How To Start And Grow A Blog-Based Business From Thin Air In 2019

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The Redwood Strategy: How To Get Massive Traffic To Your Blog With Strategic Repurposing (UPDATED)

The Redwood Strategy is a content creation strategy for bloggers where you circle back and update previously published content, turning them into major pillar posts for your niche. Here’s exactly how to do it.

The tallest tree in the world is estimated to be 700-800 years old. It stands a whopping 379 feet tall… about 74 feet higher than the top of the Statue of Liberty.

If you’ve ever been out to see the big sequoia trees in California, then you know what I’m talking about.

Me looking particularly fly next to a redwood tree.

As you might imagine, these trees didn’t get this way overnight. Some of these big trees are estimated to be as much as 2,000 years old.

Like any other tree, at one point these trees were small and didn’t look much different than any other tree on the forest floor. They started off as a little tiny tree that you or I could have ripped down with our bare hands. But, over time, they grew. New wood layers, new tree rings, new growth. Until they are towering over the forrest and now visited as a major attraction.

It is with this metaphor in mind that I want to think about your blog. Specifically, your blog posts.

I want to talk to you about what I call The Redwood Strategy. This is an entirely different way of looking at your blog and your content.

With The Redwood Strategy on your blog, you can blog less often yet get much more traffic.Click To Tweet

If all you ever do is create NEW blog posts, then this is for you.

If you struggle with having enough time to blog, then this is for you.

If you want your blog to get traffic and further your business without seeming to suck up all your time, then this is for you.

If you have ever felt that pain of not know what to write about, then the Redwood Strategy will make things easier.

And if getting traffic to your blog with all this going on has proven difficult, then the full Expanded strategy gives you a predictable way to solve your traffic problem.

Let’s get into it…

How Most Bloggers Do Things (And Why They Burn Out)

Most of us will write a blog post, publish it, then proceed to forget about it. It eventually goes off into your archives. It may or not may not perform to your expectations (in terms of traffic), but either way you simply don’t touch it again. It’s done.

And you’re off onto the next blog post.

And by doing it this way, you are:

  • Making your blogging too hard
  • Sacrificing SEO benefits
  • Putting artificial pressure on yourself to constantly come up with new stuff to publish, on new topics

In essence, you keep planting little seedlings. But, because you never go back to water those things, most of them just die off in the archives of your blog and don’t mature into a major pillar post – or redwood – of your blog.

Ask yourself… when was the last time you went back and revised a post which you wrote awhile back? If you’re like most, you’ve never done it. Or, any edits you made were just to fix a typo or a broken link.

But, the results of this – quite literally – speak for themselves.

Because in a recent email survey of my own email subscribers, I asked what what most holding them back from growing their blog and their online business. Some of the top responses were:

  • Too busy, or not enough time
  • Not knowing what to write
  • Overload
  • Confidence in their content

I want to talk to you about a more strategic – and in many ways simpler – way to think about content creation.

It is less about chronology and your editorial calendar, and more about creating major pillar posts that will have high engagement and SEO positioning and do much of the heavy lifting to bring traffic to your blog.

Only 22 New Posts In A Year. Made 14% More Money.

In 2016, I published only 41 blog posts to this blog. But, of those 41 posts, 12 of them were podcast episodes. So, that leaves me only 29 blog posts. Of those 29 posts, 7 of them were me updating and republishing a previously written post. So, in all of 2016, I only wrote 22 new blog posts.

Now, did my site traffic and revenue suffer because of this? Nope. Well, if you consider a 1.9% drop in traffic a deal killer, then I guess you might not like this. 🙂 When I compared my site traffic for 2016 to 2015, then my traffic dropped just 1.9%.

But, get this…

My revenue from my business actually went UP by 14%. And on top of that, I vacationed my butt off in 2016. 🙂 My family and I spent quite a bit of time traveling in the RV, especially over the summer.

Camping in the middle of the evergreens in Maine

2016 was a great year. I blogged less and made more money. And I took a lot of time off.

It isn’t as if it stopped there. In 2018, my business revenue grew another 10%. This despite us traveling even more. We actually took the RV all the way out to the other coast.

Sitting in an RV campground on the Pacific in foggy San Francisco

But, my blogging strategy for 2018? 15 blog posts. Only a handful of them were original.

So, do you have to do a lot of blogging in order to make this kind of online business work? The answer is clearly NO.

From Blog Posts To Redwood Posts

Some people have referred to this as a “pillar post”. You can use whatever vocabulary you like.

Many bloggers think of “pillar posts” as just those epic posts you make to kick-start your blog from scratch. Once they’re done, they’re done.

Well, that’s rather short-sighted.

A pillar post is a flagship post where you cover one topic in an extremely thorough way. It is called a “pillar” because it is one of those posts which stands alone and pulls much of the weight of your site. It is a post which you will spend WAY more time promoting than you will creating it. You will be referring people to this post over and over, for quite some time.

A redwood post isn’t just a big, long blog post. It is more about how you treat that blog post over time. In fact, it is helpful not even to think of it as a blog post. Think of it as a GUIDE.

A redwood post is a post that you’re going to come back and revisit on a periodic basis, update it, add more to it. But, there’s more…

A redwood post is a post that you’re going to be promoting constantly. In fact, you’ll spend more time promoting it than writing it. This is a post which you may list prominently in your sidebar. You can build it into your email autoresponder for future email subscribers. You may even run ads do it.

A redwood post is meant to be insanely helpful to the right kind of people. You’re leading with major value. You want them to walk away from that blog post being impressed with how much information you’ve provided. You want them to feel like they have to bookmark it for reference.

This is a redwood tree for your blog. The other blog posts are just the normal trees.

And each time you come back around and revisit your redwood post, you’re adding another ring. Like tree rings.

Coming Up With Topics For Your Redwood Posts

If you’re in any kind of niche where people are looking to accomplish something, then there will be major topics within it that always seem to come up with people. You’re looking for major concerns, popular issues and struggles, etc.

Look for:

  • Questions that you see people asking all the time
  • Guides on other sites in your niche which you have seen got very popular
  • Content on other sites which has performed very well on social media (tools like BuzzSumo can show this to you)

For me here with the Blog Marketing Academy, there are certain hot topics that always come up. Things like:

  • Building your list effectively
  • Choosing a niche
  • Building a membership site
  • Getting more traffic to your blog
  • Promoting your blog
  • Launching a blog or online business from scratch
  • Monetizing a blog and making money

When you find what these big, hot topics are for YOUR market, then you can plan out redwood posts around those things.

Here are a few of my own redwood posts:

In some cases, these posts were older posts that I found performed well so I turned them into a Redwood post. In others, I pre-determined that the topic (and keywords) is a “hot topic” for my niche so I decided to make a redwood post around it.

How The Redwood Strategy Improves Your SEO And Gets More Blog Traffic

If you haven’t yet read what is essentially my redwood post on SEO, go check out SEO Is Dead. This Is The New World Of SEO For Bloggers.

In that post, I talk about one of the major ideas of today’s SEO, and that’s engagement. In the old days, it was much more about keywords. Today, keyword optimization is still relevant, however we also need to spend a lot of attention on engagement and user experience optimization.

Various “signals” are used to measure that engagement on any piece of content, including:

  • Click-through rate
  • Scroll depth (how far down the page people scroll)
  • Time on page
  • Social shares
  • Backlinks
  • Bounce rate
  • Spelling and grammar

Now, what kind of post is likely to hit most of these signals in a positive way?

Answer = a redwood post.

A pillar post is usually long (which increases scroll depth and time on page), it will get shared a lot more, and it will earn more backlinks because people are genuinely impressed by the post. The Redwood Strategy also allows you to take your time to improve a post over time, thereby giving you the mental bandwidth to really pursue the anatomy of the perfect blog post… hitting every single point of blog post optimization.

But, another factor that Google loves is content freshness. If Google is seeing all those signals of a really killer blog post, it is made even better if the content is fresh. And you can do that by continually revisiting that blog post and making updates to it.

When you revise an old blog post and then promote it, you will be:

  • Making it more fresh
  • Building more social shares on top of whatever share counts were already there (allowing you to get bigger social share numbers on your content)
  • Driving more traffic to that page, which can result in more social distribution and backlinks. More back links to the same post is much better for SEO.

All of this just piles more internet love on top of that blog post. The result will be that that redwood post will rank in search a lot better than if you had created a bunch of smaller, newer blog posts and then just let them fall into your archives.

How To Turn A Blog Post Into A Redwood Post (Or Update One)

The first question is: Where do you start?

You should do two things at the outset:

  1. List down the MAJOR topics for your niche that would warrant a pillar post.
  2. Go visit your traffic stats and find out what your most popular blog posts already are.

From there, you will create a strategy for where to begin. I would suggest taking your most popular posts and begin there by freshening them up. Perhaps use them as a starting point for a new redwood post on that topic. Then, if you need to, you can create new posts from scratch to fill in the topics that you haven’t effectively covered yet.

This is the kind of stuff that determines the timeline of your content marketing calendar.

Now, what do you DO with that post to freshen it up? Some ideas:

  • Bring it up to date to make it more relevant and current, if the topic is one that has changed.
  • Add more detail, more resources
  • Add multiple forms of media, including embedded videos. Videos increase time on page (since they’re on your site watching it) and that helps SEO.
  • Add a content upgrade to build your list
  • Add more images (but useful, relevant images)
  • Add more links (both internal and external). Remember, this is a major pillar post and linking out to other resources on other sites is completely natural. Your pillar post shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.

We’ve all seen those posts on other blogs which impressed us. We felt like we hit the “mother load” when we found it. THAT’S how you want people to feel when they arrive on our pillar post. We want them to feel like it is EXACTLY what they needed and wanted.

Now, let’s discuss some finer-tuned tactics…

#1 – Don’t Update The URL

It is totally OK to update the headline of the post to make it more effective, but do NOT change your blog post URL. That would defeat the point of any previous social shares, backlinks or SEO strength the post already has.

In some rare cases, you may choose to change the post URL to better concentrate on your primary keywords. If that’s the case, ensure you put a 301 redirect in place to route traffic from the old URL to the new one. If you use something like Yoast SEO, it will detect the URL change and automatically set up the redirect.

#2 – Embed Videos and Images If Appropriate

Having multiple forms of media increases perceived value of the post, but it also helps with SEO.

Included images with solid ALT tags can then appear on image search engines and lead to traffic. Having keywords as your image file names as well as ALT tags will help index the post for search, but can also help you show up in Google Images search.

Videos help with SEO, especially when hosted on Youtube. Plus, when readers watch a video on your post, it is increasing time on page.

Keep in mind, too, that the video that you embed does not HAVE to be your’s. If you find a video by somebody else that just nails it, you can embed it on your post. Sometimes, the value of our redwood post is by doing a lot of the legwork FOR THEM to bring a ton of dispersed resources into one big mega-guide. You can create major redwood posts by being a curator of content rather than it’s sole creator.

You can create major redwood posts for your blog by being a curator of content rather than it's sole creator.Click To Tweet

#3 – Include in-page navigation links

One of my favorite strategies for solid pillar posts is to have in-page navigation links at the top which serve as a “table of contents”. To see an example, just look up. 🙂 There’s one up toward the top of this very post.

This bulleted list of internal links simply skip down to sections of the blog post, but they accomplish a few things here:

  • They immediate communicate immense value to a new visitor. It isn’t normal for a blog post to have such navigation, so the fact that my post has one immediately makes the post far more valuable to somebody who is making that split-second decision on whether to read or bounce.
  • When somebody clicks on a link, it skips down the post. This immediately increases scroll depth and reduces bounce rate.
  • When you phrase the links, you make each one a sub-headline. In other words, each link should be enticing and make the person WANT to see that section of the post.

You can use a plug-in such as Table of Contents Plus to take care of this pretty easily. If you use a page editor like Thrive Architect, you can not only make your blog post stand out with some killer design, but it will easily insert beautiful table of contents.

#4 – Make It Clear The Post Is Updated

You want people who come to this blog post to know that you maintain it.

I find that there are 2 best ways to do this:

  1. Modify the post headline to reflect the fact that it is maintained and updated.
  2. Actually display the last updated date on the post.

Adding something like “Updated”, “2019 Edition”, “New and Improved”, “Revised”, “Now With More ____”… these things immediately tell new people that the post is updated. You can add these kinds of things to the headline without messing up existing SEO.

Additionally, displaying the date the post was last updated will allow you to reflect the fact that the post has been maintained. In fact, it can allow you to update the post without having to modify the publish date. If you modify the publish date, it will kick the post to the top of your blog post archives. In some cases, you may want to do that. However, some times you just want to make a few updates for Google and not kick the post up to the top of the blog again.

In this case, I recommend the WP Last Modified Info plugin. This post will make it easy to display the last updated date on your blog posts. It will even insert the date into the post schema which is then fed into Google.

This gives the effect of having a recent date inside the Google SERPs. This can give you a nice spike in SEO traffic with very little effort.

#5 – You Can Create The Post In Stages

If you decide to create a new redwood post from scratch, realize that you can do it in stages and do it publicly. This will give you a lot of that SEO benefit.

A simple way to do that is to do it as a series, however instead of posting each part of the series as a separate blog post, you instead post each part of the series as an update on the redwood post. Each time you update it, you add new in-page navigation to skip to the new part. And, of course, you tell your audience about it and they’ll keep coming back (and sharing) that one post.

The result: Massive SEO love and engagement on that one mega-post over time.

#6 – Re-Distribute The Post After Each Update

Each time you update this pillar post, you treat it as a new post.

If you believe the scale of the updates is large enough to warrant re-publishing the post, then simply edit your publish date to current and save. This will kick the post to the top of your archives and you treat it like a new post all over again.

Whether you do that or not, you can use the event of updating the post as a reason to re-distribute the post across all channels. This includes:

  • Sharing on social media
  • Promoting to your email list subscribers
  • Reaching out and letting other niche leaders know about it (possibly earning new authority shares and backlinks)
  • Paying to boost distribution of the post using paid advertising

Remember, the whole idea of a redwood post is that you’re looking at it as a strong asset, not just something to fill your content calendar. And for that reason, it is worth the extra time to really promote the post effectively and over time. Redwood posts make excellent material for paid ads (especially on Facebook). Just make sure you have good calls to action in that post to build your list and get people into your sales funnel.

Integrating The Redwood Strategy Into Your Blogging Life

My real purpose with the Blog Marketing Academy is to enable people to build real online businesses around their blogs. To generate real money from their blogs, with real businesses.

But, to have the time to build up a business around all this, you simply cannot be blogging all the time. In fact, the act of writing a blog post is actually NOT the most valuable thing you do. I usually tell people, in the beginning, not to even think about blogging. We work on business foundation first.

So, we need to put the act of blogging into it’s proper context. It should not be super time consuming. It should not be where a majority of your available time is spent. You need time to work on building your list, building assets… and building your business.

With the Redwood Strategy, it just so happens that we can accomplish more time freedom because blogging becomes less of a pressure cooker. At the same time, it is more efficient because you can get better results by doing less content creation! 🙂

So, here’s what I would recommend…

Begin to plan regular post updates into your blogging content calendar. In fact, you may even want to shoot for a 50/50 split. 50% of your content time on brand new content, and 50% spent updating and revising older content. You can even go higher if you like. As I said, I only published 15 blog posts in all of 2018 and only a few of them were new.

It really does depend on your market. I will say that as 2019 is progressing, I am not doing quite the same balance. I am doing a lot of post updating as part of a content audit, however I am also creating  a little higher volume of new posts.

Either way, if you’re currently blogging on a hefty, frequent schedule and it is stressing you out, I give you permission to slow down. 🙂 The sky will not fall. The only person beating you up over it is yourself. So, stop.

You will actually be serving your audience better by putting out BETTER stuff, not just more often. Plus, your more frequent, smaller updates are better done via email, not your blog anyway. I tend to publish (or re-publish) once a week on this blog. My more frequent (and usually smaller) articles remain fairly exclusive to THE EDGE.

Think Redwood Trees, Not Weeds

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Any forest has weeds and shrubs at the bottom of the forest floor. These little plants don’t usually amount to much and will usually die off relatively quickly.

Then you have the larger trees. Much fewer of them than weeds on the forest floor, but these are the plants you notice. They’re big.

Then you have the huge mega-trees, kind of like the big redwoods out in California.

Now, those big redwoods didn’t get that way overnight. They started off small. You open up one of those trees and you’ll see rings in the wood pattern which show you the different layers which have grown over the years. Today, however, these trees are so large and strong that people travel from all over the nation to see this big redwood trees.

Your blog’s pillar posts work the same way.

They can be like the big redwoods, but to get that way will take multiple updates, like rings of the tree.

That’s the Redwood Strategy.

Go back and revisit and update the post over time and, before long, that post is more of a destination and major resource for your niche than just another forgotten blog post (a weed).

Your blog is like a forest, in that aspect. You’re either just creating new weeds all the time, most of which just go off to die in the archives, or you circle back and maintain those posts and turn them into trees and eventually – the mighty redwood.

Create a redwood blog.

Your forest (your blog) will still have smaller trees and maybe even some weeds…. but those big redwoods have to be created over time.

Make it part of your strategy.

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