Last week as part of our June series on social media, I offered my own top ten best practices that I've learned (sometimes the hard way) as a blogger. In Blogging Heroes, Interviews with the World's Top Bloggers, tech writer Michael Banks catches up with some movers and shakers in the blogosphere to find out the secrets of their success.
Although the book is five years out of date, which is a thousand years in social media, the basic start-up points are relevant and useful. Here are ten tips I've culled from the experts as I strive to improve as a blogger.
- Content is king. In interview after interview, top bloggers repeated that it doesn't matter how much attention you pay to SEO (many of them don't). What brings people in, and keeps them coming, is strong and regular content. It sounds obvious but it isn't: give people something they need and do so often. Many of these folks post upwards of 20 times a day. There's no freakin' way I can do that, but five times a week is workable for me. Is it for you?
- Subscribe to multiple RSS feeds. This book inspired me to seek out and consolidate RSS feeds from blogs I like about religion, publishing, and pop culture -- the three areas that I like to write about. (Ken Fisher of Ars Technica says "probably nobody who is blogging can live withut RSS.") I have Google Reader, which I find to be easy to use if I can manage the flow of information. Again, the people in this book are not great role models for me on this score. The author says they subscribe to an average of 200 RSS feeds each day. 200! I will max out at 15 to 20 carefully chosen blogs.
- Don't write just to sell something. "One of the mistakes I see business bloggers make is that they write about what they want to sell, rather than writing about their expertise," says Dave Taylor at The Intuitive Life. "If I sell outdoor furniture, and every single entry in my blog is about something I sell, no one's ever going to come back. But if I write about things like how you take care of lawn furniture, how you keep it nice . . . then people will come back to see what else you have to say."
- Find your niche. I like this advice but I'm interested in too many things to follow it. Some of the blogs profiled in this book adhere to very specific topics, like new Apple products or video games.
- Put your post's URL in the tags. I've never heard this tip before, but Joel Comm (of JoelComm -- cryptic) says that doing so will improve traffic and SEO. I'll add that to my checklist of things to make sure I do for each post, from IDing photo credits to creating an NSM Meta description.
- Don't despair about comments. One blogger claimed that only one percent of people who read blogs ever leave a comment. Often those commenters come in two groups -- other bloggers who understand the importance of comments and want to be supportive or drive traffic to their own sites, or people who have anger management issues. By contrast, most people who email privately do so because they are pleased with something the blogger has said and want to make a personal connection.
- Keep things simple. It's interesting that some of the best blogs are the simplest and most focused. At PostSecret, Frank Warren culls through about a thousand postcards he might receive in a week and chooses twenty each Sunday to be part of that week's rotating exhibit. (Remember last week when I said that good bloggers are curators? Case in point.)
- Create titles that tell people what to expect. Because so many blog readers use RSS, headlines are very important as they scan their news feed. Don't be coy.
- Don't be afraid to try out "beta" content on your readers. I was particularly interested in the advice of Robert Scoble, who wrote his book Naked Conversations online, benefiting from reader feedback before publication. Since I've been doing this since 2009 with the Twible project, I heartily agree that this is a heck of a way to write a book. My readers have been amazing.
- Stay passionate. Several of the interviewees talked about the dangers of burnout. At ParentDish, apparently, they have a fair number of people on staff but they don't last long because of long hours and burnout. (Also, I imagine that writing exclusively about parenting toddlers, for example, would lose interest as your kids age out of that demographic and you're facing new challenges.
Next Saturday: How Not to Be Annoying on Facebook