When I began blogging way back in 2006, it was a hobby, a way to encourage myself to write and to share what I wrote with my family and friends. Since then, as I’ve seen the potential of blogs as a writer, especially with the explosion of mommy blogs in recent years, my blog has become much more than a hobby. It is now part of my business and career plan. Here’s what I’ve learned (from fellow bloggers and personal experience) about building your blog.
This post contains affiliate and sponsored links.
1. Use Social Media to Build Your Blog
I think it goes without saying these days that if you want to build your blog, you must be on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or Pinterest and/or Instagram and/or other social networks. I only joined Twitter this year, but it’s been a great way to meet more people online and to spread the word about my blog. The best advice I’ve seen on social media is Clair Diaz Ortiz’s social media manifesto How to Be Social. I also appreciated the Blog Clarity Pinning Perfect course for understanding Pinterest and using it well as a blogger.
2. Put Pictures in Your Posts
Again, this is something I only started doing in the last year or so, but pictures add so much to a post, particularly if they are pinworthy. Pinterest is currently generating more referral traffic than any other social media site. A good picture catches a reader’s attention and encourages people to click on your link, whether they see that picture on Pinterest or Facebook or elsewhere. Pictures also make it easy for readers to skim your post quickly and, as the old saying goes… a picture is worth a thousand words.
3. Participate in Contests and Giveaways
Contests are very popular across the blogosphere these days. Many blogs are teaming together to bring big prizes to their readers. Readers follow the participating blogs to enter the contest. This is a great way to build your blog by gaining huge numbers of followers (after that, it’s up to you to connect with those followers and keep them around).
My tip: find contests that fit your blog and will attract the sort of readers you want.
Not every giveaway has to be worth hundreds of dollars or provide a huge, drool-worthy prize. You can also give away the last book you reviewed or a gift card for a free coffee or smaller prizes. Many companies will offer you a product discount for your readers; your readers may come back knowing that they can find coupons and freebies on your site. Test out different types of giveaways and contests and see what your readers respond best to.
4. Join Blog Groups or Communities
There are a variety of blog groups and communities where bloggers can support and promote each other. Find one that fits you (and your blog niche) and start participating. Here you can gain advice from a wide group of bloggers, ask questions about specific hurdles you face in building your blog, and share your experience as well. I’ve learned so much lately from the Canucks Bloggers Network. I also participate in a couple other Facebook groups for bloggers.
Tailwind’s Tribes is another place to find bloggers who are supporting each other. While there’s less chitchat here, other bloggers will repin your posts (and you’ll see what they are creating) so it’s a win-win for everyone.
5. Blog Regularly
For me, blogging regularly means a schedule and having a schedule has actually made me more productive on my blog. If the idea of a schedule scares you, just make sure you are posting on a roughly regular basis—don’t post every day for a week and then post nothing for the next week. I’ve gone from blogging when I feel like it to blogging on MWF to blogging daily and back to MWF.
Since I know when I want to publish a post, I now plan posts about a month in advance and write them about one or two weeks in advance. If I have a great idea, I write it and schedule it to post on a suitable date—whether that’s tomorrow or two weeks away. This also helps me schedule sponsored posts, as I can write them in my schedule and make sure that I publish them on time.
6. Guest Blog to Build Your Blog
Both guest blogging for other bloggers and hosting guest bloggers on your own site are a great way to increase traffic to your blog and to build relationships with other bloggers. By writing posts for other bloggers, you create links back to your own blog from theirs and get seen by new readers. By hosting guest bloggers, you offer new content to your own readers and get traffic from your guest blogger, who’ll spread the word that they are blogging at your blog. Win win for everyone.
7. Promote Yourself!
As an introverted writer type, I find it very hard to promote myself and my blog. If you talk to me in person, I might never mention my blog unless you asked me directly, “What do you do?” However, promoting your blog is a big part of building your blog. Don’t just promote your blog online; promote it in your real life circles as well.
Always keep business cards in your purse to hand out to anyone who asks you about your blog—acquaintances at church, the store clerk at the grocery store, that mom at the playground who asks you about homeschooling, etc.
Another great way to promote your blog is through customized stickers. Everyone loves stickers and they are easy to create. You can use your logo and blog name to create stickers to give away to readers (especially if you are mailing out lots of giveaways or other products). Or you could create stickers based on your blog niche. If you’re a food blogger, create some stickers with food tips or measurement hacks. If you’re a mom blogger, create some stickers with inspiration quotes or encouragements.
8. Optimize Your Posts for Search Engines
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is vitally important to your blog. This is not my strong point. I’m a writer; I’m great at writing posts and telling stories. Having to make sure that my posts will be discovered by search engines (such as Google and Pinterest) is a bit harder for me, but it’s worth taking the extra time to go back through your posts and do the SEO.
I highly recommend buying the Yoast Premium Plugin and using it. They have tons of great tutorials on their website for you to read and follow as you figure out SEO. The plugin is basically a checklist that goes through your post to make sure you’ve used a keyword, included it in your titles and alt text, etc. It’s a great start for SEO, but for the plugin to work, you need to make sure you are choosing good keywords.
This is where keyword research comes in. Again, I like to pick a topic and just write, not spend a bunch of time deciding exactly what to call my topic or how to write about it. You can do keyword research before or after writing your post. I found the Sticky SEO course very helpful for figuring out how to do keyword research and then implementing that into my posts. I don’t follow every step in every post that I write, but her process is definitely worth it for rocking SEO.
And just a note… SEO is way more important than social media because on social media, the algorithm is constantly changing. Most of my traffic comes to me from Google or Pinterest, not from social media. If you have a choice between putting your time into building your social media channel and researching SEO, go with the SEO. It’s a better long-term strategy for building your blog.
9. Content is King
You’ve probably heard this piece of advice before. It’s true. If you want readers, you must give them good content. This means writing well (good spelling and grammar) as well as writing about interesting topics. I’ve been surprised at times by what posts on my blog are popular. At the same time, I can learn from those posts and create more content on that topic for my readers.
As a newer blogger, one of your biggest hurdles will be creating new content for your blog. I was on my way to BlogHer14 when I ran into another blogger in the airport. As we chatted in line at the coffee shop, blog traffic came up. I mentioned how often I blogged (a couple times per week). She said if I wanted to increase my traffic, I needed to increase how often I posted. Soon after that, I participated in a daily writing challenge for October and saw my traffic grow. More posts means more reasons for readers to come to your blog, as well as more chances to be found by search engines, which means more traffic.
10. Be Yourself in Building Your Blog
Yes, you can do everything else I’ve suggested—things that have worked for me and for other bloggers—but you must still be yourself. While there are times when I am jealous of other bloggers for their followers or their ability to write with great humour or the experiences they can share with their readers, I also recognize that each of the bloggers I follow is unique. I keep going back to their blogs because I like their voice, their perspective, their opinions. So learn from the bloggers you admire, but be yourself.
Want MORE? Check out my Recommended Resources for Bloggers!
If you are a blogger, what has been the best piece of advice you’ve received for building your blog? If you are a blog reader, what do you like to see in a blog?