Professional Blogging – Perfect Your Pitch
Once you’ve started a blog and have had some success, what can you do to find your right audience and provide them with meaningful content?
There are quite a few things you can do to increase your credibility, visibility and branding, while also working towards being able to make money using the content and credibility you have created. Some of these are related to protecting yourself and your brand, others on how to brand yourself and put yourself in the spotlight. Finally, I will touch upon some of the ways you can monetize this for yourself.
In this second part in the series, I will touch upon Optimizing your know-how.
You need more than a basic dashboard to see if your posts are having any impact. Always make sure to get a Google Analytics account and connect your blog to it. That way you get a lot of detailed insights into your visitors, where they came from and what content they prefer. Once you know who is watching what, you can make sure to put up more content that your readers find interesting. This doesn’t mean you should only write what they prefer to read, but make sure that your blog shows content people actually want to read.
You can see how to set up and connect a Google Analytics account here. If you want to, you can also use a plugin for WordPress, such as Monster Insights or Analytify, to present the data from analytics directly in your blog dashboard. They seem to me a little bit more intuitive and manageable than the rather technical Google Analytics page.
It will take some time after setting this up for the data to accrue. If you already have a thriving blog, you can start working after a few days of gathering info. If your blog is new or underdeveloped, this may take a bit longer. It is best to get this up and running as soon as possible, because the system cannot track anything from before the tracker was set up, so that information will go to waste.
Better to set it up and not need it, than needing info and finding out you don’t have it and cannot get it.
Determining your audience
Once you have a nice batch of data, you can start looking into your visitors and see what kind of people visit your site. You are going to see quite some crawlers, like google bots, which index your content. You will likely also see some referral spam, which is when another website tries to insert its own name into your data to get you to view your page. Usually you can tell because it looks like there are pages on your blog being accessed that are not on your blog address. Simply ignore that.
Real visitors will show you a few interesting things:
- What pages and posts did they visit, and for how long?
- What country did they come from?
- How did they get on your blog?
- If through a search engine, what search terms did they use?
- What kind of operating system and browser did they use?
It may seem like that information isn’t always equally useful, but I will now show you a few basic ways in which you can use this information to improve your blog’s reach, popularity and relevance to your audience.
Write what is read
The posts that are being read, and have a longer “idle time” are posts people like to read, and read in detail. This means that this kind of content appeals to your audience, whether because it touches subjects that they like or because it presents a solution for a problem they have. An example could be finding out that people mostly visit your step-by-step guides on how to fix a stalling car engine.
You could then try to make a few more step-by-step guides on different related subjects, or more subjects on fixing your car. Further analytics will then show whether people mostly liked a step-by-step guide (the theme) or how you write about fixing cars (the topic). This will allow you to develop your blog further in whichever direction is most popular.
Secondly, consider if there are a lot of visitors from a particular country. It will allow you to tailor content, or even offer a translated version of your blog in their language to attract more visitors. If you are self-hosted and use your own domain name, it’s easy enough to export and duplicate your content. Consider a simple naming scheme, like fr.smorgasjobb.com for French or it.smorgasjobb.com for Italian. That way you do not even need to get URLs from other top-level domains (although if you do, you already have a built-in redirect while all your content is centralized).
You can tailor content by linking it to events in the countries of your readers. If your blog is about parenting, and your reader’s country has serious issues with underfunded public schools, you can add that topic into what you are writing at the time to get a direct connection with people’s current situation. That is very powerful!
Inspiration for new topics
I always like looking at the search terms people use when they found my blog. Sometimes it gives me great ideas for new topics, or interesting angles to revisit older topics. Sometimes you see people actually googling specifically your blog name, which is good because it shows that your name is getting out there. In fact, you could assist people further by using a text widget to tell them how to google for specific subjects on your blog (hint: It’s by adding site:yourblogname.com to the search terms), although there is no replacement for a good Search widget on the front page.
It can also reveal questions your audience has that they don’t get satisfying answers to. When you see a question being used as a search term when your blog comes up, but you know you don’t cover that subject, make use of this information. Make a blog post on that subject and use the question in the first paragraph, the metadata, or even as title of the post.
This way more searches will lead people to read your posts, and in the end you want to write relevant and original content – it gets no better than hearing straight from your audience what they would like to see!
Referrals and links
Sometimes people find your blog through a link from another site, for example when a piece you wrote is used as a link from someone else’s post. Or, because you are on their blogroll or are mentioned in their comments section.
It pays to check out those sites, for a couple of reasons. It is always good to know what other sites are connecting to yours based on their content, and you might be able to include them in your blogroll or link to their topics to enhance your own. On a less positive note, you might also face plagiarism, and a comment linking to your content may be to alert people to duplicate content (and they might mark you!) so you want to take action there. See my earlier post on protecting your brand for some hints and tips.
But on a more positive side this could open up beautiful new opportunities to spread your creative wings! If a blog references you more often, ask if they would like you to guest-post on their blog, and vice versa. Mixed content is more dynamic and interesting than a single person’s voice, after all. Or, you could see if they are more advanced than you in a particular way (advertising/affiliates, marketing, SEO, writing style or blog design) and see if you can get some advice on improving your own. No blog is finished, it is always a work in progress.
The most important thing is that you have a clear focus on your blog’s pitch. What are you writing about, and for whom? Using analytics can clarify whether your focus is too narrow or too broad, whether your audience is who you thought you’d be reaching. If not, either you need to tailor your content better, or alter your pitch.
After doing analytics for a year or so, look at your blog’s tagline. Is that it? Is it still perfect? And if not, what would you need to change? Maybe it’s time for some blog spring-cleaning.