Blogging for Your Audience
The key to running a successful blog is to know your readers backwards and forwards. You should write your content exclusively for them and in order to do that, you have to know their likes, interests, concerns and so on. If you’re not getting the level of engagement that you want out of your blog, it might be time to reassess your target market and make a few changes to your approach.
Why Carving Your Niche Matters
There are two important reasons that you need to thoroughly understand your niche. One is that a good blog builds relationships. Blogs are a form of social media and you want your readers to feel connected to you. If you look at any blog with comments, shares, and other signs of engagement, you’ll see that the author has a strong bond with their audience.
The other reason is that when you start monetizing your blog, this deep connection will help you select relevant offers. You need to understand at a instinctive level what your readers want before you can offer the products or services they’re craving. Furthermore, when you have a strong connection to your readers, your recommendations to them won’t look like selling.
How to Reassess Your Niche
There are a few easy ways to reassess your niche. One is to look at their feedback. Feedback doesn’t just mean comments and emails. It includes everything a visitor does (or doesn’t do) on your blog. If there’s little reader activity, for example, this means you’re not engaging them. If your analytics tell you that people are hitting your site and then bouncing off immediately, this means you’re not speaking to them effectively.
Lack of engagement could indicate that your blog has quality issues, but it could also tell you that you’re offering the wrong content for your market. Another common problem is that you may be casting your net too wide. Blogs that try to please everyone rarely achieve the same level of engagement as those that are laser-targeted to a specific audience.
Your Target Audience Profile
In order to reach their audience effectively, marketers create a target market profile. This is a specific description of the individual that they are targeting. You should do this as well, making a profile of your perfect reader. Include demographic information, likes and dislikes, feelings, concerns, and anything else you need to know about them.
When you choose topics, write with this single person in mind. When you write for a specific audience, they feel that they belong there on your blog. When you’re target is too broad, your readers won’t feel any connection to you or your other readers. A specifically laser-targeted blog is like an intimate coffee shop. A blog that’s too wide-ranging is like Grand Central Station. Where do you feel most comfortable?
Change Is Your Friend
After reassessing your target market, you may feel that changes need to be made. But this is easier said than done. Many bloggers shy away from making dramatic changes because they know they’ll lose a portion of their audience. Actually, this is a good thing. You’ll keep the readers who you want to keep and lose the ones who were never going to listen or buy from you in the first place. It may take a little time, but you’ll build a new audience that’s more in tune with what you’re writing, and they’ll be engaged and interested in your offers.
Creating a Smarter Blog Design
It’s amazing how your blogging income can increase just by tweaking a few design features on your blog. Altering your blog’s design is simple and you can do it yourself without hiring outside help. It’s often a matter of simplifying and toning down rather than adding anything complex or fancy.
Your blog should have easy navigation that makes sense to anyone who visits it. You should have a main home page with links to categories, posts and pages. Everything should be just a link or two away from that main page. It makes it easy for the visitor if you have links for navigation on each page. Don’t do anything fancy. Put yourself in your least web-savvy visitor’s shoes.
Easy on the Eyes
Color choice can make a tremendous difference in how a blog performs. Colors that are too loud or that contrast too sharply can make your blog hard to read. Muted colors are a much better choice. Never put a light colored text on a dark background. White text on black is a great way to kill your readership and raise your bounce rate. Spend time testing it yourself by reading your blog entries. After a few minutes of reading, you’ll really get a sense of how easy it is on the eyes.
Large and Clear Fonts
You may have a quirky font that you love to death, but refrain from using it. Plain fonts that are large and easy to read work best. Sample a few fonts and choose the one that’s simplest. To be on the safe side, choose a font with your grandparents in mind. If they can read it, all of your readers should be able to.
At the same time, think about the nature of your blog’s content and who your readers are. If they are professional business people, look for fonts that are more traditional (like Arial or Times New Roman). If your readers are young hipsters, you’ll probably want a font that’s a little trendier and interesting. However, it still has to be easy to read!
The Call to Action
The ‘call to action’ is a part of every blog that’s often misunderstood. It doesn’t have to be something such as ‘Buy Now.’ Calls to action can be very subtle, simply telling the reader what they need to do in order to receive the benefits you’re offering, whether it’s a place to get more information, a resource that’s helpful, or a product you’re selling.
Your call to action needs to stand out and be clearly understood, but it shouldn’t sound like sales hype. One good place for a call to action is on the sidebar where you’re making your offer or requesting email addresses. Another location is the very end of each post, often in the P.S. section.
Try to avoid mixing your calls to action into your main content unless you can manage to do it with great subtlety. Remember that you want your readers to see you as a helpful soul throwing in a few offers and recommendations here and there, not a pushy salesperson. Whether you take the direct or indirect approach, you need to have a strong call to action. It’s rarely obvious to readers what you want them to do. Even with the passive approach, you need to make it crystal clear. A way to do this indirectly is to tell readers they need to complete a specific action in order to receive the benefits you’re describing or to alleviate their pain.
The Magic of Split Testing
The best way to discover what truly works and doesn’t is to split test. Create two versions with only the design features changed. Then, check your analytics, whether it’s through or any other program that allows you to do split testing. The analytics will tell you which design features your readers prefer, and you can then implement them on your blog.
Active vs. Passive Selling on Your Blog
Some bloggers grab their readers by the lapels and shout their promotional message into their faces. Others focus on building a relationship where they can make offers indirectly as an offshoot of the relationship. This approach to selling is a continuum with various levels in between. As a blogger, you have to decide which kind of approach makes the most sense for you and for your market.
The Active Approach
The active approach doesn’t need to be as obvious as a cold call or a “screaming in your face” sales page. What you’re doing is content marketing, which is passive by nature. In other words, you’re presenting content and then leading the customer to a recommended product, so the hard sell isn’t necessary. This approach includes strategies like writing product reviews that tell the reader about the product’s benefits, and then providing a link through which they can purchase.
The Passive Approach
With the passive approach, bloggers don’t even try to sell anything at first. They build their readership and focus on interacting as much as possible with their fans. What these bloggers are really doing is qualifying leads. As they get to know their readers better and build trust and authority, it’s much easier to make relevant offers down the road that readers will listen to. The passive approach might include providing a list of links to resources or tools you use. You’re encouraging readers to explore on their own initiative.
Make It Personal & Unique
Whichever approach you use, make it as personal as possible. Your words need to resonate with readers. They need to feel a personal connection to you and your blog. If the personal aspect isn’t there, they’ll feel like you’re marketing and selling to them. Be careful that you never do anything to break this intimate connection or you’ll lose a great deal of trust.
Your Target Audience
Which selling approach works best depends on your target market and your own degree of comfort. Many different factors come into play. Younger consumers, for example, are much more skeptical of marketing and advertising messages. Everything needs to be done “under the radar” for them.
While you need to spend your own time learning as much as possible about your target market, there’s one shortcut. Take a look at your competition. Examine and follow highly successful blogs in your niche that are offering the same types of products and services to see what marketing and selling methods they use.
Content Is King (or Queen!)
Whichever approach you use, your blog content has to be the best quality possible. It needs to build a connection with your readers, so all your content must be helpful, unique and well-written. Stay on their reading radar with regular posts and get readers involved in your blog as much as possible. When it comes time for you to make offers, they’ll be much more likely to buy if you’ve offered value all along.
Beyond Google AdSense – Alternative Ways to Earn Ad Income
Google is a good way to monetize your blog, but it’s not the only game in town. While it’s considered quite effective, many marketers for various reasons decide to look beyond AdSense and try out other options. There are a number of ways to earn ad money without AdSense.
There are many different ad networks that work in a similar way to AdSense. They use your blog content to post relevant ads that your readers would find interesting.
Some sites, like , give you more choice about what ads your blog shows. You can choose the sites you’d like to link to. LinkBucks gives you the option of either getting paid whenever someone clicks the link or earning referral income when you send someone to the site. Shareasale works much the same way, and is chock full of great brands.
is a popular network that’s unique because it only shows ads to visitors who found your site through the search engines. Visitors that access your blog through a link or by entering the URL directly don’t see the ads. This means that your regular readers won’t be bothered with them.
There are many alternative ad networks and all have their unique qualities. is a marketplace where you can negotiate with advertisers. Some networks, such as , allow you to run their ads alongside ads from other networks.
Working Directly with Advertisers
Another option is to skip the ad networks completely and sell your own ad space directly to advertisers. The main advantage of ad networks is that they make finding advertisers easy. In most cases, all you have to do is sign up. Finding your own advertisers takes quite a bit more work, but you have total control over the entire process.
In order to attract advertisers, create an media kit that describes your blog, its readership, analytics that show your level of traffic, and an outline of the benefits of advertising on your blog. Include a “media” or “advertisers” link in the footer of your blog that goes directly to this kit. You can set your own pricing and negotiate directly with advertisers that show interest.
In order to approach advertisers directly, you need a good deal of traffic and it helps if there’s a high level of engagement with readers. Placing an ad on your site has to be a good value for them.
Other Monetization Options
Remember that ads aren’t the only way to monetize your blog. You can write about products for affiliate programs and sell your own information products as well. Depending on your goals for your blog and the tastes of your target market, these approaches may be more profitable than selling ad space.
Get Paid Blogging for Brands
A great way to make money with your blog is to promote a specific brand. Many big brands pay bloggers to write about them. The blogger writes about the brand’s products or services and describes the features and benefits for their readers. If the blog is relevant to the brand, it’s a win-win situation for both. In fact, if you see bloggers writing about specific brands, there’s a good chance they’re getting paid for it.
You can connect with relevant brands through networks designed for that purpose. These include , , , and , among others. You sign up and submit your blog, and advertisers can find your site by browsing blogs in their niche. These networks allow you to set your own price and, if there’s interest, you can negotiate with the brand.
Some brands get more involved than just providing a paycheck. They may help you further connect with your readers by offering free giveaways. This gives your readers a chance to try the brand’s products themselves.
Before you sign up on a network, there are a few basic considerations. Your blog should have a consistent following of readers but, even more importantly, you should be influential with them. In other words, you’ve laid the groundwork by building a solid relationship of trust with your readers and they listen to what you say. When you have influence, your message is more powerful and it means more sales for the brand.
Catering to a specific geographic location also works in your favor. If your blog has a geographic base in Philadelphia or Northern Arizona, these may be areas where a brand wants to increase its sales. If you’re involved in the community offline, this gives your blog an additional influential boost in the community.
Want to read some more? Sure, why not! Go to Part 2: Blog Without Selling Your Soul