You know that feeling when you write a blog post you think is brilliant, but when you hit publish, all you hear is crickets? Most bloggers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs with business blogs have struggled at one point or another to get an audience to show up and engage. So what's going wrong?
Most people with this all-I-hear-is-crickets problem make one simple but fatal mistake: They focus on their solution rather than on their audience's problem. The one thing you must do to write a successful blog is obsess over your audience, not yourself! When you can put the focus on your audience and write content that addresses their pain points, desires, fears, wants, needs, and problems, you'll create content that's compelling and attracts readership.
You first need to define your ideal blog reader, which means answering some questions that will help you put together a comprehensive description of your target customer. Try to go into detail and write down the main characteristics of your persona, such as:
You can use your imagination and your empathy to answer these questions. But you should also leverage available technology to dig into some highly accurate specific details on your audience. Alexa is one tool you can use to get quick demographic reports on the audiences of any website, if you know the kind of blogs that already attract the audience you want to get in front of.
SimilarWeb will also give you data on web traffic for any site to help round out your research on the demographics of your audience. And, of course, you can also get the answers straight from the horses' mouths.
That's right: The best way to know your audience – and what kind of content would actually get them to show up and read your blog – is to simply ask them. Now, that can be easier said than done for a few reasons:
From this, we can see that just sending a survey with a bunch of questions might not be the best way to research what your audience wants from you. But that doesn't mean you can't ask to get real answers to your questions. You just need a better way. Try interviewing members of your target audience. Find someone who represents who you want as an ideal reader of your blog and invite them out for coffee or lunch (or schedule a Skype date if meeting up in person isn't an option).
Then ask a lot of open-ended questions. Ask about this person's current reality and what they'd ideally like their reality to look like. Your job is simply to listen and pay attention to the gaps between where this person is and where they want to be. Another place to listen to conversations already happening: QUORA. This is a Q&A platform that can cue you into real questions your market may be seeking answers to, and problems they're actively trying to solve.
Other community platforms and forums can be useful places to communicate with your audience to better understand their actual needs and preferences, and tools like QUALAROO can provide insights on how your existing audience interacts with your blog.
With your own answers that you came up with through a little educated guesswork and empathy to the questions above, plus notes from your interviews with people who represent your ideal readers, you can create a great blog-content strategy that actually pulls in an audience. For your strategy, you'll want to consider:
When it comes to what to post, you can get started by brainstorming all the topics you could write about that teach your readers what they need to know to achieve their goals or make a change to improve their lives. Write out the specific questions they have – each one is a potential blog post in which you provide the answer.
Don't forget to think about content that can inspire or delight too, like Buzzfeed-style quizzes, Thrive Global's motivational self-help pieces, or feel-good, heartwarming stories that SoulPancake produces – especially if it helps empower your audience to take an action that they might have been afraid to take without your guidance.
Creating content and posts based off your audience's problems and pain points – rather than just talking about what you think they need to hear – will help you develop a stronger following and create a successful blog.
What other tips do you have for building a successful blog? Let us know in the comments below!