After blogging for over 7 years, a lot has changed in this industry. Back when I started, Instagram and Squarespace didn’t even exist yet. I only had a few hundred readers a month and didn’t even know how To Monetize my blog. Just like most people when they first start a blog, I was interested in getting people to read my content. As a blogger, readers (who keep coming back) are the measure of success. And while my mom, sister and a couple of people I went to high school with read my blog, I needed more readers to eventually leverage my blog as a business.
Fast forward 7 years later, I now understand that numbers aren’t everything, but to create a successful blog you do need readers and a few other things. Those “other things” are what will keep your existing readers and attract new ones.
What I love about this list is that whether you’ve had your blog for 2 months or even 2 years you can apply everything on this list almost immediately. With the exception of one, they’re all free and accessible to anyone who’s willing to do the work. I didn’t have all of this things when I first started blogging. I learned about them along the way as the blogging industry grew and advanced to what it is now. And now that I’ve applied each of these things, my audience has grown steadily over the last 7 years.
If you’re interested in growing your blog and taking it to the next level, here are 9 things every blog must have to be successful:
A Self Hosted Domain
Listen, I understand that when you first start blogging you’re working with a modest budget. But here’s what I will say, it’s worth $12.99 to own your domain. Visiting a site with the domain suffix Squarespace.com, WordPress.com or Blogspot.com isn’t as assuring as yoursitename.com. Because blogging has the potential to bring in a solid profit and even become a business, it’s worth the small investment. And while the domain isn’t the only cost – there’s hosting as well – you can find hosting for as cheap as $4.99 which is under $100 a year. If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, get a self hosted domain.
A Content “Sequel”
Blogging is a lot of work and certainly isn’t a game, but for most successful blogs there is something else that drives readers interest. Whether it’s an email list, podcast, or YouTube channel most bloggers who are successful have a content “sequel” or second platform that keeps their audience engaged and committed to them. There is no right or wrong “sequel” per se, but if you’re looking for something with a guaranteed return, opt for video content or building an email list where you send out a weekly email.
A Recognizable Brand
Whether it’s Gary Vee’s Instagram quote graphics or Regina’s graphics from Pinterest, you want to stand out like they do. You probably knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned the two examples to the point that you could envision it. It’s important to take your visual branding seriously. Establish a style guide with go to fonts and color (you need no more than three each) and keep graphics consistent on your platforms. This way when people see them they know it’s connected to your blog. Consistency and distinction are the name of the game here.
Compatible Social Media
If you follow me on Periscope, then you’ve heard me say this numerous times, you have got to have consistent social Media names across the board. This also means you need to carefully consider those names in relation to your blog URL. Some people have a blog URL but go by their first and last name on social. That’s fine. But be sure to go by your first and last name across all platforms. Some people have different names on each platform AND a different name for heir blog URL. That’s. Doing. Too. Much. My URL is my first and last name, but on Social I’m @themattiejames everywhere. While it’s not an exact match, I was able to distinguish my name on Social and it’s close enough to where you won’t forget my domain name. Figure out what works Best for you, just make sure it’s consistent on Social. (And something people can spell without the use of a dictionary.)
Consistent, Valuable Content
I’ll tell you a little secret, you don’t need to post everyday to be a successful blogger. I know. Groundbreaking. But you do need to establish a clear schedule to make sure you keep readers conditioned to come back to your blog. So if your goal is to post every week on Tuesday, do just that. Prepare throughout the week and schedule that post to go live on Tuesday morning (or afternoon- whatever you prefer). But switching it up too often – especially in the beginning of your blogging journey – will confuse readers and give them no reason to commit to coming back. Content is still king and consistency is its very worth queen.
Here’s why people read content: because of the story. So whether your story is being a stylish everyday career girl in Chicago wearing cute outfits or a stay at home mom who built a successful online business while her kids were at school, make sure you keep the story authentic and interesting. The interesting part comes from the storytelling to tell a story you need a sound voice. Is your voice romantic, sarcastic, friendly – a delicate balance of all three? Be very intentional (and authentic) with your blog voice as it will determine who you intrigue with your story. As a say in The Consistency Cleanse – you can’t be a saint in one post and a trap queen in another. Your voice has to be consistent as well.
Visuals That Leave Readers Wanting More
Even if you’re not a lifestyle blogger (but especially if you are) it’s important to include great visuals as part of your blog content. We all trust things that look good, right? So if you have impactful content that also looks good, it will be memorable for sure. As I mentioned earlier, create consistent graphics that will stand out on your blog and Social when you promote your content. But if and when you include photos, be sure that they are clear, high quality and match the voice/tone of your blog as well. When you have awesome photos that readers like to look at, they will come back to look for more. It’s a small detail in your blog that makes a big difference in readership.
A Social Media Promo Strategy
This is very important. It’s better to promote your content everyday than post everyday. For whatever reasons, most bloggers still don’t get that. From what I hear, they don’t want to annoy readers or followers. So here’s what I suggest, blog and promote things they’re interested in. Learn how to write Social copy (aka messaging that draws readers in). But please, for the love of blog, don’t not promote your content because you’re scared. If you’re not actively, intentionally and strategically promoting your content on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and/Facebook your blog will grow at snail’s pace. Your blogging colleagues will pass you by in readership and success because they were more than fine with putting their content out there daily. The choice is yours. Let me help you: choose to promote your content consistently on social media.
An Email List
Last but certainly not least, nothing builds a loyal readership and following quite like an email list. It doesn’t matter what tour niche is, an email list is readership gold. Of course, the push back I get on this is “I’m a lifestyle blogger” or “I have a huge following on Instagram.” Neither one of those things eliminates you from needing and benefitting from an email list. As a lifestyle blogger, it’s a great way to let your readers know what’s on your blog as of late. And even if you have a huge following on Instagram or any other social platform, you don’t own that platform. So if they decide to shut down (highly unlikely) or even change the algorithm AGAIN (highly likely) you can control who sees your content and messaging whenever you want them to. Plus, nothing converts better than email – not any of the social platforms are even close. Whether it’s webinars, content upgrades or lead magnets – figure out how to get those readers on tour email list!
Blogging certainly is something you get better at the more you do it, but starting out with these 9 things will certainly help you stand out and attract a growing readership. Out of the 9 listed above, how many items do you have on your blog? Which one of them have made the biggest difference in your readership? Let me know in the comments below.