Better Blogging

laptop writing

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:

  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Trough of Disillusionment: a time of some disappointment
  3. Slope of Enlightenment: it becomes more broadly understood and used
  4. 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.

 

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You’re Looking at the Wrong ROI Data

ROI, return on investment, has been around a lot longer than social media or the Internet. ROI is the benefit to an investor resulting from an investment. As a performance measure, ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of your investment or to compare its efficiency to other investments.

Clients and social media users want to know what they are getting back on their investment too.  In the early days of social media (and still for many users), the answer was to look at things like how many followers, how many new ones, the numbers of retweets, shares, likes, embeds, mentions etc. And all of those are still used and important – but they are not enough any more.

There are many more data points to consider. Some are easily tracked if you use analytics software. Some of those products are free – Google Analytics, the software within software (like WordPress stats) – but there are also a good number of paid products that are more sophisticated.

A starting place is to know what are some of these new metrics. Here, I’ll outline a few that can be measured by simpler means.

If you provide links to products, campaigns, registration or any item, you want to track link clicks. A better metric is to look at the click-through with bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of page visitors who leave your website after only viewing one page. For example, I follow your link, look at the registration form and leave. Not good. How is the ROI on 1000 click-throughs with a 50% bounce rate? Sounds like a failing grade, but generally, a bounce rate of 26-40 percent is considered excellent and 41-55 percent is roughly average.

Of course, you want visitors to stay on the site, and for most commercials sites, you want them to “convert” – make a purchase, sign up etc.

If you track the bounce rate of visitors who come via social media sites versus from other places, you can get a handle on your social media ROI.  [more about bounce rate]

mentionsMentions, such as someone including your Twitter name is their tweet, indicate that people are “talking” to and about you or your business on social.

But how does that compare to your competitors? Beyond tracking mentions, you need to measure your social share of voice.

Social share of voice is the percentage of mentions within your industry or sector that are about your brand. You need to start by knowing which of your competitors are also on social media.

Another early metric that was considered important, especially to bloggers, was how many comments were left on each post. A better metric is by calculating your conversation rate. That metric was coined by Google marketing evangelist at Google, Avinash Kaushik.  The formula is the ratio of comments per post to the number of overall followers/page likes. Is what you are saying sparking a conversation?

amplificationFinally, consider your amplification rate which measures the ratio of shares per post to the number of overall followers/page likes. They follow you, but do they amplify that loyalty by also sharing your content. This is measured by taking the number of times your content was shared/retweeted/repinned/ regrammed (depending on the network) during a campaign or period and dividing it by your total number of followers/ page likes and then multiplying that number by 100 to get your amplification rate as a percentage.  555 shares from your 4500 followers X 100 = 12.3% amplification rate   [more at truesocialmetrics.com

For some additional metrics to consider and some tips about how to measure them, look at blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-metrics/

Go Viral

I try to post at least once a week to each of my seven current blogs. It takes a good chunk of time and usually happens between other tasks.

Many bloggers write as a job or at least do it to make some income, so getting more traffic to your blog posts and catch the attention of more readers is important. I certainly like having more people read my writing, but I have never made money with my personal blogs and don’t write them for that purpose. But this site is used to promote some of my services, including social media strategies, so I do pay attention to social media marketing articles.

But I am very skeptical of titles like “How To Promote Your Blog And Make It Viral.”  If anyone knew how to make a blog post or video go viral, then all of them would go viral and there would be no viral left.

So, do you just create content and hope Google will bring people to it?  I looked at this list of strategies and, of course, “going viral” is not an “accountable strategic outcome,” but there are some basic tips that can help increase your audience. I was surprised how many suggestions I actually do even though I don’t have a real marketing strategy for my personal blogs the way I would create one for a client.

Send your content by email. Most blog platforms, like WordPress, allow readers to subscribe and receive an email when a new post is available. Email marketing is still used and though it is less effective than it was in 2000, it works best when people elect to receive you mail – pull rather than push notifications.

Share content via social media. Again, it is fairly simple to set up your blog to automatically send a post to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr and other social sites. I use that option. It’s easy. Perhaps, too easy. These automated widgets often just grab a post title or as much of the first line that fits into the 140 characters or word count. Customized posts are always better. If someone follows you on several networks, it’s not good for them to see the name information repeated.

Mention an influencer. Hmmm. Name dropping and guest blogger posts. Not my personal thing, but with clients it’s a good strategies.

Submit posts to a content community. A kind of re-post and cross-post strategy. I have experimented with reposting in other networks like LinkedIn, Tumblr or Medium which does open up other audiences. I also occasionally cross-post on another one of my own blogs. This post will appear here and on my LLC blog.

Similarly, you can connect with peer groups (like Triberr).

sharethisYou certainly should make it easy to share your content. These one-click buttons allow readers to share your content in their own networks. They may not have a big network of followers (though they might have more than you!) but their tweet is an endorsement and that probably carries more trust than your tweet.

If you were a client, I would advise you about using use paid ads and remarketing but for personal content I don’t see any point.

However, I would strongly advise following one of the tips: focus on places that get the best response. That requires some work using Google analytics, monitoring the keywords people use to find your content and tracking the source of your traffic. Currently, Twitter sends more people to this blog than other networks – and, of course, Google.

But, the real final tip is my own: write good posts about topics people are interested in. Easier said than done. Good writing is always tough, but figuring out what people are interested in reading is harder. Today’s top search term is “social media books” but should I write more content about that topic?  It’s not just duplicating content but building on popular content.