Ok, I know what you’re thinking. These general how-to-improve-your-blog posts are a dime a dozen, and they are usually filled with a bunch of obvious, shallow information that helps no one.
Well, first off, you would be surprised how so few blogs take any of the obvious information about building a good blog to heart.
Secondly, I promise this post will have depth, originality, and flavor!
Make the Site Look Good
This is rule number one of building any good site, and it definitely applies to blogs. The least you can do is take your time and research good free themes that are available. And most of the time, thanks to blackhat SEO, searching Google for “free wordpress themes” won’t yield the best results; some themes may actually be hacked and mess with your links or content. Yikes!
The better bet is to search “free wordpress themes smashing magazine” or whichever blogging/design site you trust so you can find results like this or this if you want a list less than 100. Of course, if you would really like to invest in your blog, you should perhaps even consider paying for some themes such as Studiopress, Themewars, or many of the other paid theme sites. Not only will they offer great designs, but they are usually well optimized for search engines as well.
Choose an Interesting Topic
This is a surprisingly obvious point that so many blogs seem to ignore, and it is not that they are writing about generally boring topics either.
Whether a topic is interesting or not is highly subjective, but most bloggers seem to think that what is interesting is what is most popular and will get the most traffic.
As a result, they will choose topics that they themselves are not interested in. And let me tell you something, when you are writing about something in which you have no interest, it is hard not to be boring. So, to sum up this point: Write what interests you! Not what you think others will find interesting.
Use Captivating Images
Finding interesting images for your posts might be hard work, but I do honestly believe in the power of great images to attract clicks and traffic. Particularly when someone is on you blog, scrolling down to find interesting articles, a great image might just be that extra “oomph” that gets them to click on an article they otherwise would have passed up.
Also, it is a good idea to seek diverse images for your blog rather than repeating the same ones; while repeating images may work on new visitors, you also want to attract your loyal visitors to articles. For that, you need fresh, captivating images.
Avoid Filler and Be Competitive With Your Content
Writing empty, shallow posts is probably the surest way to drive traffic away from your site. If you don’t feel like you have a lot to say at the moment, don’t publish it!
When your readers start to see a lot of redundancies or just a general lack of purpose in your posts, they will stop visiting your site. Not only should you avoid filler content, you should also constantly try to think how you can boost your content to one-up competitors.
In social situations, I personally hate it when someone tells a great story or joke, and then someone else follows it up with an anecdote about themselves that completely pales in comparison. If this is annoying in social situations, it is equally if not more annoying online. If you can’t one-up a conversation, don’t add to it.
Make Your Blog Search-Engine Friendly
To do this, you have to constantly think about how your audience would find your site through Google. What types of searches would they use?
This is called keyword research. You should research this through your own Google searches in addition to using Google’s Adwords.
When doing research, it is important to find keywords related to your blog that aren’t completely dominated by huge companies that spend millions on SEO. For instance, if you write a blog about cell phones, don’t worry about outranking anyone for the keywords “cell phones.”
Try instead targeted, long-tail keywords such as “How to buy used cell phones,” “Android Ice Cream Sandwich features,” and the like. Finding which of these keywords have the least competition (yet still have good search potential) might help you decide which keywords to include on your post titles.
Write a Good “About” Page
This is where I see so, so many blogs go wrong. Some bloggers write purely about themselves, as if they think that is the main reason people read their blog.
While it is important to include your credentials, particularly if you are an authority in the topic of your blog, you should also include a very cohesive, well-written description of the blog itself and the content it has to offer.
Many people will go to the “About” page to get an idea of whether or not they want to subscribe to a blog after reading a post. If the “About” page is subpar, why would they subscribe?
Market Other Posts Onsite
One of the best ways to increase traffic is to keep the current traffic that you have on your site even longer. You do this by appetizing them with other posts on your blog that are related to the current post they have open.
There are several WordPress plugins that will find related posts for you for each article and automatically advertise them on your blog.
The one that Google’s Matt Cutts recommended a couple years back was Yet Another Related Posts Plugin which works well and is easy to use. There are a variety of other options available as well, so choose what you think looks and works the best.
Market Your Blog Offsite
This may seem like an obvious decision, but many bloggers don’t seem to go beyond SEO when it comes to marketing their blog.
A self-contained blog does not just magically get traffic. You have to constantly find ways to market your blog on other websites.
For many bloggers, this means using social media outlets which isn’t a bad idea at all. Do remember, however, that you can go beyond traditional social media with web marketing by guest posting to other popular blogs related to your topic.
This will also give you targeted traffic that may be already interested in your blog topic. Just be sure to grab their attention with a great guest post.
Outsource Content Producers and Opinions
While guest posting is a great way to market your blog on other sites, it is also something to consider for your own blog. Not only does it add content to your blog, it provides a fresh perspective for your readers.
Best of all, you don’t have to pay for it (aside from marketing their blog with a link and credit). Just be sure that you are outsourcing high quality content. Also, it is a good idea in general to ask and publish the opinions of your readers. This will add to the variety of your blog while also empowering your readers and giving them more of a reason to keep your blog in their sights.
Use Social Media Effectively
I talked a little bit about using social media outlets in the previous point; now I will elaborate on how to use these outlets the right way.
Most bloggers will simply create a Twitter account for their blog or themselves, and just update their Twitter whenever they have a new blog post. All this does is simply create an RSS feed, which you can do from your site.
It won’t attract any new traffic or followers because it doesn’t offer anything that you couldn’t get from your blog anyway. Instead, why not add additional useful information that you wouldn’t put on your blog.
Perhaps you read an interesting article related to your blog topic, but you don’t think it would constitute a whole post. Link to it and write about it on Twitter!
Also, try to make active attempts to use social media to engage with your audience and fellow writers. It makes you and your blog more approachable and actually gets people to care about your work.