When I was a first grade teacher, summer always made me reflective. It was the time for thinking about that brand new collection of kids that would soon appear at your classroom door. Because if there was going to be change, it was going to happen in the sun-drenched days of September. Like the first day of school.
The intoxicating smell of new.
Scents of wool sweaters with price tags barely clipped off and the fine shavings from freshly sharpened pencils. You know, the fat black ones that 6-year-olds could grasp with their pudgy fingers?
On the first day, I walked along the rows of tidy desks, dropping a flat box of Crayola crayons on each one. Even today, just one whiff of that heady wax scent will transport me right back to the classroom.
September meant a clean slate: a new class of excited, slightly nervous kids, a different set of parents to get to know. Another chance to create the kinds of lessons that inspired and motivated my students.
Another chance to get it right.
I took inventory each summer. What was I doing that was working? How could I reach my students on a deeper level and bring out the best in each of them? What could I do to make learning more meaningful for them?
Summer still does that to me. I’m not teaching anymore, but I still get high on planning and strategizing. Part of that now involves thinking about ways to improve the delivery of usable, reader-focused content—on the BobWP site and on the blog.
Some bloggers like to focus on things like floating popup boxes and keywords and such. My strategy has always been to build my stage, with content front and center, and then use every strategy I can think of to let people know that I have helpful stuff.
In case you are spending some of your summer brainstorming ways to improve the value, usability and share-worthiness of your blog, here are some things I’ve learned over the years.
21 Ways to Improve Your Blog
Some bloggers do well with an all-over-the-board blogging strategy. If that works for you, by all means, keep on that path. But I found that by focusing down my topics, I got more readers. I didn’t freak out when I initially lost a few subscribers. Because it meant that I was getting that much closer to my real audience, the people who need to know about the things I’m blogging about.
I have morphed from a general marketing blog for businesses, to a blog about blogging to, finally, a blog to help writers build their author platforms. Along the way, my ‘niche’ changed as my reader demographic became more specific.
2. De-clutter the home page.
Most readers are landing on your page for a specific reason. They are looking for something. Your goal is to make sure they know—within seconds—that they are in the right place. Consider creating a tagline below your home page header so visitors can see right away what your blog is about. Also think about placing your photo and a short piece of bio text toward the top of your sidebar so your readers know who your are and what you help them with on your blog.
3. Make subscriber signups your number one goal.
If developing a base of loyal readers is crucial to turning consumers of your content into clients and customers, make that big old subscribe box the very first thing they see. Or if you are more more interested in building your email newsletter subscriber list, make that prominent.
4. Blog with your helper’s hat on.
Sometimes readers are on a blog to be entertained, pure and simple. But many more visit because they want to know how to do something better, faster or easier. Focusing on showing your readers how to do something or teaching them something they didn’t know is a surefire recipe for success.
5. Start listening to your readers.
I was astounded at how much better I got at addressing my readers’ real needs when I started asking questions and paying attention to the answers. And as reader engagement went up, so did the social media shares.
6. Try a promotion, tying a free gift to subscribing to your blog.
Though it seems like this strategy has been around forever, it still works— if the gift has value. Offer free tip sheets and other content from time to time as an incentive for subscribing, but always with an eye toward useful stuff, preferably something that can’t be found elsewhere.
7. Connect with your true voice.
The ‘find your voice’ advice has almost become a cliché. And what does it even mean, anyway? For me, it meant writing from the heart. I figured out that making people laugh is a part of who I am, so I stopped trying to turn off the funny, sometimes edgy, side of me.
Start with a little introspection. What do you believe about life? What is unique about your personality? How do you tackle problems?
Your goal should be this: that anyone who reads what you write will know it’s you without looking at your author/blogger byline.
Me? I’m still working on that.
8. Improve your headlines.
This is one of the best ways I know to hook your readers and keep them coming back for more. There is a lot of free content online to help you with headline writing. If you want something more comprehensive, with some examples of the most successful headline types and instructions for writing them, see my ebook, How to Create Sticky Headlines: Secrets of the Copywriters.
9. Link to your other posts.
This gives your readers who want more on a particular topic the chance to dive in deeper. And it gives them more good content to share with others, which brings even more new readers to your blog.
10. Show yourself, warts and all.
If we are honest, we will admit that we have our own unique set of challenges, fears and insecurities. If we show our imperfect selves every once in a while, readers will identify with us and come back for more.
11. Find ways to connect with and support other bloggers.
Comment on other blogs—both inside and outside your niche—and find ways to work together with your fellow bloggers, share resources and help each other get where you want to go faster.
12. Get your blog’s URL out there—everywhere.
Put your blog address in clickable form in your email signature, in your Twitter bio, on Facebook and, of course in your one allowable link when you comment on other blogs.
13. Broaden your reach by writing guest posts for other bloggers.
Find blogs with similar audiences as yours and propose writing a guest post for them. You will often notice an increase in page views and new subscribes on your own blog after a guest post.
14. Stop worshipping Google.
Before you say, “Blasphemy!”, hear me out. First and foremost, Google looks for quality content. Besides, what good would a gazillion people finding your blog be if, when they get there, your posts are full of keyword soup and you have nothing interesting or useful to say?
To satisfy your readers and Google, before you publish your post, put alternate titles in for net searchability and keep the visible title as eye-catching to humans as you can.
15. Refocus your social media strategy.
Learn what works best for you and concentrate on building up your followers on those platforms. If you focus on just two or three, you can avoid social media burnout and you’ll get better at driving traffic back to your blog.
16. Tell more stories.
I have written here before about using storytelling to rise above the content that 75% of bloggers on this planet are generating. Bloggers with opinions and stories to tell are leading us to the next generation of blogging. Give it a try and see what happens.
17. Discover the power of the ‘just right’ photo.
Research shows that an engaging image can get 30 to 50 percent more visitors to read your post. There are oodles of sites for free stock photos. We’ve been using pexels.com a lot lately.
18. Develop a brand strategy.
Before your eyes start to glaze over at the word “brand,” there are some pretty simple ways to do this. Besides colors, font types and other design elements, your writing style, if consistent, will go a long way in building a recognizable brand. A strong, unique writing voice helps, too. And, as mentioned above in tip #17, the types of photos you use are key.
19. Teach a workshop.
This is a good strategy if you can make it work for you. In the process of teaching workshops on blogging, I used some of my posts as examples and sent attendees a link to subscribe to my blog in my post-event email. An added benefit: my workshop students have been a great help in my content development; they have given me many ideas for new posts.
20. Network with other niche bloggers at conferences.
I don’t get out of the office as much as I’d like to travel to conferences, but the networking opportunities at such events are off the charts. There is nothing like meeting someone in person you have been tweeting back and forth with for more than a year. Some of these in-person connections have even resulted in new partnerships and collaborations.
21. Pay it forward.
Giving free advice on your blog can bring you unexpected benefits. People just naturally want to support and promote you if you are generous.
So here they are. Just some of the things I have learned about blogging along the way.
What about you?
What’s the single most successful strategy you’ve used to grow your blog?
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