I have been blogging on JetSetCitizen for more than 4 years now. After hundreds of blog posts, my readership and subscribers are still growing at a snail’s pace. I’ve seen many of my peers explode online in recent years, so what am I doing wrong?
My recent interview with Steve Kamb of Nerdfitness.com really helped highlight what is lacking with this site. Steve told me about his own realization that his blog sucked and what he did to change it. Nerdfitness.com now often gets 250 new subscribers per day and Steve Kamb is at the reigns of a rapidly growing fitness empire.
Why Do I Want Lots of Traffic?
Before getting into the details of how to get more traffic and subscribers to JetSetCitizen.com, I think it’s important to step back and ask why? I don’t want my life to be about competitively striving for more. A quality life is not about maximizing material possessions, experiences or online popularity. I don’t need a top blog to enjoy my life or find meaning and purpose. My life is pretty damn good now, so I want to be clear to myself that I’m not chasing superficial goals.
Do I need an A-list blog? That’s a difficult question to answer. In the back of my mind, I’d love fame and fortune, just like anyone, so I have to keep myself in check. I’m not writing to promote the latest “make money online” or “find your passion” gimmick. Although my focus seems to be lifestyle design, long-term travel and making money online, I really have ulterior motives.
I think the way most of the developed world lives is destructive to the planet and counter-productive to our own personal happiness. I’m trying to subtly, and sometimes not-so-subtly, encourage people to change what they think a good life is. For that reason, I want to reach as big as an audience as possible. Is that selfish or manipulative? Maybe. But, there it is in the open for everyone to see.
Now back to why this blog sucks.
The Ingredients of a Successful Blog
If you follow any of the blogging gurus, you will see a pretty standard list of key factors to building a popular blog.
1. Epic Posts
Long form content that goes deep into problems your readers are likely to have is valuable content that people bookmark and share. There is far too much generic, superficial fluff on the internet, so great content gets noticed.
Good infographics, slide shows, podcasts and videos will also increase sharing, so having some content diversity is also very benefical.
2. Be Helpful
Great bloggers solve problems for their readers. Your mom might be interested in a personal diary of your experiences, but most of the internet is not. You are either entertaining or solving problems. Short posts of regurgitated facts, (13 Reasons You Should Travel in 2013), are annoying and boring.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is true offline and online. If you want to promote your content and products online you have to build relationships with bloggers that are more popular than you are.
You can comment on the blogs of others in your niche, share their content on social media or interview others. All those strategies work to a degree but there are a couple of more effective networking strategies. Number one, buy the products of those you want to connect with. No one talks about this very often, but there is no better connection to a blogger than being their customer. The second best strategy is attending real world events. Meeting someone in person once, is worth hundreds of online interactions.
4. Tell Stories
Great bloggers, like WanderEarl, tell stories that catch your attention, build up interest and and then reach a climax, just like any good book or movie. Factual posts like ’10 Things Every BackPacker Must Bring” might get clicks, but content like that is boring and largely useless for most people. Great story telling never gets old.
5. Be Unique
In every niche, there are thousands of bloggers and they all write about essentially the same things. To stand out, you really have to be different. That is easy to say, but often hard to do in practice. People like Mars Dorian or Ashley Ambridge get attention because they are unique and interesting in an authentic way. Their personalities come through on their sites. The most obvious sign of a generic and boring business is the ongoing use of ‘we’ when you are alone. Trying to pretend you have a large team is stupid if you are an individual freelancer. Celebrate your individuality, don’t pretend to be a stale corporation.
6. Have a Story
In order for people to take notice, you have to be doing something worth noticing. Chris Guillebeau is travelling to every country in the world. Benny Lewis goes on language missions where he learns a new language in 3 months. Pat Flynn makes $50,000 per month online. Brandon Pearce makes tens of thousands of dollars a month working an hour a day. Niall Doherty is travelling the world without flying.
Those are all fantastic stories that people want to spread. A great idea naturally spreads, it has too. All the marketing in the world can do little to help a boring story.
Another way to look at it is, “What Guy are You?”
- Chris Guillebeau is the guy travelling to every country before he is 35 years old. That’s how he is identified. It’s on his website and Twitter profile. The minute you find out about him, you know what “guy” he is.
- Lewis Howes is the Linkedin guy.
- Chris Brogan is the social media guy.
- Steve Kamb is the nerd fitness guy, and the fact that is his domain name is even better.
- Corbett Barr is the blog traffic guy.
- Cody McKibben is the Digital Nomad Academy guy.
What guy or gal are you?
7. Be Everywhere
Super bloggers like Pat Flynn are active everywhere. They have lots of videos, popular podcasts, are active on social media and they frequently write high quality content for their blogs. There are few short cuts to gaining massive attention. Put in the work and you will build an audience.
Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers.com has a great post on Why Bloggers Fail. One of the key reasons he identifies is that writing great content is not enough, you have to promote it to get more traffic. That means getting guest posts and mentions from popular bloggers.
Why JetSetCitizen Sucks
I know exactly what is necessary to build a great site, yet I don’t. I think many people are in the same situation. We all know what success entails but most of us dream that some short cut will allow us to get massive results with little effort.
Here is a more detailed break down of why the growth of this site has been mediocre.
1. Epic Posts
I occasionally write long, content rich posts, and they get shared. I know they get results, but these types of posts are a lot of work. Also, my motivations for writing epic posts are primarily traffic focused. It’s not usually the most important idea I want to convey. Catering to what is popular is often selling out in my mind. I’d like more traffic, but not at the cost of publishing content I’m not proud of.
From my surveys and reader feedback, I know most of you want information on how to make money online. That can be a very sleazy topic to write about so I have to tread carefully there.
My favourite topics are more related to encouraging social good and more thoughtful living, but these posts don’t seem to resonate so well with my readers. I hope that will change over time. I want the world to change, not the topics I write about. 🙂 Making money is interesting to me and valuable to most readers, so I will cover those topics on occasion, but I want to focus on bigger ideas.
I have some big projects in the works, that I hope some of you will be interested in, so maybe there is some epicness in my future. 🙂
2. Be Helpful
I’m trying to provide practical and actionable advice, but I also want to promote critical thinking about our lifestyle choices. I enjoy the interviews because it allows me to meet fellow digital nomads and I love hearing about how others earn their living online, but interviews are not my primary interest.
Far too many talented entrepreneurs are spending all their time making largely socially useless businesses just to earn a small amount of money, while billions in this world still don’t have food and clean drinking water. Aren’t there better things we could be doing with our time?
I know that most of you don’t want to hear these messages all the time, so I try to limit the preaching, but I still want to push that message.
I’m not very comfortable in social situations so this is still difficult for me. I’m trying to connect with more people, but I know I can still improve in this area. Interviewing so many people has definitely helped, but I should also be dedicating time every day to contacting people online and attending more conferences.
I don’t buy many products online because most of them haven’t really been worth the money. I’m sure there are some great products out there, but I don’t really need more information. I think all of us need to take more action, not consume more products. I should buy more products of the top bloggers just to help me get noticed, but I hate buying things I know I’m not going to invest much time in.
4. Tell Stories
Telling great stories is an art form and is not something you can fake. I’ve never really been interested in reading fiction so I’m at a disadvantage here. This is something I’m actively trying to change. I’m reading more novels and trying to be more conscious of story arcs. Unfortunately, my posts still don’t communicate much emotion.
I think one of my better story posts is Foreign Travel is Scary and Dangerous. I need to try more posts like that.
5. Be Unique
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to standout. Everyone does interviews so that is not really a differentiator. My focus on social good might help me, but I’m not sure that’s how people identify me.
I really enjoy creating animations, so I hope to add more to the site in the future. No blogger, that I know of, is focusing on animations so this could be a way to stand out. The problem is that good animations take a long time to create, so I’m not sure if they are worth the effort.
6. Have a Story
I don’t really have a good story. I thought that My One Year Plan to a New Country and Career could be my story, but I don’t think that is powerful enough.
To be clear, a good story is not some made up marketing tag line like a unique selling proposition. A good story is something meaningful and authentic that resonates with people and is easy to communicate. It’s about doing something bold and unique.
I need and want to do bigger things with my life. I hope to reveal some new developments very soon. Maybe I will finally have a story worth telling.
7. Be Everywhere
I’d like to do more video and audio, but they take a lot of time for me to edit. I love how Niall Doherty puts video on every post, but I’m not so comfortable on camera so I’m a little reluctant to start down this path. However, the fact that I’m uncomfortable with video, makes me want to challenge myself to overcome this fear. Okay, the challenge is set. I will post more video on this site.
I think I’ve only done one guest post and that was a long, long time ago. I definitely need to put more time into promotion. If more traffic is the goal than guest posts on popular sites should be my primary focus. Challenge number two; ten guest posts before the end of the year.
I know what needs to be done, the question is whether or not I will take the time to do it. Is it worth putting in massive effort to get more traffic to JetSetCitizen? I’m not sure yet. I don’t make any money from this site, but maybe I could if I put more effort into it. There are little profits in promoting social good, so I don’t expect to earn much. On the other hand, if I were making money with this site, I would likely invest more time into it.
Why do you think my blogging sucks?
What can I focus on to get better?
What content would be more popular?