You’re blogging, and some days, you feel like you’ve got it. Other days, you feel like your very best post never gets a comment, that you feel your stuff deserves more attention, that every other blog seems to be talking about something lame and why can’t they just see what you’ve written? From time to time, I’m asked to check out people’s blogs (I don’t often have time to review them, but I do read several of your blogs when you swing by and comment: it reminds me to do so). I have some recommendations to consider.
As with any time I cover this topic, I’m speaking to people who seek to blog somewhat professionally or about their profession. If you’re writing for the love of it, I’m not talking to you. Keep doing what you’re doing.
First off, let’s talk about subject matter. I think one of the ways that blogs get into trouble is that they go all over the place. It’s great that you’re well-rounded. We don’t tend to read like that, as humans. For ever “variety” magazine or TV show we consume, we usually focus down into a topic. Now, should you keep multiple blogs? Yes and no. You should start with one blog, grow the audience, build its following into a community, and then consider launching a second project. I’ve (almost) never seen anyone launch two or more blogs of quality at once. I’ve seen them launch one, get it huge, and then launch a new blog, but rarely ever two from the bottom.
I don’t know that writing yet another social media blog that covers all things social media is going to cut it any more. The space is saturated, and yes, you’ve got your unique ideas, but your unique ideas are still going to have trouble finding air. Instead, seek a niche within it. Look for a way to corner a certain aspect of what you love about social media, but one still broad enough to give you multiple topics. OR, and I prefer this idea, find an area of the universe to cover, and then align your social media posts to that. For example, write tips on cooking for your restaurant’s blog, and in that, your social media expertise will shine through.
Above all else, when choosing your preferred subject, consider writing about something that will be useful to others. Equipping other people to succeed (like I attempt with this blog) is a great way to build your prominence within the space. If you’re really into knitting, don’t just write that you love knitting; show people how you created that amazing iPhone cozy, and explain why you prefer wood to aluminum needles (hint: airport security).
Goals of the Post
Before you write, consider what you’re seeking. Do you want the post to drive a sale? Do you want it to engage your audience? Do you want the post to handle some mechanical goal, such as receiving more links, more bookmarks, and thus improve the rank of your site? Maybe your posts only serve to point out that you’re the thought leader. Know your goals before you post. Here’s why.
If you want a sale, write very briefly, driving towards a call to action. If you want to engage your audience, ask them questions. If you want more bookmarks, write something long and encompassing, or with many resources embedded. If you want to be a thought leader, write succinctly, with one main idea and support of the idea per post. Realize that each post serves a different function, and so make sure that you satisfy the goal of the post.
There are two dimensions (at least) to considering how to title a post. First, if search traffic matters, write a title that someone might Google, meaning: don’t be too clever. Second, if clever matters, think long and hard about your title, as the value of the title often drives people to bother reading it in their RSS feeds of the day. Think on those two angles long and hard. A title can make or break a post. No, really.
Style and Language
I try to write in a conversational tone, and yet informative. This is my choice of style. You might choose a more formal tone. You might choose a more conversational tone. Blogging, overall, is a bit more conversational than traditional journalistic style, written as if you and I are conversing. This suits most people just fine.
A caution about choice of words: a great piece of advice a professor once gave me was this: “tell it to me like I’m 6 years old.” Ken Hadge said that’s what he told anyone trying to sell him something the moment they used a large word. The other day, I spoke in front of a huge international audience. I used the smallest words I had, except for one: serendipity. I had never considered how hard to translate that word might be to other cultures. The definition of serendipity is: the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. I could’ve found another way to say it, or could have bolstered up the original use of the word with a simple definition. Because I missed this, I lost some small part of my audience.
Words matter. Choose yours for an inclusive audience. Everyone knows you’re smart already. Save the big words for your crossword puzzles.
The Call to Action
No matter what you’re writing about, the post should have a goal. The best posts also tie that goal to a call to action. If the post serves an attempt at a sale, then the call is easy. If the goal is to incite comments, then well-considered questions will do the trick. If you’re seeking something mechanical, a call to action might not be as necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. Think about your call to action after you’ve drafted your post. Ask yourself whether the goal you started with is where you ended up. If not, should you rewrite? Should you rename? Should you try again? It’s up to you. But be clear about whether you delivered what you intended when you started the post.
Do you want deeper engagement? Then link to previous posts within the existing post. Do you want to promote community? Then link to other people’s posts. Want to have repeat visitors? Promise a series, and create a tag that gathers the series together. I did this with my Overnight Success series. Always be thinking on other ways to drive value into your posts. The more you can give others, the more they’ll give you back, in loyalty, in continued interaction, in mechanical things like links and bookmarks, and in the ways you derive value from your efforts.
And finally, if no one’s reading your stuff, you’ve gotta consider why. Is it bad writing? Is it too long? Is it not visually broken up for people’s eyes to scan? Is the topic too minor for people to consider? Or are you posting at the wrong times? There are lots of things to troubleshoot. Just don’t leave it be. Try something. Try something with each new post. Change one element at a time and see if things improve. Oh, and if it’s just that you’re not getting comments, try commenting on other people’s posts for a while first. Comment a lot. Don’t talk about your blog. Talk about the posts you’re reading. That often gets you some new traffic and some new friends. Especially, and here’s the bonus trend, if you comment on non-A-list blogs where the people are just as grateful for the traffic as you’ll be when they visit.
Your Mileage WILL Vary
And yet, that’s part of the game. Go out. Experiment. And let us know what works. Fair?
Photo credit nutmeg