Friday, November 28, 2014

To Blog or Not to Blog…

To blog with mouse. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur with a great new product. Or the CEO of a company working hard to build trust in a climate where trust for business is at an all time low.  Advisers are telling you to blog but you’re still not convinced. You barely have enough time in  your day as it is and the thought of spending another minute behind your computer isn’t really doing it for ya. How important can it be to blog anyway? And is it really going to be worth my time to blog?

The answer is yes. And here’s why. To blog is an excellent way of engaging your core audience in what you do. To blog is to give your audience insight into your opinions, your productions, your company. To blog is to connect — if you do it right.

To blog, and to blog well, establishes you as a “thought leader” in your field and connects your audience to you. Remember, people don’t buy from companies. They buy from people.

So let’s say you’re sold. Now what?

A good question. And one that is inevitably followed by the Hamlet-lode of blogging to-be-or-not-to-be’s: “How’s anyone ever gonna find my blog? What’s the point? Should I just pack it in now? When did I start talking to myself? Is there cake and beer in the fridge?”

Forget the cake and beer (for now).  And don’t worry. It’s a blog, not subatomic physics (come back next week).

In fact, the news is good: To blog effectively enough to drive traffic and repeat visits to your page isn’t that difficult.  Honest.

“My blog went from getting around 10 visits and 0 comments a day to getting 1,000 visits and 50 comments a day in just under three months. And without going to the gym or dieting.”

Me (written a few seconds ago)

My writing partner, John, and I managed to drive lots of traffic and loyal readers to our humour blogs Crabby Old Fart and Sick Days by making sure we covered some basic guidelines. There’s nothing new or revelatory here, people, just four basic rules that can really help new bloggers, regardless of your topic…

1. Content…

…Is king.  Always has been. Always will be.

If your blog content is strong, you will get regular visitors and decent traffic. If it isn’t, then you may as well start all your blog entries with “Dear diary” because you’ll be the only person reading it…

Whether you’re going to blog about health or a new business venture, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Pick a single topic or theme and stay on it. Assume your readers are looking for something specific and not a meandering wander through a series of subjects. Think about what topics will have relevance to your target audience, and write about that.
  • Readers tend to scan blogs. They want to be able to get information quickly. How can you help them?
  • Keep your sentences short. And punchy. Don’t use sub-clauses and consider bullet points to lessen the amount of work your readers must do to read your blog.
  • Try and keep your blog postings in the 200-500 word range. You can write a longer post if you have to, but try and make this the exception, not the rule. Also, ensure your post isn’t rambling or repetitive. Only leave in what you need to.
  • Make sure your writing has a conversational feel to it. Blogging calls for a more familiar form of writing. Use of both the first person (ex. “I”)and  second person (“you”) are generally acceptable in a blog and usually preferable. Save third person writing (ex., “one should…”) for white papers, business proposals and other more formal forms of communication.
  • Write well. The words on your blog page need to be compelling and tight so that your reader becomes engaged.
  • Think of blogging as having a conversation. Engage your readers. Let them get to know you.   So if you’re a budding author this means you don’t have to blog exclusively about promoting your book. You want to win readers with your sparkling personality and exceptional writing style.
  • Never try and sell your reader anything. They won’t buy it. Engage them, build trust, offer them advice, lift their spirits, move them, touch them, anger them, provoke them, but never try and sell them…Offering someone advice on how to use the products you sell, for example, provides excellent value to your consumer, shows your company to have excellent customer service and generally tells your community you care about their experience. Telling them to buy your product does not.
  • Post regularly. If you have time to go to events, you have time to blog. Think of it as an online networking opportunity. Most sane bloggers aim for two or three posts a week and still have time to live full and fascinating lives. Of course, the more often you post, the more likely it is your blog will grow. Frequent posts keep readers coming back. It also gives them a reason to subscribe to your RSS feed and/or email subscription.  Regular posting also moves you up in online search results. And that makes it easier for new readers to find you.
  • Oh, and watch out for typos and grammatical errors. They drive some readers totally batty.

2. Leave Comments that further the conversation at Other Blogs.

Building an audience takes time – and strategy. An effective way to attract new readers is by visiting similar themed blogs to yours. And after you’ve read some posts don’t forget to leave comments. Bloggers love comments.

It goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that while self-promotion is important, it’s waaay more important to keep your comments relevant. Don’t just drop in and abuse the comment system to push your blog.  Nobody likes spam.

A common etiquette blunder of trying to drive traffic to your blog is posting off-putting, pointless and self-promoting comments on other people’s blogs. All that will do is turn off readers. Get a load of this one that I received a few months ago: “Yo Mike, I’m really happy for you and I’m gonna let you finish, but my blog is one of the best blogs of all time!”

That’s one doozie of a claim. Oh, and thanks for letting me finish. What the heck, it is my blog.

Comments like this are considered bad form. They aren’t going to win you any friends – let alone readers.

A good comment that’s on theme will not only peak the blogger’s interest but possibly some of his/her readers as well. And that can translate into potential new readers for you.

It’s easy enough to find the blogs that are a good fit for you. You’re trying to promote your awesome cookbook?  A good starting point is to zip over to WordPress and check out the cooking tags… That should lead you to all kinds of like minded chefs – and potential new friends and clients.  While you’re at their blogs, check out their links.

When you comment, remember to fill in the fields that will come up so that your blog is hyperlinked and readers can click back to your blog.

3. Link Up

Now that you’re producing superb posts and leaving thoughtful comments, the time has come to start linking to blogs that you really like. You should be choosing ones that match up thematically with yours. There’s nothing wrong with being choosy. Slapping up hundreds of links is ultimately meaningless and it can slow down the loading time on your blog page.

Figure out who the players are in the blog arena you’re writing for. Seek out like-minded bloggers who already have solid audiences and write a post that was inspired by one of theirs. Be sure to include a link in your post to their blog. Their stats counter will point them to your link and chances are good they’ll drop by to see what you’ve written.

If they like what they see, it may inspire them to point their readers to you, the new kid on the blogosphere.  And now that they’re aware of you (and your awesome blog), it’s very possible they’ll find something on your blog that they want to mention on theirs.

Now you’re in link-back territory. This means that some their readers are going to swing by your place to check you out. And some of them will stick around.

4. Talk With Your Readers

Once your blog has readers, make sure they can participate. Make sure your blog comments are on and respond to the comments left on your blog. Try and avoid just saying “Hey, thanks for visiting!” Get involved. Raise other interesting points. If they have questions, definitely answer them. The comment thread can be a lively place and if people know you’re responding thoughtfully to their comments they will return.

Now that you’ve done all that – isn’t there cake and beer in the fridge?

Mike Erskine-Kellie is a writer for TV and a partner at Babble On Communications. He and his brother, John, write the humour blogs Crabby Old Fart and Sick Days.

Other good sources for blogging tips and info:

Pro Blogger

Copy Blogger

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