Building the Blog of Your Dreams
Before I was the gatekeeper for everything involving content at IFP, I worked at a marketing agency in Tampa. While I worked there, it was my sole responsibility to ensure that each time a client started a blog, it hit the ground running and continued to captivate their target audience for years to come. In my mind, it became an art.
I could make tile laying projects sexy, discount airport parking seem like the only way to park, and beer look like a great alternative to water. No, I’m kidding – I’m not that full of myself. However, I am good at what I do, which is building an audience and finding a way to connect with them to sell a service or product. Today I wanted to discuss some tips I’ve learned over the years that might help you start or build your blog into the great resource you know it can be.
Find a Voice
Personality is hard to inject into writing. Read some of the text messages you get from people and notice how little the words reflect that person’s quirks, features, and well-known traits. Does it sound like them? Probably not.
Sadly, this is a hurdle many blog writers fail to overcome. Without some serious personality or a unique take on the topics they discuss, a blog becomes little more than a checkbox item that some search engine optimization (SEO) guru told you to check. It’s just words on a page at that point. All I’m saying is, if you want to make some noise, make some noise. Create a voice for yourself and add some personality to your writing to keep people coming back for more.
Write for Yourself
I remember my first job when I was writing 4-5 blog posts a day for clients in a variety of industries. I was writing Dick’s Sporting Goods with my cup of coffee and Macy’s with my late lunch, bored out of my mind with topics like, ‘Top 10 Reasons to Buy New Cleats’ or ‘5 Reasons Your Red Dress Doesn’t Work’. As a creative, it’s soul sucking. As a person like yourself with limited time in the day for writing, you need to find a passion for it.
Blogs require some serious start up time before they get rolling. Without passion, it’s easy to fall off the wagon a few months in and spend the time you’d otherwise be writing doing something you love to do in your spare time. If you’re like most, a jet ski sounds a hell of a lot more fun than sitting inside on Saturday thinking up new ideas for the blog. To overcome these temptations, you obviously need some passion for writing and brainstorming fresh approaches to keep your audience on the hook.
Consider the Layout
Now that I’ve written (and you’ve read) about 400 words of this blog post, it’s time to break it up a bit. Remember that my audience (hey, that’s you right now) doesn’t want to read a wall of text without any visual elements to give some variety. Therefore, I have created the beautiful graphic you see to the left, which has undoubtedly renewed your interest in this article.
In all seriousness, I recommend always trying to mix a few graphics into your articles to give your readers’ eyes a rest or to easily identify a place for a break.
First, let’s talk about length. While you can absolutely sneak by with 400 words on days you really need to get some work done, I wouldn’t recommend doing it often. My typical article is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 words, but I don’t want you to only focus on a number when considering length. Consider starting with a base and building on it. While the first iteration may be a few hundred words, you can continue expanding it ad nauseam until it reaches your goal.
Either way, it all comes down to SEO. If your article is detailed and extensively covers a specific topic, you are far more likely to organically attract visitors than if you have a series of short, vague articles.
Now let’s talk about finding some eyes to read your hard work.
Build an Audience
Unfortunately, finding an audience is the hardest part of owning your very own blog. While there’s no magic bullet, there are ways to pull outsiders in, if only for a moment.
Social media can be a fantastic starting place to capture some eyes, although it can be fairly time consuming and there’s going to be some days you feel like giving up. We live in a noisy world with thousands of individuals trying to get their blog noticed just like you, so you need to make an impact. This is why I recommend retaining a social media expert that can dedicate their time to promoting your blog and company.
If you don’t have the budget or just don’t feel like hiring someone to help out, I’ll be writing a follow-up post about engaging on social media in the new few weeks.
Find a blog or news provider that offers guest posting opportunities. Some individuals may ask you to pay a small fee for a spot on their website – don’t do it. There’s no reason to pay them money and many times the amount you pay is not worth the link equity you’ll receive.
Advertising is an option if you prefer to pay, although I also recommend you look for a professional to help out. Aside from building the visual assets required, you’ll need a real strategy to reach your target audience while spending the smallest amount of money possible.
Guest Star on Podcasts
Some of our advisors have seen some serious success as guests on podcasts in recent years. Try to identify a few podcasts (locally or nationally) that will let you on for a segment discussing plan participant needs, personal finance, or some other facet related to our industry.
Now that you’ve heard enough about building your audience, let’s talk about how we’re going to keep them coming back for more.
Retaining Your Audience
We touched on this briefly above, but I wanted to create a section you could refer back to when scanning this article. Alright, so we’ve got all these people reading your blog, engaging in the comments section, and telling all their friends about the amazing information they received from your posts. Now comes one of the easier parts: keeping them around.
Set a schedule and stick to it if possible. Readers need more and more content and it encourages them to revisit your website if they know it’s constantly evolving.
Seek and Respond to Engagement
Ask your readers for comments, likes, and shares and foster a friendly environment that encourages people to interact with your posts. This helps establish an emotional connection to your posts and possibly your personality.
Build a Network
As you grow, keep in touch with other bloggers and persons of interest in your social circle. The more involved you are in the community, the more likely people are to recognize your writing and learn more about you. Don’t isolate yourself!
My Last Thoughts
I recognize that I’ve just thrown a lot at you and it can seem overwhelming. The truth of the matter is that you just need to start somewhere, writing whenever the mood strikes to grow your blog. Motivate yourself to put pen to pad and you’re already better than the vast majority of people in this industry that haven’t put pen to pad in years.
If you have questions for me or comments on my article, send me an email! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you next time.