This article originally appeared as a guest post I wrote for Big Girl Branding.
I think the main goal of any blog when it first gets online should be to become an authority in a niche subject. Once you become an authority it becomes much, much easier to drive traffic because people hear about you. They see you all over other blogs. So traffic kind of comes naturally after that.
— Ana Hoffman, on becoming an authority blogger
Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe is an authority blogger. In just 1.5 years online she’s reached the Alexa 8000’s and proven she knows how to get an enormous amount of traffic in a short period of time. I did this video interview with Ana to a) learn her strategies for driving traffic, and b) find out how to become an authority blogger. This post includes Ana’s six steps to becoming an authority blogger.
1: Pick a Niche With Demand
I started studying traffic generation, and as I looked into that I saw there was a need for other people to know that information too.
— Ana Hoffman, on finding your niche
Ana’s first step, to pick a niche there is demand for, is sometimes neglected. She’s noticed that often people go for topics they love or have passion for, which is great – but not necessarily profitable. At this stage then it’s important to decide whether you are blogging because of your passion, or if you want to make money because this is your business. You can still have passion for your business – making it work and creating systems to make it work better, but for the topic you just need to like it and know enough to research and write posts.
For Ana, the transition to writing about traffic generation was natural. As she researched this topic herself, she was also observing. Ana recommends reading other blogs, comments on them, and forums to see what people are asking about. Once you do that you can try and match what people want to know about with knowledge you already have or knowledge that is easily obtainable.
Action Step: Look at blogs and forums for a specific niche. Go straight to the comments and see what kinds of questions people are asking. If you can answer those questions, you can build a blog around the niche.
2: Prove You Can Get Results
It does have to stem from experience, you can’t just get it out of thin air… It won’t go, because people will know you are faking it.
— Ana Hoffman, on proving you can get results
Ana warns that if you are just getting started with blogging, not to start a blog about making money blogging. Why? You will be making zero until you get established. To become an authority blogger you have to not just write about great strategies, but also show that you are using them to get results.
At Traffic Generation Cafe, Ana proved her strategies worked by reaching the Alexa 100,000’s in just three months.
Here are some more suggestions on how to prove your strategies:
- Personal Finance Blog: each month show the declining balance on your loans.
- Lifestyle Design Blog: show off pictures of your desirable lifestyle
- Marketing Blog for Consultancy Business: include stories of how your clients applied your advice and got results
- Creative Writing Blog: write REALLY creative stuff!
- Harry Potter Blog: give in-depth analysis of the characters, settings, plot – anything to show off that you know more than the average fan
- Blogging Interviews Site: get interviews with the world’s top bloggers :- )
Action Step: Qualify your finding from step one by proving you can get results. The results don’t have to be instant, but make a plan and stick to it.
3: Write Epic Content
People have to come to your blog and say “Wow, I’ve never read this before. This is amazingly helpful to me. I want to come back and read this again!”.
— Ana Hoffman, on just how good your writing needs to be.
When you think of authority bloggers, do some of these names come to mind?
There’s a wide variety of authority there. Personal finance and behavioural change, online marketing, living a remarkable life, writing – but the one element that ties all these bloggers together is they write Epic Sh*t.
Writing epic content basically boils down to this:
Write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness.
–Corbett Barr, on writing epic content
So how do you that as a beginner blogger? Ana suggests writing about your experience getting started. Things like how you evaluated your web hosting provider or selected a theme (by the way, every blogger I interview says to get a premium theme – it’s a big part of establishing authority too). After that, make sure you aren’t just writing what everyone else is. Writing a post about how to start a Facebook fan page is old news, so turn it around: how can you build an email list via a Facebook fan page? Put a new spin on it. Disagree with it. Whatever. Just don’t retell the same old info you’ll find on every other blog because no-one will read it.
Ana knows that when you are getting started it can be difficult to find your writing voice. Eventually she settled on writing plainly about things – writing in the way that she speaks and not trying to sound too fancy. She doesn’t use too many words or write a mile long intro.
Instead, focus on the look and feel of your content. Ana says people come to your blog and skim through the info to see if it is helpful. You can make it easier for them by adding h3 tags, bold font and images. By making your writing accessible for people they will read it, and as they read it you will become an authority for your niche.
Epic seems like a pretty high standard right? It takes practice and experimenting to find the voice that resonates with your audience – but put the work in (and I will too) and we will get there!
Action Step: Before publishing your next post, give it the scan test. Imagine a reader lands on your page and skims through the post – would they be drawn into your writing?
4: Form a Blogging Circle
It was just group of people who were good solid bloggers and hungry for more attention.
— Ana Hoffman, on her first blogging circle
Once you’ve picked an in-demand niche, and are writing epic content, Ana’s next step is to get the word out. She says at first you alone cannot do that, and you need help from others. Ana’s “others” were other bloggers writing about topics surrounding internet marketing. They weren’t hugely popular, but some had a little readership and they all had the same problem of bringing traffic to their blogs.
So, Ana invited the other bloggers to form a blogging circle with her. That meant they would comment and share each others posts as a way of creating social proof. When new visitors arrived at their blogs, the perception was a lively and active community. Ana says thats the initial push your blog needs.
Here’s how to setup your own blogging circle:
Step 1: Identifying blogs in your niche that have quality writing and you enjoy reading. Quality is critical, since when you press Like or Tweet you are putting your name to that content. Ana recommends a total of 15-20 blogs.
Step 2: Start commenting on these blogs to build a relationship. Since they don’t get much traffic you will be noticed immediately.
Step 3: Email the bloggers and say “I’m thinking of forming a blogging circle, the benefits are we will all get more comments, shares, traffic and social proof. Would you like to join?”
Step 4: Give your group a home. Ana formed a private Facebook group that only her and the others knew about.
Step 5: Write the rules. Each week the group members would post a link to a particular post, everyone participating was expected to comment on all other requests. So, each would get 10-15 comments per post. If someone was slacking, Ana would follow up with an email and eventually boot them from the group.
Action Step: Tonight, find 10 blogs in your niche that are still getting started – leave a comment on them.
5: Comment on Other Blogs
Commenting on other blogs can be pointless. It doesn’t bring traffic. But it does build your brand and recognition.
— Ana Hoffman, on why you should comment on other blogs
Since you are involved in the blogging world, you probably like receiving comments on your own blog, and you probably leave comments on other blogs. It’s a community.
Ana says that comments are not a traffic generation strategy (at least not a meaningful one), but instead can be used to build brand and recognition. Combined with Danny Iny’s idea of micro-networks, focus your comments on several blogs where your desired audience hangs out. They will see your comments everywhere, and a natural relationship starts developing.
Action Step: Leave a comment on this post ;- ).
6: Remove Negative Social Proof
If not enough people follow you and you put that widget in your sidebar, then people think “it’s probably not worth liking you”.
— Ana Hoffman, on making sure your social proof actually proves something
So, all the authority blogs you visit really get to show off their numbers.
Awesome numbers, right? And they benefit from the snowball effect, the higher than number the more readily people will join. But if you are just getting started, you don’t have numbers to show off – you have a chicken and egg problem.
One quick tip (that I expect you’ve already thought of) is to ask your personal network of friends and family to join your Facebook/Twitter/RSS/Email list/whatever. Ana says once you reach a couple hundred people, you can put the widget in your sidebar.
Action Step: Invite your personal network to join your Facebook fan page.
Not only was my interview with Ana full of really practical advice, but it was inspiring too. So, let me leave you with one more quote from Ana that really resonated with me:
I didn’t know when I crossed that line of becoming an authority blog. But once my readers started telling me that’s what they considered me, I thought “okay, I’ve finally made it”. So, it probably took me about six months to get there. If you are new to blogging, it doesn’t take years and years online to get to where I am now, it’s very possible to do.
— Ana Hoffman, inspiring us all to reach higher with our blogging
Thanks so much for reading this post. If you found a useful tip in it, can you please share it?