This article appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of Writers’ Journal. It’s part 2 of a 3 part series.
Now that you’ve set up a blog and made a few posts, you’re ready to refine your technique and make it a great place to visit. You’re also probably wondering if anyone is reading it and why they aren’t commenting.
Let’s start with great posts. The content is obviously going to be stellar, but what I’m going to cover is making it look equally good on the screen. People browsing the web treat a large block of text like a three-story cinderblock wall—their eyes glaze over and they go around it. The trick to presenting your mind-broadening content is to address this human habit. Great looking blogs have:
- Short paragraphs
- White space
- Clear, bold sub-headers
- Bullet points
While the list is long, it’s not as daunting as it may seem and you don’t have to include all aspects listed. Let’s start with short paragraphs. One to two sentences with an occasional longer paragraph to break up the look of the page. When writing for the web, you need to look at your content from a graphical perspective and paragraph breaks may not be in the same place as they would appear in print.
I think this might make my point.
Which leads into white space. Don’t feel obligated to fill every scrap of space on your post with content. People need a chance to take a breath even when reading. Poets study the art of text placement for maximum impact. The rest of us could learn from them.
Strategic use of bold tags and colors can dress up a page as well as bring proper attention to key ideas. Bullet points accomplish the same thing. Avoid using coma separated lists. Use bullet points instead. They allow people scanning for keywords to glance down and see if they want to read your full article as well as graphically break up your page when you don’t have images to use. Pull-quotes and call-outs also make great substitutes for images.
Video, audio, and images are all great things to include if you have them. In my next article I’ll go over how to format your images for easy insertion into your blog posts, but for now, let’s talk about getting people to read your beautiful posts.
The number one thing to generating traffic is to exercise patience. We live in a world of instant gratification. Finding and keeping good traffic is not a fast thing, though taking advantage of the built-in syndication features in your blogging package will help. Open up your admin page and look for “settings” or some synonym. Make certain that your privacy is set to be viewable by web browsers. Then you’re going to look at where your platform is syndicating your posts. Most platforms come with at least one place where they automatically syndicate your posts. Most allow you to add syndication links of your own, so check out your platform’s help FAQ or forums to see what you can add to your list.
Second is to follow all the advice I gave you in my column on SEO (September/October 2008 issue):
- Lots of good, relevant content
- Properly formatted pages
- Catchy titles
- Persistence over time
- Use of meta tags and keywording for image and page names
- Mentioning your blog in email signatures, business cards, and by-lines
A few more ideas include hunting down relevant portals, lists, and indexes and asking to be listed on them. If your local writers organization doesn’t offer a member bio on their website with a link to your url as a benefit, get after them.
Seek out listings on social networking sites like del.icio.us or digg.com, but don’t expect to be featured on their front page unless you have several hundred friends recommending you as their favorite site of the day. Social bookmarking sites will allow you to embed a button onto your pages making this voting easy, but it’s a catch-22. For you to get good exposure on these you have to already have a following willing to click buttons.
You can also submit your posts to places like EzineArticles (www.ezinearticles.com). Just make sure to have your url listed whenever you post.
A word of warning. Whenever you use any of these online article or site aggregation services, treat your listings as if you were hunting mosquitoes with a shotgun. You’ll be scattering your advertising to the winds, hoping to hit a few, choice people who are interested in you or your book. Most of what you are going to attract are SPAMmers—people looking to post irrelevant links to their own sites on yours. One of my clients once tried auto posting an article to various social bookmarking sites. He had to delete ten or more SPAM attempts to his site a day and there has been no evidence that interested eyeballs have ever seen his article. For this reason it’s essential that you set your commenting features to “moderate only.” Make sure you approve everything going up on your site.
What you really want is to attract and capture readers genuinely interested in your topic. Patience and persistence combined with making contacts with people who also have blogs on the same or related topics is the way. Browse the web and contact people.
Another great way to generate the right sort of traffic is to interview people relevant to you or your topic. The person in question will be of interest to the people you’re trying to attract, but the best part is that whomever you interview is probably going to tell their own list of adherents about the interview and direct them to your blog to read it. That’s the traffic you want and if you’ve done your blog up correctly, they’ll probably be back for more.
Guest bloggers can accomplish the same thing with the added benefit of relieving you of responsibility for that week’s post.
Finally, don’t be afraid to advertise. Find a few friends and trade prominent links using a logo. Try Google AdWords. Refer students to your posts for further study. Be creative.
Now that you’ve generated a following, you need to keep it. Here are a few dos and don’t.
- Include a “related posts” or “categories” option on your menu
- Interlink your posts to keep people on your site and clicking
- Offer a newsletter or tips to subscribe to
- Highlight a “best of” list of posts
- Write posts in series to keep people coming back
- Enable the search feature in your blogging package
- Invite interactivity through polls, assignments, and comments
- Ask for participation
- Post too frequently or infrequently (Fulfill whatever expectations your readers may have about contact.)
- Change the focus of your blog
- Put your ego before your content
- Let your content become dry (Always look for an angle.)
- Let frustration influence your posts
Always, always remember to have fun. If you’re not having fun with it, your readers will be able to tell and they’ll find someone who is in love with their topic to supply their needs.
Angela Render is an author who has been editing and developing websites for over a decade. She teaches regular classes on internet marketing. Her internet marketing workbook, Marketing for Writers: A Practical Workbook, is available on her website at www.AngelaRender.com.