Blogging is where it’s at, right?
Whether you’re a professional blogger, or your blog is there to promote your regular business, you know that at the end of the day, your blog has one major purpose:
To engage a GINORMOUS audience.
Not just big… GINORMOUS. An audience so large you are guaranteed more customers than you know what to do with.
And yet, most blogs trudge along with an Alexa ranking north of a million, and you hear crickets more than you hear the pings of incoming web traffic.
What’s going on?
Eventually, you reach the conclusion that you must be missing something. You go looking for help, and are bombarded with course offers and bombastic claims:
“Make $500 in one hour with our no-fail system!”
“Beat any competitor to Google’s first page in less than a week!”
“How I make $4,729.19 every week in my pajamas!”
These claims raise an eyebrow and at least a few questions.
If it’s so easy to make $500 in an hour, then why are they selling their course for $27 instead of just hiring people to do the work and make them the money?
And what if your competitor buys that same course? How fast will she knock you out of that top spot?
But as skeptical as you might be, you’re also hopeful. It seems like everyone but you is out there growing a giant site in no time. What’s their secret?
You shell out the money for the programs, carefully ignoring the “results not typical” disclaimers. You sift through the nonsense and find some good advice, which you diligently put to work. And then…
More crickets?!? What the hell?!
To Everything There Is a Season: Skyhooks and Cranes
Remember the phrase, “to everything there is a season”—copied from the book of Ecclesiastes by Pete Seeger in his song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
Well, it applies equally well to your blog’s growth as it does to life in general. You have to start at the beginning, and work your way up… one step at a time.
Knockout strategies can work, but they require a foundation that a blog with minimal web traffic just doesn’t have. When you try to skip steps, you fall down and make no progress.
This applies to everyone. No one gets to skip steps. I could write a book about the thousands of hours I’ve invested in this marketing blog. Trust me, it’s not easy.
He uses it to explain evolution by natural selection, but it’s the perfect metaphor for growing an audience.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say that you want to build a building.
In a perfect, imaginary world, you use a skyhook, a big hook in the sky to which you can attach a pulley system to pull things off the ground.
The only problem is that skyhooks don’t exist. There’s no way of making a hook just float in the air.
According to Wikipedia, “…the term ‘skyhook’ describe[s] a source of design complexity that does not build on lower, simpler layers—in simple terms, a miracle.”
That’s exactly what bombastic internet marketing products are offering—to create massive growth that does not build on solid foundations. In simple terms, a miracle.
So skyhooks are out.
Does that mean we can’t build anything?
Obviously, the answer is no.
To build our wondrous concrete jungles, we use cranes.
Cranes do exactly the same thing as skyhooks, only we build them from the ground up. Here’s the really interesting part: the way to build a giant crane that gives you lots of leverage is with smaller cranes!
If you want to build something huge, you need to start with something small that you can use to get there.
Small Doesn’t Mean Slow
Good news: This isn’t a post about how you should be patient and take things slow and steady because eventually you’ll win the race.
As Sonia Simone once said in a podcast, “slow but steady works, but we’ve all had the experience of being beaten to the finish line by a jack rabbit with ADD!”
The point of this post is that the fastest way to grow a blog is by using the strategy that fits with your current stage of growth.
The more appropriate your strategy is to your stage of growth, the faster you’ll outgrow it—and be ready for the next one!
Now, if you’re a regular here at Mirasee, then you know that we’re all about action. (If you’re new, welcome, and please take a moment to subscribe.)
One of the reasons we’ve achieved so much success is that we understand this concept of growth stages.
To help you do the same, we’ve mapped out all four stages of blog growth, so you can figure out where you are and what you need to do next.
Here are the four steps:
Step 1 – Build the Foundation
Step 2 – Cultivate Relationships
Step 3 – Launch Explosively
Step 4 – Make Profitable Offers
The idea is to “launch” your audience by building a strong foundation and building on each layer of growth.
Now let’s look in-depth at each of the steps to see exactly what’s involved, and what you need to do to “graduate” to the next one.
(Oh, and if you want a free PDF checklist, make sure to read through to the end of the post!)
Step #1 – Build a Foundation of Content
You’ve just finished building your website. Your theme is designed, widgets are installed, and a welcoming homepage greets every visitor.
It’s normal for you to be super-excited and want to be out there, spreading the word.
Resist that urge!
Before telling anyone about your blog or site, you’ve got to make sure there’s good content for them to read when they get there. That’s why your #1 priority with a new blog or site is to create some really great content.
It doesn’t have to be tons of content, but you do have to have enough great content to grab people’s attention and make them want to learn from from you.
So if you already have a blog set up, then write some really great posts or anchor content.
Your website doesn’t even have to be a blog at this point.
It could be a single landing page enticing visitors to sign up for your mailing list in exchange for a free PDF, email course, or other incentive.
Whether you have a blog or a single-page website, you need to set up a way to get visitors into your mailing list. Do that now, so it’s ready when you start getting more traffic (because you will).
Not only do you need to think of outstanding content to create, but you’ve also got to stay motivated, even when your analytics are flat and you know nobody is reading it.
It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
Once you’ve created great anchor content that will impress people who arrive at your blog, then you can spread the word.
Reach out to everyone you know via email, Facebook, Twitter, the good old-fashioned telephone, live networking events, and any other way that you can think of. Add your website URL to your business cards, stationery, email signatures, and social media profiles.
Tell everyone you know how excited you are about your new blog and what your goals are. Ask them for feedback, then tell them how much it would mean to you if they would subscribe and leave a comment on posts they particularly enjoy.
You can even ask them to help you spread the word, but don’t expect miracles.
Keep in mind, this won’t give you tons of traffic, but it’s a start. Expect to get to about 10-20 unique visitors per day once you’re past the initial spike of people who come to look but don’t stay.
Step #2 – Cultivate Relationships
Once you’ve got that baseline of web traffic, and your family, friends, and social media followers have given you some feedback, it’s time to broaden your circle.
Reach out to other bloggers in your community—but not the big ones at first, they have no reason to listen to you. I’m talking about the little ones, other bloggers who are fairly new and are getting fewer than 10-15 comments on their posts.
Find the good ones (it’s important that they actually be good), leave comments on their posts, and engage with them. Share their posts on social media, get on their mailing lists, and respond to their content.
Invite them to write a guest post on your blog. In most cases, they’ll be flattered, provide you with a great post, and tell all of their followers to go read it.
Of course, you should do the same for them.
Share their good work with your network. The bloggers will thank you for the exposure, and your network will thank you for the good but obscure content you’re sending their way.
You should also offer to write guest posts for them and respond to all of the comments you get.
Doing all this will bring you up to the range of 50-100 unique visitors per day.
When you’ve got great content on your site that your friends and followers like, that has attracted good traffic and reviews from other members of your blogging community, then it’s time to take off the training wheels.
Move to A Bigger Pond
I’m talking about guest posting on the bigger blogs in your space. This is where you start tapping into bigger traffic numbers.
Here’s the short version of how to do it:
First, find the blogs you want to guest post on. Only choose blogs whose audience would like your stuff and are big enough to get you good traction. As a rule of thumb, you’re looking for an Alexa ranking of around 100,000 or lower.
Second, read the blog and figure out what you could write about that they will like and respond well to (by this, I mean that you’ll get lots of comments, tweets, and Facebook shares).
Third, if you haven’t already been active on the blog, read through it, and leave good comments on at least 2-3 posts. This is important! You have to get to know the style of the blog and blogger and show them that you care.
Fourth, send the blogger an email. Keep it short and sweet. Try something like this:
I’m new on your blog, and I really like your stuff. [MAKE SURE YOU MEAN IT!]
I’ve been thinking about writing a post about [SUBJECT], and it occurred to me that it could be a great fit for your audience.
What do you think of me writing it as a guest post? A headline for this post might be [HEADLINE IDEA] (of course, that’s just a suggestion).
If you want to see samples of my writing, you can check out [YOUR WEBSITE], or look at my last guest post on [SITE YOU GUEST POSTED ON] – it got [SOME MEASURE OF TRACTION].
What do you think? Shall I write up a draft?
If you do your homework and only pitch ideas that fit well with the blog, most people will be happy to receive a draft. Once they say yes, send them the draft within a few days, and when it runs on the blog, be active and gracious in the comments.
Do this for a handful of blogs, until you’re getting up to about 200-400 unique visitors per day and at least 1,000 email subscribers.
At the same time, use your growing traffic numbers to optimize conversions. Get your site to the point where your mailing list opt-in rates are good, and if you’ve got something to sell, people are buying with some regularity.
Make sure everything is optimized before progressing to the next step in the process.
Step #3 – Launch Explosively
When you have at least 1,000 email subscribers, then you can launch (or relaunch) your blog—and you’ll have at least 1,000 possible readers!
And now, you have enough of an audience to possibly go viral.
In other words, you need a minimum amount of traffic to increase it exponentially.
There are lots of ways to do this, and I’ll share two—but first, a warning: If your blog doesn’t have a good amount of traffic and the process isn’t optimized, hold off. Stay on Step 2 until your traffic and conversions are solid.
This is important, because virality requires a critical mass.
If you create an awesome piece of viral content and release it to your audience of seven readers, then sure, you might get lucky and someone might share it with someone who eventually shares it a lot… but that probably won’t happen.
You have to make sure your content is getting enough exposure that when you produce something worthy of getting past the tipping point, it will be able to tip!
Okay, so let’s get practical. Here are two ways that you can go viral (for more ideas, and more details about these ideas, you can read a whole post about viral marketing campaign ideas):
Idea #1: Viral Content Contest – Run a series of posts about your subject, and make sure these posts are all share-worthy (read: really good). Then, add an incentive for sharing. For example, run a contest and enter people into a draw if they share. That’s exactly what we did with our FIRE-PROOF Selling series when our blog was new. Before publishing this series, our hottest post got fewer than 10 comments. The hottest post in the series got 35. ‘Nuff said.
Idea #2: Bonus for Sharing – Create an awesome piece of content, and give it away for free in exchange for sharing on Twitter or Facebook (you can do this with a free service like Pay With A Tweet). Innovative Thunder did this to launch their book called Oh My God What Happened And What Should I Do?, and got over 150,000 people to tweet about their book.
This is when your traffic grows a lot. Be creative. Just a couple of campaigns, properly executed, should bring you up to 500-1,000+ unique daily visitors. That’s as much as 30,000 a month. Now we’re talking!
Step #4 – Make Profitable Offers
Now is the time to monetize your blog.
But keep it in balance.
Most blogs falter because they’re busy trying to sell something when they should still be building an audience. Once you’ve got an audience who loves your stuff, selling is easy. This is the part where you can parlay your audience into big sales numbers.
I’m not going to go into all of the different ways that you can make money with a blog (selling a product, selling a service, selling advertising, affiliate products, speaking fees, etc.)—you can read the Make Money Blogging report to get all those details.
What I do want to stress, though, is that you should focus on building the audience first and selling second.
Too often, when people ask why their site isn’t making money, the answer is because nobody is visiting it.
Growing your audience first—and selling after that—is how you solve that problem.
Ready to Start? Get the Guide!
First, let me clarify something. Having shared these stages with you, I am NOT saying that this is the one and only way to grow a blog.
There are lots ways I haven’t covered, and there are many paths up the proverbial mountain.
This isn’t the only path or even the only good path. It is, however, a good path, a safe path, and a path that will get you there quicker than most of the others that I’ve seen—especially the ones that promise to teleport you to the top but really just lead you off a cliff.
Here’s the beauty of this path: It works even if you veer off of it from time to time.
And you will veer off from time to time. You’ll have ideas that you’ll want to try or opportunities will present themselves that you won’t want to lose while waiting for the next step in the process.
No problem! Veer off path, do what you’ve got to do, and if it works, so much the better.
But when you’re done exploring, work your way back to the path and pick up where you left off.
You can use the Audience Building Checklist to stay on track and help you remember how it all works. Download the PDF checklist below for the complete step-by-step system.
And please leave a comment! What do you think of this model? Do you see yourself on it? What stage are you at? What are you doing to get to the next one?
Audience Building Checklist
Download the complete checklist for building your highly engaged audience.