This Sunday, May 16 2010 represents the one year anniversary of Big Picture Web, my humble blog/website/company. For the last year, my goal has been to help people use online marketing strategies and measurement tactics to create more successful blogs, websites and social media presences. I've learned a thing or two about blogging in that time, and today, our special anniversary post features 10 blogging mistakes, tips and tricks I've gathered during the first year of Big Picture Web.
Most of us, myself included, aren't writers and learning to blog isn't easy. In fact, I cringe when I look at my very first post. But it's one of those things that gets easier over time. You start to get a feel for your audience. You develop a certain voice. You start to see which posts keep readers' attention and which posts are bombs. All of this information helps you avoid common blogging mistakes and move forward. And so here we are, one year and a list of 10 blogging mistakes, tips and tricks under my blogging belt:
- Be consistent. The worst thing you can do as a blogger is to be inconsistent. It's way too common to see a new a blogger come out of the gates with a full head of steam, posting three times a week. But by the second month, the blog becomes a ghost town. Don't let your excitement become a blogging mistake. At a minimum, post once a week. Establish a rhythm and then don't waiver. You can do significant damage to your community and readership if your content schedule begins to vary.
- Don't ignore comments. Comments are screaming indicators of engagement, yet less than 1 in 10 people typically leave comments on blogs. Comments are golden. Comments are social proof, convincing new readers to stick around because others have joined in your conversation as well. Neglecting people that leave comments - unless you're Chris Brogan and receive scores of comments per day - is not only a huge blogging mistake, it's also very rude. Comments should be a goal on your website and should be highly coveted. If you get one, respond to your commenter and thank them. Go to their blog. Friend them. Send them a birthday card. You get the picture.
- Develop a content strategy and stick to it. By in large, no one will will read your blog if it's just a "mere online diary," as Twitter friend @passepartout puts it. You need to be offering something unique and useful to a specific audience. If you look at some of my first posts, my direction was horrible. I wrote about incredibly general topics like SEO, email marketing, online marketing in general. Those articles get no traffic and generate very little interest. Now, I blog about online strategy, measurement and the actual software platforms bloggers and website developers use to meet online goals. This much more focused approach has yielded a lot more engagement with folks that come to Big Picture Web.
- There is no substitute for quality. Great blog posts are like adding a tiny, recurring source of traffic to your site each month. I created a full-on guide for measuring banner ad revenue as one of my first blog posts. I'm still amazed by how much search traffic I receive. Compare that with this post and you can see why the banner ad post receives so many more visitors. Put in the time to create quality content. Your audience will appreciate the extra effort.
- There is no excuse not to do basic SEO. If you still don't know what search engine optimization is, you owe it to yourself to at least learn the basics. Following a few basic SEO blogging tips like adding keywords to your blog post titles and image alt tags can go a long way to boost your long-term search traffic.
- Bad usability is a big blogging mistake. Bloggers almost always end up shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to usability. White text on dark font. All caps. A million blinking lights and widgets. Molasses-like site load times. Keep your web page down to the basic elements that will support your goals. Make sure your add-ons don't slow down your overall site performance. Bottom line: poor usability loses visitors.
- Choose your blogging platform wisely. Before you dig in and start building your website, it's important to look at the options available to you. You'll see that there is an age-old trade-off between flexibility and ease-of-use (e.g., Wordpress vs. Squarepace). Find the niche that suits your needs, then find the quality solution that suits you.
- Measure your blog. I believe passionately in measuring to improve. And in my opinion, there is no excuse for not installing a basic web analytics platform on your blog (e.g., Google Analytics). How else are you going to know what content is working? I'm constantly looking at my sources of traffic, top landing pages, goal funnels, everything. There are countless insights on how to better serve your community and improve your blog if you just take the time to look.
- Don't be a know-it-all. It's tempting to write definitive guides for your audience, but it's important to realize that blogs are social content. For example, I use website session recording software Clicktale to see how visitors engage with Big Picture Web. Most people that read a blog post will typically read what the community posts in the comments as well. Your thoughts are just as interesting to the Big Picture Web community as mine are.
- That said, I've intentionally left #10 blank just for you. Use the comments below to tell us about your biggest blogging mistake, tip or trick. Both my visitors and I will be grateful if you do.
I certainly appreciate all of the now nearly 1000 visits I get each month to Big Picture Web and hope that this next year is even better. If we haven't connected on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, now's the time.