This post is somewhat of a first for me. While I work with Scott on a daily basis and we sit at opposite desks, we’ve never put our heads together to write a blog post before. However, recently our office banter has touched on the subject of blogs (well, only some of it has, let’s be honest) and how we can promote them more effectively. We thought it would be a good idea to capture this conversation in a post, so that you can see our ideas and possibly share your own in the comments.
Before you think of these points, it’s always worth considering what the purpose of your blog is and who your audience are. Blogs are read by a wide variety of people, many of whom will not be your target audience – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a type of person in mind.
Some bloggers use their page as a diary, reflecting on events and conversations of the day. Some blogs provide a commentary and analysis of current thinking and situations. Others provide guides and inspiration to those working in a particular area or sector. All blogs stray between these areas, but it’s worth thinking of a primary purpose to target your posts.
1. Bookmark Your Posts
There’s a growing amount of research reporting a rise in the use of social bookmarking tools, so it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to favourite your posts. One way in which you could do this is to add social bookmarking buttons to the end of each blog post. Here’s a step-by-step guide on Youtube telling you how to do this:
2. Search Engines & Technorati
If you want people to read your blog, people have got to be able to find it. One way that blog posts differ greatly from newspaper articles is that they don’t have to be time bound – a blog post today might still be relevant in five years time and still needs to be locatable.
There are different ways people search. The layman will search for a topic using Google and, possibly, Google blog search. These primarily work on keywords from the title, body and tags of the text. Therefore, if your blogging platform allows tags, it’s important to include them and make sure that, where possible, keywords are also in the title and first paragraph.
The other search engine for blogs, normally used by the blogging elite (if such a group exists) is Technorati.com. You need to register for technorati and put code into your post to verify it is your own. Technorati then puts it in a directory (searchable by catagories and tags) as well as making your blog findable via a search engine. The Technorati top 100 is to blogging what the FTSE 100 is to finance – you’ll only find the cream of the crop there. The chances of your blog getting on that are similar to those of you winning the lottery, however all is not lost; there is also the technorati front page. Different blogs are featured there daily and can, reportedly, raise your traffic by 1000%, at least for a day or so.
3. Mutual Blogging
Blogging differs from the traditional practices of writing journal articles and papers in various ways, but one key difference is that blogs are conversational tools, part of social networking.
Unlike in some disciplines, bloggers should expect comments on their posts, offering constructive criticisms or mutual support. As part of that, bloggers should be prepared to share their own ideas, supports and criticisms by commenting on other blog posts. Not only is this good social practice, but most blogging platforms offer commenters the chance to add a link to their own blog, so it’s a great marketing opportunity. Just a quick tip though – make sure your blog has some posts along the same lines as the subject you’re commenting on.
Like most authors, bloggers love to be referenced and hate to be plagiarised. It’s a great idea to link back to other blogs you reference. Some blog platforms, such as WordPress, pick up on links from other WordPress blogs and alert the author that someone has linked to them, meaning that they in turn may well link to them from their blog or publicise them using Twitter. However, it’s very bad practice to write a blog post along the same lines as another blogger without referencing it back. Even if you’re writing from another angle, it’s always important to keep other bloggers happy.
Many blogs also contain a “blogroll” – a list of blogs on a similar subject that the blog author recommends. It’s great if you can get listed on these but, as they are normally fairly short, you have to be really good to get on them. A good place to start is to put the author whose list you want to be on in your blog roll – but only do that if you think their blog is worth reading anyway!
The important part of any social media tool is the conversation. Social media shouldn’t be one way and automatic tweets about blog posts, repeated tweets about the same subject or pointless references to other blogs detract from both your professionalism and your credibility. Karen Thorne, a self-taught expert on social media use in the tourism industry, has compiled a very interesting blog post on the subject of making effective use of social media without just “giving out business cards”.
4. Persevere with Twitter
A lot of bloggers have been keen to jump on the Twitter bandwagon for its potential marketing power. However, despite Twitter’s often perceived triviality and ease of use, it does actually require a certain amount of sophistication to get right. I’ve heard stories from many people who have tried Twitter, but quickly tired with it as they couldn’t really see the point. When in reality, they didn’t really invest enough time in Twitter to get the point in the first place.
Now, I’m not going to insult your intelligence and say that Twitter is the answer to all your blogging prayers but, used appropriately, it can certainly be the answer to some of them. It’s not just a case of sending out a tweet with a link to your blog post. No, no, that simply won’t do. Anyone can do that (in fact, many do, and when their blog doesn’t get any more hits they give up on Twitter as they can’t really see the point – see above). As mentioned previously, it’s really important that you use Twitter as a two way communication tool and spend as much time replying to others as you do posting tweets. That way you build up a rapport with your fellow tweeters.
But I don’t have time to reply to everyone! Fair point, but then you don’t always have to. You could just as easily retweet other people’s tweets who blog about similar interests as yourself, and you’d be surprised how often the favour is returned, thus circulating your own tweets with blog links to a wider audience.
Another useful tool on Twitter that can help to promote your blog is the hashtag (a keyword preceded by a #). Most subjects will have a hashtag and many users will specifically search for information about a subject by doing a hashtag search. So if you include a hashtag in the tweet linking to your latest blog post you’re ensuring that your tweet not only reaches your followers on Twiiter (which may be quite limited), but that it also reaches all the people on Twitter that are searching under the hashtag as well. Bingo – your blog post has just reached a wider audience!
Twitter, if you give it the time, can have many unexpected benefits, which is why it’s often called the ‘Serendipity Engine’ by notables such as Chris Brogan and others.
5. Write Quality Posts!
This is undoubtedly the most crucial point and there are no cheats or shortcuts that we can give away here to improve your blog other than to say write quality posts! Obviously, fellow bloggers are not going to return to your blog if you’re only blogging about hackneyed subjects and only ever agree with whatever happens to be the accepted wisdom of the time.
The power of blog posts is there topicality, as they don’t have to go through the time-consuming peer review process that journal articles do, and as such there’s a lot of scope to write about up and coming trends that are still likely to be of relevance at the time of posting.
Like any journalism or writing, it’s really important that you ensure your posts have a new angle on anything previously written. While controversial posts may not make you popular, they normally get the comments and retweets, while innovative and inspiring posts can even go viral over Twitter or the blogosphere. Don’t just do an article that says: “John Brown says XYZ – and I agree.” Instead try: “John Brown says XYZ and I can build on that,” or “John Brown says XYZ, but other schools of thought challenge this view [provide references!]…” etc. If you are being critical of others, make sure you know whether you are writing your blog from a personal viewpoint, a professional viewpoint, or as a representative of your college, institution or organisation. It may be fine for you to write: “Well, I don’t agree”, but a professional blog would be more along the lines of “It could also be argued that…” while a corporate blog probably wouldn’t be critical in the first place.
On a final more mundane point, as with any other piece of writing, don’t be too eager to publish straight away though, take a few minutes to proofread your posts, this can make a dramatic difference to the overall professionalism of your blog.