This blog is just a few days shy of being 1 year old. I thought I'd celebrate the occasion by sharing some of the things I've learned through blogging over the past year. Here are ten things, in no particular order, you can do to build a stellar blog:
- Post something every day: I realize I don't follow this rule myself, but if you want to build a truly large following, you need to guarantee your readers some sort of fresh content every time they point to your site.
- Read other peoples' blogs: I can't stress this enough. If you want people to read and comment on your site, you need to return the favor.
- Respond to comments: If someone is brave enough to fill in the box at the end of your post, you at least owe them a thank you. Whether you engage them in on-going dialogue or just thank them for posting, two-way communication with your audience is important!
- Make it easy to subscribe: I don't like to actually go to every blog I read. It takes too much time and energy. Thankfully, almost every blog out there has an RSS feed. Make it easy for your readers to find and subscribe to your feed so they can stay up to date without having to track you down every time you post.
- Let people know you exist: "If you build it, they won't care." Nope, that's not the original quote, it's far more true. Just building a blog and publishing great content won't bring the masses to you - you need to let them know there's a reason to show up. Post in other forums, link to your blog in an email signature, or open a Twitter account and announce your updates.
- Stay consistent:Talking for three days in a row about how to disassemble an engine and then spending two days talking about how furry your cat is before explaining how to put the engine back together will just tick people off. If you're starting a "series" about a particular topic, then consistently post on that topic.
- Also make sure your posts are of a consistently high (or low) quality. Writing several 4-page essays interspersed with single-paragraph "my dog woke me up this morning" posts won't be interesting to anyone ... unless you ALWAYS do things that way.
- Keep things simple:WordPress and Blogger are both great interfaces for building blogs. They offer huge libraries of features and let you do just about anything. But just because you can wear three pairs of pants and 6 sweatshirts at once in July doesn't mean you should. Don't clutter your sidebar with unnecessary widgets and keep Google Ads to a minimum so you don't confuse (or scare away) your readers.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid. It might not be the nicest way to remind yourself about simplicity, but it's simple enough to be effective!
- Shorten your blogroll: It's great that you read 50 blogs a day ... but that many links on your blog just gives readers 50 different ways to leave your site before reading your post. Restrict links to, at most, a top 5 and refer to other sites as necessary in the context of your content.
- Test in different browsers: I don't own a Mac, so I never had Safari installed on my computer. Likewise, I rarely (if ever) use IE. However, I still test all of my sites in every major browser (IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari) to make sure the experience is the same. When Mindshare first started, the sidebar was completely invisible when viewed in Firefox. Likewise, the banners on the second version of the site were illegibly small in Opera due to a programming conflict.
- Track keyword searches: People might stumble on your blog because they're looking for a specific topic. Tracking what keywords bring them to you and what keywords they search when on your site gives you an invaluable content-creation tool. Why build something from scratch when you can look inside your customer's head and see exactly what she wants to read?
That's about it, for now. Next time (Monday, since Friday is a holiday), you can look forward to reading the top 5 things NOT to do with your blog.