Many business owners have launched blogs after attending a conference where an enthusiastic expert tells the dramatic story about how he made thousands of dollars and expanded the reach of his business by blogging. It sounds irresistible.
WordPress blogs are:
- Easy to set up
- Easy to share
The attendees rush home, set up a blog, and begin posting. A few weeks later they hit a wall. No one is reading their posts, let alone sharing them. Ideas for new posts have dried up. What went wrong?
Whether you’ve been blogging for a long time or you’re hoping to launch one soon, here are eight things you need to know about launching and maintaining a blog:
1. Understand Your Audience
People want stories or a high value offer that will help them. You need to communicate in terms that they can identify with or you need to offer them something valuable that they actually want.
Even if your blog is focusing on bare facts or industry trends, look for a narrative hook or brief anecdote that will draw readers into your post. Most blog readers scan posts for key content, but if you can’t figure out a way to draw them in, your hard work will go to waste.
2. Research Your Material
If you don’t have solid content and unique ideas that take stock of what’s been written before, chances are you won’t add anything valuable to what exists online. Why should readers visit your particular blog?
Read the blogs and magazines of your industry, and pay attention to any bestselling books. Look for fascinating angles on a story and explore counter intuitive or fresh ways to write about your topics. Spend some time learning how other professionals research so that you are never stuck with blank page syndrome.
3. Develop a Specific Niche for Your Writing
Readers need to have clear expectations for what they’re going to find at your blog. Quality is important, but the subject is equally as important as your craft. Your posts should meet a strict subject criteria that help ensure you’re writing material that meets the needs of your specific audience.
4. Network with Other Bloggers
Guest posts and comments on other blogs are critical in growing your blog’s audience. Fellow bloggers are part of the conversation, not your competition. In fact, failing to network with fellow bloggers may be the main reason why your blog fails to attract readers.
5. Time Your Posts
By setting up an auto-post for 4 AM Eastern Time, you’ll put your work in front of a greater number of readers as they begin their days. If you’re relying on social media to share your content with readers, late afternoon, especially on Friday, is ideal for Twitter, while evenings and Saturdays are ideal for sharing on Facebook.
6. Use a Blogging Platform That Can Grow with You
Too many blogs are launched without giving thought to the future. While services such as Tumblr, Blogger, and Typepad create respectable blogs with some good features, the most complete blogging platform today is WordPress. The plug-ins and variety of themes accommodate a wide variety of blog formats. See “10 Reasons to Use WordPress” for more.
7. Your Blog’s Design is Important… to a Point
There are some bloggers who have been wildly successful with only a basic Blogger design or ho hum WordPress theme that is a dime a dozen. However, these bloggers have effectively networked and shared critically important content that trumps site design. Readers want the information they’re sharing, and therefore the same old blog theme isn’t a major setback for them.
While all of the above is true, you need a site design that makes your content easy to read and offers a professional presentation of yourself. If you’re launching a blog today where the competition for readers is fierce, you can’t afford to overlook your blog design. A professional design will lend greater credibility to your site, setting you apart from the guy who tosses up a blog post each evening in his bathrobe and slippers. In addition, an optimized WordPress Theme will offer greater SEO capabilities. Besides, it’s easy enough to customize a WordPress Theme if you want your site to stand out from the crowd.
If you’re starting out, check out this list of the best free WordPress themes or look for a list that includes some of the top premium themes if you want an extra edge on your site’s design. Don’t forget that WordPress.org has a gallery of themes you can use.
8. Invite Your Readers Back
Most visitors to your blog will not think of returning unless you make it simple for them to do. Make it easy for them to subscribe by RSS or e-mail, but also consider signing them up for a weekly e-mail digest of your posts through a service such as MailChimp. This will ensure they see all of your posts without cluttering their inbox. Some readers prefer daily updates, but giving them a weekly digest option will appeal to certain segments of your audience.
Your blog is a valuable tool for your business, but using it effectively requires planning and the right tools. Blogs are long term investments that can pay off if you plan them correctly.