Your blog is your “platform”. It is your online CV. It tells the world who you are and what you write about. When you seek publication in other venues, whether online or in print, having a “platform” is EVERYTHING. A successful platform tells potential publishers that you have already established a following which is built in marketing for you and all of your material.
Yesterday, we talked about truth in blogging - about the power of authenticity and the importance of your voice and finding your niche. Today we get down and dirty and talk about how to drive more traffic to your blog and how to provide great content that readers come back for, day after day.
To start with, how do you know if anybody is reading your blog? How do you know what’s working?
Get Google Analytics. It will help you analyze just how your site is working for you – how many readers you have, etc. There are visitors, unique visitors and bounce rates that factor in. It can feel a bit complicated at first but if you click around enough, you can figure out how to use it and how to understand what is working – and not working in your blog. You can find out how your readers are finding you (from Google searches as one example, or from links on other blogs, etc.). Having this type of analysis at your fingertips will be one of your most helpful tools in figuring out how to go forward with your blog. Do not check your numbers obsessively, I only check once a month or so. Just Effing receives a huge amount of traffic at this point but that’s because it’s been around for a very long time. There are slower days and busier months – I don’t worry about it. I know the traffic is quite heavy overall.
Quantity/Frequency of Blogging:
Your readership will go up significantly if you blog consistently on particular days a week. Schedule your blogs ahead of time rather than working on your blog daily. You will save tons of time doing this. This blog is scheduled at least one month ahead of time. Every time you post, you can choose when your blog will publish. Get out a calendar and schedule your blogs for at least two to three days per week and no more than five. I used to blog every day and it was a huge time suck. Not to mention that I lost momentum and inspiration. Now I just set aside time once every few weeks and make sure to line up lots of interesting things to do and read on Just Effing for the month. People who read this blog know they can be sure to see new posts four days a week. Google Analytics told me that readership fell off quite a bit on the weekends. So I don’t post on weekends or holidays. Do what feels right and works for you. Maybe you want to blog just a little bit every day. Use your analytics to see when your readership is the highest.
You need to get the RSS feed of your blog and have it be at the end of every blog so that users can get notified every time you update your blog with a new entry. You can find the RSS feed of your blog in your dashboard. If you are not signed up for Feedburner, please look them up.
Readers need to see immediately your name and what your blog is about. This will lower your “bounce” rate. Bounces are when people go to your blog and immediately change their minds and leave. It goes without saying that you want as few bounces as possible. Personally, I find that reading white print on top of a black background is really hard on the eyes. Choose a theme and color palette that you like but that is also easy to read and can be seen well on mobile devices.
You really need this on your blog. Readers want to learn about who is writing this, where you are from, what your professional creds are or anything else. Who is the personality behind this blog, in other words.
Create a “category cloud” so that every blog post is listed in a way that readers can easily check out what you’ve written on a particular subject.
Users use Google to search for what they are looking for. Google itself “crawls” your site every day (creepy, right?) and looks for keywords so it can index your site. Your Google Analytics will tell you which phrases or keywords people used to find your site. Look at those keywords and USE THEM constantly.
Tip: Include your NAME as a keyword in every blog post so that if someone searches for you the blog will come up. Try to use keywords that are specific that really point to your blog, like “chicago bloggers” or anything you can think of about you and the post that is specific.
Find as many other sites and blogs as you can that you love, that blog about similar things and put their URLS in the Blog Roll section of your blog. This will show up on your home page, as a long column on the right, usually. List blogs on your blog roll that reflect your tastes and interests so that readers of your blog can go to other sites and enjoy similar content. Go those blogs and leave positive, sincere comments. Leave the name and URL of your blog in your comment (that is usually automatic). Link backs are very powerful for driving traffic.
Help Your Posts Get Shared:
Go to Share This and get the share buttons. Put these at the top of every single blog post so that someone who reads and likes the post can share it on FB, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Stumble Upon, email and others. Stumble Upon and Reddit are both very powerful.
There is also something called Add This that helps analyze what people shared and how many clicks you got.
Network Your Blog:
There are a number of blog networks and networking tools that will connect you automatically to other blogs in similar categories as yours.
Share your blog posts on your Facebook, Google+, Twitter and any other social networks. Stumble Upon and Reddit are both great sites for sharing.
Learn More about Blogging:
Here are a few sites that you can peruse for even more hints. There are many more sites you can go to. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
The Content and Presentation of Your Blog Posts:
Make sure that each blog post is no longer than 500-750 words. 500 words is the sweet spot. Readers have come to expect bite sized pieces. Blogs that are longer than 750 words or so will be too much for most readers.
Make SURE to have a visual, a picture of some sort with every blog post. It makes your post instantly more appealing.
Make SURE you edit each post so that it is perfect. No grammatical errors, typos, etc. This will erode your credibility immediately.
Make sure that each entry has some kind of “take away” for your readers – some wisdom if not an action step they can take. Also see if you can end the blog with a question so that you can get your readers to interact with you and with each other.
Link to other articles and websites in each post:
Direct your readers to other sites. This will stimulate web traffic for you and make your posts more dynamic. Every time you mention something, say even a definition that people may not know, link it to the definition on Wiki, or to another article on the same topic.
Treat yourself to Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas