Monday, October 31, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Guest posts

Guest posts are one of the best ways to get some traffic to a young blog.  But it's a tricky balance.  Any new readers that you have should see that it's your blog and not someone else's.  If you decide to have guest posts, be sure to intersperse them with a healthy amount of posts you have written yourself.

So why even bother with guest posts?  Two reasons:

As I mentioned before, it takes awhile before search engines will even start to take your blog seriously.  Therefore, a guest post is a good way to spark natural traffic.  Feature someone that works in your field/does similar things to what you do.  But featuring that person, there is a good chance they will announce the guest post to their friends/followers.  So the traffic goes from only people you know to people you know plus all the people the guest blogger knows.

The second reason to have guest posts is that it adds variety to you blog and it help you to pace your ideas.  A blog that has consistent, weekly posts  always looks more appealing than a blog that seems to randomly update once a month.  If you are scheduling blog posts every week, a guest post is one more week where you don't have to think of a new thing to write about.  So it's a really good option if you're struggling for content.

I'm going to repeat here that your blog should not be only guest posts.  Unless the focus of your blog is feature other people all the time -and you should state this as the purpose of your blog- guest posts should just add variety.  Most of the content should be yours if you want to attract a loyal following.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Allowing Your Blog To Age

This is one of those things you're not going to want to hear, but I have to say it all the same:

You must allow your blog to age.

Yes, age.  Like a fine wine.  You will not be getting thousands of visitors overnight.  Traffic generating services or paid ads are a complete waste in the early days.  Yes, you will generate traffic.  But for a blog, a temporary boost in traffic will do nothing.  You need quality subscribers that are not only commenting on your blog but also maybe sharing your links with their friends.

To give an example, when you first start your blog - as in sign up and put your first post - it takes about two weeks just for the blog to become part of "the internet."  That means that not even typing in the exact name of your blog in the Google search bar will bring it up.  For the first two weeks, the only way to bring a blog up is to type in the exact address ( or whatever).

After it finally filters into "the internet," it will take another six months before search engines such as Google start to take the blog seriously.  You have to think of the thousands of people every day who start websites or blogs, only put one post and then burn out.  If search engines counted every single one of those sites as viable search results right away, we, the searchers, would be flooded with useless information.

Therefore, you have to prove to the search engines that you are viable content.  Consistently posting high quality, focused content  over several months makes your blog appear more worthwhile in the eyes of a search engine.  A blog with lots of posts with similar keywords, comments and backlinks (people who copy/pasted your link somewhere else on the internet) will always rank higher than a fresh blog.

So you're just going to have to wait.  And be patient.  And continue to post.  If you don't believe me, take a look around at any popular blog in an category.  Yes, they will have fun content.  But they have also all been around for at least two or three years.  Aging your blog is key.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Choosing a title

The title of each blog post is possibly the single most important thing you should consider when it comes to blog traffic.  This is something you can directly control about your blog and it makes a huge difference in how people find your posts.  So, it's kind of important.

Cute, catchy titles with lots of play-on-words and puns may make you inwardly glow but they are not going to help other people find your blog.  So if you don't care about how much traffic you get, be as creative as you want.  If you do care, take my advice: title each post with the exact keywords you want people to type in on the internet to find that particular blog.

So, an example of a cute title would be: "My hysterically funny yet disastrous baking experience!"

An example of a specific, keywords in mind title: "Easy Apple Pie Recipe" or just "Apple Pie Recipe."

Yes, I know that the second option is not as much fun.  But when people go onto the internet and type in "apple pie recipe," the second post is the one that's going to pop up as a relevant.  So, as a blog author, you are going to have to make some artistic decisions here.  How much do you care about others seeing your blog?

Even if your titles have to be boring, all is not lost.  The actual content of each blog post can be as wacky and funny as you want.  Just because the blog is titled "Apple Pie Recipe" doesn't mean that you can't throw in your own experiences about the fire extinguisher glaze you were forced to add on top.  In fact, I would recommend that you do.  Things like that are what make people remember the blog later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pacing Your Blog Ideas

Pacing your blog ideas kind of goes hand in hand with the idea of posting consistently.  I've lost track of how many times I've heard people say that they don't want to start a blog because they don't know what to write about or they started a blog and then ran out of ideas.

Here's a secret: blogging takes practice.

Even prolific authors/writers have to practice blogging because it's not the same thing as writing a book or a short story.  But, as with most things in life, with practice it becomes easier.  Your brain starts to have a "blog mode."  Think about how it is playing Scrabble.  The first time you play or if you haven't played in a long time you're not in "Scrabble mode." You can't think of any words and the words you do think of are usually small and simple.  A few games in, your brain gets warmed up and you can start dishing out those more complex 5-letter words.

Same goes for blogging.  The first few weeks are going to be rough.  But the more you blog the more ideas will start to pop into your head.  You'll start to think of different ways to approach the same topic.  But this isn't going to happen overnight.

If you're having a rough time coming up with ideas, here's what I suggest: don't blog until you have three or four blog topics you want to write about.  Once you come up with the ideas, give yourself a few hours and write all of the blogs at once.  But don't post them right away!  Schedule your blogs so one posts each week for the next few weeks.

Why do this instead of just posting one every day?  A blog that updates weekly still looks active to potential new viewers.  It also means that you basically gave yourself a month to come up with more blog ideas.  Coming up with new blog ideas every day is stressful.  Coming up with blog ideas over the span of a month is reasonable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blog Layouts - How should I arrange my blog?

This is a tricky subject.  A blog is a very personal thing and so, ultimately, a lot of how a blog looks will depend on the author.  Personally, I like to keep my blogs very simple looking.  In the end, I feel like the blog should be about the entries and not the exotic designs bordering each post.  But I have encountered many bloggers who say they like to have lots of design because images draw readers in.

As I said, to each their own.  But there are some basic things that I think are important to keep in mind:

  • Are the titles and text easy to read on your blog?  Orange font on a pink background is going to be rough for most people.  Design all you want around the blog but the text is one area where I think simple is best.  A dark font on a neutral background is the easiest to see.  Even though white font on black is clear, some people have a hard time reading it for long periods of time (myself included and I'm not that old).
  • Is it easy to find a way to follow or subscribe to your blog?  I can't tell you how many times I've been on a blog that I've really liked and the follow button was like playing Where's Waldo.  If you want subscribers, you need to make it easy.  Don't bury these buttons in a sea of color or blog "gadgets."
  • For most western language speakers, the eye is naturally going to track from left to right.  So keep that in mind as you add new stuff to your blog.  The things in the upper left-hand corner of the screen will be noticed before the bottom right-hand corner.
  • For better or worse, images are a distraction.  People will notice images before they notice text.  As I said before, there are different theories on what draws people in to a blog.  I have multiple blogs and my image usage varies.  Keep images tasteful and keep them relevant.  If you are a graphic designer or photographer, you would want lots of images.  If you are writing a how-to, only add images if it helps to understand the concept.   
  • Is your blog easy to navigate?  A lot of bloggers neglect to add a home page.  This is a common problem with wordpress users.  On a wordpress blog, the default "home" button is just clicking on the blog's title.  But only wordpress users would know this.  Make your blog computer-idiot proof.  You don't want to lose a reader just because they got frustrated navigating.