(A bit out of practice, but stick with me.)
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read the equivalent of a few books worth of material on how to run a successful blog. You’ve read about getting more traffic, getting more subscribers, getting more links, more comments, social media votes and so on. If triggered, you can probably remember (broadly at least) most of what you’ve read. But it’s easy to forget the steps involved, particularly when we consume so much new information every day.
The purpose of this post is to lay out the key principles of successful blogging in one place. The details of each point aren’t here — that’s where your own knowledge comes in — but I think it should be helpful in terms of reminding us about the skills and habits that are most important to what we do.
I could have added a dozen more sub-headings, but I wanted to take some of my own advice and simplify down to the eight areas that I believe are most important.
How to grow
- Self-promote until your posts start to get traffic with or without you.
- Then — produce something other people want to talk about.
- Always focus on building your blog’s vital signs: your comments and subscriber count — the marks of popularity that people can actually see.
How to write popular posts
- Time spent on the post is more important than your talent.
- Use your best idea — don’t save it.
- Highlight the best bits with formatting.
- Brainstorm headlines until you find the best one.
- Pour heaps of value into this one post. Don’t spread it thin. Impact is key.
- Use interesting images to attract attention.
- Use your (short) intro to tell them what you’re going to tell them.
- Social media users are spoiled for choice. Assume they’re impatient.
- Link out to spread the word.
- Ask for votes and links — just not too often.
- Use a blueprint. Look back into your blog’s history and emulate your most popular posts.
How to get more comments
How to create a blog that is well designed and usable
- Assume that a visitor will never spend longer than three seconds searching for a link.
- If you want people to see something, don’t put it in your footer.
- If you don’t have an easy to find About page, make one now.
- Your headlines could be bigger than they are. They’re doorways into your posts.
- Use an interesting image in every post you want to draw traffic to.
- Declutter your blog by keeping only what’s important. Clutter leaves less attention for what matters.
How to stay interested over the long-term
- Don’t be afraid to write about what interests you, even if it’s a break with tradition for your blog.
- Learn to enjoy blogging as a hobby. Any success is a bonus.
- Never stop connecting with your audience, whether it’s 10 people or 100,000.
- Don’t be afraid to take breaks. A break is better than burn-out, and your subscribers will stay with you. A blog that isn’t updating isn’t an interruption.
How to get more subscribers
- Do what’s necessary to maintain a very high content standard, even if it means posting once a week.
- The notion that subscribers unsubscribe if you post too little is a myth. If they like you, they’ll wait.
- Don’t overwhelm your subscribers with quantity (unless you’re Lifehacker).
- For someone to subscribe, they need to believe your blog will be useful in future, not just now.
- A big RSS button and other gimmicks don’t convince people to subscribe. Your content does.
How to make money blogging
- Focus primarily on growing your traffic — more traffic = more clicks.
- But remember, traffic isn’t worth anything if it’s not actually paying attention to you or your ads.
- Experiment. There are dozens of ways to make money with your blog. Scrap what isn’t working and move on.
- Your advertising space is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
How to think of great post ideas
- Write every idea down. Don’t assume you’ll remember anything.
- Always return to what matters most for your audience. It’s impossible to cover that too much.
- Strokes of brilliance take time. Give yourself the time to have ideas by sitting down and brainstorming.
In the 10 Trump-card articles post I shared in April I accidentally linked to the wrong article when sharing Bob Younce’s trump card post. Here’s the article I should have linked to. Enjoy!