Wednesday, 1 April 2015

17 Top Tools for Creating Blog Images That Rock

Do you plan to start a blog or are you ready to refresh your images? Need somewhere to store them or to create new ones? Well grab your notebook and pen, you'll be wanting to write these awesome tools down to cover every part of the design and storage (and the best part? They're almost all free!). Read on below to find the tools that I turn to. 
Top tools for creating blog images
> Creating & Editing Images and Colour Palettes
When it comes to images, Autumn Leaves has had its' fair share of change. I've never really found my favourite concept and I'm certainly no graphic designer. While I'm certainly happier with the colour palette I have now as I've used it consistently across my social media platforms and blog, I'm still not sure on the image... especially as I miss taking my own photos. For creating and editing images, here's what I use (plus some alternatives too!):

Canva - My number one resource for anyone wanting to step into creating their own images. With everything you could need font and illustration wise as a mix of free and really cheap extras, plus plenty of social media templates to get you that perfect size in seconds, it makes creating so easy. Also try: Pablo by Buffer

Fotor - I heavily relied on this tool in my product and beauty photography days as editing was a doddle. Whether I wanted to create a collage, play around with exposure or perfect a makeup look - I could do it all and more by using this. While there are a few premium add ons, you'll certainly get by on the free version. Also try: PicMonkey

Colourlovers - Noticed there's a colour palette on everything I post here and on social media lately? That's all down to this website which helped me to build a 6 shade palette and is now helping me to expand it to further complimentary colours. There are already so many others that you can begin to use (I just copy the Hex into Canva when creating) or make your own - totally free. This is ideal for when you're looking to build your blog as a brand or when you just want everything corresponding from the start. Also try: Adobe Color CC

Easelly - Infographics are seriously popular nowadays as the ability to input key information and data visually really increases attention and makes them more share-able. There are hundreds of thousands of templates available for you to use and adapt to create your own on this site. You'll be viral on Pinterest before you know it ;) Also try: Piktochart

> Storing and Sharing your Images
There are times when the Blogger upload and storage system just doesn't quite cut it so I've turned to more reliable tools. Here's the ones I use most commonly:

Photobucket - Also acting as an editing tool, all of those click-to-tweet images, follow buttons and promotional images you see are hosted here. I've been using this tool since early high school (wayyy too many years ago now!) as it's a really secure and straightforward method of copying an images' HTML onto your website/blog. Also try: Flickr

Dropbox - Used to transfer images and documents easily between my devices (perfect when I use my SLR for Instagram pics), you can also use it to share and edit between friends or colleagues. Also try: Google Drive

> Stock Photos, Icons and Backgrounds
Finding images taken by others that you can use on your blog isn't easy. It's definitely preferable that you take your own photos or create images, but if you're unable to, you need to be looking in the right places. Here's some of my favourite places to find images and icons that you can use providing you use the license correctly:

Creative Commons - Also try: Death to the Stock Photo
Subtle Patterns - Also try: Lost and Taken
NounProject - Also try: Font Awesome

Over to you...
What are your top tools for creating and editing images? How do you store and share them? Leave your answers in the comments below. Got a suggestion for someone else? Get replying to others' comments too! Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
Autumn Leaves reader blog survey
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Best tools for bloggers and content marketers
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Monday, 30 March 2015

Seriously Awesome Blogging Tools

Do you need some tools to make your blog the best it can be? Would a little productivity help go down well? Well Autumn Leaves is definitely going to be somewhere you should stick around. Read on below about the exciting series that you'll be a part of this April.
Best tools for bloggers and content marketers
As we approach April I wanted to let you all into my editorial calendar for the next month... April's going to be 'top tools for bloggers' month (someone please come up with a great hashtag ready for the Twitter chat I'll be hosting?!) here on Autumn Leaves where I'll be covering everything from design to content to analytics and so much more. In the run up to it I wanted to share the past posts you might not have read where I've shared my favourite apps and websites, and give you the opportunity to contribute to the posts for the next month by sharing your favourites too so go ahead and leave them in the comments or add them to the comments of the posts below! 

Useful Sites #9: from content creators to advertising on your blog
Useful Sites #8: from keyword tools to evaluating your time
Useful Sites #7: from background to images to company background checks
Useful Sites #6: from organising your inbox to driving more traffic to your blog
Useful Sites #5: from creating the perfect writing environment to monetising social media
Useful Sites #4: from related posts to scheduling social media
Useful Sites #3: more awesome blogs
Useful Sites #2: a bunch of seriously awesome blogs
Useful Sites: from protecting your blog to editing images.
Free Apps for Bloggers
Over to you...
What are your favourite tools to enhance your blogging experience? What hashtag do you think we should use to talk about this months' series? Leave your answers in the comments below and your suggestions could be included in the posts!

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

How to Keep Your Content Fresh and Ideas Flowing

Are you struggling to come up with new and exciting post ideas? Are you feeling uninspired to create? Todays' post contains 9 of my top tips for keeping your content fresh and ideas flowing. Read on below to help you to get back on track to writing seriously good posts.
How to find blog post ideas
Brainstorming sessions.
Lauren is the Queen of this and has really taught me the importance of taking the time out to brainstorm, and I can't thank her enough. If you don't already, I strongly recommend scheduling in some brainstorming sessions where that's all you do for say 30 minutes - if you feel inspired to do so un-planned or for longer then great! Picking a category or keywords to focus on will guide the process, but it's also great to use questions (Lauren has some awesome ones here). Having a strong list of post ideas will help for when you want to blog but just don't know what to write about. 

Use your analytics and feedback.
When was the last time your asked your readers what they wanted to read? When did you last look further than just those top 5 popular posts on your blog? By heading into more detail through surveying your readers and looking at which posts gain the most referrals (i.e. are being shared most) you can really nail what it is that keeps people coming back - I wrote a post all about How to Increase Returning Readers to Your Blog which will give you some ideas of which content is a readers' favourite but if you delve a little deeper you'll find patterns of behaviour that will certainly help you to brainstorm around popular topics.

Read, then read some more (be in the know).
The truth is, I probably read excessively about my blog subjects. I feel it puts me in a better position by keeping up to date with the latest trends in marketing and SEO, as well as following the results of social experiments for publishing content (and so much more). By reading from multiple sources daily, I keep the ideas flowing by putting my own take on what I've read, sharing the top tips once I've trialled them here and in turn helping you to build better blogs and brands too. Even if you only set aside a small amount of time once a day, once a week or whatever is manageable for you - be in the know of what's going on in your niche and other categories too. Avoid sticking to the same blogs and same social accounts, as brilliant as you think they are so you're creating a strong knowledge base for you to create seriously awesome content. 

One thing that I'm always planning (but never quite get round to) is to collaborate with others' in my niche. There's definitely a misconception in blogging that everyone is competing against each other, when in reality, we'd progress more if we worked with each other. I've done this plenty of times in the past by guest posting on beauty blogs, but since changing my niche it's something that I need to take my own advice on. I had a consultation with the wonderful Kelly a few weeks ago who seriously enhanced my blogging experience by giving me her take on what could work for Autumn Leaves.  Even if you don't go as far as guest posting, creating an epic resource or hosting a giveaway together - it's a great opportunity to connect with likeminded people who could become your friends or potential clients, and who are sure to be able to come up with ideas you hadn't thought of (and vice versa). 

Use what you've already published.
If you've already read my post, 20 Easy Ways to Increase Traffic to Old Posts you'll know that I made suggestions to re-vamp your old content by creating roundups based around a topic or going more in-depth on a subject. I bet that if you sat down and looked through your archives you could generate new ideas based on what you've already written. Even if you couldn't think of any other post ideas related to it when it first went live, you might be able to now. You've done the hard work by creating the initial dent in a topic, now you can expand on that. 

Make something your own (get creative).
So someone took your great idea or it's been done 100 times before, that doesn't mean you can't use it. Whenever you see a post that's already been done, challenge yourself to do it better. Create a resource, infographic, worksheet, quiz, comparison, lookbook - whatever it is, there are ways for you to do it differently. I always find it really exciting when I've created something that I know has been done before but I've put my own touch on it and the best bit is, if you can come up with multiple ways to go about doing it, that creates more content pages (that Google will love you for) and definitely gives you a step up on anyone else.

Create a person, solve their problems.
You've probably heard many bloggers telling you to identify your ideal reader before, but here's why it's important to. Your ideal reader is someone who shares your interest and lifestyle, someone who you can bounce your experience and skills off - it's not necessarily someone who is only interested in one topic you write about - if you're a beauty blogger, your ideal reader isn't necessarily another beauty blogger or lover - it's someone who connects with you and wants to share your journey. So here's your opportunity, create a person - give them a name, age, location. Write down what you have in common with them - just like you would as a child with an imaginary friend. Now write down what problems they might have or what they might be interested in knowing more about. Follow that by brainstorming your solutions and ideas, and write for them. Imagine they've come along on the journey with you, what content would they want or need to read next? Keep them in mind whenever you get writers block. 

Change your environment.
Whether you head out to your local coffee shop (where I am as I type this), over to a friends' house, the park or book a hotel room (yep I've done that for a couple of days next week) - switch up your usual blogging location. You'd actually be really surprised at how much more productive you can be in a different environment - providing you're not in somewhere too overstimulating and distracting to you. Simple things like adjusting the room temperature, lighting and background noise in your current environment are actually also likely to impact on your productivity and focus, there's even evidence (here)! If you're starting to lose concentration, run out of ideas or to write content that isn't to your best ability, definitely consider doing a quick evaluation of your location, after all... inspiration is everywhere - Arnold Arre.
How to find blog inspiration
Change your process.
Most of us have some sort of process when it comes to constructing a blog post - I even have a checklist. But when I start to become stuck for ideas, I'll scrap the process and run with whatever feels right at the time - maybe I'll spend time creating a bunch of images first (when usually they're one of the last things I do), or I might brainstorm post titles last (when usually it's the first thing I do). The important thing to remember is your aim - creating an awesome blog post, it doesn't matter how you get there or how long it takes you. If you're feeling inspired to do something, roll with it - I can guarantee that you'll create better content. On the other hand, if you're totally uninspired, creating a process can help to guide you back on the right track. 

Over to you...
What are your top tips for keeping content fresh? Where are your favourite places to get inspiration? Share your biggest problem related to this topic in the comments - let's see if we can all help each other! Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
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How to increase blog trafficEasy SEO for bloggersWhat is my blogging niche
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Thursday, 26 March 2015

20 Easy Ways to Increase Traffic to Old Posts

Are your old blog posts being forgotten? Are they in need of a re-vamp to increase traffic to them? Today I've compiled a list of 20 easy ways you can make sure they don't get hidden away again! Read on below to find out just how you can recycle your old content and give it the love it deserves.
How to recycle old blog posts
1) Create a visually stimulating Start Here or Archive page.
2) Organise your categories and display them well.
3) Refresh your popular posts in your sidebar.
4) Add a related posts widget like Engageya, LinkWithin or Outbrain (or create your own!).
5) Link back to it in an updated version or similar post/create a roundup.
6) Update the image to be share friendly.
7) Update the post layout to be in fitting with the new brand design.
8) Refresh the information - make it evergreen (not date-dependent).
9) Turn the post into a pdf worksheet, slideshow, podcast, infographic, video, course or eBook.
10) Update/check for SEO strategies, fix broken links - follow this SEO checklist!
Recycling old blog posts
11) Submit to Google Webmaster Tools > Crawl > Fetch as Google once updated.
12) Go through old comments and remove any that are un-related or spam.
13) Find submission sites relevant to your niche or offer it as a guest post. 
14) Re-share the post on social media - again with the new image. Create boards/albums.
15) Share with individuals on social media i.e. those who are asking for help on X topic.
16) Share again with any bloggers, brands or companies you've included - but don't spam!
17) Share in new places where relevant - i.e. Quora, Stumbleupon, Reddit.
18) Share in your email newsletter - create a theme where it's applicable.
19) Share in your own comments section to help someone out.
20) Make one epic post rather than multiple posts on the same subject - stop competing with yourself! 

Over to you...
How do you recycle your old content? Are you guilty of letting it hide away? Why don't you share a post in the comments that you really enjoyed writing but didn't quite get the love it deserved? Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)

You might also like to read...
How to increase blog trafficHow to increase returning readersWhat is my blogging niche
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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

How to Increase Returning Readers to Your Blog

Are you seeking reader loyalty? Do your new visitors outweigh your returning visitors? Don't worry! Read on below to discover 6 key tips to resolve your problem and keep those readers coming back. 
How to increase returning readers
> Get people excited.
One thing that I always try to do here on Autumn Leaves and across my social media platforms is give readers an insight into future plans and also show them behind the scenes. Ideally you want your readers to join you on a journey and feel that they can relate to you and the steps you're taking along the way. Whether you let people know in your comments section/within your actual content that there will be a future post on a specific topic that's relevant to the post they've just read, or you post a sneak peek over on Instagram of a product that will be included in a giveaway coming soon - whatever it is, let your readers into your mind/planner. This is a great way of showing that you're listening and responding to your readers' needs and wants. I get a lot of post ideas from the comments I get left and always reply to say that I've noted their problem and that I will share a post within the next X amount of weeks to encourage them to come back. This strengthens your relationship with your readers and may encourage them to promote your post or service in the build up to and after its' publication.

> Give them a memorable user experience.
We all want to stand out from the crowd and share our passion with likeminded people in this busy blogging community, so it's really beneficial to take the time to create a unique, memorable user experience that readers will want to come back to. Take a few minutes before you move further down this post to write down some key points of what keeps you coming back to a blog, I'll wait right here. I bet most of you have written "easy to navigate", "large, clear images" and "good grammar" - they're great, but unfortunately not enough to make you stand out. You want to take the time to really think about the extra special features and resources you could add or provide to make your blog the one that people want to keep coming back to. This relates in many ways to last Friday's post - How to Find Your True Blogging Niche (with Free Printable Worksheet) where I talked about honing in on your topic and ideal reader to ensure you become a focal figure within your niche. For me, I want Autumn Leaves to be recognised for sharing fantastic resources to help bloggers, so to make it a memorable experience I create my own resources and series, and I also created a brand identity that I used on all of my visuals. The reason I'm not giving away more features ideas is because it has to be unique to your blog and your readers, sorry!

> Reply to comments with questions.
Although there will be many occasions where the comments you're left just don't provide enough detail for you to say anything more than a quick "thank you", make the most of every opportunity you can to create discussion with your readers. One trick to increasing returning readers to your blog is to prompt more information out of them via questions in your replies. You can end up creating a long thread, again building your relationship with your reader, and also encouraging others' to get involved. As the discussion progresses, you may find that you can point that reader in the direction of a specific post you've written - reminding them to return to your original discussion with their thoughts or comment on that post where you can continue the conversation.
How to increase returning readers to your blog
> Make it about the reader.
One of the biggest compliments I receive in my comments is that my readers feel like I'm writing specifically for them. Since changing my wording to include less "I..." and more "you" I've definitely seen an increase in engagement and returning readers, ready to take the next step with me. Whilst in your heart it's important to be writing from a place of interest and passion, when putting your words out there, involving the reader by solving their problem, writing to them and getting your other readers to support them is a big part in increasing your returning readers. Using your experience lets them in and makes you relatable - showing your personality is certainly an important element to building your blog community, but using that in a way that benefits your readers - that's your key to success.

> Use key analytics.
Entering our analytics page shows us the blue and green pie chart where the percentage of returning readers vs new readers is displayed - now that's a great starting point. If your new readers are higher than your returning readers, there's definitely some more categories for you to look into to identify where things just aren't quite right. Focus points include:
Behaviour > Behaviour Flow: This chart will show you where readers land, where they drop off and if/where they engage with your site. It's pretty normal for the highest amount of readers to drop off on your starting page - this could be because they're reading an individual post from a site like Bloglovin or Feedly. I'd recommend identifying the top starting pages for your blog and making those as engaging as possible by providing Related Posts, modifying or introducing a call to action, providing a resource - adding or changing whatever you feel would make you stay on your blog for longer if you had just landed on it. For me, this included adding a Start Here page to my navigation bar with my top posts, creating my own Related Posts feature and re-designing the page.
Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Pages: If you want to look into your analytics a little deeper, heading to your exit pages and playing around with the All Sessions filter will show you what type of reader (new or returning) and what type of traffic (organic, referral, direct, social) is leaving each individual post without engaging. This allows you to focus your attention on improving those areas and creating a better experience for that target audience. 
Behaviour > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions: Do you get frustrated if a page doesn't load quickly? Me too! If it's repeatedly slow, I'm not likely to return to it and that will be the same for many of your readers. There's almost certainly things you can do to make your blog load quicker and this fantastic tool in Google Analytics will help you to optimise it and show you specifically which pages need improving and how to go about it.

> Follow up connections.
Whenever you're able to, I really recommend following up connections that you've made. If I've let a reader know in my comments that I will be posting about the subject they require more guidance on, once that post is live I'll always try to specifically share it with that reader. As it can be tough to locate comments, connecting on social media with your readers after they've left one can act as a reminder to you to send over that link. You can build friendships, a client base and more. Every chance to engage builds your relationship with your readers to keep them coming back to your content. You can demonstrate your reliability, your support for others' work and become a recognisable figure to your readers by doing this.

Over to you...
What do you do when you're working on increasing blog traffic? What are your top tips for increasing returning readers? Which of the above tips have you implemented and which do you want to work on? Leave your answers in the comments below! Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
You might also like to read...
How to increase blog trafficEasy SEO for bloggersTop tips for bloggers
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Sunday, 22 March 2015

10 Epic Posts to Improve Your Blog Content

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of blogging tips posts out there? Do you just want to find some great new reads? Discover 10 great posts about blogging, social media marketing and more in part seven of my blog series below - introducing the "improving your content" edition.
Useful posts resources for bloggers to improve content
If you want more than just a list of post ideas and instead are searching for inspiration, the post How to Come Up With 50 Content Ideas in 30 Minutes or Less on Boom Social is a seriously awesome list of resources, places and tips to head to every time you get a little stuck.

If you've not got the time to be searching for inspiration on various websites, the post The Ultimate Guide to Blog Post Ideas on Elembee gives you plenty of prompts and pointers for your next brainstorming session. 

We could probably all do with re-visiting our archives and bringing them back to life. The post, A Brief Guide to Fixing Your Old, Neglected And Broken Content on Copyblogger teaches us just what we can be doing to keep the traffic coming to those older posts - with plenty of things I hadn't even thought of.

So our content is good, but how can we make it great? The post Generating Better Content Ideas on Kaiserthesage provides loads of great tools and effective strategies to help us to take it to the next level.

The post How Long Should it Take to Write an Epic Post on Write to Done really got me thinking about the process of writing posts and how we don't necessarily need to work longer or harder, but how we need to work smarter. 
Looking at more than just what you're writing, the post How to Get People to Actually Read Your Content on Coschedule will get you looking into where your readers are focusing, what they're using to read and what else will keep their attention on your content, all to help you optimise your posts for maximum impact.

You've probably noticed that I can't stop talking about 'evergreen content' lately, but the post The True Power of Evergreen Content on The Moz Blog will prove to you just why you need to be using it to improve your content.

Her blog is my current favourite, but the post How to Consistently Write Better Blog Posts on Blog Genie has an awesome blog post template that's more than just your "do this, don't do that" - it gets you thinking, researching and responding to the needs of your readers.

With tasks and tips, the post How to Create Content for Your Ideal Readers on Jennypurr will help you to identify exactly what your ideal readers need and want, and how you can go about providing that. 

The seriously epic Buffer blog needs no introduction here on Autumn Leaves, but the post 6 Foolproof Methods for Creating the Top Content on Any Topic on Buffer is one of the best posts I've read over there for teaching us how to make even the best content better.

Over to you...
Which of the above posts did you find most interesting to read? Have you read any useful blogging posts lately that you would recommend to myself and other Autumn Leaves readers? Or have you written any that you'd like to share? Leave your answers in the comments below. 
Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
You might also like to read...

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Friday, 20 March 2015

How to Find Your True Blogging Niche (Free Printable Worksheet)

Have you been blogging for a while and unsure if you're in the right niche? Or are you in two minds about which path to take with your new blog? Here's a 6 point checklist (and free printable worksheet download) to make sure both you and your readers are happy with your blog content.
how to find blog niche free printable worksheet download
> You're bringing new, exciting and evergreen content.
The blogging world has blown up so much since I started almost 5 years ago. With it being such a hugely popular hobby, and for many the basis for their career, it's so important to be evaluating whether you're bringing something new to the table with your content. Everytime you go to write up a post, and again before you hit Publish, make sure you're providing content that has that something different and won't expire down the line. It is difficult to create unique content ideas, but it's the way you write that makes it unique and sharing your perceptions and tips from your own experiences and research will keep it fresh. If you're starting to feel that you can't add anything new or exciting to the existing content in the niche it could be time for a break, a brainstorming session or a change of direction for your blog. 

> You're inspired to post.
Not having passion or motivation will reflect in your content. There'll be a lack of personality which prevents your posts from standing out to the crowd and from your readers getting to know you. There are a number of reasons you could not be inspired to post, but one of which is that you're not covering topics that thrill you, interest you or allow you to fully be you. It's easy to get caught up with following the crowd in blogging - beauty blogs are a prime example of that, but if you don't truly love what you're writing about, there will come a time that you'll hit a creative wall. I tore down that wall at the end of last year by changing niche and I couldn't be more inspired now. 
find true blog niche free printable worksheet download
> If you lost your blog tomorrow you'd continue with the same categories on your new blog.
If I lost my blog (I'd be devastated of course) I know that I would continue now writing about blogging, content marketing and branding because they're the topics I'm most interested in, they're the topics my ideal readers are interested in and they're the topics that will still be evergreen, despite changes. If you started your blog all over again, would you take the same path? Would you post the same content? Would your ideal reader still be the same? My free printable worksheet (download available at the bottom of the post) will help you decide which topics you'd take forward and who your ideal reader is.

> You can see yourself maintaining it for years.
With beauty blogging, it always felt like I wasn't making any steps closer to the big picture goals that I wanted for Autumn Leaves. I had to take a step back and ask myself if I really wanted to continue with it after 4 years which wasn't easy. When starting a blog or changing direction, you want to feel confident that you'll still be happy writing about the subject years down the line, and while that was the case with beauty blogging, I knew I couldn't take it any further. Of course things change and you grow with your blog, but the last thing you want is to have readers who don't know what you're doing as you repeatedly change your mind. Which brings me onto my next point...

> You're writing for your ideal reader.
I watched an epic video yesterday - 7 Tips for Building a Successful Creative Business by my favourite biz lady, Regina in which she talked about finding your un-niche - finding your people not serving the topic. By this she means that your niche can change or even not be applicable to you down the line but you want to find people who relate to your experience, interests, lifestyle and skills (your passion). When you're writing, write for the people you want to be reading it - create a person who has a problem and solve it for them specifically. If you're not doing this regularly and instead you're not writing for anyone and are just writing for the sake of contributing to the topic, it could be time to rethink your content route or to spend some time really defining your ideal reader.

> You're sharing relevant content from others. 
I've said this many times, but every social media post and blog post is a reflection of your brand and consistency is key. Not only should you ideally be writing content that you're proud of, excited by and has been produced for a specific ideal readership, but you should look at working on sharing similar content too. It's great to mix things up on your social media from time to time and share other articles or images that you like, but if you're really passionate about your niche then take the time to share others' work that your readers and followers might enjoy. If you notice a trend of you sharing all blogging-type posts from others when you blog only about food or fashion or whatever, it could be an indication that your own content could do with a bit of a switch up.
Free finding your niche worksheet printable download
Over to you...
What do you consider your niche to be? Do you have any doubts about the niche you're in? Have you defined your ideal reader? Leave your answers in the comments below. Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
You might also like to read...
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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How I Increased My Blog Traffic and You Can Too!

Want to boost your blog traffic and rope in returning readers? Has your traffic slumped or are you just starting out? Today's post is about my experience, sharing successful strategies and stories to keep you on the right track to topping your previous stats, with nothing but authenticity.
how to increase blog traffic
> I changed my niche entirely.
If you've read my About page or you've been a long-time reader of Autumn Leaves, you'll know that the current content style hasn't always been the case. Starting off as a live music blog, transitioning into fashion and lifestyle, then finally ending up in beauty, Autumn Leaves has had its' fair share of change over the past 5 years (almost). Towards the end of 2014, it had become clear to myself and I'm sure to readers too that beauty wasn't for me anymore. I'd lost the passion, the motivation and drive to keep putting up content in a hugely popular niche. I felt like I could no longer add anything new, that reviews just weren't exciting enough and that traffic had haltered. I needed something to stop me from quitting altogether, so when I decided to start posting about my blogging experiences, sharing my top tips and tools of the trade and realising the feedback I was getting was that my posts were highly welcomed, it became interesting to me again. I made the decision just before Christmas to make blogging, branding, marketing and creativity my focus and to deliver content that would help to improve other bloggers' journeys, no matter what stage they were at. It also meant that I could continually research the behind-the-scenes blogging bits that thrilled me most. All areas of my traffic have greatly improved, some of my individual posts have had over 700 saves on Bloglovin and my monthly bounce rate (according to Google Analytics) has reduced by 2/3rds compared to the percentage leaving my blog after viewing just one page when I wrote about beauty.
Are you happy with your current niche? Are you still bringing something new and fresh to the table? Are you giving your best to your content? If you answered no, it may be time to consider changing topics. You don't have to completely change, but breaking up your posts by other categories could bring back excitement for you.

> I used my analytics wisely.
For the most part I focused on my returning readers. To me, it was important to make sure people wanted to come back before I worked on enticing new readers to my blog. If the readers I did have didn't want to come back, clearly there was something up. By delving deep into your analytics you can find out what your readers really want and need by looking at the most popular posts, you can trace their steps to see where they visit most and what makes them stay for longer, identify what devices they're using to make sure your blog is fully optimised for them and work out where they're from and how they got to your blog. It's so important to not focus on your follower count on Bloglovin or the amount of page views you're getting - there's so much more important information within that can really help you to build your blog and keep people coming back. Once I identified what was working to keep people returning and what needed improving (engagement, social media and enticing navigation systems such as 'Related Posts'), it was then that I could brainstorm ideas around the popular posts to encourage new readers, implement content marketing strategies and make the entire experience more pleasurable. 
Are you focusing on the right areas of your analytics? How is your current user experience on your blog? Can you make changes using your analytics to guide you to creating a better user experience? Take a look at the behaviour flow of your readers, in-page analytics and your audience to note what is working well, what needs improving and which readers you're bringing in.

> I created documented strategies.
I talked in my post on Monday about Why you Should Write a Blog Business Plan as within it is an ideal place to write down strategies for so many elements of your blog. For me, the most important strategies were content marketing (via social media) and time management as both of these have impacted on my blog traffic. By documenting them and sticking to them, I've been able to maintain consistency across my platforms, increase the amount of time I spend engaging with my readers and connect with potential new readers. I identified the importance of visuals, posting at optimum times for each platform, using tools such as hashtags correctly, organising time slots to get things done and sharing others' content - all of which influence the outreach potential for increasing blog traffic.
Are you active on at least two social media platforms? Do you ensure you have time for engaging with your readers through commenting, networking in person and connecting on social media? Do you have strategies in place to maintain consistency? Write down 3 goals as starting points to your strategies. 

> I implemented SEO techniques but didn't rely on them.
Each and every one of the tips in my post, Easy SEO Tips That Will Make Your Blog Awesome in Minutes has come from experience of implementing them regularly into Autumn Leaves. Of course, search engine optimisation plays a huge part in increasing blog traffic but you've got to remember that almost all of the other sites and blogs out there are doing the same thing in one way or another. Whilst I made sure that I was sticking to everything I knew already about SEO (check out my SEO Checklist too!), as well as keeping up to date with new trends and possible future plans for Googles' ranking system, I made sure I focused on everything else instead of believing that these techniques would rocket my blog to first place on Google. 
Are you using basic SEO techniques to put your blog in a better position? Are you guilty of believing SEO will be the key element to increase your blogs' traffic? Don't worry, no one will ever truly understand where Google are going with SEO, so follow my steps, then focus on everything else I suggest in this post.

> I had a blog re-design, and then again.
Your design will be the first thing potential readers are interested in, then your content. You may be producing epic content, but if you've got a bad layout and no consistency they probably won't even get past the title of your first post. On Christmas eve last year I decided to go for a pre-made template by the wonderful Pipdig and I've been in love with it up until a few weeks ago. I decided that it wasn't a good enough reputation of Autumn Leaves, it didn't quite have enough to it to turn it into a brand that would be memorable so I modified it. It's still definitely in progress now, and I'm not even sure if the name will stick but the new colour palette definitely will be. Changing your design to fit your content or to make your brand identity a better reflection on you will always have an impact on blog traffic. I made sure that with the new colour scheme and image style that I continued it over onto my social media platforms to start to introduce new readers and make the Autumn Leaves personal brand more recognisable. It may take multiple tries to figure out what works and looks best, and you may need to invest time and in some cases money (for a designer or domain) but once you've figured it out alongside your awesome content, it will guarantee to keep readers coming back and introducing new ones. 
Is your current design having a negative impact on your traffic? Is it an accurate reflection on your content and personality? Have you taken the time to identify what works well and looks good? Make two secret boards on Pinterest to inspire you of what others do well and what doesn't look so good, then use these to guide you to creating a style guide that works for you.

> I got 'bigger' bloggers to share my content. 
We've all written about other bloggers we love or shared a piece of content they've created because it inspired us, but when it comes down to it, it would be wonderful if they shared one of ours to their bigger following. So just how did some of my blog link tweets have over 172k impressions in total on Twitter last month? A few really established users shared my content, not only because they were mentioned in posts like 50+ Great Blogs and Marketing Sites You Should be Reading, but because they actually thought the content was useful for their followers too. Usually it's the case that you'll get a favourite and a quick thank you if you mention a 'bigger' blogger, but last month I got bloggers with over 31k, 39k and 52k amongst others to not just retweet me, but actually write a tweet with my blog post link. Some of those then got retweeted further and further (as well as lots of re-pins over on Pinterest too) which saw a huge increase in my blog traffic. The issue is that the click throughs from this don't necessarily convert into regular, returning readers which is why the above step is highly important for enticing them to come back again. It's important not to ask these people to share your content, instead focus on your wording - it's far easier if they've got a mention in your post, but if it's something you think they might like, definitely consider how you'd like to be presented the content. 
How can you go about getting others to share your content? How can you genuinely include 'bigger' bloggers in a way that is beneficial for your readers? What would make you share someone else's content? Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself - it's a great mantra to live by.

Over to you...
What do you do when you're working on increasing blog traffic? What are your top tips for increasing returning readers? Which of the above tips have you implemented and which do you want to work on? Leave your answers in the comments below! Want to talk more about this 1:1? Then why not email me? :)
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