Welcome to the fifth Blogging Case Study update, we’re getting quite deep into the course now so it’s great to see so many of you following along (over 5,000 now!), with many of you sharing your progress with me via email.
This update is going to look at utilising what you have learned from your niche research after the first update. Not only is it important to know about your niche for traffic generating purposes, but studying other blogs on your topic will show you what other people are doing so you can a) follow what is important and b) know how to differentiate yourself (stand out from the crowd).
Since most people don’t have that spare time online, even the most hardcore niche reader wont have time to read a large percentage blogs on a specific topic. And people with less time (the majority) will read even fewer. Therefore you not only have to provide a lot of value to get peoples interest, you have to do it when a lot of other people are trying to do the same. In other words, you have “competition”.
Some people like to look at the competition – especially bigger competition – as a bad thing. I don’t view it that way at all. Having a lot of competition firstly shows that you’ve probably picked a niche that a lot of people are interested in and secondly means there’s a lot of bloggers who could ultimately send traffic your way. You can also look at other sites to speed up the learning curve of what you should be implementing yourself when it comes to design and social media participation.
A Brief Blogging History
Before I get into the more technical side of this update, I want to give you a very brief overview of how blogging has evolved. Even though I could probably write hundreds of pages on this topic I want to keep it simple because the past doesn’t matter as much as where the blogosphere is heading.
I first set-up a WordPress blog back in 2006 and the ‘scene’ was a lot different then. There were no Facebook fan pages and Twitter wouldn’t really catch on until a few years later so subscribing to RSS feeds was the main way that people followed websites. Because of that, tons of feed readers were popping up everywhere giving people easy access to what their favourite websites were saying. The beauty of RSS readers being that you don’t have to keep going to your favourite blogs manually to see if they had updated; you can get all of your news in one place.
A lot has changed since then, and although RSS is still popular, following brands and bloggers on Twitter or ‘Liking’ them on Facebook is proving to be a far more popular way to get your news. This is especially true in non-technical industries. Back when I had started blogging, Bloglines and Google Reader were the two most popular RSS readers. These days, it’s a different story. Bloglines was set to close down last October with their owners, Ask.com saying: “RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly. Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact. The writing is on the wall. ” Even Google Reader has just had a massive overhaul to make it fit in more with their own Facebook-like social network, Google+.
There was even a popular service called ‘MyBlogLog’ which Yahoo purchased for over $10m to help people connect with their community of readers. The site doesn’t even operate anymore; entirely due to the popularity of the aforementioned social networks.
This is possibly just a personal opinion, but back then bloggers were a lot more connected through their blogs. In the industries I operate in and follow, I also notice far fewer people linking out to each other. These days it’s more common to Re-Tweet, Stumble or Like a post than it is to talk about it on your own website or even join in the comments section.
Of course, there are still blogs which receive hundreds or even thousands of comments and gather dozens of new links every single day, but they’re definitely the minority, and there results aren’t indicative of the blogosphere as a whole.
The reason I’ve shared this with you is because it’s important to know what has changed to know where we are heading, even though many of the fundamentals are still the same. I feel like there’s another shift happening at the moment, and it’s always good to stay on top of the game…
Just yesterday Technorati (who analyse and track blogs) released their annual ‘State of the Blogosphere’ report. 4,114 bloggers from 45 countries around the world took part in their survey which tracks things like income, time spent blogging and how many blogs each person owns. Just 5% of the people in the survey class themselves as full-time professional bloggers, a number which is probably far higher than reality since the people most likely to take part in this survey are people who are doing fairly well.
Of those 5% full-timers, less than half of them said that blogging makes up the majority of their income. In other words, just 75 of the 4,000 active bloggers surveyed are making a decent income for their efforts. Of course, making money with blogs is not everything (as I’ve covered in the backstory) but it does show that this is a competitive and difficult field to break into.
Because of this, it’s very important – at least if you do want to make money – to have a clear focus on what you’re doing with your site and how you’re trying to help people. I had originally planned to leave my strategy until the end of this case study, on the final update, so you could “go away” and take action with what I’ve written out.
I’ve realised though that makes little sense, since everything you do after this update (writing content, making money, getting traffic) relies on you knowing what it currently takes to make a blog successful.
Here’s the gist of the advice that I’ve given to Andrea along the way:
“Your blog is essentially a middle hub which connects you, your content, platforms and your “sales channels”. I’ll explain this more in a second. Your blog (hub) can receive traffic from lots of different resources such as Facebook, Twitter, comments on other sites, direct traffic, RSS traffic from current subscribers, mentions on other blogs and from search engines.
All of these kinds of traffic can be generated by blogs, which is one thing that makes them so great. People link to people, so you are the centre voice in the middle of this whole thing. Making it real and personal. News blogs are sometimes an exception here.
Your main aim (with the most likely positive result) should be to get people to subscribe to your email list. Proven time and time again it’s the best source of traffic for a lot of people. If you’re providing good enough content to stay in peoples inbox then you’re doing well. The good thing about email is that it’s personal, but subscribers are also very ruthless about their quality demands. In other words, people are very careful about what they allow to stay in their inbox.
For new visitors, as stated, your aim should be to get their email address. Failing that you may be able to entice them to connect with you on the likes of Twitter or Facebook. Or they may just share your content / site with their audience. If you can capture the visitor in some way then your traffic generation strategies were worthwhile. If people come and click away then, of course, your efforts weren’t really worth it. Building your audience and influence means that you wont always need to focus on growing traffic yourself. Your audience will help you grow, and you can focus on optimising your sales funnels and email marketing / blog post updates.
For returning visitors who know you better, you want them to comment, share your content, link to your posts, click on your affiliate links and buy your products.
With this in mind your job then is to focus on a number of traffic strategies, and this funnel, and see which traffic generation techniques work best for you. It’s not about eliminating them all, as multiple focuses in this regard can be manageable, but making sure you’re putting what time you do have into your brightest traffic prospects.
Your content is then the vehicle which shares your value, shows your expertise and/or passion, and helps you to grow your audience. People only have so much time and so much interest to read certain articles or browse particular websites, so you want to maximise their experience.
So essentially you’re building a loop where you drive traffic to your blog, try and convert those visitors (email list, twitter, Facebook), connect with them through personal quality updates which provide value and then “Utilise” – for lack of a better word – your audience to help you make more money and share your content.
You then continue the loop by writing quality content that generates traffic, grows your audience and grows the number of people you can utilise.”
This is a very dumbed-down approach and of course there is more to blogging than just some basic principles. New opportunities, platforms, marketing ideas and traffic generation ideas are popping up all of the time. As long as you understand this general approach here, however, then you’re going to be on the right track.