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How to Grow Your Blog in 2017 and Beyond [Infographic + Interview]

Vikas Agrawal | Mar 21, 2017 216 views No Comments

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The field of content marketing is ever-changing, and it’s about to get even uglier. Experts predict that 2017 will become a tough time for new bloggers. With so much content floating around, it’s going to get really difficult to stand out in basically any niche.

Last weekend, I did an interview with Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media. Both of us knew bloggers who are just barely starting out, along with those who already have a bit of traction but are struggling against the competition.

Since I specialize in visual content, I understand the importance of effectively communicating your brand’s message to your audience. Visual is great; it allows you to catch the attention of your audience and keep them engaged all the way to the CTA.

While I focus on visual content pieces, Andy looks at entire websites and the experience they offer audiences. He knows how every visual element contributes to a blog’s performance in terms of conversion rate, user engagement, and overall profitability.

Our interview focused on how new and small bloggers can accomplish sustained relevance this 2017. Hereent:

Me: “You know successful and thriving bloggers, and personally worked with some of them. What do you see as the most important ingredients to the success of bloggers and content marketers alike?”

Andy: “First, you need to know your audience. You need to pick topics that your readers care about and focus on addressing their pain points. Providing actionable advice is very important. Align your writing with their questions and desires, their hopes and fears. Now you’ve got your first ingredient.

Second, you need relentless promotion. Align it with a phrase they’re searching for. Collaborate with an influencer they’re listening to. Be active in a social group they’re part of. Build the content with promotion in mind and then get to work.

Third, you need persistence. Blogging isn’t a hobby. Your competitors are working at nights and on weekends. They’re writing longer articles with more media than before. They’re publishing frequently. Work longer and harder than the brand next to you if you want an edge.”

Me: “You’re a firm believer of checking results. What elements or KPIs should bloggers look out for based on the web design trends for 2017? What tools can they use?”

Andy: “Yes, if you’re not checking results, you’re not getting smarter. In 2017, the pro marketers will be using more tools for more insights, so you should use every tool you can get.

One area that new bloggers need to focus on would be their tag management skills. We should see a jump in the percentage of sites using Google Tag Manager because it’s a faster, less buggy way to get analytics tools in place.

In my opinion, GTM may be the key to surviving the future. It gives content marketers the ability to set up event tracking. Today, there are so many non-page view interactions that are worth measuring. For example, tracking exit clicks is a great way to pinpoint where your audience goes before taking any action, allowing you to make the necessary fixes. GTM makes all of these possible without touching code”

Me: Most profitable niches are already too saturated by now (2017). What other advice can you give aspiring bloggers when it comes to choosing their niches? What can they do to mobilize their plans?

Andy: “People think of niches as industries, but the word means more than that. Even if the general topic is flooded, you can niche down into a more specific audience or geography.

For example, what niches are viable if there are already too many food bloggers? Several niches are still wide open such as the Chicago Brunch Blog, Organic Breakfasts for Runners, and Huevos 365: Mexican Eggs Recipes.

Key Findings

As the interview drew to a close, my anxiety regarding the future of content marketing was replaced by excitement. Surely it’ll be another year full of challenges for the blogging community, but it must also be seen as a goldmine of opportunities.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an established blogger or a total newbie. You need to have the right attitude and grit towards challenges if you want to grow. Below are my takeaways from the interview that can help you:

1. Be a relentless content developer and promoter.

To cut through the content noise, new bloggers need to adopt strategies and practices that established experts use themselves. Andy and I recently worked on a survey about the things that successful bloggers do differently. Here’s an infographic that summarizes the results:

The survey shows that only 12% spend 6 hours or more when writing blog posts. Interestingly, these bloggers represent most of those who report strong results with their blog.

Experts like Neil Patel also confirm that longer posts generate more traffic than subpar, 500-word articles. All these indicate that investing more time and effort in content will deliver the best results.

Infographic Sourced From Orbit Media

Additionally, you shouldn’t be afraid to make some noise and push your content across all digital touchpoints – be it email, social media, and other influencers’ blogs. You can optimize your promotion strategies using a marketing automation platforms.

Keep in mind, if you can’t beat the competition in terms of budget, try to compensate by putting in more work, creativity, and uniqueness. Now’s a good time to consider adding infographic marketing to the mix. This should deepen the spectrum of your content marketing strategy and give you more options when promoting to new distribution channels.

2. Use audience-oriented tracking.

Image source: Pixabay

Even today’s thought leaders had to start from somewhere. Just like the rest of us, they probably had a mediocre blog at first. However, they developed a solid strategy over time by tracking data and KPIs. This allowed them to seize opportunities to optimize and grow their blogs.

Aside from the metrics on the surface, including page visits, traffic sources, and bounce rate, you should also pay attention to indicators that directly reflect how users interact with your site. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and see how certain elements affect the experience.

A good strategy is to use a heatmap tool to visually track how users navigate your site. It is a quick way to determine the “hot” and “cold” zones of your website’s design, allowing you to make the necessary adjustments to ensure important elements stand out. Using Google Tag Manager to track exit clicks is also a great way to address potential problems that lead to higher bounce rates.

3. Narrow niches down by audience demography and geography.

To succeed in blogging, you need to treat it like a business. Learn growth hacking strategies that can help you get more returns out of doing less. One particular strategy is to narrow down your target audience.

Every blogger knows that most, if not all, profitable niches are already saturated – even more so this 2017. Truth be told, it’s ill-advised to go toe-to-toe with niche leaders if you want to build your brand’s authority. Instead, you should be on the lookout for underground trends and be an early adopter to new niches.

Of course, finding a new niche isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a lot easier than you think. As Andy stated, it’s always possible to narrow niches down by refining your target audience demographically and geographically. As long as people have interests—new and old—there will be profitable niche ideas whether it’s 2017 or 2020.

Final Thoughts

No one can argue that the content marketing industry gets even more competitive year after year. A new blogger’s only hope is to keep up with the trends and be a step ahead when it comes to implementing new strategies.

If you think 2017 is the year you’ll go visual, here’s a post on SEJ on visual marketing trends that can help you.

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