Okay, so maybe you don't want to be a star, but I'm guessing that if you're taking the time to create, update and publish a blog, either for yourself or on behalf of a client, you at least want people to read your work. Ideally, you'd like it if they come back, perhaps subscribe and -- dare to dream -- share with others! Otherwise you'd write in your diary, lock it up and keep it in your dresser drawer.
But here you are with a blog, diligently (or maybe not so much) writing and publishing posts but no one is partaking in any of the previously mentioned calls to action. You may find yourself in the hamster wheel of doing the same activity over and over and expecting a different result. How about taking a step back to square one and conducting a critical analysis of your blog, thinking it through as though you were starting from scratch? Let's begin:
- Know why you're blogging. Be sure that your blog has a purpose, or objective, and that your primary theme supports your goals. By all means you should inject your personal style, but each post you write should pass this litmus test.
- Write what you know -- or are willing to exhaustively research. In the Internet age, everyone's an expert, so don't try to be what you are not. If your post is clearly an opinion piece, be sure to position it as such but if it's fact-based be prepared to back it up.
- Stay focused. Once you've chosen the topic for your post, stick to it and keep your subject matter narrow. If the topic is complicated, it's better to break it up into a multi-part series, but only if it's truly warranted and one that will keep readers coming back (see #8).
- Be inspired or you won't inspire your readers. If you're sitting in front of a blank screen then don't post that day, if at all possible. Readers see through something that was published just for the sake of having an update. Better to keep a notebook handy at all times to jot down even the smallest spark that comes to mind for interesting fodder for your blog. You never know when creative lightening will strike!
- Give credit where credit is due. Don't hesitate to cite examples of other blogs, statistics or links to resources, but never try to pass them off as your own. You will be caught.
- Don't make top 10 lists (or top anything for that matter) just to make them. I know they're popular and can be effective. Ahem. But the last thing you want to do is to throw in unnecessary content for the sake of rounding off your "list." Use one only if it's helpful to the reader to separate the points you are trying to convey.
- Remember, you can't take it back. With every post ask yourself, "Is this something I want my name attached to forever, no matter who sees it?" Only publish what you stand behind and are proud of; your blog is part of your brand or portfolio.
- Keep them wanting more. Remember, this isn't the next great American novel, it's just a blog. If you want a visitor to come back, don't bore them to death or they can't!
- Don't blog in isolation. Ideally, your readers are commenting on your posts, so pay attention to constructive feedback but also be prepared for push back and criticism. If you don't have comments, ask a trusted friend or colleague for input.
- Proof, and proof again. This is the number one reason why I don't source blogs that otherwise contain content worth sharing -- nothing undermines your credibility more than grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. If I'm going to source you, it makes me look bad if your work looks bad. A good rule of thumb is to write, proofread, rewrite and then proof again before finalizing. If you're not a good editor, ask someone else to do it for you.
Unfortunately, I've clicked out of too many blogs that didn't follow some (or all) of the guidelines above, yet I know that the author is spending a good deal of time trying to build a readership and become a useful resource. I'd venture to guess that if the blog was continually reinvented with most of these tips in mind, that may just begin to happen.
I'd love to hear some of your advice for new or veteran bloggers, so please share and happy posting!