I originally wanted to make this a top-10 list for obvious reasons, but the truth is that I couldn’t come up with a good 10th reason, so I’m going to have to leave it at 9.
Here they are in descending order of importance:
1. Update Regularly and Consistently
I believe hands down that the most important aspect of a blog is the post frequency. It’s also the hardest thing to manage.
It’s a classic scenario - a new blog starts up with the blogger all excited and gung ho. He or she has huge plans for the blog and states that they will post regular updates.
The blogger posts regularly for about a week, and then grows tired of updating and writing for a blog that nobody seems to be reading. Posts continue, but just one post a week, then one post every two weeks.
The blogger decides to turn over a new leaf one day and writes a new post each day for 4-days, before stopping after frustration because nobody is visiting their blog.
It’s very hard, but you have to post regularly and consistently or there is no reason for somebody to bookmark your blog, subscribe to your RSS feed, or revisit your blog.
I try to post once a day, and have been fairly consistent. By posting once a day, regular readers know that there will be a new post for them to read every day, and that they can visit my blog knowing that there will probably be fresh material for them to read.
If you can’t post once a day, then post once every two days. But the key is to be consistent. Don’t post every day for a week, then skip a week and continue, readers want to be able to visit a blog and be able to see new content on a regular basis.
Following this basic rule is the best thing you can do for your blog. It’s hard as hell when you’re starting out and not many people are reading your blog, but stick with it as it will pay off.
2. Write Original Content
Why should I visit your blog? No, seriously, stop and think about it for a second and be honest with yourself. Why should I visit your blog?
Especially in the web publishing/web entrepreneur/make money online niches, there is so much dry, repeated content out there.
Most blogs write about posts that have been done over and over again in the past. Be original! Come up with some good ideas for new articles yourself. Make a reason for somebody to visit your blog instead of your competitor who is writing dry, regurgitated content.
Also, try to avoid writing posts about news that has already been talked about. For example, if it’s breaking news that Google buys out Amazon, and JohnChow, Shoemoney, and a bunch of smaller blogs have already posted about it, just skip it. It won’t be news anymore when you write about it, and you’re not providing anything original, you’re just regurgitating what’s already known.
Coming up with original content can definitely be hard. Here are two things I do with my own blog to help with this.
First, I have a ‘blog.txt’ file on my Desktop that I append notes to whenever I come up with a post idea out of the blue. I could be playing a game or surfing the net, have an idea, and then write it down for later user. This very post is from one of those notes.
Secondly, you can come up with some “Post Series”. This allows you to continuously write original content. Some examples of my own post series include my “PublisherSpot Updates”, “Blog Earnings Updates”, and “vBSEO Case Study” posts. I post each of these once a month, and so right there that gives me 3/30 days that I know I’ll have posts for.
3. Write Longer Posts
I’m known to write some pretty long posts (like this one!), but I don’t expect everyone to write as long as I do. However, I notice that most small blogs write incredibly short posts, just a few small paragraphs.
Remember, you’re blogging for others to read your posts. It’s not a personal diary or journal you’re writing. Therefore, write something with enough substance for your readers to be satisfied after reading.
There’s nothing more annoying to me than seeing posts with around 125 words, with the blogger expecting readers to somehow flock to their blog.
It’s simple: write longer posts. What length is good? That depends on several factors including your post frequency and if you have any images, but as a general rule of thumb you should never have less than 150. That’s not too hard. This review, up to this point only, is already close to 800 words.
4. Stand Out from the Crowd
Even if you have unbelievable content with regular updates, you’re going to have to stand out from the crowd in order to get noticed.
There are many ways to do this. You could hold contests to get yourself noticed or advertise your site, but that requires spending money and sort of defeats the purpose of getting noticed with your blog alone.
What makes your blog different from Joe Smith who has the same content as you? You need to stand out and be unique.
When I first started blogging in October 2005, I purposely made my blog pink. The entire blog was pink (Click here to see it) and I got a few jokes about it, but it really helped make my blog stand out. Even today, long-time readers of my blog still remember me back in the day with my infamous pink blog.
Another example of how you can stand out from the crowd is with your writing style. JohnCow.com popped-up recently building on JohnChow’s popularity, and writes in a comical style with a cow-theme.
And one of the regular commenter on my blog here is “Swiss_Mouse”, owner of CheddarBlog.com, who always writes in the 3rd-person and is on his neverending quest for cheese.
You don’t need to do anything as drastic as the examples above; the point is that you need to do something to stand out from the crowd.
Think about how you can do that, and do it!
5. Add Images to Posts
This is another painfully simple thing you can do to improve your blog. Just add more images to your posts. By more, I mean try to add one image (one is enough) to each of your posts.
It makes your posts much more interesting to readers, and helps to visually capture the readers attention.
When I used to be obsessed with chess, way back when, I would often visit Chessbase.com. Now, ChessBase is more just news and not technically a blog, but the idea is the same.
As you can see, each post has a related image with it. This is, of course, not a new concept or idea, but just look how much more interesting the posts look with an image associated with it. I don’t know about you but they definitely capture my attention.
The best is when you can make custom images for your posts, instead of just grabbing some generic image. It takes a bit more time, but also pays off. Here are some past images I’ve made and used in posts:
But you don’t need to do customized images. Any images, if related, will improve the quality your posts.
6. Remove the Ads
This is best explained in my You’re Not a Rock Star post, so take a gander there if you haven’t already.
This following paragraphs from that post sums this up nicely though:
“…If the point of putting up ads is to make money, then why do people keep them up when they’re only making pennies a month? Even if they’re raking in $20-30 a month, the amount of valuable space they take up is not worth it. It will only slow down the growth of the site…
…I think most people make the mistake of adding ads too soon because they follow a monkey-see, monkey-do mantra. They see all these successful sites with ads all over them and think that they, too, can do the same. What they don’t realize is that most successful sites start off with little to no ads on them…
…That is the key. Don’t worry about making $5 here or $20 there, but instead focus on building a quality site and growing traffic, and then once your traffic starts to soar, you can start to add ads, but gradually as to not scare people away…”
Think about this. How would you like it if I added pop-ups to my blog right now? Would you mind? Would it affect your decision to visit my blog in the future?
7. Ease Up on the Flair
This is a bit difficult to talk about without specific examples, but many blogs have a lot of unneeded ‘flair’. And by flair, I’m referring to anything that doesn’t really have a purpose.
For instance, counters. This used to be one of my biggest pet peeves, but thankfully over the past few years most websites and blogs have abandoned this. It used to be that most sites had a visitor counter display on their site, proudly showing how many people have visited their site. This is completely pointless since 1. Nobody cares, and 2. It can easily be fake.
Another example would be “Bookmark my Site” buttons and links. I’ve never liked these because I figure that you can’t talk somebody into bookmarking your site. If they want to bookmark your site, they will do so on their own.
Adding stuff like this when it doesn’t help only takes up valuable space which could be used for better things. So take a close look at your site and try to identify if you have any useless ‘flair’ on your blog that really isn’t helping anything.
8. Add New Features and Functionality
Especially for WordPress users, there are many free plugins and tools out there that bloggers can use to improve their blogs. I personally have 14 that I’m using right now.
Plugins can do everything from SEO-optimize your blog to incorporating things like Digg and MyBlogLog into them. Check out the WordPress Plugin Database for a few thousand free plugins.
Adding plugins to your site can also help with #4 above, by customizing your site and making it your own.
If you’re not running WordPress and are on a blogging platform such as Blogger, then I’d highly recommend considering moving to hosting WordPress on your own server. Basic web hosting is only around $10 a month, and WordPress can import all your past posts and data from many platforms including Blogger.
The main problem with Blogger is that there is virtually no customization other than basic templating. WordPress allows you to wield your imagination and creativity into your blog.
9. New Design
Lastly, a new design can always improve a blog. Apart from any improved navigation, graphics, usability, and better use of space, it also has the added benefit of bringing new energy to your blog and increasing your reader’s interest.
However, since a new design can make or break a site, it is very important to take your time making sure everything is just how you want it in your new design. Don’t just get a new design for the sake of getting a new design. Get a new design to improve on your old one. If you feel your current design is already quite good or sufficient, then you should rethink getting a new one since there is really no need.
Remember too, that you can give your site a whole new feel just by changing one or two things on your blog. For example on my blog, I can simply change the top header image whenever I want to change the look, feel, and atmosphere of the blog. You don’t always need a whole revamp to inspire change.
Nevertheless, a new design is very dramatic and can spark newfound interest into your blog, so if your current look or theme is outdated, old, or just plain boring, then you may want to consider getting a new design.
So there you have it folks, 9 ways to improve your blog. This was one long post. Time for a rest…
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