If you’ve been blogging for a while with no success, it may be time to rethink the foundation of your strategy. The key to learning how to make your stagnant blog a success is to implement best practices, including growing your email list, creating a strategic content calendar, and implementing the right SEO practices.
Know that each of these tips comes as a direct result of 14 years of blogging mistakes and triumphs. When I first started blogging, I stopped and started so many blogs it would make your head spin. I didn’t start taking blogging seriously until 2012. Even then, I didn’t begin to monetize my blog until about 2014 and started collecting emails in 2016.
Now, I make great money blogging and work with some of the biggest brands in the world. I’m sharing 14 steps to improving your blog. If you haven’t started a blog yet, you first want to set up your blog.
1. Improve SEO, Speed, and Answers
Search engine optimization (SEO) is increasing the quality and amount of traffic to your site. When a user googles a particular phrase or keyword, the results that show on the page are SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages. We elaborate more on keywords around your topic area under writing detailed blog posts. As a blogger, it’s your goal to not only show up on the first page, but to maintain the highest ranking on that page. Speed and the delivery of quality content are all a part of the picture.
Increase Your Blog’s Speed
If your page takes too long to load, a visitor is likely to go straight back to the SERP and choose another link. Google’s algorithm doesn’t respond well to this, and it can hurt your rankings and search. Before you make any changes to your blog for speed, be sure to back up your site in case you break something.
There are companies that will increase your blog’s speed but you can also do it yourself:
- Remove any unnecessary plugins, because those can slow down your page.
- Minimize the amount of redirects on your blog.
- Reduce the size of your images using a plugin like ShortPixel Image Optimizer.
Thoroughly Answer Your Reader’s Question
It used to be that your blog posts needed just 300 words. However, search engine standards have changed—more than 2,000 words in a blog post is better. The reason is that Google wants to give the best answers for a search query. Be as thorough as possible in your post—answering the 30-second, three-minute, and 30 minute reader.
Keep the Most Important Content Up Top
When a reader visits your blog post, they want their question answered right away. This means you shouldn’t go into a long story about your dog when all they want to know is how to curl their stick-straight hair. The answer to this question has to be “above the fold,” which means before they even scroll down the page. Research shows that readers spend 80% of their time above the fold, and 20% below it.
2. Use a Content Calendar
Many bloggers I know struggle with consistency in creating posts, sharing on social media, and sending out emails to their lists. One of the best ways to stay accountable is to use a content calendar.
Also known as an editorial calendar, a content calendar is a great way to plan your upcoming content and keep track of each article in the pipeline. An easy way to do this is to use a free list-making tool such as Trello. This allows you to create a board with several different columns. You should have a column for blog post ideas, content you’ve decided to create, content ready to go live, and the finished and published articles.
The best part about Trello is that you can drag and drop between categories, assign due dates, and even tag team members in each task. This is available both on a desktop as well as a mobile phone. You can even upload a picture, or choose from any number of pictures, to use as the background of your Trello board.
If you’re struggling with what to write about to fill your content calendar, we discuss where to find ideas for blog posts in the next section.
3. Write Detailed Blog Posts
Every blog post that you write should thoroughly answer a reader’s question. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Thorough blog posts mean that readers don’t have to search elsewhere for their answers. Search engines respond well to this type of post.
- If you have the best answer to a question, other bloggers and authoritative websites are more likely to link to your blog.
- People will eventually see you as the authority in your niche. This translates to more referrals (if you offer a product/service), invites to speak about your topic, and media coverage as it relates to your niche.
If your blog posts are missing the mark right now, create a schedule to update blog posts every six months with the most up-to-date information. During these updates, you can even link to high-quality articles others have written that backs up what you say. Depending on your niche, you may even need to update blog posts more frequently.
Where to Find Ideas for Blog Posts
A good place to research blog post topics is to see what questions people ask in Facebook groups pertaining to your niche. Similarly, you can use Pinterest to see related keywords. For example, if you type in Pigeon Forge, suggested keywords include “things to do in,” “restaurants,” and “budget.” You could write a blog post on each of these keywords.
Study Keyword Topics Around Your Niche
A more advanced approach is to conduct keyword research to see what people want to know about your niche. You’ll do this research using a program like Ahrefs.com or SEMrush. When I blog, I try to pick keywords that have a search volume over 500 and a keyword difficulty of 10 or less. Ahrefs.com suggests similar keywords, so you get ideas for more blog posts or sections within your blog post.
One great way to ensure you’re thoroughly answering your reader’s search intent is to create an outline for every blog post you create. You might have serious resistance to this—I know I did—but the flow of your blog post is so much better when you use an outline. Plus, you’re much more likely to adequately cover an entire topic when it’s planned out versus winging it.
4. Sign Up for an Ad Network
If you’ve blogged for a while, you probably have some experience with an ad network. Most new bloggers sign up with Google AdSense because of the low barriers to entry: provided you’re 18, have a Gmail account, and aren’t posting anything sketchy, you can have an AdSense account. You probably also know that AdSense pays next to nothing. With $100 as the minimum payment threshold, smaller blogs might only see a paycheck every 18 months.
Some ad networks require you to have a specific number of visitors per month. Popular ad networks beyond Google AdSense include Mediavine and AdThrive. Many bloggers will join Mediavine as soon as they achieve 25,000 sessions per month (which is usually around 30,000 page views). Your blog needs 100,000 monthly page views to get approval for AdThrive. Each of these ad networks act as ad management, so you have very little you need to do for ad maintenance.
Sidebar and banner ads are common with these networks and are automatically added along the bottom of the screen. This style minimizes disruption to a reader’s experience. When a reader clicks on the ad, both the ad network and the blogger share in the revenue generated. The brand pays the ad network, and the ad network then splits the revenue—typically around 65 days after the reader makes a purchase.
There are some terms you need to know when it comes to working with ad networks:
- Cost-per-click and Pay-per-click (CPC/PPC): These terms are interchangeable, and mean that you only get paid if a reader clicks on the ad displayed on your blog.
- Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM): An advertiser pays you to run ads on your site, and you get paid every 1,000 impressions. A reader does not have to click on your ad to get paid.
- Revenue Per Mille (RPM): Mille is Latin for one thousand, so this is how much you’re getting paid per thousand impressions. RPM = (Estimated earnings/ Number of page views)*1,000.
Most ad networks pay based on CPM instead of CPC/PPC. Your RPM depends on your niche. The reason for this is because advertisers compete with each other to appear on blogs. Finance blogs are incredibly competitive, whereas food blogs aren’t nearly as competitive. However, that’s not to say that a finance blog will always make more than a food blog. Advertisers will pay more to tap into the finance, investing, and insurance blog pool. They understand that this audience is inclined to purchase products based on recommendations and higher lifetime values. With a successful finance blog, advertisers will pay higher CPCs and CPMs for ad displays on your site to capture the right traffic.
Ad Network Comparison
Typical Revenue Type
Blogger must be 18+, have a Gmail account, and can’t post anything illegal
100,000 pageviews per month
25,000 sessions per month
10,000 pageviews per month
No minimum pageviews or sessions, just high-quality content
Mix of CPC, CPM, CPA
5. Work With Brands
If you’ve blogged for a while and create great content, you might consider joining an influencer network for sponsored posts. These influencer networks provide an enormous list of bloggers and influencers to their clients, which are usually large brands. Bloggers apply for opportunities to work with these brands, and then get paid by the network once the work is complete, typically within 60 days.
These influencer networks include:
You don’t have to go through an influencer network to do sponsored posts, though. If there’s a brand that you use every day and shout its praises from the rooftops—by all means, pitch the company.
Some bloggers have success pitching companies via social media. However, you can usually find a media or marketing contact on the brand’s website. You’ll want to think about what is in alignment with your blog. You don’t want to partner with a brand that provides farm-fresh meat if you’re a vegan blogger, for example.
6. Become an Affiliate
An affiliate receives a commission for generating merchant sales, and sometimes even for getting a click or a lead. Some merchants have in-house affiliate programs; otherwise a blogger can join any number of affiliate marketing programs.
You’re probably already an Amazon Associate, which doesn’t pay a whole lot compared to some of the merchants you can find in places like Shareasale or Rakuten. Many bloggers will sprinkle affiliate links throughout blog posts. A secret to increasing your affiliate revenue is to create buyers guides, gift guides, and have a resource page of products and services you use in your niche.
If you’re looking for even more income potential, you might consider high-ticket affiliate programs. The best way to approach this is to sign up for affiliate programs of courses you’ve purchased and have had success with. For example, I had tremendous success with a publicity and media course, and the following year I became an affiliate.
With this affiliate launch, I only had 74 leads sign up for the marketing emails, but ended up closing 21 of them (that’s almost a 30% conversion rate—which is almost unheard of). I earned 50% commission on a $3,000 course in just a few weeks’ time—I’ll let you do the math on how well I did that month.
Incentivize Your Reader to Use Your Affiliate Link
The key to success in any affiliate program is to offer an incentive to your reader for using your link (provided the merchant or affiliate network allows this). For example, have your readers send proof they signed up for something with your affiliate link. In return, you’ll give them a cheat sheet or access to digital content. This works even better if your affiliate program provides a list of people you’ve referred to them.
In the case of a high ticket course or product, you can offer an even greater incentive for readers to use your affiliate link. For example, I’ve given tickets to my in-person conference, a spot at my retreat, access to my courses, and one-on-one strategy calls as a bonus for using my link.
7. Sell Products and Services
While being an affiliate is a great way to make money promoting someone else’s product, you can take it to the next level by offering your own products and services to readers. You can sell online courses, in-person workshops, e-books, physical books, and even products such as apparel. Or, service-based products work well too. These include graphic design, consulting, and coaching.
Profit margins are higher on service-based products because you don’t have to spend money on physical materials or shipping. You might have expenses for your ecommerce plugin or for hiring someone to create graphics for your products.
8. Use Social Media to Drive Traffic
The success of your blog is often measured not in how much money it makes, but by how much traffic it gets. Although, if you’re creating great content and have a lot of traffic, money isn’t usually too far behind. If you’re blogging consistently and aren’t seeing much traffic, it might be time to throw some money at paid traffic to gain traction.
Invest in Paid Ads
For less than $5 per day, you can run ads on any number of social media platforms. You can also run ads on Google. Your blog should have a presence on all major social media platforms, which include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest—each of these platforms offer a way to run ads.
Use Automated Tools for Social Media
You can use a tool like Tailwind to schedule your Pinterest posts automatically. There’s also a feature within the program called Tribes, where other members of the group can share your blog posts with their own followers on Pinterest. Other tools include Later and Planoly.
9. Guest Blog for Exposure to New Audiences
When you write a guest blog post for another blog, you get to include a link back to your own blog. This not only gets you SEO-friendly backlinks, but readers who like your guest post will likely go to read more of your content on your own blog. Of course, you want to ensure that the blog you’re submitting a post for is non-spammy and has credibility, as this could effect your site’s SEO.
You might be thinking … why would a blogger want me to write an article on their site? Aren’t I the competition? Search engines really like when bloggers can link out to other authoritative sources. Plus, if you can provide really high-quality content for their blog, it saves them the trouble of creating their own on that topic. The same goes for your blog—you should accept guest blog submissions for these same reasons.
Many bloggers will have guest blogging guidelines to follow. However, not all bloggers do. You will want to send a guest blogging pitch to their contact email address. For your blog, it might not hurt to have a page dedicated to your own guest post guidelines. For mine, I don’t accept guest posts from link farms or SEO blogging companies.
When sending a pitch to a blogger, it’s best to include relevant samples of your work and some ideas for content you’d like to write for their blog. I like to include actual blog title ideas to make it easier on the blogger I’m pitching to say yes. You can use tools to help you come up with great titles such as Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule.
10. Link Internally to Other Blog Posts
Linking to similar content you’ve already written within an article helps supplement and expand on ideas for your readers. You don’t want to stuff articles full, but sprinkle them throughout your post a few times, depending on how long your content is. This strategy will also result in higher page views per session, which search engines love.
Once you have a group of articles talking about the same subject, you can even create an entire blog page dedicated to that topic. For example, let’s say you’re a travel blogger writing about international travels. You can create an ultimate guide to each country if you have several blog posts for each country. A blogger that does this really well is The Blonde Abroad.
11. Make Your Content Scannable
Each of your headers needs to be scannable and actionable. A reader should be able to tell what high-level steps they need to do just by skimming your headers. Your paragraphs should not be longer than about 74 words, and you should include images to help break up the text. Bullet points also help the eye organize information as it scans the page.
Add CTAs to Blog Posts
A CTA is a call-to-action—it gives your reader something to do after they’ve read your blog post. Often, these CTA’s make the blogger money. For example, if you’re writing a post about the best dishwashers for a large family, you can include an affiliate link to the best dishwasher. Some bloggers include affiliate links for every product they compare, though.
What if you don’t necessarily have anything to monetize for a given blog post? No worries here—you should still include a relevant CTA. You can invite your reader to join your newsletter, follow you on social media, or download a freebie in exchange for their email so you can grow your list (such as a checklist or case study—more on that below).
12. Expand Your Blog’s Reach Through Video
Many people think that you either have a blog or a vlog, and not both. However, most blog posts you write can easily turn into a video. These videos can go on a dedicated YouTube channel and on social media, which grows your overall audience. You’ve already written the content, so putting together a video won’t take much time.
There’s an old saying that grass grows where you water it. If you’re writing a blog post, you’re growing your blog’s reach. If you take an hour to create a supplemental video to go with it, you’re not only growing your blog but also your YouTube channel.
13. Establish a Community For Your Readers
If you have an established blog with great traffic, it’s time to allow readers an opportunity to connect. There are many different ways that you can create this community for your readers.
Before you create a group for your readers, you first need to establish a relationship with them. This means that if they leave a comment on a blog post or social media post, engage with your reader. You want them to feel as though they matter—because they do. This is one of the best ways to create raving fans who share every blog post you make.
Create Paid Content
Some bloggers have a Patreon account, which is a membership platform that connects creators with their followers for exclusive paid content. A Patreon account makes it easy to set goals, which tell readers how many patrons you want per month. You can also create several different membership levels—with each tier providing more, exclusive content or access.
Set Up a Facebook Group
Other bloggers have Facebook groups set up for readers. You can create this in addition to your Patreon account, or instead of one. Facebook is by far the most popular option for bloggers ready to create a community for their readers. There is even an option to create a course right within a Facebook group, and you can track members’ progress as they advance through each unit.
14. Grow Your Email List
People often ask me, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from blogging? Or, what mistakes did you make blogging? My usual response is, “How much time do you have? I’ve made lots of mistakes!” However, the biggest mistake I made blogging is this:
I didn’t collect email addresses until at least six years into blogging.
You see, when I first started blogging seriously, it was because I only wanted to share information with people. I had zero desire to actually monetize my blog—I found it too complicated to figure out at first. So rationally, I thought, why collect emails if I’m not selling anything?
This logic has flaws, though. Even if you don’t intend to sell anything to your email list, growing one is important. Let’s say that you currently get most of your traffic from search engines and social media. What happens if your top-performing social media platform goes under? Or if Google updates its algorithm (which it regularly does and without warning)? If you have your own email list, you can email your list about new blog posts.
To grow your email list, add a CTA at the bottom of your blog posts to join your newsletter. You’ll have better luck getting an email if you provide something in return. When you do this, you’re creating a lead magnet, or freebie, to your readers. Checklists, PDF’s, and exclusive case studies work really well for lead magnets.
While overnight success isn’t likely, anyone has the ability to have success with resources and time. It takes creating great content, building an audience, and being consistent to reap the financial rewards of blogging. This process typically takes more than a year to master, and even then you should continue to learn more and implement rapidly.
As your blog grows, you’ll also need a reliable web host that can grow with you. Bluehost provides a free domain name, an SSL certificate, one-click WordPress installation, and free business email. You can get started for just $2.95 per month.