Ninja Tips for Making Your Blog Better
This post is a roundup of my top tips for making your business blog perform to the best of its ability and getting the most from your blog. Maybe you want your blog to be smarter or perhaps you are looking at it and wondering why nobody is visiting, or maybe you just want to feel warm and fuzzy because you've set it up like a blogging ninja! Whatever the reason, this post will give you some tips on making your blog better from not only a setup point of view but how to continue it.
1. Get your own domain
This sounds a bit weird one to start with, but its quite important. Most free blog platforms come with a subdomain style URL (eg. tumblr, blogger, wordpress.org etc), which is great to begin, but soon you may outgrow these free platforms ... maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon you may want to move your blog or site to a self-hosted site (i.e. a wordpress site on your own cloud hosting) and all those carefully constructed back-links that you've accumulated over the previous number of months will be lost (boohoo!). Also, with your own domain, you're more than likely to take it just a little bit more seriously.
2. Set your permalinks up properly
Perma-what? If you've setup Wordpress straight out-of-the-box, then you need to do this as a must! Make sure you change the default setting so the URL becomes descriptive. Ie. look at the title of this page. It's a little SEO thing that will work it's own magic over time. Basically google looks at the url, the page title on your page and in meta tags and does its voodoo to work out the relevancy of the title to page content ...
3. Date vs dateless
Following on from permalinks - do you need a date on your posts? Diaries yes. Informative posts maybe not. So, maybe adjust permalinks so they jut have a title and not a date. And get a bit messy with the code and show the date under a post.Why? Well, nobody likes outdated content. And people are date snobby - I've done it myself, you end up looking for the most recent content rather than other content.
4. Optimize for social sharing
Ok, so by now you've got some great content, and you really do want people to help spread the new amazing blog 'gold' that they've just found. You have to make it easy for people to share your blog. There's some great tools out there for allowing visitors to 'like' and 'share' your good stuff. Addthis and Sharethis are two great ones - plus you receive weekly statistical summaries to see how your site is doing in the sharing world.
5. Content content content
So nice I had to say it thrice. Seriously without quality regular content your blog is worthless. You need to set realistic goals if you want results from your blog. Yes older advertising methods are expensive and outdated, and yes blogging is an alternative for lots of businesses. But it doesn't happen overnight. There is a definite trade-off ... You do have to invest time (which is money, lets face it) to get rewards. It's called ROI - which is Return On Investment (a completely different blog post). I'm not going to go into too much about ROI here as this phrase is overused and becomes an early barrier for people to not actually bother to start to do anything. Lets just say that your blog will last a lot longer than a quarter page advert chucked on the bottom left of page 63 in a monthly local events rag underneath 'garden pond cleaner'.
Yep, start it and stick to it. Weekly to begin with. Not only will you speed up as you grow more confident but also your style will improve.
7. To outsource or not to outsource? That is the question!
Yes. This is an option. Sometimes you simply don't have enough time and you can always outsource to digital agencies to do this kind of work (we have done/do for clients for various reasons). This is great for big campaigns with lots of media (photo/video/pr etc) but when it comes down to day-to-day communication, you can't help but have a real person from the real business being at the helm.
8. Eye of the tiger
Yep, keep going.Rocky doesn't quit. Remember this is not an overnight success story. It's about the long game (with the added bonus of social spikes in referral traffic ). Review site progress. Weekly. Monthly. 3 monthly. From a previous recent personal experience, I quadrupled one of my personal sites with a basic overhaul of permalinks, page titles, basic SEO plugins and a couple of updates.
9. Check it's visible to search engines
There's a little box in Wordpress. Make sure you've said yes.
10. Get into good habits and tag your content
Important stuff and its easily overlooked. A little bit of tagging can make a world of difference to search traffic in addition to organising your content and makingit easier for readers to find similar content on your blog. Never underestimate tags, if you don't tag your posts, you will lose out. Tags help drive traffic to your site from search engines. If you don't use tags, then its adviseable to go back to previous content and get tagging! But trust me, it's so much easier to do this from the offset!
11. Use your widgets effectively
On most popular platforms you have widgets or sidebars that you can add elements too. Use this space effectively. Our personal favourites are;
- Link to latest posts,
- Most viewed posts
- and to also have a nice little blog intro on all blog pages. Why? Well, with social traffic a blog page could be your entrance page.
12. Mix your media
Just text is too boring! There ... I've said it, I will give your page approximately 3 seconds if confronted with a wall of text on a blog. Adding the odd bit of photo, video or audio can make the world of difference to readership. There's some great Creative Commons content out there that you can use on your blog for free - you just need to credit properly. Check out Flickr and used advanced search options. Or compfight.com - there's even a plugin now which makes things super-easy!
13. Guest content / curated content
Spice up your site with guest content from quality sources. The ideal is to get not only your visitors to your site but also theirs. Curating content is a popular thing to do. The idea is to get quality content that will add value to your site, finding relevant content rather than creating new posts, sometimes someone will say it better than you, so there's no harm in outsourcing. This is another way to utilize SEO and drive traffic to your site.
Create conversation points. Use it as a conversation or debate starting point, don't make conversation one way. Wordpress comes ready with comment system but you can add in Disqus or Facebook comments to really expand the conversation.
15. Search Engine Optimisation Plugins
Plug these in and let them do their work so you don't need to. Currently our tool of choice for Wordpress is Yoast. Yoast is a robust, straight out-of-the-box plugin which makes your permalinks and metadata mincemeat. "WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between."from Yoast.com
16. Google Sitemap XML and Google Webmaster tools
If you havent got a google webmaster account, then you will need one. Why? Well, its FREE and Google webmaster will allow you to monitor the health of your website, let you know if you have any errors (such as malware, error pages, missing content etc) and also importantly allow you to submit your site's sitemap to google search. So, to make this easy, and not just hoping that google is going to index your site properly, you need to create your own sitemap. This is a piece of cake 'google sitemap XML' generator plugin (or equivalent). This will produce updated sitemap.xml files for you. Why are these important? Well, you then can submit this to google via webmaster tools and the plugin will then update your sitemap and in turn, google, automatically from here on in.
17. Contact information
Someone, somewhere may have a reason to get in touch with you, after all why wouldn't they with all that great info you've written? It's going to be hard if there's no details on your blog or links to your maion website. Social links are always good too. For business users, this can include your full telephone, address, emails, website and social media links. For non-business bloggers, i would think twice about putting any personal contact information on your blog other than email and town (but thats just me!).
18. Have fun
If you find it boring or tedious then it's safe to think your visitors will too. If you are doing what you love, great - this will become evident and other people will see that. I'm not saying go completely wild or defamatory but if a website is your company face then your blog is the company voice. It all adds and supports the 'corporate' image and helps engage and build your audience.