This post is not for the scanners, for the skimmers or for the faint hearted. 3423 no-fluff words, equivalent to 5 standard length posts, don’t say you weren’t warned.
It has taken me 6 months to write this. I learnt it all by spending countless hours glued to my screen – till my eyes had almost become square, and I had begun hallucinating.
Yes, this post has taken a while to write – almost a whole year. Only because I never, ever write about things that I have never experienced before. If I have not been there – done that, I would not write about it. So in order for me to say anything at all, I have spent many hours learning, writing, working sweat and tears to come up with a concise guide that can transform your blog – if you let it.
Sit back, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and dig in. Hope to enjoy 3000+ words of everything that I have learnt in my blogging life.
1. Rethink Your Purpose
- Was it to air your thoughts about topics of interest, share your passions, express your ideas? Through blogging, you wanted to explore further in your areas of interest?
- Did you want to connect with like-minded individuals, share and communicate with them?
These are the two main reasons people take up blogging, yours might not be any different and that’s fine.
Just be aware that people blog for many other reasons as well; to become an authority on a subject, transition from a hobby into career, become a professional writer and make money from your blog are all valid reasons.
Do realize that your purpose changes if you want to monetize your blog in future, because you are no longer blogging for pleasure.
Know what you want from blogging from the start and focus on that aspect. Eric T: Internet Duct Tape
In this post we are going to assume that you are blogging for pleasure, first and foremost. This is for you, the Hobby Blogger.
There are many blogs that are catering to the needs of professional blogs in terms of talking about content and marketing, we are going to go about it a little differently here. Its a bit of a touchy feely post as well, although you will find plenty of practical tips to keep you going.
Tip #1: Describe where do you want your blog to be in the next 6 months
Tip #2: How many subscribers do you want in the next 3 months? in one year?
Tip #3: Define what your blog’s success mean to you.
2. See if You Fit a Blogger’s Profile
If blogging is so much fun, why doesn’t everybody do it. Because it is bloody hard work and initially, like setting up any business, you do not see any results for a while. Most people give up before seeing any at all, only the ones who are truly made for this stick it out.
Three qualities are a must if you want to succeed as a blogger.
Blog from your heart. Deborah Peterson: Life in the Fast Lane
You must write on subjects on which you are passionate. If you are not passionate, it will come out and you’ll lose respect and along with it, readers. Victor Argeda: DIY Life
Life Long Learning
Blogging is a learning process. Gary Lee: An Internet marketing Web Site
Blogs can be an excellent self study tool. Peter Rojas: Engadget
Be prepared to commit a lot of time and energy to blogging. Richard MacManus: Read/WriteWeb
Success doesn’t happen overnight. Scott McNulty: the Unofficial Apple Weblog
No matter how little (or how much) progress you are making, just keep working. Things will change. Roberston: Download Squad
3. Do I need a Niche as well?
Yes you do. Unless you are a big celebrity, you will have problems attracting any kind of audience to your blog, especially if you are writing about everything under the sun.
Although you might be writing about a variety of things, its best them to narrow them down to a few categories so that people visiting your blog can see what kind of posts to expect from you. Even if you are not blogging for money.
Choose a niche topic you are passionate about and know about. Richard MacManus: Read/WriteWeb
Choose a general broad category to write about. It could be lifestyle, food, health, writing, sport – anything really, as long as you have a underyling common theme that attracts a specific kind of reader.
Put yourself in your reader’s place before you write. Ask yourself what a reader will find interesting about your topic. Write down the answers and use them as a guide when you are writing the post. Mark F: BoingBoing.net
Tip #1: Having trouble thinking what excites you the most? Make a list of 25 posts you could easily do on your blog. Do you see an common ground? Its extremely hard to attract any audiences if you are writing a personal blog unless they are related to you by birth – or have been forced into it.
Tip #2 Describe your blog in a single sentence. Do the elevator pitch.
Tip# 3 What do you want your bloggers to say about you? Write it down as a branding exercise.
The competition among bloggers is so strong, the best option for new bloggers is to find a niche. Steve Rubel: Micro Persuasion.
4. Define Your Ideal Reader
What sort of readers do you expect to attract to your blog? Why should they subscribe?
Answer these questions.
- What’s the number one reason they visit your blog?
- What’s keep them up at night? What problem of theirs can you solve?
- What are they passionate about?
- What’s their emotional age?
Tip: Define yourself – often your ideal reader will have a lot in common with you.
5. What’s in a Name?
Apparently everything! Think very carefully about your blog name.
Every blog name ideally needs to do two things. It should tell the visitor what the blog is all about, and also be short and memorable.
I know, you are itching to tell me all the exceptions to the rule and there are some, but better to be creative in your content rather than your blog title, as well as post headlines. I will talk about this in a minute.
Tip: Check out as many blog titles as you can. Make a list of your favourites. Brainstorm many and shortlist. Bounce off family and friends to see which ones are particularly favoured by others.
6. Subscribe to other Blogs
Think of your blog as a party. You must go to others first before people will come to yours.
Sometimes its easier to go where people are than to get them to come to you. Steve Rubel: Micro Persuasion.
Start looking for blogs that interest you and subscribe to them. I think many people think bookmarking will do, trust me, it doesn’t. You forget about your bookmarks and don’t visit on a regular basis. Its hard work and waste of time to check blogs regularly to see if there is any new content – why not make the blogger happy and subscribe?
If nothing else – its good karma!
Tip: Subscribe to as many blogs as you like. Every month go through them and get rid of any that no longer interests you.
7. Start Building Relationships with other Bloggers
Yes – now! This is crucial, and a lesson learnt the hard way.
Doesn’t matter if your blog is tiny, it doesn’t even matter that you are not a blogger – yet. Start making friends and having allies on your side.
Nothing drastic – comment on their posts when you have something to add, retweet them, share on facebook. That’s what I do. Unless you are a social media junkie. In that case, you can go on and do whatever it is that people do on google+, stumbleupon, delicious, digg, linkedin etc etc.
Tip: Make sure you also have all these sharing buttons after your posts so that people can share easily.
To attract readers, you must participate in blogosphere in your area of interest. Read and comment on other blogs and use social networking tools like twitter. Steve Garfield: S G video blog
To bring readers to your blog, go to other blogs and engage in discussions. Don’t just leave quickie comments so you can post your blog url. Dave Taylor: The Intuitive Life Business Blog
8. Make a Good First Impression
Every time a visitor lands on your blog – they have about 3-5 seconds to form an opinion about it. And you want it to be a highly favourable one.
Content was king once, now meet the new king – design. People would click away in a second if they don’t like you on the first glance.
Have a design that fits in with your message. Is it going to be a busy, busy, happening blog? Maybe darker colours would suit. How about a calm, inspiring one? Maybe soothing colours will do. Send the right message through your theme.
A simplistic design is usually better than a complicated design. Try to make your page as close to pure content as possible and avoid overwhelming your readers with too much content at once. Frank Warren: PostSecret
Tip #1: If you really want people to focus on your content, have a clean look to your blog so that people are not distracted with other things. Keep it simple, get rid of all the clutter.
Tip #2: Have a very user friendly theme. Have the subscribe button high up on your sidebar so people can find it quickly and easily, alongside with links to popular posts and categories.
Tip #3: Don’t forget to have a contact me page where people can see it easily.
9. Step into Limelight
Are you a faceless blog?
People who come to your blog like to see who you are, what ticks you, they want to know the human behind the blog. Tell people who you are and they will tell you their stories. Write a kick a$$ about me page.
Unless you have a reason, don’t hide your identity in blogs. You’re more likely to receive a better reception as yourself. Mary Jo Foley: All About Microsoft.
Tip: Don’t start from the day you were born, instead highlight how you, being you, can solve yuor readers’ problems. The page is still equally about them as much as it is about you.
10. Write like an A list Blogger
I never get this A list B list stuff. But it sure sounds much better than saying a blogger who is insanely successful. And there is one main reason for their success -their content.
First and foremost, write to help your readers, write to solve their problems, inspire them or entertain them. The most important word in a blog is not “I” but “You”. Write with a you-attitude.
Learn to Write like the Big Guys
Educate yourself on how you can produce web worthy content. Blogwriting is a genre in its own right. Learn to do it well.
Good writing is important to blogging success. Kristin Darguzas: Parentdish
Blogging is an ongoing learning process. If you are looking to come across well and attract an audience, it’s up to you to improve your writing style. Gina Trapani: Lifehacker
High quality writing and editing will attract and keep readers, as will surprising them. Brian Lam:Gizmodo
Tip #1: Start your post with a story or an anecdote of some kind. Take this lead further to go into your post and really give information that would be highly useful to the reader. Make it practical and doable. End with call to action, what do you want your reader to do? Comment, share, subscribe? Ask!
Tip #2: Pick images carefully. Faces work well. Never use an image if it doesn’t make sense. Flicker is a good place to start. Look for photos under Creative Commons License.
Illustrations in post increase the appeal of a blog’s page. Phillip Lenssen: Google Blogoscoped.
Tip #3: Keep a journal of post ideas. Bookmark posts that bring on aha moments.
Short paragraphs, white space, headings, bullet points, bold – that is all I need to make my posts easy on the eyes. Especially when people are reading on screen, and have attention spans that are worse than that of a toddler.
Remember that crafting effective, mind blowing headlines takes lot of practice. Its an area of mine that I have to work really hard on. Go slow.
Headlines should make you curious, show that there is a solution coming in the post so you feel like you have to look.
Write a descriptive headline for every post. Many readers won’t stop to read a post that is not clearly described. Mark F: BoingBoing.net
Clean sensible titles makes it easy for your readers to scan content and more likely to return. Phillip Lenssen: Google Blogoscoped.
Tip #1: Look at popular magazines for ideas on which headlines work. (Search through Amazon for front covers, you don’t have to purchase them). Keep a list of ones that really stand out.
Tip #2: Watch out for writing hyped headlines, that always lead to disappointment and effect your credibility.
Tip #3: Make a separate email account. Subscribe to any blog that catches your interest. Every now and then, go through your inbox to see which headlines catch your eye. Take notes.
Be a thought leader. Show off your personality.
An important role of bloggers is to raise questions and encourage others to provide answers in group setting. David Rothman: Teleread
Create a tone for your blog and be consistent using it. Scott McNulty: the Unofficial Apple Weblog
Have an Opinion
Stir the pot. Be opinionated, be different. Everything that needs to be said has already been said. Offer fresh perspectives on an old topic.
The major challenge for bloggers today is to find fresh, original material that is simply not an echo of what other blogs are doing. Victor Argeda: DIY Life
Instead of imitating other bloggers, be yourself. If you are tempted to steal someone’s post, link to them instead. Mary Jo Foley: All About Microsoft.
Blog posts should inspire readers to comment. Without that, your blog can become boring. Gary Lee: An Internet marketing Web Site
11. Connect with Your Readers
There is only one reason people come to your blog – for YOU. They come to find out what you have to say on a particular topic. They won’t come if there is no sense of connection among you two.
Make your posts a bit personal. Yes, people do follow blogs to help solve their problems, but mostly they follow people, for the general interest in the topic and for blogger’s insights and experiences. Don’t rob them of this.
If your readers have the opportunity to get to know you more, they will comment more. Eric T: Internet Duct Tape
Use a relaxed and personable style rather than trying to copy a news style. Ken Fisher: Ars Tehcnica
Don’t write anything in a blog that you wouldn’t normally say to someone face to face. Scott McNulty: the Unofficial Apple Weblog
Tip: Reply to as many comments as you can, initially to every one of them. Ask them to leave comments.
Soliciting reader feedback can generate new ideas for posts. Kristin Darguzas: Parentdish
Treat comments from others will respect and they will reciprocate in future comments. Frank Warren: PostSecret
12. Post Regularly
Notice I didn’t say daily or even thrice a week.
In the beginning, not many people are going to be looking at your blog anyway, spend time in educating yourslef by reading other blogs.
A slow start allows you to make the inevitable mistakes when few people are looking. Peter Rojas: Engadget
Can’t write everyday? Write when you’re inspired, and write more when you need. Set up the extra material to post at later dates. From the reader’s perspective it will look as if you are posting regularly. Dave Taylor: The Intuitive Life Business Blog
If you make posting a regular event, people are more likely to return. Frank Warren: PostSecret
Tip #1. Initially 70% of your time should be spent on education, guest posting and networking (commenting etc). 30% on writing content for your own blog.
Much later, the division can shift when people start noticing your content.
Tip #2: Keep a journal of post ideas to reger to when you are running on empty.
Before starting a blog, be sure you have more than one thing to say; create a list of half dozen or more ideas. Rebecca Lieb: ClickZ
13. Point of Difference?
What makes you unique in your niche? Why should someone come to your blog? Do you have a “hook” that would keep your readers coming back for more?
Tip: Come up with your broad niche. Define your cutting idea. Infuse this with your personality and voice. This is your POD
14. Promote it
No matter how good your content is, nobody’s going to read it if they can’t find it in the first place. The easiest way to start is by promoting it on social media such as facebook and twitter.
Another strategy can be to comment on selective blogs.
Guest post on other blogs to bring traffic to your blog. I have had great success with guest posting, and it can be the most effective strategy to bring traffic if done properly. In your pitch, show that you are a regular reader, pitch your idea as how it will help the blogger’s audience, link to your work samples and be gracious.
Like I said, I only post about something AFTER I have done it myself, a post on guest posting has been long time coming. Keep an eye out for a detailed guide which will answer all your guest posting questions – even the embarrassing ones.
15. Demystify The T word – Traffic. SEO, Links and the Like …
SEO takes some time to learn about, and I still am a beginner. Because I suck at it, here are some thoughts from people who do know what they are talking about. See what gels with you.
Good content beats SEO. Robert Scoble: Scobleizer
Rather than focusing on increasing traffic, let content guide your blog. Phillip Lenssen: Google Blogoscoped.
If what you write interests people, search engines will naturally follow, leading more people to you. Eric T: Internet Duct Tape
Setting up titles that appeal to both search engines and humans is all the SEO that most blogs need. Brad Hill: Weblogs, Inc.
Links from other blogs are more valuable than SEO, because these links give you the effect of SEO. Robert Scoble: Scobleizer
If you are a better networker, you will get more links. Robert Scoble: Scobleizer
Always link to sources of information in your posts. This encourages others to link back. Mark F: BoingBoing.net
Focus heavily on building an audience can be detrimental to a blog’s content. Robert Scoble: Scobleizer
SEO is not the ultimate answer to generating traffic. Those have the best writing and work hardest are usually the most successful. Peter Rojas: Engadget
16. Keep Yourself Motivated
Celebrate small wins
I always do.
Tip: Did you get a facebook like or share, a tweet, or a comment today? Did you get a personal email, new subscriber? These are huge reasons to celebrate. Count your blessings when things are slow.
Growth does not happen quickly. John Neff: Autoblog
Take a Break
Blogging is hard work. It takes countless hours and bucketloads of energy, not to mention a thick skin.
Sometimes all you need is to get away. Take a step back, focus on other important things in your life. Remember why you started blogging – because it was so much fun. Shift your mindset, take a new start.
Working from home can be difficult because you are always at work. Kristin Darguzas: Parentdish
It is important to take time away from blogging: otherwise you will your limit your perspective. Mary Jo Foley: All About Microsoft.
Help other (new) Bloggers
As you start to notice little successes, don’t forget how it was like when you were an insignificant newbie. All we need is a helping hand – do extend one when you get an opportunity.
The best way to share about a subject is to share what you learn as you learn it. Eric T: Internet Duct Tape
17. Have fun along the way
Remember blogging is a journey and like all journeys, half the fun is along the ride. So enjoy it.
If you do something for the love of the subject, success usually follows. Scott McNulty: the Unofficial Apple Weblog
18. Follow Writing Happiness
Aww – couldn’t resist this one. Spread the word about this post.
If you have enjoyed reading it, share it.
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