What to read, what to write, and when to publish it.
Every blogger hits a rut.
No matter how long you’ve blogged or how successful you’ve been, there are moments when things stop clicking and traffic flatlines.
Here’s how to get yourself back on track…
Pretend You’re Starting From Scratch
Mindset matters and blogging is a mind game.
A great blog post is the result of your ability to coax ideas from within and express them in a way that resonates with an intended audience.
It’s more art than science, but when you do it for a while it’s easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same patterns over and over again.
That works…until it doesn’t.
If your traffic has flatlined, it may be that your approach has gotten a little stale, predictable, or repetitive.
When you say something that resonates, it’s tempting to say it again…and again…and again.
And at some point, people tune out.
A great way to break out of that state is to take a step back and pretend you were starting your blog from scratch tomorrow.
Forget what you’ve done up to this point, ignore how you typically do things, and free yourself to consider what you’d do if you were starting over.
Embrace that mindset as you go through the following exercises…
(Re)Define Your Goal
Great blogs evolve.
The goal you had when you started — if you even had one — is likely different than the goal you’d have if you were to start today.
Consider why you want to blog NOW and what you hope to accomplish with your posts.
Fill in the blanks of this sentence:
“I write blog posts to help [INSERT TARGET AUDIENCE] [INSERT DESIRED VALUE].”
There’s no one right answer to that formula and the only wrong answer is no answer at all.
Here are a few examples of well-defined goals:
“I write blog posts to help musicians learn how to grow their audience using social media.”
“I write blog posts to help web developers become better at their craft.”
“I write blog posts to help writers get more traffic for their blog posts.” (So meta.)
You can even use that formula if the value you seek from blogging is ultimately for yourself.
“I write blog posts to help clarify my thinking about business strategy.”
“I write blog posts to help cope with the challenges of being a parent.”
Side note: It’s fine if the goal of your blog posts is to help yourself. Blogging can be tremendously beneficial to you, but be honest about who you’re trying to serve and understand when you aim to help yourself, traffic shouldn’t be a goal.
You get traffic by helping others.
If you blog for yourself, the value is unlocked in the writing and it shouldn’t be tied to how many people read your posts (or not).
Choose Three (New?) Topics To Blog About
Don’t assume you must write about the same topics you’ve always written about — instead, consider what you’d be excited to write about tomorrow.
Pick three topics that relate to the goal you defined above and which will be valuable to the audience you aim to serve.
As along as the topics you choose align with that intention, feel free to pick whatever topics you’d like.
Ideally, choose topics that are specific enough to help your readers, but broad enough that they can be explored from multiple angles in multiple blog posts.
Speaking of which…
Read Five Posts From Other Bloggers On Each Of Your Chosen Topics
One reason your blog traffic may have flatlined is because you’ve spent a little too much time in your own universe.
Your output can only be as good as your inputs, so it’s crucial to expose yourself to a variety of ideas related to your topics.
A simple way to do this is to seek out at least five other blog posts written about each of the topics you’ve chosen to blog about in the coming weeks.
Here are a few easy ways to find relevant blog posts:
- Search Medium for posts related to that topic and check out the Top Stories on that topic. For example, here are the top stories when you search for blogging on Medium.
- Search Google for blog post about [TOPIC]. For example, here are the search results for blog post about habits.
- Search Twitter for “great blog post” [TOPIC]. For example, here are the search results for “great blog post” Education.
The goal in reading these posts isn’t just to learn more about your topic, but to allow them to help inspire your own.
What’s not being said in other posts that you believe?
What conventional wisdom do you disagree with?
What’s an idea in these posts that you can expand on or add perspective to?
Keep your observations in mind because when you come up with your own new post ideas in a moment, you may want to reference (and link to) some of these posts you’ve consumed within them.
Blog posts that respond to things a community is already discussing can be a great way to join a larger universe that will be interested in the value you have to offer.
Generate Nine Post Ideas Related To Your Three Chosen Topics
Now that you’ve researched your three chosen topics and found a bit of inspiration from the writing of others on those subjects, it’s time to create a list of post ideas to tackle in your upcoming blog posts.
Aim for at least three individual post ideas related to each of your three topics.
This approach does a few things for you:
First, it ensures your posts align with your topics of interest, which were chosen to provide the promised value to a specific audience.
It gives you the best shot of success with each post.
Second, if you write at least three posts on each of your topics, you create a system where it’s easy to drive readers from one post to another because any post they read has at least two others closely related to that topic.
(This isn’t true when you publish your first post of course, but it becomes true as you publish more of your posts.)
This turns a casual reader of one post, into a loyal reader of three and can have a huge impact on your traffic and connection to your audience.
Third, when you write multiple posts on a single topic you give yourself multiple shots at a breakout hit on the subject.
You never know which posts will spark with an audience and spread.
So if you only give yourself one shot at a topic and it doesn’t catch on, you might assume that topic doesn’t interest people.
But it’s just as likely that single post didn’t catch on, but your second or third on that topic will.
Give yourself multiple swings at the plate to increase your chances of getting a hit.
If you struggle to come up with three post ideas for each of your three topics, I’ve included a few resources at the bottom of this post to help you do so.
Set Up An Email List And/Or Optimize Your Existing One
To reach an audience, you need a direct connection to them and the best way to do this is through an email list or newsletter.
I could spend hours talking about how to grow your newsletter (and have — check the resources at the bottom of this post), but for the purposes of this post here’s some simple advice:
If you don’t have an email list, set one up before you publish your next blog post.
There are a million different mailing list service providers (Mailchimp, Aweber, Substack, etc.) and most are relatively the same.
Don’t agonize over the choice — just pick one and set up an account.
Then, write a simple call-to-action sentence with a link to your signup page and put it at the bottom of every blog post you publish.
In that sentence, give people a reason to sign up.
Don’t just tell them you’re going to email them your articles — emphasize the value for them.
For example, you’ll note the call to action for my For The Interested newsletter at the bottom of this post doesn’t just say, “Sign up to get my future posts.”
It says, “Get more tips on how to produce, promote, and profit from your creations.”
Once your readers sign up, you’ll be able to reach them on a more consistent basis and it will have a massive impact on the traffic you get to your posts.
If you’re starting from scratch, here’s a simple way to get your first few subscribers.
Email people you know who may be interested in the topics you plan to write about individually and say something like this:
I’m planning to write some blog posts in the next few weeks about TOPIC and I thought you might find them helpful.
Would you like me to email you a heads up about them when I publish them?
Not everyone you know will say they want them, but that’s fine — don’t get discouraged. A few people will say yes and you’ll be on your way.
Without an email list, you have to rely on people to remember to come back to your blog to see your posts (they won’t) or count on social media platforms to show your posts to your followers (their algorithms won’t).
If you want more traffic, get more email subscribers.
Pick One Social Media Platform To Focus On
Speaking of social media, there is value — and traffic — to be found there.
But most people spread themselves too thin and try to be everywhere, when the truth is you’ll get more traction if you focus your efforts on one particular platform.
It’s fine to have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., but pick one platform to be your main focus and spend 90% of your social media time on that platform.
The goal is to become part of a community on that platform where your target audience hangs out and develop relationships with people who will ultimately enjoy — and share — your blog posts.
Don’t worry about getting more followers.
Focus on building relationships with people in your target audience, one by one.
This is not something that will happen overnight. Forget going “viral.”
Just use social media to find and engage with your target audience and provide value to them — reply to their posts as much or more as you post on your own accounts.
You’ll be amazed what can happen when you do so.
To help you figure out how best to use social media to grow your audience, I’ve included a link to some advice about how to use Twitter to do so at the bottom of this post (90% of that advice is relevant on other social platforms as well).
Commit To Publish At Least One Post Per Week
Your traffic won’t grow if you never post and it won’t grow if you constantly post junk.
Quantity, quality, and frequency are all equally important — aim to find a sweet spot between the three.
A good starting point to find your sweet spot is to publish a new blog post at least once a week.
When your blog is in a rut, one of the things you need to do is to reverse that inertia and build momentum — a weekly posting schedule can help you do that.
Committing to post every week forces you to let go of perfectionist tendencies and insecurities and forces you to put your writing into the world even if you’re not quite sure it’s ready.
My favorite quote on this subject comes from Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who said, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready — it goes on because it’s Saturday night at 11:30.”
Blog the same way. Publish because it’s time to publish.
Don’t wait for a perfection that’s never going to come.
Write a first draft of a post without caring how awful it may be — just get something down.
Edit it no more than three times maximum.
Analyze The Results Of Your Posts
The final step to jump starting your blog is to pay attention to what happens to your posts AFTER you publish them.
Measure more than just the traffic and don’t conduct a binary analysis where it’s a win if it gets a certain amount of traffic and a failure if it doesn’t.
Instead, examine all the little signals you can get in how people react to the post.
Did lots of people click to read it but few shared it?
That may mean the headline was great and topic was interesting to an audience, but post underdelivered what was promised.
What individual lines did readers highlight, or share, or comment on?
That may show you ideas which are worth expanding on in a future post.
Did it spark conversations between your audience or did people reach out to you to discuss elements of the post?
That may show you the degree to which it made readers think or act on the information you shared.
What did people agree or disagree with in the post? Did people misunderstand it?
That may indicate the clarity of your writing and the way your thinking aligns or runs counter to the conventional wisdom in your field.
There are clues everywhere in how readers react to your posts that you can learn from and use to improve the creation and promotion of your future posts…if you pay attention to them.
The nine posts you’ll hopefully publish following the steps outlined in this post will drive an increase in your traffic, but ultimately they’re just a beginning.
The lessons you learn from their creation and the reactions they get from an audience will go a long way toward determining the fate of you next batch of posts after that.