Niche Blogging Case Study – Ramping Up A New Blog From Scratch
Seven months ago I decided to start a country music blog. For most of my life I’ve enjoyed country music. It’s not that I set out to be a country fan, I actually like all kinds of music. I basically follow the line of thinking from Willie Nelson when he says there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. Today I wanted to share my story with you about ramping up the blog from scratch.
Blog case study: Country Music Life
For about $75 in domain and hosting fees I was able to setup the blog with a free theme and WordPress. I slightly modified a theme I had used before. My vision was that I would start the blog out on the cheap and see how things progressed before investing in a proper customized look.
Today the blog has more traffic than I imagined it ever could and continues growing (will share some numbers in the results section). I thought it’d be neat to look back and share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past seven months by creating a country music blog.
1. Frequency is Important
With other blogs I’ve written for the frequency of posts had ranged from once a week to five times a week. Many blogs I read stick to the once a day frequency for posting, but something I had been noticing is blogs with lots of traffic and growth tend to post more frequently and usually many times per day. A few of my favorite blogs had a setup where they would post long posts each day along with shorter posts multiple times a day. The shorter posts tended to highlight news-type articles from around the web while adding about 100-200 words of interpretation. I thought I could do something that like with Country Music Life.
For the shorter post strategy I worked my way into writing mostly song reviews. These posts started to be about 400-500 words long, but have since dropped down to about 200 words per post. This allows me to get short posts up in about 15-20 minutes.
For Country Music Life the original plan was to post more than once per day. I was able to start out doing this. Things have slipped a bit to about once a day again, but an interesting thing I noticed was the blog grew relatively fast and I think the frequency of the posts played a part in that growth.
To sum up: the more you post quality stuff, (even short) the more traffic you will receive.
2. Fans LOVE Their Artist
Everybody loves music of some kind. Each person seems to have their favorite artist and among those favorite artists there is usually one artist or group that is the all time favorite.
I’ve noticed that country fans can be very invested in the success of their favorite artist. These fans will scour the web looking for articles about them. They’ll link to articles in fan forums. They’ll leave comments. They’ll share the articles. Fans invest a lot of time into helping their artist succeed.
What I’ve learned is these are the people to form relationships with. I probably haven’t been doing the best job at fostering these relationships with the ultra-fans but they have continued sharing articles on forums, commenting, and sharing articles on Facebook.
For any topic you’re going to find that a certain segment of readers will become ultra-fans. These fans may be fans of the topics you write about and eventually they may become fans of your blog. Either way, forming relationships with this group of fans can be a key factor in determining the success of your blog.
3. Trending Keywords Offer Opportunity
In the first month or so of starting the country blog I wrote a song review for a new song that was just starting to chart. The post soon made the first page of the SERPs for the song title and artist. As the song climbed the charts the traffic to the country blog started increasing and continued to stay high throughout the life of the song.
Keyword research is important for a successful blog. When I started the blog I knew there was opportunity to writes posts for the keywords “sad country songs”, “funny country songs”, etc. I did not know there was going to be opportunity to target individual songs. I didn’t understand the trending nature of search traffic for songs.
Now I know that if I can write a review for a song that’s around the number 50 or 40 on the charts I have a good chance to rank and if that song starts climbing the charts my traffic will climb as well. This is a trending keyword strategy so the traffic does die off once the song falls of the charts, but it’s a continuous strategy that can work consistently to get traffic.
When researching keywords for your blog be sure to consider keywords that may have a lifespan. Just because a keyword may not have a lot of traffic right now it could actually represent an opportunity for your to rank and enjoy future traffic. Businesses with knowledge of the future events in the industry can use this strategy.
4. People Still Love Lists
Over two years ago Adam wrote about how much people love people love lists. I’ve found that list love extends to country music fans in a big way.
Going into the country blog project I knew there was opportunity to gain visibility for some big keywords across the engines. For these opportunities I eventually wrote list posts like:
There was some good search traffic for these categories and I thought lists would be a good way to format the posts. I take the time to research songs for the lists and carefully choose the highest quality. I create a list of usually 50 songs and turn the entire list into a five-part post with 10 songs per post counting down to the top song on each list just like the weekly chart countdowns.
For the most part these list posts have been successful. Readers can stop in and scan the lists quickly if they’re looking for ideas for playlists. Readers can also take more time to read a paragraph or two about each song if they choose.
Lists are something readers like. Write lists to attract readers and even stir some controversy (a good thing).
5. Country Fans Use Facebook More Than Twitter
There has been some question about whether Facebook is better than Twitter or if Twitter is actually better than Facebook for marketers:
- Twitter is a Better Marketing Tool Than Facebook
- New Study Reveals Facebook Better Than Twitter for Marketers
- Why Facebook Marketing Slaps Twitter Marketing in the Face
- Why Twitter Followers are Better Than Facebook Fans
All I know is that posts on CML are shared much more on Facebook than on Twitter. There are probably more variables accounting for this outcome that could be changed, but by offering both Twitter and Facebook as ways to share posts country fans use Facebook more than they use Twitter.
Adam frequently writes and speaks about creating a content strategy. Creating a strategy is important for both personal blogs and business blogs.
With Country Music Life my strategy was to write short, snack-sized posts where I shared my view on country news. Along with short posts I wanted to include long, in depth posts where I write extensively about a group of songs or a featured story on a country artist. Over the first few months the strategy changed to mostly song reviews for the short posts and country song lists for the long posts.
Having a strategy allowed me to have focus when writing posts. The strategy has changed somewhat since the blog first launched, but the basic focus remains.
A blog strategy development process should include:
Is there an audience for this blog topic? How many people? What sites to they read now? Try to envision your target reader. Get it down to one detailed person. This will make it easier to write posts for them.
2. Posting Concepts
The types of post you write for a blog will develop over time, but having a focus is important at the beginning to give the blog direction.
3. Voice and Commitment
It’s important to decide who will write blog posts. Blog personality is important to blog readers. Decide who will write the posts for your blog (you, an employee, a freelance blogger) and make sure they know the commitment to the project.
Going through the strategy process is important for any blog. It will go a long way to ensure you are setup for blogging success.
Here are the growth stats to date. The blog launched in the middle of April 2010.
Visits went from 841 in May to 29,230 in October. So far this November things are on pace to keep growing.Pageviews per visit has always hovered around 2.0. There hasn’t been much movement there since launch. It’s actually dropped from about 2.15 to about 1.98 today.
The telling stat at this point in the life of the blog is traffic source.
When the blog first launched in April my goal was to hit 30,000 visits within a year. I was able to hit that recently as the last thirty or so days have resulted in 33,000 visits. My goals have had to change since and now I’m shooting for 100,000 visits per month by April 2011.
With about 50% growth since the past month I think it may be possible.
Up to this point the majority of traffic has been natural search traffic. Nearly 85% of the traffic today is natural from search engines. This means there are many keywords ranking well and sending traffic to the site, but the downside is the visitors are often one-time visitors and they don’t stay on the site to read more than one or two articles.
I’m working on building an email list as a way to improve the mix of traffic sources. Right now the list is standing at about 250 subscribers. I send out weekly emails right now and am kind of experimenting with frequency and content.
[note from Adam: So to those debating the value of search and social which has been a trending topic the past few weeks - realize there are strategies to embrace both. They are not at odds and can work together.]
It’s been fun writing for Country Music Life. There have been some successes and also some areas where improvement is definitely needed (commenting and interaction).
Fives things I’ve learned from writing a country blog are:
- Frequency is Important
- Fans LOVE Their Artist
- Trending Keywords Offer Opportunity
- People Still Love Lists
- Country Fans Use Facebook More Than Twitter
I started the blog with a simple strategy. I wanted to target specific a category where I saw opportunity across search and social. I knew there was a large audience interesting in reading good content covering country music.
I would consider the site an ongoing project that has achieved some good things, but there is still a long way to go.
Please share your thoughts and comments.
Dayne Shuda is a marketing professional and blogger. He started his first blog – DayneShuda.com, which became Hunting Business Marketing – in 2008. Today he writes for his own blog Country Music Life and other business blogs via his company Ghost Blog Writers.