I’ve been “blogging” for about seven years, if you count LiveJournal. I’ve posted the occasional Facebook note, and I’m no stranger to Tumblr, but I’ve been blogging consistently on WordPress for just under two months. So I thought it might be a good idea to mark the two months with a post about my observations on (moderately) successful blogging! I can’t exactly boast thousands of hits a day or anything, but I seem to have built up a fairly steady “readership” and I’ve been getting a respectable amount of hits every day – not to mention some great feedback – so thank you to everyone who has subscribed, commented or just read! I’m no expert, but sometimes advice is better coming from someone who seems more “real” than someone on ProBlogger or another one of those expert blogger websites. Now, before I do run the risk of sounding like a robot, I’ll get to the point!
1. Categories & Tags. I can’t stress enough the importance of properly categorizing your posts. Use as many legitimate categories as possible, without overdoing it. I get quite a few referrals from the WordPress tag pages and it has led to subscriptions, so that’s at least one easy way to get your blog seen by the right people.
2. Interact. There’s not much point to blogging if you’re not going to interact with your readers, or even try to build a readership at all. It’s one of the best parts of blogging on WordPress, but it’s also one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts. Difficult, because finding a blog that you love to read, with an interactive and approachable author, in the midst of the millions of boring or abandoned blogs out there is not easy – but with serious effort, it can be done! Time consuming, because of all the comments you send out into the ether, you’re only going to develop a lasting “blogging relationship” with very few of the people you attempt to connect with.
3. Tracking & Aggregation. If you want subscribers, you’re going to have to subscribe to other blogs yourself. I think that must be how everyone gets their first few subscribers. So, when you’ve subscribed to too many blogs to keep track of in your regular bookmarks bar, start to use an aggregation tool like Bloglines or Bloglovin’, where you’ll see updates from all of your subscriptions. Create groupings for blogs. My groupings on Bloglovin’ are “Journalists”, “Creative Writers” “Friends” “Blogging, Career, Help” and “Random”. It makes it so much easier to keep track of things that way. One further word of advice on subscriptions: don’t assume that every blog you subscribe to will subscribe to yours. That’s just the way it is. Personally I do subscribe (at least I think I have) to every blog that has subscribed to mine, because I figure that usually if someone has subscribed, we’re interested in or writing about the same things. But if you find that people aren’t subscribing back, don’t unsubscribe. Comment. Prove that you’re sticking around and that you do enjoy their posts, and you never know, in a few weeks, they might subscribe back!
4. Ask questions. Ask for help. This has been something that surprised me most about blogging on WordPress. People respond. When you ask questions, people answer. And when you make an effort, people care. If you show that you really genuinely want opinions, and are sincere about it, people will take a minute to comment. If you ask for help or advice people around here are usually nice enough to give it.
5. Title your posts appropriately and creatively. Think about how you feel when trawling through the tag pages on WordPress. What kinds of titles catch your eye? I’m guessing most people are drawn to the more unusual or creative titles, the ones that draw you in and make you want to know more. Sometimes using a question catches people’s attention. You’re probably not going to feel an instant and undeniable attraction to “Things I Did Yesterday”. Just sayin’.
6. The About Page/Section. Use it! “This is an example of a WordPress page” or whatever other generic message WordPress uses on empty pages, is a waste of a page. People tend to stick around on a blog longer if they know who is writing it. Definitely add a picture, too.
7. Consistent, not obsessive. If you know me, you’re probably already laughing. I’ve been known to be slightly obsessive when it comes to certain topics. I personally prefer the term passionate (I can hear your lols), and where blogging is concerned, consistent is the word of the day. I try to post a blog once a day, but at least every two days. Don’t let people forget that you’re here! Remember – when someone accidentally stumbles upon your blog out of millions, you want them to see a recent ‘latest post’ date. If your most recent post was three months ago, guess what, they’re probably not subscribing! While consistency is important, it’s probably better not to spam people’s feeds with six two-liner posts every day.
8. If you have something to offer, offer it! Last week I received an invite to Google Plus, and found when I posted “Does Anyone Want A Google Plus Invite?” that this was a much coveted invitation. I helped people out, picked up a few subscribers and a lot of hits. Everyone wins! Oh and if you read a great post, link to it through one of your own posts. You’re providing interesting content and you’re helping out another blogger. Again, win-win!
9. Blog on topic. My most viewed post of all time was a post that I wrote a couple of hours after Former Congressman Anthony Weiner announced that those infamous Twitter pictures were of him. My post was called “A round-up of the best Weiner headlines” and I seem to have been one of the first people online to compile a list of the funniest headlines surrounding the whole affair, which meant I pretty quickly ended up on the first Google results page for any search related to Weiner and headlines. I got over 600 hits on that post alone within 24 hours. If you’re journalistically inclined, when something happens, blog it!
10. Contact Information. Finally, make sure you give readers a private, professional way to contact you which isn’t simply through leaving a comment on the blog. You never know what opportunity will pop up. I’ve been contacted quite a few times from people with potentially opportunities. It’s not a guarantee, but if your contact info isn’t there, you’re selling yourself short!
Oh and one final thing, posts probably shouldn’t be this long if you actually want people to make it through to the end in one piece (sorry!).