Stupid Awesome Blog Growth Checklist

Starting a blog is really easy. Growing it, takes hard work. Many new bloggers vastly underestimate the amount of hard work that is required to create a successful blog. While SideHustleDad is relatively new, it’s not my first blog. My first blog regularly had healthy traffic numbers, but it took me 2+ years of work to get there. The truth is, I wasted a lot of time with that blog. With SHD, I corrected those flaws, and I’ve been seeing a fantastic return on my time investment so far. With that, the Blog Growth Checklist was born. A word for the wise: the list doesn’t work if you’re not honest with yourself. If you wrongly “check the box” on an item in this list, you’re missing an opportunity to grow your blog.

So sit down, grab some caffeine, and let’s get to it.

Site Usability

As a blog owner, your goal should be to encourage the use of your website. You can do this by ensuring that your design encourages your audience to read content, and engage with you via opt-ins, social media, and other methods. Listen – it’s hard enough to get traffic to your site – once you get it there, you don’t want to lose it over something silly like broken links, or a hard-to-read format. How do you ensure your site is usable? Here’s a few things to check:

Ease of Use

This is easy to check. The default advice is to ask those around you (friends, and family) for feedback, but I don’t trust that feedback. Even if your site sucks, there’s a good chance those who care about you won’t tell you that. Best case, they’ll make minor suggestions, but won’t come out and say that you’re running a poorly designed site. Join blogger Facebook Groups, and ask for honest feedback from fellow bloggers instead. They don’t know you, and better yet – they know a little bit about design, so you’ll be better off with their input.

If you find holes in your sites design, either remedy it yourself, or hire someone. Fiverr.com is my go-to to find skilled talent willing to help for super cheap, but don’t hesitate to ask other bloggers for help either.

Functional Testing

Make sure everything works. Go through every link. Make sure your social media badges link to the proper profile, make sure that internal links work to other pages within your site. Make sure any pop-ups, or installed user-facing plugins (such as widgets in WordPress, etc) load properly and look good. If you’re monetizing your site with Ads, make sure that the Ads appear as they should, and are sized properly – and ideally, don’t impede the normal flow of your pages.

Content is King

No matter how nicely designed your site is, if the content sucks, nobody cares. No one will share bad content. So what is ‘good’ content? Good content needs to be two things: Interesting, and High Quality. In this context, Interesting means a few things – it may be entertaining, useful, whatever – the point is, people should want to read what you have to say.

Writing Interesting Stuff

How do you find interesting stuff to write? There’s a few ways which I like to use. The first, is to solve a problem. If you can identify a problem, challenge, annoyance – whatever – that your audience has experienced, you’ve successfully identified something someone would read. Likewise, if you have personally experienced that problem, you can almost guarantee that others have as well.

Another option is to look for trending topics, seasonal topics, etc – and piggyback off those. I personally like to use this method only if I already have something worthwhile to say – I view seasonal and trending stuff more as a marketing tactic than a content generating one, but still, it’s an option.

Here’s some other post ideas:

  • Best resource lists (i.e: Best 10 sites for WordPress themes)
  • Round-up posts (i.e: Personal Finance Blog Roundup)
  • Comparison posts (Product A vs. Product B)
  • Product Review posts
  • Trip Reports of places you’ve been
  • How-To articles for almost anything
  • Lists are always a winner (21 things you need to Climb Mt. Everest..if that’s your thing)
  • Transparency Articles (Income reports, Goals, etc)
  • Analysis articles (“Why the Agriculture going Hi-Tech Doesn’t Make Sense”)

Of course these are just a few ideas. Once you’ve got your ideas though, don’t forget to..

Writing Quality Stuff

I have a confession. When I ran my first blog, I never reviewed my own posts. I wrote, and fired away, confident that I did well. I type at a pretty good pace (110 words per minute, roughly)- and I’m usually pretty accurate. I can spell pretty good, too.

Then I began reviewing my posts.

This word is spelled wrong. That word is spelled right, but it’s the wrong word. Why the hell did I put “article” when I meant “articulate?” Why is this word bold? There’s a random space that I didn’t intend to be there.

You get the idea.

Spell check your posts, Re-read them, have a friend read them – whatever. We all have our own writing styles, but you need to make sure you fix the glaring spelling, or formatting errors. I’d say that on average, I find about 4-6 errors in my articles, at a minimum. This is the easy stuff. Don’t give readers a reason to leave your site.

And yes, I realize the irony if someone catches me with a spelling error in this post.

Build Social Media Presence

Not many people really “get” social media. Having a social media presence doesn’t mean signing up for an account, posting a pretty profile picture, and gaining followers. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s a very small part. The real goal of building a social media presence is to drive traffic to your site, right? But let’s get past that. How do you engage with your followers, gain new followers, and build that presence which will eventually drive traffic to you? Simple.

Become a contributing part of the community.

That’s right. You have to be real. Comment on things. Help people. Share your knowledge. Solicit honest feedback. Give feedback. In the social media world, Karma is very real. Help to be helped. And if you don’t buy into that, try this on for size: nobody likes someone who shows up, shares a link, and disappears. You’re looking for quality over quantity. I lost count of how many people on Twitter have 20k+ followers but they’re all fake accounts and businesses trying to sell stuff. In other words – they’re not 20k quality followers. I’d happily take 1,000 good followers over those 20k any day.

Here’s some tips about how you can build your presence, specific to the social media outlets I frequent:

Pinterest

  • Don’t ignore Pinterest.
  • Focus on quality Group Boards
    • Don’t accept invites to spammy group boards. It hurts your brand.
  • Pin often
    • Frequency is rewarded on Pinterest.
  • Pin only good stuff.
    • When you pin something, you’re approving of it. Do you want your name attached to subpar content?
  • Listen to Episode 142 of Nick Loper’s Side Hustle Show. It’s gold.
  • Read my article¬†Pinterest for Men, even if you’re a woman. I wrote it for Pinterest newbies.

Twitter

  • Use Crowdfire or a similar tool to get started. It lets you follow back only those who are following you, and unfollow inactive accounts.
  • Learn to use hashtags effectively. When you use a popular hashtag, you’re increasing your reach. If you use random hashtags like #MondaysAreNotMyFavoriteDaysOfTheWeek – you’re not increasing your reach at all.
  • Be engaged. Tweet to other people, reply to tweets, and ‘like’ stuff. All of this gets your name seen, and helps build your follower base.
  • Retweet (RT) quality stuff. Just like I mentioned with pinning above, RT’s are your approval of something. Make sure that your audience would like it before you hit that button.
  • If it makes sense, Use the “cc @xxxxx” format to call out people who might like or RT your stuff. Do this sparingly.

Facebook

  • Don’t kill yourself trying to get likes on your FB page. It’s horribly slow and hardly useful, in my opinion.
  • Focus on FB Groups. They matter and can bring you traffic.
    • Become a part of the community. Don’t just share your own stuff all the time.
  • Share your own stuff to your timeline. I do this sparingly and only for topics that I think my friends on FB would like (typically travel). Keep in mind that when you share/post stuff to FB (and other networks for that matter) – it’s only shown to about a quarter of your audience each share.
  • Images with links do better.

LinkedIn

  • LinkedIn is sort of a niche social media site, in my opinion. Anything motivational, technology related, or entrepreneurial, can do quite well on LinkedIn.
  • I share 2-4 times a week, and again, make the content appropriate for the audience.
  • Build your connections. You have to be active here. Request to connect with people, comment on things, and like posts – these will help build your connections quite fast.
  • Use images when you share links.

Have a Post Promotion Strategy

I used to write new posts, hit submit, and wait for the traffic to roll in. Sometimes it came, but more often than not, it didn’t. The content was rock solid, I felt, so why weren’t people coming? Because..

If you don’t promote your posts, you’re relying on Search Engine traffic, or repeat visitors.

With a new (or new’ish) blog – this is a good way to get little to no new traffic. Best case, your traffic will remain steady. How do you fight this? You need to promote.

Most successful bloggers spend 70%+ of their time promoting their blog, and only 30% (or less) actually writing content. While this number might be different when you’re starting out and trying to build content, it’s a good target to shoot for once you’re a few months in.

How do you promote your posts? There’s a host of ways, such as:

  • Original Pins on Pinterest
  • Social Media Posts (ie: “Look at my new post!”)
  • Social Media Groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Other blogs (Blogger Outreach)
    • References to your site/content
    • These come more often than not through relationships
  • Paid Promotion/Ads
  • Email to your list
  • Forums/Message Boards
  • Repurpose older content

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s absolutely no reason not to re-share your posts. I play it conservative and prefer not to promote too often (my goal is to avoid showing the same people the same post repeatedly) – but either way, if you share a link once and call it “good” – you’re missing a lot of traffic.

For scheduling shares on social media (except Pinterest), I prefer Buffer. It’s free to start and see if you like it, but costs $10 for the lowest tier of plan, which is what I use. The biggest advantage of the paid plan is the ability to schedule more posts out further in advance.

For scheduling on Pinterest, I exclusively use BoardBooster. I’ve used other tools, including Buffer, and feel that BoardBooster can’t be beat.

For anything Pinterest related, check out this post on Pinterest. It covers all things Pinterest much better than I cover in this article.

Blogging Ain’t Easy

At the end of the day, this stuff is hard work. You have to keep at it, day in, and day out if you want to see results. My number one tip? Stay consistent, and keep your eyes on the prize. Give the tips in this article a shot for six months, then re-evaluate your strategy. You might find more success on one platform versus the other, or you might find that one style of post is more successful over other styles.

What do you guys/gals think? How do you promote new posts?