Here’s part TWO of the post I wrote about the two blogging pathways:
Let’s talk about PATH ONE…
Path One – I want to grow my blog, grow my traffic, in the hope that I can make some real money from it or create a platform to promote myself and the things I do.
Great. NO worries. I know you can do it. There are a few things you need to take into account if you’d like to head down this track:
1. Create an editorial calendar that makes room for sponsors or advertisers
This is quite important, and something that bloggers don’t often consider. If you want to court sponsors or advertisers, then your blog’s content often needs to have SOME relevance to that sponsor/advertiser. That’s not to say that you need to muddy your editorial content and turn into a big sell-out. Rather, talking about products or experiences is probably something you might want to begin to do in a NATURAL way, so that when you do write sponsored content or put ads in your sidebar, they’ll have some relevance to your blog’s usual content and not seem out-of-place to the reader.
A lot of the criticism that has been aimed at sponsored posts on blogs has come from sponsored content being plonked in the middle of a personal blog in a weirdly juxtaposed way. If you are going to start talking about brands or products for commercial reasons, it makes sense to start doing that in a non-sponsored way, to set the tone BEFORE you start working with brands. This will not only help you to practice writing this kind of content in a way that makes sense to you, it will provide a more seamless experience for readers once you DO start adding sponsored content.
2. Post consistently
Your blog will be a much more irresistible opportunity for advertisers if you post reliably and consistently. It’s also good to note that BEFORE you commit to any sponsorship, you need to be sure that you can deliver the goods and stick to your usual posting schedule for the term of your advertising commitment. I totally get that it’s often necessary to take a blog break or that life often gets in the way, but your advertisers are not going to be as understanding, so make sure that your posting schedule adheres to your usual routine (you don’t need to commit to an exact amount of posts/week for sponsors, but you do need to replicate your usual posting rhythm).
3. Care for your community
Your blog is a pretty lonely place without your readers. Granted it’s an awesome spot for self-expression or reflection, but if you are moving into the more commercial realm, community and readers are super important. Not only should you be fostering the community on your blog (creating group projects, replying to comments, responding to feedback), you should also be venturing off your blog and being part of the wider blogging community too.
Make sure you’re not approaching this too strategically, though. It’s important for relationships to grow organically and sincerely. Dropping your link into everyone’s comment boxes is not going to help things along. Commenting meaningfully and caring about what is going on in other bloggers lives SINCERELY will make a difference though.
4. Be honest and transparent
When you give someone a commercially driven mention (because they’ve sent you something for free, gifted you an experience or paid you for a mention in any kind of way) you MUST disclose that. From a legal standpoint, I believe, you’re not actually obligated to do this, but if you are in the business of building trust and developing a great reputation it’s the only way. The best way to disclose, in my opinion, is to just tell the truth rather than use a standard disclosure spiel.
“Dymocks sent me this book (unsolicited) but I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you”
“Tourism Australia invited me to dinner at Vue De Monde and paid the bill. My opinions are based on my experience on the night”
Keep it natural and factual, on a case-by-case basis, and there’ll be no confusion.
5. Create a media kit
I don’t have a media kit, because I’m not particularly courting relationships with advertisers or PR companies, but I think if you want to grow your blog with the help of ads and relationships with brands then a media kit is a must. (I’m going to write a post about this, but you can go here for some tips in the mean time!) Media Kits provide a snapshot of your blog for potential sponsors. They detail things like visitors, demographics, page views, blog focus and blog mission. PR companies love media kits because they help them to match brand with bloggers and meet brand campaign expectations. If you want to work with brands, you need a media kit. It’s pretty much non-negotiable.
6. Create sharable content
One of the problems with personal blogs (and it’s only a problem if you want to attract sponsors!) is that content is not always as shareable as on a more lifestyle focused blog. There are less ‘how-tos’ and ‘recipes’ (but often lots more personal, relatable, wonderful writing!) If you want your blog to be more attractive to sponsors, then page views and visitors are going to be an integral part of that relationship. Adding one shareable post a week to your editorial schedule will make a big difference to your traffic. Not only will it open your blog up to new readers via sharing focused sites like Pinterest, it also opens your blog up to a new kind of sponsored content creation (for instance using an advertiser product in a DIY or recipe without it seeming out-of-place).
7. Get serious about post promotion
It’s all good and well to write a great post, but it’s not going to help you reach new readers, entertain existing readers or increase your (advertiser beloved) page views if you aren’t telling people it’s there. Add your posts to Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and even talk about them on Instagram (if you have a cute related image to share) too. There are WordPress plugins that can help make this kind of sharing easy (Shareaholic, for instance, will sit at the bottom of your published post ready for your manual share – there are others that sit in your Post Editor and auto-share when you hit publish, if selected). You need to add this sharing/self-promotion element to your usual posting routine if you’re keen on getting serious.
Remember that using logical, useful post titles (How to make bread in 5 minutes!) is also important, not just for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO – making your posts easy for Google to find), but also in terms of being an attractive prospect for others to share.
Also note that adding your post to every group you are a member of is not a good idea – it’s very intrusive and it’s best to keep that to a minimum and use your own platforms/social media channels for that.
8. Skill up
Finally, keep improving your skills so that you can improve your blog. Learning more about design, SEO, photography and styling are all good ideas and will make your blog more engaging and irresistible. This kind of professional development is especially important to bloggers because platforms are ever-changing and the standard of blogging is constantly improving across the board. If you want to compete with other bloggers and be attractive to sponsors, you need to keep growing and getting better at your job.
I’ll be back with advice for bloggers who don’t want to go commercial very soon!
Thanks for reading! x