The prospect of launching a brand new website can be daunting. Even after you’ve figured out all the mechanics it’ll take just to get your site live, then there’s the even greater challenge of getting your first readers—let alone growing that figure into the thousands (or more) of monthly visitors. After that, you’ll have to learn how to convert your readers in to email subscribers, and eventually begin monetizing your audience through an online store, affiliate programs, digital products or otherwise.
Over the past few years, I’ve been able to grow my blog from just a small side project into a profitable website that now brings in millions of readers and well over six-figures in side income for me each year. And that hasn’t been an accident. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some incredible companies and (get paid to) perfect my process for creating a bulletproof content strategy that consistently generates new readers for a website. I’ve successfully applied those same lessons to my own blog, and that’s exactly what we’re covering in depth here today.
4 Steps to Build a Bulletproof Content Strategy for Your Blog
1. Define a very clear goal for your blog
2. Understand your readers and decide on your key content topics
3. Develop content ideas and use keyword research to prioritize them.
4. Promote your content and drive massive traffic to your blog
1. Define a very clear goal for your blog.
What’s the number one purpose of creating content on your blog? What are you ultimately hoping to achieve? Is it to drive traffic and get readers? To get people to sign up for your email newsletter? To get them to download a book you wrote or some other resource? To generate leads for a product you’re selling?
This goal may change as you start to build your blog, but it’s still important to clarify it very early on. As prolific blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin explains:
“You have the freedom to make these choices at the beginning when they’re free, fast, and easy. Not later on when you’ve made commitments.”
Once you understand your greater purpose for building a blog and have a clearly defined reason that you’ll be dedicating many hours to this pursuit in the coming months, we can start to solidify the mini-wins that’ll help you actually get there.
2.Understand your readers and decide on your key content topics.
Your readers will determine whether or not your website is successful. To write content that will actually benefit them, you need to truly understand them—which is why it helps if you’re also writing for yourself. In a lot of cases, you’re going to be your own ideal reader, which makes this process easier. But in almost every case, it’s useful to do a bit of research around the audience you’re writing for (you might even learn something about yourself!). To start, think about the demographics and psychographics of your ideal audience:
- Demographics: The quantitative traits of your readers. Think, age, gender, location, job title, etc…
- Psychographics: The more “unmeasurable” traits like values, interests, attitude, and belief systems.
Once you’ve written down these qualities for your ideal reader, you can start to come up with an audience persona—a fictionalized version of who your readers are. This well help to guide you in your content creation.
When it comes to actually choosing what to write about, it’s great to have a few guiding topics that you’ll refer back to. I like to call these content pillars as they’re the foundation that holds up the rest of your blog and ties everything together. Having a few set pillars like this helps keep your blog focused. It also gives you a lens, and a voice that you can write from. Develop content ideas and use keyword research to prioritize them.
3. Develop content ideas and use keyword research to prioritize them.
At this point, your content strategy answers who you’re writing for and which topics you’re going to cover. But what about the actual posts you’re going to write? The good news is you can honestly write whatever you want. This is your blog!
However, this is where I believe a simple editorial calendar is so important. This is just a basic document you’ll use to fill out, assign publishing dates, and make sure you’ll always know what to write next. Like so:
Here’s a simple process I use for coming up with the specific post ideas I write for my own blog:
- Brainstorm topics, terms and write them all down: Start by writing down as many ideas or keywords that you can. Aim for things you know your ideal audience would find valuable. What questions are they asking? Where do you have expertise and can help fill in the blanks?
- Use a keyword research tool to gather even more ideas: We want a TON of these blog post topics, so let’s use a keyword explorer tool like Ahrefs or Moz to help us fill it out. These tools basically just show you terms and topics related to the ones you’ve already come up with, as well as how much traffic those terms are getting (to show that your audience cares about them!)
- Lump similar ideas together: Your list should be pretty huge at this point. So take all those terms and start to refine them. Are there duplicates that you can lump together? Do some just not look right now? Refine and edit it down.
- Put your ideas in a spreadsheet and prioritize: Ok, let’s get this list a little more organized now. Start a spreadsheet (or use a project management tool to organize) and include your keyword, estimated search volume, difficulty, and opportunity. You should be able to get all this info from the keyword tool you use. Looking at all these, assign a priority to each one either on a scale of 1-5 or a basic High-Medium-Low.
- Outline content that hits all three key needs: Take your top priorities and set deadlines for them. Look for topics that hit all three key needs: Fits your content pillars, are genuine needs of your readers, and have some traffic potential.
4. Promote Your Content and Drive Massive Traffic to Your Blog
What do you actually do once you’ve hit publish on your blog posts?
It’s a question I hear time and time again from my readers and podcast listeners alike. And it’s one thing that separates the great blogs from the ones that are only read by your mom and a few spam bots. The answer is last piece of the puzzle, the one that hardly any other bloggers openly talk about. That’s content promotion.
If you’re looking to drive traffic and build a successful business from your blog, you need to know how to promote your content. Here are a few of the best ways to start getting in front of new readers and keep them coming back for more. Follow this simple list of promotion techniques:
1. Social Media
2. Social Media Tools
3. Forums and Message Boards
4. Guest Posts and Blogging on Different Platforms
5. Email Newsletter
The obvious first place to turn to is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat. Whichever platform best suits your niche and your audience is the right one for you. And that’s an important note.
There’s no point in trying to promote your blog posts on every social media platform. Instead, look for the ones that give you the best return. Experiment and see what works best for you. Each social network naturally appeals to a certain niche and a certain type of reader. This is a pretty broad statement, but generally speaking, here’s what works best on each social platform:
- Facebook: Videos and curated content
- Instagram: High-res photos, quotes, and Stories
- Twitter: News, blog posts, and GIFs
- LinkedIn: Professional content and career news
- Pinterest: Infographics, step-by-step photo guides, visual content
- Google+: Blog posts you want to rank well on Google
- Reddit: Comments about topics in your niche
I know, it’s a lot. But luckily there are lots of tools that can help you manage your social media posts throughout the week. In fact, with the right tool, you should be able to promote all your posts across social in just an hour or two a week. I’ve listed my favorites below.
2. Best Social Tools
- Buffer: One of the easiest ways to schedule social shares in advance for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus. Their browser plug-in is also great for quickly adding interesting posts you find to your social promotion queue.
- Hootsuite: If you want something a bit more in-depth, Hootsuite is a powerful social sharing, scheduling, and monitoring platform. It’s probably a bit too much for a beginner blogger, but is a worthwhile option to check out once you start to grow.
- Gain App: If you work with multiple people on your blog, Gain is a great tool for collaborating and controlling who posts what from your account. It’s a bit more expensive, but their workflows can save you a ton of time.
Social media may not be the best approach in every situation. Instead, being a part of targeted forums and online communities can give you a way better return on your time, and is a much better time investment if you’re still developing your idea and perfecting the message of your blog.
Look for a topically relevant group to join. For example, if you’re making a blog about photography, you could consider joining Facebook groups like Nikon Digital Camera & Photo Enthusiasts (26,000+ members), Nikon D750 Users (27,000+ members) and Nikon UK Photography (13,000+ members).
If your blog is relevant to anyone with a DSLR camera, you’re sure to find enough people who’d be interested in reading your posts within those groups. Now, if your search doesn’t come up with any Facebook Groups with a decent number of members (5,000+) there are some other options. Look for any general Facebook groups that relate to your niche or groups on LinkedIn or Reddit.
Remember though, these aren’t just places to dump links to your blog posts. You need to provide value before you ask for anything in return. So start by building relationships and engaging with people there. You never know, you might come up with some great blog ideas in the process.
One of the best things about building a blog is that bloggers love to help each other out. And guest posting on other relevant blogs is one of the best ways to connect with an already established audience.
“When I first started my blog, I started guest posting really early on. I’d make spreadsheets and reach out to editors and other bloggers. It definitely took a while to gain traction. I went through a lot of rejection, but over time it became easier because I’d built this portfolio of other things I published.”
Laurence started by going after smaller coding blogs and sites with a similar audience to the one she wanted to build. It might seem like a lot of work, but those early guest posts are what helped her build her own audience and community. And eventually, as her network grew, she was able to make better connections and start posting on bigger blogs.
As you’re building your credibility online, guest posting will be by far the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to promoting your content and developing your site’s reputation.
For starters, try reposting your blog posts on Medium—a site that’s free to use for readers and writers. You can even look for a Medium Publication that’s popular in your niche and submit your post to them.
There’s also Quora—a question and answer site that lets anyone respond to user’s queries. One tactic I’ve used is to search for relevant topics in my niche and then answer questions I’ve already written about on my blog (like this Quora answer about how to get blog traffic that’s received hundreds of upvotes and thousands of views). This way I know I’m giving them good value and can even link back to the full post on my blog.
Lastly, if you’re more business-oriented in your blog posts, you might want to post them on LinkedIn and try leveraging their new native videos (which have been getting a lot of engagement lately).
The key point to all of this is that you want to look for places where your audience is. Whether that’s other blogs, communities, or social platforms, aim to be there.
5. Using an email newsletter to grow your audience
One of the best forms of promotion for your blog content over the long run isn’t to other external audiences, but to your own. An email newsletter is probably the most powerful way to keep readers engaged and excited about the work you’re doing and one of the things you should set up as soon as you launch your blog—and it’s something to start doing early.
Bonus: A Few Other Ways to Grow Your Blog Traffic
Outside of promotion on social media, over email, and through guest posts, there are a few other techniques I’ve regularly used to grow my blog audience:
- Interview people in your niche: There’s nothing better than learning from famous people in your niche. Not only does interviewing them help you build a relationship, but other people reading your blog want to hear from them. You can use these interviews for blog posts or even start a podcast like I did with The Side Hustle Project.
- Network with other bloggers or mention their content: Early on, you want to get on other people’s radars. And one of the best ways to do that is to mention other relevant bloggers and blog posts on yours. For Austin Belack, founder of Cultivated Culture, that meant linking out to relevant blog posts and then emailing the blogger and saying “Hey! I mentioned you in my most recent article. If you think it’s worthy of a share, I’d really appreciate it. But if not, I’m happy to keep sharing yours.” This drove the initial 50,000 to 60,000 readers to his blog.
- Talk to people about what you’re doing: It might seem too simple, but tell the people around you what you’re doing. Get excited about your blog and share the things you’re working on. As Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking told me: “Maybe it’s just your friends reading you to start, but you should be responding to every comment and going out and commenting on other blogs. This is essentially your industry and these are your coworkers.”
- Learn from other top bloggers: If you don’t feel ready to connect with other bloggers in your space, at least try to learn from what they’re doing. As Silas Moser, one half of Chasing Foxes, told me, you should study people who are good at what you’re doing: “Look at what works for them and see how you can use it. So many people told us ‘you could never make money from a blog.’ But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are tons of successful bloggers out there that you can learn from and see what they’ve done and apply that to your niche.”