Blogging has evolved beyond its early days where it was merely a tool for posting and sharing an online diary. Although still popular in this form, blogs have expanded into journalism, education, think tanks, media, and politics, effecting a significant influence on the social media world.
Some use it to simply share their thoughts online. Others use it as a tool to build awareness to their particular craft whether it be writing, photography, or other promotable talents. Many businesses have begun their own blogs as a useful marketing outlet. Whatever the motivation, here are the top ten steps that can help you find success in your new blogging venture:
1. Pick a topic that’s not too general but not too specific. The first and most vital step to creating a successful blog is determining your main topic of focus. The more general the topic, the harder it will be to gain an audience. For instance, what sets your car blog apart from any other general car blog? Conversely, the same result is reached if your blog’s focal point is far too specific. If the blog only focuses on the Saab 9-5 SportCombi, one of the rarest cars in the world with only 27 ever produced, have fun with your 27 new readers.
You have to ask yourself the question, “Who is the audience I’m writing for?” If you’re blogging about Disney, for example, are you focusing on the films, theme parks, or television channels? A reader could love the animated films and not give a hoot about the theme parks. So when your blog features several theme park posts in a row, what will keep that particular reader coming back? You can still have Disney theme parks as your main focus and occasionally post a film review here and there for variety but it is important that your blog retains a strong direction.
2. Pick an eye-catching but not overly busy design. Clean, neat, not boring. A fun design can be engaging but don’t let it get bogged down by too many add-ons. If your reader has to actively search for a “search” button, you’re doing it wrong.
While visuals and widgets can be energetic additions to your site, in the end it’s the content that counts. Your blog should be entertaining and informative – not a frustrating experience.
3. Set a schedule and stick to it! The more often you blog, the greater your readership will be. If you’re consistent with your posting, you will be giving readers a reliable reason to keep coming back. Nothing will turn off an audience faster than random week-long breaks every few posts.
If you know you’ll be taking some time off, prepare your readers for it. You can take it a step further by scheduling some new posts during your hiatus or, if you have enough content, posting a collection of old articles as a “best of.” Your readers will appreciate the effort and their trust in you will strengthen.
4. How long should my blogs be? This is the question that has plagued many online writers and there are a lot of varying opinions. Some claim that internet readers have low attention spans and a blog shouldn’t exceed more than three or four hundred words. Others point out the fact that the most successful blogs are over two-thousand words long allowing for greater search optimization with Google. When it comes down to it, the best answer is the length of your blog should be appropriate to your subject.
From example, my first blogs focused on film reviews. The most successful were about 1,000 to 1,500 words on average. One of my most read articles was a 3,000 word essay on World War II’s effect on the film industry. On the opposite end of the scale, no one wanted to read my 5,000 word odyssean review on The Three Caballeros no matter how well written or researched it was. In this case, the length didn’t justify the subject. If your film review takes longer to read than the time it would take to watch the movie, no one’s going to read it.
5. Profreak and diet yor logs. Or should I say, proofread and edit your blogs. It’s a simple as this: if you don’t care about your blog, why should anyone else? Bad edits and misspellings not only hurt your online credibility but they can also unintentionally alter the meaning of your entire post. After all, it only takes a few missing letters to turn “SEARS” into “SARS” and “JUST BRAKES” into “JUST BRA.”
6. Break up huge blocks of texts with pictures, paragraphs, and other media. You have to keep your blog visually interesting in addition to being entertaining. A long, endless block of text would resemble the metaphorical wall you’re building between you and your readers. Break up those text blocks with paragraphs and, even better, pictures and videos.
7. Expand your social media presence by interacting and connecting with others. It’s called social media for a reason. Interacting with comments will solidify regular visitors and encourage other readers to comment and participate as well.
Another method of building readerships would be to connect with other like-minded blogs. If you read any articles you like, link to that blog on your site. Chances are that the author will take notice of the new traffic directed from your blog and may link back to you in appreciation. These are the stepping stones to creating a strong online network. At the very least, you’re increasing awareness to your work.
8. #Hashtags are your friend. When I first started blogging, I didn’t have a strong online presence or understanding of social media. A “hashtag” may as well have been a new McDonald’s breakfast item for all I knew. Needless to say, I didn’t get much traffic for the first few months – even when I promoted it on my personal Facebook account. So I expanded my online footprint to include Google+ and Twitter and while that helped a little bit, my blog was still dwelling in online obscurity.
That is until I took advantage of hashtagging. Originating on Twitter, hashtags are a way of grouping your posts together with other posts covering the same subject. So my post about the upcoming Star Wars film, now tagged with #StarWars, is now shared with other users who either use the same hashtag or are simply interested in reading more about Star Wars. Although it still took a while for readers to follow my blog and start commenting on my posts, my traffic saw a dramatic spike of visitors proving that hashtagging is an ideal tool for expanding readership.
9. Don’t let internet “trolls” provoke or defeat you. From the first moment you publish a post on the internet, you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable to attacks from critics and internet trolls (people who post offensive, demeaning comments just for the sake of doing so). These are individuals who think that “constructive criticism” is a four-letter word. As your blog grows in popularity, the bigger a target you will become.
In my case, the very first comment I ever received on my blog was a short rant about how unfunny, stupid, and pointless my post was and how it should summarily be ignored by the entirety of mankind (plus something about my mother that was most unkind). Who knew that a favorable review of Disney’s Pinocchio could inspire such intense, fiery vitriol?
For a few minutes I was honestly hurt. Why was I wasting my time when the only responses to my efforts were going to be so negative? Suddenly, I realized my success. Not only had I attracted visitors to my site, but I had furthermore engaged internet trolls who viewed my site as a worthy target for their meaningless attacks. From that point of view, I had earned a badge of honor in the internet community – a net hazing, more or less.
The important thing to remember is to not take it personally. Either delete or ignore the comment and never respond or engage with the troll in any way. It will only exacerbate the situation.
10. Be yourself! Don’t try and be something that you’re not. Every time you write a public blog, you’re sharing a part of yourself with others. Don’t misrepresent yourself by trying to copy somebody else’s style and, most importantly, don’t use a thesaurus to overcompensate your vocabulary due to a fear that others will view you as an unworthy author. Although I’m writing this blog for Netsville, it still retains my style and the personal approach I normally take when tackling a subject. Find your own style and craft it.
Above all, make sure you enjoy writing your blog. These were only a few of the key steps that can lead to online success. While it can take some time and a little bit of effort to grow a loyal audience, the result can be very rewarding. Oh, and if you happen to like this article, don’t forget Step #7…
Based in Rochester, New York, Netsville is an Internet Property Management company specializing in managing the Digital Marketing, Technical, and Business Solutions for our customers since 1994. For more information, please click here.