Things have been a bit nutty in my life, lately. I like to get up on the weekends, Saturday or Sunday morning, and bang out 2-3 blog posts for the week over my morning coffee. It’s a method that’s worked well for me over the past few months.
Lately, I’ve gotten off track, mostly because my life was quite disrupted by moving house. But the pile of boxes in my living room is shrinking, and I am starting to feel like I have a handle on it, so it’s back to my blogging schedule.
Recently, to get me “back into the swing,” I read a book called Blog Blazers. It’s written by a blogger, Stephane Grenier, and it is, essentially, a book of interviews with top bloggers like Seth Godin and Penelope Trunk. Stephane asked each of the bloggers the same set of questions, and you would be shocked how many of them had exactly the same answers.
I wanted to share some of the commonalities and tips that I picked up with you.
What makes a successful blog?
For some people, it’s straight-up stats: how many hits you get per day, how many people subscribe to your RSS feed. For some people it’s money, and for others, it’s influence. Truth is, no one can tell you you are a successful blogger. If you set goals for yourself at the beginning, before you start, and you reach those goals, whatever they are, you are a success. For me, success is a slippery critter. Once I reach one goal, I set a new one. And given that most blogs are abandoned within a few months, just keeping it up could be considered to be success.
What should I write about?
Penelope Trunk said it best: “Find a very popular topic and then write at the very edge of that topic. If you write in the centre, that’s where everyone else is and it will be hard to present something that is unique. If you write at the edge and throw in stuff not totally related to your topic area, then both you and your readers will find surprises in that intersection of the new stuff and your topic.”
In addition, make sure you pick a topic that you are, at the very least, passionate about. And that you have some knowledge of. I don’t consider myself to be a social media expert, but I like to do research, and try to stay one step ahead. Also, write for the reader, not for yourself.
This great article on 25 Styles of Blogging is a great place to start if you are stuck.
Make sure you take lots of time to read other blogs in your niche before you begin, and also spend time going through the archives of some of the great blogs for beginners I’ll list below.
How often do I post?
While everyone agrees that, to build an audience, the more posts, the quicker you go up in Google Search rankings, you have to be realistic. Some bloggers said five times a day (!), and others only post once or twice a week. Post at whatever frequency you feel like you can keep up.
How do I make money from my blog?
A lot of the people in this book make a living from blogging, some into 6 figures. But they all agreed that getting into blogging thinking that you are going to become an instant millionaire is a mistake. I have a big problem with blogs that have pop-ups and lots of flashy ads. Many of the bloggers recommended reading John Chow’s blog. But, honestly, it’s such a turn-off to me that I can’t get past the front page. Whether or not you monetize your blog is up to you–there are certainly pros and cons to both sides. For me, I’d rather have my blog be what it is, and if I can sell a couple of e-books, or book a workshop or a publicity gig from it, it’s fully worth it.
The importance of a good headline
Headlines are incredibly important: in our fast-paced world, a catchy headline could draw someone in over all the others. So, think about keywords when writing your headlines, and you might want to wait to write it until you are done writing the post, so that it better reflects the post.
Top blogs to read for beginning bloggers
All right, you’re all witnesses. I’ve been blogging now at Art of the Biz since October of 2008, and for a year before that as a guest on The Next Stage Magazine. Reading this book gave me lots of great ideas that I need to implement to improve my blog. So here are my goals:
- to migrate my blog from WordPress-hosted to self-hosted (I have a meeting with my webdesigner set up!)
- to integrate more images, and to chunk my posts more. I realize that I have been lazy in that respect, and it sometimes makes my blog hard to read.
- to integrate more mixed media (vlogs, podcasts) into my blog, so that it’s not all straight text.
- to implement more strategies to grow my readership (after I’ve moved to self-hosted)
- More value-added stuff: contests and giveaways.
What’s your best blogging tip?