This is the story of a blogger. He started his blog, taught himself about copywriting, and figured out who the one person he was writing for really was. He worked his tail off creating content.
But his blog was a ghost town. There were no visitors, no comments … nothing.
In a mad rush to find traffic, he created a Twitter account and followed every blogger he could think of. He tweeted and tweeted, but didn’t get much traffic.
A week later, he realized that Facebook might be a better way to go. He created a Fan page, added a Like button to his blog, and messaged all of his Facebook friends about his latest post.
It didn’t go viral, so he moved on to SEO. He bought a couple of courses, got himself listed in a bunch of directories, and created a linkwheel or two.
This went on, and on, and on—to commenting, social bookmarking, PPC, email marketing, and back to content. And still, no traffic. Even worse, when anyone would search for him, they would find a dozen different half-finished social media profiles and pages.
And this could all have been avoided…
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)
This fictional but archetypal blogger suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).
SOS is a serious problem, particularly for online entrepreneurs. Here’s the general definition from Karen Greenstreet: “It’s not quite ADD/ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”
Why is this so common for new bloggers? It’s a combination of two things:
- You care about your blog, and really want it to succeed. You want to make the very best use of limited time and resources, provide for your family, travel around the world and live the exciting Internet lifestyle, and your attitude is that you just need to be shown what steps to take, and you’ll take them.
- You’re inexperienced, and don’t really know what works and what doesn’t. Everything you know is by observation and hearsay—you believe it’s true because you heard it from this authority blogger or that Internet marketing guru.
That second item is a huge problem. They say that the person in an argument who has the strongest frame wins, and whenever it comes to traffic or blogging, no matter which authority blogger or guru you’re reading, their frame will always be stronger, because they’re farther than you are. The only problem is that their advice all seems so contradictory!
What’s the best strategy?
There are tons of strategies out there for growing a blog audience. Here are some of the big umbrella strategies:
- Content is king. You’ve heard this before—very simply, it means that your strategy starts and ends with creating truly awesome content, which Corbett Barr calls “epic.” To implement this sort of strategy, you need to understand your readers, and learn how to write really, really well.
- Community is king. This strategy is all about being a part of a community—finding the communities that you want to be a part of, and getting involved in the conversation until you’re a fixture there. To do this you have to build relationships with larger and smaller bloggers, eventually leading to content exchanges and guest posts.
- Social media is king. This strategy is all about being on Twitter, Facebook, and using all of the latest apps and solutions like Buffer and Triberr to make the most of them.
- SEO is king. This strategy is all about writing content that will get ranked on search engines, so that your traffic will ultimately come from there. To do this you have to steer clear of sleazy “black hat” tactics in favor of honest and effective strategies, and maybe find some good SEO software to help.
Of course, each of these strategies comes complete with a host of different tactical options for you to choose from as well, and they aren’t mutually exclusive (for example, even if you aren’t a “Content is King” purist, you probably agree that great content has to go with whatever strategy you choose).
Now, I do have my own favorite blog growth strategy, which is a combination of some of the above, but the most important thing is to avoid the worst strategy…
What’s the worst strategy?
I like some strategies more than others, but the absolute worst strategy is to keep on jumping from strategy to strategy and tactic to tactic.
Whether your strategy of choice is content, community, social media, or SEO, it will take time, respectively, for your writing to get really good and in tune with your audience, the community to get to know who you are and what you’re about, your social networks to notice what you’re doing, or Google to realize that your content is good and you aren’t a fly-by-night operation trying to game their algorithms.
Whatever strategy you choose, you’ve got to give it the time to really start getting some traction, and gurus proclaiming astronomical overnight results notwithstanding, these things really do take time. Just as a for example, I’ve written over 20 guest posts since the beginning of the year, and only now am I starting to feel the benefits of a tiny bit of name recognition on the Internet.
These things take time, particularly in an environment that is so shell-shocked from scams and empty promises bandied about by self-proclaimed gurus.
What’s your strategy?
You’ve got to pick a strategy, and stick with it—for two to three months of intense work, at the very least. But which strategy should you choose?
Here is a checklist that you can use to evaluate whether a strategy is right for you:
- Does it make sense? Marketing hype aside, does it really make sense that this strategy will work, based on your understanding of how the internet and your audience function?
- Is it compelling to the audience? Imagine that you’re on the receiving end of the strategy—would it be compelling to you? Would it drive you to subscribe, engage in a conversation, or become a customer? Or would it just annoy you?
- Do you understand what is involved in making it work? Is everything clear to you, or are there questions that you still need answers to?
- Is the time commitment realistic? Different strategies require different investments of time—do you have the time to invest that this strategy will require?
- Is this strategy consistent with your skills and temperament? Will you have to do things that you either don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do, in order for this strategy to work?
- Is it consistent with your brand? This is important—if it will give people the wrong idea, then it doesn’t really matter if it drives traffic, does it?
- Will this strategy have a broad enough reach? If everything goes well (or not so well, because no plan works out perfectly), will it reach enough people in a compelling way to get you to your objectives (or at least to the next step towards those objectives)?
Is it time to find a new strategy?
Having chosen a strategy to focus on, it is absolutely critical that you stick with it long enough for it to make a difference and get some traction, and that usually takes longer than you think. Here are some questions that can guide you in deciding whether it’s time to move on to a new strategy:
- Have you given your current strategy two to three months of hard work? An hour or two per week doesn’t count—however you’re measuring your effort, you should have put a lot of it into the strategy for a significant amount of time before bailing on it.
- How is this new strategy different from the old strategy? What are the fundamental assumptions that suggest the new one will work when the old did not?
- If you’re planning on adding the new one to the old one, instead of replacing the old one, is that really practical? Will you be able to spend the time that both strategies need to be effective?
- Have you asked for help to make the old strategy work before jumping to a new one? There are lots of talented, generous, and very capable people out there who would be more than happy to give you a pointer in the right direction when you need it.
Okay, over to you. Can you think back on a strategy that you might have abandoned too soon, or that you never should have tried in the first place? What motivated you to do it? What strategies are working for you now? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!
Danny Nice Post, Thank you for highlighting the 4 main strategies, Content and Community always King
OH I love it…SOS
I have it.
I need a drug to get off of it.
Ha, I think the worst problem with SOS that I have is design, the other factors not so much, but layout of certain blogs (which I have too many of) will take me much too long when I should be creating content for them.
Design can definitely cause some major SOS. Lol. I know, I’ve been there. Eventually I just thought about everything I wanted implemented on my site and found the right plugins and eliminated anything that wasn’t important.
I’ll be taking this into account on my photography blog. I’m trying to build those strategies and must watch out these other habits!
how well crafted article is this? Yo have read the newcomers mind Dany.. Focussing leads to success.
I have had to rethink my blogging strategy…I was doing lots of work, but not seeing tons of results…now I’m focusing on building comuunity through social media and creating better content…
Bo, I’m very gratified to hear that you’re finding greater focus in your blog. Thank you for sharing that with me!
Thx for pointing out some common examples for new bloggers.
I have to agree on sticking to your plan. There are so many good ideas out there it’s easy to try to adapt to a new strategy and then forgetting about your original plan. I’m guilty of that.
Thx for your post.
Tom, we’re ALL guilty of that. The important thing is to notice it, catch ourselves, and force ourselves back onto the path that we had chosen… at least for long enough for it to prove itself, or not… :)
I found that once I added the CommentLuv plugin to my blog and commented on other blogs that had CommentLuv that my comments and traffic went up 1000%.
Just focus on one area that you want to improve in. Once you have conquered that one move onto the next. The key here is to stay focused on one goal at a time.
That’s great, Justin, I’m glad to hear it!
And yes, I agree with you – just focus on one thing that you need to improve, and stay on that until it is where you want it to be. :)
Danny, excellent writing and content as always! This is sound advice. I think that you can work on all four of those areas at the same time, time permitting.
I agree that whatever you decide to focus on, whether it is one or all four, you need to give it time and effort until you see progress. It can be tough mentally because the results always lag the hard work put in. That’s just the nature of blogging.
Hey Stephen, thank you! I agree – you can potentially work on all four areas, if you’re very focused and are doing it in a very strategic way. It’s just easier to get distracted when you add more to your plate. :)
And yeah, you’re right – there is always a lag between the work and the results, and that lag is exactly when our eyes start to wander. That’s the nature of blogging, and most other pursuits that involve building something real.
1. Develop a Content Plan
2. Develop an Editorial Calendar
3. Focus on one metric at a time
Good plan, Anna!
Networking is my least favorite part of blogging, but I know it’s important. I have to set aside time to be friendly on the internet. Maybe I’m just a bad person…
Not a bad person, Virginia – we all have different strengths, and enjoy different things. There’s also a “habit” aspect to it – it’s very hard to get started, but the more you get into it, the easier it gets.
Just had this discussion about this exact topic with my blog co-writer today :) You nailed the problem right in the head. I pulled toward SEO, and he is a more content guy.
You gave us a lot to think about, thanks!
I’m glad to hear it, Hezi! So what did you end up deciding?
Absolutely fantastic Article, Danny.
I am bookmarking this article so I can give it the attention it deserves.
Your article contains so much straightforward information, much of which would have a profound affect on an individuals level of Blogging success being achieved, were they to put it into practice.
Thank you, Daniel, that’s very kind of you to say. I wish you the best of luck with your blog. :)
I agree with Justin, I think sometimes blogger’s tend to start multiple things all at once and as a result fail to complete most of them. I’m definitely one for encouraging people to start and focus on one method at a time. Great post by the way.
Thank you, Samantha! It isn’t just bloggers, it’s most entrepreneurs – it’s the flip-side of the entrepreneurial tendency to have lots of great ideas. :)
I know how you feel, Virginia. I got on Facebook when I learned that social networking was important to drive traffic to my fledgling blog. I fell into a trap. Already with my few Facebook friends, I realize that I sincerely like them. They have passionate interests that I share. One problem: those interests have nothing to do with my current blog. Now I’m wondering what to write that my friends might actually enjoy. I realize that I have to be careful about friending people not only with whom I share interests, but also share interests that I can write about. I’m interested in blogging, and blogging software problem solutions, and SEO, and blog copywriting. But none of my new friends are. Why should they be? I have to think this through. I think that I will feel like a bad person if I’m interacting socially with an ulterior motive. My blog and my social networking friends have to fit. The phrase “content is king” for me looks as though it has to become “content that my friends will like is king.” The friends that I pick will shape my blog writing. So I have to pick friends with whom I sincerely share interests and be prepared to write about those topics. Thanks for listening and please send your bill to my psychiatrist. :)
My friend, you’ve hit the nail on the head – content is king only insofar as you’re writing stuff that your audience wants to read!
I wrote a post about this a little while ago, that you might benefit from reading: https://problogger.com/should-you-even-be-blogging/
I agree with your point.. too many strategy won’t easy to success.. we must aim 1-2 strategy..
Great job! Sometimes we are blinded with our goal to succeed and we rush everything and neglect some important strategies that lead us to nothing.
Great post. Fully agreed with all the strategies indicated. I am currently actively involved in the content and social media strategy. SEO is by the way product and the next one to target will be the community strategy.
Thanks for sharing.
Nice post danny,
you point-out some very common mistake by every new blogger. Just stick with one pack of strategy at a time and do hard work with that, definitely success with you.
Great post and very true! I have been blogging a year now, and there was a huge learning curve. There were many times I would jump at a new idea to see if it would work, and eventually I felt like I was just chasing my tail all the time!
I finally had to step back and ask myself, what HAS been working and what is the focus for my blog? For me, I find that content is key for me, and social media is second. However, with the social media aspect, I don’t use multiple avenues. I focus on twitter and facebook. I have not branched beyond that, although I am sure I will, but slowly!
I agree you have to really be careful and seek advice from other bloggers as to what they did in this situation, always considering if what works for someone else will work for YOUR blog.
Why I love Twitter
Bernice, that’s a very common experience!
Actually, I’m the same way – I really use minimal amounts of social media – blogging, and a bit of Twitter, and that’s it.
Thank you for this comment, you’ve added a lot of value to the conversation. :)
I was just talking to one of my biz partners about the importance of content and that the posts must be sopmething that her niche is interested on , not only google
Off course SEO is importants , but your readers must come first , NOT google , at the end of the day your readers are the people who will opt in /buy your products , not google
So , Conten is King ( yeap Google is prince )
You’ve got it right, Adriano – also don’t forget that even if Google likes you, it’s people who will be reading!
Thank you for contributing a guest post here. Your ideas are welcome and the timing is right.
That’s because a lot of people in the blogosphere have been wondering about blogging strategy. I think a combination approach works best: try not to keep all your eggs only in one basket, just like the saying.
Furthermore, it is important to reach out to others for help, every once in a while. For too many people this becomes an ego thing and keeps them from learning. Try to overcome such challenges, if you can.
You need to find coaches and mentors in the blogosphere, people who you know have met with success and wealth, fame and fortune, and can pass on or share that wealth of knowledge.
You also need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and find people who are the real deal.
These days, unfortunately, it seems there are too many people who claim to be “experts” but may turn out to be less than worthy. So, find the right people who can help you grow your blog.
Ask them out for lunch/dinner or just to have a cup of coffee at a local cafe. Such informational interviews can go a long way in learning about the challenges they faced along the ride. Take detailed notes when you ask a question and they provide an answer. Ask probing and open-ended questions too–clarify.
There is a lot of potential for learning from the masters of the game. In turn, this information can help you to grow your own blog–find new customers/clients/readers/subscribers. And make mucho money.
Thank you, Archan, you’ve added a lot of food for thought here!
You’re right – it is very challenging when there are so many people out there who claim to be experts, but don’t really know what they’re talking about.
If you can connect with someone long enough to have a real conversation, it usually becomes evident pretty quickly how much they really know… if they’re really experts, then they don’t have anything to prove, and can do a much better job of guiding you. :)
Isn’t the key to do all these things to some extent?
You need to have something on your site, promoting an empty site is surely a waste of time.
If you are blogging about something you are interested in you are probably already part of those related communities anyway.
Most “enthusiasts” will probably already be members of a forum or two, follow the right people on Twitter and have “liked” the right pages on Facebook.
SEO is easier than many think. Having worked with professional SEO guys at a leading brand site the secret I learned is that there is no secret. Just set up your pages properly so the engines can read titles, headlines, etc. Google’s own doc tells you how to do this: http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
And then remember that the search engine’s goal is to rank the best most relevent content first. Just make sure your content is the best and most relevent! Why else would a search engine want to rank you first?
Hey Jezza, yeah, you do need to do at least a couple of them, usually. You can even do all of them, but often that just spreads you too thin, and without any real benefit to justify it. I vote for quality over quantity. :)
Danny, A timely message as I was beginning to feel that I was walking into this trap. Nicely laid out arguments and good recommendations to recover.
Thank you for your words, John, I’m glad this was helpful!
Thank you for the great informative post. I just started blogging recently. I have very little traffic to my site even though I am trying hard to find the time to write quality original content on a regular basis. Out of the 4 strategies that you listed, which one should I focus on first to get the ball rolling?
It depends a lot on your strategy, but if you’ve got some good content out there on your blog, I’d suggest focusing your efforts on building community, by interacting on blogs, and writing guest posts. That’s what worked best for me. :)
For a more thorough plan on how to grow a blog, you might want to read this post:
oh this is such an amazing post! So well-written and gets the point across. Honestly, people start blogging with this perception of becoming famous and it really is not all about the online fame. :) Being a good provider of content is important.
Thank you, Gabriella! I agree, you’re right – it starts with lots of hard work, and sometimes fame comes later. But if you chase the fame, you end up with nothing. :)
I mainly concentrate on producing content, and the occasional comment on a blog – like this. Anything else is a mug’s game.
only on occassion? Why not more often if you do not mind me asking…. any specific reasons behind it? Even though producing good content would fall under a reason…
I’m curious to know as well… :)
Content is not, has never been nor will it ever be king…period. If that were true there wouldn’t be spam blogs and corporate entities at the top of all the searches. Content plays a pivotal role but SEO and backlinks are king always. And while community is nice most web entities operate quite well without them.
Hi Talen, that’s a fair opinion, but we’ll have to agree to disagree – I’ve found that community is the best way to build an audience, and content is the best way to keep it. :)
I have “Ooh, Shiny” syndrome all the time, but more so in creating new projects, not trying to promote them. I usually stick with the things that I know work if you give them enough dedication. I generally steer away from using new networks as most end up being a bit of a waste of time in the long run anyway. Thanks for including me in your post too! :)
Hey Kristi, yeah, I don’t think this feeling ever really goes away, but with experience we learn not to over-extend ourselves quite as much. :)
I suffer from SOS. Or rather, I did suffer from SOS but it has passed, I think…
I am a new blogger and I wanted to do it all the right way. I’ve read books about blogging, taken different courses (all of Darren Rowses courses f.ex.), read books on SEO and researched keywords until I was blue in the face. I had a Twitter robot running gathering me more followers every day.
In the end it became too much. It got to the point where I’d freeze whenever I published something, fearing it wouldn’t be right in some way. Maybe not written the right way. Maybe a wrong headline. Maybe not SEO’ed enough.
I wouldn’t say I gave up. I just decided I didn’t really care how my stuff ranked in the search engines. I didn’t really care if my headline was over the top super duper fantastic and compelling every time. I decided that what I wrote was the important thing in the blogging process for me. I just want to share my knowledge and experiences on my blog. If people find it and read it and comment on it, I’m happy. But SOS nearly killed my will to blog before I really got started.
I’m on a blogging hiatus this week. I decided to pull back from posting every day and look at what I want with my blog. I don’t want or need to be an overnight success in the search engines and have thousands of visitors every day. I just want to blog. Eventually my stuff will be known. I hope… :-P
Hey Thomas, I know exactly what you mean – when we get started, there’s so much information to take in that it becomes overwhelming.
We don’t quite give up, but we do freeze little… :)
Success never happens overnight… as they say, every overnight success is ten years in the making.
And I think you’re very right to take a short break to reassess what you really want to achieve with your blog. If you need some help figuring out how to go about growing it from that point, I’ve been told that this post can be helpful:
Good article – I have to admit to being impatient and not always following through on a strategy that I start on because I don’t see results quickly enough. I am starting to get better at this and give it more time and that seems to be the way to go. Thanks.
I definitely suffered from SOS when I first started. It took me quite a while to get over it. And sometimes I still have that problem.
It usually just takes a little time to sit back and think, “What is really the best use of my time to achieve the goals i have set.”
And every time, I find they are the reasons you have listed here.
Hey Brandon, it’s a common thing, and we’ve all been there… the real key is to recognize it sooner rather than later, put the brakes on, and focus back on whatever matters most.
You’ve shared some important wisdom here: asking the question “What is really the best use of my time to achieve the goals that I have set.” That’s a very important question to be asking, and it will steer you back on course.
Thanks for your comment. I clicked through to your blog, and I really like your work. I’ve subscribed, and I’m looking forward to reading more. :)
Is it me, or do all of the blogs written on this site look like they have been written by the same person?
One of the most enlightening post for me because I am totally guilty of this. I tend to get so involved with my blog that I forget that I really need to get people to read it as well as helping rank my website better. I will definitely employ these suggestions and I thank you.
You’re very welcome, Bill. Good luck! :)
Great post. It reflects on what most bloggers go through when they jump into the blogging world. I think sometimes, we expect so much of a blog in its few days of existence. Most bloggers are not realistic with their approach, getting rich or huge traffic over night is never possible. DEAL WITH IT…You got to have the patience to grow your blog with respect to time.
Exactly right, Chris – welcome to the real world! :D
I have done fairly well with google rankings as long as I am producing consistent and quality content. I am just now starting to get into social media marketing and building relationships in the blogosphere! I will say that I have found a lot of blogs that I enjoy reading while doing research on my blog topics. I’m hoping that I can build some genuine business as well as friendly relationships along the way to blogging success!
Congratulations on your successes with SEO, and on your recent work with social media. I think building genuine business and friendly relationships is a great plan, Kendra. Good luck! :)
Awesome is the one word for ur post Danny. The best part is that you have not preached anything here and asked us questions that will lead to answers. Talking about the plan we follow is Writing, Reading and Sharing . Obviously content is the king so the focus is there with reading great blogs and commenting to make sense. Sharing on SM is more by Twitter and Twitter also helps us bloggers to connect with and build relationships to learn more. As you said this wont be an easy process but then it’s fun. Thanks and do let us know if you have any comments on our strategy :)
That’s very kind of you to say, Prasant, I’m really glad that you found this post helpful. How long has your blog been around?
What a wonderful post…just what I needed to get back on track!!
Thanks, Kathy, I’m glad to hear it!
Sweet merciful crap. This is so true. At first I thought you were talking about me directly.
Of course now that I have a blogging coach I’m doing much better. Just like a football coach, he keeps me on track, makes sure I stick to the basics and only allows me to try the shiny new things when I’m ready.
Oh, and when I fall down, as I often do, he tells me to get back in the game: “You’re not bleeding, take a salt pill, you’ll be fine.”
Thanks, Danny. I’m going to email a virtual hug to my coach.
Haha, I know what you mean. It unfortunately applies to way too many bloggers!
A coach can be a really good resource to help you stay focused on what matters, and realize that even if a distraction looks very appealing, it’s still a distraction!
Give your coach a virtual high-five for me as well!
Great article!!! Love how you clearly defined the four big umbrella strategies.
I’m a month or two into this whole blogging world, but have been slowly learning about it for a year or so now. It’s so fun and creative, but can be exhausting if we’re not careful.
I’ve been kind of thinking of trying a bit of everything, especially when it comes to monetization methods (got so many ideas for that from Yaro!). But FOCUSING on less to preserve energy for QUALITY over QUANTITY is good general life advice and I see now how it can be a helpful principle in regards to running a blog.
Two other huge lessons I’ve been learning are: “CONSISTENCY is key” and “do what’s FUN for you.” So combining that with your “less is more” tip, I’m realizing the best approach is: focus most on just a few strategies you can consistently, enjoyably do. (Maybe even just ONE strategy, like people who post 1-3 great YouTube videos a week for many, many weeks.)
Trying everything is a good idea, as long as it’s done in a measured way, so that you can tell what’s working for you and what isn’t.
I think your lessons are both very valuable: consistency really is key, and if it isn’t fun for you, you won’t be able to remain consistent in the long run.
Good luck, Joce!
Oddly enough, Ooh Something Shiny IS my blog :)
Danny, this little bit should be sticky noted to every blogger’s monitor:
“I like some strategies more than others, but the absolute worst strategy is to keep on jumping from strategy to strategy and tactic to tactic.”
It’s the same as hitting up fad diets or new exercise programs or crazy vitamin pills for weight loss. The sheer confusion of everything makes it hard for your blog (or your body) to succeed ANYWHERE if there’s too much scuffling around.
Good tips, but Triberr seems too cliquich to me, you can only join if someone invites you in. My niche (health and fitness) seems to have less than a dozen members which begs the question how did THEY join? And why are there so few people listed in the niche? It smacks of cronyism (ala DMOZ) to me.
This is the kind of post I have been looking for desperately in order to succeed. I’m sick and tired of hype and all those B.S. Posts like this will definitely bring out the BUSINESS MOGUL in me. Oh, Danny, I’m grateful and thank you for sharing.