You’ve heard the phrase “Content is king”. It’s been used so much that most people just nod, “Yes, yes, content is king. Now let me get back to what I was doing.” Well, content may be king, but – like any kingdom – it takes a whole bunch of “underling” support to keep that king on his throne. Blogging is an art with many parts that need to work together.
We at Level343 help our clients by answering their questions and offering solutions – and they do have questions, like:
- “Should we start a company blog?”
- “How often should we blog?”
- “What can we do to boost traffic and engagement on our blog?”
Today, we’re going to share with you some of the answers.
Recommended for YouWebcast: The Art of Growth Hacking: Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don't Scale
So Many Bloggers, So Little Space
New blogs are created every day. According to Blog.org statistics, 31 million bloggers populate the US blogosphere alone. The numbers are staggering. According to wordpress.com, in 2012:
Over 395 million people viewed blogs each month
Approximately 1 million new blog posts were created each day (or 29.3M each month)
Approximately 1.4 million comments were left on blog posts per day(or 40.5M each month).
If you’re new to blogging, you may feel overwhelmed. You may be thinking, “That’s insane! How can I possibly penetrate that kind of market?” Don’t panic. Just as new blogs are created every day, others are established and become successful every day. You just need a strong foundation.
Here’s our recipe for a successful blog to get you started on the right track.
Start with a manageable platform.
As you may or may not be aware, there are several blogging platforms, such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Blogger. Some are free. Some are not so free. Some have professional versions. You can build a blog on your server or have a blog hosted somewhere else.
There are several options, but remember professionalism and manageability. If it’s not professional, people won’t take you seriously. If you find it difficult to update your theme or add images to your blog, you won’t be inspired to keep blogging on a consistent basis. No matter which platform you choose, it should be easy for you to manage and understand.
Tip: If you have an established business website, it is best to add your blog onto your server rather than have it hosted elsewhere.
Pro Tip: Many people settle on WordPress. If you’re considering WordPress, please read: The Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Everything
Add a good design.
Make sure you design your blog with your readers in mind. A good user experience is crucial. Your readers must be able to navigate your site easily. The look and feel of your site will depend on what type of information and media you plan to post. Choose one that will best showcase the type of media you will publish.
Tip: If you’re using the blog as an extension of your business website – an article section, for example – consider the possibility of using your site’s design on your blog.
Pro Tip: Simplicity performs. The more complicated your design is, the harder it will be for readers to navigate.
Stir a huge amount of value into your content.
If you notice, I did not say “a huge amount of content” but rather, “Add more value to the content you share.” Quality trumps quantity every time. Tell a story, your story; offer value by adding your experience to subjects familiar to you. Your blog is a great way to showcase experience and thought leadership in your area of expertise. Some bloggers miss that. It’s a shame when you see bloggers struggling for ideas to write about.
Tip: Check your spelling and grammar before hitting the publish button.
Pro Tip: Preview your content before publishing and look for glaring errors (such as characters that didn’t convert correctly or huge gaps in text).
Sprinkle in a liberal amount of keywords.
Wait. Keywords? Haven’t they fallen by the wayside? Who really focuses on those anymore? Well – smart bloggers, for one. Many people are so stuck in the SEO they forget that there are genuine readers that use those terms. In fact, that’s what keywords were originally for: to let the readers know they had found the information they were looking for
With this in mind, don’t be lazy. Help your readers by tagging your articles with appropriate keywords. Choose them wisely. You aren’t writing for search engines, you’re writing for people.
Tip: If you’re unsure how keywords should work with copy, read SEO Mistakes: Are You Making Them?
Pro Tip: Imagine yourself as a blind person, reading your blog through a screen reader. Tag your images and fill in their descriptions in ways that would help someone in that position.
Mix compelling images with your copy.
Some bloggers prefer to publish entirely text based blog posts but we challenge you to think twice about this strategy. Images can help break up your posts into segments – especially text heavy articles. It’s good to remember most people scan posts first before they decide read any article in detail. If they feel your posts are too long or too text heavy, there is a good chance they’ll get tired and not bother reading your entire article.
Tip: Make sure the content layout around the image is the way you want it before publishing.
Pro Tip: Your image should always be relevant in some way to the content in the article.
Add social network plug-ins.
For those new to blogging, social sharing will have a great impact on your blog traffic. Think about what types and number of social buttons to use. Start with the popular ones and observe which ones your readers use most often. A good example is if you don’t publish any images, adding a Pinterest “Pin It” button doesn’t make sense since Pinterest is an image based network.
Tip: Don’t use so many icons that your site looks cluttered. This can turn off some readers.
Pro Tip: Provide ways to share your content, but also provide ways to connect with readers (example: links to your social profiles).
Stir in plenty of engagement opportunities to your readers.
Encouraging engagement is important for bloggers, so make it easy for your readers to comment. Allowing your readers to comment easily is a great way to build relationships, and helps them feel like they’re making a personal connection. It’s also a great opportunity to learn what they care about, and can be an excellent source of ideas for your next blog post.
There are several commenting plug-ins, such as MyDisqus or Facebook comments, which allow your readers to share their comments on Facebook and other social networks. Research these commenting plugins carefully, however. Make sure you know what you’re getting.
No matter what type of commenting system you use, remember to reply to comments and engage with your readers. One way to gauge success of your articles is not just the social shares they generate, but also the engagement you generate with every post.
Tip: Don’t panic if you don’t get comments when you first start your blog. It takes awhile to build up an engaging readership.
Pro Tip: Some comment plugins host the comments on another site rather than your own. Make sure your comments are actually on your site!
Check the temperature of your blogging etiquette.
No matter who you are, whether you’re a seasoned blogger or a newbie, you have to keep your engagement “temperature” at a warm level. You don’t want to be so professional that you seem cold and heartless, but you also don’t want to be so friendly that you seem unprofessional. It’s a fine line to walk.
Here are some blogging etiquette tips that are good to know and follow as a successful blogger:
- Give credit where credit is due – If you plan to use images other people own, make sure you ask permission, especially if they’re copyrighted. If you quote statistics on your blog, use a permalink to link back and give credit to the original writer.
- Don’t sell yourself in comments – This practice is annoying and sometimes make you appear like a spammer. Blog will often ask for your name, email and URL when you comment. By posting your site URL in the body of a comment, you’re being redundant. Unless you’re making a point and referencing another article, adding a link is not appropriate and will be viewed as spam. The purpose of commenting is to add value to the topic being discussed, not self-promotion.
- Make sure your links are working properly – Value your readers’ time by thanking them and making sure everything on your blog works properly, especially any hyperlinks. It’s very annoying to your readers to have to put up with broken links on your site.
- It’s okay to get negative comments – Not everyone will agree with your point of view. You will get negative comments from time to time. Some choose to delete them while others leave them and respond accordingly. Unless the comments include inappropriate language, curse words or spam, use the opportunity to interact with your readers and encourage engagement.
Tip: Provide other blogs with the type of comments you’d like to see on your own. This will help you keep your blogging etiquette at the right temperature.
Pro Tip: Never lose your temper – or at least, not in the comments where the world can see it. Always respond to comments in a professional manner, whether those comments are positive, negative or anything in between.
There you go; our recipe for a successful blog and elements we feel every blogger needs to know. Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts with us. We’d love to hear from you.