A guest post by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com
In the recycled litany of advice on how to grow your blog – recycled because it’s all tried and true – there’s one effective strategy that gets too little airtime.
Perhaps that’s because it’s not for everybody. Because it’s hard to pull off.
That said, it almost always works.
Meanwhile, as a first line of more accessible strategy, we’re told to comment on the blogs of others. We’re also advised to avoid overtly flogging our own agenda in the process.
“Dude, nice post!” won’t send folks to your site.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to dole out the atta-boys. Just don’t expect to be rewarded with reciprocal traffic when you do. If you comment – and this, too, is straight out of Blogging 101 – strive to add value to the online discussion, and in context to the previous paragraph.
We’re told to write killer headlines. Snatch an edgy image from Flickr. Never put three sentences of content into a single paragraph. Pretend like you know Darren Rowse and Brian Clark personally.
Which puts you in the company of thousands who lay claim to that because they’ve swapped an email or two. They’re not two of the biggest and nicest people on the internet for nothin’.
And of course, we’re consistently told that content is king. That this little strategy trumps everything else. Always has, always will.
Which is precisely why the strategy I’m about to pitch works so well.
Like you, I’ve dipped my blogging toe into all of these rushing online waters, and with varying degrees of success, depending on how you define it.
Growing a blog by the book is a bit like those sales pages that suggest you can earn five grand a month with Google ads, and then when you do everything they suggest after submitting your fifty bucks, you make about fifteen of them back over the next five months.
If you’re the exception to that generalization, then by all means, illuminate us.
But if you’re looking for something you can sink your strategic teeth into, an approach that solidly aligns with the content-is-king blogging mantra and actually results in an influx of enthusiastic new readers, then consider this:
Write a series
A sequence of posts that offer a sort of mini-symposium, an online workshop that builds upon its own content and momentum.
I’ve done it a handful of times, and each time it jacks my Feedburner number much more significantly than anything else I’ve tried.
I’m in the middle of one now, in fact, and my level of readership has gone up nearly 50 percent since it began five days ago (that said, Darren Rowse I’m not, so this isn’t a world record). And my subscriber base has gone up 10 percent after three months of complete flat-lining.
And – here’s the entrepreneurial payoff – I’m selling a bunch of ebooks in the process, at over twice the normal sales pace.
Claiming the Right to Write a Series
To write a successful series, you need to occupy a position of credibility within your chosen niche. You need to have something to offer, to give away, and be able to demonstrate the chops to do so.
Also, your series should be about something that can’t be adequately contained in a single blog post.
Sure, we can stuff anything into a single blog post if we try. I’ve seen single blog posts on solving the problem of unhappy marriages, how to cure cancer and the ultimate answer to recovering from sex addiction, substance abuse and hair loss.
Yeah, like any of those can happen in 1000 words or less.
If you really want to cement your position as an authority on something, on anything, you need to go deeper than what readers normally encounter online.
You need to train them.
One reason this strategy can grow your readership is that it is, in essence, an event. Which means it can be marketed as such ahead of time.
Beginning a week or two before you launch the series, start writing about it. Define the problem or need your series will address, and the end result that will be there for those who come to the party.
Attach a tag, a notice, at the end of your otherwise unconnected posts reminding readers of the upcoming series. Suggest they invite friends that share the same goals and concerns.
Getting the Reader Involved
Ask for input to the series, allowing your readers to, in effect, take part in the approach and content. Nothing makes readers love you more than the belief – based in truth – that you are writing precisely what they need to read, and that you understand both their goals and their challenges.
And then, write a killer series. Write the hell of out. Don’t just whip them off before bed in a stream-of-conscious psycho-babble of war stories. Write your series as if you are preparing a masters thesis, but with a sense of style, humor and empathy.
Think of the posts as chapters in a book, with an introductory context up front, then a building series of content blocks that take the reader to the promised outcome.
Not only will they come once you build it, others will write about it on their sites – including requests for interviews and invites to guest post – creating a level of buzz you could never achieve otherwise.
Go deeper than you normally would
With a series you have the time and space to go there, and in doing so you’ll quickly differentiate yourself from other blogs in your niche.
When you write an effective series, you are actually taking blogging to another level. What was conceived as experiential sharing and observation becomes a valuable gift to all who click on.
And speaking of chapters… I’ve turned three of my series into ebooks that are selling well, with a fourth right around the corner. Just make sure you don’t simply slap together the eight parts of your series into an eight chapter ebook and call it original, your readers are too smart for that. And, they deserve better.
You’ve already given it away. You can’t sell it unless you add more value to it.
Use your posts as a foundation to build on, and expand them into a full and robust informational goldmine on the topic. Include real life examples as a way to clarify your content.
People who read your series will flock to it, even if they read it on your site as part of a series, and they’ll tell others.
And in the meantime, your blog and your brand will begin to grow. Not only because of your content, but as a result of the credibility of your authoritative brand.
Larry Brooks is currently writing a series that deconstructs Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, Shutter Island – the book and the movie based on it – on Storyfix.com, an instructional site for novelists and screenwriters.