We all want to be better bloggers.
It’s perhaps why you visit this site (and thank you!).
It’s why we’re always reading the comments after the posts, and taking on new ideas that we hadn’t thought of ourselves (again, thank you!).
If we don’t want to be better bloggers, and we think we know all there is to know about blogging, then we might as well give up.
When we stop learning, our content won’t be anywhere near as interesting as the stuff we’d we producing as blogging students.
Thing is, sometimes we’re not sure how we can be better bloggers – we don’t often look at our blog with a non-biased critical eye. So, given that, how can we improve our blogging?
Well, we could start with some of the basics on why our blog sucks. Here are four of them to get you started.
1. You Don’t Revisit Your Blogging Plan
If you’re in business for yourself, one of the first things you create is a business plan. This gives you short, mid and long-term goals for your business, its success, and where you might trip up. Great businesses have flexible business plans to adapt on the fly, and will revisit them regularly to check on progress and make changes where needed.
If you want to succeed in blogging, you need a blogging plan – its goal, audience, revenue model (if that’s your aim), single or multi-author, traffic goals, SEO strategy, etc. Then you need to revisit – often. Your blog is an organic thing – keep it alive by checking its growth and treat it accordingly.
2. You’re Not Thinking About Mobile
If you started blogging pre-2009, you probably didn’t need to worry too much about mobile. Mobile browsing hadn’t taken off too much, despite the success of the iPhone launched a couple of years earlier. Because of this, bloggers could continue to design sites for web browsers and not worry about any other optimization.
Jump forward to 2012, where mobile browsing accounts for around 10% of all web traffic globally (and much more when you break it down by region – 20% in North America, for example) and the trend for mobile visitors to your blog is only going to rise. Start thinking about how you can make your blog mobile optimized (or, at the very least, mobile-friendly) before you get left behind.
3. You Don’t Measure Results Properly
Ah, measuring blog results. It’s a topic that everyone can have a different opinion on and still be right – because everyone’s goal for their blog results are different.
Yet there are some key measurements you should be keeping score on;
- Growth in blog traffic per quarter. It’s all well and good saying “I got 1,000 more visitors than last year” and looking at your blog growth once a year. But if you really want to grow effectively, monitor the key visitor trends per quarter. Did traffic grow because of a certain post; keyword; a particular social network; a guest author; an affiliate program; a change in editorial style? All these are great pointers on why your blog is experiencing growth, and you need to take notice of them. After all, if you don’t know why your blog is growing, how do you expect to nurture that growth?
- Social traffic versus SEO. Blogging today is a very different beast than it was back in the day. Whereas you used to rely on optimized content and building a strategy for search engine success (SEO, link-building, etc), now you can grow a very successful blog from shares on social networks. What you need to know is whether this is a strategy for your blog. If your analytics tell you social traffic is more than organic or search traffic, is this something you want? What if your biggest traffic driver was Google+, and Google decided to pull the plug on its network? Relying on social traffic is all well and good, but use your analytics to tell you if and where you need to concentrate more on your search engine strategy, so you can still get traffic long after your preferred social network has disappeared.
- What campaigns are working and which ones you need to fire. If your blog sells any kind of product or service, or you’re an affiliate for another blogger or service, you may just be counting sales versus how much it cost to put the program together. But you need to be more granular than this – you need to create specific campaigns in your analytics program, with custom URL’s , targets, timelines, audience, advertising, etc. This will allow you to see what message and approach works, what one doesn’t, your strong and weak points, where you’re losing money and much, much more. By being smart about your sales, you can weed out the chaff, concentrate on the successful strategies, and use this to grow your blog traffic, revenue, awareness and more.
There are numerous other metrics to measure – the ones that matter to you the most should be the ones you monitor the most, or set up campaigns for. You can’t succeed without knowing how you did on certain goals, so making sure you measure the right analytics is key.
4. You Place Too Much Value on the Wrong Things
Some bloggers use the amount of comments they get as a measure of how successful their blog is. Some, social proof (how many tweets their posts get, or Facebook Likes, Google +1′s, Diggs, etc). Some bloggers like to look at how their site is performing on Alexa, or Compete.
While there’s no doubt that these numbers all have value, they’re not necessarily ones you should be taking notice of. For instance, it’s easy to set up a bunch of fake automated social sites and share your posts as soon as they go live, creating instant social proof. And Compete only measures traffic from U.S. visitors, so can be discounted if that’s not your primary demographic.
Instead of measuring these numbers, think beyond them and how they can really help grow your blog:
- If blog comments are a way for you to measure your blog’s success, stop counting the number of comments your post gets. For one, if you’re great at replying to most (if not all) of your comments, then you can probably halve the actual number of the comment count, since 50% will be from you. Ignore the “Awesome post!” comments too, if that’s all they say. Instead, look to see what the comment intelligence is like – do they foster more conversation with other commenters; do they make you rethink your train of thought; do they make you place more emphasis on not just replying to gushing comments; do they make you want to do a follow-up post to expand on them? If comments truly make you think and make your readers think too, you know your blog must be growing in reputation as it’s encouraging true and thoughtful discussion.
- If social sharing and proof is your success barometer, then look beyond the number of retweets, Likes, +1′s, Stumbles, etc. As I mentioned, these can be gamed by setting up bot accounts (at least on Twitter), while social sharing groups can promote your stuff above other content, regardless of quality. Instead, become a detective blogger. Where possible, look at the source of the share, and see what other reactions that received. For instance, did a retweet start a conversation around your post with other followers of the sharer? Or did a Facebook Like get shared and then discussed by others? And so on. Then, if you really want to get granular, make a list of who’s been talking about your post after an initial share, and see if they start commenting on your posts themselves. If they do, pay a little extra attention to them to cement their interest (though don’t neglect your existing audience). This can turn an interested party into a loyal subscriber and commenter.
Okay, You Don’t Suck – But You Can Do Better
Saying your blog sucks because you don’t follow these examples above is like saying Nickelback is a great rock band – it’s unfair (in Nickelback’s case, to the term “rock”). I don’t know what your blogging goals are, so the examples used here could be completely irrelevant.
However, as a look at some of the more common mistakes bloggers make when wondering about blog growth and success, they should give you at least one area you can immediately improve in.
How the rest of your blog’s issues are solved comes down to recognizing what’s not working (based on your goals), and figuring out how to fix it. The good news is, it’s not impossible – you just need to start digging into your blog.
And we’ll help you along the way when you need it – just let us know how we can help.
- All-in-One Social Media News – The 10 Most Misleading Social Media Metrics in the World (thesaleslion.com)
- 12 Imperative Must Dos for the Serious Blogger (slideshare.net)
- 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time (seomoz.org)