Are you ready to take your blog to the next level? Of course you are! That’s why you’ve been exhausting yourself by pouring over the successful blogs, asking all the questions in your Blogger facebook group, digging through Google, and checking every nook & cranny of Pinterest, looking for the secret to a successful blog.
It seems that everyone wants to charge you for everything. Want to be an expert at Pinterest? That’ll be $57! Want to learn how to monetize your blog? I need $298 first! Want to join my Facebook & Pinterest groups? You can for the low, low cost of $964!
I just want to simplify this for you. Here’s everything I know about seriously improving a blog, for the price of free. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Find your Niche
Your niche is the theme / purpose / interests of your blog.
+ Write down 5 things that interest you
+ Write down 5 interesting facts about you
+ Write down all your hobbies (or hobbies you want to start)
+ Write down your top 5 go-to daydreams (you know, the ones you go to when you’re bored, listening to music, trying to sleep, at school, or at work)
Do you have any overlaps in your lists? Or something that really, really interests you?
That is your niche. You can other related side topics, but make that niche the main course. That main course is what thrills you, and it’s what will bring in hungry readers.
Niche Popularity / Niche Potential
But Sarah! What if my niche is unpopular? I mean, I love traveling across the country and reviewing public rest areas. I take photos of the landscaping, the architecture, the amenities, and even the toilet paper and soap! Can I be successful? I’ve heard other bloggers say that you NEED to belong to one of these big categories:
1. Mom Blogger
5. Being Green (organic, earth friendly, etc)
6. Beauty / Fashion
Nope! The truth is that those 7 categories are really popular. There’s lots of bloggers there, and there’s lots of readers for these mainstream ideas. Bloggers who utilize one (or more) of those niches have the opportunities to monetize from ads, products, affiliates, & sponsored posts, but they have to win over crowds from other blogs to do so.
BUT (pun intended), your rest area review blog is unique- it won’t have as many readers, but it will have some VERY dedicated, high quality followers. They’ll be astounded that a blog like yours exists, and they’ll check in all the time. You probably won’t earn a killing off your Google Adsense (because you have only a handful of followers), but you have lots of opportunity to sell your own products (like a coffee table book with all your lovely rest stop photos). You can also do affiliate links through places like Amazon Affiliate (such as tents, cameras, high quality toilet paper, coolers, etc). Or, you can perhaps get sponsored posts (reach out to Charmin?).
The fact of the matter is that you do not need to belong to a popular niche if it’s just not your thing. You have opportunities everywhere- you just have to get creative sometimes.
So you have a niche, now what?
1. Make a list in your phone or on your planner called “Niche Networking”
3. Go to Google. Type in your selected niche. Find blogs and websites of people in your niche. Find your favorites, find successful ones, and find newbies. Add their names and URLs to your “Niche Networking” list.
4. Repeat step two, this time with Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (easiest done using hashtags) instead of Google.
5. Make it a point to connect with all these influencers. Make time at least once a week to comment on their posts and photos. Join their Facebook communities, follow them on social media, and join their email subscription. Comment and ask thoughtful questions semi-regularly. Be genuine. Mention your blog name some, but don’t link to it- that looks spammy, and it’s rude (especially if it’s in their blog’s comment section).
1. Find at least 5 bloggers in your niche (using the method above)
2. Add them to your list “Niche Networking”.
3. Connect with each blogger in two ways. Join email lists, follow on social media, comment on posts, or email them. Networking is just a fancy way of saying “make friends!”.
Step 2: Be a Planner
Invest in a good planner, or make a handy Google Doc. Personally, I’m left handed and my handwriting never comes out like I want it, so I prefer Google Docs in Drive. This is up to you though.
Determine about how often you want to blog. Seven days a week? On Monday, Wednesday & Friday? Once every Saturday? Every two days? Every three days? Also, consider which topics you’d like to cover on that schedule. For Instance, if you’re a beauty blogger, your schedule may have you posting 4 days a week, and each day may have a theme, such as Selfcare Sunday, Makeup Monday, Wardrobe Wednesday, and Skincare Satuday. Figure up how many posts that’s going to require of you every month. Now comes the fun part…
Create your Titles for the Month
If you need 12 blog posts for the month, try to come up with 12 titles for the month. They don’t have to be perfect, just something that makes sense to you that will remind you of your writing ideas.
Here are a few templates to try:
1) List posts (57 reasons why, 44 products I really love, 9 bloggers who..)
2) Personal posts (why I gave up ____, I will never____, what I learned about ____…)
3) $$ Posts (this item only costs $7, save $400 in two weeks…)
4) Instant Gratification (how to ___ in ___ days)
5) Opinion piece (why ___ people are so ____)
6) The ultimate guide to _____
7) How I (wrote a ____, made $$$, did this great thing..)
8) Freebie (free eBook on how to _____, free printable, free course, enter drawing..)
And here are some examples:
* 35 Money Lies that Keep you Poor
* The Meal Plan that costs $2.52 per person, per day
* Products that I refuse to buy as Generics
* My $100 Wardrobe
* How the Wealthiest People in America Made their $$$
* The Makings of my book “Finding Financial Freedom”
* Being Classy on a Budget
* Proven Ways to Make Money at Home
* 10 Businesses that Keep you in the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle
* The only Credit Building Guide You’ll ever need
* 5 Businesses that your Small Town Needs
* Understand your Finances like a Boss with this Free Finance Tracker
You can batch write these (write them all in one or two sittings) or write them the day of publishing- find which method works best for you!
Make one month’s worth of blog post titles. Don’t worry about writing them yet (unless you’re just chomping at the bit & ready to go, then be my guest!).
Step 3: Guide your Readers
You know your blog like the back of your hand, but we don’t. Today we’re going to work on three things:
1. An “About Me” Page
2. A “Contact” &/or “Work with Me” Page
3. A “Start Here” Page
An About Me Page
Your About Me page shows us who you are, what you do, and how you can help your readers.
Here is a set up that I personally like to see in an “About Me“:
* A short introduction of who you are. Like, 1-2 sentences short. My name is ___. I’m from ____. I have a passion for ____ (whatever your blog niche is).
* Show us your face! Selfies are fine so long as the photo isn’t grainy or overly dark.
* If you have a backstory about your niche &/or side categories, include that, but try to make it as succinct as possible. Very few people care about this detail (I’m sorry, it’s true), so that’s why you go for short, but information filled. If you have the opportunity with your niche to show humor or personality, please do so!
* Describe what the purpose of your blog is. This is where you make it clear that YOU are a highly useful influencer/Blogger.
* If you are part of your blog’s brand / are an ambassador (your face is shown on the blog, you tell personal stories, opinions, or experiences, etc) then you should include more information on yourself. GET CREATIVE. Don’t you dare tell me that you love coffee, we all do! Don’t tell me you’re a naps & cats lover, we all are! Tell me about the time you accidentally split your pants in high school. Tell me about your awards you’re proud of. Tell me about your strange daydream of becoming a sexy bartender in a dive bar in the mountains. YOU are cool, you are unique, and you need to show us that! If you’re a fitness expert, show us a gym selfie.
* If you’re a vegetarian cook, show us a picture of you in the garden or at the stove. If you’re a financial guru, show us a selfie of you holding up your social security card (don’t do this).
A Contact Me / Work with Me Page
Answer basic questions quickly with this one.
1. Yes, I do write sponsored posts.
2. Yes, I do write & accept guest posts.
3. Yes, I would love to answer your questions.
4. Eh, maybe I would listen to your comments.
5. Yes, that was definitely my dog pooping in your yard (sorry!)
Here is my contact form: _______
Here is my email: _____
Here is my business address / PO BOX: ______
Easy right?! This is what mine looks like if you’re curious.
A Start Here Page
There’s no right or wrong way to set up a “Start Here” page, so long as it does three basic things for your blog:
1. Explains who you are / what you do / how you’re helpful (basically a micro elevator pitch version of your About Me page)
2. Explains your Blog’s Name. “My blog is called ‘Toasters & Trumpets’ because I like to play the trumpet in 2 minute intervals while my PopTart heats up”
3. Where to Begin as a Reader: basically list off each of your categories, explain what they’re about, and share the links to each category.
If you absolutely fall Inc love with your “Start Here” page, feel free to set it as your homepage- victors love that! Just be sure that your most recent posts appear somewhere on it, for ease of accessibility.
• Make an About Me
• Make a Contact Page
• Make a Start Here / Homepage
Step 4: Join Meaningful Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are awesome for new bloggers. They let you ask questions that Google just “doesn’t get”. They’re wonderful to find others in your niche, and some direct traffic to your site by doing “like, comment, share” threads. Here are my personal favorites:
1. Women Winning Online
2. Inspired Bloggers Network
3. Boss Girl Bloggers
4. Blogger Opportunities
5. Ultimate Blog Challenge – Boost your Blog Traffic
6. Secret Bloggers + Bosses Society
7. Blog Support Group
• Join at least 2 facebook groups
• If the groups allow it, introduce yourself with 2-5 sentences, remember you’re mostly here for your blog so make sure your blog is the focal point, not your random favorite colors or foods!
Step 5: Brand your Blog & Yourself
You’ve already branded yourself as a person, and probably without even realizing it. You have your favorite colors, your own style of speech, and your own hobbies & interests.
Don’t believe me? Just scroll through your own Facebook friends list. You’ve got the exhausted single mom, Karen, who loves sharing memes about wine. You’ve got grumpy uncle, Rex, who usually picks fights with your liberal dread-headed cousins at thanksgiving. You’ve got that one girl from college who posts pictures of kittens needed adopted from the local shelter. Heck, branding people is common that we even have “starter pack” memes:
Your blog though (if it’s anything like mine when I first began) is just a jumble of “stuff”. It probably hasn’t had a clear, set personality (brand) made for it yet. That’s what we’re going to work on today.
Pick a Color Scheme
Now, you need to pick a color scheme that is going to appeal to your ideal audience AND your niche. You can do this one of four ways:
1. Pick your favorite colors. Find some accent colors that go along with your favorite colors. Boom! You’re done!
2. Look at other, similar businesses in your niche. Are you a food blogger? Look at popular restaurants, bloggers, and grocery stores. Finance blogger? Look at banks, tax preparations, and other finance blogs. Clothing / Style? Look at shops, boutiques, runways, and other fashion bloggers. Go along a similar route in your color scheme.
3. Do some research. Red is a color of urgency, strength, and boldness. Blue is a color for peacefulness, order, and reliability. Green is for fresh, earthy, and restful. Find colors that portray what message you want to send your audience.
4. Pick a picture. Do you have a photo that you just absolutely love for its colors? Go to that color scheme.
Pick your Fonts
1. You need 2-3 fonts. That’s it. Have one for your headers, one for your body, and one that is just slightly different for your when you want a little change (such as Pinterest Pins). Make sure all fonts complement one another.
2. Scrolly, feminine, or a handwritten style is great for headers & titles- but never body text. It’s hard to read! The same goes for writing in all caps. IT SLOWS DOWN HOW QUICKLY YOU CAN READ, MAKES YOUR FONT LOOK BLOCKY, AND IT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE YOU ARE YELLING.
3. Check out Creative Market’s guide to choosing your 2-3 fonts based on your personality / brand personality.
Your Blog’s Overall Persona
1. Make a square logo. Use Canva (but don’t use their clip art, only the fonts). Use premade logos (from here). Or get one personally made for you from fiver for $5. Try to use the same fonts and colors you just selected.
2. Make a horizontal logo, good for business cards, social media headers, and more.
3. Determine how you want to write, and stick with it. Humorous or not. Formal or informal.
4. When you add your personal photo (your face!) to your “About Me” page (or anywhere else you add it on your blog) try to incorporate your personality type (formal = professional photo, girly = hair down + pastel colors, humorous = smiling or laughing).
5. Make all your social media match your blog’s brand. Use the same profile picture, header, and bio across all profiles. Also, use the same “voice” (don’t be goofy on your blog, but formal on your Facebook page). I’ll have more on social media branding on another day!
Check back next week for Part II where you’ll learn these awesome skills:
Step 6: Find Beautiful Images & make the Perfect Pins for Pinterest
Step 7: Brand your Instagram & Pinterest
Step 8: Promote your Blog (for free!)
Step 9: Improve your Writing Process
Step 10: Monetizing: Google Adsense, Amazon Affiliate, Merchandise, Drop Shipping, Creating your own products