I feel this is a pretty hypocritical post as I started off my ‘project’ really well and then quickly lost interest as the money wasn’t flying in like I imagined it would. But now I’ve decided to have another throw of the dice and really give The Social Media Virgin my all.
I initially was posting bi-weekly and then fortnightly and then it all went a bit as and when. With a little bit of gusto, and some motivational nagging from my daughter I’m back in the game and ready to really ramp up my content and grow my social following.
Having initially decided to post about my journey with my online voyage I shortly realised that this wasn’t my passion and writing about travel and food was. Considering a total rebrand Laura advised me against changing my domain as I was already gaining traction from my pins on Pinterest and my domain authority was sitting at an impressive 17.
I attribute this strong domain for a new site to a couple of tactics which I’ve employed since day one of setting up a blog these include;
- SEO’ing all posts properly using Yoast for search engine discoverability
- Linking new posts to older relevant posts and vice versa to direct traffic to similar posts
- Ensuring all posts were optimised for pinning to Pinterest (I use Tailwind, which I really recommend. Get $15 free credit here)
This is just touching the surface. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to running a blog and I’m about to share with you my top 10 things to do in the first quarter.
If you’re just setting up a blog and not sure how to get started I found this great free ecourse which you can sign up for too.
Set goals (and remind yourself constantly of them)
Through my professional career, I know the importance of setting goals. Initially, I had two main goals; to make £36,500 in the first year and to grow my social channels to 36,500. As a complete novice, I soon realised these were too unobtainable with the little knowledge of running a blog and socials that I had.
I revised my goals which I am now measuring the progress of and adjusting accordingly going into my second year of blogging (where I do hope to reach £36,500 in income and 36,500 social followers). My current (obtainable) blogging goals are;
- Post one post weekly until the end of 2018
- Generate £400 a month until the end of 2018
- Grow my Instagram to 500 followers by the end of 2018
Build a social following (and engage with them)
As a complete novice, I had a little bit of a scatter gun approach to social media, in the beginning, I wanted to be on all social networks and wanted to try and spread myself across them to grow. I soon learned that this was not the best approach. I focus primarily on Instagram for social growth as this is where I first and foremost enjoy spending my time online.
If you don’t already follow me, I’d love for you to join me on my Instagram voyage
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Although I don’t necessarily spend much time on Twitter I do have my blog posts connected via my WordPress site and my Instagram photos pushed through IFTTT so they populate my feed organically. I also use Revive Old Post which shares an older post every few hours which I’ve found a great way to drive traffic to my site and keep the previous posts I’ve written well read too. I think that once people press publish they forget about the post, they don’t promote old posts and try and drive traffic to them. This is also another reason why I’m only committed to creating evergreen content.
With focusing solely on Instagram I’ve built a small (but engaged) community of followers who I regularly interact with on both mine and their feeds. I may only have 300 followers at the minute, but they are followers that have been with me on my journey. By creating this online community I know that as my account grows so too will my engagement which is valuable for when the time comes to create sponsored posts.
Create an editorial calendar (and stick to it)
Probably my newest most favourite thing and most beneficial. Google rewards you by ranking you higher in search engines for consistency so it’s really important that you set the editorial calendar. You don’t have to post daily or even weekly. Just commit to posting on the same schedule, consistently.
For now, I’m going to post weekly on a Wednesday as according to Google Analytics this is my highest traffic day.
I’ve been using a great WordPress plugin called ‘editorial calendar’ which allows me to view my posts in a calendar view and drag and drop them based on when I’d like them scheduled. This is great if you’re more of a visual person.
Set up a newsletter opt-in (and send newsletters!)
I hear people saying ‘the money is in the list’ all the time. Somebody giving your email is quite a personal thing. People give it more freely than other details though and with most of us constantly on our phones and tablets, there’s no escaping your inbox. Offer a free opt-in to entice them surrounding your niche such as a PDF on the best ways to get a free upgrade if you’re a travel blogger or an exercise plan if you’re a fitness blogger. Entice them with a free offer that they can’t refuse. Make sure your opt-in is placed somewhere on every post too!
If you specify in a couple of niches create multiple opt-ins with automated mailing software, so you set your workflow up once and when people opt-in your series of emails they will automatically receive the freebie you’re offering
Actually email your list! (and provide value)
This is the next step on from Step 4. Once you’ve built your email list, actually email them. Provide them value and keep it personal so they feel a connection to you. You’re going to want to build rapport so offer tips and tricks specific to your audience. Ensure you use affiliate links and if you have a scalable product, recommend this. Don’t use pushy selling here. You’re looking to provide value!
Track your analytics (and understand them)
Google Analytics really should become your best friend. Analytics collects basic data from a website or mobile app which allows you to analyse the performance of your website. You’re spending hours creating content, taking photographs, promoting across social media. Why are you not keeping track of who your audience is and what they’re reading? Adding Google Analytics to your blog is easy you can download the plugin if you use WordPress here and follow the simple instructions.
Alternatively, if you don’t run on WordPress then you can set up your Analytics by following these 4 easy steps;
- Create or sign in to your Analytics account:
- Go to google.com/analytics
- Do one of the following:
- To create an account, click Start for free.
- To sign in to your account, Click Sign in to Analytics.
- Set up a property in your Analytics account. A property represents your website or app and is the collection point in Analytics for the data from your site or app.
- Set up a reporting view in your property. Views let you create filtered perspectives of your data; for example, all data except your company’s internal IP addresses, or all data associated with a specific sales region.
- Follow the instructions to add the tracking code to your website or mobile app so you can collect data in your Analytics property.
There are plenty of courses on how to understand GA and use it to your advantage, some are paid for however Google does have their own Analytics Academy which you can access here.
Create a strategy based on your analytics (and constantly review it)
Once you’ve started analysing your website traffic you’re going to want to create a strategy to ensure your website retains readers for as long as possible and converts them to returning readers as well as helping to increase your search engine ranking.
Focus on two main aspects;
- The content that is most viewed
- Where the bulk of your traffic lands from
You’re going to want to work out which content is your most popular on your website, then write more of the same kind of posts and direct the traffic from one page to a similar page. This may change month on month but you should start seeing a little bit of a pattern. My top post consistently is ‘My top 10 things to do in Las Vegas’ meaning that people are landing on my site for Vegas recommendations. I now know to focus more content around Vegas or test out ‘top 10 recommendations’ in other cities with the intention of becoming a destination website for the top 10 things to do in cities.
Check in monthly
Every month I have been checking in with my analytics to see which content is most popular and I will continue to do so monthly and adjust my content strategy around this.
You can find your most viewed content by logging into your dashboard on Google Analytics and clicking Behaviour then Site Content followed by Landing Pages.
Secondly, you’re going to want to check out where your traffic is coming from you can do this by once again returning to the dashboard and selecting Acquisition then All Traffic. Here you’ll be able to see your traffic in four segments;
- Referral – this is one website recommending your website. It could be a link such as ‘find some great blogging tips at Elle Blonde’ when the reader clicks on your link the site you’ve referred will track you (in our case thesocialmediavirgin.com as the ‘referrer’)
- Social – as simple as it sounds this is the traffic that comes from any links on social media
- Organic Search – this is where people find your website through search engine searches, one of our most popular organic searches is ‘Belmio Coffee Capsule Reviews’
- Direct – these are the views from people who have directly intended to visit your site by entering the URL in their search bar.
My traffic sources
From researching our own personal Google Analytics we can see that for the following 4 behaviours our most successful traffics sources for each of the following are;
- Referral – The least traffic driven is through referrals, this is something that I need to work on a little, perhaps by writing guest posts and getting my brand a little more well known with others in my niche.
- Social – This currently is our highest generating traffic source with Pinterest being our most popular director of traffic. This has a lot to do with using Tailwind to publish and schedule my pins as well as creating highly engaging Pinterest pins that have been re-pinned multiple times.
- Organic Search – as previously stated the keywords that we rank for and drive traffic from people organically searching on search engines is ‘Belmio Coffee Capsule Reviews’. Being found for a drinks review gives us a little bit of a push to add more product based reviews into our strategy.
- Direct – as this is direct this is harder to monitor how these people find out about your site however, our most direct traffic is towards our best performing post ‘My top 10 things to do in Las Vegas’
Each of these different forms of traffic gives us a greater understanding of what appeals and where from. This is a great basis to begin our strategy. There are other variables such as location and age demographics which you can really drill down into further but as a beginner, these are the two most important analytics.
Niche down (and don’t get shiny object syndrome)
It’s hard to do, we get it. You think perhaps I can write about 10 different subjects in the beginning, but to really set yourself as an authority online you need to choose one niche and stick to it until you gain traction, then add in something that flows and is similar. Additionally, don’t write about something you’re not passionate about. For me, I love to discuss travel and food as well as blogging tips. This is my focus and because of my analytic data and current strategy, I’m solely focusing on these subjects.
Use your analytics to work out what your readers are interested in and write in that niche (of course, make sure it’s something that you’re also passionate about!
Educate yourself (and invest in yourself)
If you’re the smartest in the room, you’re in the wrong room. We’re fully into a technological revolution right now and every day the online world changes. It grows, new practices and laws come into place. We have to constantly be educating ourselves to be able to create a better business for ourselves with our websites.
There are lots of free online resources you can read such as this extensive guide as well as paid for courses such as Blog to Bizz by ELLEfluence which is a great business plan creator which also helps you to create a strong strategy to become clear about the direction of your blogging business.
If you are running your blog to make money you must treat it as a business and invest in your business, in order to grow your business, you must grow too.
You also must invest in you. You can’t pour from an empty glass, self-care is one of the most important things you can practice. Take 10 minutes of your day just for you. Switch off and really disconnect. I recently read The Secret and finally understood the importance of being available for only good and to do this you have to look after yourself.
Monetise everything you possibly can from day one.
You really can start implementing a strategy to make money from day one. Upon setting up my website and publishing a handful of content I applied for Google Adsense. This is where you place ads on your website and you’re paid by views and clicks. These ads are populated by the reader’s cookies and previously visited websites. This is not megabucks in the beginning, however with time soon adds up. As your traffic grows so does your Adsense account. If you work on WordPress I advise adding the plugin ‘Ad Inserter’. Simply set up the ads after paragraphs in your content, add your Adsense code and then save. This will automatically insert the ads in the same place on each post.
Affiliate marketing is also a great way to monetise your websites. What Affiliate Marketing is if you’re not familiar is where you get rewarded a % of commission based on the sale value from the brand where you influence a sale based on somebody clicking and buying through your personalised link. We use Skimlinks and Awin as our two merchants to convert affiliate links. This is because they manage thousands of brands so it’s easier and quicker to build up enough for a payout.
I’m going to discuss affiliate marketing in a greater depth in another post but why not check out both Skimlinks and Awin before then to implement them on your site. Skimlinks have their own WordPress plugin which automatically converts links (including previous links) this helps reduce the editing time of creating your own tracked links.
In conclusion, blogging is not for the faint-hearted and although there’s a lot to take in, it is worthwhile when you implement these 10 steps. I’ve created you your very own checklist which you can grab for free below when you enter your email and subscribe to be part of our monthly newsletter.
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Have you got any tips for newbie bloggers? I’d love to know below.