Have you ever wondered how all those giant super-popular blogs got their traffic?
Yes, it takes hardwork, strong branding, and also a little money. But ANYBODY can grow a huge website following. I’ve actually done it myself a few dozen times. I’ve done for my personal sites and also for many clients. Yes, there IS a formula! And here’s how you do it…
1. Longterm branding
Your website needs to look like it’s either been around for a long time or that it PLANS to be around for a long time. There’s a simple psychological reason why this works. Visitors need to be told (somehow through your website design) that “This site is here to stay! This site should be REMEMBERED, and revisited later!”
Ok, so how do you establish this so-called “longterm branding”?
For me, it’s in the distinctness of your design and your overall vibe of the site. The name, the design, the titles. It’s about being unique or authentic. But to not look so much like other sites and to not have a name that is too current with the trends. It’s like when you drive down the main street and see a mom-and-pop burger stand that looks like it’s been there for 200 years, VS a brand new restaurant concept that seems to be copying Chipotle.
Don’t ever become a copycat brand, it doesn’t work. Your best bet is to be that distinct mom-and-pop brand and trust me, if you do it right, it WILL one day become its own huge mega-brand.
Wanna know the worst way to create “longterm branding”?
Trying too hard to have a “cool design” or “professional design”. Don’t waste your time and money on this. A little bit of personality is worth a thousand times more than a fancy suit. I meant it! Put your site up, along with whatever quirky name and logo and get straight to producing content!
2. Quality content
Yes, you’ve heard it a dozen times but probably don’t even know what that means. All content created today needs to have 2 qualities – USEFULNESS & ENTERTAINMENT. “Info-tainment” or “Edu-tainment” if you will! It has to be useful and fun-to-read.
For most of you, the useful is the easy part. You can write helpful stuff from your personal experience. Or you can copy or scrape content from other sites…although I think it’s silly and somehow subconsciously, users can tell when you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
Now the hard part for many of you is the ENTERTAINMENT part. You probably don’t know how to make your content fun to read. You may feel like you’re not interesting enough or don’t have enough personality to engage readers. Trust me, you do. Just write like you talk. Forget about proper grammar. Throw that shit out the window. DO.WHATEVER.THE.HECK.YOU.WANT!
Write things exactly the way they come out in your head. Don’t go around trying to dig up fancy words. Write things exactly how you said them to yourself in your head. No fancy phrasing. You trying to make up new words. If you’re interesting enough to have friends, you’re interesting enough to have millions of readers. I really mean it. Yes, even if you’re an introvert or shy or quiet or don’t have much to say about anything. You could literally write just 2 sentences about your blog and still be interesting to someone out there:
“Hi. I’m Ariel. I eat vegan food because my roommate is so hardcore about it.
Jordan Smith. Boring delivery driver in small-town city in middle of nowhere.
Dogs are better people than people.
Longterm utility is also key! Many people like to say “consistency is key” but I’m not sure I would phrase it that way. Your visitors need to know if your site is something that might be useful later. (Because if not, they’ll just close out and not register it in their memory.) It’s not enough to solve their immediate problem, you need to show that you’ll have something for their other concerns or perhaps future concerns.
3. Content marketing & SEO
I hate these words because they’re being thrown around like buzz words or some kind of mysterious technical witchcraft. Content marketing basically means marketing yourself by having good content. And the idea is that good content gets passed around organically and doesn’t actually have to be marketed! So basically, “content marketing” basically means just having good content.
SEO is more like a technical-statistical definition of what constitutes “good content”. SEO basically says….”Your content is good if…”:
- It has at least a thousand words (per post).
- You use helpful keywords a few times (but not too much).
- You link to other helpful/credible sites, and also have other helpful/credible sites linking back to you.
So basically to have good content marketing & SEO, you basically just create interesting content with some helpful keywords in there and have nice inbound and outbound links.
But how do you get nice inbound links from other sites? Takes time, my friend. Create a nice brand and good content and in time, people will find it worthwhile to link to you. Of course, I’ve got tricks but let’s not get distracted now!
4. Engage your audience (social media)
This is one of the most trickiest and constantly re-evolving aspects of managing a blog. One of the most important questions to ask…
How do we engage our audience and what or whom are we engaging them with?
- Are you engaging your audience with yourself?
- With your brand?
- With your product?
- Are you engaging them with the industry?
- Or are you engaging them with each other?
- What about you? Do YOU want to be engaged?
Knowing the answers to these questions greatly sets the tone for where and how to engage the audience. You have to set the terms for communication. It’s like how your friends come to know the best way to reach you. “Does Johnny like to be called or texted? Or messaged on Facebook? Does he like important things emailed or faxed?”
I’m getting lazy so I won’t spell out every detail of each medium but here are some ideas:
- WEBSITE – great for commenting, quick and easy. Absolute control of your branding and user experience. Hard to communicate here if no one visits your site.
- FACEBOOK – reaching users from their digital home. Seeing how your users engage with each other. Seeing what they say about your brand. Can be time-consuming if you hate social media. Great for reaching people AND businesses.
- TWITTER/LINKEDIN – really time-consuming if you don’t live on these mediums.
- INSTAGRAM – great for image-based brands/content. Also reaching younger audience.
- EMAIL – great for high-frequency and also low-frequency fans. Great for reaching busy people or those not on social media.
- FACE-2-FACE – community orgs and meetups. Yes, there are still people who love to engage in person. Hangout with likeminded folks and network!
5. Paid traffic
Yes, you can buy your traffic. Paid advertising, promotion, or sponsorships…all have their place but you should be careful. I would never recommend to buy traffic. Any traffic that has to be bought most likely won’t stay. At best, they come there for one thing and they’re gone as soon as they get what they want.
I’m an ardent supporter of the organic-only mentality. I’ve been successful so I hate the idea of having to pay for something that should come free. IMO, your best and most loyal traffic will come from organically-grown followers. Your best fans don’t need to be bought or reminded. You don’t need to persuade them to visit your blog. Heck, if anything, THEY’RE the ones to persuade YOU to visit your own blog. They’ll be the ones to write comments asking questions, demanding new guides, asking where you’ve been.
But paid traffic does have its place. It can speed up time-sensitive messages. It can airdrop your brand into places that would have never heard of you. It can also deliver your brand message exactly as you want it delivered, and exactly to the users you want it delivered to. There’s also the argument that paid traffic is a license to print money if the followers you get are worth more than what you paid to acquire them. So yes…if you’re a master internet ad-smith, why not?
Ultimately – USER EXPERIENCE
Yes, it basically comes down to user experience. It’s basically like meeting new people and deciding who you want to be friends with, who you want to add to your contact list, and who you don’t care to ever see again.
Here’s the mentality of a visitor deciding whether or not to be “friends” with your brand:
- Is this brand a longterm brand? (Will it be around later?)
- Is this brand fun or useful? (Can I get any use out of it now?)
- Is this brand worth talking to later? (Should I save it?)
- Is this brand worth telling others about? (Should I share with friends?)
- How do I find this brand? (Website, keywords, social media.)
- How can this brand reach me? (Email, social media.)
Is it really that hard? No, it ain’t. There are people just like you out there hoping to meet other likeminded people. So shine your personality loud and bright so they can find you better. Infuse your personality into every aspect of your brand and let that success roll in!