Updated: January 8, 2017
I wrote my very first blog post in 2003. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know I needed to do anything. I just wrote and somehow a big design blog found one of my posts, linked it up, and traffic started to come my way.
It was amazing.
Because there weren’t as many blogs or as many good blogs, the only thing you had to do to market your blog was to write great content and link to others. The rest kind of took care of itself.
We live in a different world now.
There are millions of blogs and all of them will claim to write only quality content. Of course, only you as the reader can decide that, but the minimum requirement for every blog seems to be quality content. However, to market your blog effectively you have to start going above and beyond.
In this post, I’m going to take a different approach to things. I’m going to first highlight all of the ways that people will tell you that you need to market your blog and then I’m going to show you how I really think it should be done.
Defining Your Target Audience
First and foremost people will tell you that you need to define your target audience. That could mean anything and the difficult thing about trying to do this is how narrow do you make your audience? For example, Obstacle.co’s audience can be any of these:
- People who want to make money online
- Bloggers that want to turn their blog into a business
- Anyone wanting to find how to monetize their passion
These are all very vague, but that is how people tend to define their audience. It’s the easy way to do it and it means you aren’t limiting yourself. Nobody wants to think about starting a blog in a market that has a small audience because to them a small audience means less money.
So what you end up doing is aiming big. You could clearly define your target audience, but it couldn’t hurt to expand it just a bit more, right? What kind of damage could be done by adding a few more demographics to the fold?
As you’ll find out later, a lot of damage can be done by going this route.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is a huge pain in the ass. I just have to get that out of the way because I can’t tell you how many people talk about the millions of awesome ways to market on social media.
When you read these tips and tricks what happens? You end up with a feed filled with simple links back to your site or links to other sites that you think your audience might care about.
This is pretty much the default behavior that you can take with social media, but what is the next step? Are you building connections or are you just filling up someone else’s feed?
Build your list and provide them with awesome value.
That sounds great in theory and I can’t argue with it, but what kind of list are you building and what type of value are you providing?
We get enough emails in our inbox already so what is going to make yours stand out from the rest? Why should people decide to open your email over the 100s they get every single day?
When you read about email marketing you end up reading about statistics that show open rates between 30% – 50% being pretty good. Has anybody taken the time to ask why we can’t get 90% – 100% open rates?
Advertising online is tough for a number of reasons:
- You can’t be sure if you are reaching the right audience
- You can’t be sure if your audience even cares about ads
- You can’t be sure if your money is being wasted
Advertising can be an effective way to grow your blog, but it doesn’t apply to everybody. There are a number of different reasons why you should completely ignore advertising and then there are times where it is absolutely essential.
If you decide to do advertising how do you go about it? Is it the same as posting an image on Pinterest or Instagram? Can you get away with something generic? Are you trying to replicate another cool ad you saw?
Advertising, unfortunately, isn’t one of those things you dive into and master in 5 minutes.
Ah, the magic bullet.
If you can master SEO then you can master anything. The funny thing is all of the SEO advice is the same.
- Use proper titles
- Clean up your URLs
- Use alt attributes in images
- Make sure to include the keywords the right amount of times
- Headings are important
- Write more words
- Get more backlinks
Here’s the secret that many SEO experts won’t tell you: Google changes their search algorithm over 500 times a year. The items that are listed above are best practices, but there are so many other smaller factors that play a role in how well your site does in Search Engine rankings.
There is no way you can know all of the right things you need to do to get a high-ranking blog so then you have to ask yourself if you should even be paying attention to SEO at all?
How to Really Market Your Blog in 2016
Everything that you have read above should be applied to your blog. It helps to build the foundation that your blog needs, but you don’t want to stop where everybody else stops. You want to build something bigger and know that you need to take things up a notch if that is going to happen.
For this to happen you need to work on cultivating your tribe instead of just trying to grow an audience. I know it doesn’t seem like there is much of a difference, but there is a huge difference between the two. To figure out this difference let’s look at an audience and a tribe.
Your blog’s audience is everybody.
Anybody that comes to your site is part of your audience. Anybody that follows you on social media or subscribes to your mailing list is part of your audience. It’s great to have an audience.
Sometimes they listen to what you are saying and sometimes they even purchase something from you. Most bloggers make all of their decisions based on how they can build an audience and it makes sense. The larger your audience, the bigger your opportunity to make money.
If you have 10,000 email subscribers someone is bound to buy something, right?
A tribe is a group of people within your audience. You can think of it like this:
So as you can see your tribe is part of your audience, but there are some things that separate them from the rest of your audience. Your tribe is your True Fans. These are the people that will read every email, purchase every product, and tell everyone they know about you.
They follow you because you have made them a Promise and you are delivering a message that they are drawn to. What the heck does that mean?
A promise is an outcome you are telling them you will help them achieve. People don’t just read blogs to read blogs. They go out and search for solutions to problems. They are at Point A and want to get to Point B, but don’t know how.
You know how and you are going to show them how to get there.
Your message is your Why. This is something that you believe in so deeply that it goes beyond you. It is why you get out of bed. This Why is something that people connect to on an emotional level. It pulls them in like a black hole.
This means that your Why goes beyond you. It’s about them as much as it is about you.
Think about that for a second. It’s about them. Not about you.
When you plan on doing marketing how much of your thinking is about them versus you? Almost all marketing advice revolves around you when it shouldn’t be that way. It’s never about you. It’s always about them.
It’s about them.
So if you really want to succeed with marketing your blog in 2016 you need to figure out your why and your promise. It is what is going to separate yourself from every other blog just like yours. Figuring these things out will clarify your thinking. It will help to streamline your marketing efforts to a point where you can run on auto-pilot.
So let’s revisit all of the marketing methods we discussed before and look at them through this new lens.
Defining Your Target Audience
Remember how difficult it was to define your target audience? You want to define it, but you don’t want to make it too narrow.
Well, I’m going to drop a bomb on you. Your target audience is really just one person. That’s it.
You must think I’m crazy right now because I just told you that your target audience is just one person. I’m not crazy. I’m a little off the rocker, but I am definitely not crazy.
The reason why your target audience is just one person is because it is one type of person that connects with your Why. It is one person that wants the outcome you are promising. If you can find that one person then you are set.
Now here is something else that is going to blow your mind. That one person believes in the same things that thousands of others believe in as well.
When you target that one person, you are targeting many others as well. Instead of a million different types of audiences, you are just targeting one.
I like to call the one person you are targeting the Restless Pathfinder. The reason why I call them that is because they are seeking a path and won’t stop until they find it. When they come across your blog they are hoping that you can provide them with the path.
How do you find the Resltess Pathfinder? You have to talk to people. There is really no other way. You might have in your mind the ideal person and then form all of your efforts around that, but to be truly effective with your marketing you need to talk to people. You need to understand them.
You can set up Skype interviews or talk to people at a coffee shop. People have no problem talking about themselves. Who do you know you should interview? There is no fool-proof way, but you should know the blogs they frequent and the communities they hang out in. Use your gut and take the leap.
Here are some starter questions you can ask to get things going:
- When it comes to [your topic] where do you get your information?
- Who do you consider to be the authorities in [your topic]?
- What do you secretly want to brag about?
- What’s the greatest indicator of success to you?
- What keeps you up at night?
Social Media Marketing
You have a message (Why), you have an outcome you can promise, and you know your audience of one. With that type of information, it should be a lot easier to handle your social media marketing.
What type of value is your target of one looking for and how can you relay your message and promise in that message? Social media allows you to freely become a cheerleader of your message. You can go out and find others that fit within that message and help to relay their message as well. You can build relationships around this message.
Here is the bio for Obstacle.co’s Twitter account:
As you can see it defines the why and the promise and then provides an offer. Nobody wants to hear about how you like sunflowers and alligators.
They want to know what value you are going to bring into their lives.
There are those people that understand email marketing and get the most out of it and there are those people that struggle to survive.
Email marketing is the direct connection to your audience. It’s the only reliable way to communicate with them on a consistent basis.
Before you could easily send out one email a month, but with so many emails arriving in our inboxes daily, it’s important that you make sure your audience doesn’t forget about you. That doesn’t mean you need to blow them up daily, but you do need to be a frequent visitor.
More importantly, you need to know how to setup email sequences and autoresponders so you aren’t doing everything manual.
Email sequences ensure that your audience is getting a healthy dose of value in their inbox without you breaking a sweat.
Advertising is tough and I don’t recommend anybody give it a shot if they are just starting off. In fact, the only time I would recommend you think about advertising is when you have a nice sales funnel setup so you can test the performance of your ads.
If this all sounds foreign then you aren’t prepared for ads.
Think about how often you click on an ad? I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I saw an ad on a website because I use adblockers.
Big companies like to advertise because it keeps their brand in front of people’s eyes. You don’t have a budget to use just on ads that make sure people don’t forget about you. There are plenty of bloggers out there that do really well with their blogs and haven’t touched advertising at all.
However, if you don’t care about any of this because you are determined to learn about how to effectively advertise your blog then here are some tips.
Pinterest and Facebook Are Where It’s At
Facebook allows you to target people with such precision it’s scary and all of the Pinterest looks like ads anyways. Both platforms allow you to get started relatively cheap.
For my first time giving Pinterest ads a shot, I set a daily budget of $2. Not a single dollar was spent and my ad (promoted pin) was viewed thousands of times.
The other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram seem to produce crapp results for most types of sites.
Have a Sales Funnel Ready
When using ads you don’t want to send people to your homepage. You want to send them to a landing page that caters specifically to a single offer. That offer should be a way to collect their email address to put them into your sales funnel.
Within your sales funnel, you’ll lead them through a sequence of emails that will eventually end with you selling one of your products or services.
If you don’t have any of this setup it’s almost worthless to try advertising.
Let’s be real here. SEO at the most basic level is pretty easy.
- Write good content
- Use good titles
- Get good links back
But that’s the basic level. Those are the necessities to make any type of traction in SEO. When you start going up to the intermediate and advanced levels of SEO things get tricky real quick.
The reason why is because search engine algorithms are constantly changing. The hot tip this week could be expired next month.
Nobody really knows how Google and others handle their rankings. All we can do is have educated guesses.
As a blogger, the name of the game is to go wide. You want to hit the long tail.
What the hell is that?
What the Hell It Is
Think of it like this. I haven’t fished in over 30 years, but let’s say I really want to get back into it. However, I live in a completely different part of the country than I did as a child so I don’t know how to catch the type of fish around here so I decide to hit up Google for help.
I could try this as a search term:
How to fish
And that will give me some nice tutorials on generic fishing. But I want something more so now I try this:
How to fish in Nevada
Okay, that gets me some better results that are specific to what I want, but even then I feel as though I can search for something better. How about this:
How to catch trout in Lake Mead in October
Now we are talking. The results from that query (I have no idea if there is trout in Lake Mead) should give me exactly what I’m looking for and odds are they are completely different results from the first two queries. Aiming for the long tail means you are going after the smaller and more specific queries that people are typing in.
It’s not impossible to land the big queries (how to fish), but it takes a lot more work to try to rank well for them. With the long tail, you have less people searching for one specific query, but spread out you might find you have more people overall searching for a lot of smaller queries.
Let Them Know Who You Are
The most important thing for you and your brand is giving people a chance to know you. Social media does a great job of that, but many people hide behind tools that automate everything. Don’t hesitate to showcase your personality on visual mediums like Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and Facebook Live.
As more and more brands come into our lives, it’s the brands that try to build a connection with us that will be the ones we remember. If you look at the top bloggers, their audience talks to them as though they are neighbors. Most of these people have never met the blogger, but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel a connection to them.
It’s a Lot
This is a lot of stuff and the biggest mistake you can make is trying to do it all at once. Instead, you should attack it like you do an exercise goal. Get to a certain level with one thing and then move onto the next.
For example, I didn’t attempt to step up my Twitter game for Obstacle.co until I had mastered the ins and outs of Pinterest. For the first 3 months of the site I didn’t care about SEO until I was sure people wanted to read what I was writing.
Trying to do learn and master everything at once will leave you confused and frustrated. Take baby steps and eventually you’ll be a marketing machine that can run most things on auto-pilot.
Most importantly, always stick to being you. Without authenticity behind your marketing nobody will care. There are enough faceless brands trying to interrupt our lives. Don’t create another one.
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