I got an email in from a reader this week that is a common occurrence in the blogging world. You hit the ground running and start to see some success. With time, you start to shift your focus elsewhere, leaving behind your primary source of revenue only to find that traffic and profits decrease on the project that is the source of getting you online success. Or…all of your current methods have hit a plateau in traffic and earnings and you have no clue on how to get off it and back to sustainable growth! And what are you left with? A stale blog starring you in the face. You need to win back old readers and find ways to attract new readers to your corner of the web to bring back up profits and encourage growth. The big problem…where to start?

The Story of Tweaks For Geeks

I figured the best way to tackle this common occurrence in the blogging world was hit it head on with a real world example, so here is the email I received this week. I hope Kevin doesn’t mind!

Kevin’s Email To Me:

Hello Robb,

We’ve corresponded a few times in the past, perhaps you remember me. Anyway, my query is as follows:

This particular question may actually make for a good article for you; as I’m sure there are others out there like me that have started up their sites and have seen some success, but have either stalled in their progress or simply want to take their online business to a whole new level.

I’ve owned a site about computers/technology (primarily focusing on how to fix various computer issues) for a little over five years now. While I am one of the few that can say that he has made over $1,000 a month from his sites, I am simultaniously one of the many that has fallen prey to the “do nothing” bug and have let my main earner fall into stagnation (and sadly seen my revenue plummet as a result). It still brings in ad money, but needs a new updated look to it (which I almost have done), and fresh consistently updated content.

So – with that in mind:

  1. What steps would you take in order to give an established but a bit “dusty” site a jumpstart?
  2. In your professional opinion, how long do you think it would take in order to make a site like that a contender again that regains its old readers and acquires new ones?

Currently I am in an excellent position where I can dedicate most of my time to revamping and regrowing my online ventures; and with my technical background I am fortunate enough to be able to do all of the programming work myself in order to add new and innovative features to it.

Really I just want to know what the most effective course of action would be to take this from a publication that gets approximately 55,000 unique monthly viewers that are all one-time visits and turning it into a destination where people visit and then want to not only stay, but return regularly. Of course, I would also love some tips for explosive growth.

Again, I think that this would be an excellent article for your readers; so perhaps you’ll want to do a full writeup on it. If not, then some friendly pointers would be greatly appreciated. If you do decide to make an article of it you can feel free to post parts of this email, or all of it in its entirety as part of your content.

Also, thank you for providing such a concise and informative site about the blogging industry. RobbSutton.com is one of the best resources out there that I’ve come across.

Keep up the good work!

Thank you,

-Kevin Souter
Owner, TweaksForGeeks.com | Rent A Geek Computer Services

Breathing Life Back Into Your Stale Blog

Ok…before we even jump into this…my biggest recommendation to any blogger is “do not ignore your primary income generator“. Yes…blogging is exciting and new projects are always more of a rush than old, but by jumping around starting and stopping new projects, you are just crippling yourself for the future by not giving anything ample time to grow. I am not sure if that is what happened in this case, but that is the most common mistake I see in new bloggers. Try to fight the urge to start “the next great idea” every week and focus on projects that you can tackle without leaving what has brought you success behind.

When you look to breathe life into a stale blog or bring new growth to an existing blog, your efforts are going to fall into 3 basic categories.

  1. Content
  2. Blog Design
  3. Promotion

These are the three core elements to blogging that will bring you new growth and make existing readers happy every time. When you start to jump on each of these aspects of your blogging individually, you need to do so with a plan and ask yourself the right questions.

Content: Shaking Things Up

No…I am not going to sit here and give you the same, old, tired out line of “write pillar articles and content is king”. Hopefully, you have already been doing that or you wouldn’t have seen any success to begin with. When you are looking to attract new readers and bring life back to old readers, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Who do I want to attract? – You need to specifically lay out exactly who you want to attract with your content. Who are you not reaching now that you want to? Are you generating content for that specific target audience? You need to start bringing in high quality, targeted content into your blog to pull in new readers that you are specifically targeting. However, this content needs to be relevant to current readers as well, so do not step too far outside the scope of your niche as you can start to alienate your die hards while trying to attract new.
  • Where can I expand? – When I start working with new bloggers, I tell them to find a niche that is manageable. Do not take on TechCrunch right off the bat…you will loose. When you find a sub-niche in your industry, you can really drive it home and start to see success because you are reaching a very targeted audience in a smaller competition market. When you take this theory, you can start to run out of content over time, so now is the time to look into your expansion opportunities in related subject matters.
  • How can I be more useful? – How you write your content and the types of articles you publish are incredibly important. Are there certain articles that seem to perform better than others on your blog and in search engines? In my experience, tutorials and other “helpful” articles tend to perform the best, so look into areas that you can continue to hit a home run and start to product more of those types of articles as you look for new growth.

Your content is the core of your blog. Without it…you are left with an empty design that doesn’t do too much of anything. When you are looking to expand or revive, it is where you need to start as the rest of this isn’t going to mean a thing without your content.

Blog Design: Time To Shift Focus To Action

How your readers interact with your content is completely based on your blog design. Where there eyes go…where they click…the actions they take (rss feed subscribing, newsletter opt-in, social media spreading) are all dependent upon how you present your words through the design. When you are looking to ramp things back up a bit, it is time to look at how your readers are interacting with your content.

Note: I would highly recommend paying close attention to your bounce rate and reader trends in Google Analytics as that gives you an insiders look at what is going on with your blog.

  • What do I want my readers to do when they finish reading? – You have to put yourself in the shoes of a reader in your niche (not a blogger looking at a blog article). In non-tech/blogging niches, your readers will have no clue about blogging and social media other than their own personal experience. It is your job to step inside of their head as they land on your pages. Do you want them to share it on Facebook? Do you want them to check out another article? These are important questions that you need to answer as they directly affect what you put at the end of each article.
  • What is my blog design not accomplishing? – Are you not increasing your opt-in rates? Are your pageviews low? You need to start looking at what your design is not doing for you currently. The outward appearance of your blog is not just a visual mechanism, it is how your readers interact and move through your site. When you are looking to get readers to dive deeper into old content, click on advertising or feel like they are on a quality site, you lean heavily on your design. To get things rolling, start to look at things like logo design, navigation and design elements while keeping in mind where you want your readers to go. As a general rule, bloggers tend to add too many elements to their blogs so only put it up if 70% of your readers are going to use it. Anything else will just be wasted space and clutter. You want to draw your readers eyes to your most important elements that promote growth and conversions.

What you should have created at this point is a site that is accomplishing your goals while also looking professional. One key thing to keep in mind is that you are building your site for your readers and what they will interact with…not what you are going to interact with. Keep your personal touch…but back it up with function.

Promotion: Time To Take It To The New Masses

The order of this process is intentional. With an end goal of attracting new readers, you have to create an atmosphere that they want to land on before you go out and find them. This does not meant that everything has to be perfect before you move forward (it never is…blogging is an evolving process), so don’t get locked down with “it has to be perfect” panic. When you feel like you have accomplished enough of the goals you have set out with content and design, you need to start pulling new readers into your revisions. Hopefully, you already know who you want to attract through the first content step…so let’s go get them.

  • Where do my new/potential readers hang out online? – It is your job as the blogger to pull in new readers. Where does your new “perfect target reader” hang out online? By visiting these places and building up a solid reputation (online forums, other blogs, meetup groups, Facebook fan pages, etc.), you can pull them back to your content and create another subscriber.
  • How do my new and existing readers spread content? – Not all niches spread content the same. While Twitter might be a great viral spreader for one niche, it could be horrible in another. It is your job to figure out which ones work the best in your subject matter and start building up a profile in these areas. The easiest (and hardest) way to get new reader’s eyes on your content is through viral spreading, but you want to make sure your time is not going wasted by doing some research before you jump in head first.
  • How do my new readers like to subscribe to content? – As part of your promotion techniques, you are trying to attract new, long term subscribers to your blog. How do these readers want to subscribe to online content? In the biking world, more than half (probably even less) know what an RSS reader is or even care. It is still a world of email, so I put a lot of emphasis on my RSS email subscription and newsletter subscription. When you promote your new content and pull new readers into your blog, you need to feature a method of subscription that is the most widely used in your niche. Do not force feed what some other blogger says you need to do. It is up to you and what your readers want.
  • Who can I collaborate with? – Guest posting is a fantastic way to pull in new readers to your blog, but it isn’t always an option in some niches. Try to think up of unique ways that you can work with both online and offline resources to bring more content/promotion to their medium while also promoting your corner of the web. In the past, I have worked with forum site owners, industry magazines and special interest groups to help them accomplish their goals while at the same time promoting my website. It brings you credibility and new readers at the same time.
  • What can I give away? – Contests and giveaways can grow a blog faster than just about anything else online. People love free stuff and they will promote you to no end to get it. Before you start sweating about the money you are going to have to spend…keep one thing in mind. Even the giveaways with inexpensive products…when targeted correctly…perform incredibly well. You can also have companies and other blogs donate prizes in exchange for promotion within the contest and you will not have to spend a dime. Just be sure you structure the giveaway or contest in a manner that you get some needed asset (newsletter subscriber, rss reader, etc) and that contest is virally promoted (stumbled, Tweeted, shared on Facebook, etc.).

Rinse, Repeat and Evolve

That is really the nuts and bolts of breathing life back into a stale blog (or starting up a new one for that matter). When you are looking to rejuvenate your blog, take a look at these three core areas of blogging to see what you are doing wrong and how to improve it. By taking a systematic and planned attack, you can not only bring a blog back to its former glory, but you can lift it above and to a success you never thought was possible.

When you create an atmosphere that is based around the premis of helping others, they will in turn want to help you. Ideally, you want to create a “cultish” following online where your readers want to tell other people that they hangout in your online space. When you focus on that idea of helping…you can make huge strides in creating an online community that breads repeat visitors.

So how long does it take if you are on the right path?

Honestly…success is often a byproduct of the effort put forth. While it can differ depending on competition and market saturation, I have found that the hardest working (when it is a planned, thought out attack) get ahead the fastest.

Image by R’eyes