Across all the popular blogging websites you’ll see some of the same advice repeated in different forms. Like with anything, you’ll also see some of those same popular topics shunned. Some advice even directly contradicts other advice.
I decided to subscribe to several blogs. Watching my inbox fill up, I’ve made a few observations. Namely – advice that’s being given but not used by those giving it. Does that mean it should be followed or not?
Some sites are catered to a specific demographic, such as marketers of business blogs. Most the people that leave comments on those blogs seem to fall within that category. It’s understandable if advice that fits from a marketing standpoint doesn’t fit from a personal one. However, much of the advice posted is also advertised as useful for the average Joe blog writer.
There is so much contradicting advice it can get downright confusing, and much of it is redundant. What we all really want to know is… is there a magic formula for blogging success, or not?!
First, let’s review…
Popular Advice for Marketing or Improving Your Blog:
- Blog every day.
- Don’t blog every day.
- Blog at a consistent rate.
- Create good content that benefits your audience in some way, not about what your cat did today.
- Make your blog interactive and reach out to your readers.
- Proofread your writing multiple times before you publish it.
- Use good, intriguing titles.
- Take full advantage of interlinking.
- Use lots of pictures, bold text, lists, quotes, etc (i.e. things that stand out and draw your eye to them).
- Break up your paragraphs (a.k.a. – grammar, sentence structure, etc doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it’s not glaringly bad).
- Make sure your grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct.
- Write casually, like you’re talking to someone.
- Don’t write in an extremely educated fashion (i.e. write for the laymen).
- Carefully craft your blog to maximize SEO (search engine optimization, i.e. the likelihood that Google will find you and rank your blog high in the results).
- Don’t worry about SEO, it’s not so important these days.
- Don’t use ads, they’ll make your blog look amateurish unless you’re really raking in the dough (at which point you probably don’t need advice).
- Think about your desired audience and write to them.
- Reply to comments on other people’s blogs (link back to your website via the URL box, KeywordLuv, or CommentLuv).
- Referrals from blog comments don’t amount to enough to make it worth your while.
- Use social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Technorati, etc) to promote your blog.
- Social media for blog promotion isn’t effective enough to be worthwhile.
- Get your friends and family to help spread the word about your blog.
- You should market your blog via guest posting, with your best content going on the other person’s blog.
- Guest posting isn’t always an adequate means of getting referrals.
- Respond to every comment you get.
Agh! Makes your head spin. Since some of those are in direct opposition to others, what are you really supposed to follow? What really works?
Let’s take a look at some of the common things that popular blogs do that contradict other popular blogs.
1. Blogs don’t need lists and photos to be popular.
I’ve noticed that many blogs talk about and/or write using short, simple sentences, lots of lists, quotes, stand-out text, and photos. You don’t usually catch long paragraphs on these blogs. The layout is clean, concise, to the point. This probably is the best way of designing a marketing/business blog. This writing style does draw the viewer’s eye.
This doesn’t mean long, chunky paragraphs don’t. There are plenty of popular blogs that write in full paragraphs and are very popular! They get read by millions of people and commented on, shared, etc by hundreds and thousands.
One of my favorite sites is Cracked.com. It’s a humor site, but styled like a blog with articles written by editors as well as reader contributions. The majority of their articles are list-based, but each list item usually gets at least 2 paragraphs.
Another example is StevePavlina.com. His articles frequently have long paragraphs. His blog titles are mostly straight to the point. Some of the text is broken into single-sentence paragraphs, but he doesn’t use photos. Not only that, but from what I’ve read, he doesn’t use guest posting or commenting to promote his blog. Yet there are thousands of likes and shares.
2. Blog authors don’t always publish content daily or every few days.
Frequently adding content to any website helps with SEO, since it instructs Google to crawl your page again. If Google knows you’re frequently adding content, it will crawl your site more frequently.
I’ve read a number of articles that state to blog every day, or almost every day. Furthermore, they (mildly) chastise anyone who complains about it being difficult (e.g. “Success takes work!”). This is a problem on a few different levels.
At the minimum, it is difficult. If you publish content daily or almost daily, you have to think of something to write about every time. It’s almost like making dinner for a family of four every night… It gets exhausting to think of some new meal every night. You spend all sorts of time trying to creatively use leftovers until finally you buy everyone a TV dinner and tell them to take it or leave it!
With blogging, you can drag a topic out into a series, and that’s OK. However, every article won’t be a series. If you aim to post something every single day, or even most days (if you don’t have it in you) you risk getting lazy on some days and posting anything, that may or may not be anything worthwhile.
There are a couple blogs I’ve subscribed to that I haven’t seen a single update from. And for the blogs that do update frequently – remember that they may utilize guest posts. In fact, some blogs that use guest posts seem to rarely have an actual update from the blog’s original author! So don’t feel bad if you feel a bit stuck.
3. Blogs with a niche often don’t need to worry about SEO.
I’ve seen a lot of advice that talks about crafting your blog for SEO. Then you turn around and see a lot of other advice that claims SEO is becoming outdated and you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
This doesn’t take into account the fact that a blog with a niche is already set up for SEO.
If you aren’t familiar with SEO, here’s a quick rundown: SEO involves a lot of different variables. There are positives and there are negatives. Some things improve your SEO, others can hurt it. Two of the easiest and most common variables are keywords and link-backs. When you legitimately have tons of a particular keyword or phrase throughout your site, that tells search engines your site must be important for those words. If other sites have linked back to yours, search engines think that your website must be even more relevant and important since all these other links go back to you.
A popular old method that you may have seen a few years back is called “keyword stuffing”. That describes a site that is full of irrelevant keywords – often invisible to the reader (white text on a white background, for example) – just to boost the search engine ranking for that keyword. Another popular method is link exchange. That means both participating sites are full of irrelevant links to each other in an attempt to boost search engine rank. Google may ding a site for either method.
Taking that into account, let’s go back to blogging within a niche. Google, for example, sees “blog” or “recipe” or “Lady GaGa” repeated over and over on a website that is using it in a legitimate, relevant manner and it thinks that site must be important for that keyword or phrase. Then you get legitimate link-backs and that ups your SEO rank. When you have legitimate repetition of your keywords, you get the positive side of keyword stuffing (higher search engine rank) without eventually getting dinged for irrelevancy.
Advice to mostly ignore SEO is mostly beneficial to those who blog within a niche and/or already have many followers. This is because they won’t really need it! If you want further evidence that it shouldn’t necessarily be ignored – a lot of the blogs saying that already have a high search engine rank.
4. Even some of the most popular blogs don’t get tons of social media attention.
Most blogs use some sort of share buttons. They come built-in on WordPress and Blogger, and you see them everywhere. Each of these sharing programs is unique, but for the most part they all work the same way – someone sees a website they like, they click a button, and whoever is watching sees what they like.
Many of these sites advertise their popularity by means of Facebook “likes”, Twitter “tweets”, “Diggs”, “+1s”, etc, etc. A very popular blog or blog article might rank in the hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of shares. However, many of the blogs that give blog advice don’t rank high on some of the popular social media services.
ProBlogger is actually a decent example of this. I am not using this as a negative viewpoint of Mr. Rowse, ProBlogger, or his other sites. He apparently has over 100,000 Twitter followers, and I’m not counting Facebook in this example either. But if you pull him up on Digg or Reddit, in spite of ProBlogger’s popularity, his articles aren’t high-ranked. Especially not when compared to the latest viral funny picture floating around the web.
5. You don’t need a juicy title for every article.
Some sites recommend spending a lot of time on your article’s title alone. While it is an extremely important part of blog promotion, you don’t have to spend half your blog time working on your titles. Sometimes the best thing to use will come to you, other times it’ll be what makes the most sense.
If an article is sort of off-beat, it probably needs an intriguing title to attract readers. However, tutorials and the like don’t need to be doctored up much at all. You might add some intriguing keywords, but that’s about it.
I’ll use this blog as an example. I’ve written a handful of tutorials on doing some things in Blogger to make it a little more like WordPress (sorry, Google… I still love you). A title for something like “How to Customize Your Blogger Post URL” would seem irrelevant by virtually any other name, would it not? Sure, you could re-arrange some of the words, or add “Easily” to it, but other than that, it should stay as it is.
When you write an intriguing title for a blog article, you have to be careful to keep it relevant. You can get clicks all day long but what you really want is for people to read your material. If your title isn’t at least relevant, people may reach your blog but they’ll turn right back around and leave.
What Advice Should Really Be Followed?
We’ve taken a look at some of the inconsistent advice typically doled out, and some that falls into the “do what I say, not as I do” category. With all that contradiction, what should you really be following?
1. Blog at a consistent frequency.
Whether you blog once a week, once a month (hopefully a little more often than that), or once a day, shoot for consistency. You should blog frequently enough to make sure Google knows when you’re posting new content, but that doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to blog every single day. If you force yourself to blog when you are absolutely not in the mood, you may wind up posting just for the sake of posting, and it probably won’t be very worthwhile.
If you feel like you’re on a roll one day, go ahead and blog your heart out. Just schedule them to post at regular intervals. That will also cover you in case you don’t feel like it another day or can’t think of anything to write about for the next scheduled post.
Relatively consistent posts will tell your readers that you actively update your blog and if you have subscribers, they will appreciate regularity. People generally won’t be keen on getting nothing for a week then 5 updates in one day.
2. Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Make your paragraphs whatever length you’re comfortable with writing, as long as they aren’t composed of giant run-on sentences like this that your grade-school teacher taught you not to do because it gets to be really confusing to keep up with a sentence like this and it is very improper sentence structure.
Seriously though, whatever you like. Just make sure your spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the better it is, the better you’ll look.
3. Your blog’s content has to provide some form of value to others.
I originally was hesitant about buying into this idea. If you have a business blog, then sure, make your content valuable. But look at websites like icanhascheezburger.com! I thought to myself, what sort of value does that website have? Or what about perezhilton.com? How do either of these sites enrich the lives of anyone?!
Then I had a huge D’UH moment – it’s valuable as entertainment. It’s not valuable in the sense of self-improvement, education, or deeper understanding of anything. Sites like that are viral simply because they’re entertaining, funny, whatever. People love something that’s worth a good laugh or has some shock value to it. That’s value to those readers at that time.
What about people who have personal blogs and actually do post about their pets and their kids? Well, unless you have a really wild family, I wouldn’t recommend doing that from the get-go (without something else to support it, like recipes) but eventually – why not? There are tons of mom-bloggers, for example. There’s an entire community based just around them. If you have an interesting family, why not have a blog about your home life?
In the end, there is theoretically no topic that you could blog about that would not be of interest to someone out there. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself, just try to find your demographic audience and write to them.
4. Get your name out in a variety of ways.
Forget social media, guest posting, commenting, it’s not the individual advertising medium that matters. The point is to create an image of yourself. There are two purposes to all those mediums: 1) SEO (link-backs), 2) Getting your name out to people.
Blogging is community-oriented. Links to your blog help, true. But as many people say, if you simply leave a comment on someone else’s article to simply say, “Great post!” – people won’t care and you’ll only get the trivial SEO benefit from that link.
Blogging is like MySpace on crack.
Think about all the things that MySpace originally was – a blog, personal profile/interests, friends, status updates, bulletins, and the ability to decorate it as your own. People always think of Facebook as having been the big man on campus to overshadow MySpace, but does anyone realize how much personal blogs do?
With your own personal blog you can…
- Blog (obviously).
- Create photo albums of whatever you want (and add context even).
- Network with other people via commenting.
- Create a Twitter/Digg/Facebook/Reddit/StumbleUpon/etc account and send mass updates of your new posts.
- Write status updates on your blog, or via any advertising medium.
- Personalize your blog’s appearance to make it your own.
- Inform people of your personal interests via an About page, blog posts, or your blog service personal profile.
- Receive messages directly via a contact form.
Blogs are like a giant, expanded version of MySpace. The only difference is that you can’t always find friends easily, unless you’re promoting your blog via something like Facebook. But that’s why you have to create them. And you can use every one of those mediums to create a network of friends. Those friends will visit your blog and may link back to you in ways that garner real traffic.
5. Don’t ignore your readers.
If someone stops by, leaves a comment, or sends you an email, reply to them! I’ve even received replies from some professional, and likely very busy bloggers. Going back to #4, it’s all about the relationship you are creating with other people. Like any other relationship, there is some give and some take. When people reach out to you, don’t leave them hanging. Use that as an opportunity to create a relationship.
No matter what you do, or don’t do with your blog, you should enjoy doing it. If you want to have a photo blog, have one. If you don’t feel like typing, make a video blog. If you have a blog about food but you want to include an entry about your car, don’t be afraid to do so. Like anything else, if you enjoy it, you’ll be better at it. If you are having difficulty, try something that you perhaps hadn’t attempted before.
But whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it most of the time. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth doing.