Blogging is essential, but it’s not just about pouring your heart onto a page anymore. Sometimes it takes learning from the best about the right approach and practices to drive your business.
Recently, we watched a masterclass as a team on how to bring more traffic to a blog. It featured The Blog Millionaire, Brandon Gaille, who has some incredible nuggets on writing articles that build organic traffic, and his story is inspiring. In his twenties and thirties, he made it big by reverse-engineering the algorithms that Yahoo used for searches and built a business that capitalized on them. He was a millionaire before he was thirty, but by the time he was 35, he was battling a rare genetic disorder that put him half a million dollars in debt in a matter of years.
But do you think this guy gave up just because he was sick? Yeah, for a little while, because in the meantime his wife got cancer and was pregnant at the same time. But eventually, against all of the odds, Brandon recovered, his wife survived, and their family grew by one. With $500,000 in new debt, a new baby, a super strict sleep schedule to help with his disorder, and no job, Brandon’s next move was obviously to go back to hustling.
Oh yes, ladies and gents, this man started another company and made it big. Again.
But this time, it was after Google was a player, and he decided he could tackle that beast too. Thus, The Blog Millionaire was born of the hustle, for the hustler.
But before we talk about how Brandon started rocking the blog world…
Keep in mind that there are literally thousands of tiny, annoyingly easy ways to optimize a blog for traffic. What’s important is that you choose some of those ways and roll with ‘em, not agonize over every single thing.
And as far as blogging itself, when in doubt, ask yourself this question: is this content useful, well-researched, focused on a single topic, and shareable? Yes? Good. Your optimization strategies may vary from those discussed here, and that’s okay. If it works for you, then go with that.
If it doesn’t work for you, or you’re looking for even more, then read on about the 4 epic lessons we learned about blogging from the Blog Millionaire Brandon Gaille!
Listen to Episode 85: What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Blogging for some nuggets of wisdom from our very own Bobby Hoyt aka Millennial Money Man.
Lesson 1: The inbound strategy at work
In the blogging world, Brandon’s strategy is something you would call an inbound strategy, which essentially means it’s a way to BRING traffic to the yard instead of having to go and GET it. While there’s definitely a place for ad traffic – and it’s highly suggested that you do NOT skip out on ads, either – inbound is not a strategy you should ignore. Using just outbound techniques just doesn’t cut it anymore, and in fact, some of them are straight up considered spam these days. Caller ID has wreaked havoc on cold calling, letters are often thrown in the trash before they get a second glance, and email spam filters have gotten amazingly good and block emails from unknown sources.
Ads are kind of a happy medium and often pair well with inbound strategies, especially when it comes to building email lists and getting traffic to useful and valuable resources, but you have to actually create those valuable resources, which is part of what we talk about below.
If you’re thinking about tackling blogging as something you might want to actually do as a career, don’t forget to check out our free resources on the topic.
Lesson 2: Why blogging still works
Imagine you want the answer to something in today’s world. What’s the first thing most of us do? We whip out our smartphones, tap a few keys, and get the answer. Or we ask Siri, which is basically making a robot type for us. Boom, there’s the answer. We no longer have to wonder how many licks it takes until you reach the center of a Tootsie Pop, or how many years it would take a spaceship to get to Mars. We just know, because a search engine looked up the information for us and gave us relevant results.
But this begs an answer from a couple of questions:
- How do these search engines even know what to show us?
- Where did that information come from in the first place?
The answer to #1 has to do with keywords. While search engines used to work almost exclusively on keywords, the rise of natural inquiries has forced search engine algorithms to expand the definition of a keyword, but the concept is the same: the search engine has a huge, weighted index of websites that it pings when you just HAVE to know how cold Antarctica is.
As for #2 – the answer is, more or less, YOU!
Well, you and everyone else that has ever put content on the internet. While a lot of that content isn’t necessarily in blog form, the vast majority is in written form. Papers, blogs, websites… written content is king, and blogging is the easiest way to get that content up on the web.
Content on the web means visitors. Visitors are the lifeblood of any successful venture online, all the way from e-commerce to recipes.
Read more at Make Money Blogging: Pros and Cons of the Top 5 Strategies.
Lesson 3: The four pillars of blogging
Here’s the thing, blogging is hard, but so is anything that’s worth doing in life. Luckily, it isn’t complicated, and many aspects of blogging have to do with the format and following certain formulas for success.
Gaille describes four pillars of blogging as:
- Keyword Research
- Creating Compelling Blog Post Titles
- Writing Engaging Content
- Link Building
Those are all probably buzzwords you’ve heard before, and they all really do mean something.
There’s a lot to know about modern keyword research, but if you go through the wringer and figure out the basics, you’re going to be stoked with the results.
Keep in mind that it’s very unlikely that you’re going to rank for huge search terms right away. You’re going to go after phrases that aren’t searched as often, but are still searched. This will take some practice, but it pays off.
The short version of why you’ll work on less searched terms is this: phrases that are not searched as often are less competitive, but ranking for those search terms pushes you up in rankings on bigger, more searched keywords as well.
The easiest way to do this is to sign up for a service like Ahrefs, SpyFu, SEMrush, or Moz Pro. While prices and extra services do vary from service to service, the essentials are the same. Basically, you’re looking to become a keyword sleuth, and it’s way easier to use a service like this than it is to do it by hand.
You will use one of those services to help you find a keyword that fits both of these qualifiers:
- Has less than 100k Google results
- Has 50+ monthly searches
All of the services above have the capability, with a few clicks, to sort keywords this way. Pick out a few that meet these criteria, but most importantly, make sure your keywords or phrases make sense for your blog. If you’re a creative writer trying to give out creative writing tips, don’t try to rank for technical writing. Find the RIGHT keywords for YOUR audience, or you’ll struggle to write content and rank.
After you’ve found your keywords, there’s still one more step. Google your new found gem of a keyword and see what pops up on the first page. You’re looking for keywords that:
- Have fewer than three big brands on the first page (if you recognize the brand, consider it big)
- Aren’t occupied by four or more companies that are targeting that keyword with ads
Otherwise, you’re giving away free traffic to big companies that have big budgets that often keep the little guys off the map.
One last note.
It’s important, so make sure you read it at least twice.
Find a lot of keywords you like or want to rank for, and then ensure that they can be related in a sensical way. This will save you a ton of time in the long run as you build the structure of your site.
For help with keywords and SEO, read the SEO For Bloggers Review.
Creating compelling blog post titles
When it comes to getting traffic above and beyond the traffic you get for ranking near the top of a search, blog post titles are going to be your BEST friend, Brandon says. Compelling titles will also keep you at the top of a search because the more people clicking on your link, the more the magic algorithms are going to dig you.
There is a really simple formula for writing compelling blog titles, but you’ll need the following things:
A key phrase
Your key phrase or word should not only be in the first ten words of your article, it should be a dominant part of your title. This phrase should be related to or identical to the keywords found in your research.
Compelling blog titles always have a literally compelling word. There are lots of different power words and sometimes a power word works in one title and not another. It will take some tweaking to get the right tone.
One way to find a power word when you’re looking for one is to think big. Imagine you were standing on the ground and looking up at the tallest thing you have ever seen. What words do you think of? Those are power words. Huge. Gargantuan. Amazing. Epic.
Now think of the smoothest car ride you’ve ever been in, the one where you think you may have heard the car bump but you didn’t feel it. It’s so smooth you feel like you’re coasting. Easy. Effortless. Trouble-free. Simple.
The overall feel of your article will determine what power word you will use. Have a list. Make a spreadsheet. Choose one that sounds good and goes with it.
Generally, your posts should include a power word and have some sort of limiter, like a number, when possible. So “9 Sensationally Surprising Writing Tips” will get more clicks than “Tips on Writing.” Which one would you want to click on? Probably the one that promises more. And for some reason, odd numbers do better overall – almost 20% better. I have no idea why, but if it works, we should go with it.
The reasons numbers work well is because they give your reader an expectation for length. They know it’s going to end, and they know when, and it’s in the first thing they read. That’s important because people want to know what kind of commitment they’re making before they click.
Combine all of these and what do you get? A formula you should post on your wall that goes like this:
[Odd Number] + [Power Word] + [Key Word or Phrase] = Perfect Title
You don’t need a cool, clever, punny title. Stick to the formula (or something like it). Don’t confuse your audience. Go back and read the title of this article to see what we mean.
One of the best tools for writing headlines is the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. You plug in your headline idea and get a ranking with how well your headline will perform. The analyzer also explains how you can improve your headline, and you can see how just changing a word or two here and there can make a big difference.
Here’s an example of what the analyzer looks like with the title “5 Reasons This is a Good Headline.” It follows the formula and got a 78. It’s free to use, so there’s no reason not to have amazing headlines.
Writing engaging content
There are a lot of ways to approach engaging content, and you’re going to have to take your particular flavor into account as well as length and overall usefulness. For some basic tips, you can check out Millennial Money Man’s free blogging course.
Engaging content is content that builds momentum in your audience. You want them to start and then keep going, and it starts with a few basic things that might surprise you.
Gone are the days of twelve point font that you had to use on your papers (we all know you tried to use 13 points to get to five pages, and we forgive you). You want a font size between 16 and 21. It’s WAY easier to read on a mobile phone, and since most of the internet is now explored on tiny little devices, font size is suddenly super relevant. Your line spacing should be 150% if possible. Tiny words compacted into a small space can overwhelm your audience, and that’s just not how you want to start a post.
Make it long
You want to focus on the exact keyphrase you want to rank for, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. However, on average, longer posts get more views.
Yes, LONGER posts get more views and rank higher on search engines. In fact, the average length of an article in the top ten search results on Google, according to serpIQ and Sweor, was 2,200 words.
Some gurus say that you only need 500 words, or 750 words, or 250 words if you are good at keywording, but let’s go with data-driven SEO since that’s where the money is.
Essentially, longer articles that have momentum, are helpful, and keep people on a page are going to rank higher. This is a whole article in and of itself, but for now, just know that length is important and shoot for the stars – that is about 2,000 words away.
Know that this isn’t a hard and true rule, but more of a guideline. Some niches can get away with fewer words and some will need more, especially if you’re trying rank in a competitive keyword. Do your research and make sure you check the top ten results for every keyword. Add all of the words counts up and divide by ten. Take that number and add 20%.
So for example, let’s say you added the top ten posts up on Google and divided and your number was 2,300. Simply add 20% – 460 words – onto your post. 2,760 is now your new goal.
Subheaders & headers
About a fifth of the people who click on your link is going to completely surf over everything and just look at things that are bolded and subheaded. The easiest way to do this is to have a numerical list so that you just automatically have a big and bold term in the middle of your content.
But if the content you’re writing just isn’t going to be numerical for whatever reason, you will need to do subheaders and headers anyway.
When and how to subhead
You can use your keyword research here to buff up your subheaders. What tips are people searching for in and around your keywords? What do they want to know? What do they get from reading the section you wrote? Work them into your outline.
Make them want more.
Make those answers juicy, and subhead all of those answers.
When we talk about link building, we’re talking about the two way street of external links and inbound links. External links are you linking out to other pages and blogs. Be picky as hell and pick big names in your niche and use a variety of mediums in your post.
Let’s say you’re creating a post about dog grooming. People are going to expect to see pictures of big ol’ happy, fluffy dogs, right? Then it’s your job to deliver. But instead of just grabbing a stock photo or a picture of your own mutt, head on over to Twitter or Instagram and search for public photos of dogs. Find a fitting photo. Embed it in your post.
Find a video about dog grooming (for the love of all, make sure you watch it all the way through first!). Embed it in your post.
Find an expert that has some alternate tips on dog grooming. Quote their Facebook page… embed in your post.
This is valuable for a number of reasons to search engines, but it also means your blog is more helpful overall, which is really the goal in the first place.
Inbound links are others linking to you. This is trickier, and usually takes a little bit of sweat and blood to accomplish. Once you write about something, you’ll have to find other bloggers that are writing about something similar, reach out to them, and offer them some awesome resources (like custom blogs and infographics) in exchange for a link back. It’s worth it, but it takes a small army of very determined link-building monkeys to get it done.
Lesson 4: Ain’t nobody got the time (but Brandon found it)
The number one most useful thing is going to be remembering quality versus quantity.
Don’t be the guy who posts a thousand posts and has like two visitors a day. Be the guy who capitalizes on the ten posts he does have. Do your research. Write amazing stuff. This will save you colossal amounts of time.
… But you do have to put in the time, and you’re gonna have to put a lot of it in upfront. So where do you FIND this time, exactly? That’s kind of up to you. Remember the guy who gave us all of these golden nuggets literally went through the roughest time of his life and came out ahead.
Can you be convinced to give up a little television, or part of your weekend? Perhaps, but only you can figure that out. One of the things that Gaille stresses is that you’ll need a lot more time upfront than you will once you get it and are in a pattern, and that it’s worth it.
You just read pretty much the exact strategy that we and most other profitable bloggers use to grow their traffic, and that’s because it works. To get even more information, support, and motivation to hustle hard, we recommend:
- Build your blog using Launch That Blog. It’s free installation and set up a WordPress blog, but you will need to pay for hosting services on Bluehost (special price of $2.95 per month).
- Listen to Brandon’s Podcast
- Take our 8-day email course on Becoming a Profitable Blogger
- Consistently publish one blog post per week
All joking aside, Brandon knows his stuff, and we had a great time reviewing what he had to say. We definitely recommend you do too, and get your talented self out there blogging.
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