If you're a Christian blogger, find out the 7 tried and tested ways to grow your blog, attract quality visitors, boost engagement, grow your email list and create raving fans! These tips will help you think carefully about the purpose and focus of your blog and make sure that you're getting your message across, finding your ideal readers - and having fun too!
This is not a list of 7 technical things to plug into your site - or 7 quick ways to make money blogging (you'll find plenty of information on that out there). Far more importantly than that, I'm talking here about ways to grow the HEART of your blog as you go on this journey of expressing what God has put inside you.
I've been blogging as Lead Author at She31 Network for over a year now and I often get asked by fellow Christian bloggers for hints and tips on how to grow a blog, and more importantly, create a real buzz and community around blogging.
Blogging is so much more than just an online journal, it's a real opportunity to influence people with the great news that God is Good! It has never been easier or cheaper to get a blog up and running - and who knows what YOUR blog might accomplish? Who knows whose life it might touch?
I believe in you! And I am on a mission to help Christian bloggers grow their blogs, reach the audience they have a heart for - and be effective in how they do it. And if you want to start to monetize your blog; either for some extra income, or to grow your ministry - you've come to the right place.
All the top tips below are a result of me making lots of mistakes along the way - I hope they help you cut out just some of the many hours I spent trying and failing!
So, without any further ado - let's get down to it.
Here are my very best, tried and tested, top tips to grow your Christian blog!
1. Have A Mission
The story of She31 didn't start with a blog but in fact started out as a Facebook Group. My mission was simply to create a safe place online for Christian women to connect and grow their faith through fellowship and Biblical inspiration. I was already reading lots of Christian blogs and in a few groups for Christians, but if they weren't full of nonsense and spam, they ended up with drama and arguments. I had a vision of a group that would simply be inclusive, positive, encouraging and edifying. I wanted there to be a place where we could pray for one another and talk about the issues that matter to Christian women today, without judgement or criticism. That was, and still is, my mission - 3 years on!
Your mission is represented by your whole 'brand': your personality, your passion for your readers and your message all rolled into one. I wrestled with the name She31 for literally months and agonized over several options. After finally plumping for She31 - I wanted to chew the table every time I heard someone refer to it as 'Woman31' or 'Her31'. The 31 bit stuck alright, because every Christian woman on Earth has heard of Proverbs 31... but I've learned to let go of my need for branding perfection. It doesn't exist. The truth is, the name you pick just becomes a framework for the main event - your awesome content. Readers will come back time and time again for great, thoughtful and useful content. So pick something YOU like and roll with it. Your mission will get more refined as you go along - don't wait for all the answers - just begin!
2. Forget About The Money
That's not to say don't work towards making some money from your Blog; if you enjoy blogging and connect with your readers, making some income is a happy possibility - but remember why you started blogging in the first place. What was the burning message in your heart that you wanted to share with the world? What was it that God impressed on you to start writing about in the first place? It's so easy to get side-tracked trying to chase down the perfect formula to making your blog monetized, but the truth is - very, very few bloggers are making any money at all.
Huge amounts of the conversation in blogging circles now is about tactics on monetization and it leaves me feeling cold because yes, of course I want the cost of the website to pay for itself and it's well on it's way to doing that - but it takes some time and a lot of thought to start to make that happen. The truth is, you may have to compromise your mission if you want to go down the route of commercializing your blog. So, be sure it's what God has called you to do in case you end up writing for your advertisers, instead of your mission field.
Keep your focus on hearing from God and writing great content - the money will follow, if that's what you would like to do. I'll be sharing in much more detail about HOW to monetize your blog without compromising your mission - using advertising, partnerships, links and affiliates in an upcoming blog - so make sure you subscribe! (Did you see what I did there? If not, see Point 7!)
3. Be Consistent
This is much harder than it sounds. I've started blogging series' that I've never actually finished because I've been so eager to get onto the next idea.... and for me and my Type A personality, that's torture. Our most popular Bible Study is the 31 Traits of a Godly Woman and I started off great, but my intention was to write 31 blogs - 1 per session, but I flopped around session 5! (I'm just keeping it real here, I told you I would share my failures too!) I'm easily inspired and my heart is already racing on to the next thing God is stirring in me, so it can be difficult for me to stay focused and complete something I start. The solution? Mini blogs. Short, bite-size blogs when you don't have the time or are feeling uninspired. Write SOMETHING to keep momentum going. Don't over-commit (like I'm learning not to!) by trying to blog every day, or even every week. What matters just as much as how often you post is that you're consistent in your topics, quality and voice.
This is important not only for your readers but Google too.. Google's little content-analyzing robots actually look at the freshness of your blog's content... so if it has been a while since you posted, get something moving again. I often find that even when I feel a bit uninspired, as soon as I make myself write something.. the creative juices soon start flowing again!
4. Be The Expert
The trouble is, the whole world is trying to share a message with the rest of the world too - so you need to either STAND OUT by doing and saying something different, controversial, counter-cultural or in a fresh way... OR you need to be REALLY consistent and grow your profile so that people start to see you as the go-to person - an expert - on your topic.
This is where knowing what niche audience you want to write for - is vital. If you want to grow your Blog on the topic of Christian Marriage, for example, you'll have to take your place at the back of a very, very long queue because it's one of the most written-about topics for Christians! However, if you want to Blog about Christian blended families, or recovering after an extra-marital affair, or rebuilding marital trust after pornography addiction.. NOW you're getting into niche territory and stand a good chance of becoming an expert (as long as you follow Point 2!).
As you can imagine, having enough inspiration and quality content around a very specific, expert niche can be challenging, so also consider some related niches that you might want to fall back on, or expand into, if your topics run dry.
If you do want to establish yourself as an expert in your niche - linking in to other related topics is a great way to attract in an audience. Referring to research and recommending good resources around the topic also helps your reader see you as someone who knows what they're talking about and worth listening to. Try commenting on other blogs and related articles to build your audience and draw people who are interested in that topic over to your site. Be consistent, credible and share your knowledge as freely as you can.
5. Keep It Simple
Many Christian blogs try to be 'all things to all men'.. which is a Biblical instruction that I'm pretty sure Paul the Apostle wasn't aiming at Bloggers. Trying to be inclusive is always well-intended but if you're frustrated at the lack of audience of your blog, think about whether you're simply trying to do too much or cover too much ground with it. This has been one of my biggest challenges pretty much from the start!
My Blog has grown arms and legs since it began because I wanted to respond to every need and every piece of feedback I was getting from my readers. I added some very broad topics to the She31 website after much research on what issues were popular among Christian women aged 25-65 (spiritual growth, prayer and devotionals, health & well being, relationships, leadership and so on..). The website looked phenomenal, but it was a ridiculous amount of content to have to scope out and maintain. After much prayer and yes, even some fasting (that's how much I love you guys!!) God clearly told me to pare it all back down and focus on the key areas for this season.
With my family, church and work commitments, I only set aside around 4-6 hours per week to the Blog, so this forces me to be really super-focused on what I will spend my time on. Less really is better. It was such a relief to just say 'right, I'm focusing on THIS topic for the next two months' and your readers start to understand what you're all about too. So think about how much time you really want to spend on your blog (including building your site, sourcing images, linking to other social media, SEO work etc..) and make sure you don't try to tackle too much all at once like I did!
I must admit I felt a little bit sick as I deleted all those pages I had worked so hard over many an evening to create, but I haven't regretted it one bit - and actually my audience has climbed by 20% since I reduced the website by half!!
When people land on your blog, you've got about 8 seconds to persuade them that your stuff is worth reading.... so if you are not clear about what you're writing about, they won't be either. Use the same kinds of keywords, phrasing, title formats, picture sources etc to make life easier for yourself so that you're not starting from scratch every time you sit down to create a new post. Collect pictures you like and ideas for posts - I love using Evernote for this - and any time you're stuck for ideas, flip through your notes and something will soon come to mind to blog about!
Tweak and change your approach a little bit every time you blog, try things out: bullet point lists, 'how to' titles, gallery images.. see what works best for you and what your readers respond best to.
When people land on your blog, you've got about 8 seconds to persuade them that your stuff is worth reading
6. Talk To Your Reader
My first few blogs were written in a whole variety of styles but the one I've settled best with is to talk directly to you, the reader. I want to help YOU and make sure that everything I'm saying, I would say to you face to face over coffee too, if we could. I want you to get to know me, the person behind the text.
I've experimented with lots of different 'voices' in my blogs and the more experienced I get, the easier it is getting to find my own voice. This is really important if you want people to connect with you and your message. As they saying goes 'they don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!' So when you're clear on what you want to say, think about how best to say it. Don't be afraid to throw out a question here and there! Even if your reader doesn't actually respond by leaving a comment, questions make your reader think about what you've said, whether they agree or disagree, and what they're going to do about it (if anything).. this all helps to connect and build engagement.
Even if your blog is brand new out of the box and even if you don't think you'll ever have need of your readers' email addresses - collect them anyway! As your blog grows, and especially as the internet is swamped with blogs, having your readers' email addresses is the best way to stay in touch with people. Many bloggers offer an 'opt-in' which is simply a free digital download of some description as a freebie in exchange for their email address. I am planning to try this out over the summer, but to be honest, people leave me their emails by the dozen every day as it is - and I only issue a monthly newsletter at the moment that is getting caught in spam filters (because I use a mail service, MailChimp) meaning that the vast majority of my subscribers never see my carefully crafted emails.... so it's on my To Do list to try and overcome that issue, before I push for more email addresses to be added to my list!
I cannot possibly leave this section without mentioning the Facebook Groups for She31. They are amazing, I kid you not. They are the most inspiring, uplifting and drama-free groups I'm part of - and I'm in a LOT of Facebook Groups (I am a fan of community!). Yes I am biased but I love those ladies so much. The groups mean that there's always someone around to pray for each other, they tell me what they like and don't like about the Bible studies and blogs, they inspire me - not only as their community leader but as a woman of God - to keep pursuing this dream God has put in my heart. If you're not already part of the She31 Facebook Group - what are you waiting for! Consider whether opening up a group for your niche might be a good way to connect with readers too! Or if you don't like the thought of running a group yourself, join some Groups in your niche and get in there and be part of the community. They are a wealth of insight into what's on peoples' minds - great inspiration for blogging!
I'll be doing a full post on how to set up and run a fabulous Christian Facebook Group - so make sure you subscribe by leaving your best email address below!! (See, I did it again!)
7. Get Connected!
God has put a unique message in your heart that the world needs. Don't brush off your desire to blog as a whim - it is incredibly powerful! You're communicating God's heart to the world - no matter what niche you're talking to - and that is a blessed thing to do with your time! The best thing is - you're not alone! Connecting with other faith bloggers is a brilliant way to stay inspired, learn and share readers!
I've talked about authenticity, personality and finding your voice.. and all of that takes time to craft because online media is a funny old thing and it's such a crowded place that it can be hard to get heard above the crowds. But let your light shine!
Remember that your blog will evolve and grow just as you do! The more you learn and share, you will find your Blog needs to change too over time. Don't be afraid to change direction, if that's what God is prompting you to do. Your blog is an extension of your testimony - it will come from the overflow of what God has done, and is doing, in your life. So although it's great to have a niche and learn as much of the technical and 'business' side of blogging as you can - don't lose sight of the fact that it needs to reflect your own spiritual and personal growth too!
One of the best ways to grow your blog is simply to love blogging - and let it show! Connect with other bloggers (our Faith Bloggers Showcase is a great place to start!), join some group Blogger boards on Pinterest - the She31 Faith Bloggers board is currently open for contributors - just email your Pinterest handle to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.
If you would like to do a free guest blog on She31, you can find me on Facebook - or email email@example.com
Feel free to SHARE below YOUR blog address :)