Over the 12 years that I have been blogging, I have read about the rise of the blog and the fall/end of the blog several times. As I watch blogging go through the “hype cycle” (that branded tool created by Gartner), what remains consistent is what makes a good blog and blogger.
That cycle is said to be:
- Technology Trigger
- Trough of Disillusionment: a time of some disappointment
- Slope of Enlightenment: it becomes more broadly understood and used
- Plateau of Productivity
I would say that blogging has been through all 4 and has returned to 2-4 again. Right now, it sits on that Plateau of Productivity. They are used for personal and business reasons.
What makes a better blog? The so-obvious-it-is-overlooked key to a good blog is that it has good content. I would overlap this with having regular content.
If you don’t have something useful to say, don’t post.
I schedule my posts so that there is regular content. On one of my blogs, that means 2 or 3 posts every weekend, but on others that means one per week. I am blogging several times a day, but not on a single blog, but across them.
When all this Web 2.0 began, one of the things that was appealing about writing a blog was that you could have subscribers who could follow your posts and receive them through email or a reader app. This ability (via RSS) gives you a powerful push technology that had previously been something only the big media newspapers and magazines could use.
But you won’t hold onto followers (“subscribers” seems to have fallen away – perhaps because it implies payment) if they don’t get something on a regular basis to read.
When your blog has some readers and a decent archive of posts, you can start to get a sense by looking at the analytics about what posts get the most attention and what search queries brought them to your blog. Does that mean you should change what you write based on those stats? It depends.
If your blog is about hiking the Appalachian Trail but the greatest attention goes to posts about equipment should you turn it into an equipment blog? I wouldn’t. But I would consider having regular equipment posts and perhaps working equipment into other posts.
Include images in your posts. They do attract attention. Make sure you have the rights to those images. The best thing to do is use your own, but otherwise use images from some of the royalty-free sites (Pixabay, Pexels and others) and Creative Commons.
This is also true for videos. Use your own or embed ones from YouTube and Vimeo or any site that allows this.
Social Media is required. All your posts should be shared on multiple social media platforms available. This can be your personal social accounts, but I would advise creating new ones for the blog, especially if it is a project or business. If I follow your blog on Twitter but many of the posts are about you, your family, your politics etc., I will unfollow you. My blog, Endangered New Jersey, has its own Twitter account separate from my personal one.
My blog analytics show me that besides Google searches most of my traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter with a bit from LinkedIn.
Some bloggers send out a newsletter, but I’m not a fan of them. You can share the best content of the week. MailChimp is a popular way to do that and it is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
You should always use categories and keyword tags on posts. As the blog grows, people will often follow a category or tag, and it’s great to be able to find other related content with a click.
Don’t ignore word-of-mouth for your marketing. It is powerful. You might want to have guest bloggers write occasionally. “Experts” attract attention and add authority to your site. You might also be a guest blogger on other sites.
Comments are controversial. I have blogs where I had to shut off commenting due to the amount of spam that hit. If your blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic, you can probably set comments to be approved before they post. I do that on several blogs. WordPress is quite good about snagging blatant spam and it doesn’t take long to approve the comments I do get. Comments are a good thing, when the comments are good. Engagement with your readers is very good.