When you sink your teeth into a truly delicious bite of your meal, you probably don’t notice each and every shake of this and pinch of that that’s gone into the dish; all you know is you like what you’re eating and it’s Good (yes, with a capital G).
Much like appetizing cuisine, building a successful blog requires a few essential ingredients, mixed together in such a way that your readers don’t even notice how the pieces are working together—they just know that they like what they’re reading and they want to come back for more. Read one to find out the winning recipe for success.
1. Purpose - Know What You’re Making, Know Who You’re Serving
Great chefs usually have an intention: they know what’s going to be on the menu each night. Likewise, you, dear blogger, need to ensure you know just what it is your blog will be doing. Basically, why blog—and why this particular blog? What are you going to be serving to your readers? Professional blogs that offer expertise and how-to info differ greatly from diary-style personal blogs or those that exist to make commentary on politics and society. In other words, someone visiting your site to learn more about your product wants to know about your product, not your point of view on the recent election, last night’s televised awards show, or the lack of available people to date in your area.
Photo by Julius Campbell
Another idea to keep in mind is to know who you’re serving. A host or hostess wouldn't dare dream of serving filet mignon to a vegan guest; high school students wouldn't submit their research paper using the same words and tone they use to text their friends about weekend plans. Knowing your clientele (or in the writing world, knowing your audience) ensures that you write with the proper tone and voice.
Combine your purpose and your readers into one large pot and what you do you get? A theme. A theme not only helps make your blog memorable, it helps you keep your focus on track.
2. Posting - Fresh Stuff Only
You eat every day for nutrition; you eat every day to stay alive. Guess what: your blog needs that daily nutrition, too! While you may not be able to schedule not daily blogging into your life, you do need to post regularly for several reasons, primarily because if your blog goes stale, you lose your readers. Folks want to read something new when they hit up your blog, and if the newest addition is already two weeks old, they’ll have little inclination to return to your site.
Photo by Vinoth Chandar
Additionally, Google likes blogs that are built for comfort: by showing consistent postings over a period of time, search engines will begin to favor your site, which means more people stopping in (and hopefully sticking around).
3. Reading - Become A Regular
Teachers advise their students that if they want to be better writers that they ought to become better readers. It makes sense: the more you read, the more you expose your mind to new ideas, new styles, and new terms. That’s not to suggest that you should rip off someone else’s work; plagiarism is an entirely different matter that is beyond a serious no-no. Instead, reading a variety of materials—from the newspaper to your favorite magazine and even a few new blogs—will not only inspire creativity, but can also build community with other writers by becoming a follower other blogs and offering comments on posts, which leads to…
4. Promoting - Bring A Crowd In
Restaurants can only stay open if diners come in to eat, and blogs only grow if you build a solid following of readers. Once you’ve accumulated somewhere between 8-10 posts, you should start bringing the blog to the public eye—aye, there’s the rub! Where do you start? There’s several ways to get started:
- post a link on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media profile page
- send out an email to friends and family explaining the purpose of your new blog and including the link
- comment on other blogs and exchange your links
- create a blog roll on your site
- write guest posts on other blogs
- add the appropriate tags to your post to generate better search engine results
- add a link to your signature
Once you establish yourself as a blogger, you should develop an email list of subscribers to compel those once-in-a-while visitors into regular readers; you can even use an RSS feed to syndicate your blog and simplify things for your readers (making them even more inclined to see what’s happening on your site).
5. Searching - Finding Items In The Google Pantry
If you’re making a cake, you usually know right where to look for your flour, sugar, and eggs (if you’re even remotely organized, that is.) By the same token, if you’re in the mood for the best sushi in L.A. you might type “best sushi Los Angeles” into your search engine—and Google would provide you with a perfect list of spots to satisfy your craving for sashimi; thus, it goes the same way with search engines and your own blog.
Photo by Money Blog Newz
What the heck is SEO anyway? Good question. The acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization, which basically translates into getting your site to rank as high as possible in the results page of a search engine. The term “SEO” can seem intimidating, especially since there are loads of marketing gurus out there who call themselves “SEO experts.” In general, the beginning blogger doesn’t need to enlist the services of any SEO expert; all you need to do is become an expert on a few SEO basics to begin reaping the benefits of SEO.
The best way to get started with this is to include specific keywords in your blog post, words that are appropriate to your topic. You can try to insert these keywords after you’ve already written, but having a few in mind and then including them organically as you write tends to produce a better piece of writing. On the same hand, don’t set out to write your posts solely based on the keywords since these types of posts tend to lack in quality, which defeats your ultimate purpose of bringing visitors to your page and keeping them there.
6. Visuals - An Appetizer For The Eyes
It’s been said that we “eat with our eyes first,” or maybe your mother used to tell you that your “eyes are bigger than your stomach” if you filled your plate to the brim. With food, we’re drawn to an assortment of colors and a pretty presentation. Using that same idea, your blog needs to be as visually appealing as a well-prepared plate of balanced, enticing foods.
There are ways to customize your site, even if you don’t have your own graphics person working on it. Better yet, find a way to tie your theme into your visual design. Whether you choose to go colorful or stick with neutrals is up to you; the important thing to remember is that you don’t want a page that makes people want to order something else, so to speak. Too much media or too much “design” is equally as appalling as text too small to read or seeing more than three fonts on a page (getting “font happy” is a bad idea).
Photo by qthomasbower
Another unsightly mess to avoid: forgetting to proofread. Even if Shakespeare or Stephen King were the authors, misspelled words, typos, and grammatical errors can ruin the best writing—as well as give off an air of carelessness.
Unlike a buffet of Thanksgiving sides, you don’t want your sidebar stealing the show—or taking readers away, as most sidebars become cluttered with graphics, badges, buttons, pins, etc. Visitors who scroll down your page will only become confused and bewildered as they attempt to use your sidebar. When it comes to sidebars, less is more.
7. Guests - Host Graciously
Photo by Kevin Doodley
Meals are best enjoyed in the company of others: the most interesting conversations and funniest stories are often told at the dinner table. Well, consider your blog the community dinner table every now and then and host a guest blogger. The benefits are numerous: other writers will feel flattered to be invited to post on your site; they’ll bring their own audience over for a visit to your blog; they’ll provide fresh content to your page. Where to find these guest bloggers? Start by inviting a few writers whose blogs you’ve been following and commenting on regularly.
Hosting graciously can also take place through link parties, which happen when the original blogger invites readers or blog roll members to share original posts on a similar topic, which is great for expanding your audience.
8. Service - Reliable Hosting
Let’s say there’s a new restaurant that opened and you’ve been dying to try it out. After a few drive-bys and realizing that they keep strange hours or never seem to be opened, you decide it’s not worth the bother. You never eat there, and eventually the place closes (which comes as no surprise).
A surefire way to lose the readership you’ve worked so hard to build is to have a site that’s always going down. In order to bring your product (read: blog) to your customers (read: audience), you’ve got to make sure your site is up and running. Read our reviews here at HostAdvice to find a web host that meets your needs and budget so that you can keep bringing your blog to the masses.