Thinking about starting a blog, YouTube channel or video blog (vlog?) It can be a great way to attract interested, qualified leads into your business, forming relationships automatically with the people who consume your content.
We call it “made” traffic, as opposed to lent or paid traffic, because you basically make it happen through the sweat of your brow, your time, energy and attention.
I’ve started a number of blogs over the years, Anonymous Exploits (now defunct), Make More Marbles and just recently we launched a new blog at Market Your Course … as well as working with countless other people on theirs as well.
Thousands of people read my articles and watch my videos every month without a lot of extra work. A really decent percentage of them become email subscribers. Some of my articles have been read hundreds of thousands of times.
None of this is meant to brag or impress anyone, as in the grand ocean of internet I am but a minnow, but it's pretty good for a dude without an unlimited budget and without any particular claim to fame to be able to reach that many people consistently, and I built it up mostly organically over time.
Having a blog is great for my business, and life in general. I can say my piece about something once, hit publish, then it's out there forever.
But is blogging for you? How do you avoid the dreaded publish or perish mindset? How can you be sure people will actually read what you publish? What should you focus on and what should you ignore? What about ads? What about guest posting?
I'm sure you have a million questions and this could be a hundred pages long, but here are my top tips, in no particular order.
7 key things that I wish I knew before I got started:
– YOUR NICHE IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DIFFERENTIATOR. How does what you want to create to serve people meet one of their core universal desires? Financial well being, health, to be desired either personally or professionally, to have a sense of accomplishment, companionship, or supporting something that matters (to the people you serve).
If you can help people make progress on one of those six, then you probably have something that people will read and pay attention to. If you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to anyone. You can begin to branch out into other topics once you have some success, but you must call your shot, defining and owning a niche to start out with.
One of my mentors in online business, Derek Halpern, calls this the divide and conquer strategy, and it’s the foundation of any successful blog. He has great courses about this called Start Your Blog Right and Blog That Converts if you want to go deep on this.
– The key asset you’re looking to build is your email list. Not twitter followers, not Facebook likes/friends, not Instragram followers. These services are all bridges between you and your readers/customers. Like anyone who owns a bridge, hey can change the tolls whenever they want, precluding you from reaching your customers or readers.
Any change in their TOS or algorithm can drastically affect your ability to reach your customers/readers. They are in a battle with other bridges to make this process as beneficial and low cost to you relative to their competition as possible, but you can opt out of their game completely if you have a means by which to contact your customers/readers directly. You could do this via phone or snail mail too. Email is by far the best current way to do this.
The goal is to convert that traffic into email subscribers. It’s low maintenance and as long as you follow CAN-SPAM laws and have a decent handle at copywriting, very effective to both deliver valuable content as well as sell products and services. A good metric for valuing an email list is $1/subscriber/month.
– Focus on creating 10x content, or the best possible article/video/blog post about a particular topic. Don’t focus on quantity. It honestly doesn’t matter how much content you create as far as search engines are concerned.
People also don’t care how many articles you have if they don’t solve their problem. You want to create the most useful and comprehensive posts about topics that people care about as possible.
You can tell this ahead of time by using a few tools like Buzzsumo, SEM Rush, Moz, Google Keyword Tool, and a host of others to get an idea what people are searching for, as well as trying to find the best content that currently exists on a topic. If you find something that can be updated or improved upon, spare no TEAM resources (time, energy, attention, money) in making the defacto post about it.
You will need some practice to get better at this over time. When I first started, it took me a long time to get to the point where I could reliably put out watchable let alone valuable content that people enjoyed. If you are prolific and consistent, however, your talent will have no choice but to catch up with you.
– Creation of epically world class content, while important, is still only 20% of the game. The time you’re not spending mindlessly creating something all the time should be focused on content promotion: It’s not the best content that naturally rises to the top anymore, it’s the best content that people know about and can find. They find this content in a number of ways, but a few that I’ve used have been extremely effective.
This is hard at first but as you grow your reach, becomes much easier. Paid advertising put behind an amazing piece of content can quickly solidify it in the top of the results for that topic/keyword. I’ve seen this in my own business time and time again, a few hundred bucks behind the right video/post and it starts to gain incredible traction on it’s own. We’ve done this on both Facebook and Youtube successfully. Putting money behind crappy content is a waste of money. Putting money behind amazing content can launch your business into the stratosphere in a predictable way.
– Remember: Eyeballs are key, but you need to convert those eyeballs into email subscribers, so just getting your content out there is useless if you don’t have a series of ethical bribes in the form of free, useful content to offer as an incentive for people to sign up. Once you have the email address, then these subscribers should not only receive what you promised them (which should over-deliver) but should have continual value dripped out to them over time. You should engage with your email list at least once a week, unless you’re doing a promotion of some sort. Add value at least 5–7 times for every time you sell something.
– The key to monetizing a blog is to make enough money not only to support yourself, but to have enough EXCESS revenue to begin to hire a team and scale your operations to help more people. The only reliable way to do this consistently is through paid advertising.
This is not to beat up on other methods, like guest posting, being featured on podcasts, big blogs like Forbes, etc. All of that is great. But paid reach is king if you want to grow fast. Remember this maxim. The person who can pay the most to acquire a customer wins, hands down, every time.
– Think of a blog for what it is, a place to educate and engage with your audience, developing relationships by adding consistent value over time, which will help you gain more customers, growing your business and reach. This is a virtuous cycle and should be followed for faster success.
So, to sum up, is it hard to start a successful blog? Yes. With all the millions of blogs and websites out there, it’s hard to stand above the din as someone who is worth people’s valuable time, energy and attention.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Having a popular blog could skyrocket your business, your life and your mission. Check out Tim Ferriss, Casey Neistat, Derek Halpern, Ramit Sethi, Brendan Burchard, John Romaniello and all the other famous bloggers/vloggers and personalities out there. THEY ALL STARTED BY CREATING CONTENT AND GOT BETTER AND BETTER OVER TIME.
Now they lead ridiculous lives with unbelievable freedom, choice and leverage as a result. You can too, if you’re willing to hone your craft and pay your dues.