People say that blogging is like journaling. That’s true, but only if your diary snakes in and out of the shared digital mind. When I first started Culture Sandwich, I treated it like a notebook that lived in my computer, but eventually I started seeing that it had tentacles that reached beyond the traditional page, conversing with other people and ideas while I wasn’t looking, and eventually pulling me in with it. So here’s what I’ve learned about feeding this alien blog child that has taken over my life in the most exhilarating way.
1. The most important widget (tool that you add to your blog) for me so far has been the “You Might Also Like” feature, which shows readers a list of posts similar to the one they have just read. This feature transformed the way users interact with my blog. Instead of viewing a single post, readers are taken on a guided tour that is tailored to their particular tastes. My traffic doubled after I added it, but even more importantly readers were able to find more of what they were looking for and tended to stay for hours instead of minutes. Here’s one way to add it to your blog.
2. Make sure to use Pingomatic to “ping” or alert various search engines that your content has been updated; list your blog on key blog directories (I’ve had the most luck with Blogged); visitProBlogger regularly; join Twitter, have a Facebook page for your blog, and consider joining Open Salon, which provides a valuable blogging community.
3. Images intensify the reader’s experience. I try not to publish a post without a picture. This makes it look better when I post it on my Culture Sandwich Facebook page, but it also makes the whole blog more visually striking. Here’s a link to Flickr’s public photo collection (just type whatever kind of image you’re looking for into the search box), but I recommend taking most of the pictures you use yourself. That way, you’re more legal and more innovative.
4. Don’t be afraid of list, photo and YouTube posts. At first I felt like these were cop-outs, but I quickly discovered that they’re fun to construct and readers love them (especially list posts). Why? Because they are busy, don’t have time to read a tome every day, and like to have their information broken into palatable pieces. I try to make sure that I add something of mine to any post, whether it be a caption beneath a photo or my own video analysis. These kinds of posts also have the best chance of going viral. Finally, people respond better to posts with numbers in them. “Top Ten Cooking Tips” will get more hits than “My Favorite Cooking Tips” for some reason. I suspect it has to do with people’s attraction to lists.
5. A lot of people approach blogging in a very self-centered way and that is a big mistake. Besides the obvious fact that they ignore the “social” in social media when they do this, they are shortchanging themselves in the long run. Here’s a list of ways to think reciprocally that have helped me form strong relationships with other bloggers. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no deed too selfless when it comes to inhabiting the blogosphere. If someone comments on your blog, always respond. I also visit their blog and, if I feel a kinship with their content, I leave them a comment as well. When you find a blog or a blogger you like, mention them in your own blog or link to them in a post. If you really love their work, you could even invite them to do a guest post.
6. On Twitter, promote your own links, but spend even more time promoting and retweeting others’. Also, tweet funny thoughts you have and links to articles that have value by authors you do and don’t know. The idea is to provide a stimulating collection of information, not a commercial for yourself. Twitter has been transformative in my blogging life by introducing me to other blogs and bloggers and helping them find me.
Making it Interactive:
7. Ask questions at the end of your posts. This way, you are starting a conversation instead of subjecting the blogverse to a monologue.
8. Link to other posts (both and not yours) that apply to the topic you’re writing about. Remember to make your blog reach out and touch the worlds and minds beyond it.
9. It’s okay to make your life into blog posts and to make your blog your life. Let your experiences become anecdotes that you share. With some key limits, I’ve made my life into blog fodder. There’s a certain amount of dignity that I give up in exchange for letting people know that I understand them in their goofy, confused, exciting mess of a life.
Making it Matter:
10. All of these tips aren't worth anything if you aren’t creating extraordinary content. Remember to push yourself. Blogging takes a lot of work. In many ways, you have to treat it like a job even though the money you make from it will often be negligible. You are trafficking in ideas now. Take your thoughts, turn them on their heads, look at them from every angle, and figure out how you can make them into posts that can change someone’s day.
What are your blogging secrets?