In the gig economy, it’s essential that you have a winning blog. If you’re doing anything creative, whether it’s writing, music, movies, etc., a blog isn’t just something “where you share your thoughts.” It’s the headquarters of your personal brand. It’s where you connect to your friends and get people to like you, building your influence in the process. It’s your forum, your store, and your classroom. It’s a system to increase your odds of succeeding.
I didn’t get serious about blogging until September of 2015, when the archives of this site begin. Prior to that I didn’t really have a clue how to build an audience or make money online. Only now do I feel comfortable enough to lay out what I learned. The Masculine Epic is still small, but I’ve built up a core audience of friends, and I’m grateful to all of you! I now want to share with you how you can do the same thing.
Here’s what I learned about building a winning blog from scratch over the past 17 months.
1. Know the Basics
Don’t just wake up and start blogging. It’ll probably be a directionless mish mash. You need to have a game plan and know what causes blog posts to grow into a personal brand. You need to learn the building blocks of persuasion and how to apply them to a blog that people want to read.
Fortunately there’s a good course. Read the free ebooks at Coppyblogger. These will give you the basics of how to build a winning blog from scratch, how to create good content, and how to market that content. All you need to do is sign up for their email list and you’ll get hundreds of pages worth of good information. Do this before you start anything.
2. Don’t Be a Digital Sharecropper!
Once you’ve read the books at Copyblogger, you’re ready to start a blog. Just don’t ever think of having a .blogspot or .wordpress domain! These rarely ever grow into winning blogs. Most importantly, Google hates them. Don’t ever expect to rank well if you’re blogging on such a domain. With good content, you can expect some of your posts to rank on page 1 of Google within a month or two. My 48 Laws of Power series on Donald Trump ranks on page 1 in search terms pairing the president with Robert Greene’s classic. That was a big traffic boost early on. A good deal of other posts rank on page 1 also (more on that later). That probably wouldn’t have been possible if I was blogging from a .blogspot or .wordpress domain because Google hates them. Those stay in scratch.
You need to get your own domain if you’re serious about building a winning brand from scratch. Don’t be a digital sharecropper. You want to own a hot, cool, property.
So you have to find a host.
I’ll recommend mine. Siteground may be a bit pricier than some other hosts, but the basic plan in the first year still amounts to less than $4 a month. You get what you pay for though, and the support Siteground provides is always excellent. In my years with them there hasn’t ever been an issue that wasn’t fixed with their help almost immediately. The server is also fast and never goes down. If you want to check it out, click this link, where you can also get me a commission on the way if you should start a domain through it. You starting a great, winning blog because of me would be an immense compliment!
3. Pick a Theme That’s Mobile Friendly
WordPress is good, simple software that anyone can use and customize to his heart’s content. Just make sure to test your theme on a mobile device because a good amount of your traffic will come from such devices (plus Google now penalizes sites that aren’t mobile friendly). I like the Red Waves theme (as you might know) because it’s simple, stands out (red is a strong color), and is easy to scroll through on a mobile device. Your content is easy to see and hits the viewer in the face.
You don’t need to use Red Waves (it would be boring, frankly, if every site looked the same), but pick a theme that’s mobile friendly and makes your content easy to see. That’s very important for a winning domain.
4. Pick the Needed Extensions
Here are a few extensions you’ll absolutely need to build a winning blog from scratch:
- An SEO extension.
- Social sharing buttons.
- A comment box (disqus is much better than WordPress’ standard comment box, in my opinion).
- Email signup extensions (I like Optin Cat and Feature Box Lite).
There are other extensions that are useful, but those are ones you absolutely need. Look into them and see what works best for you.
5. Start Collecting Emails Immediately
Your email list is almost as important as your blog itself. It’s the way you keep your relationship with your most devoted friends strong. It’s also a backup. If you ever lose your blog, you still retain your core audience because your email list will be intact so you’ll never start from scratch again. When you have a new release, put it out to your email list for the best shot at early sales. Some people used to say that you shouldn’t start collecting emails first, but that’s bogus. Case in point – by the time The Red War Part 1, The Awakened Lion is released this year, I’ll have 500 email subscribers, which is quite good for a blog I started literally from scratch. I’ll have many more for the release of the other three parts, as your blog begins to grow faster at a certain point.
I’ve done an entire post on how to start building a winning email list fast, but here are the basics:
- Have two signup forms.
- Your first signup form should be seen on the first screen of your blog (the average time a person spends on a website is 8 seconds, so you need to catch attention fast – notice that my first signup form features Trump, making it impossible to ignore).
- Your second form can be a lead page, sidebar, or popup (I prefer the popup, and don’t worry about it “annoying people,” as a popup that occurs infrequently won’t bother people that like you or are at least interested in what you’re saying).
- Offer something exclusive, whether it’s a free ebook, a selection of songs, free chapters of a released book, a video, etc.
Make sure to keep in touch with your subscribers every week or two, but you definitely don’t want to spam them with everything you do. Talk about your best posts or have a newsletter of sorts. I’m currently doing a more exclusive persuasion series for my email subscribers.
Keep your relationship with your list strong. It’s crucial for any winning blog that goes beyond scratch.
6. Content: You, Inc.
If you’re looking for winning content (once you know how to put it out there), you should ask yourself two questions:
- What do you know?
- How do you make it interesting?
Think of your life experiences, the things you know, how they can be transformed into something useful, and put them out there. For instance, a while ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine from Ghana. I told him he could talk about his experiences in New York City from a perspective and in a way I couldn’t. That’s how you start blogging from scratch.
This leads me to…
7. Content: Uniqueness
What can you say that’s unique? This is something you need to think about carefully. If you can’t say anything unique, you won’t stand out. For instance, if I just wrote about Donald Trump on my blog, I’d get no traffic. Who needs to hear what Donald Trump said on a given day for the millionth time? My blog gained its first traction when I started writing about him in the context of The 48 Laws of Power. The Donald Trump persuasion posts continued from there to the point that I released an entire book on the subject. To my knowledge, Scott Adams and Mike Cernovich are the only other writers talking about the persuasion tactics that President Trump uses on a regular basis besides me. That gives me some traffic and keeps people coming back because it’s interesting and they can’t find it in many other places.
My unique content doesn’t end there. No one’s really writing that much about Homer, the ethos of the Homeric stories, and how to transform it into a 21st century lifestyle. Few people are talking about the Classics as a masculine guidepost or historical case studies in masculinity, persuasion, and leadership. The only other one except for me is Quintus Curtius.
Then there’s more than that. I’ve done book reviews that rank very well on Google because few other people have reviewed such books.
8. A Quick Way to get Hits
Do reviews of books or other products under the title of that product’s name and “review.” My review of The Art of Seduction actually ranks on the first page of Google for this, and it gets me good traffic. The headline seems a bit boring and not unique, but you’ll rank better in Google that way. Props to Thirty Days to X for passing this tip on to me long ago.
9. Content: Talk About What’s Hot
While uniqueness is important, a winning blog needs to talk about topics that are hot. Otherwise you’ll never get above scratch. My persuasion series on Donald Trump is unique, but Donald Trump himself is a HOT topic, and that’s just one example. Fortunately you have a great guide in social media. You can see what’s trending and then write about in ways that few other people are.
It’s important to have your core cornerstone content, but you can’t expect to get beyond scratch if you think you’re just going to be someone “above it all,” in the words of Mike Cernovich. That’s how you become a starving artist living on scratch instead of building a winning brand.
10. Post Frequently
Google likes blogs that are frequently updated. A winning blog that starts from scratch needs to do as such. One post a week is the absolute minimum. I started out aiming for two and I still keep to that formula. If you’re not committed to such a schedule, go home.
There are a few ways to have winning content that monetizes. The best way to start out from scratch is by using affiliate links like Amazon’s. Make sure you have an easily identifiable disclosure statement that you’re using these or you could be in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission.
After these basics, you can use your valuable content as a way to promote your products or services. My friends who frequent this blog liked me blogging about Donald Trump and persuasion, so I released Stumped. They liked some of my original pictures, so I can sell them on Fiverr.
They like my content on Homer, storytelling, and just me and my writing in general, so they’ll probably like The Red War when it comes out. They’ll also be interested in the writing services I provide on Fiverr (coming soon!).
That’s how you make a winning blog – write good content for free so your friends are willing to pay you later.
The most obvious monetization strategy is also the least winning one. Ads pay very low rates and may alienate some readers. Don’t even think of putting them on your blog until you get at minimum ~1,000 unique visitors a day. Even then you won’t get paid much (but it will at least be steady). The only way you can get a lot of money with ads is if you get a million+ monthly visitors like Return of Kings.
12. Promote Yourself!
A winning blog from scratch needs sources of promotion other than search engines. You should be posting on social media and comment sections (make sure your content there is good though or you’ll be rightly seen as a spammer). I’ll devote a post to these nuances but it’s something you need to keep in mind.
The best way to get some early boosts is by guest blogging at bigger sites, such as my posts on Return of Kings. I now aim to do two guest posts there a month.
13. Keep Moving and Track Your Progress
There’s no sugarcoating it, you won’t build a winning blog overnight. It can be brutal for a while. You’ll get very few hits and little attention when you start from scratch. However, if you keep at it by doing everything else I’ve written about, you should see your traffic grow continuously. You’ll start out getting maybe 20 hits a day. Then you’ll get at minimum 40, 50, 70, 100, and so on. If your typical minimum traffic isn’t growing over time there’s a problem and you’ll need to alter your operation.
Don’t just track your hits, though. See if you’re getting shares, backlinks, tweets, email signups, and comments. If you’re getting these frequently, congratulations! You’ve now built up a dedicated core audience and you are a small success. I crossed that threshold a few months ago, and once again, I’m grateful to all of you for it! It took a lot of work, but it’s done. It’s only up from here.
Do these things frequently and you should be on the right track to build a winning blog from scratch. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share, comment, and subscribe!
And because persuasion is essential to a winning blog, read Stumped.