Parts 1 & 2 of this series on blogging advice and tips have both been received with positive reaction from readers and followers who have contacted me, which makes me very happy! I know I'm nothing special in the world of blogging, but at the same time I've seen some real results and had some real successes over the past year doing what I've been doing. The goal of this series is to share what I've learned from my experiences in order to help out other bloggers who might benefit from some or all of what I've been through. Part 1 dealt with creating great content and Part 2 dealt with seizing your opportunities (or going out and creating them yourself). For this third part, I'm going to touch on one of the most critical components to building up any blog into a successful one...
PART 3: Build Interest, Trust, and Eventually a Brand
Like any endeavor in life, you're not going to get anyone to pay attention to you unless you're interesting, and they're not going to keep paying attention to you unless they trust you. In order to build interest, you first need to find your niche (or niches) and try not to stray too far from it. If you try to be all things to all people, most likely you'll spread yourself too thin and won't come across as an expert in any one field. Think of the old expression "a mile wide and an inch deep." It's better to be "a yard wide and a mile deep," instead, don't you think? This doesn't mean you have to focus only on one topic, but make sure you're not focusing on too many. For instance, my blog is mainly focused on music, but I also write a lot of posts about books, fitness, and sports. That breadth and number of topics seems to work for me, and there's a lot of overlap between some of them; for instance, most of the books I write about have to do with music. In this way, I've concentrated my focus on a select number of subjects that can allow me to show that I have a high degree of mastery and expertise. (The use of the word "expert" isn't to imply that one has to be a complete and total authority on a subject, but rather that one has a deeper and more fundamental understanding of a topic beyond what the average or casual fan would have). If you show that you have knowledge of a subject beyond the average person, it will give your readers confidence in what you've written and it will enhance your reputation as a blogger and writer. Also, combine this with the generation of a sufficient amount of quality content and you will establish yourself as an authority worthy of repeat visits; this will then lead to your readers being much more likely to refer others to your blog and to recommend it within their circle of friends which will help grow your readership base. Once you've created a fair amount of quality content that demonstrates your knowledge (and you do it on a regular basis), the level of trust that readers have in you and your blog will grow and your readers should remain loyal, interested, and engaged for a long time to come.
To this end, what I have found over the past year (and what I hope you will find, too) is that as you build up a catalog of quality posts on your blog and gradually build up a loyal reader base, you'll in turn build regular traffic. Initially, and for the first several months or more, you'll notice (if you pay attention to your analytics and stats) that you will have some posts that will give a solid spike in traffic, while other days you will have little or no traffic. However, if you persevere, eventually your catalog of quality posts will be there for readers to keep coming back to and (re)discover. There will then come a time when you will have a blog that is self-perpetuating in terms of popularity, viewership, and growth...those days of little to no traffic will be gone (or at least, greatly reduced). From personal experience, I used to get excited when I would break 50 visitors in a day, then 100, and so on. On the flipside, I would also get disappointed on the days where I would only have 15 visitors. I kept at it, however, and what I eventually ended up with is a blog that routinely gets hundreds of visitors a day, with some days being better (and in some cases, MUCH better!) than others. This can depend on a few factors...sometimes, a certain post is interesting enough that it attracts a lot of attention. Other times, an older post of mine is rediscovered and results in a huge upsurge in traffic. And of course, you never know which posts will go viral, or why, but when it happens it's very exciting! Of course, blogging isn't all about page hits, but it is a good feeling to know that what you're writing is of interest to people and is being looked at. The Rock and Roll Chemist is now at the steady state where a slow traffic day still results in at least 100 unique visitors each day, but every week brings more growth...this is what keeps me excited: knowing that people are still interested in what I'm writing and that they want more of it. I want each and every one of you reading this to achieve this as well! However, once you've reached this stage, it's not time to rest on your laurels; like anything, if you want to maintain something at a high level and if you want to improve upon it, you've got to continue to work at it. In the end, both you and your readers will be rewarded: you'll become a better writer and blogger, and your readers will get even better content. Everyone wins!
Once your reputation has been built up and you've given your readers a reason to trust you, you will have created a new brand: YOU! As someone who has shown themselves to have expertise in a specific area (or a few specific areas), your readers will keep coming back for more; however, they will also expect you to maintain the same high level of quality and fairly regular schedule for new content. As such, it's important that you don't squander this trust and interest by failing to live up to it! The minute you start blogging, you start building up your brand. Whether this means your brand is you yourself or whether it's your blog as its own entity, the choice is entirely yours. In either case, though, it's important to respect and honor the trust your readers place in you in every way. This means not only in what content you post and how good it is, but how you interact and engage with your audience and how you promote and expose your blog (both of these topics will be covered in later parts of this series). Make sure that you build your own brand and reputation in a way that you will be proud of; it also helps to think of what kind of blogs and bloggers you like to follow and interact with yourself. Think about what you like (or dislike) about them and whether you would like your readers to think of you in the same way, and then model your brand on that. As anyone who has ever used the Internet knows, especially in 2014, once an online brand and reputation is established, it's very hard to change people's minds after the fact. Make sure you do it the right way from the very beginning: start slowly, build from the ground up, and do it carefully and thoughtfully so that as your blog and brand grows, it's only in a positive direction. Not only will this feel rewarding and satisfying to you, but it just might help you start to attract some of the opportunities that were discussed in Part 2, and who would complain about that?