When I started my first blog, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. And the information available online was very limited compared to today. So, I had to learn the hard way.
Now, 13 years and many blogs later, I would not change a thing. My mistakes have taught me so much! The most important lesson? Success has a lot to do with your audience. You have to know for whom you write!
Of course, this is not the only thing. Here are more tips to create a winning blog.
1. Write about your passions
What do you like the most about what you do? What makes you special as an entrepreneur? Let people know what keeps you awake at night!
In my career, I have worked as a photographer, French teacher, translator, social media coach / instructor, author, journalist, reviewer, and content curator. All these occupations have given me a unique insight that I love sharing on my blog. And my readers enjoy my take on things.
Successful blogging is not just about great content. It also has a lot to do with the stories you tell.
2. Show off your expertise
Do you have experience in a specific field? Is there a topic on which you have done a lot of research and read extensively? Write on it!
Your blog is a direct extension of your brand. It is the perfect place to give potential customers a glimpse of what you can do for them and to connect with your audience in a more personal manner than a website.
The more valuable and relevant your posts are, the more people will come to trust and recommend you to others.
3. Be consistent
When they get started with their blogs, a majority of people expect to generate positive results fast -- tons of traffic, advertising opportunities, etc. So, when nothing goes according to plan, they give up.
"This blogging thing is pure hype," they say before deleting their site. Which, of course, is a big mistake.
The "build it and they will come" approach has never worked, especially on the Internet. What does, though, is consistency.
No one is asking you to publish new articles five times a week. However, it is important to try and stick to a specific schedule to build excitement and loyalty around your work.
Further, stay focused on the same narrow topic. And if you become interested in covering a different one, open another blog, in order to continue attracting the right crowd.
4. Pay attention to keywords
As a blogger, your goal is not to attract everybody. What you are looking for is highly targeted traffic.
Writing quality articles is a great start. However, discovery in search engines is dependent upon content optimization. Include keywords in your posts to help keep your blog very specific and others find you more easily.
I am not talking about keyword stuffing here, but about relevancy.
5. Do not overlook design
What is the first thing a visitor notices when they land on a blog? Its design, of course. And if it is not attractive, they will leave within a few seconds — without even taking the time to read anything.
Design plays an important role in the public perception of your work. So, make sure that the one you choose for your blog:
- Reflects the niche in which you wish to establish yourself – and not your personal tastes.
- Is simple, appealing and unique, while complementing your content.
Also, pay attention to colors. For example, blue creates a sense of calm and focus, while green evokes growth, nature and wealth. You can read this article for more information.
6. Use your common sense
Stop believing the get-rich-quick schemes: Blogging alone will never make you a millionnaire.
What it will do for you, though, is open doors. It will help you establish your name and increase your reach. And in the long run, people who trust you will buy your products and / or services.
Of course, this will not happen overnight. Focus on quality and continue working hard.
7. Promote your content intelligently
Many bloggers automate the promotion of their content, forget to monitor social media mentions, and rarely respond to comments.
To be effective, blogging requires a “human” presence. Sharing your posts without making room for interactions is a sure way to alienate your audience.
Remember this: It is not about you. It is about them. So, show them that you care.
8. Your word is your bond
When people visit your blog, the first thing they will see is text. And trust me, they will judge the book by its cover.
For example, they won't take kindly to bad grammar, missing words, and typos. Those undermine your credibility and discourage visitors from sharing your content.
You don't have to be Shakespeare or Stephen King to craft quality blog posts. And nobody is immune to errors. However, the last thing you want is people wondering how serious you are about your business. Because that's exactly what bad writing triggers in people's minds!
Keep a grammar book and dictionary handy. Use a tool like Grammarly to uncover and correct mistakes. And have a professional or reliable friend review your posts. You'll thank me later. ;-)
9. Content length doesn't matter
As much as self-proclaimed experts would have us believe it, the number of words in an article has no bearing on the way it will rank in search engine results.
The ideal post length doesn't exist. What exists, though, is a reader's needs, pain points, and questions. That's what you should worry about.
"Your goal as a blogger is to populate the world with useful information, not with massive amounts of words." - Julie Neidlinger
Seth Godin writes the shortest posts I have ever seen. Yet, millions of people have read and shared them. So, he is obviously doing something right.
At times, engagement depends on the message. At others, it hinges on the depth of information. That's all there is to know.
10. Consistency is not a trend
Actually, it has always been one of the most important factors in a successful blogging career.
It's ok if you don't have time to publish every week. Find a posting schedule that works for you and stick to it. That's how you build reader's expectation and loyalty. Otherwise you will lose traffic and subscribers.
11. Strategy is not an option
In 2014, when I launched my photography website, my audience mostly comprised of SMBs, solo-preneurs, and marketers. They had no interest in photography. And even though I had made my mark in social media, it would have been inane to expect people to flock to my work.
I had to start from scratch.
I did what I preach to all my clients. I:
Three photography books and several major features in publications later, I can safely say that my strategy has worked. Actually, I am a savvier blogger and social media professional now than four years ago!
12. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
In 2013, Gary Vaynerchuk posted a video titled "It's Not About the Number." In it, he berated a CEO for stating that complaints from customers who only have a few social media followers don't matter.
His conclusion? "Word of mouth is at scale now. There is no avoiding it, and more importantly, there is no downplaying it."
Why holistic? Because your content should educate, entertain, and inspire. It should be valuable, relatable, and meaningful.
You should give ten times more than you are willing to take.
It's the way you treat people that ultimately impacts your bottom line.
"How do I write stellar posts?"
An excellent question!
Do you know that only two in 10 of your visitors will read your articles until the end?
People don't have time to waste. They want to find the information they need quickly and easily. And it has to be presented in a friendly manner.
So, let's go back to the basics.
What prompts you to read an article? Its title, of course.
A headline is the first thing a person sees. If it grabs their attention, they will read further.
Here are some good examples below:
- Intriguing titles - "How to Create a Massive Buzz about Your Product Hollywood-Style!"
- "Ultimate" titles - "The Only List of Content Curation Sites You Will Ever Need"
- List titles - "30 Tips to Promote Your Events Online"
Be clear and concise.
Hit them with a strong first paragraph
Introductions are just as important as titles. They set the tone.
Start your articles with questions and stories. Quotes are also a great option.
Break your content into short paragraphs
Nobody likes long blocks of text. They make content dull and boring.
The only way to keep visitors interested and happy is to make their reading experience enjoyable. So, stick to short paragraphs -- 75 words or 3-4 sentences.
Bulleted text is also a great way to present ideas in an attractive manner. It helps set important facts apart from the rest.
People love being able to skim content. Actually, that's the second thing they do after looking at headlines.
It's always a good practice to try and group several paragraphs together under a common subheading. Plus, it allows you to use the H2 or H3 tag, which is a great way to optimize your posts for search engines.
Make your links clickable
While this may not be news to most of you, I have seen quite a few blogs that have no clickable link in their articles.
When you reference an outside source or even your own content, allow your readers to access it easily. Don't have them copy and paste in a new tab.
For outbound links, consider using the rel="nofollow" tag. Here is more information below.
Use pictures and videos
People crave visual content. That's because he brain processes it much faster than text.
Conclude your posts
With a conclusion, you put everything in perspective for your readers. Try using the space as an invitation to continue the conversation. Ask people a question or two.
If the context warrants it, don't forget to include a call to action.
Some post ideas
Not sure what to write about? Here is a list of ideas to get you started:
6 bloggers share their tips to help you craft better content
Don Sturgill (DonSturgill.com)
In my book, there are two primary reasons content fails to engage and satisfy the reader:
1. The Headline/Subject Line/Title is written to get attention -- but the promise it makes isn't delivered on in the article.
Standard best-practice writing advice is to be sure your titles or headlines get visitors to stop and take a look at your work. Every student of journalism has heard that "Man Bites Dog" is a much stronger headline than "Dog Bites Man." You need to be different. You need to stand out. You need to assure the potential reader that the content is interesting and worthwhile. And those fundamentals are undeniably true.
At the same time, though, you should never over-exagerate or lie. "Heres's How to Skyrocket Your Facebook Likes TODAY!" may get your readers to stop and investigate -- but, if the content is weak and doesn't deliver on that promise, you'll lose trust and credibility. And once readers figure out you write punchy headlines and nothing more, they won't pay attention... even when you DO write something of value. It's better to go with a TRUE title than to fabricate a sensational title. (By the way, punchy titles can definitely get plenty of shares -- but few reads.)
2. The content rambles or is not directed at the chosen audience
We've entered the world of the specialist. I want microwave-type results from my reading. Articles need to be focused and effective. If I'm looking for info on how to use Facebook Boost Post, I want an article from a site that specializes in social media, and I want it to hone in on the Boost Post feature. Once I begin reading that article, it needs to give me clear and effective directions/ideas about Boost Post.
Here again, the fundamentals are at work. Writers must know exactly what they want to accomplish, who they are speaking with, and how to best communicate their thoughts. Normally, that means beginning with an outline. Better yet, start with the title and make everything in your article provide the value promised in that title (see #1). If you're an SEO freak, start with a keyword.
Listen, I've been known to miss on both of these principles. I'll write without an outline (thinking that's going to save time), then do some keyword research to combine SEO and sensationalism to come up with the title. I'm not saying I LIKE to do that, but there are times when a client wants to publish NOW and insists on doing that. Or there are times when I just want to get some content up, so I cut corners in order to make it happen. And every time I miss the target, I not only hurt my reputation... but yours. Readers are getting burned, big time, in our insane rush to crank out more content. I'd rather prepare one worthwhile post per year than to serve up an over-hyped plate of confusion DAILY.
Writers, your first job is not to write. It is to think.
Phil Turner (maXXers)
1. Be different
With nearly 1 billion websites in existence, bloggers and content creators need to raise their game. Grammar must be better, spellings and homophones checked and punctuation accurate. That is only a start though, the minimum acceptable standard that mst apply to all content. Blog posts must be personal and say something unique and helpful to the reader.
2. Speak from your own experience
Each one of us is a unique person with his or her own unique set of life experiences and skills. Every writer must use that unique knowledge in their work. Bloggers should only write about things they know about first-hand.
David Leonhardt (SEO-Writer.com)
Quality starts with originality. If it's been said before, there is no point in saying it again. You can just point to where it's been said before and save everybody the trouble. Or you can just blog "Me too!"
Of course, if you are making a pro or con argument, there are only two positions you can take. And both have surely already been taken many times.
That's fine. But you'll probably want more than one sentence in your blog post, and the more than one sentence should be your own opinion or your own experiences or your own observations or at least a brand new argument or a new way of framing the topic, or even perhaps a brand new analogy. You can't go wrong writing about a client experience that personalizes a topic and subtly lets readers know what you are capable of without even having to brag.
Quality continues with visuals. If your blog is littered with stock photography, plenty of "readers" will assume that it's also littered with stock text before they have the chance even to become readers.
My favourite way to up the quality of images is to add text to them. In some cases, I just add a title, so that the image acts to introduce the topic, such as I here in this post.
But more often, I add a complete thought to the image, so that it can stand alone on Pinterest and elsewhere, as well as inspire curiosity to (hopefully) click through to the post itself, such as I did with a couple pics in this post.
David Trounce (Mallee Blue Media)
A common challenge for content creators and bloggers, especially business bloggers, is the challenge to stay on topic within a given niche. In today’s crowded market place of “experts”, it simply isn’t efficient to try and cover every conceivable angle of an industry sector.
1. Tighten your focus
One of the solutions to this problem is to select a single parallel niche in your industry to guide your content strategy. People worry that if they leave anything out they might not engage part of their demographic. But do real estate agents really need to be talking about school bus timetables? Probably not.
Those succeeding in their content strategy are proving that less is indeed more.
Take Red Bull as one example. They have created a natural association with a drink that gives you a buzz and recreation that gives you a thrill. Their content strategy is remarkably simple - and tight.
They produce thrill seeking content that is engaging their number one demographic. Are they running out of ideas? Not at all.
2. Master a single media channel
The second piece of advice I give my clients, and it’s related to the first, is to master one marketing channel before trying to master a second.
Using the example above, what is the channel that Red Bull uses to market its product? Video.
No long form content. No Infographics or research papers. Just video. That’s not to say that long posts or other forms of rich media won’t work for you. They may be the perfect choice.
But the challenge is to settle on one niche, one form of shareable content - suited to your demographic - and master it.
Avik Sarkar (A2Z e-Solutions)
It is very important for the blogger to treat himself as a reader and start identifying the elements which he himself brands as "crappy" in a content. What is it that turns you off the most when it comes to blogs? Repetation? Irrelevance? Bad grammar? Or just bad images? As far as these four points are concerned you can blissfully go on to exclude them from your content.
But wait! Do you hate webinars and podcasts in blogs too? Are you more comfortable with texts? Even if you are, you cannot really think of "not" including webinars, videos or podcasts in your blogs -- since they are clearly more effective than plain texts when it comes to engaging audience.
Another way to engage readers is to use simplistic and minimalistic designs highlighting quality content- simply because your readers are not interested in "design" clutter any more.
Anil Ramsey (Planet Asia)
The current Internet landscape rewards bloggers for generating clicks. This is why we see so much clickbait out there (sensational headlines backed by weak generic content). In addition, a lot of poor content on the Internet is keyword-driven (often spun) text that is not designed for human reading, but rather to generate link juice.
Against this landscape, authentic bloggers feel the need to keep up. What's the point of writing a meaningful article if it doesn't get any clicks?
When auditing company websites, I often come across the remains of old blogs. These tend to start out strong with lots of articles in a short amount of time. Then more time passes between posts until posting stops completely. A big problem in these blogs seems to be that the writers have no intent, other than to stuff keywords into an article.
One example is a printer repair company site I did an overhaul on. Printer repair keywords are limited, so the blogger pulled whatever keywords possible and built generic text around them. There were articles about paper jams, running out of toner, and other extremely mundane topics. None offered any actual information.
Advice #1: before writing your article, plan it. You should have an idea of keywords to include, but you should also have an idea of why you are writing the article. It should never be about pushing keywords, and always be about creating information that helps support your organization's goals. If you can't clarify how you article will help your business or customers, it's not worth writing.
Advice #2: make it circular. Just like they teach in primary school, an article should have an introduction, a body and conclusion. The introduction should present the topic, lay out what the article will show, and explain why it's worth showing. The body should contain the meat of your information.
In the conclusion, it's important to wrap up effectively. Refer back to the introduction, which explains why this topic is worth covering. Write a few concluding lines reinforcing that point. This justifies the article being published, and it also gives readers a satisfied feeling: The article stated a purpose and fulfilled it.
* * *
Intro: Here's what I'm going to write about. It is important to you because...
Body: Here is the information... Conclusion: [topic] is important because [reason]. This article was worth your time to read, because you acquired knowledge about [topic], which will help you to [a benefit].
* * *
Over time, this method will 'train' readers. If your articles make them feel satisfied, they will come back for more, and spend more time absorbing your content. If you just post lots of keyword-driven sentences that don't lead to a clear conclusion, your readership will eventually disappear altogether.
Has blogging reached a point of no return?
But it's not all. The stunner came in the form of this statement: "Almost half as many people find our blog from social media as last year at this same time."
If you haven't read the article, do it now. You will love the honesty and transparency, which are trademarks of the Buffer team. And the comment section is full of great insights.
Buffer is not the only company to have noticed a sharp decline in social media referral traffic and engagement. Actually, many business owners, social media pros, and marketers will tell you the same thing about their blogs.
Does it mean that blogging is dead? Not really.
People are just overwhelmed because:
And let's call a spade a spade. Our infatuation with numbers (of followers, social shares, etc.) has become almost pathological. "People need to have at least 100,000 followers to be able to contribute to our platform. How can we measure someone's influence otherwise," someone told me a couple of weeks ago.
Neil Patel and Buffer have some of the best blogs out there. The problem is that you need 20 to 30 minutes to read and digest each one of their posts.
Wanting your audience to have the most detailed information possible is definitely the right approach. But you must deliver it in a way that makes sense to them.
Instead of writing 5,000-word posts, create mini-series. Breaking down the content into several parts means two things:
Yes, Google Search matters. You want your content to rank highly in result pages.
But, you also want more than visitors. You need subscribers, customers, and advocates.
It won't happen if people stay away from your content.
"Should I just blog on Facebook?"
I have seen this question posed on social networks and in posts. So, he is obviously not the only small business owner who is unsure of what to do.
The short answer is: No. But a no without an explanation isn't too helpful, is it?
Let me start with a little story.
In 2013, Social Fixer, an unofficial app created to improve the Facebook experience, had a Facebook Page with 338,000 likes and a flourishing community of 13,360 members.
Then one day, the page was deleted without notice or explanation. Founder Matt Kruse was bummed, of course. But as he really wanted the page back up, he accepted Facebook's demands and removed some of the tool's key features. You can read all about it here.
Over the years, many people have complained about the social network deleting or disabling their pages or profiles. From spammy content to badly run contests and reports gone wrong, the Facebook team can decide to sever all your ties with your subscribers with a push of a button.
It doesn't matter if the decision is justified or not. It's more important to understand that your Facebook page isn't your property. Actually, the same goes for any social media account you have. Whatever you publish there could be gone tomorrow.
What belongs to you, though, is your website / blog. If you own your domain name, no one else but you can tell you what to do.
I get it. The appeal of writing original Facebook Notes or LinkedIn long-form posts is real. After all, you are tapping into a huge audience -- a great opportunity to be found!
However, this cannot be your only tactic.
Work on making your mark with your blog as well. Publish your content there first. Then, republish and/or curate it on social media platforms to draw traffic to your site. Plus, if your accounts get deleted for any reason, your hard work won't be lost.
Worried about duplicate content? Just rewrite or tweak your posts. The results you can achieve that way may surprise you.