Developing a blog requires imagination about a topic; creating a strategy to build a business out of a blog requires imagination plus: research, community engagement, developing, testing and tuning the original idea — and on and on. Blogging as a business requires us to “build” our niche and like a house, or a boat, it needs some skill building.
The Importance of Creating and Measuring
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a tremendous book about creating software — and creating a business online. He chronicles the amazing stories of some of the big players in online business today — and why it pays to start small, with the smallest possible product we can deliver into the hands of customers. A blog is a great example of such a product. It has a very low cost to the creator; it’s distributed free of charge, everywhere, and it can engage customers fairly directly.
Ries discusses how to craft your MVP so that we can LEARN the most from it. It’s that learning part that is essential. We have to build, test and measure consistently and constantly. (This explains my constant discussion of analytics). Through customer engagement, we can get some ideas about what people want — if we can only figure out a way to ask them.
Trying Stuff Out
In blogging, as in any other online business, we can only try. Soliciting comments from our audiences is like pulling teeth. Most people will say nothing. A few people will say nice things only, very non-committal. A few other people will troll us unmercifully hoping to get a rise out of us. Polls can help, but it takes getting quite a large audience together before people will even commit to making a sound via polling.
I haven’t yet tried to use Twitter for polling; however, it is possible to use Polldaddy for polling using Shortcodes.
The other way we can get a clue is by looking at “likes.” In the case of this blog, my how-to’s and walk throughs get variable attention. I get the most consistent “likes” in my essay posts about blogging (so I’ve stepped that up a bit). Still, the how-tos and tips get consistent traffic through the weeks, as people tend to stop by for the essays–and stick around to peruse the other pages. This is the research portion: paying attention, week by week, to what the analytics seem to indicate are the most active posts.
The idea of A/B testing in blogs
Ries also advocates A/B testing. For blogs, that might be having two entirely separate blogs on different platforms where we could test out different themes and slightly varied content. This is probably too much for the average blogger. However, we can A/B test other things, smaller things, such as pages with polls and pages without polls. I’ve been A/B testing essay posts (like this) with how-to posts. I’ve mixed up the times I post and the topics I post about. I’m comparing posts that I market using “Tailwind” and advertise via Pinterest, with posts that I just let WordPress Reader and Twitter market.
And I’m doing lots of research. One thing that Tailwind and Pinterest have helped with is in finding varied content. I get a look at the blogs that are harder to find in the Google search engine return pages, my “real” competition in the second and third pages (and fourth and fifth pages) of a Google search. And I also study the more authoritative sites on blogging to fuel my imagination on how to develop my niche.
The Fruits of Reading and Studying Widely
One of the most interesting concepts I’ve come across is developing a “start here” page and structure that walks people through content. Now that I have sufficient, varied content, I can begin to develop that structure. Tom Ewer’s discussion of the start here page is short and very direct.
He points out that new viewers of a blog need their hand held when they come across a new site. A start here page should have our very best content and lead new visitors confidently through the material.
This page from the International Blogger’s Association (who knew that existed!) also offers some tips about start here pages with lots of interesting real example pages to look at.
Now that I have seventy posts! I’m going to need to get organized and develop a startup page and structure. And that IS going to talk a lot of imagination.
Thanks for dropping by! See you soon! ~Lola
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