Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to be a Better Blogger: Part 2

Thinking Break


About a year ago, I shared Part 1 of this series, How to be a Better Blogger. You should read Part 1 before you read this Part 2. Otherwise, you might be tempted to skip Part 1. Which would be a mistake. Because if you don't implement Part 1, there's no point in even bothering with Part 2.

So resist the urge to start implementing a check-list of improvements and take the time to read How to be a Better Blogger Part 1. Then come back for Part 2. In fact, I'm going to go re-read it right now because I always need a refresher.

Done with Part 1? Welcome back!

If you're already putting love first, already authentic, not a bully, remaining positive and working hard to collaborate, then this next improvement shouldn't be a surprise. But it's surprising how often it gets overlooked. In fact, most days I forget it entirely!

Put your reader first.

Number 1

I know everyone's blog is personal and customized and intrinsically unique. And that's all good. But your blog isn't just for you - it's for your readers. So if you want to be a better blogger, start with your readers. I might care about how many nationality flags my blog traffic has collected - but my readers don't. I might care about my last 5 tweets with my best friend - but my readers don't. I might love background theme music on my blog - but my readers don't. They may not even know how they arrived at my blog to begin with. They clicked something - and poof! Here they are, staring at my blog, scratching their head. This is my big 3-second chance to 1) make a great impression and 2) connect instantly with my reader.

To make that great impression and connect with your reader, you must put your reader first. Fortunately, there are 8 easy ways to accomplish just that.

Ceasar
  1. Content is King: You've probably heard this catchy little phrase before but it's true. It doesn't matter how many ads you cram onto your blog, how many followers you attract on Twitter or how many likes you rack up on Facebook. If you don't create quality content, readers will quickly realize you're all fluff and no substance. Focus on quality, not quantity. Each and every post should reflect your passion and love for the subject matter. Because if you don't love the post, why should anyone else? So forget about clicks and hits and followers and cash-flow: focus creating quality content your readers will value.

    Less is more
     
  2. Minimize Distractions: Readers are easily distracted by TV, crying children, text messages and addictive candy games. So make certain your blog doesn't add to the distraction. Keep your readers' attention focused on the content you're pouring so much of your passion into - not the flashing banner ads, scrolling text, pop-up subscription boxes, 20 side-bar widgets or mind-boggling color combos. Because if your readers can't focus and connect with your content, why would they ever come back? So get rid of all the extraneous distractions, stick with a simple and clean layout and help your poor reader find some focus.

    Hi
     
  3. Create an About Me page: Most readers want to know why your blog is worth reading. An About Me page is the perfect spot to succinctly answer that question. And if you can't answer that question, your readers definitely won't figure it out - so take the time to carefully craft a brief introduction. The About Me page is also the perfect place to forge a connection with your readers - to bond over shared interests and stories. So after a brief introduction, get personal (but don't be creepy or boastful). The goal is to connect - not to tell your life story or hawk your resume.

    Comments
     
  4. Use a Social Commenting Platform: If your readers take the time to leave a comment, you should take the time to respond to comments. But simply posting a reply isn't enough because most visitors will never check back. Your visitors need to RECEIVE your reply in order for there to even be a chance of keeping that conversation alive. So I recommend a commenting platform that will deliver your responses to your readers. Disqus is one option but there may be others - investigate your options and keep that conversation going.

    No Captcha
     
  5. Turn Off CAPTCHA: It's tempting to turn on the CAPTCHA and let word verification filter out all the pesky spam comments. But your readers are NOT SPAMMERS and their time is valuable. So treat them accordingly and turn off CAPTCHA. If respecting your readers' time isn't motivation enough, consider this: an ever rising percentage of web traffic arrives via mobile devices - and many of these devices cannot successfully complete a CAPTCHA. So imagine how frustrated your reader will be when - after spending valuable minutes typing up a comment on their mobile device - they realize they simply cannot get past the word verification step. That's enough to drive away even loyal readers! TURN. OFF. CAPTCHA!

    Mail
     
  6. Provide an Email Address: If readers have a question, they want to be able to easily contact you - and they may not feel comfortable posting a comment or sending a tweet. So provide an email address and make it easy to find. If you're concerned about privacy, set up a mailbox specifically to handle blog-related mail - and then check the box regularly.

    Socialize
     
  7. Be Social: Each social space is a unique opportunity to connect with your readers in their preferred environment. Some readers may only be on Facebook. Others may only be on Google+. Others may prefer Twitter. Or Tumblr. Or Pinterest. So if you want your readers to connect with you, provide links to each social profile you actively maintain. And then be active. (But remember, content is still king!)

    Index
     
  8. Create an Index: If you're a food blogger, an easy-to-use and up-to-date Recipe Index is essential. Readers may not be ready to make a recipe the day you share it (in fact, most will not be). But when your readers do drop back later, they need to be able to easily locate exactly what they're looking for. So create a recipe index and keep it up to date. If you can't be bothered, why should your readers be bothered to search your site?


13 comments:

  1. Great article! #2 is what a lot of bloggers don't think about. I don't care for cluttered websites. It's hard to focus on them.

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  2. Great article, Mark! I had to go back and read Part 1, and that was incredible, too. I love that you're really sharing your own experiences and wisdom, rather than just creating a "checklist to success" like so many other "how-to-be-better-at-whatever" posts. Lots of good stuff to take away, here!

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Renee, and I think it's easy for all of us to forget most of this stuff - I know I do most of the time :/

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  4. I'm so pleased you enjoyed, Willow - I wish I could say this stuff just came naturally to me, but it's been quite the journey. I'm just happy to have the chance to share...

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  5. Bintu @ Recipes From A PantryOctober 3, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Thanks for reminding us about how to be a better blogger. And I am one of the people who gets put off by captcha.

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  6. Great post! It took me forever to put together an index, but I'm so glad I did. It gets a lot of pageviews, but more important I use it all the time! And you're right about people not seeing replies. I actually do go look the next time I'm on a blog, but I'll bet most people don't. I really should look into Disqus (Blogger has something, but my impression is it's pretty lame - but I've not used it, so maybe I should try that, too). And captcha really bugs me! It's easy enough to just authorize each and every comment. I get a fair number of comments (and a lot of spam) and it doesn't take that long to do. Anyway, super post - thanks.

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  7. I think the fear of spam is the reason CAPTCHA is used so much. When I switched to Disqus, I found most of the spam get's trapped by Disqus' filter and what little gets through I can easily delete...

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  8. I've never heard of Akismet (I need to Google it) but it's always frustrating to me when I hit a CAPTCHA because I never know if I'll actually get thru! Anyway, I hope you do write a post with blogging tips because I'd happy read and probably learn a lot. Which is much easier than the hard-knocks approach :/

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  9. I think I use my index page more than other users, honestly ;) It's the fastest way for me to locate a recipe I've made in the past. Although I've found Blogger's integrated site search does a pretty good job of locating stuff as well... I used to use Blogger's default commenting platform but it wasn't social (at least not at the time) and I haven't tried integrating Google+ comments simply because some users won't have a Google+ profile (and won't want to create one)...

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  10. Point 4 is so important. So many bloggers obviously like to receive readers' comments but then don't reply. Lost opportunities.

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  11. This is a GREAT list Mark! I totally agree with it all even though I am guilty about now having a respond platform. I do reply to comments and when someone asks a question, I'll email them the answer, so I do need to find a way to respond to questions. I'm not a fan of Disqus, so I need to look at other options. You're right that a recipe index is VERY important, but so is the ability to search. I use the search option A LOT and it's quite frustrating when there is no way to search a site. Great post!

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  12. Sometimes I think bloggers may know that the commenting platform they're using doesn't deliver comments back to their readers, so they may feel it's pointless to post a response. However, I'm with you - I think it's a missed opportunity to connect...

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  13. I can see reasons for not liking Disqus - and sorry I force you to use it here! :/ I wish Blogger had a better built-in commenting platform and I think of Disqus as a stop-gap until then ;) I agree with you regarding search - I think both indexing and search are important because different readers want to access content differently...

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