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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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?