“Blog” isn’t a four-letter word any longer. It’s not a joke or a waste of time. A blog can be an incredibly profitable, sound way of making a living. What’s interesting is that if you look at what top blogs do, they tend to check the same boxes, even if they’re in wildly different niches. Here’s how to do what other successful blogs have done, whether you’re just getting started or you’re ready to upgrade your efforts.
1. Their passion is their catalyst
If you read the backstories of popular bloggers, so many of them started for fun, not necessarily with the intent to make it a full-time gig or a massive income source. Yet that passion and no-pressure approach are what tend to grow a blog – if you want to post often and you’re invested in the topic, the content comes out great and attracts passionate readers.
Another reason why a passion-driven instead of money-driven blog works is because the blogger isn’t afraid to give away their top advice and secrets for free. Their goal is to be of use to the reader, not to sell whatever they can.
That “give it away for free” approach is a cornerstone of successful blogs. Your audience has to feel like you care about their best interests, not cashing in every chance you get. Showing your audience that you’ll help them even if you get nothing in return builds trust and loyalty, improves engagement and makes them view you as a confident authority.
If you’re unsure of how your passion will translate to a successful, profitable blog, ask yourself questions like, “What are the problems in this niche that people struggle with the most?” and “What do people want answered or solved for them?”
2. They’re confident in their niche
There’s a misconception that the only successful blogs are the ones about blogging itself (or something in the blogging sphere, like landing pages or SEO). This isn’t true, though. Even if your preferred topic is uncommon or a sub-niche of a sub-niche, there’s likely an audience somewhere who will want to learn more about it. Also, by being a big fish in a not-wildly-popular pond, you can develop a dedicated following first, then broaden your scope and add more related topics to cover.
Let’s say you do pick one of those big, overcrowded niches, though. Think about what will set your blog apart from the rest. Is it your voice? Your alternative stance on controversial topics? The fact that you dive into an untapped sub-niche of an otherwise vast subject? Even something as broad and covered as blogging has desolate areas that need filling.
You can also use a popular niche as a jumping-off point and create a blog that talks about the other side of the coin. For example, if you want to get into the marketing genre, your blog could talk about why you don’t need social media or why old school marketing techniques still reign supreme.
Pro Tip: You can combine niches, too
By creating a blog that covers two related or complementary niches, you’ll appeal to people who like both of those things. Instead of alienating people who don’t like both topics, you may attract a larger audience of people who care about Topic A, Topic B or both. By keeping your blog organized with categories, tags and easy navigation, your readers can access exactly what they want and skip the rest. For example, if you’re a mommy blogger who also shares recipes that are great for the whole family, you’ll have followers who (a) care about mommy advice, (b) care about recipes and (c) love it all.
3. They change up content styles
While you don’t want to vary the content styles on your blog too much, choosing two different formats can keep the blog fresh. Down the line, you can always add more styles to choose from. Content styles include:
- Curation-style blog posts
- Evergreen content
- Short-form content
- Long-form content
The content styles you choose depends on what you want to use your blog for. For example, if you have how-to content, it may be explained better through a video. You could then mix in Q&A sessions every week to address the comments left on your videos. Or, if you want to create evergreen content but also want your audience to know what’s going on in the industry, you can post long-form content at the start of every week and then post a curated list of news links on Friday mornings.
If you want to post different types of content but it doesn’t seem like a good fit for your blog, use your other outlets. For example, you can post how-to videos to Instagram Stories or use Twitter to promote news stories.
4. They never stop researching their audience
Your blog isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Even if you’re writing a firsthand account of a breakup, it’s still for your audience – it’s about what they can get from your experiences. Your goal is to build a successful blog that helps your audience achieve what they want.
A lot of time should be spent understanding your audience – and not just at the beginning, when you’re launching your blog, but all along the way. The better you know your audience, the more capable you’ll be at creating content that matters to them.
Talk to your audience as much as you can. Poll and survey them regularly. Let them respond to your newsletters, and then actually read and act on those responses. Read blog and social media comments and reply back or contact them directly. Find out what they want and what they’re not getting. Ask how and when they want to receive content.
Here’s a secret about your audience: only a tiny percentage of them matter
You don’t have to accommodate every single reader. You have to accommodate the portion of them that best reflects your true audience, the cream of the crop. If you try to please your entire audience, you won’t please any of them. What does your core audience need? Which problems do they need solved? What will they pay you for if it means their lives will be improved? That’s what you care about.
5. They cater to beginners
If you have beginners who will be reading your blog, keep them in mind when crafting your content. The beauty of appealing to beginners is that there will always be new beginners, and therefore your audience base can always grow.
Cover topics that are mysterious to people. Scale all the way back – clarify words and concepts that novices won’t know. When explaining complex ideas, write as though you’re speaking to a layman. If you have a mix of beginners and people who are more advanced, create a type of beginner’s corner with basic overviews and introductions.
6. They stick to a consistent posting schedule
There are many posting schedules you can choose from. You can post every single day, just Monday through Friday, weekends-only or even twice daily. You can put one post up weekly or even monthly. Whatever you choose, stick to it – frequency is important (that once a month posting schedule may not be enough), but consistency regarding the day and time of posting is even more impactful. Your audience will know what to expect and when to check your blog for new content.
You can post sporadically if you’re still adhering to your normal schedule. For example, let’s say your audience knows that you post every Monday at 8 a.m. As long as that post goes up, it’s okay if inspiration strikes later in the week and you opt to throw up a second post now and then.
7. They always keep branding in mind
Think of everything you do for your blog as another way to build your brand. Be consistent when it comes to your branding, including the images you use, post layout and your voice. Do this across all supporting media, like guest posts, social media posts, podcasts, etc.
In terms of format, each content style you choose should follow a similar format, like how you write the title, intro, conclusion and call-to-action. The format is part of creating your distinct style. When it comes to your voice and tone, some blog posts may be more straightforward while others may be more personal or flowery, but they should all be written in the same general voice. P.S. It’s okay if your voice is polarizing, so long as you’re not turning off your core audience.
8. They vary their income and traffic sources
Top bloggers rarely depend on just one type of income. There are a number of income streams to choose from when you’re ready to monetize your blog. The way you get traffic to your blog should be varied, too, and some traffic generators may also double as income. Options include:
- Affiliate programs
- Membership-only job boards
- Guest speaking gigs
- Online courses
Of course, you can also use your blog to sell products or services. When your audience has such a big problem that they’re willing to pay for a solution, you’ll have a profitable blog.
9. They start with (or at least specialize in) one social media platform
When you’re getting started (and maybe indefinitely), consider using just one social media platform and using it very well. Focus on building that specific presence. You’ll learn a ton about the traffic you get there and how to use it to your advantage.
When you focus on maximizing just one social media platform, you won’t get bogged down tracking insignificant stats. For example, comments are more important than likes, but if you’re juggling five different profiles, it’s hard to drill down into the stats that matter, making likes feel more important than they are.
On that note, it’s okay if your content doesn’t go viral – a lot of content doesn’t go viral, and there are some successful bloggers who’ve never had a viral piece of content or social media post at all. Quality of engagement is more important than quantity.
10. They use their email list for targeted outreach
Don’t neglect your mailing list! Grow your list and regularly send emails that are supremely useful to subscribers. There are a lot of methods for growing a mailing list, but the most common one is to give away a compelling freebie in exchange for an email address. In order to send useful emails, you should segment your mailing list and personalize the emails each segment gets.
You can automate segmentation by having your signup forms connect to different lists. For example, let’s say you run a blog about blogging. You cover a bunch of topics, including work from home advice and using Facebook ads. If you have a blog post that covers a work from home topic, your embedded signup form will connect to your work from home mailing list, and your subscribers will only get related information. When you send an email, you can give subscribers the option to sign up for other streams so they don’t miss the info they want.
11. They monitor their traffic
Unless you’re using your blog as a sort of diary and you don’t care if people read it, you have to keep an eye on your traffic. Traffic doesn’t magically happen even if you’re the greatest undiscovered blogger to ever happen to a niche. Set a traffic goal, make a plan for getting there, reassess your plan along the way, change the plan as needed, repeat. Figure out where it’s coming from, when it spikes and when it dies down.
What you’ll find is that a lot of your traffic comes from a handful of posts and that even if you blog daily, that’s not necessarily why you’re getting traffic. When you figure out where your traffic is coming from, you can capitalize on it – you can take those successful blog posts and update them, expand them, write spin-offs and submit them as guest posts, promote them in your newsletter, run social media ads, etc.
12. They think of networking as part of the job
The most surprising part about blogging is how much “non-blogging” work there is to do, like networking. You should connect with other bloggers as well as professionals in your niche. It’s easy to do this online, but try to have some type of in-person networking, too.
Blogging is a lonely job. You don’t have an office full of people to talk to when you need to blow off steam or bounce an idea off someone. That’s why having relationships with other bloggers is important. You’ll be able to bond and trade stories with people who understand what you’re going through.
On top of that, network with industry professionals – so, if you’re a legal blogger, connect with other bloggers (in the legal niche or otherwise) as well as lawyers, law students, etc. You’ll get a closer look at the industry you talk about all the time.
13. They capitalize on other industry blogs
Guest posting and regularly commenting on other industry blog posts let you tap into other established audiences and learn more about what people want. Reach out to successful blogs in your industry, even smaller ones that may have a dedicated following, and ask about opportunities to write for them.
Another reason to stay on top of industry blogs? So you can find out what your competitors are doing with their content and marketing. Then, do it better. Fill in the holes they missed. Improve on what they did by writing higher quality articles or going deeper into a topic. Take a completely different approach and break the mold.
If you don’t already, you’ll eventually think of your blog as a full-time job. Creating a successful blog takes focus, purpose and planning, and it also requires enough flexibility to edit that plan as needed. There shouldn’t be any fluff. Everything, even if it’s on the “light” side, should be worthwhile for your audience – everything should have a benefit.
Successful bloggers take this seriously, and that’s evident in the way they run their blog, develop their branding, interact with their audience and approach their marketing. Even the bloggers who seem to travel more than they sit behind a desk have put in a ton of work to get to that point. Or, they’re not showing you all the work they’re doing behind-the-scenes – the early mornings, weekends and holidays they’re working when everyone else is playing.
That said, there’s no specific amount of time you have to work on your blog. You can plug away for 15 hours a day or a hyper-focused 5 hours. You can do all of the work yourself or outsource some of it. The point is that you don’t slack off. You’ve set your goals, figured out what it takes to get there and are dedicated to it.
Wondering what type of blog is best for you? Check out our article 12 Types of Blogs and When They’re Most Successful.
Featured image via aurielaki / shutterstock.com
By Lindsay Pietroluongo
Lindsay started her freelance career in 2009 and writes about business tech, tools and advice for small brands and solopreneurs. She loves productivity hacks, minimalist workflows and every horror movie that comes out.