What's your first blogging niche
17 Beginner Blogging Tips (That Actually Work)
In 2015 I started a breakdance blog with my friends (has now stopped working).
Even though we didn't know anything about blogging or SEO, at the best of times we were able to get 3,000 organic visitors per month.
Today I work at Ahrefs, where our blog has grown over the last few years to an estimated 270,000 monthly search visitors.
During that time, I've learned a lot about how to get traffic to a blog.
And in this article, I'm going to share some of the tips I would have hoped I had when I started.
Let's get started.
1. Go into the alcove
Statista estimates the number of bloggers in the US will reach 31.7 million by 2020. And that's only in the US!
Which means, if you start a blog today, there will be a lot of competition.
Fortunately is there a way to stand out and attract readers to your blog:
Go to the alcove.
What does that mean?
It means focusing on an extremely specific topic and becoming the ultimate expert on that topic.
For example, if you're starting a travel blog, then you could just limit yourself to UK travel. On the other hand, if you're starting a business blog, then a home-based business for parents short on time might be the way to go.
Later, when your blog is already gaining momentum, you can cover other topics that are broader.
That's what we did at Ahrefs. We started to focus solely on SEO and tried to do better than anyone else. This helped kick off our initial growth.
Traffic analytics from our earlier days.
It wasn't until 2018 when we broached broader topics like marketing ideas and podcast advertising.
It's not just us either. Many of the top bloggers started the same way.
Mark Manson’s blog was originally about masculinity and dating. Ramit Sethi, founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, started his blog by writing about the connection between psychology and personal finance.
The lesson is clear: if you want to get going, go into the niche.
2. Write about topics that people are looking for
51% of all website traffic comes from organic search. That said, in order for your blog to run well, you need to write about topics that people are looking for.
The question is: how do you find such topics?
The answer: Use a keyword research tool to generate ideas.
For example, you can enter a keyword on AnswerThePublic — a free tool — and it will show you related questions that people put on Google.
There are numerous free keyword tools out there, so make your choice.
Unfortunately, most of these tools don't show keyword metrics like monthly search volume, even if they're excellent for brainstorming. That's a problem. Ultimately, there is no point in writing about something that no one is looking for.
The solution? Use a professional keyword research tool like Ahrefs ’Keywords Explorer, where you will find a large amount of ideas and key keyword metrics.
3. Pick up on your competitors' best-working topics
Wouldn't it be awesome if you could see which of your competitors' articles are getting the most traffic to replicate their success?
Many blogs show their best performing articles to the outside world, for example:
From there, it's relatively easy to figure out which keywords they want to rank for by looking at their URL and headings.
For example, if I click through to the article — The Ultimate Guide to Hair Products for Men — I can guess that Beardbrand is targeting “Hair Products for Men” or “Hair Products”.
It's not a very data-driven process. We have no idea how Beardbrand picked these “popular” articles, and we cannot tell if they are getting traffic.
A better way is to enter your competitor's domain into Ahrefs ’Site Explorer, then go to the“ Top Pages ”report to see which pages are sending them the most organic traffic.
The estimated amount of monthly organic traffic for each article.
For example, we can see that Beardbrand's article on beard styles receives an estimated 8717 organic visits monthly. And of the 3,260 keywords it ranks for, “beard styles” is bringing them the most traffic.
This is a great way to find topics to write about.
4. Consider the search intention
Google aims to offer their users the most relevant result for their searches. That means: If you want to be found easily on Google and want to receive passive, organic traffic, then you have to be the most relevant result for the search query.
Translation: You need to create content that is compatible with the search intent.
How do you find out the search intention?
Fortunately, since Google is working to show the most relevant results, you can use this to your advantage. Just take a look at the top 10 results for your chosen topic and see what types of pages are currently ranking.
For example, here are the top results for "Coffee Maker".
It looks like most of the top ranking pages are category pages that sell different types of coffee makers. In this case, no matter how good your content is, you will have a hard time ranking a blog post.
Compare that to "french press coffee."
As you can see, most of the top ranking pages are articles on how to make french press coffee.
In order to rank for it, you will likely need to create something similar - e.g. a “how-to” guide.
Learn more about search intentions in our beginner's guide here.
5. Create content that deserves to be referenced
Four years ago, our Chief Marketing Officer, Tim, wrote an epic 5,000 word article about strategic writing. He then asked Rand Fishkin, an influencer in the SEO / marketing industry, if they would share the article with their audience.
Rand said no.
The reason? The article was long, but there was nothing unique about it. It was essentially a warm-up of pre-existing tips on the web.
Four years later, Rand tweeted our post about podcast advertising even though we hadn't even told him about it.
Superb post on podcast advertising - the ups and downs of * real life * process from @itsrbek: https://t.co/6DHzboqU6X
- Rand Fishkin (@randfish) November 21, 2018
Why did he share it this time? Very simple: because we did the job, we knew all about podcast sponsorship and could offer a unique point of view that no one else had.
In short, our article was Value to be referenced.
Telling you to create great content is unfeasible. But making sure your content — in Seth Godin's words — is worth getting noticed is a much more straightforward concept to work with.
It's also much easier to tell if you have something really wonderful in your hands.
- Is your article unique?
- Have you given ideas, opinions, attitudes that no one else is talking about?
- Will people quote or link to your article?
- Will people share it and talk about it?
If the answer is a loud “yes” then great! If not, get back to work and revise it. You can always create unique perspectives by adding data, taking surveys, or gaining experience.
6. Make your articles easy to read
Tim once told me:
Nobody wants to read. They just want the information. If they could download these into their brain, they would.
Real Talk: Nobody is keen to read your article. They'd rather watch Netflix than read your blog post.
So it is your job as a writer to help them decide to start reading. As the famous author Bon Halbert said: "Good writing creates effortless reading."
To do that, you need to learn how to edit your text so that it is easy to read. The best book I have found on this subject is Bond Halbert’s book on text editing. (There is advertising on the title, but frankly it can be used for any form of writing.)
Here are some tips I applied to my own writing after reading the book.
- Use short paragraphs. Bond calls this "relaxing the eye." Large amounts of text pull readers down, but short paragraphs invite them. Tools like Hemingway help make this easier.
- Break down long sentences. People typically read along in their minds. This is why long sentences make it difficult to follow. Break up these sentences by finding places where you have used “and”, “because” and “which”.
- Insert multimedia. Videos, pictures, GIFs, etc. can help illustrate your points further without adding further words.
- Use formatting. Bold, italics, quotation marks and lists break up large blocks of text and focus on specific points.
- Read your text aloud. This helps to find out where your content is not yet smoothly readable or is boring.
7. Write stunning headlines
On average, people read just the headline five times more often than the entire text.
Most people find content through search or social media. And they will likely decide what to read based on the headline.
This makes the headline the most important part of your content. And you should learn how to write engaging ones that catch people's attention and make them want to know more.
However, that doesn't mean that you should only write clickbaits. It means you should understand how good headlines work.
- Check out some of the most popular blogs on the net and see how they phrase their headings. Tim Ferriss wouldn't consider himself an online marketer, but he sure does know how to write headlines that appeal to readers. (e.g. "From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 Lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks" is an excellent headline)
- Use templates. Most of the headings are variations on tried and tested formulas. Learn what they are and use them well.
- Use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Not sure if you wrote something good? Check it out with this free tool.
8. Write a good introduction
Look at how I wrote my introductions:
It was a complete letter salad. My readers probably hit the back button faster than you said "Hip Hop!" can say.
The job of the heading is to get the reader to read the first sentence. Then the task of the introduction is to capture them and get them to read the article.
So if your introduction is long or boring and reads like an academic paper, then it's time to change what you're doing.
At Ahrefs we (loosely) follow what we call the “APP” formula.
First comes the A.customization. With a sentence or two, you should show your readers that you understand their problem.
Here is an example from one of our articles:
This will make your readers feel like you are empathetic with them and their challenges.
Next, consider your article as the solution ppresent.
Tell them you found the solution to their problem. Alternatively, you can explain the solution as briefly as possible without revealing everything. Give people something to keep them reading.
From the same example:
We finally have it P.roof (proof).
Here's why they should trust you. Ultimately, they probably found your blog for the first time. You have to show your success, experience or expertise.
9. Do basic on-page SEO
On-page SEO is the optimization of your content in order to rank better in the search results.
Typically, this includes "best practices" such as:
- Placing Target keywords in the title, meta description and H1 headings. This helps show searchers that your page is the most relevant to their search query.
- The use of short, descriptive URLs. A descriptive URL tells you what to expect from a page (e.g., there's obviously an article on SEO tips.) Searchers are almost certainly more likely to click on a result that tells them what to expect from a result.
But on-page SEO is more than just adding the right keywords to your text. The presence of related words and phrases is also important.
Google confirms this by saying:
Imagine: if you search for “dogs”, you probably don't want to see a page that contains the word “dogs” hundreds of times. This is why algorithms pay attention to whether pages contain other relevant content beyond the keyword “dogs” such as - pictures of dogs, videos or even a list of breeds.
The question is: how do you optimize for it?
If you're writing about something you already know a lot about, you may not have to. I mean, there is a good chance you will insert relevant words and phrases without even trying.
But if you're not an expert, here's a handy trick:
Paste in some of the top ranking pages for your keyword in the Ahrefs Content Gap Tool, then select the “URL” mode from the dropdown.
Here are some of the top ranking sites for "Best Protein Powders":
Hit search and you will see the keywords that one or more of these sites ranked in the top 100 for.
By looking at this list, we can begin to pick out words, phrases, and subtopics that we likely want to mention in a post about the best protein powders. E.g. Whey protein, Isolations, Supplements, Bulk powder and specific brands like Optimum Nutrition.
Just remember, it's not about putting keywords into your content. It's about finding the things that people expect when they see a page about [whatever topic you're on].
Would you like to learn more about on-page SEO? Read this step by step guide.
10. Get feedback on the way you write
My first article on the Ahrefs blog took me a month to write.
It wasn't because I was procrastinating. But because my designs were continually torn to pieces by my editors Tim and Josh.
Every article on our blog is subject to this review. We switch through reading each other's content and give feedback. We identify areas that could be added or removed, points that could be clarified, sentences that could be better phrased, etc.
I have no doubt that this is why so many people consistently recommend our blog.
In fact, we make sure our readers know that what they are reading is not one person's work, but that many people are working to make it great.
Don't turn down this advice just because you're working on your blog on your own. Ryan Holiday sums it up:
Nobody creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without someone second involved.Ryan Holiday, Bestselling author
If you want extraordinary work, then you need the input of another person. It could be your spouse or a colleague. You could ask on social media if anyone is interested in helping. Or, you could join a community dedicated to improving designs.
Your input will make your job much, much better.
11. Reach people you admire
Have you ever noticed that famous bloggers all know each other?
It's not a coincidence.
Blogging is hard work. It's challenging to do it alone. But with the help of others it becomes feasible.
That's why clever bloggers keep in touch and build relationships with one another. They give advice, offer help and advertise each other.
That's how they grow every day, every year.
You should do that too.
The more people you know, the better your work will be. Experienced people can provide feedback on your content. They can provide insights, apply to you, or link to you - and they can share your content with their followers.
Don't let their reputation or many followers put you off. Every famous blogger you know was once a nobody.But what made her stand out was her willingness to put her fears and ego aside and contact those who were before them.
These bloggers get it. They will be more than willing to help you - but only if you use the right strategies.
What are these strategies?
Read our article on blogger outreach to learn how to do it.
12. Build an email list
Do you have a Facebook page? Good luck, because Facebook can take them offline anytime.
Do you have a youtube channel? They can delete you whenever they want.
If you're building your following on a third-party platform, don't be surprised if they remove you or limit your reach.
The best way to counteract this is to build an email list.
As long as your fans have subscribed to you, you can communicate with them at any time.
How do you build an email list?
You need two ingredients: traffic and something of value.
If you follow the tips below in the article, you will likely get traffic to your blog. So the next step is to get them to join your list.
To do that, you need something in return for subscribing. At Ahrefs, we keep it simple by displaying a slide-in box at the bottom of the article:
Since they liked our article (they made it to the end!) We offer them to deliver more of the content they love straight to their inbox.
But the world is open to you. You can offer a free e-book, the PDF version of the article, an email course, or whatever.
All you need is some creativity.
13. Promote your content in online communities
Relevant online communities are where your target audience is. They can be communities on Facebook groups, Slack, Reddit, forums, etc.
This was the main strategy I used to get my breakdancing blog going:
If you look at the comments, it was pretty well received.
Sounds easy right?
Not that fast because what you don't see in the screenshot is the hard work I put into before submitting the article. To be able to publish an article like this, I had to become an active member, participate in discussions, and offer help.
Only then was my content accepted and encouraged.
If all you want to do is join a few groups, leave links and leave, then don't be surprised if you get kicked out and banned.
But if you want to get it right, this comment from my friend - Nathan Collier - who runs the Content Marketing Lounge Facebook group will help you:
14. Write guest articles for other blogs
Ramit Sethi names his guest article on Tim Ferriss' blog as the one who helped him turn his book into a bestseller.
If you want to get going, don't just write for your own blog. Use the authority and followers of other blogs to drive traffic, links, and brand building.
But you may ask yourself why would they let you do this?
Very easily. Many popular blogs are built on great content. However, creating this content consistently is difficult. So if you are offering to create a great article for free, why would they say no to it?
Now, most people find ways to post guest articles the same way. They use advanced search operators like these on Google:
- [your_topic] "Write for us"
- [your_topic] "Guest Post"
- [your_topic] "Guest Article"
- [your_topic] “Become an Author”
- [your_topic] inurl: contribute
This will bring to light blogs that are actively looking for contributors.
But you shouldn't just Request pages with “Write for us” pages.
If a blog has previously reported on relevant topics, then they are likely open to guest articles on similar topics — even if they don't have a “Write for Us” page.
To find these pages, enter a relevant word or phrase in the Content Explorer, then click the “One Article Per Domain” button to avoid contacting the same page multiple times.
Are you worried that authority sites won't allow you to participate? Use the Domain Rating Filter to break down the list to the ones you feel ready to write for.
Start by focusing on blogs in the 21-70 range. Once you've learned more and written some guest articles, you can inquire at the larger blogs.
15. Update older content
As you continue your blogging journey, your thoughts, opinions, and knowledge will change. You will challenge more about your industry, learn new things, and improve your writing style.
You wouldn't be doing your audience a favor if you didn't update your older content to reflect your new knowledge and ideas.
And updating your content also has an SEO advantage.
Think about it: even if you rank # 1, the competitors will fight for first place. Or Google could “devalue” your content because it thinks your content is out of date.
So you should aim to keep your content as current as possible.
We do that all the time at ahrefs.
I absolutely love how @ahrefs new Content Explorer tool exposes how much our team works on updating / republishing our old content VS publishing new stuff 😇 💪
Do you know any other blogs that are so committed to keeping their content fresh & awesome? 🙂 pic.twitter.com/SIGbEQpWW9
- Tim Soulo (@timsoulo) March 27, 2019
For example, we recently updated our article on how to get traffic to your website and the traffic went through the roof.
If you have Google Analytics installed, you can easily find pages with falling traffic. If not, then add some of your older pages to Ahrefs ’Site Explorer and look at the organic traffic graph in the“ Overview ”report.
This often happens because parts of your content are no longer up-to-date (e.g. screenshots, processes, statistics, links, year in the title, etc.)
The solution then is to freshen up the outdated areas. However, in some cases you may find it necessary to completely rewrite your article (again, this is something we do a lot.)
Find out more about how to keep your content up to date in the long term in our guide to evergreen content.
16. Keep a daily book
According to Ryan Holiday, a common book is:
“... a central source or place for ideas, quotes or anecdotes, observations and information that you experience and didactically follow during your life. The purpose of this book is to record and organize these jewels for later use in life, in your business, in your writing, speaking, or whatever you do. "
Why should you have one?
- Did you notice how I quoted numerous people in this article? An everyday book makes this easier and faster.
- There are days when you're stuck Where you look at your blank document for hours and have nothing to show, a quick look at your everyday book can help you find inspiration and have ideas for writing.
How do you create one?
Here's how to do it. My everyday book runs on Notion, a project management app.
When I read a book, I mark a lot of highlights. When I'm done, I'll move it to a new page in the appropriate category.
When I need something I can just navigate to a category or I look for the things I want to find.
17. Write every day
How did James Clear become one of the world's most famous bloggers and thereby a bestselling author?
For four years he committed to publish one article every Monday and Thursday every week. This process cemented his writing skills, popularized his blog, and eventually landed him the deal with Atomic Habits.
In the end, it's not a secret. Blogging IS writing.
But to write well, you have to practice a lot.
It doesn't have to be spectacular. Just focus on developing a routine of writing every day. It doesn't have to be a blog post — it could be a Facebook update, tweet, blog comment, email, or something else.
When I ran my breakdance blog, I did my best to email my list every day (Monday - Friday).
It was one of the best exercises I have ever done for my writing.
The more you practice, the better your content will be.
Blogging is hard work. You need to keep posting to promote your articles, network, and more.
The good news is: you are not alone.
A lot of bloggers (like us) have gone through the ups and downs. And with this hard-earned experience, they paved the way for you.
Now all you have to do is implement these tips and get to work.
Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
Translated by: Sebastian Simon. Sebastian Simon has been dealing with SEO since 2009, currently at seven-bytes.de and heine.de.
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