Blogs take work. Quite a lot of work. Sure it’s simple to start a blog – a few clicks and you are away. But that’s the easy bit! After 2 years and 120 blog posts, I jotted down my 10 best tips for you bloggers out there.
- Why, why, why… and who? My biggest tip is to work out why you have blog and who are you talking to. This will keep you honest when writing your blog and coming up with ideas for new posts. Are you wanting to generate leads and attract new business? Or increase your personal profile in your industry? Do you have a hobby to share expertise in a niche you are interested in? Or do you want to just to post funny cat videos (because without them the internet would be a sad, lonely place). Once you have that sussed, try to stay on track. For example, if I began posting recipes for delicious cupcakes, I doubt anyone would read them no matter how delicious they are as my readers want to read about social media, tech and digital stuff. If I want to do cupcakes then I would be best to start a separate blog focused on that.
- Time, time, time. Probably the biggest commitment is time to blog regularly. And coming up with inspiration for topics. I’ve seen blogs with 3 posts in the past 3 years – and I haven’t been back to visit them again. If you want to do an annual blog post, then stick to Facebook or Google+. I do all of my blogging at night or in the weekends, but I write them in my head when I am commuting, vacuuming, exercising or in the shower.
- Be ruthless. I read once that after writing your post you should aim to cull a third of it. A third! Make it snappy & to the point. Cut out all the extra words that don’t add anything. Edit, edit, edit and then proof read, spell check and proof read again.
- Grab your name. It’s worth paying for your own domain name for 2 reasons: (1) so someone else doesn’t grab it and start masquerading as you, and (2) in case the blogging platform shuts down (like Posterous did) and you need to move elsewhere. No need to change your blog URL when you shift platforms if you have your own domain name.
- Get yourself some thick skin. And get used to dealing with disappointment. Sometimes you can spend ages researching and writing a blog only to find no-one wants to read it, or a smart arse starts trolling you on Twitter. Some posts will surprise you and be wildly popular, other posts will miss the mark and it’s just you and the tumbleweeds. But – the only way you will find out what works is by doing more, over and over. Some stuff will stick, some stuff will slide down the wall and disappear down the drain. It happens – and it is OK!
- Keep updating your look. You need to keep updating your design and template. Because things change so much on the web, what is cool one year is not the next year. Plugins, widgets and share buttons all change frequently. What message does it send if you have the outdated Facebook widget from 2009? Or a cluttered design that shouts at you? Keep your design simple and clean for your readers.
- Mix it up. There are lots of different content formats you can use – don’t be afraid to do interviews, guest posts, list posts or reviews when are struggling to find some content.
- Count and measure. Analyse your stats. Know how many visits you are getting, where they come from, which is your most popular post – and why. I get a steady stream of traffic each day from search engines – my most popular post is this one about how to make your iPad charge faster (clearly it’s a common problem!). It is one of the top search results on Google for that topic so knowing your SEO basics can pay off . Enable Google Authorship so your profile photo shows in Google search results – you’ll get more traffic (here is an article about how to set that up). When I publish a post I get traffic spikes from sharing on social media, but outside of that, Google is doing the work for me. I made a change to my blog design last year which surfaced other posts in thumbnails and sliders – and the number of page views by each visitor has increased significantly from my previous design.
- Spam. Spammers don’t sleep (but are very complementary!). Keeping your blog clean of spam needs dedication and a good spam filter. I often draw an analogy with your real life home. If you invited someone round for a coffee at your house, you wouldn’t have rubbish and junk mail strewed through the kitchen and lounge would you? So you should keep your online home tidy too. Alternatively you can set comments to be checked by you before being published but that also takes a commitment to be super responsive when you receive comments. No-one likes to post a comment on a blog only to have to wait hours for it to appear. Also, reply to commenters (the real ones)! They like to know you read their comment.
- Write your headline last. It’s the biggest determinator of whether someone will click on your link or not so once you have finished your post, then write your killer headline. The shorter the better.
PS: If you are stuck at choosing a platform, I blogged about the differences between Blogger and WordPress here.
PPS: Always make your links open in a new tab or page. Don’t lose those readers once you have them on your blog or they may never find their way back!
If you have other tips or lessons you’ve learnt about blogging, I’d love to hear them… because the learning never stops.