[Case Study] Learn The 5 Quick Steps I Took To Revive A Dying Blog

Filed in Blogging, Case Studies, Content by on August 30, 2015

There’s one thing bloggers never realise about their own blogs:

They’re living, breathing things.

They live and die.

Like people, plants and animals.

If you give them the right content and readers they can live forever.

But if you neglect them, leave them in the dark, and fill them with low-grade readers and content, they die.

The question you’ve got ask yourself is:

Is your blog alive, or is it dying?

 For Share As Image, their blog was dying. In fact, it was just about ready to flat line.

But, since April, I’ve managed to bring it back to life.

Slowly but surely, I’ve taken an almost dead blog and:

  • Boost blog sessions by 70%
  • Increase blog users by 41%
  • Create 63% more organic traffic

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 09.45.51

 

In this article, I’m going to show you the five simple steps I took to do it. And, what you can do to save your own blog from dying too.

 

 What You’ll Learn

  • How to get inside your competitors heads and use their strategy for yourself
  • The content your audience is crying out for, but you've been too scared to write
  • How one small risk can lead to 2,000 more page views in a day
  • A simple, bulletproof, content strategy that can never fail

Ready? Well, let’s get on with the case study then.

(See how to find your niche for blogging)

Oh, by the way:

I’ve created an In Short summary at the end of every section too, in case you want to skim read, or come back to it. Because I’m swell like that.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)

 

Step #1: Be Predictable For Constant Growth

Having a blog isn’t enough; you need to have an active blog.

Think of it this way:

You wouldn’t be happy if your favourite TV station started putting on shows at random times. Or, worse, stopped showing the shows you like for a few weeks with no explanation why.

So your readers won’t be happy with you doing it on your blog, either. The key is to deliver valuable content on time, all the time.

Take a look at this series of posts from Share As Image at the start of the year.

These two are 15 days apart:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.26.05

 

These are 3 weeks apart:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.26.35

 

And, now, you’re seeing a pattern:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.29.35

 

Now, if you’re a reader, how are you supposed to know when to check in for a post? And, as a blog, long periods of silence equal almost certain death.

So my first port of call was to create a posting schedule that suited our audience.

 

 

 

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"Timing is everything, and maintaining a blog is no exception to the rule. Learning when your audience is tuning in, and therefore when to post, is mandatory for any successful blogger." - Kissmetrics 

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Thankfully, Adam and Oliver (the owners) are super-hot on testing and had already found that Thursday was their optimal day for emails and posts. So, every week, our posts now go live on a Thursday.

You personally might have to do a bit of testing around this and find when your posts get the most traffic.

Or, you might only have certain days you can post because of other commitments.

Either way is fine – and I can’t find any conclusive research that shows any particular day is better than any other on the whole – because what’s most important is that you have a predictable day.

 

In short: Be predictable. Your audience should know when you're going to release new content, and be ready and waiting for it to drop. 

 

 

Step #2: Read Your Audiences Mind For More Shares

There are three types of blogs out there:

  1. Those who appeal to too many people
  2. Those who appeal to too few people
  3. Those who appeal to the right amount of people

When I took over at Share As Image they were stuck in the first category.

If I’m honest, they were a little like that needy friend you had as a kid. They wanted everyone to like them and didn’t add much value to, well…anything.

If you appeal to too many people, you lose most of them, because your value suffers.

As the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule) states; you need to focus on the 20% to get 80% of your results.

Or, in other words, the more niche you make yourself, the better.

So I had to narrow down:

  • Who the SAI audience is
  • What they wanted to read

I set myself the goal of narrowing this down to four broad topics that I could write about, that were part of our niche.

 

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"Want your blog to thrive? Then you must find out what your readers really want." - Linda Formichelli 

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Who Are Your Audience?

Your audience is the coming together of lots of different tribes from around the Internet.

What you have to do, as a blogger, is find out what it is that has brought them together (or will bring them together) at your blog.

For Share As Image – because it’s an app that lots of people need – it’s harder to nail down the ‘who’ to a specific job or person type, like most businesses would like to.

So, instead, I had to find out what people who used the app, and read the blog, had in common.

To do this, I went to social media.

Instead of using an app like SocialBro to understand my audience better, I wanted to personally read the bios of people and what they were interested in.

BuzzSumo has a great little feature that lets you check:

  • Who has shared your post
  • Other content they’ve shared (more on that later)
  • Their social media standing

All by searching your own content, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.38.06

 

And then clicking the ‘view sharers’ button:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.38.28

 

That brings up a screen that looks a little like this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.46.17

 

From the results (and a good 3 hours of reading bios) I discovered that most of our audience were:

  • Life Coaches
  • Small Business Owners
  • Social Media Managers

A little like my guy Mike Brice right here:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.49.12

 

 

Ages and Genders varied highly – from 21 year old guys, to 65 year old women and everyone in between – so there wasn’t much to go from there.

You might think that just having the jobs they do might be a bit of a dead end; but it’s all about how you look at it…

 

What Do They Want To Read?

At first, I thought it was a bit of a dead end too. That was, until I looked at why they were using Share As Image as a product. And, the common themes in our content that they shared.

Firstly, these occupations all have on thing in common – they’re busy people.

And the SAI App has one fundamental purpose that, somehow, went overlooked:

It saves time.

The whole premise of the app is to help people create images quickly. So, my new focus became productivity.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.51.27

128 Shares, 16 comments and 2400 page views. Not a bad start.

Not only did this give me a brand new perspective on what my readers wanted, it also gave me lots of new avenues for content too.

When it comes to your own blog, you need to be willing to take risks at this step. Because not every piece of content is going to be a resounding success.

Now, if you’ve read any of my articles before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Skyscraper Technique, and creating content that is tried and tested.

But, here’s the thing:

At this stage, I highly recommend you come up with original, organic ideas and try them out.

Not for any magical reason. But because it gives you an insight into your readers psyche. As you write posts this way, and pay attention to the results, you get a better feel for what works and what doesn’t.

You’ll learn when to use proven content in the next stage; but for now, if you can, take the time to jot down some original ideas that fit the topics your audience are looking for.

 

The Topics I Discovered…

Just to give you a little bit of context for the rest of the article, the four topics I researched and discovered our audience wanted were:

  1. Productivity
  2. Creativity
  3. Social Media
  4. Image Tutorials

In hindsight, with the product I’m working with, this looked almost obvious. But it’s usually the answer that’s staring you right in the face that you miss, isn’t it?

 

In Short: In order to survive as a blog, you need to know your readers inside and out. Take the time, do the research and find out who they are, and what they want to read. Don’t be afraid to look big picture either. For all your hours invested here, you’ll get big rewards at the other end.

 

Step #3: Get Inside Your Competitors Strategy (And Steal It)

There’s an old cliché you’ve probably heard thrown around in Gangster films before:

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”

And, it has a lot of grounding in blogging too.

While you don’t really have any enemies on the Internet – except for trolls – it’s important to get to know and understand your competitors.

What they do, what they create and where they spend their time are great insights into what you should be doing too.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)

 

What Makes A Competitor?

This might seem like a “Well, duh!” question. But, we’re not in high school anymore.

And, the truth is, it’s not always easy to know just who your competitors are. Because while there are blogs you might like, they might not be directly in competition with you.

You have two types of competitors as a blog:

  1. Content
  2. Product

For this, you need to look at your content competitors. You know, those who are creating the content your audience wants to read.

When it came to Share As Image, instead of looking at the design and social media space, I had to look at who was creating content around the topics of:

  • Productivity
  • Social Media
  • Creativity
  • Image tutorials

Which brings me away from people I thought were our original competitors – Canva, Photoshop etc. – and towards blogs that centred on these topics.

But, how do you find these competitors?

 

Finding Your Competition

To do this there are two super-simple and easy to follow methods. Again, they take a little time investment, but that’s nothing compared to the results they’ll bring you.

 

The Old-Fashioned Method

This is a super simple method and is the quickest way to gather the names of the blogs you’re competing with.

All you’re going to need to do is search:

Top “insert topic” blogs

And find list posts that have already done the legwork for you, like this one from Buffer did for me:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.55.31

 

Not exactly rocket science, right?

But now you’re going to need to go through the blogs and find which of these blogs closely fits your brand and the message you’re trying to convey.

And, while you’re doing this, it’s a good idea to start bookmarking their evergreen and hottest content. You’ll find out why in a second.

 

 The BuzzSumo Method

This is the more time consuming method, but it’s the one that shows you real-time trends of your audience.

So, if you’re not familiar with BuzzSumo, it’s a content marketing tool that tells you just about everything you need to know about how well topics and articles perform.

And there’s a feature that’s a great insight into the content your readers want, and who your competitors are.

Go ahead and search one of the articles you’ve written in BuzzSumo, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.58.27

 

Then, just like you did in the previous step, click the View Sharers button:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.58.43

 

And now the View Links Shared button:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.59.00

 

Which will show you all of their Twitter sharing habits, like this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 09.59.18

 

Now you can see the content your audience is interested in, that your competitors are using to capture the attention of readers you could have too.

Which makes this a perfect foundation for a quick Skyscraper technique catalog too.

 

 

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"Have you ever pictured what you’re writing from your audience’s perspective? If not, it's time to start." - Anna Guerrero, Canva 

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Once You’ve Found Them…

 Now you’re going to create what’s known in copywriting as a swipe file.

 Basically, you’re going to put all of the content – from either process – into one place you can see it all.

This could be:

  • Bookmark folder
  • Copy and paste into a Word Processor (helpful for the next stage)
  • Google Docs
  • Google Drive
  • Evernote document

Whichever works best for you. But aim to have 30 – 50 articles in there to draw on.

 

In short: Understanding your competition is important. It helps you predict trends, create more value in your own content and gives you a deeper knowledge of what your readers are looking for. Delve deeply into the content they're producing and do an honest comparison to your own work. 

 

Step #4: Analyse Everything So Your Content Never Fails

 As a blogger, marketer or whatever you class yourself as, one thing rings true:

You can never have too much information.

The more you know the better the results are that you’re going to get. Which makes this stage the most crucial of them all.

You know who your audience and competitors are by this point.

But now you’re going to find out what they have in common. The intricate specifics of what they do and don’t like.

You’re going to find out:

  • Word counts
  • Topics
  • Paragraph lengths
  • Writing styles
  • Research methods
  • Sharing platforms

And as many other specifics that give you the data you need to make informed decisions about the blog posts you write.

 

What Counts As A Successful Post?

This is for you to decide, really.

My stance is the same as Kissmetrics where I think that people, not page views, are what matter. So I base successful on two metrics:

  1. Amount of comments
  2. Amount of social shares

After that, I’m not too fussed. Especially because specifics other than are hard to determine on competitor sites.

But this should be in line with your goal and what you’re looking to achieve

 

Here’s How I Did It…

I took 10 blog posts from the Share As Image competitor list, 5 of the most successful SAI posts and broke down them down into separate components.

  1. Average post length
  2. Style of headlines
  3. Introductions
  4. How they displayed research
  5. Style of post

 

Average Post Length

This is simple to do. All you have to do is copy and paste them into a word processor and look at the average word count.

For our competitors I found that almost all of the posts on our list were:

  • Between 1,500 – 2,000 words
  • Had no more than four lines per paragraph

And, most of our content was below that threshold, at around 800 – 1000 words, so I knew instantly this is somewhere that needed to be improved.

As for the paragraph length, that’s a nice little factor to pay attention to. Because it shows that our audience prefer it when the page is broken up.

You’ll notice that for all my Nichehacks posts I don’t go over three sentences, because you guys are pretty similar too.

 

Style Of Headline

 If I want more shares and comments, people need to read the post in the first place. So, what style of headlines work?

Well for my audience, it’s not clickbait headlines. In fact in my whole entire research I came across maybe three clickbait style headlines. So, they’re out the window.

Instead the most powerful headlines had:

  • Numbers
  • Were people focused (either had you, I or a name in them)
  • Were vague, but showcased the point

So the headlines I’d been using were okay, but needed improvement, so I updated them.

Like this one:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.10.30

 

Or, this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.10.01

 

And the results – in page views, shares and comments – has been superb.

 

Introductions

This was important for me, because our bounce rate and on page time had been sticking points.

I found that the most shared posts from our competitors started in one of two ways:

  1. With a storytelling hook
  2. Short, sweet and to the point

And, to be honest, I sucked at writing introductions in this style for SAI at the beginning. But the more I honed my skills, the better the results. Like in this post:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.13.01

Storytelling Hook = Better Shares

 

 

Research Display

There’s power to be had in referencing science, other blogs, brands and people in your blog posts. If you don’t do it, I suggest you start now.

For me, there was an overhanging question:

Do they prefer science or case studies?

 And, well, I got my answer…they want both.

 In fact, the Holy Grail for my audience is to use science to make my point, and a case study to make the point.

For example, in this article, I talk about science based productivity tips.

So I make my point with science:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.15.01

 

And then hit it home with a case study (for this post, it was personal):

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.15.16

 

 

Style Of Post

There are lots of blog posts that will tell you which types of posts you should write – I should know, I wrote a lot of them – but the only type of posts that really matter are the ones your audience respond to.

For me, the results came up pretty conclusively:

  1. List posts
  2. Tutorials

And if I go back and look at our most successful posts, it fits perfectly.

Our only viral hit:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.18.03

 

Our second most successful post:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.18.34

 

 

What To Do With The Information…

This is the fun part that makes your content bulletproof. In fact, once you’ve completed this bit, you’ll see constant growth in your traffic.

What you’re going to do is create a guideline that looks like this:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.51.06

 

This is the data you need to create any post. If you’re not ticking all the boxes by the end of the post, you’re not doing it right.

Simple.

Now, you know your content will be bulletproof, but that doesn’t mean the occasional post wont tank. And, when they do, it’s a good thing, as you’ll find out next…

 

In short: The more you know about your audience and competitors, the better. This stage allows you to take the guesswork out by creating a data driven chart for each piece you create. The more information here, the better.

 

 

 

Step #5: Take Risks (Or Never Succeed As A Blogger)

Once you’ve gathered your information, coming up with ideas and creating content is pretty plain sailing.

But, your testing and research doesn’t stop there.

In fact it never stops. Ever. For as long as you blog.

What your job is now is to test which topics work, which ones don’t, and refine it until you find your sweet spot.

Let me show you two examples; one where a post completely tanked and one where it took.

 

 

YkaSHGKW"Sometimes I wonder if [taking risks is] the difference between the profitable blog and the one that flops." - Ramsay, Blog Tyrant 

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The One That Went Down Like A Lead Balloon…

Okay, so I’m not afraid to admit it – some of my posts have absolutely tanked on this blog.

Why?

Because I was taking risks and trying new things. And when you play with fire, there’ always the chance that you’re going to get burnt.

From the research I’d done one of our main blog competitors was Content Marketing Institute. Our users read there a lot and were sharing their articles.

There was another side of our audience that liked inspirational quotes and motivational topics.

And, I thought it would be a great idea to combine the two, in this article:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.55.23

 

It tanked. I thought it would be a hit and it tanked. Even though it got a good amount of user comments, it only managed 41 shares and less than 2000 page views.

Bummer.

But this risk wasn’t wasted. Because, in the long run, it taught me to exclude all content marketing related topics. It gave me data to prove that our audience didn’t want this.

Which was backed up by this post not performing well too:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.57.28

 

Yeah, my results took a hit that week. But, so what? They’ve done better in the long run, because I now know a topic that I shouldn’t write about.

 

And, The One That Soared…

 My audience loves three things unconditionally:

  1. Productivity
  2. Social Media
  3. Free Stuff

And I think all audiences like the third. I know I do. So, I put together – based on the research above – an article on Free Social Media Tools that will save them time.

And the results were brilliant.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.59.32

 

I got over 2,000 more page views than average. But more importantly, it got 12 comments and over 250 shares. Which is about 100 more shares than usual.

And, much like the post that tanked, this has gone on to show my which articles to create in the future.

Anything around saving time, for example, now performs really well:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 11.01.03

 

What This Means For You

Be bold.

Take risks. Play around with ideas. Take some chances and try some new content.

Every idea you have – no matter how it performs – is going to teach you a lesson on what your audience likes and doesn’t.

Think of it like telling a joke you heard at a party. You might get a laugh, you might not. Either way, you find out if your friends like those jokes.

Once you have your data, make some safe bets, build content that you know will perform well. That will ‘punch the clock’ for another week.

But then, take a chance on something sexy and new.

 

In short: Take risks, test your results, refine and improve. Nobody else has your exact audience, they are unique and weird and wonderful and amazing in their own way. It's up to you to find what hits their spot, and what counts as 'remarkable' content for them.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free checklist of 31 blog traffic secrets click here or the image below)

 

Where You Go From Here...

Okay, so, that how I did it.

This method is simple, but like all effective tools in marketing, it's supposed to be.

Here's what you should have learned:

  1. Be predictable: Have a set posting schedule and stick to it. If it sucks, test it and change it. But your audience needs to know when to tune in and see what great content you've created this week.
  2. Understand your audience: The better you get to know them - what they like, don't and what they're thinking - the better the results you're going to get. And, at this stage, you're focusing on quality of readers, instead of quantity.
  3. Understand your competitors: Chances are, they're performing better than you. Take what it is that they're doing well, understand it and improve on it.
  4. Analyse everything: Get to the depths - the real, fine details - of what your audience is looking for in a blog post, and make a guide that lets you create great content each and every time.
  5. Take risks and test: Don't be afraid to push the fold and be original. Try something new - a topic or an angle or a guest poster - that is outside of the norm, but that you think your readers will like. How well it performs is a lesson for the future.

All that's left now is to ask you this:

Which step are you going to take first?

Let me know in the comments...

 

James Johnson
James is a Freelance Blogger from Manchester, England.

He specializes in the topics of blogging, growth hacking and content marketing.

You can read more topics from James by clicking on his name.

Comments (2)

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  1. Great post James.
    Reviving a dying blog can prove to be somehow difficult sometimes especially when you've totally lost interest on the blog in question.

    However, if you can stay highly motivated and determine that you want to breath a fresh air into the blog again then, you can do it following all the tips you shared here.

    Indeed, it has been said over and over again that the best way to build an audience of a raving fans is to discover what they needs from you and give it to them possibly in a way that your competitors aren't doing yet. This will make them to see you as the final full stop to their problems.

    And yes, I've heard that quote more than a thousand times that "we should always keep our friends close and our enemies closer" and like you said, i agree that same quote also applies in blogging, your enemies being your competitors.

    Keeping them closer will always enable you to know what they're doing at any given time and to also figure out how best to beat them at it.

  2. James says:

    James, thanks for sharing this tip. I have a blog that is dying gradually due to lack of time and sheer non motivation. I just felt as if am the one you are talking to directly.