You might have heard that I don’t spend a lot of time reading blogs.
But one thing I do spend quite a lot of time doing is visiting the best blogs and websites in different niches in order to “borrow” ideas from them.
You see, one thing that bloggers often do is get stuck in their own niche. If they write about the moon landing then they only read other blogs about the moon landing or related space travel geekery.
I think this is a mistake.
Quite a lot of my ideas for content or different future projects have come from looking at sites in niches I have absolutely zero interest in. In this post I’m going to show you a few things I’ve learned from my travels about what the best blogs do on their sites. Hopefully you’ll discover something you can apply to your own.
1. A darn good content plan
One of my main passions here on Blog Tyrant is helping my readers learn more about how to develop a content plan. In fact, this special announcement that I’ve been talking about for a while now will be focused quite a lot on this very topic.
Just take a look at guys like Chris Ducker who recently ran a 10-part series (yes 10 parts!) on how to work with a virtual assistant. This type of thing takes planning and it reeks of high quality, useful information.
The professionals like TIME, the Guardian and National Geographic would all have very strict ideas about where they want their content to go over time. The random posting of bloggers really worries me.
2. Long term goals
Closely linked with the last one is the idea of long term goals. This doesn’t just refer to content goals, of course, but things you want to achieve with your blog and then thing you want your blog to help you achieve.
For example, one of my personal goals of 2013 is to make Blog Tyrant my primary focus and stop working so much on my other online businesses. This means a big re-focus for the work that I do on a day to day basis.
Think about some long term goals that you’d like to achieve and then work your blog into that plan. It’s very important to make sure you’ve got the short and medium term goals sorted out as well.
A good About Us page is vital for any blogs success. It is usually the second page that people visit and can go a long way to making a random visitor a little more interested in your content or even your mailing list.
My blogging friends Caz and Craig have a really nice example of this. It’s personal, it has photos and it gets you deeper into their content. This is how you should use a page like this to help people get to know you.
When writing a good About Us page consider including:
- Your story
Make it a personal story, not just the story of the blog. Talk about who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
- Some good photographs
More on this later but for now let me just say that a good photograph is really important to help people connect with you personally as well as taking your blog seriously.
- Your story
- Get some feedback from readers and consider showing that on this page down the bottom. Helps people feel part of a group.
- Old content
Remember, new visitors don’t know about your classic posts. Why not show them a few of your pillar posts to help them get a feel for your blog?
- Your mailing list
Of course – make sure there is an option for them to become a subscriber.
Put all of this together and you’ll have a nice little section for people to get to know you.
4. An orderly and very sexy mailing list
I put a lot of emphasis on growing an engaged and very sexy mailing list. It allows you to promote content, affiliates, new products, new websites and so on.
My preference is to use AWeber because they have a lot of great stats, opt-in form creators, and they allow you to segment your lists in a very simple and orderly way. You can also redirect your new subscribers to get a free eBook.
However, the focus of this point is that you need to keep your email subscribers orderly and on a specific funnel. Make sure they know what they are getting when they sign up. If they asked for a weekly roundup of your posts don’t send them every single update.
5. Their own domain name
If you’re new to blogging (and a lot of my readers are) you’re probably going to be a little bit scared by this one.
The fact of the matter remains that it is very hard to grow a professional blog on a free domain like Blogger or Tumblr. Sure, it happens. But it’s not ideal.
In my video on blog hosting I talk about why I think you need to move away from the idea of a free domain name and get one that represents your brand – something that you own completely. I just really hate the idea of people building up their blogging assets on a domain name that they don’t own.
6. Some reliable blog hosting with a WordPress backend
This is something I mention quite a lot but need to keep mentioning because it is so important. Your hosting is really important – as is the content management system that you use.
For beginners looking to host their own blog I have made some recommendations here and instructions on getting set up here. This is so important because, again, you don’t want to be building up an asset on a platform that you don’t fully own and control.
Some of the main reasons I recommend getting your own host with a WordPress backend include:
- Thousands of plugins
There are thousands of free plugins that you can use to change the way your site functions. These features can cost a lot of money if you were to custom build them on a different platform.
- A crap load of themes
As with the plugins, there are thousands of free and paid themes that you can use and tweak and change.
- Ease of use
WordPress really is one of the easiest CMS to use and beginners can pick it up quite quickly while experts will easily delve deeper and make it work a lot harder for them.
- Infinite customisations
I am always blown away at how much you can do with WordPress using plugins, custom coding or a combination of the two. You can turn a page on your blog into an online store, take bookings for events, run a download site… the list really is endless. If you have a good coder like Crazy XHTML you will find that almost any feature you want is a possibility.
- Complete control
When you own the server you have complete control over your emails, server space and all the things that go along with that. It’s a bit more work but totally worth it.
The best blogs and websites, however, have super fast dedicated hosting and use things like Content Delivery Networks to deliver images and graphics at a faster rate. This will be the topic of a future post as I suspect there are a lot of Tyrant Troops outgrowing their shared hosting environment.
7. Multiple content battlegrounds
A few months ago I wrote a three million word post on how to choose your social media platform. I tried to detail the main sites in a way that would help you get a grasp on what each one offered and how you could use it for your business.
And that is a really important point – you need to choose carefully but not give one so much weight that you neglect others. As Pat Flynn always says, be everywhere. But as I always try to clarify, not at the expense of your main asset – your blog.
If you can use Pinterest, Google+, Facebook and Twitter to drive sales and subscribers then do it. But if you are just finding that it is a time waste that doesn’t convert then give it up.
The most important point about having multiple content battlegrounds, however, is that you really need to try to move away from just using text and get into video, photos, images, eBooks, webinars, podcasts and all the other varieties of media that are out there. This diversity really helps to protect your blog from the Google ups and downs.
8. A bit of an advertising splash
A long time ago I wrote a post on ProBlogger about how you can use advertising to help grow your blog into something bigger. I think this is something a lot of bloggers needs to re-visit.
For some reason we bloggers think that blogging should be free and it should grow organically without any help from a cash-injection. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that.
All businesses advertise. We should to. Even if you just do a little bit of a Facebook spend like Neil Patel does when he is pushing a new service it will help you get in front of new people and hopefully drive some targeted traffic.
Be warned, however, this stuff is really addictive and it’s easy to get wrong. Make sure you do a lot of testing and tracking so you’re not just throwing money out there.
9. Some professional photos
A few weeks ago I jumped on a Skype chat with the very intelligent Chris Ducker and one of the first things he mentioned was the photo I use of me sitting on the couch in a forest with my laptop. Initially I had some doubts about the concept (I don’t work in a forest!) but after hearing one of my internet heroes talk about the fact that he noticed it I was really glad we went along with the concept.
Professional photos are so important for taking your brand to the next level. Not only do they help your readers connect to your face and personality, they undo all the negative effects that a cheap photo does to your blog. I instantly feel a little less interested in some blogs when the photos (especially the About Us) are just stock images or done with an iPhone.
Do a search for photographers in your area and see if you can set aside $200 to get some quick photos done. Make sure they express who you are and what you do and aren’t just traditional headshots. You don’t want to end up with a photo on Awkward Family Portraits.
10. A well developed and consistent brand and logo
Something that you instantly notice when you visit great sites like Nerd Fitness is how consistent the branding is. The logo is well incorporated into everything that they do and the colours and vibe are the same everywhere.
This is really important for blogs to do because it is part of standing out from the crowd. If you can come up with something distinctive and apply it to your voice and all that you do you’ll find people are more interested in you content.
I’ve been a bit naughty on this front as I’m moving away from the Blog Tyrant sceptre with the upcoming changes in favour of the more military style text logo. I know some of you won’t be happy with that.
To read the rest of this article: Blog Tyrant