Do you like learning about magic tricks? To me, the best magicians are the ones who share what they know. Penn and Teller are like that. They love deconstructing tricks in front of you? So, do you want to learn some blogging secrets from me?
If I say they’re secrets, you’ll treasure them more, but the thing is, I share this with you daily. I do it right in front of you. But just this once, I’ll slow it down, and walk through it all. Fair?
Failing that, posts with numbers seem to work. Especially weird or odd numbers. 27 is odd.
- A picture per blog post has been my trick for a while. It draws your eye, whether or not you want it to. We’re wired for it. I use Flickr Creative Commons photos to do that. (Make sure you give them adequate credit. I show that in this post, too.)
- Did you ever notice most of my posts open by asking a question? That’s a secret. When I do that, you stop and think about the question. But more importantly, it shifts your mind to the “what’s in it for me” sphere that you started reading from in the first place. Make sense?
- Break things up visually. Notice that I have an H3 tag (html speak) title repeating the top title, and that I’m using a list to give your eye some natural “chunking.” Go back and read cafe-shaped conversations for an example.
- Oh, maybe I should’ve started the post by saying that it helps if you write something useful for people. People want posts they can use to improve themselves or their business.
- Brevity rules. I mention this a lot. People just don’t read long posts (usually). There are exceptions. I read every word Ann Handley writes, and often wish for more.
- Write “unfinished” posts. Having ways that others can add to a post or improve on it invites participation. This might just mean asking for ideas or getting a sense of what others’ experiences are.
- Mix up the length of your posts, so that people can read varied length articles, like magazines and newspapers do.
- Consider an editorial calendar, where you write down which TYPE of blog posts you’ve written lately, and which you intend to write. This helps you from doing recurring posts, and gives some variety to what you’re writing.
- A nice clean blogging theme goes a long way. I’m a huge fan of Thesis for WordPress (so much so that I became an affiliate for it).
- Make it easy for people to subscribe to your post. Most people stop at putting a big orange RSS button up in the corner of their blog. Check out my sidebar. Check out the Financial Aid Podcast. Look how many ways we show people how to stay connected to the community. That’s not by accident.
- I’ve said it before. Claim your blog in Technorati. You don’t have to like Technorati. You don’t have to think it works well. But it triggers mechanisms you need.
- Consider changing your permalinks structure. (In WordPress, this is in Settings/Permalinks. Where is it in MT or Blogger?) I learned this from Chris Pearson. Change it to custom and put /%postname%/. If you click on any post including this one, you’ll see it all written out in plain English without extra info. (This is a preference).
- If you worry that a post might get “lifted,” or if you encourage people to repost your work with attribution (which I encourage), include a few links in the original post that will politely show people where the content came from. I learned this from Christopher S. Penn.
- Consider every plugin and widget. Do they improve your blog or slow it down? Do they help you blog smarter?
- Learn a little more HTML, just a bit. Learn how to make links, how to add photos, how to bold and italicize things, and that. If you’re stuck, Google or “view source” on blogs that do what you want to accomplish. (For example, I had to learn how to stop and start a numbered list with ol start=”10″ to write this.)
- Don’t force people to register for an account to comment on the blog. Lots of people won’t. (Your mileage may vary, but corporations try this all the time because they’re worried about someone leaving a “your company sucks” comment on the blog. It doesn’t fix that. It slows down real discourse.)
- Technology should serve your community and your content, not just be there. Consider every technological change with that lens.
The Bonus Round
- Share your posts politely via social platforms. In Twitter, I usually ask a question, and provide a link to the blog post to see what people think. I don’t “blurt” the blog posts automatically. Not every post is worth Twitter.
- Facebook has tools like Simplaris Blogcast that integrate your blog into Facebook. So does LinkedIn. This falls into my outposts strategy.
- Link out to other blogs often.
- Comment on other blogs often. Thoughtfully. Adding thoughtful comments to other people’s posts builds friendships. I was a passionate commenter on Copyblogger back when I had 10 subscribers on my blog. Brian was still really nice to me.
- Remember to comment in your own comments section. Conversations with your readers turn them from readers into a community.
- Showcase your community. I do this with my Rockstars page (which needs updating) and by taking the occasional guest post.
- Be consistent. You don’t have to blog daily, but if you blog once a week, get at least a post a week. Need blog topics?
- Repoint to the old stuff occasionally. It’s often still useful to new community members.
- Keep giving. When you can’t think of what else to give, give some more. Being helpful is the #1 thing you can do for your community. Share your secrets. You can’t execute them all anyhow.
Need more? I have a collection of my best advice about blogging.
What would you add to the list? Which blogging secrets have helped you? Are there any questions my thoughts gave you that I didn’t adequately answer? Let’s talk about it more.
(Oh, and that’s a secret, too).
Photo credit, Trials and Errors