A few months ago something was bothering me quite a lot. One of my best friends, Diggy, was implementing all of the traffic methods I recommend to grow a blog and was seeing results, but not the kind of results he really deserved for his efforts.
He writes in the same niche as I did when I grew PluginID to 6,500 subscribers, so my traffic advice was both relevant and from experience. For a while I couldn’t work out why his site wasn’t growing as it should’ve been, but a few hours after sitting down and inspecting the blog, I had a large checklist of suggested improvements that have really taken Upgrade Reality to the next level.
After implementing my suggestions, he quickly passed the 1,000 subscribers mark, which is a great achievement in any industry. Now that a few of the issues he had are in my awareness, I’ve been noticing them more frequently around the web.
It’s very possible that your own blog is having the same problems that Diggy’s blog was, too. It’s not that you can’t grow your site – because even ugly blogs with no about page can gain an audience – it’s just that you could probably be getting better results (more subscribers, more sales, more pageviews) from your traffic generation strategy.
I’m going to share some of the exact suggestions that I gave to Diggy which can literally transform your blog overnight and hopefully help you start seeing similar results to those of Upgrade Reality.
My sites don’t just grow through mentions of me online; they grow through people talking about me offline as well. I know this because I’ve met a number of readers in person, and many of them said that’s how they found me. Everybody has a great story. In the blogging world you just need to make it obvious, quickly, so people can share it.
I may be wrong, but if you check your analytics stats right now, one of the most naturally clicked pages on your site is your about page. Besides your articles, that’s the first place most visitors will go. If someone is giving you their time by clicking on your site, make sure your about page is compelling enough to keep their attention.
With PluginID, I made it very clear that I was an 18 year old who moved to South Africa (where I didn’t know one single person), worked in the rat-race for 18 months and now make a living online. Putting my ego aside, that’s a great story to have. As I know Diggy personally, I know he has done some amazing things, yet I had to read through 700 words of text just to find out what they are.
Even the most loyal and dedicated blog readers aren’t going to read every single word that you write so why expect first time visitors to do so? Diggy owned and ran a supermarket at 18, runs a very successful internet business and he gets to work from home full-time. That’s a great story to have, so my suggestion to him was to simply make it clearer.
You don’t have to use bullet points like we have, but get your main message across quickly. Feel free to expand on it if people want to read more, which some will, but don’t expect everyone has time to search for why they should read your blog.
Even if don’t think your story is impressive (it probably is) or something people want to share, at least be honest with your aims for the site and why you’re building it.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t swear on your blog – after all, my about page is called What the F***? – but by keeping it clean I’m referring to your design. After I installed a new theme for Diggy, he soon began to fill it with ads, unattractive tables, and irrelevant images that didn’t fit in with the rest of the site.
I’m not going to claim I’m a great designer and nor do you have to be, but you can probably tell when your site is cluttered. This idea is a play on the saying K.I.S.S (Keep It Clean Simple Stupid) but it’s clearly aimed at your design, rather than the messages in your content or your story.
I’m one of the few people who doesn’t monetise their blogs but I have absolutely nothing against people who do. In fact, I would rather people made their living through blogging and doing something they love, rather than doing things that they hate. However, if your ads are currently just making you a few bucks per month, it might be a good idea to take them down until your audience grows.
Other bloggers will have their own views on this, so go with your own gut feeling. In the case of Upgrade Reality, there were a few random ads that weren’t really relevant to the site content and hadn’t made money, so they weren’t worth keeping.
The main reason to keep your site clean is so that you can make it clear what you want your visitors to do. If you like ViperChill, I simply want to help you read more content. That’s it. That may be in the form of subscribing to the RSS feed and getting future updates or clicking on a post in the right sidebar.
My goal is not to get you to buy something, click on an affiliate link or even share my posts (although that is a nice benefit). If your site is in the growth stages, then I imagine that my goal of helping people find more of my work is going to align closely with you. Making Upgrade Reality much cleaner gave readers less distractions and made his great content the main focus.
I have a confession to make: I absolutely hate the way I write. I’m not saying this so you’ll leave a comment and tell me otherwise; I just genuinely feel like I struggle with this aspect of my life. However, whether that is true or not, I have been able to build successful blogs without being the greatest writer or excelling at English in school.
In other words, I don’t feel like my writing is holding me back. Diggy has some great lessons to share and he really does want to help people through his blog, but he admits that his writing ability is something that he can work on. The only way I became better at writing is by reading more books and writing more, so I believe he’s on the path to improve as well.
One tip I gave him, which has helped me greatly, was to simply read your blog posts out loud. It may feel stupid, and you might not think that anyone actually does this, but I really do. Not only does it help you notice when you repeat words a lot, but you also find that some sentences simply don’t make any sense, even though they looked fine when you were reading the article in your head.
For every article that I write, I first read it over 2-3 times (which can take quite a while, as I write a lot) and then run it through Microsoft Word which helps me spot spelling and grammar mistakes. Usually, my mistakes involve repeating words multiple times, using commas when a semi-colon would be better and missing the space after a full stop. It takes two minutes to do this check and it can teach you things at the same time.
To reiterate: you do not have to be the greatest writer in the world (or even close to it) to succeed at blogging. I don’t think I write particularly well, I just think people enjoy the value that I share. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Just don’t let your writing be a hindrance from the awesome content that you’re (hopefully) putting out.
If you think people have short attention spans in day-to-day life then realise that’s nothing compared to how quickly we want to move on to the next thing on the internet. I’m well aware that as soon as some people visit this site and see how long the articles are, they click away, probably never to return.
This doesn’t bother me though; mostly because the people who come here and do find a topic they want to read about generally find one of the best resources on that subject available. I put a lot of work into my articles and that is why they are long, but it serves as both a drawback and a benefit.
On a lot of blogs, it’s very clear what a website is about. For example, any article here tells you that I write about internet marketing. On Diggy’s site, things weren’t as clear. Instead of having him re-brand the whole site or add a summary in the sidebar like a lot of people, we made a simple tweak.
Under his logo I suggested he add the words ‘Self Improvement’ which tells you instantly what his site covers. This change literally took 30 seconds and has had a noticeable increase on the time that people spend on his site.
There were a few “problems” with Upgrade Reality which were very obvious to me, but weren’t so clear to Diggy because he sees the site everyday. Over time you become blind to this sort of thing. This is similar to how many of us don’t notice ads on websites, especially the ones in Google search results; we initially see but then ignore them so often that they may as well not be there.
An early suggestion I gave was to ensure his post titles showed in full. The theme he used automatically cut off words once the character count reached a certain point, so most of the time people wouldn’t even know what they were going to read without clicking on the link. Obviously, this isn’t good.
As Diggy is not a graphic designer (few people are, not excluding myself) he also had quite a few images on the site which were stock or clipart photos which often looked either too corporate and cookie-cutter or just very different from the rest of the site. I thought that the clipart ones especially made his site look less trustworthy and more for a younger audience, even though that was not the case.
Upon removing some of these, his site instantly looked 10 times better. Finally, there was something about his feed subscription box which just didn’t look right. We implemented a style that was similar to PluginID, and also changed his chicklet from yellow to red, to match the rest of his site.
Just like with ViperChill, I recommended that he put a bright coloured chicklet in his top navigation as this will catch people’s attention and social proof that comes with it is one of the best ways to grow your audience. If two sites looked exactly the same, would you subscribe to the one with 1,000 subscribers or the one with just 100?
Look over your own site and try to critique it, even if you’re happy with it. I’m sure there are quite a few things about this site you could tell me you would change. If you’re struggling, ask a friend to go over it and pose a question similar to “If you had to change 3 things about my design, what would they be?”
Is your text easy to read in different browsers? Should the font size for your headings be larger? If someone wants to subscribe, is it easy for them to do so? If a visitor wants to find more of your content, how many clicks does it take? A few small changes can make a huge difference.
There are successful blogs in thousands of separate niches and you can bet they have thousands of different aims. Gadget blogs, for example, might just want to give people a quick summary of a product to help them decide if it’s worth the purchase. ICanHasCheezburger owner Ben Huh wants to bring humor into peoples daily lives.
At ViperChill, I want to help people build successful websites and (if they want) make a living online, allowing them to quit their day job. My main aim, though, is to help people build remarkable websites which provide some form of value. The industry they do that in and the type of website they build is pretty much irrelevant to my interests.
Because I have this aim, I can build a laser-targeted community who wants to read the advice I’m giving and I can keep providing relevant content to their needs. As Upgrade Reality is a personal development blog, there are literally thousands of different topics that Diggy could write about.
Although he doesn’t have to write about anything specific, I recommended that he at least have a focus on what he wants to help people with in each of his articles. With PluginID, my aim was to help people live the lives they wanted to live. Again, the specifics of how they want to live didn’t matter, as long as my content was fulfilling that interest.
Diggy told me that he wants to help people make the most of life and get past the society imposed self-limiting beliefs we each face. Now his content is far more targeted to his community and people are getting a lot more value out of his writing.
Has this post helped you find changes you can make to your own blog?