It wasn’t that I wanted to win awards although it’s nice to get them. It’s that I wanted more from my blog.
Last week I won an award, actually 2 awards in Blog Awards Ireland, one gold and one bronze. That totals three for my blog this year. Today I want to tell you the story of how I turned my blog from mediocre into award-winning.
I was sitting in my car outside the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Dalkey when I had my the epiphany. Darren Rowse had just launched his Pro Blogger podcast and I’d binge listened to it on my drive in.
This is the story of what happened next
For three years in a row, I made the finals of the Social Media Examiner top 10 social media bloggers but I just wasn’t good enough to win.
I’d been nominated and been in the finals of other awards too. More than once I’d attended only to hear someone else’s blog declared the winner.
Of course, I was disappointed but deep down I knew my blog needed work if I was going to win awards.
But it wasn’t awards that motivated meIt wasn't that I wanted to win awards although it's nice to get them. It's that I wanted more from my blog.Click To Tweet
One day I sat at my desk looking at my Google analytics, loads of people were visiting my site, loads! But when I started delving deeper I found something I didn’t like.
25% of my web traffic was coming to just one post on my blog and that post was, there’s no nice way to put it, bad.
It was bad information and I knew it was bad information. I’d only left it up there (with a big disclaimer at the top of the screen) because it drove so much traffic.
Worse, the people visiting that post bounced off almost immediately and when I looked at the demographics they weren’t even close to the customers I wanted to attract.
It was painful but I knew I needed to do something. What was the point of having all those visitors if they were the wrong visitors?
So I changed the post. I got rid of the bad info and re-wrote the entire thing, the traffic dropped off slowly over time. I lost most of that 25%.
But it was worth it. I felt my blog had more integrity.
It was shortly after that I found myself in my car listening to Darren Rowse. I don’t know why then, what it was specifically that set it off but suddenly I knew what I needed to do.
Spiderworking blog 2.0
Now I had the motivation but I needed to plan. I started by looking at my assets.
- Hundreds of articles. I’d been blogging regularly for 6 years on the Spiderworking blog and amassed a pile of content.
- Traffic. My visitor numbers were solid and high enough to make me happy
- Awareness. Some people read my blog and they told me about it. Others would mention it when getting in touch.
- Customers. I hadn’t quite put a plan in place how to measure the return on time investment yet but customers would tell me they’d read my blog.
All that was great if a little wishy-washy. If I was going to invest my time in blogging I wanted more.
My wish list:
- More awareness. Fame would be the wrong word but I did want to be known amongst my potential customers and the people who influence them.
- Me at the centre of my business. Again not fame exactly but I am a one-person business it seemed silly not to use that to my advantage. I wanted people to know that I was who they would deal with, that Spiderworking wasn’t a faceless business. I wanted to infuse me into my content so people would…
- Trust me as a resource.
- Get different clients. I’d been working with clients at a very basic level. I wanted to be able to work with clients on more advanced and strategic stuff.
What did I do?
1. Found a niche
My blog was very generic about social media and digital marketing. It didn’t have a focus. I’d write about whatever occurred to me that week.
I’d heard finding a niche was one way to build a better blog so I brainstormed. In the end I didn’t move my whole blog into a niche but chose to focus my podcast on blogging for small business.
It seemed a good fit after running the Blog Awards and a local bloggers group. It also meant I could share my journey as I strived towards building a better blog myself.
Niche part 2
Choosing the Small Business Blogging niche was at the heart of my blog transformation and was one of the first things I did. But then almost two years in I did something else.
I saw Joe Pulizzi of the content marketing institute speak at Social Media Marketing World in 2017.
He talked about the importance of having a mission statement for your blog. I put it on my to-do list and promptly forgot about it until I picked up his book Content Inc. It was then that I finally decided to do something about it.
Back in August my blog became the ‘No-nonsense guide to digital marketing’.
The Small Business Blogger niche helped me focus and build a better content plan. My mission statement informs every piece of content I create.
Spend some time brainstorming your niche. What makes your blog different to everyone else? What angle do you take? Talk to readers, what is it specifically that draws them to your blog? More on finding your niche here.
2. Wrote more in-depth postsIf you are going to build trust with your readers, you need to give them more than the highlightsClick To Tweet
I had a tendency to write posts at the last minute, that’s never a good tactic for blogging. If you are going to build trust with your readers, you’ll need to give them more than just the highlights.
I started spending more time researching the topics I was writing about. I read a lot of articles, books, watched videos and listened to podcast episodes to expand my knowledge. This background knowledge made me a better writer but was also enjoyable. Learning is fun and sharing that knowledge with others is even more fun.
The result? My posts, particularly those that accompanied my podcast got longer and more detailed. I was giving more value to my reader.
7 months after the epiphany in my car a long time reader sought me out to tell me how much my blog had grown and how good it had got. I glowed for at least an hour.
Find time to research your topics in-depth, always be looking for opportunities to broaden your knowledge and experiment.
3. Got my audience involved
The initial structure of my podcast was to investigate something related to blogging and get my readers and listeners to join me in a challenge.
Immediately after episode 1 went live people started messaging me telling me they’d join in. I’ve formalised the challenges now and made them part of my Small Business Bloggers Facebook group. They’re no longer weekly but we’ve had some successes. My recent morning pages experiment was a particular hit.
4. More me
Being British living in Ireland being humble is a characteristic drilled into me.
But humble isn’t going to help your business. You need to put yourself out there, let people see who you are. As I’ve already said readers need to know and trust you if they are going to buy from you.
The podcast helped and I’d also been creating videos for almost as long as I’d been blogging but they lacked personality. I sounded prim and proper and they lacked the personality I know I bring to training and consulting sessions.
Shake your personality out, work on developing a style that makes your readers feel they are sitting down having a chat with you.
It’s taken me a while but I think I’m getting there. Which brings me to those videos.
5. Themed videos
Up until this point I’d been creating random videos. Some were short, some were long, all were a little bit boring! So I decided to have a hook, something that brought them all together. My video series became the 1 Minute Moment. One minute of me talking about a topic against the clock. It’s true, I rarely squeeze my words into that 60 seconds but I have fun trying.
Here’s the first ever 1 Minute Moment, they’ve changed a lot over time.
Have a hook or consistent format that people will remember you for and subscribe to. It could be the length of your video (or post), or the format of video you choose.
6. Blog images
One of my goals was to be memorable if I’m not memorable even people visiting my blog more than once might not realise they are in the same space.
Images are a big part of this. I needed to create images that look the same, but different so I created templates.
I’ve been through a few templates now but they’ve been consistent for almost a year each. Most of them include a picture of and the colour scheme and font choice has remained consistent (until my latest reboot).
Create a style guide and template blog images so people will recognise your site when they return more than once. More on style guides here.
7. Making enough time
Blogging shouldn’t be something you squeeze into your overstuffed to-do list. You have to allocate enough time in your schedule to write and produce great content. If you rush you’ll always end up with substandard content.
Time is precious but you really have to find time if you want to write better posts. I did a whole series on blogging productivity earlier this year.
Allocate a large dollop of time every week to write your posts. Don’t rush it.
8. Run a blog series
I’d been doing this in a half-hearted way for ages. I themed my blog posts around specific topics related to the services I was promoting at the time but I hadn’t thought of it like a proper series. It was when I interviewed Colin Gray about podcasting that I finally got it. If I create blog series then people will tune in not just for one but binge Netflix style on the whole lot.
Since then I’ve created series on productivity for blogging, becoming a better writer and more.
Make a list of the series you could create for your blog. Break them down into episodes.
9. Always be improving
Your blog is never the finished product, make time to learn, evaluate and come up with ways to push your blog over and above what you are doing now. If you are constantly working at this your blog will become better one blog post at a time.
Has all this extra effort been worth it? Here’s what’s happened to my blog and business
- Less visitors – I got rid of the bad posts and the bad traffic went with them
- More relevant visitors
- More sales attributable to blog – I’ve started measuring like a mad thing so I know what’s working.
- Higher profile – more people know who I am and I’ve built a small community of loyal readers
- Award winner – Sometimes it’s nice to know other people think you are good too.
Winning the Social Media Examiner and then Blog Awards Ireland titles encourages me to keep going. It’s also given me the confidence to launch blogging clinics.
I can help you make a real difference with your blog if you are willing to put the work in. Find out more about my blog clinics here.
This journey to building a better, more effective and ultimately award-winning blog started that day sitting in a carpark listening to a podcast. I went into the hotel, taught the workshop and came away bursting with ideas.
I’m hoping this post might inspire the same in you.
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