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What I Learned About Blogging, Website Traffic And Marketing From Posting 30 Days Straight
Blogging for your business or brand (or even for your own personal interests) is a very powerful way to gain interest.
I blog for my business and many others too, and the rewards are plentiful. Blogging has been one of the driving forces behind my business and my new life too.
Blogging is a powerful thing… and I owe my current life to it. Strong words, huh?
Once-upon-a-time I blogged about the town of Warwick where I live and work.
I blogged for 30 days solid. I posted every day and I shared my discoveries about the town as I tried to buy local.
Someone said we should try to buy local for a month and then someone stupidly suggested that we blog about it and I took that gauntlet and kept on running!
For 30 days (and for many nights) I blogged my story. I got quite a readership.
I started the blog from scratch with no money whatsoever. I created a WordPress blog and just started blogging.
What I learned from those 30 days has forged skills, tactics and strategy I use for my blogging even now some two years on.
What I learnt from 30 days of blogging has helped me, and I wanted to share those findings with you.
I learnt what worked, what failed, what people read and what they ignored and I also learnt how to gain 8,582 followers without even trying very hard.
I also learnt how to amass 6,500 hits within one month of blogging with no monetary investment, and I use those tactics for business every day now…
Here’s what I learnt from 30 days (and nights) of blogging.
Blog Titles Are Hugely Important
Titles of blogs are important and I’ve been banging that drum for a while now. I learnt this the hard way with this blog and I still learn every day now that titles need work and time put into them.
The title of the blog itself was weak. “Todd Buys Local In April” was a crap name for the blog.
It was weak and had no sense of ‘click ability’. Who’s Todd? Where’s local? Why April? Who cares?
Since then I’ve learnt that headlines really matter and I would probably now call it:
“Someone Said I Can’t Buy Local In Warwick For One Month – Watch me Try”
“A One-Man Mission To Shop Local In A Historic Town In Warwickshire”
“How To Buy Local In Warwick With A Small Budget, Some Shoe Leather And Social Media”
All of these are way more intriguing than the original and I honestly just typed those with no real thought or time.
But hey – I just named the blog and got going. It’s OK – I was still learning.
But that’s the point: it’s not about the content – it’s always about the title!
You may think that the content of the blog is useful, and in many respects you’d be right, but the title needs to say that.
The title of your blog, your posts, and anything that you write online, needs to sell that content.
Posts that did well in the 30 days had good titles:
“Warwick’s market – use it or lose it”
“To be in Warwick or not to be in Warwick – that’s the question
“A quintessentially English morning at The Thomas Oaken Tea Rooms”
Those were the three top read posts. Look at the number one. Look at what is in that title and you’ll understand so much about titles.
1) Urgency works in titles: urgency isn’t just for deals and offers or email marketing it’s also for titles. ‘Use it or lose it’ adds urgency to this post’s title.
2) Intrigue rocks for clicks: because I implied that the market would stop if you did’t visit it plenty of people clicked to see why or how bad the market trade was. The message was strong and it evoked a reaction in clicks.
3) Emotional titles get interest: look at the emotion in that title. It’s saying that something traditional is going to go. It’s implying that people will lose jobs. It’s suggesting that you, you the reader, are responsible if you don’t use it… Or click to find out how you can help.
4) It has a keyword in the title: ‘Warwick’s Market’ will be a term searched for in Google and there’s no surprise to me that this blog has had clicks in 2014 and 2015 too.
Posts that didn’t do so well didn’t have great titles… but the content was good. Honest!
Titles sell the content and the posts with fewer hits had weaker titles.
“Summer springs up on Warwick”
“Day 29: The Penultimate blog”
“Brunch at the Warwick Arms”
All those titles sucked. Boring. No emotional. No intrigue.
They were dull, uninspiring and didn’t really tell you much about the post… or add any intrigue anyway.
- Titles need descriptive, emotive and action-driven words.
- Titles must tell a story; the story of the post itself!
- Titles were the main reason that the top posts got hits and the bottom posts got ignored.
When those top posts were shared on Twitter via the share buttons on the blog those titles carried on… and they then re-sold the click from those shares.
If you share this post on Twitter now you’ll see what I mean…
Titles matter: they matter a lot, so spend time crafting yours.
People Love A Story
Most of the blogs I write now are about about one subject here and another subject there.
They’re all about social media and marketing (for me) and then about the various subjects for my clients.
But there’s no story and I think I could learn something here too…
Storytelling in your marketing is important. Back in the day, people read my Buy Local blog every day because it was a journey, a story and journal of me and of the town of Warwick.
People like to follow a story and there’s no accident that many of the great marketers tell the story of the brand over selling the products made by them.
The blog got some impressive hits considering I was working a full-time job as a van driver, and not doing anything other than blogging; I wasn’t paying for traffic or working with any other parties… the story was all I had.
How can you use storytelling in your blogging?
How can you tell a story and still offer value about you, your business or life?
Stories matter to people and you need to matter to them to get clicks to your blog.
I just realised that this is one of the most visited and commented blogs on Spaghetti blog… it’s a story… what a shocker!
The Blogs Followed On From Each Other
This was a series of blogs and in many of the posts I referenced the older posts.
Had I done this in all the blogs I would have had a better readerships and here’s why:
People like to know what’s going on and they don’t like to be kept in the dark. Having a series keeps people hooked and there’s no surprise that soaps or dramas like 24 keep people viewing.
By referencing the older posts I encouraged reading of the other posts too.
By writing “In yesterday’s blog” in places I positively told people that they were missing something and they had to go back and read it.
I didn’t mean to do this… it was just something I did, but now I can see the value in that. (There’s also some SEO value in internal linking too.)
Blogging in a series could be a good plan.
Blogging and referencing other content on your site is a must.
Creating a “come back next time for…” feel to your blog is something you need to consider.
Too many blog posts (mine included) are a stand alone piece of content, able to be read in their own right.
That’s OK, but I would also link it to others and offer more information on subjects and idea on other posts.
If you’ve hooked them in… keep on reeling!
Social Media Is Hugely Important
Here’s the “No Shit, Sherlock” moment and I won’t linger on this but…
Social media drove the traffic to this blog and it was THE main reason for the high traffic.
Twitter was the highest driver, followed by Facebook.
The blog was shared on Social media about five or six times each day (by me) and auto-tweeted and posted when it was published.
Social media even drove traffic to very poorly-titled posts by adding the intrigue that was missing in them…
In one of the posts I actually admitted that I failed the buy local challenge.
One of the posts named and shamed me as a failure and you’d think it would’ve got a lot of views… and it did… despite the crap title.
‘A BRAND New Day’ was the 7th most popular post but not because of that weak title.
I shared it on social media as “I’ve failed” and “I’ve shopped on Amazon” and people clicked.
Social Media can even save a poorly-titled post if it describes what’s in the post and also add the intrigue and story that’s missing in the title.
How can you describe and share your posts?
Don’t just rely on the title.
If you’re sharing the posts lots then mix up those social shares with descriptive tweets and status updates.
Sometimes Your Content Bombs (There’s Not Always Something To Write About)
Blogging every day was hard and let’s face it, unless you’re a Hollywood superstar, you can’t go shopping every day.
Sometimes I blogged about eating out or picking up some springs from a DIY store and that’s not very exciting (other than getting involved with the stories behind the shops and restaurants).
Sometimes your content will be dragged out and it will feel like you forced it.
Blogging every day does create a lot of traffic but it won’t give you 30 pieces of great content each month.
Sometimes you’ll share a duff one and I shared quite a few in the 30 days.
If you’re going to blog daily then plan what you’re going to share and try to come up with great ideas and concepts.
It is NOT easy to blog daily. Although I did it… I didn’t always smash it.
Blogging is a discipline
I blogged very day for 30 days and it was like some sort of challenge. I took it on at the drop of a hat but when I told Jo she wasn’t impressed.
She had to proofread all those blogs and they weren’t short either! (Sorry Jo.)
Blogging for 30 days was a discipline… but blogging is a discipline full stop.
When you decide to make blogging work for you need to adopt a different approach to life.
I blogged the same time each night and each day I was looking for chances to blog, to take photos, and for ideas on what to share.
No matter how often you blog you need to do this.
If you’re blogging weekly then you’ll need to pick a blogging day and time.
You’ll need to have a sharing strategy and you’ll need to have your eyes and ears open to ideas to blog about.
I work with a personal trainer and he’s a machine now… not in the gym but on his blog. He sees ideas and opportunites for blogs in every conversation and newspaper article. Even from Facebook conversations he sees.
He shares his thoughts, views, findings and lessons constantly and he has to stop himself from blogging sometimes – he changed his mindset about blogging!
Blogging is a very beneficial tool for your marketing but it requires effort, ideas, content, images, research and time.
You need to work out where all that is going to come from.
Readers Like Content That Benefits Them, Helps Or Entertains Them
Newsflash: people don’t care about you!
People care about themselves and no matter what you think I can prove that with this little story.
Two men are walking in the jungle one day and they come into a clearing.
There, in front of them, is a tiger – a big tiger.
The tiger sees them and the two men look at each other.
They’re petrified and they know they’ll be tiger dinner unless they do something quickly.
One of the men reaches for his backpack and pulls out his running shoes…
“What are you doing?” one of the men asks frantically “You’ll never outrun a tiger!”
The other man puts on his running shoes and calmly says
“I don’t need to outrun the tiger – I only need to outrun you!”
You see, when it comes down to it – you only really care about yourself!
When you look at what you’re sharing on your blog you need to focus on this fact.
- What are you sharing?
- Does it benefit the reader or does it benefit you?
- Is what you’re sharing all about you and not at all about the reader?
- Is your content very self-promoting?
The least read post of my 30 days was, on the face of it, very self-promotional.
I was teaching social media even back then and my post “A Sunny Market Place And Twitter School At The Warwick Arms” was actually mostly about my social media course… and people saw right through it – damn it! 😉
I was hesitant about sharing the workshop in such a self-promoting way but thought “Hey – I shared a lot – I deserve some promo”… but people didn’t care.
They didn’t care because they wanted buying local and they were used to me buying bread or coffee from local shops and taking photos… they didn’t want to be sold to.
Think about that with your blog.
Think about how you promote yourself.
One of the most popular pages was “What is Warwicktweetup?” and that told everyone all about my little project and the workshops. I didn’t need to blog about it – the posts were driving traffic the blog with that information on.
Offer value and if they really want to know about you they’ll find out… so make it easy to do that but don’t force it.
People Who Get Featured Share Your Posts
I blogged about a lot of local businesses and when I did they shared it.
It’s funny that, isn’t it? People only care about themselves, etc.
Makes sense though, right?! If you blog about someone they’re going to share it. If it’s positive, that is!
I often use this tactic by blogging about an event or product and sharing it with the owners so that they can share it.
Can you blog about someone influential or something huge in your area?
Maybe you can blog about something that means a lot to many people and mention some key people?
I did this with My Top Ten Twitter Accounts to Follow in Coventry and Warwickshire and we also got a lot of traffic for A List Of Local Networking Events And Groups In Warwickshire.
Both posts were useful to a large group of people and mentioned key people too.
I shared the Twitter list post with everyone mentioned in the post… and of course they shared it too!
About Pages Are Important
For years I’ve been told that ‘About us’ pages are a waste of time and for ages I thought that was true.
And they are… if you only write it about yourself or if you are totally irrelevant to the content or business.
This blog was very much about me and my mission to buy local and because of this the about page got a lot of hits.
Most about pages are dull.
Most about pages are about the year a business was established and the parts you don’t need to know about.
That’s not at all about a story or journey.
My about page was simple and had me, my story, and a cute picture of me and my son.
About pages do work when if offers something more and by that I mean more information that helps the reader connect with you and your content.
The About Todd page was the second most read page next to the home page but it’s not exactly a shining example of an About Page by any means. Let’s just say we can do better now.
Offer value and think about your read. What do they want to know about you?
Worldwide Audiences Are Hard… When You Blog Locally
Blogging can give you a Worldwide audience… but not this time.
Because the content only really appealed to people in the UK and in many respects just Warwickshire, the blog didn’t get a large Worldwide audience.
If you’re trying to reach an audience outside of your own bubble then your content needs to appeal them.
Write content that helps many not few and your blog will have more chance of going viral.
My blog was about local people and local people read it. No shock there… and no international interest either.
Almost 6,000 Brits read the blog but only 99 Americans, 83 Australians, 31 Swedish and a few Germans cared for my blog.
Some of these were probably tourists searching for local content too as Warwick is a big attraction for tourists with the castle… which was on of the popular posts (and still is).
How To Create Evergreen Content
So yes – the Warwick Castle post still gets hits.
It doesn’t get many by any stretch but it is still getting hits despite the blog being dormant for over two years.
It’s a commonly searched term and many people will search for ‘Warwick Castle’ and ‘Warwick Attractions’ both terms are found in the title of the Warwick Castle post.
Evergreen content works when you post about stuff that’s still relevant in years to come.
Warwick Castle has been around for a few hundred years and it’s obvious to see that people will still be searching for it for years to come yet.
This post isn’t exactly on page one of Google but it has had some traffic over the last two years for people searching about Warwick Castle… minimal as the post is hardly written for SEO but with some tinkering and updating I’m sure I could get it higher up.
And that’s the learning here: post about things that people care about but post with high value and think about the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Think about SEO on the post, the title and everything in it.
Evergreen content on your blog is very useful for driving traffic long after you’ve hit publish.
Blog about ideas and offer value that will still be relevant in years to come.
You can also update those old posts to bring them into the here and now and re-share them.
The post about fitness in Warwick still gets traffic too as I’m sure people are searching for fitness classes in Warwick. It’s not in the top 10 on Google… but somehow it’s gaining traffic.
It’s actually top of Google for ‘Keeping up fitness in Warwick’… not a term anyone will type but still… some traffic coming in and some learnings on titles and content to come from that.
Blogging for 30 days was hard work…
And the biggest learning about all this is that blogging daily is hard.
It’s not easy at all and you have to spend a lot of time typing, coming up with content, and of course you need a very dedicated proofreader when you’re a suspected dyslexic like me!
There’s no doubt about it: blogging daily gives you more traffic.
If I have time in a few years I’ll do it again and bring in all my skills, tactics and lessons that I’ve learnt since.
Blogging works wonders for traffic to your site and I urge you to start – or do more right now.
Here’s a quick summary or what I found:
- Titles are the most important part of your blog – take time to craft great ones.
- People love a story or series – craft your blog posts so they follow on from each other or at least link to older posts.
- Social media is HUGE – share your content on social media and build your following as without it your blog won’t go anywhere.
- Sometimes you suck – you won’t always publish a post that changes the world. Deal with it, learn from it, and move on.
- Blogging is a discipline – plan your blogs, your content, and change your mindset around it.
- Readers like content that helps them – people only care about themselves… be the running shoe not the tiger’s dinner!
- When you write about people they share it – blog about influential or interesting people or events for more hits.
- Evergreen content is great for future traffic – blog about content and ideas that will last and last… or go back and update them.
- Blogging daily ain’t easy – don’t underestimate the challenge of blogging daily. Start small and build up to it.
Blogging has transformed my life and business and not long after the 30 days blog was finished I won an award for my work in the town.
That was the very day I quit my job to start our agency with Jo.
Without blogging none of this would have happened and without the opportunities that blogging has given me and the attention it got me my life would be far less interesting than it is now.
You can hear more about that story here…
Need help blogging?
We run monthly blogging workshops and you’re invited.
We look at all the technical, psychological and social aspect of blogging Around The Campfire in our Leamington Spa training workshops.
Join us or ask me about them below in the comments.
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