How to growth hack your blog and increase readership – Part 1

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This blog post is about growth hacking to increase your blog readership. At the onset of this article I want to say this article is not about getting rich quick, selling a product that claims to increase blog readership, or being a “negative Nelly” about blog income rather it’s to present a tried and true method of solid blog growth. In this article, you may see outgoing links. Those links are not affiliated links; rather they are present to assist you in your endeavors of promoting your blog. Whether your blog is seasoned or brand new, considering all the factors of your blog will assist you to increase your blog following. With that said let’s begin, at the beginning.

The purpose of your blog

When you begin developing your blog concept or re-developing your blog you must decide “what is the main purpose of the blog”. Is its main purpose to promote and a good or a service? Is its purpose to provide information on a subject? Is its purpose to promote an affiliate good or service? Is its purpose of acting as a diary of personal events, interests, or hobbies?

Any of the 4 purposes listed above are valid reasons to start a blog. These are not the only valid reasons; rather just 4 of the main reasons people desire to start them.  Once you identify the purpose of your blog then it is time to begin to think about the goals for your blog and developing a plan.

Benjamin Franklin is accredited for once saying “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Selecting your Blogs host

Now that you have discovered the purpose of your blog it is time to make a decision. That decision is “will you now or in the future run ads on your blog”?

Most information sites will run ads on their blogs/sites using self-hosted (wordpress.org, drupal or etc) from their domain. Professional bloggers (without a traditional website) typically self-host from a dedicated domain hosting service (GoDaddy, Bluehost, i-page, etc.)

If you have an e-commerce site then it goes without saying that it’s best to add your blog to your websites domain and self-host, that way your company can highlight goods, services, awards, events, and so forth for your company and all your company’s endeavors are together. Corporate sites almost never sell ad space for goods and services if they have a blog. They advertise their own goods and services.

Many free blog sites will not allow you to create ads so if your intention is to earn income by generating ad revenues it may be best to be self-hosted on your own website and domain. If generating income from ads is not a concern for you or you just want a blog for personal posts then a free blog hosting service may serve you just fine.

Setting up your blog’s template

Setting up the colors schemes, header picture, description, post, static pages, and archives vary and truly is a matter of personal taste. I prefer darker backgrounds and light text. The reason for this is most free services and many individuals set up their blogs with a white background and black or dark blue text. I want my blog pages to stand out so I kind of swim upstream with the color scheme and do the reverse of the standard institution white background and black text. That said do what looks natural to you but at the same time I challenge you when you’re setting up your blog, to make its appearance at least uncommon if not totally unique to make it memorable and not just one of the many.

As for the header image use a bold image that contrasts well between the background and the text. In other words, if you’re using a black and white color scheme you want to use vivid images that do not lend themselves to the dark or light spectrum. Choose an image that will really stand out. Now that the “basic look” of the blog is set, let’s look at some of the “behind the scenes” items.

A few items you will want to have for your blog are breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs in a blog allow your reader to know exactly where they are on your blog. It also encourages them to click a link and go to another page within your blog without leaving the site. Both Drupal and WordPress have free plugins that create breadcrumbs automatically for you. To be effective breadcrumbs need to be right below the header image or the first item in your widgets column.

The second item in your widget column should be your blog categories. Basically for the same reason as breadcrumbs being the first item. Your categories widget allows the reader to see other posts you have created on a specific topic and encourages the reader to go to another page within your blog.

Two very critical items need to be in your widgets are an email sign up and your copyright notice. Your readers can subscribe and receive notifications of your new posts and a link to go to that new post via email. Email subscribers are the lifeblood of any blogger promoting goods and services for a business and for bloggers who provide information on a topic of interest to the subscriber and receive revenue from the sale of ads. Email signups keep readers engaged with your blog. Your copyright notice protects your writings from plagiarism.

Two invisible items that you should also invest time in developing and are invisible to your readers is Meta descriptions and structured data schema. Both these items are available to bloggers as free plugins. Search engines use Meta Descriptions when they index your page. A Meta description is 140 character (not words but letters numbers and spaces) describing your entry. Structured data schema gives search engines more information about the page than the meta description. Structured data schema in most plugins contains the entire text of the post, the author info, the type of page it is, the metadata and information on the blog post images. Using structured data schema helps generate traffic from search engines and seems to help new blog pages index sooner.

 

Writing your first or next blog post

The question most often asked by bloggers is what is the ideal length of a blog post? The ideal length of a blog post is 2250 to 2500 words. With that said, many blog posts range in the 500-1000 word range, which is fine if you can accurately cover your material with that short of a post but you should not expect the post to score very high with search engines. 500-1000 words are average if you want to attract followers and really see your blog readership grow you have to go beyond “average”. 1 or 2 posts a week that is at the “ideal length” will perform better for you than 5-10 posts that barely hit the 500-word mark. Always choose a quality of a written post rather than the number of posts released on your blog in one week.

The second question most often asked by bloggers is about keywords. How many keywords or Tags should a blog post contain? The answer is simple but hated, the answer is anywhere from 1 to 20. It depends on how many unique phrases will accurately describe your post. Notice I said phrases, I said it on purpose. The misguided thought that a single word, in today’s tech and search savvy society is not a reality anymore. People now search for answers using phrases, not just singular words. Let’s think about that for a second. Let’s say you were looking for an oil painting of a bald eagle for your home. Would you enter the word “bird” in a google search? Probably not! You would probably enter something like “bald eagle paintings for sale” or some similar phrase. If you would do a search that way would it not make sense that others are doing the same? If you do not, please know that the majority of people do and to generate interest in going to your posts you should as well. Besides your blog post will also go in the search results of single words.

Graphics and images for your blog

Graphics and images for your blog posts are vitally important. The lead image (or featured image) should be related to your post or at least loosely related and draws or captures the attention of the potential reader. It is best if you use your own images. If you’re not a photographer or if you cannot create clip art or vectors this can be a challenge. Just because the image aspect may be a challenge, it is not impossible to overcome.

There are a lot of CC0 and CC-1 royalty free images out on the internet, however, you definitely need to be mindful of the image’s license. I, personally have many copyrighted images. All my images are attributed “all rights reserved”.

What “all rights reserved” means is simply the copyright holder reserves the right to license an image for use or reject the use of their image. A fee it typically charged for the use of an image. That fee varies by use and type. All rights reserved licenses come in 2 flavors “royalty free” and “rights managed”. The difference between these two license types is very important. Please note: the definitions given here are the “standard or common definitions” for these licenses. Please always check the actual license terms before purchasing an image for use on your blog.

The standard definition of a royalty free image is: for a specified price a license is granted to use an image and with no additional licenses required based on a volume of use, the purpose of use, a time the image is used, or sales volume. If you are using an image for a blog and you decide to purchase image(s), royalty free for web publication is definitely the way to go. You may or may not have to attribute the photographer or artist to use their work. Please check the license for the terms on attributing the image.

The standard definition of a “rights managed” work is a one-time use license granted to the purchaser. These licenses typically have a time of use limitations, a maximum number of items bearing the intellectual or visual works printed or manufactured, and or other royalty payment requirements. These types of images are typically not used for web publishing in a blog because at some point you will need to repurchase or extend the license by the additional purchase of a licensing.

Please be mindful of these and all image licenses and their terms. Violations of a copyright can cost you. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorney’s fees and court costs. This even applies to Violations of a Creative Commons license or if you purchased a license and that license does not cover the intended use of the work.

A “CC0” (or public domain) is a non-attributed public domain image. If the image is listed with a CC0 license the original copyright owner of the image does not need to be identified with the image and the public domain image is free to use for personal or commercial use.  Although the image is the public domain you cannot claim authorship of the image but it is free to use or create derivative works from. CC0 images when they match or fit the purpose of your blog post is a choice resource to use.

A Creative Commons By “CC By” allows for use of the image personally or commercially as long as you attribute “state who the creator was” and reference the license. Typically, the license reference and attribution information are downloaded or linked on the web page holding the image. A term of the license is that you provide this information exactly as provided. These images are also good resources for your blog with no real expense other than giving credit where credit is due. You can create a derivative work under this license but you must state that it is a derivative work of the original.

A Creative Commons Share Alike “CC By+ ShareAlike” license has the same terms as the “CC BY” as far as commercial use for your blog but also adds an additional term, that term being if you create a derivative work from the original the derivative work also becomes part of the CC and others can use and remix your image just like the original.

A Creative Commons no derivatives licensed image can also be used for commercial use. The work cannot be modified and usually requires attribution to the original creator.

The three licenses that are typically not appropriate for use in a blog post in general, but particularly if you are running ads or creating income from your blog are: Creative Commons non-commercial identified as  “ CC-NC (attribute and for personal use only), CC-NC-SA (non-commercial use only and share alike caveat), and CC-By-NC-ND (attribute, personal use, and no derivatives)

A few free resources for CC images are: Public Domain Clip art ,Dreamstime free images  Public Domain Pictures  1 Million Free pictures and Splitshire

Now that you have located your blog pages images download them and place them on your page, add the text, make sure the proper category is either chosen or created, add your keywords, and publish.

In part two of this series, we will address “now that I have published a post correctly now what”?. The first key component to blog viewer growth is setting up your blog properly, creating a post that has great and informative content, and stunning visuals for the content. Next, is promoting your content to see your readership grow.

Have you ever wondered what makes a good blog entry, how to monetize your blog, or how long a quality post should be? This blog series

To read part 2 of this series click: How to growth hack your blog and increase readership – Part 2

Author: Chris Flees

I am an artist, art promoter, and art marketing professional who specializes and blogs primarily about art topics and the "behind the scenes" of my subject and images. Occasionally I blog about Christian topics.