Growth Hacking Your Blog: 17 Tactics to Grow Your Audience
Growth Hacking Your Blog: 17 Uncommon Tactics to Grow Your Audience
Starting a blog is confusing. Growing it is – well, that's much more confusing.
In this massive post, I'll go over 17 strategies you can use to grow your blog: everything from list building to generating traffic to epic blog posts to blog themes. This, my friend, is the ultimate guide to blog growth for noobs.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Don't (Just) Follow Your Passion
Write (A Lot) Less, Write (A Lot) Better
Build it and They (Probably) Won't Come
Install Social Sharing Plugins
Email > Social Media
Go Viral with GoViral
Get Traffic With Forums Like John Meese
Post Quality Answers on Quora
Write (Better) Guest Posts
Make Your #1 Priority Your Email List
Use the Upside-Down Homepage
Stay Focused on List Building with this Free Tool
100 Subscribers in 48 Hours: A Case Study
Don't Forget About Your Friends and Family
Run Partner Giveaways to Explode Your List
Best Practices for Building Relationships with Your List
Sales for beginners
How to Sell your first product to your list
👉 First things first: Don't (just) Follow Your Passion.
This is one of the biggest obstacles when you choose a topic to blog about. If you just choose what you're interested in without analyzing what people actually want, you're going to have a hard time growing a successful blog. If you just want to start a blog and write things y ou enjoy (even if there are few to no other people interested), that's great \- but I'd strongly advise against it if you're trying to grow an audience. To begin, make a list of skills and interests you have that are valuable. Make a list of what people ask you about. If you enjoy podcasting and people ask you about it, that could be a very profitable blog topic. …But Don't Do Something You Don't Like Then again, you can't (and probably don't want to) simply think like a robot. Blogging about light bulb repair may be a very profitable topic, but if you hate it, you won't have the energy to put in the effort and time you'll need to grow your blog. Plus, you'll hate it (obviously).
2. Write (A Lot) Less, Write (A Lot) Better A lot of new bloggers believe that you need to write new blog posts every day. Maybe in 2005. These days, what really matters is epic, ultra-actionable evergreen content – not short, click-baity fluff. Nearly 2 million blog posts are published every day. More than ever, you need to stick out by being exceptional. Successful bloggers like Bryan Harris and Brian Dean spend anywhere from 10-40 hours on any given blog post. And if you look carefully, you'll see that they post very infrequently – once every month or less. So focus all your efforts on less content – but better content. Write the kind of stuff that you would otherwise try to sell. Without a foundation of quality, no matter how many traffic generation tactics you try, they won't work in the long term – because your content doesn't stand out. Takeaway: Write less often. Write better content.
3. Build it and They (Probably) Won't Come
One of my favorite phrases that I wish was true is "Build it and they will come". If you stick around in the online marketing guru space long enough, you'll hear this advice over and over again – even from well-meaning experts. While that advice may have held up in the early days of the internet, it's <year>. That simply isn't true. You can't just write great content and expect traffic. You have to both write great content and promote like crazy. Derek Halpern recommends that you spend 20% of your time writing posts and 80% actually promoting it. (P.S. If you don't believe me, spend a dozen hours writing a wonderful post. Throw it out on the web. They probably won't come.) Takeaway: Actively promote your content, don't just passively wait for people to show up.
4. Install Social Sharing Plugins
A simple tweak to get more visitors is just to ask your current visitors to share! If your post is truly incredible, and you ask nicely enough, you can increase your traffic without any work (other than the time you spend installing the plugin!) A great tool for social sharing plugins is SumoMe. Make sure you configure it so that the social sharing buttons are on the bottom center of your posts. Takeaway: Install SumoMe's social sharing plugins to increase traffic.
5. Email > Social Media
Email is greater than social media. I'll say that again. Email, in <year>, is greater than social media. By a landslide too!
There is no greater platform than email when it comes to growing your blog following and making money off of it. The simple truth is, it kills all other platforms. There's no comparison.
Email is the most used electronic media, according to this post by Priit Kallas. The number of people who favor checking their email every day is incredibly high: roughly 70% as of November <year>.
That's an incredible tool that you simply must use to your advantage. It's just common sense. Why wouldn't you market and grow your blog through the number one form of electronic media?
Regardless of all the other platforms out there, (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter e.t.c), Email is still #1. Don't be fooled into thinking that because it's <year>, no one uses their email anymore.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
6. Make Friends
Establishing relationships with bloggers in your niche is one of the best things you can do for your blog. But just cold emailing Jeff Goins and asking him to share your post…don't do that. Even if you do email Jeff and tell him how you really like his stuff, he probably won't have time to respond.
Here's a surefire technique to actually get in front of influencers: buy a book or course from them, follow a specific strategy they recommend to the T, then email them letting them know your exact results.
Getting someone to take action on something you say is ridiculously rare. When you go in the comments of a blog post about getting 100 subscribers, how many comments do you see saying "Hey dude, thanks so much! I followed this exact strategy on X blog and got 100 in 48 hours :)"? Never. Because people just don't take action.
A very smart hack I learned from Bryan Harris to actually get your emails to influencers seen is to not cold email them but to hit reply to an email they sent to their email list. That way, instead of seeing a cold email in their inbox, they'll see: RE: My email. So they're far more likely to open it, and when you're reporting results of taking their advice, respond to it.
Don't expect this to work as a traffic generation strategy short-term. And please don't do it just for the sake of traffic ;)
But over time, these relationships can lead to amazing things. Bryan got featured on Lifehacker by just reporting the results he had from Noah Kagan's Monthly1k course. But it didn't happen right away.
Takeaway: Send one email to someone you've bought a course from, letting them know a result you've had from following their advice.
7. Get Traffic With Forums Like John Meese
I recently asked John Meese a question. He's currently the Dean at Platform University (a HUGE online course from Michael Hyatt), and formerly a guy who worked a Chick-fil-A. In between, he quit his job at Chick-fil-A by growing a small email list of a few hundred people and running his first $10,000+ product launch.
John grew his email list by being insanely helpful in forums related to his topic (Michael Hyatt's WordPress theme) and including a forum signature linking to his email list sign-up page and linked to blog posts when relevant.
I asked him what pieces of advice he would have for someone interested in growing their email list through forums/Facebook groups (we talked a bit about this last Monday).
He had three:
"Focus on solving people's problems where you can make the greatest contribution. When you're helpful, people will value your input."
Solve. People's. Problems. Help people in exchange for – nothing. Be generous and serve. John is a great example of this. He jumped on Skype calls to help people with their problems with the WordPress theme, he answered questions in-depth, and he proved his value before either asking people to join his email list, or worse: asking them to buy your product.
If you can demonstrate your value before asking for your target customer's email or credit card number, you build trust.
Takeaway: provide value first. You can ask people to join your list or buy your thing later. But build trust and authority first.
"Don't spam conversations with links back to your own content. Use your gut on this, if there's a natural way to reference a resource on your website while answering someone's questions, do it. But don't link just for the sake of a link."
Amen. The fastest way to not grow your email list is to spam people. Don't join a forum for the sake of posting links. Join to serve people, build trust, and over time get truly committed followers.
If someone asked me, "How should I get 100 subscribers?", I would actually answer the question in a good amount of detail, and say something like, if you're interested, I go into super-practical detail in this post I just wrote. Think it would really help.
Think of your email list in terms of actual people, not numbers. If you aim to actually serve people, your list will flourish. But if you just do a half-decent job and are hyper-focused on building the number of people on your list, you won't see results.
Takeaway: make your number one priority helping people. And, when it's relevant, definitely do post a link to a blog post! When you actually provide value, you'll see much higher engagement, traffic, and subscribers than just posting links everywhere.
"Listen to common themes in questions you see online. If a theme comes up repeatedly that you don't have a blog post or product about, create one!"
This one is great. In essence, find out what people are frustrated with. Then write articles and build products based on those. If you're wondering what you should write about or sell, maybe you're not taking enough time to hang out with and serve your target audience.
If you blog about gardening, hang out where other gardeners hang out. That might be a community, forum, or Facebook group. But get involved, serve those people, and generally be aware of who your target audience is and what they're frustrated by. 8. Post Quality Answers on Quora
Quora is one of the biggest websites in the world. Answers to questions on Quora rank really highly on Google. Even better, you can write your own answers on Quora. So, if you write a high-quality answer, your post could easily get thousands of views.
Writing answers and getting traffic from Quora is pretty simple. In short, write great content.
Follow topics in your niche on Quora, answer questions in detail, and link to a blog post on your site that expands on it even more.
Takeaway: Answer questions on Quora to build up referral traffic.
9. Get 500 New Subscribers from Your Next Guest Post
Guest posting is great. When done right, it can give you social proof, help you build relationships with bloggers in your niche, and get your more email subscribers.
Done wrong, guest posting can be a massive waste of time, or, slightly better, just a little boost in credibility.
What you want are email subscribers.
Guest posting, when done right, can help you get dozens, even hundreds, of quality subscribers for your email list.
Think about it: a guest post is functionally you providing value to your target audience. So if your guest post is amazing and it's on a blog that has lots of readers from your target market and you give those readers a very strong reason to subscribe to your email list, your guest post will…work.
There are three components here: Make your guest post amazing Write something epic. Write something long. If it's a how-to article of some sort, could a random person get the result you're talking about in the article? If not, make it longer, more detailed, and more actionable.
Tens of millions of blog posts are published every week. You have to stick out.
Pitch to the right site
The site you're trying to write for should:
👉 Accept guest posts
👉 Be in your niche
👉 Have a good number of readers
👉 Allow you to include links to your own site (assuming you're not being too self-promo on your own end)
So make a list of all the sites you read in your niche and narrow them down. Build a relationship with the creator and eventually pitch to them.
Use content upgrades
This is how you actually get subscribers. If you read a great guest post and at the bottom it has a bio that reads something like this, "John Doe is an expert in bananas. He's studied them formally at Harvard and is a world-leading authority. His website is johndoewritesaboutbananas.com", how likely are you to click and subscribe?
But if you include a special bonus at the end of your article that's irresistible to your target reader, they'll check it out and subscribe!
For example, if you're writing a post called "How to Improve Your Fingerstyle Technique", you might write at the bottom of your post:
"And there you have it, 10 techniques for improving your fingerstyle! There's a LOT to implement. One of the biggest challenges to getting actual results is tangibly understanding what these techniques sound like in real life. I've put together a free video series featuring examples, hands-on exercises, and demonstrations to practically help you understand and use these techniques. Access the free bonus here!"
Instead of having a generic call-to-action like "Subscribe to my newsletter!" or worse "Visit my blog!", by offering an insanely targeted lead magnet specific to your guest post, all these readers already interested in your content will bend over backwards to sign up for the free video series.
And that's how you 100x the effectiveness of your next guest post!
10. Go Viral with GoViral
Want a great piece of free software that allows you to incentivize your readers to promote you? Here you go.
This free tool by Bryan Harris lets you incentivize readers with a bonus gift, and in return they promote you via Facebook, twitter, email or another platform of your choice. It's an incredible way to go viral, as people get something free, and in return you get promoted by those people.
Here's how it works:
Reader gets on your site and joins your list. Reader is immediately taken to a page thanking them and offering them some irresistible bonuses by sharing the lead magnet they just signed up for. Reader shares your article on social media. You get traffic. They get free stuff. Everyone is happy!
It's a win-win situation.
You get more traffic, shares, and subscribers. And your reader gets more awesome content.
Make sure you use this with any lead magnet you have on your website.
Without it, you could be losing hundreds of potential leads, and that's not good for anyone, especially you.
11. Make Your #1 Priority Your Email List Forget about twitter. Forget about ads. Forget about the word content marketing. And Search Engine Optimization (SEO). And sales funnels. Focus everything on one objective: growing your email list.
If optimizing your twitter photo won't directly help you grow your email list, don't do it. If tweaking your WP theme or posting something on Facebook won't directly help you grow your list, don't do it.
Use this simple framework to focus every decision you make for your blog.
Stop getting lost in the weeds of YouTube marketing and the content marketing vs Pay Per Click (PPC) debate and landing page optimization and copywriting frameworks. Take one step at a time.
Get 100 subscribers through friend and forum outreach. Get 1000 subscribers through giveaways and guest posts. Then launch a product by validating it first. Then scale to 10,000 subscribers with ads and more giveaways. Then launch a flagship product.
Take things slower and stay focused.
Takeaway: stay focused on your list!
12. Use the Upside-Down Homepage
Here's the deal: most websites completely, utterly stink.
They ask you to join their newsletter, buy a product, read this article, share on Facebook, allow push notifications, and check out their latest cat picture. Well, maybe not that last one.
The point is: websites are cluttered. Your poor visitor has no idea what to do.
The Upside Down Homepage is a strategy created by Bryan Harris to focus your visitors' attention and increase conversions by being clear and asking the user to do one thing. It's used by super-successful bloggers like Jeff Goins, Andrew Warner, Noah Kagan, and, of course, Bryan Harris.
It's broken down into 6 sections: Above the fold, social proof, your roadmap, pilot story, call to action, and navigation.
You can learn the details here but for now, here are 3 simple tweaks that will dramatically increase your website conversions:
Make all the "stuff" your reader sees as soon as they visit your website focused on getting onto your email list. Don't show them your About page, or anything else. Just make the whole site above the fold bribing your reader to join your list. Use a pilot story below the fold. This highlights some of your best content, piques the reader's interest, and at the bottom invites them to join your list again. Keep all your navigation at the bottom. That's what makes it an upside-down homepage.
In short, keep your readers focused on one action. Your website is a tool to grow your audience and increase sales. Treat it like one.
13. Stay Focused on List Building with this Free Tool
As bloggers, we can get so distracted: should I start using twitter ads? Or should I buy this product? Or should I start creating YouTube videos? No. Stop.
The most valuable asset you have is your email list. A single email subscriber is worth more than a dozen or even several dozen social followers.
A key question to ask when considering following a strategy is: will this help me grow my email list?
If it won't, drop it. Focus on your list.
Bryan Harris built a free chrome extension called List Goal to help you do exactly that.
It works like this:
You open a new page on your browser and a beautiful screen appears, showing you how many subscribers you have and your next goal. It also monitors your list health and offers free gifts and tips to help you get unstuck.
Every single time you open a new tab, you see exactly where you are. Where you're going. How to get there.
This laser focus will help you more than almost anything in growing your list. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were both eating dinner one time and someone asked them both what led them to be so successful. And, almost in unison, they both said, "Focus".
Even if you have the most beautiful strategy, if you don't take action and stay focused, your blog ain't going to grow.
Install List Goal here.
14. Don't Forget About Your Friends and Family
When you were a young child, who were your biggest supporters?
Hopefully your family.
As you got a little older, who joined the list of your biggest supporters?
Hopefully your friends.
Your family and friends will always be your biggest supporters, and you should take advantage of that (no, not in a bad way).
Start your blog by asking your family and friends to join your list, and ask them to share your blog with their friends and relatives as well! When you don't have anyone else to join your email list yet, and you don't have any traffic yet, this is one of the best ways to get started.
Takeaway: Contact your family and friends, ask them to subscribe to your blog and tell their friends and family.
15. Run Partner Giveaways to Explode Your List
What To Give Away
First up, do NOT giveaway an iPad. Or an Amazon gift card. Or anything that almost anyone would take a minute to sign up for.
Your giveaway needs to be ultra-targeted to your audience.
If you write about Calvin and Hobbes, give away a special Calvin and Hobbes book.
Give something away that your target audience would go crazy over – but not many other people.
Because these people who are signing up to your giveaway are also joining your email list. And if they're random people who just want a free tablet, they won't be engaged and they won't end up buying from you.
When you run a giveaway, you're effectively attracting people in your target audience to join your audience.
So make sure the thing you're giving away uniquely appeals to your audience.
Hint: If you don't know what to give away, survey your target audience and ask them what you should give away.
Action item: Make a list of unique products your target audience would go crazy over.
Now that you've chosen what you want to give away, don't go on Amazon, look at the price, look at your empty wallet, and leave in despair.
Figure out who made whatever you're giving away (author, publisher, store, etc), and email them with this script:
"Hi NAME, I LOVED your book. Read it a few times, my favorite part was where you shared X. Quick question… I'm running a giveaway for my readers. Gonna promote it like crazy. Would be excited to give away X + link to your site. Interested? -YOUR NAME"
A script like that has worked amazingly well for me and other bloggers like Sam Jefferies.
So go contact the creator of the thing you're giving away, email them with that script, and land your first giveaway partnership.
How to create your giveaway
Here's the really cool part:
In ancient times (c. <year>), you were forced to:
Use an ugly, terrible, horrible free giveaway site Pay for a beautiful, very expensive giveaway plugin
In this wonderful time in civilization called <year>, things are quickly becoming free. Like giveaway plugins.
The best one is called KingSumo. It's completely free – sign up now.
Next, create your giveaway.
I wrote a free guide to get you started with giveaways and use them to triple your email list. Check it out below:
Promoting Your Giveaway
If all you do is create your giveaway and let your current email list know about, you might get a few entrants.
But the real magic comes in giveaway promotion: finding people in your target audience, getting them to enter and bribing them to share your giveaway with their contacts.
There are three main channels we'll focus on: your email list, Facebook and bloggers.
Your Email List
If you have an email list already (even if it's just 3 people), email them, announce the giveaway, and make sure you've set up massive incentives for them to share. KingSumo makes this incredibly easy to do. Just a small number of people sharing your giveaway with their Facebook friends will get it in front of a bunch of people.
This is where you hustle. A lot. First, make sure you're an active member of all groups you plan to share your idea with before you do anything else. Then, feel free to pop in a link in a few groups related to your topic, provided that it's allowed by the administrator. If you want to get more advanced, you can look into Facebook Ads. Because the cost per acquisition of each new subscriber through a giveaway is quite low, these ads can be really cost-effective. But if you're just starting out, definitely stick with groups.
The key thing to remember here is that you are not going to receive a single email list subscriber through spamming your links everywhere, even if they are relevant to the group. Facebook users these days have learned to tune these out, and for good reason. Most of these links are garbage.
Stand out. Help the community. Only then will you be able to effectively use groups related to your niche to grow your email list.
Getting your giveaway somewhere on a larger blog in your niche will really accelerate your giveaway.
Sam Jefferies ran a giveaway for his personal finance blog and got over 300 subscribers in 7 days. Here's the script he used to reach out to bloggers:
Hi NAME, LOVE your site. Recently read your post about side hustling and it really made me think. Found it especially interesting how many millennials are freelancing nowadays. Quick question… I'm giving away 10 personal finance books. Would love to explore putting this in a small place on your site. Happy to promote your content on my social channels in return. Interested? -Sam
And that's it!
Keep promoting your giveaway and within a matter of days, your email list will grow – fast. Congratulations! You've just finished learning the step-by-step actions you need to take to grow your email list with a viral giveaway.
16. Best Practices for Building Relationships with Your List
When you're so focused on growing your email list, it can become easy to ignore your current email list subscribers.
Here are a few suggestions to keep that relationship with your list, and ultimately increase your conversions when trying to sell a product.
First of all, the number one thing is content. You need to constantly be providing your list with great, free content. With the Blogventure Newsletter, for example, we send our list great blogging tips on Mondays, videos on Wednesdays, and Q&A for our VIP members on Fridays.
This is an incredible way to keep your list engaged. A 100,000 member email list is nothing if your users are not engaged. Because of the content we constantly provide our users with, our newsletter has a 70% open rate, and anytime we include links in our emails we get a 22% click rate. That's crazy!
Keeping your users engaged with great content is an incredible way to build relationships with your users and generate sales later down the line.
Another way to build relationships with your list is to get input from them. This could be in the form of a Q&A, a form through something like SurveyMonkey, or just asking them to hit reply and let you know what they thought about your content. Getting your users to personally tell you something is a huge way to measure engagement. Anyone can open an email. When people reply and give you input, it's a surefire way of knowing that those people are engaged, and are interested in building a relationship with you.
Make sure to keep your users engaged by asking them for input.
17. How to Presell Your First Product
For so much of this guide we've discussed building up your email list. But once you've built your list to around 1000 subscribers through running giveaways, writing good guest posts, and being engaged in forums, it's time to actually pre-sell your first product!
This is a massive topic in and of itself but it's well worth covering.
There are two main steps:
Survey your audience Validate your product
Survey Your Audience
Before you go build something and try to sell it, go, open up Google Forms, and send your list a survey:
What's your email? What's your biggest frustration with X topic? What kind of content would you like to see more of to solve that frustration? Would you pay for a solution to X?
By running that survey, you can get a good idea of what your audience is frustrated by and what they're actually willing to pay for.
But do not trust them when they say that they'd pay for it ;)
Nathan Barry, bestselling self-published author, made this mistake. He found that the only true form of validation for your product is when your reader literally pays with his or her credit card..
So once you've created the survey and found some common themes, come up with a product idea encompassing your readers' main pain points.
Validate Your Product
Then announce to your list your product idea. But don't end there. Ask them to pre-order. Set up a Gumroad pre-order page and send it to your list.
If you don't get around a dozen sales, rework your product idea and go back.
But if you do, celebrate! You've found a pain point and came up with a product to solve it.
This is the foundation of your career as a blogger: serving your audience with products like ebooks, courses, coaching, tools, etc.
You've learned a TON of new strategies and tools that you can use to create a better blog, but now what do you do? You need an email list.
To help you get your first 100 blog subscribers, we've created a case study from one of our readers, Zachary Pierpont, who got his first 100 subscribers in less than 48 hours.
In the case study, we go over all of the steps that he used to get his first 100 subscribers. All of these steps are actionable strategies you can implement right now into your own blog to hit that 100 subscribers mark.
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