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Escape Your Blog to Grow it

LionessI don’t remember exactly when I first shared my “flagship content” concept at Performancing.com but it came from looking at how we were going to achieve growth. We were hovering around the top 20 blogs on the internet, as ranked by Technorati. Each successful website reaches the same stage, but each gets there in its own way and on a different timescale.

What happens is you work hard to acquire any attention at all, you determine what works, get serious growth and then hit a plateau.

This blog has been on a plateau for a couple of years.

Part of the problem is we learn the system for how to grow our traffic and then we abandon it.

We focus too much in one area, and that halts or even reverses our growth.

Flagships, Cornerstones and Evergreen Content

Why do I talk about “Flagship Content” at all when there are seemingly other terms that mean the same thing? Other people do use the phrases interchangebly, but the idea sprung from seeing what was working and why.

Just like in a shopping mall, there are “destination” stores. These are what attract the visitors, but in between you get curiosity traffic and stopping for a coffee. It might be these smaller stores turn out to be a real draw for you in future. When you have a good experience at a mall you are more likely to return.

But why do you know about those destinations in the first place?

Cornerstone content is the foundation of your blog. A useful resource, jargon defined, robust how-to information. Evergreen content can get bookmarks and long term residual traffic, even passive income. The real win though is when that content escapes your blog, when it gets passed around, when people quote it, when people credit you in presentations.

Beating the Plateau with Attraction, Retention and Conversion

Let’s take a look again at the ARC Process. ARC stands for “Attraction, Retention and Conversion“.  You might have heard me talk about this in my courses and workshops.

Most people focus on attraction, they try to get attention, they link bait, they buy traffic, and research new ways to increase their visitor count. All the while their existing visitors are not returning for a second viewing. Some bloggers get to the point where attraction is not as big a priority any longer, they are getting sufficient results so get distracted in other areas. We live in “Retention mode” and only maintain their blogs to cater to keeping their existing audience happy (guilty!). The last group focus so much on conversion that their audience goes in reverse, and ultimately lose relevance.

So you have to look at what works for your audience in terms of attracting new visitors and reaching new audiences, keeping your existing subscribers happy, and then working in appropriate conversion (relevant offers, suitable affiliates, light sprinkling of ads). You also have to look at the interaction between – does someone arrive via a long tail SEO phrase then click a related post before buying a premium theme? …

Escaping Your Blog in Order to Grow it

So we get to my point (and I do have one, honest!).

What got my blog to the point it is at was by heavily guest posting. I guest posted so much that people were telling me I was getting over-exposed, so I pulled back. Then I stopped almost completely, apart from when a friend needed a hand or when I had something to say that suited another audience better. Upshot being … stalled growth.

It’s like when a band stops touring, never promotes, appears on TV, and such. People start saying “remember them?”, “are they still going?”. Retention is good, essential even, but even the best loyalty generating content is not going to do the trick unless you keep your own insights, experiences and exposure fresh. You do have to keep doing the attraction, not just to bring in outside audiences but to invigorate your existing audience. Go out and let people know you still have something to share.

Even the best zoo is still a cage.

Build your outposts. Get networking. Go out into your niche communities.

If you want to start growing your quality traffic, build some SEO-boosting links, and reach a fresh audience, check out my Guest Posting guide.

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Comments

  1. Other ideas?
    – go into OTHER niche communities. Find the hubs – the people that are members of multiple communities – and learn whats get their attention.
    – Create listening posts and spend a lot of time just watching people rather than taking action
    – Say yes to things that scare the shit out of you. I don’t really wanna go to blogworld nor do the product with Dave as it makes me physically sick to think about it. I know it’s going to help me get into a growth mindset and teach me stuff that will ultimately benefit my audience.
    – volunteer to help people out.

    I’m growing too fast for my liking at the moment and that’s because of all the crazy stuff I’ve done over two years to get here. I’m now getting pulled up on how I hide to encourage my growth stalling and have had to stop ‘shooting myself in the foot’.

    Oh, and randomly skyping people helps. Not if your shy but you learn so much.

    • Good tips :)

      I guess by random skyping you mean unplanned conversations rather than guessing a random name and saying “you don’t know me but … want to chat?” ;)

      • Unplanned, totally :-)

        I can’t do it as much but I love just talking to people and, if there is an obvious connection, hit them up for a chat on skype. I get to learn more about them that way and get an insight into their personality and the type of person they are. That helps me figure out pretty quickly if they are a good person and sorta worth being friends with :-)

  2. Chris,

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I said, “I wonder what happened to ‘group x'”.

    Then they appear and they have been working on a new album for the past year but no one knows they were.

    I suppose the answer to tell people what you are working on.

    Then, as you say, the other extreme – over exposure. Again, you can quickly get sick and tired of someone who keeps ‘popping up’ everywhere.

    The trick is getting the balance!

    Andrew

    • Yup, to continue the band analogy, you have to pick the right appearances, the good festivals, the appropriate radio shows. You have to cross over rather than just keep appealing to your hardcore fans if you want to grow your base, without “selling out”. Delicate balance!

  3. I think this should all be part of the blogging strategy. So many people get inwardly focussed on their blogs, and they don’t realise the best thing for the blog, it to give it a break, and provide some great content to other blogs. And not just on any blogs, but the right blogs.

    But you’re correct, there needs to be a healthy balance… Is 1 guest post a week too much?

    • It’s not just the frequency but the audiences you are in front of. If you are constantly guest posting to the same choir you preach to on your own blog then you will be over exposed far sooner than if you did more posts but for wider audiences. Does that make sense?

      • LOVE THIS. You see the same people over and over again on the same 20 or so blogs. It gets boring and stale REAL fast. One of the best things I did as a social media “consultant” (yuck, yes, I know)was to stop posting on other social media sites or blogs about blogs and start guest posting on niche sites. Showing people how photographers or teachers or authors can use social media has becoming my biggest draw for new clients.

        So smart what you say about preaching to the choir!

  4. I’d like to heartily second Jade’s advice to explore communities that may at first seem outside your realm of influence or interest. People are pretty complex beings. We like variety in our lives. Sometimes, a post published on a kind of off-the-wall blog can generate more traffic and interest because you’re introducing new topics and conversation – you stand out more.

    Love the post, Chris, as always.

  5. I love how guest posting is something that everyone knows about but shrugs off at one point or another. But it really is a powerful way to build up your blog, and it’s something that if done right will really reap rewards.

    Besides, it’s a great way to explore new styles of writing and see where your best audience fit hangs out.

    I love the way you shared your own story on this one Chris. :)

  6. Like the ARC — nice mnemonic. I never realized it would be so hard to get traffic and comments. It is an art.

  7. I think guest blogging is one of the best strategies that is being suggested by many professional bloggers these days but what I think about this is, if he/she is already a professional blogger don’t he know that guest blogging would help him spread his market? Or do you think such bloggers haven’t yet participated in any blogs? I am asking this because the suggestion you are giving here to spread a blog by doing guest posting can only followed by a professional blogger/writer. If my assumption is wrong, please clarify.

  8. Hey Chris,

    I sort of have a love/hate relationship with guest posting. I have gp’d to many medium sized blogs (quite popular), and I got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of kick-ass feedback. But I barely got visitors coming to my blog. When I write grrreat guest posts and send them to the biggies (you know the ones with the word “blogger” in them ), they get ignored. Argh !

    Any suggestions ?

    • There are a couple of reasons why they might be rejected. Usually comes down to the content not matching their audience/style or not knowing who you are.

      Are these bloggers familiar with you? If not, make sure you get known (in a good way) – add valuable comments in their comment areas, link to them from your other posts, talk to them in social media …

      Make sure you read submission guidelines (and follow them of course), and also it is often a good bet that they will receive many, many submissions so find out who the person is who vets these submissions and try out some ideas before writing the article in full.

  9. Love the zoo analogy. Couldn’t agree more.

    How do you know what works and what doesn’t if you always do the same thing?

    I’ll try anything once. And no, this practice doesn’t extend to my personal life. (I’m waiting for Jade to jump in with a snarky comment. :P)

  10. This post really got me thinking. After reading it, I realized that I’ve been hovering over the retention phase. I’ve been focusing more on providing quality content that will help my current readers keep coming back for more that my blog is suffering in the attraction and conversion phases. As a result, my blog isn’t growing.

    I’ve considered guest posting on other blogs for a while now. I’ve heard so many good things about guest posting in the past but never really took part in it.

    Thanks for capturing my attention and pointing me to the right path.

    • The problem with the loyalty aspects is your niche can have a natural turnover – look at Darren’s Digital Photography School, there will be a segment of his audience who “moves on” because they are no longer new to photography or who give up the hobby. You have to always be looking both at new and existing people :)

  11. Thanks Chris. I’m a relatively new blogger who is having to take enforced time out at the moment and was concerned that I would lose the interest of the few visitors I have acquired during my absence. It is good to have a pre-warning of what to look out for and how to keep interest from waning.

    • If your existing visitors have subscribed then it is surprising how many of them will be willing to pick up right where you left – just don’t take up too much space with an apology for your absence as that is all about you, give them something useful/valuable on your return so they remember why they subscribed in the first place :)

  12. Duke Snyder says:

    In reading this it dawned on me suddenly the similarity blogging has with football…forget the “trick plays” and concentrate on getting the basics mastered well.

  13. Nice post Chris,
    I know this a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string question’ but, any approx Y/N ratio for guest post requests. Obviously, know your target blog, have relevant post, etc and you’ll likely have a better response. Any numbers you’ve seen on approaches, either for yourself or clients?
    Thanks,
    James

    • As you suspect, it is pretty much down to the individual scenario. The more well known you are to the blog owner, the more on-topic, the more open the blog owner, the more compelling your hook, the more likely you are to get a yes. That said, it can be a numbers game in many niches where guest posting is a new thing. Best to try it out then work on your own progress I would suggest.

  14. Hi Chris

    What sort of volume of Guest posting did you participate in broad terms to get the exposure?

    I have had one person guest post on my Blog but its not something I have really considered until now

    Rgeards

    Pete

  15. Some great advice. I have been dealing with some of these issues on my blog so I’m going to take this to heart!

  16. I am so passing on this post to my peeps. It’s what I’ve been sharing all along. Recently we did guest posts on over 20 blogs in 2 weeks – ok so it was a concerted virtual ‘event’ besides the exposure I also found tons of ideas popping up while writing those posts, it revealed some weaknesses that I need to work on (didn’t expect that to come out of guest blogging) and the part about stretching. Oh how true!