Ask questions. Respond to questions. See which discussions are the longest and have the most participants. Refine what you already know about what’s trending… by engaging with the participants in that trend.
Sounds like work, right?
I’m not going to BS you about this. It is a lot of work… and if you really want to make an impact blogging you have to put in the work. Personally, I enjoy it so it doesn’t feel too much like work to me. Hopefully it’s the same for you.
Either way… you have to do it. You can only blog successfully as an insider. Your readers, especially the knowledgeable ones will pick up instantly if you’re not.
Your option is to put out weak, thin, me too blog posts which nobody will ever read or remember. Nor will they share your posts or subscribe to your blog… which kind of defeats the object of starting a blog in the first place.
But look on the bright side…
The effort you put in now will continue to serve you way beyond your first blog post. You’re building a rock solid foundation to your blogging success moving forward.
You’re making an investment in the future success of your business. And as you move forward it will get easier… because you’ll be able to draw from the database of insider knowledge you will have built through your hard work at the start. It will cost you nothing but a little time to build this foundation… and it helps hugely if you are interested in your topic.
If you are starting a blog and looking for a niche… choose something you are really interested in. Preferably a topic you already know something about. This will give you a huge head start. It makes the early research process a whole lot more fun… and a lot quicker if you already have some knowledge.
More importantly – your enthusiasm will come through in your writing… and here’s nothing more engaging than enthusiasm.
If you’ve picked a niche because you feel it might be profitable, but have no real interest in it, this will show in your writing.You’ll end up sounding like an instruction manual.
You don’t need to be an expert to start blogging.
If you’re not an expert – just be sure you are a few steps ahead of your average beginner – and you will be useful to them. But be sure to preface your post with a note if your information is at that level. Experts might read it – but they’ll know what to expect.
Whatever you do… don’t write about stuff you don’t have a full grasp of. You’ll be caught out so fast it will make your head spin. And that’s a big step backwards. Either way… be sure you do the research I talked about earlier so you are familiar with the issues and terminology. Also be sure that what you’re writing is factual and useful.
And always deliver what you promise in the headline.
That’s not as tough as you think. A good part of your audience will be beginners and they will lap up solid basic information. As a beginner, there’s nothing better than an article which explains things clearly in layman’s language.
Remember… as long as your readers leave with more knowledge than they arrived with, they’ll be back for more. Guaranteed.
Some Notes on Style
Your style will be part of your identity as a blogger. So don’t try and cultivate a style which is not you and ends up sounding unnatural or forced.
But here’s something you can use without abandoning your own style – but will make it flow more naturally.
Choose an imaginary person interested in your topic and give him or her a name. Then write only to that person. Yes, write to one person only. Write your post as a letter to that person. You’re writing to them about your topic. You know more than they do and you’re trying to bring them up to speed on the topic.
I do this and address that person by name as I’m writing. I imagine how they’re responding and react to those responses. I keep it conversational and try to be humble. Never be condescending.
Of course – at the end I remove the persons name from the post – and make sure it still flows.
Let me show you…
I’ve been trying to work out a better way of targeting potential customers on Facebook… and I think I might have found something. Remember when I told you that targeting by interests was not the best option? Well I was wrong. You’re not going to believe this Mike, but I’ve found a simple way to **** and I thought I’d share it with you.
You have no idea how well this works.
What you do is….
Now you’re probably wondering how…”
Then I take out all the ‘Mikes’, see how it reads, amend and publish. Try it – it works.
I also apply the 4 biggest rules of copywriting:
- Keep sentences short. Split long sentences into shorter ones.
- Get rid of as many adjectives and adverbs as you can.
- Use power verbs. (not ‘He ran past me fast’ but ‘He hurtled past me’)
- Leave plenty of white space.
This is not hard sell type copywriting, just clear, easy to read text. And it’s important because it makes your text accessible. This helps to hook them in as soon as they start reading. If they have problems wading through your first few sentences – you’ve lost them – they’re gone.
So start by giving them valuable material presented in a clear digestible format from the first word.
Once you’ve hooked your readers with your first post, what they going to want next is more advanced information. And they don’t want to wait for it.
If you’re an authority on your topic you can give them that in a couple of days. If you’re not – you’ve got to become an expert quickly.
So move fast and choose a topic which follows logically from your last post. Find and absorb the best information on that topic – and start working your next post. But be sure you’ve really absorbed that information before you commit to that post. You’ll know whether you have or not.
For me it’s the “ahaa” moments. When I’m researching – I get to a point where it’s like somebody turned on a light. The pieces start to fall into place.
That’s when you can think about committing to your next post.
And that should be what it should be like for your readers. Your objective is to get “ahaa” moments out of them. You want them to think “Wow – so that’s how it works!” or “Hey – that’s exactly how I feel!”
So give them “ahaa” moments as close to the start of every post as you can. Remember… good clear ‘how to’ information is solid gold.
A few more pointers…
Whatever level you’re at, never write a blog post just to write a blog post. Blogging’s a zero sum game. Fascinate your readers… or lose them. If your post is just ok, don’t publish it. Just publishing a post gets you no points. It has no intrinsic merit.
Rather spend more time and effort and turn it into a great post. You’ll get to know quickly whether your post is good or not. Mostly it depends on how much time you spent on the research. Solving problems and imparting knowledge moves you up the scale of authority… and that’s the whole point.
One more thing. Don’t let SEO spoil your posts. Don’t be obsessed with keywords. It has to read naturally. Shares and backlinks from a great post have far more SEO value than keyword stuffing and other artificial methods.
And remember… emotions are contagious – always be upbeat. You should love your topic… and sound like you love it.
Lack of Consistency
When I abandoned my early blogs I blamed poor advice and Google. I thought it was just a case of a couple of reasonable posts – a bit of SEO – and I’d be wallowing in the sea of traffic that brought me.
That’s what I’d read anyway.
When nothing happened and I abandoned ship… and in a sense I was right. Only a tiny fraction of all the blogs based only on organic search ever make it big. But in fact I was wrong.
Why? Because I lacked consistency.
The Internet is lined with the cobwebs and crickets of those “failed” entrepreneurs who couldn’t commit for the long haul. No matter what business model you use you have to commit. You cannot build a valuable relationship with anybody who lacks consistency.
That applies to all relationships. Consistency builds trust.
And building a relationship with your readers that turns them into customers… is all about trust. So while you’re building your blogging skills to produce quality content – develop the habits of consistency.
- Commit to 4 hours of research a day.
- Make a resolution to post on the same day (or days) of the week.
- Honor any commitments you make to follow up on existing posts with specific information.
- Respond to comments and questions promptly.
- Respect your internal commitment to only produce quality useful content.
Your readers will soon be queuing up to grab your posts on the scheduled days.
Your content marketing strategy depends on consistency. It’s the only way to build trust, to build relationships, and to build credibility.
If I’d acted like a “grown up” from the beginning… and published content reliably and consistently I might have even made it back then. I know this sounds boring and ‘preachy’ but it is one of the most crucial things you need to do if you want to blog successfully.
3. Lack of Promotion
Want to know what happens when you hit “publish” on your latest blog post?
Unless there’s somebody there to read it.
So we complete a full circle here and swing back to the beginning. We concluded that an internet business based on a search powered blog is a myth… and it is. The world of blogging is far too big now for you to get found that way.
So if you can’t rely on people finding you – you have to get out there and find the people. And there’s a way you can do that.
What happened was… Google and the big social media channels needed a way to monetize their businesses. They had huge numbers of users but no revenue model.
They quickly worked out that what they had (and everyone else wanted) was users. They also had a lot of data about those users.
So they sold access to their users to advertisers. And better than that they sold access to specific users who were likely to be interested in the product the advertiser was promoting.
It was a whole new model… and so much more tempting than the ” throw it at a wall and see what sticks” advertising model. And it made effective advertising affordable to you and me.
Do you see the symmetry here?
Google and big social media offered us all something of value for free – then pulled us in and turned us into paying customers. And we’re paying for something that works.
We can now put our blog in front of a highly targeted audience for as little as $5 per day. I’d spend a bit more than that – but $5 a day will get you some good exposure – it’s up to you. And if you think about it, it works out cheaper to buy traffic than rely on the search powered blog myth. Because if you put a value on time (and you have to) waiting for your blog to start ranking is expensive. There’s great article on Facebook ad targeting here.
You also have to look at the business you almost certainly would have had – if you’d been advertising during the time you waited to rank on search.
So it’s not a choice anymore. It’s crucial to invest in an advertising budget for buying traffic and generating visitors to your content. Relying on free traffic has become one of the worst mistakes you can make.
Using paid traffic is an empowering experience. You take control of your traffic and you are responsible for it. You don’t sit around and hope it happens. You drive your advertising program and make sure it happens.
And that’s the missing word I mentioned way back up at the top where I gave you a definition of ‘content marketing’.
The word is PROMOTE.
The point is, if you’re using content to drive your business – unless you’re very well established – you have to actively promote it. And the best way to do it is by advertising on social media or Google.
My first choice – by a considerable margin – is Facebook advertising. But it’s up to you.
It also goes without saying that whenever you post an article or a video, alert your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media communities. Invite your readers to like, tweet, and share with wild enthusiasm.
And don’t mourn the passing of search powered blogging. It’s a blessing that we don’t need it any more.It’s always going to be there in the background anyway – feeding us some leads as our posts start ranking.
We just don’t need to obsess about it any more.
So get out there and create some really effective content.
Do it consistently
Promote it actively with paid advertising.
And take responsibility for your own success – because it really is in your hands now.
You decide your own fate.
One more thing…
When you execute on this plan you’re going to need an effective lead magnet to pick up emails from your new traffic. Here’s a great free 7 step lead magnet creation guide for you.
If you liked this post – please help me by sharing and subscribing to the blog.
(with grateful acknowledgement