I’m sure when you set out to blog to the world that you didn’t have failure in mind. It’s pretty bold of me to assume that you’re failing so I apologize in advance, but I’ve come across way too many ‘out of the box’ solutions and too many ‘I’m going to go about this willy-nilly’ blogs to assume that you’ve all gone to the same school of blogging and fell asleep on the same day. I’m also pretty sure that some of you aren’t failing at blogging, but would really like some more oomph in your traffic and readership.
I wanted to write this post because I am still coming across vast wastelands of text. I’m willing to bet that many of these blogs have massive bounce rates showing up in their Google Analytics.
I’m not Mr. Perfecto-bloggo either, but I’ve had my share of blog successes, so I hope you’ll stick with me long enough to gain some working knowledge of how to appeal to more readers.
The First Rule of Finding Blog Success
This isn’t Fight Club, so we *can* talk about it – but it can often be an unwritten rule: go look at successful blogs and see what they do. More often than not you can emulate what they’re doing (read as: copy their format not their words) and reap some of the same benefits. Part of the problem with that is: you can’t always see all of what’s going on, so let’s get to the basics, step by step:
Write Good Content, Offer Value
If you’re writing for the sake of writing, then stop blogging. You have to be offering something of value to the community of readers (assuming that you have one – we’ll get to that later) that will (a) keep them reading, (b) give them a reason to come back and (c) give them a reason to share what you have to offer. If you’re not presenting something that adds to the conversation or your content isn’t something that can be consumed without being simply regurgited, then you’re wasting your time and theirs and you’re going to lose a reader for life.
Good content attracts traffic. Good content attracts links. Links help push you up in the search engine results — and being higher up in the search engine results gets you more traffic. This is the life cycle of a blog and traffic. Learn it, do it, love it.
Write Good Content Part Two: Write for Someone Else
“Huh? But I have *my own* blog!” Yeah, I know. But, above I told you about links. I also told you about ‘community’. Find other thought leaders in the same ‘community’ as your niche and write good, original content for them that links back to yours. This not only establishes you as a contributor in the overall ecosystem of the niche, but it also gets backlinks to your content, which helps with search results, which helps with traffic, which gets more eyes in front of your content.
You can do this by going to Google and searching for ‘abcdef blog “guest post” or “write for us”’ (replace abcdef with your topic). Find those blogs that accept guest posts and pitch them good post ideas with original content. Naturally embed links (when it makes sense) back to your content in a way that adds to the conversation in order to (a) drive traffic back to your site and (b) build valuable backlinks to your site.
There’s nothing worse for a reader (especially these days, online) than the feeling that they have to read a book to get to ‘the point’. Split up your ideas into smallish chunks and give each section a headline. Preset your readers as to what to expect from each section and let them know that they don’t have to pack a lunch before setting out to read your dissertation. Oh yeah, don’t write a dissertation.
Images and Video
Wherever possible, use images and video to split up the text and to augment your point. People like images and they have been shown to attract people to a post and to stay on a post longer. The same holds true for video. Use them to your advantage and your readers will love you for it.
Findability: A Little SEO
No way am I going to teach you SEO in a solitary blog post; however, I’ll give you some bulleted pointers:
- Each page should be unique: unique page title with a unique keyphrase in the beginning, unique meta description, unique keyphrase targeting each single page.
- Use H tags on each page with your keyphrases to split up your content and vary them (but order your H tags like so: h1, h2, h3, h4…). Vary the way your phrases appears, don’t stuff the tags with the phrase the same way time after time.
- When getting links back to the page, try to get the anchor text of the link to include your target phrase, but again, vary the phrase using different modifiers.
- Use alt tags to tag your images with variations of your target phrase on each page.
- Link posts together. You’re eventually going to have overlapping ideas and posts, why not connect them and help your readers find your other content that overlaps? Make sure you connect with anchor text links that use the same keyphrase that you want your target page to rank for.
Be Fresh and So Clean, Clean
Don’t gunk up your blog with tons of ads and poorly designed headers. The cleaner the design, the more simple the navigation…the longer your readers will want to stay on your site. Since ‘time on site’ is most likely factored into the ranking algorithm in some fashion, it’s a good idea to be appealing. Plus, there’s talk that Googlebot may actually be a browser (Chrome to be more exact), so site design may be a bigger factor in the ranking algorithm than we all tend to think these days. Making the experience better for your readers is actually going to help your rank, which will help with your traffic numbers.
Connect the Dots
Connect ideas (posts) together with hyperlinks. Back in the early days of the Internet, it was full of academic papers. It was the citations that connected them through hyperlinks. You should be doing the same with your posts. If your readers are intrigued and interested enough with your posts, they quite possibly will want to read related posts too. Make sure to connect posts with hyperlinks and help your readers navigate to interconnected ideas and keep them on your site. Provide more value than they bargained for and gain a reader for life.
More Posts Like This
It’s inevitable. You’re most likely going to write similar posts so why not make it easier for your readers to find similar posts? At the end of a post, or perhaps in a sidebar, create a list of similar posts. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins out there that will do this for you.
Thank You Thank You
People like to be thanked. People like to be acknowledged. If they take the time to comment on a post, try to have a custom thank you page load that acknowledges your thanks. If at all possible, create a free resource for them to download from this page, perhaps a PDF resource about your niche topic. Keep these coming and you’ll gain a reader who visits often and comments often. Interactivity is what makes the ‘net go ‘round.
If you’re already doing everything above, great – keep at it. SEO and success online takes time and hard work. If you’re just now getting on board with overhauling your blog, get to it and see the previous sentence. The thing to remember is to get over yourself and realize that no matter how awesome you are, at the end of the day, it’s the readers who are going to determine the success of your content, so write for them with *them* in mind. If you write with their needs at the tips of your fingers, your blog will be much more successful than not.