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The Essentials for a Successful Blog

21 May

This is where I’m blogging from this week–a park on beautiful May day in Pennsylvania!

Almost one year ago, when I first started publishing ramblings about my ambitions, struggles, triumphs and personal philosophies around starting my own business, I had no real idea what I was doing. I wanted a platform to share my ideas, but to also keep me accountable for continuing my creative writing on a regular basis. And for me – this meant blogging. At that time, I had no real plan for where this would go, or if it would go anywhere at all. All I knew was that this was the first time I could really write for myself and not have the pressure to “perform.” This was a wildly new feeling which allowed me to access a whole new level of creativity and improve my own writing over the course of a single year by simply making me do it weekly.

While there is still much for me to learn from some of the Master Bloggers out there, I do feel like I’ve picked up on several tips that allowed me to enjoy the prestigious WordPress honor of being Freshly Pressed and to continue to steadily grow the Bennis Inc blog week after week, month after month. The following are what I consider the prime essentials for my blog’s success:

Consistency. Every Monday morning around 8am you can expect to be greeted by a Bennis Inc blog post in your inbox or blog feed. This takes planning, and sometimes pre-scheduling posts weeks in advance, but I’m a stickler for not leaving my readers hanging. For you, a different day of the week or a different frequency might make more sense, but whether you’re posting weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, loyal readership comes from consistent content.

Tags. Tags are what get your blog before the eyes of potential followers. In WordPress you’ll see that you can browse blogs by an endless number of topics. How do the blogs you see get placed on these topic pages? Tags. I familiarized myself with the most popular, overarching topics such as Life, Business, News, Photography and Writing (you can pick them out by the size of their font on the Topics page). I incorporate these powerhouse tags into my posts as much as relevant. That’s the other key to tags is to keep them relevant to your post. Overtagging is treated like spam to WordPress and that won’t get you any further ahead. Pick just the 10-15 most relevant tags for your content. Tags are also how a lot of search engines pick up on my blog. So when I use a Thomas Edison quote, for example, I’m sure to tag him because his name alone has brought many people to my blog because Google includes it in its search suggestions.

Quality Content. If you’re going to make the time commitment to start a blog, also make the commitment to write to the best of your ability. I can remember one busy week over the holidays when I just knew I couldn’t make my Monday blog deadline with a post to which I was proud to sign my name. Instead, I took just a few minutes and included a photo and a fun message to my readers about how even bloggers need a holiday. First, this kept me consistent with my weekly posts. Second, this allowed me the extra time I needed to come back the following week with quality content. I want to WOW my readers every week – and some weeks I do a better job of this than others – but I never want to take their readership for granted. So by offering you something worth reading I’m letting you know that I value your time!

Make it Genuine. So often blogs that are started by businesses fall into the trap that their posts should focus solely on promoting this business or its services. While a blog is a great opportunity to self-promote, it shouldn’t be a sales pitch. Just as I mentioned about quality content, give your audience something worth reading. Establish yourself as an expert in the field, but be sure to include personal stories, humor and even give people a look into some of your own struggles from time to time. My underlying point is – be human. We have enough social media being run by spammers and software. A successful blog gives readers a window into your life.

Make it visual. Adding a picture, graphic or embedding a video clip into your blog posts creates immediate interest for readers. When you browse through a topic on WordPress you’ll see an entire feed of new posts – too many to fully process. So what stands out? One of two things, an attention grabbing title or a picture to accompany your words. Both should accurately represent your blog with minimal thinking or reading. It’s the 0.5 seconds you have to pull a reader in, so don’t willingly give up this opportunity to grab their attention!

Become a part of the WordPress Community. WordPress is very much a social network; it’s a community of writers and readers made up of every demographic imaginable. But you can’t simply publish a blog, sit back and wait for people to swarm it with likes, comments and 5-star ratings. Most often, you have to actively pursue new readers. I personally comment on 5 other WordPress blog every day with something more meaningful than “Great post!” I show them that I took the time to read what they wrote and I share how it relates to me personally. WordPress is a very interactive community and 4 times out of 5 I get a reply for my comment. Most often, 2 out of 5 times I’ll get a new subscriber to MY blog. Multiple this by 5 days a week over the course of a year and it’s easy to consistently grow your blog. It just takes a few minutes of meaningful interaction every day.

So what are some of your successful blogging essentials? Have you discovered the tips I mentioned to be same as the ones you currently use? Since we are a community after all, share your blogging Do’s and Don’ts with me!

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22 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Business & Success

 

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22 responses to “The Essentials for a Successful Blog

  1. Paul T. Shafer

    May 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Hi Stephanie, very nicely done. I really enjoyed the post. It’s obvious you put a lot of TLC into your blog and I’m assuming it will create a lot of opportunities for your company in the long run. The post reminds me of a recent article that I read on Inc.com that you might enjoy (http://www.inc.com/tom-searcy/how-to-write-a-blog-to-help-grow-your-business-5-tips.html). I would be interested to know how you do a couple things on your posts: 1) how do you include your Bio at the bottom of each post? 2) how do you set up your emails (the one I receive after you post) so that I only see an excerpt of the post…as opposed to the entire article? Thanks!

     
    • Stephanie Bennis

      May 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Hi Paul – thanks for sharing that great article. I love Inc Magazine! For your questions first go to your dashboard and then: 1) Go to Users –> My Profile and here you can add in your bio under ” About You” mine then shows up under my posts automatically, but this may also be due to my blog’s template. 2) Go to Settings –> Reading –> “For each article feed show” select “Summary”. This page also allows you to customize the email your new subscribers receive which is cool!

       
      • Paul T. Shafer

        May 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        Thank you Stephanie for taking the time to respond to my question. Your suggestions worked like a charm. I’m looking forward to future posts and would love some PR snippets if you ever get the chance.

         
  2. hypersonic55

    May 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Great blog Stephanie, you have supplied me with some interesting information. With my blog I use the same means of tagging like you do. For me tagging is a very essential aspect of blogging and can mean the difference between your blog being viewed by a few and your blog being viewed by many. I can’t say that my blog is overly successful, but for one that’s been going since September I think it’s alright. I think I need to explore and try out a bit more of the community aspect of WordPress.

    I was wondering, since my blog doesn’t have one universal theme and focuses on many different things, how would I make the genuine and high quality? Anyways, great blog as always keep up the good work! 😀

     
    • Stephanie Bennis

      May 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

      My blog has various themes as well! (See the different topics listed in the header of my site) I would suggest organizing your posts so each one fits into at least one overarching category, whether that’s Life, Business or something else. But limit this “Big” categories to no more than 6. Also think about who you’re writing to–that might tell you what the theme of your blog is! The more direction a blog can take, the more you’ll gain loyal readership because what you write about will apply to them week after week.

       
  3. Cheval John

    May 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

    How do you get “Freshly Pressed?” It seems as if my stuff is not good enough for that.

     
  4. TrueheartSpeaks

    May 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    This was a great article Stephanie! I too try to make sure my Motivational Minutes are posted daily for my readers. I also link my post to facebook and twitter for my ‘followers’ an ‘likers’ :). But I think I may take some time each week to respond to more of my wordpress family. Being a new mom I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be. I also tag my posts as well as try to be genuine in my posts. I want my posts to be that dose of morning motivation that my readers need. It may be a ‘real talk’ message, a message of motivation and encouragement or just something fun.

     
  5. czona2288

    May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    This was so informative. Thank you so much for writing in such a clear organized manner. I feel much more confident abut what I need to do, since reading it.

     
  6. Tania Hotmer

    May 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I appreciate this post. I agree with other commenters in that it appears you take great pride in your posts. You should as they are a reflection of you. I also want to add that your blog contains content that relates to me. Therefore I will be following. :).

     
  7. Claire

    May 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for these helpful tips on blogging! I am stopping by after a comment from you on my blog and I think that alone proves that becoming part of the WordPress community and truly using it as a social network is great advice! (I recently moved my blog from another platform so this is something I have not yet delved into!).

     
  8. kebperspectives

    May 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Stephanie,

    As a new graduate, I am still finding my place in the world in general, and in the professional sphere. That being said, all of these are great tips…for when I am ready. At this point, you are in a successful place where these things are all helping you and will certainly help others! I am not yet in a place where blogging is a priority of mine to help me reach what I need to reach for.

    I will make sure I check back to this post when I am ready to plunge into the professional world full-boar; but until then, I am glad you shared these tips with everyone who follows! Keep blogging, I love reading your posts.

     
  9. l0ve0utl0ud

    May 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I agree with your points – especially about the consistency and quality. I am trying to become more consistent in my own blogging!

     
  10. Meredith Jaeger

    May 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Excellent post! You got a new subscriber out of me. I need to blog more consistently ( It’s supposed to be every Monday, but I’m a slacker) and to make sure my content is valuable. I will start devoting more time to carefully choosing tags and commenting on other blogs. This seems like a good idea.

     
  11. Micro Business Kid

    May 30, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Those are all great points. Something that I’m really trying to do more of is networking with other bloggers who write about similar subjects.

    Love him or hate him but Tim Ferriss talks about it in his book, The Four Hour Work Week. Michael Ellsberg, who wrote The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, stated that half of his time spent working was on writing and the other half was networking. Julien Smith and Chris Brogan actually wrote a book called Trust Agents that is all about networking and using the Internet to promote your business in a genuine, cost-effective way. I highly recommend all of these books as they’ve helped our family business grow tremendously. I used much of what I learned in Trust Agents to grow the number of followers we have on Tumblr to over 2,000 in less than 10 months.

    Thanks for posting this as this reiterated why talking to others is so important in business and in life. You have to be proactive if you want to do anything big!

     
  12. 1982d

    June 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Great post! You are absolutely right!! will surely be implementing some tips!! 🙂

     
  13. councilblogs

    June 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Council Blogs and commented:
    Stephanie leads an excellent example of blogging. One of her many interesting posts.

     
  14. Adrian Pantonial

    June 11, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Awesome tips, Stephanie! I currently use these tips on my blog too.

    Here are a few of my own “Better Blogging Tips” for you and your readers >> http://seekersportal.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/how-do-i-blog-thee-better-blogging-tips-13/

     

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