As you know, this week marks the official launch of How-to-Blog.TV.
So far, Hannah has discussed the power of viral videos, I entertained you with my 10 most underrated viral videos of all-time, and then Derick discussed a variety of strategies that we have employed to get the word out about our new blogging venture.
Today, I am going to provide you with Seven Surefire Success Strategies to employ when you are launching a new blog. (Strategy #8, which was going to be Always Alliterate, just missed the cut.)
Clearly there are multitudes of ways that blog “success” can be defined. I am not saying that these seven strategies will make you the next Arianna Huffington or ProBlogger, but they will ensure that you have a consistent, interactive, and robust audience for your work. How consistent, how interactive, and how robust will all be a function of the quality of your content plus your ability to socialize your site.
Let’s start listing stuff, shall we?
(And remember, all week we are having giveaways. Today, we are giving away Chili’s Gift Certificate and a free WordPress backup or 45-minute consulting session to one lucky RSS subscriber. So subscribe. Like, you know, right now.)
1. Create Compelling Content Consistently
In my experience, there is absolutely no single more important component to successful blogging than this one.
Really, it is quite simple: if you want your blog to be more than just a desolate repository for your occasional thoughts, you must give people a reason to a) come the first time and b) come back.
Think about it: if you go to a blog and the content does not compel you to think, laugh, act, or share, is that a blog you will go back to in the future? Unless it is your family member or you are paid to go back, it will probably be your last visit.
Ask yourself periodically:
- Is my content compelling?
- What am I compelling people to do?
- Would I be interested in what I’m writing if I was not the one writing it? (This third bullet point also doubles as a fun tongue twister.)
Pay attention to your readers (more on that in a bit) as well as your traffic while you answer these questions. Then, once you are creating compelling content, the next step to do so consistently.
As web surfers, whether we realize it or not, we get into rhythms.
Using myself as an example, I know that every day around 10:30 and 4:00 a new edition of Hot Clicks will be posted on SI.com. As a sports fan and sports blogger, this is one of my favorite sports blogs to read. I am in the rhythm of checking this site daily around these times for quick mental breaks, and Jimmy Traina creates this content consistently.
If he posted it at 8:30 in the morning one day, then skipped two days, then posted it at 7:30 in the evening the next day, there would be no rhythm, no consistency, and I probably would not read every single one of his posts.
Yes, RSS readers, Twitter, and other methods of following people make it easier to keep up with content creators that we enjoy. Still, as a blogger, you don’t just want to create readers; you want to create a community.
What is the difference?
Community members don’t wait for you to ping them with new content (via, for example, an RSS reader), they ping you by visiting, following, and interacting. And communities begin to form when people are compelled consistently.
Do so, and you are well on your way to blogging success.
2. Punctuate & Protect
Okay, so I’m cheating a bit with this one to keep with the alliterative theme. (Of course, if you’re truly compelled by this post, then you won’t really care or even notice.)
First, when I say “punctuate” I mean pay attention to details like grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Consciously and subconsciously your readers will judge you based on these elements of your writing.
Unless you want to be seen as an unprofessional and unkempt blogger, do your best to make this area of your blog as clean and tidy as possible. If you need help in this area – and we all do at some point – here is a good grammar resource to use as a starting point.
Second, by “protect” I am talking about making sure that you are being vigilant about the security of your blog. We have written about this issue a great deal already here at H2B. If you are looking for a quick action item, and your blog is on WordPress, a good first step is to install WP-MalWatch.
3. Expand Experience & Expertise
If you have chosen to start a blog about a particular topic, it is safe to assume (at least it should be!) that you have some level of experience and/or expertise about that topic. Your blog provides you with an avenue to present this experience and expertise to readers in the form of words, pictures, videos, link amalgamation, etc.
Here is one way to look at it: by starting your blog you are implicitly signing a “contract” with your readers that you will continue to seek out experience and knowledge in the area you write about.
If no such “contract” is implied, why would a reader ever come back? They are at your site in the first place because they want to know what you know or experience what you’ve experienced.
So unless you already know everything there is to know about your topic area, your blog is limited by your current capacity of experience and expertise. By continuing to expand your horizons, you ensure that your content stays compelling and that your blog is built to last.
4. Socialize Selflessly & Strategically
Want to know how to socialize selflessly? It’s quite simple: pay it forward.
Find other blogs in your niche and link to them, tweet them, and bookmark them.
There are few things that one blogger can do for another that are more beneficial and appreciated than a) giving someone a link, and b) giving them traffic. When you do that for another blogger, especially when they are not expecting it, you have opened up a two-way window of goodwill that can have positive effects for both parties.
Open up enough of these two-way windows and your blog will never suffer from claustrophobic depression. Let’s break that term down:
- A claustrophobic blog is one that is closed off from the rest of the web, with no links pointing into it. Good luck ever getting search engine visitors if this is the case.
- A depressed blog is one with no traffic that sits all alone every day. If you want to see your blogging motivation dissipate quickly, write for an audience of one all the time. It’s no fun. (And if is, then what you’ve started is an online journal or diary, not a blog.)
The next question is who to socialize your blog with. The key is to be strategic with your time and with the valuable space on your site. And to maximize your strategery, you want to…
5. Influence Influencers
In every blog niche there are people who have been doing it longer for you, who have built up a strong site in the eyes of search engines, and who have built up a vibrant reader base.
These are the influencers. If you can influence them, it can have a significantly positive impact on your blog.
For example, when I started Midwest Sports Fans, one of my goals was to create content compelling enough for sites like Deadspin and Hot Clicks to link to it. These are two of the biggest influencers in the sports blog community. Fortunately, the guys who run these sites have enjoyed some of our posts at MSF and have provided me with links. This helps in two very specific ways:
- Deadspin, whether you like their content or not, is a very highly regarded sports website in the eyes of search engines. It has been around for a while, has literally millions of links from other websites, and content they publish is deemed highly relevant and authoritative. When they link to a site, a little bit of that authority is passed onto the site that is linked to. So when they first linked to MSF, it said to the search engines, in essence, “Hey, this site Midwest Sports Fans is about sports too and has important content.” That, in turn, helps future content I publish rank higher in search engines.
- Hot Clicks gets hundreds of thousands of visitors each day, if not more. A link in Hot Clicks can drive upwards of 10,000 visitors to a single blog post in a day. HC is all about compiling the best links from around the web; users are supposed to click on the links and visit the referenced site, and the do en masse.
By influencing these influencers with strong content, I was able to build search engine strength and traffic to MSF. Influence in the influencers in your niche and you can do the same.
6. Read & React to Readers’ Responses
If you want to built a blog that is more than just a blog, that actually has some elements of community, you need to show your appreciation when a reader takes time to comment on a post or contact you directly.
No, you don’t need to do it every time for every comment, but you do need to do it most of the time if you want readers to continue to interact.
Think about it: we all post online because we want to generate a reaction or a response from someone.
If you email a writer you like and they email you back, how good does that feel?
If you post a comment on a blog and another reader plus the author responds to your comment, showing you that your comment made them think, doesn’t that make the effort it took to comment worthwhile? Of course it does.
So pay that feeling forward to your readers. When they respond to you, read what they say and react to it. By doing so you have increased your chances that the reader will a) come back, and b) become an advocate that will tell other people about your blog.
7. Focus on Freshness & Fun
And finally, I will bookend this post with what may be an even more important strategy than #1 above, all depending on your perspective.
Creating compelling content consistently is imperative for the long-term success of your blog. It is a major component of what will keep readers coming back to your blog to read and respond. But what about you? What keeps you coming back to your blog to write?
Simple: when it is fresh and/or fun.
If you have a regular post that you do every day, or every week, or every month, you might be able to continue it into perpetuity if it is something that you enjoy. So it may not be fresh, but it might still be fun.
On the other hand, you may be the type who doesn’t like routine, or who needs spontaneity and variety mixed in with a routine to keep you sane, excited, or motivated. This is where freshness comes in. How can you keep things fresh?
- Write about something new.
- If everything you do is text-based, find videos and images for a post and enjoy the adventure.
- Invite a guest author to provide a different perspective.
- Take on the challenge of guest authoring for someone else to recharge your batteries and expose your blog to a new audience.
- Find another post in your niche that you like and write a response.
- Seek out and discover a new avenue for promoting your blog through social media to give a jolt to your traffic and motivation.
- Do keyword research and try posting an article that will drive long-term search traffic.
Since July of 2008, 3,696 posts have been published at Midwest Sports Fans as of today. During that time I’ve experienced plenty of moments of dread, boredom, and blogging fatigue. What has gotten me through these fleeting moments is freeing myself to write something either fun, fresh, or both. It re-motivates me every single time and almost always creates something compelling for my readers.
And here’s a quick disclosure: this post that you are reading is actually an example of strategy #7.
I wanted a fun, fresh angle for myself, so I thought on a whim, why not alliterate each of the strategies? It immediately made me excited to write. (Yes, I’m a dork like that.) Now, some easy-t0-write 2,000+ words later, I’m pumped to hit publish.
Hopefully you found this to be a fun, fresh, and compelling post too; because when writer and reader are on the same page regarding those three aspects, blogging success has been achieved. Do it consistently and you will create a successful blog.
What of the above strategies for blogging success to do most agree with? What other strategies would you consider essential for blogging success?
[Note: The awesome blogging cartoons included in this post are courtesy of BashMosh.com]
Jerod is the managing editor for Corporate Compliance Insights as well as Midwest Sports Fans, where he hosts a podcast, has been a guest on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, makes regular radio appearances, and has hexes named after him.
Follow Jerod on twitter (@jerodmsf) or email him: jerod [at] orangecaster [dot] com.