Updated: Jan 23, 2021
Blogs are in. Blogs are out. Actually, they're here to stay, no matter what the latest trendlines tell us. Why? People love to read them—whether it's fashion, tech, food, or strange and delightful niches. In fact, 77% of internet users read at least one of the 500 million+ blogs out there in the digital ether. It's a proven way to connect with customers and prospects while also making a name for yourself. Whether you're a beginner joining the ranks of 32 million bloggers or a pro that needs a recharge, here are my takeaways from10 years.
Be clear about your goals
When I started blogging, I had three objectives: to support my website, boost my reputation as a marketing expert, and gain solid readership. Though perhaps counterintuitive, my primary goal wasn't about gunnin' for the big subscriber numbers (there are plenty of bloggers that solely go after that or revenue opportunities). I was more focused on speaking to the audience that cares about my expertise and topics, will hopefully learn something new, and maybe even be slightly entertained. Of course, I would love a million followers, but it's more important to have the right mix of folks reading the posts.
Write about what you love
Any writer will tell you that consistently writing is hard, much like "homework that's never done." But when you get in a groove on a topic that you're passionate about, the keyboard practically types itself (typos included). If you're not enjoying the process, you'll procrastinate, your lack of passion will be glaring to readers, and ultimately it won't serve the intended purpose: to create meaningful content for your audience.
Thou shall not promote thyself
I take the same advice I give my clients: Blog posts should not push you or your company's products. They should educate and offer analysis, a thought-provoking opinion, or something of value. The exception? If it's a natural transition, you can offer up helpful resources on your site or your skillset. I count on my ideas and writing that will lead clients to me. In fact, one of my highest profile writing gigs came after the editor read a blog post and ordered up an article.
Raise your voice
There's a difference between delivering great content and playing it safe. Your blog should offer a point of view, a brand, a style that's your own. Readers respond to real people, conversational language, and human emotion. Put yourself out there so readers can understand who you are, why your content matters, and hopefully come back for more. Pretend you are writing for just one of your readers, colleagues, or friends. You'll be amazed at the effect it has.
Take advantage of your position
Fact: 79% of editors say guest content is too promotional. Why not turn that around and help a guest and yourself? Let me explain. Interviews with industry experts/mini-celebs are a hidden gem in your blog toolbox. They provide three clear benefits: You'll learn something new, make a deeper connection with that person, and likely they will promote the blog post to their network. Win-Win-Win! I've done a smattering of interviews over the years with content experts, social media gurus, publishers, and even my own Dad. Speaking of which…
Commitment is king
Dr. Larry Cuban is a stellar example of someone who is dedicated to churning out his blog on higher education twice a week for more than a decade (humblebrag: I was the one that got him on WordPress) Every. Single. Week. No exceptions. He is a rarity, considering over half of bloggers publish a few times a month. This also leads me to one of the biggest mistakes that beginners make—overcommitting. A good rule of thumb: Start a realistic cadence but do your best to keep it up. No one's perfect, but we can all try (guilty as charged).
Adopt "sustainable "blogging practices
Of course, posting regularly can be a challenge, whether due to time constraints or good old procrastination. Staring down that blank screen causes untold amounts of anxiety and dread to bloggers everywhere. That's why "repurposing" blog posts present a perfect opportunity to refresh an old topic, repost evergreen content, or even publishing excerpts on different platforms, whether it's a 145-character tweet, a LinkedIn post, or on Medium. In fact, approximately 60% of marketers will re-use blog content 2-3 times.
Listen to the sound of silence
You know that saying, "Life happens when you are busy making plans"? This is also true for blog topics and finding inspiration when the well seemingly runs dry. I have a thousand blog topics I've jotted down over the years (slight exaggeration), but sometimes I don't "feel" any of them at that time I want to start writing. So I wait until the topic comes to me (for instance, this post), and I have something to say. That might be when you're taking a walk, talking to a colleague, or even scouring new ideas.
Respect the process
Edit. Proof. Fact check. Every time. A talented colleague edits every single post I write. He always finds a better way to say something, corrects a typo, or points out an unanswered question. Double and triple-checking your work demonstrates that you value your audience and their time to deliver the best quality piece you can. If you don't, inevitably, it will come back to haunt you from a reader who points out the error (hopefully not on social media).
Follow your evolution
After analyzing my posts of the past decade, I noticed a clear trend. I used to write a lot more about marketing topics—from greenwashing to Apple's marketing to new event tech. But in the last five years, I've focused primarily on freelancing. It wasn't an active decision I made but shifted in that direction. Pay attention and follow the bouncing blog ball wherever it leads, and hopefully your readers will follow.
Bonus: Get some technical chops
I consider this a non-negotiable. You need to know how to write, edit, upload images, and publish a post (or have a great assistant to help). You also need to understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO), categories, tags, and how to post social media. I know it sounds like a big ask and feels intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, it will become part of your routine. Also, consistently update your email list and promote, promote, promote. Lastly, analyze your blog stats to see what your audience is liking (or not), how they found you, and other key data points that can help you improve your blog overall.
If you've been talking about starting a blog, now's the time to do it. Don't worry if you don't have a website. You can start with a blogging platform (that's how I began). Or if you have a blog and have lost your luster to write, these tips will hopefully give you a boost for a relaunch. The world is waiting to hear from you. Believe it, and they will come...
Stats courtesy of https://optinmonster.com/blogging-statistics/