Jay Baer has long been a serious blogger and social media pro that I look up to. This guest post was originally written for 12 Most as a guest post many moons ago and it remains one of my favorite resources for serious bloggers.
When I commented on the original article, Jay gave me a fantastic compliment and it meant so much to me as a new blogger. It reminds me to always be generous to people who are new and try to encourage others to be their best.
All that follows is wisdom from Jay on becoming a serious blogger. Read and learn.
If your blog shares your deepest, darkest secrets about your passion for Jersey Shore or troll head dolls, this is not the article for you. This is the post for serious bloggers who want their online musings to play a meaningful role in their business.
My blog is Convince and Convert. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s a well-regarded social media and content marketing blog — or so says my Mom. Am I a full-time blogger? No. Do I make money from the blog? A little. But like most blogging businesspeople, my writing is a means to an end. It drives exposure, leads, and credibility — all of which create revenue in a cascading, trickle down fashion.
There is no shortage of blogging advice out there, some of it may even contradict what lies below. But this is what I believe to be the 12 Most Imperative Must-Dos for the Serious Blogger, based on my personal experience and those of my clients.
1. Be patient
Every blogger starts with the exact same audience… zero. Eventually, relatives will read your blog, followed by sympathetic friends and neighbors. And then you’ll be on your way. But this notion that you start a blog and it becomes “a big deal” overnight is as rare as Keanu Reeves nailing a Victorian British accent.
I don’t keep up on blogs in every category (my passion for diapers, free range chickens, souped up cars and other topics just isn’t that deep), but in my world the only blog I can EVER remember successfully bursting on the scene in less than a year is Social Media Examiner.
2. Be specific
You have to have a clear sense of what your blog is about, and for whom you’re writing. There are no shortage of blogs out there, and if you’re going to successfully compete with a site like 12 Most, you better have a sharp understanding of what role you play in the educational or entertainment panoply of your audience.
3. Be consistent
Imagine if you subscribed to a magazine and it showed up at your house only whenever they “felt like” publishing an issue? The surprise factor might add a sprinkle of delight for a time, but the unpredictability would become irksome. We prefer to consume content in a disciplined and patterned way. Your blog should not contradict that circumstance.
The hard truth is that not every blog post you craft will be your best work. Nor is every meal you create, sentence you utter, hug you lavish, or bed you make. Nobody is at their best at all times. So this notion that some bloggers cling to of only writing when they “have something important to say” wrongly values inspiration over predictability.
As long as your quality doesn’t suffer markedly, recognize that more = more. Seven posts a week are better for your business than five. Five is better than three. And if you can’t write two posts a week, you’re probably kidding yourself if you think you can drive real business results from your blog.
4. Embrace variety
Because you’ll be creating multiple posts per week in a consistent, reliable way you’ll want to include variety in your blog.
What if the magazine we referenced above not only came to you with seemingly random frequency and sequence, but also always contained multiple articles of approximately the same length, point-of-view, and design?
The reality is that your blog IS a magazine, and you have to mix up your content to keep things interesting and fresh. Add a video post. Conduct an interview. Go on a rant.Commission a cartoon. Just don’t adhere to the same style over and over and over and over. Unless your blog is based on adherence to a hook (like 12 Most) in which case you can ignore this Must-Do.
5. Use imagery
Imagine if your magazine had no photos. That’s a recipe for boring. Perhaps not as boring as Angelina Jolie in The Tourist, but in the vicinity. Whether it’s visual window dressing or information-laden charts and graphs, everything you publish on your blog should have one or more images.
I like to use Shutterstock.com for stock photography for my blog and in presentations, and for more casual stuff I turn to Flickr.com — which has a Creative Commons search feature that directs you to images that you’re allowed to use with appropriate crediting and linking.
6. Be a utility
Create content that’s useful. Solve problems. This is where you can get into publishing presentations, and creating free social media tools (in my case). Spend some time thinking about (or even surveying) your readers about their most common challenges, and then create content on occasion that addresses those challenges directly.
Note: sound familiar? Be a utility turned into:
Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype – Jay’s New York Times Best-Seller!
7. Find an anchor
Especially for new bloggers, it’s often very helpful to create an “anchor post” — something you can create on a regular basis that becomes the nucleus for your blog. Your other content becomes electrons that you publish in between anchor posts.
I used to do live interviews on Twitter with social media luminaries every two weeks. The transcript of those interviews (20 questions each) became my Twitter 20 series of blog posts. This anchor became my anchor and was part of the trampoline that expanded the readership of my blog.
Mack Collier used to have an anchor at The Viral Garden where he’d rank all the social media blogs by the number of RSS subscribers they had.
My friends at Jane Nation used to do a live review on Twitter and their blog where women would critique advertising for content and tone.
These types of anchor content give you and your readers a proven, reliable archetype.
8. Be human
It’s a blog, not an annual report. If you can’t inject some of your personality into the content you create for your blog, don’t bother. Whether it’s adding a photo of you (and other authors if it’s a group blog), or having interesting bios, or just touching occasionally on more personal subjects, a blog should very much feel like it was written by a person, not a committee.
9. Cultivate a community
Just like selling products, the best way to increase your blog traffic is to get people to want to read it every day. And the reality is that even if your writing is superb and your perspective is sublime, your awesomeness is not enough to create that type of loyalty.
People will come to your blog because of you (and your co-creators, if applicable), but they’ll stay with your blog because of the OTHER PEOPLE that hang out there. If you’re not answering nearly every comment with one of your own, and if you’re not acknowledging your audience and proactively looking for ways you can help them intersect and connect, you are ignoring one of the most important aspects of being an online leader, not just a writer.
As Chris Brogan once said, the only difference between an audience and a community is the direction the chairs are facing. For long-term success, you want the latter.
10. Be findable
Even now, with a steady and growing audience, nearly 25% of my blog traffic comes from search engines. If you’re not paying attention to the keywords you use in your blog, how your URLs are created within your blog software, and how your posts are titled, you are costing yourself visitors — and possibly a lot of them.
At the post level, I appreciate tools like Inbound Writer that help me optimize content for search by recommending keywords and how often they should be used. I know you want to be an artiste, free from the confines of SEO of other burdensome guidelines. But being smart about SEO doesn’t mean you can’t write posts that people will love and share.
11. Embrace extensibility
Your blog should not be the only expression of your ideas. Every blog post you write could be turned into a presentation and posted on Slideshare. Every useful post you create or free tool you devise could be uploaded to Scribd. Your interview post could be in video format and uploaded to YouTube and other video portals.
You need to think of your blog as a farm — a source of raw materials that you can combine in an infinite number of ways in a wide variety of online locales.
12. Be shareable
Social sharing and blogging go together like tequila and limes. You need to make it exceptionally easy for your audience to share your content with their social graph through smart placement of icons. And don’t restrict yourself to Twitter and Facebook, either. The Linkedin share button is a tremendous source of traffic, as are Google Plus and Pinterest.
Recognize too, that if you want other bloggers in your industry to take notice of your work, the way to make that happen is for your to support THEIR work. Visit their blog. Leave smart comments. Introduce them to your social graph. It’s not a quid pro quo necessarily, but if you want your content to be shared, you need to be a great sharer yourself.
If you follow this advice will your blog be a success? I can’t guarantee that. But if you’re serious about your blog, and you can and will commit the substantial energy to it necessary to execute on these twelve imperatives, I can promise you’ll have a decent shot at it.