Got Irresistible Content That’s Going Nowhere? Five Steps to Building an Audience By Vincent Nguyen on July 10, 2013
Starting from nothing is frustrating. The worst thing about it is that when you’re just starting you’ll find it far too easy to simply make excuses on a daily basis. It took me from December 2011 all the way to late January of 2013 to get started on mybig goal.
I always had this big plan of creating a website to begin my web presence. It didn’t matter what it was as long as it had my name and people knew I created it. I fantasized about all the amazing things it could potentially lead to but I kept making excuses for myself.
It’d be too expensive. It’d be too much work. I wouldn’t know how to get traffic. There are people more “qualified” than I am.
One day I ran out of excuses and launched my blog and it’s been blowing up ever since with hundreds of unique visitors every day, averaging 40 comments per article. My site led to three internships, freelance work, connections, guest posting on many of the top blogs in my niche, and a whole host of other amazing things. My favorite part about it all is that my resume has really been filled up by all the skills I’ve learned from building an audience.
Is it because I write great content? Well, I would hope so, but that’s not all.
It’s because I avoided a mistake that many people make for years. They think that all it takes to propel your blog into the public’s eye is to write amazing, irresistible content and the rest will follow suit. That’s nonsense.
It doesn’t make sense if you think about it. Millions of blogs are online, how do people magically find the great ones? It takes more to build an audience than sitting down and powering through articles every day.
What you need to do is research every day and apply what you’ve learned to the point of obsession. Always be reading what worked for others and what doesn’t work. Fine-tune as you go and don’t make assumptions.
I get asked several times a week by other bloggers in my niche (some from other niches as well) on how to get noticed and get consistent traffic. To them it’s like magic because surely it’s just content right? So why aren’t they blowing up with opportunities like I am?
People toss around the phrase “Content is king” and you’ve most likely heard it at least 10 times this past week.
Whether you’re just starting out with a website for your company or for yourself, you need to set the right foundations from the very start. Learn basic (or advanced) SEO tactics. Understand seductive copywriting. Know how to convert existing visitors into an email list (which you should setup on day one.)
Being a great writer isn’t enough when you want to build an audience.
If you don’t believe it’s a lot of hard work outside of writing itself then take a look at this because you’ll need to understand:
Copywriting is the art of headlines, words that persuade, the application of conciseness, formatting for scanners/skimmers, and many other things. You need to be conscious of what makes for good copywriting because when people are on your site, you want them to click on your article and read it. Learn to seduce visitors because driving traffic to a site and having them all leave without reading is a waste (also known as a high bounce rate).
How do you seduce them enough to read in the first place? The headline, the taglines, and the understanding that each sentence is a battle to keep the visitor engaged. Copywriters understand this and they optimize to perfection.
I follow Copyblogger closely because they go into depth on how to do things like writing attractive headlines, how to keep people on your site, and how to engage your audience with your words. They’ve also got a free course that teaches you a ton about copywriting through their ebooks and webinars.
Let’s take a few examples of headlines. If I were writing an article on how to write headlines, I could make it simple and title it “How to Write Headlines.” It’s safe, it gets the point across, but it doesn’t draw the reader in or incline anyone to check it out.
If I spent more time and got into the mindset of a copywriter, I may come to several more headlines before being content with the headline. Tell me, do these headlines sound better than the one up there?
“Why You’re Not Being Read, Writing Headlines to Attract Readers”
“How to Write Headlines That Won’t Be Ignored”
“Headlines 101: 10 Tips to Being a Seductive Copywriter”
See the difference? A lot more than just “How to Write Headlines.”
Note: just because you’re reading these guides over and over doesn’t mean you understand copywriting. Practice it and calibrate where necessary.
There are several more books and great examples from history that you can follow up on. As a blogger, you’re going to need to learn to be an expert at finding information so I’ll give you a challenge instead of giving it to you on a silver platter. Find who the best copywriters are (dead or alive) and read their books, practice what they recommend, and always be conscious of copywriting.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is changing on a daily basis so you’ll want to read every day. I use Feedly, an RSS reader, to pull from many different websites and I read each article (minus the ones that are unimportant.) In the beginning, I read basic guides, advanced guides, applied them, and saw success after waiting (SEO is a lot of waiting.) Now I get several thousands of visitors a month from search and my website has only been online for 5 months.
Some websites I follow regularly for SEO include: Quick Sprout, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, Moz, Think Traffic, and plenty more. Follow SEO blogs on your RSS reader and read them every day to keep up-to-date.
Alltop does a good job compiling different websites on SEO as well, which you can pull into your RSS reader. I wouldn’t recommend putting the Alltop link into Feedly though because you’ll be overwhelmed by information you’ve already read on another site. Use Alltop as a guide so you know what sites there are and add them manually to your RSS reader.
Learn the basics and the advanced techniques even if you don’t think you need them. Drive search traffic to your audience because trust me, you need to build this audience yourself.
How do you expect people to see your amazing content if you don’t drive them there? If you’re confident in your copywriting skills (headlines especially) then you won’t have to worry about keeping them there.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
CRO is a fun one. The main person who I learned CRO from is Social Triggers‘ Derek Halpern. He teaches the psychology of marketing and he gets how people think.
CRO is interesting because it’s all about hypothesizing then testing. They have a hunch on what works then they setup tests to see what really gets people to do what you hypothesized they would do.
For example, if I want people to sign up for an email list then I would play with the wording, the size of things, the colors, and a whole bunch of other things to see what gets people on the psychological level to sign up.
Recap: write seductively (copywriting,) drive traffic through search (SEO,) keep visitors and have them join an email list, buy your product, etc. (CRO)
This is all starting to sound a lot more complicated than “Content is king,” right?
Even with all of this, there’s another vital piece. Guest blogging.
Now this is something SEO “experts” have been talking about quite a lot now and with good reason. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve written for a lot of the top blogs in my niche. I don’t do it because it’s fun (although I do enjoy it,) I do it because it makes sense and it’s a great way to drive traffic to your site.
What better way can you think of then to drive relevant traffic from an already established blog straight to your website?
Guest blogging is an art all in itself. Pitching, writing relevant content that will benefit their audience, and learning how to make use of the spike in traffic all go into successful guest blogging. Jon Morrow is the one I followed very closely when I first started out guest blogging.
Network With And Befriend Others
This is another part of my golden equation that many bloggers miss out on. They get so many things right, they’re driving traffic, but they’re not maintaining that traffic.
Their comments go ignored, social media networks are inactive, and they don’t have any friends in their niche. If you want to create a community then you have to put in the work to keep the traffic feeling welcome. This means responding to comments (commenting on other blogs as well,) being active on social media, and reaching out to influencers in your niche (for more than just guest blogging opportunities.)
You want to create a family on your website. Part of that means being engaged in conversations. This is an excellent way to drive traffic because people LOVE communities. It’s attractive.
Don’t focus on trying to be everywhere, all the time. Stick to two, maybe three sites or influencers and engage in them 100%. Don’t try to be on everything because it just won’t work and it will be a waste of time. I personally stick to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
As for cold emailing influencers, you have to make friends! Don’t ask for favors, instead ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. A good way to get on their radar before you email them is to comment on their blog often so they’re familiar with your name. This will help avoid getting your email ignored.
Ah, all the pieces fitting together so beautifully.
Write great content (applies to guest blogging as well) > Seduce people with your copywriting > Drive traffic through search and guest blogging > Optimize for conversions so that new traffic loves you and comes back, signs up for your email list, or buys your product > Build a community through networking.
Now I hope you get my point when I say just writing great content won’t bring you an audience. There are so many pieces at play and each of them makes the entire machine stronger. Take any of these out and you’re missing on a lot of potential.
Bio: Vincent Nguyen is a full-time college student, an intern for three companies, and a personal development blogger at Self Stairway. He’s self-taught himself many aspects of online marketing and used these skills to jumpstart and maintain his blog’s growth. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.