For every blogger, irrespective of the number of professional blogs they maintain, the chances of success are rapidly diminishing, given the current state of blogging. Or should I say splogging?
Add the fact that most bloggers don’t even get it right—working on the wrong things and spending time on unimportant things are further aspects that can destroy the very ambition of success through self-publishing that you started out with. It’s not that blogging is hard; it’s just that there’s a particular way to go about it. There are rules to follow; there are things to remember. There’s an unquestioned effort and mandatory discipline that’s part of every successful blogger’s journey. Here are a few of these rules…
Get the Basics Right
The fundamental rule of blogging is: don’t go for a free blog from blogspot.com or wordpress.com. Free blogs are for writing enthusiasts who would like to maintain personal online journals. For professional blogging, there’s only one route to take: get a hosting account (do your due diligence and check out reviews of hosts and providers on various communities such as SitePoint, WhoIsHostingThis, Quora, CNET, and other sources).
Choose your CMS. Self-hosted WordPress is a favorite. Drupal and Joomla are good too, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said they were a distant second choice for blog sites. Pick up some of the numerous WordPress plugins that fit your blog (do check for version compatibility).
Be Right. Be Honest. Be Upfront.
There’s always a moral dilemma for many bloggers while writing posts, just as in real life: should you be upfront, blunt, and honest? Or should you be diplomatic? Should you equivocate or should you shoot straight? Will you pick up a voice that fluctuates between meek and pleasing or stand on your justified opinions like a rock?
Andrew Sullivan of Big Think advocates that you don’t lie. Avoid misrepresenting facts. Give due credits to other people online, don’t steal ideas, and positively accept your gaucherie when you end up making mistakes or embarrassing yourself.
Use Stories to Captivate Your Readers
Nate Kontny of Ninjasandrobots.com, who also writes for FastcoLabs.com revealed his approach to marketing and getting the word out for startups; we have quite a few lessons to pick from him. Here’s what he advocates:
“Go teach people. Start a blog. Write one post a week teaching people what you've learned along the way of your struggle. Help them leave with something they can use today to get better at something. Use a good story to get your point across.”
You are essentially teaching others when you are blogging. Good teachers, according to Nate, are good storytellers. Take your readers through a visceral journey embedded within your stories. Engage them with a plot; teach them through lessons you learn. Cut their learning curve into almost nothing by showing them what could go wrong.
Be generous. That’s how you provide value.
If you are blogging like everyone else, touching on subjects that have been done to death already, and sharing the same insights found elsewhere, you’ll barely make it. We assume that you want your blog to succeed and get to share the stage with TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb.
Your first rule then is to break all the rules you believed existed. If you’ve been told that blog posts should be between 350 -500 words, go for long-form content. If every other blogger just uses links to point to other bloggers, you stake out interviews and add authentic, real (even if they are amateurish) videos. If blogging rules dictate that you spend half your time on SEO, ditch Google and just write blog posts to provide nothing but value for your readers.
If the rule was to use one stock photo per post, go ahead and use as many as you like. If you’ve heard that LinkedIn Ads and Facebook Ads don’t work for blogs, invest in these advertising opportunities.
Blogging is now beyond blogging; it’s like any other business. So, think of your blogging as a full-fledged publishing business.
Hire marketing managers, hire operational staff, reach out to others for networking, and bring in sales staff for media and space selling or to sell advertising on your blog. Take a call on when exactly you should expand from a one-person operation to a business-like setup. This is an imperative that’ll do you justice.
Go Deep. Go Parallel.
Don’t just create content to post on your blog. Granted that you’ll get traffic, build up followers, and have your own little reader base. Those times when you could profit from “little” are long gone. Today, it’s all about leverage, traffic, engagement, and numbers. The more targeted visitors you have, the better you’ll do.
Drill down into your niche and create more content that’s priceless. The only kind of posts you should be working on is awesome posts—the kind of posts that you’d charge for viewing or reading access.
Reach out and create various types of content for a single idea; rinse and repeat for every idea.
Value Comes First. Stitch in SEO Later.
Most bloggers get too caught up in trying to match wits with Google’s ever-changing algorithm. It’s understandable that SEO makes for a great way to promote your blog, bring in precious traffic, and open doors for you to help convert these visitors into customers or subscribers. Yet, SEO isn’t as important as what your readers take away from your blog. It’s not more important than the lifetime love from a reader’s dedicated visit to your blog to glean lessons, information or pure entertainment from your writing.
It’s not important to beat Google and to rank. What matters is how loyal your readers are to you. There’s something called balance. Go find it.
No Passion, No Blog
Ignore the general piece of advice on getting into “popular niches”. If you have to blog, write about topics you are passionate about. Passion has a way to strengthen your communication.
Blogging on topics you are passionate about has a way to bring out the best in you. It makes you stay strong with your opinions and express yourself clearly. Passionate writing is strong writing. Don’t get into popular topics just because you thought that they would make you money. As they say, chasing money is the worst way to make money.
This list of rules is not an exhaustive one. Nor is it etched in stone. Blogging, and much of the Internet itself, changes all the time, and one of the other unspoken rules of blogging is to cling with changing trends.
What rules of blogging do you follow?
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