One of my favorite bloggers is Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. His book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for almost two years. His blog is one of the most-read on the Internet. Tim has become famous for challenging the status quo.
Recently, he posted a video of his presentation at WordCamp San Francisco, a conference for WordPress bloggers. Though I don’t endorse everything he recommends—and am still mulling some of it over—I found his blog tips compelling and stimulating.As I listened to him, I jotted down eight key insights. (These are my words not his.)
- Write about what you are passionate about. Don’t pay too much attention to what your readers say they want. As it turns out, people are quite bad at predicting what they like. Typically, what works best—and generates the most traffic—is the stuff that is written out of deeply-felt convictions or emotion. If you can’t seem to get the creative juices flowing, start with anger. What makes you mad?
- Be careful about how you allocate digital real estate. Obviously, people will eventually leave your site. However, you don’t want them to become distracted and leave prematurely. This is particularly true for first-time visitors. Instead, you want to pull them deeper into your site to explore your other content. Because of this, you probably don’t want to include your Twitter feed above the fold.
- Don’t display the post date at the top of the post. Why? Because people place a higher value on newer posts and tend to discount the older ones. This is unfortunate—for them and for you. Unless you are running a news blog, most of your posts are still relevant and valuable. Move the date from the top of the post to the bottom. (If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can modify this in your theme’s single.php file.) You can leave the date above the title on your home page, just not the single post pages.
- Test everything and listen to the numbers. There is no shortage of blogging advice on the Internet. But beware of conventional wisdom. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. The web is dynamic and things are constantly changing. What works last year—or last month—may not work now. The only way to know is to test and keep testing. Tim recommends a site called CrazyEggs.com that enables you to see, for example, where your users are clicking on your home page.
- Optimize your posts for SEO. Forget about this when writing the first draft. It will make your writing seem forced and artificial. However, once you are satisfied with your post, run some of your key phrases through Google Keyword Tool to see which have the highest Global Monthly Search Volume. If you can use more highly-ranked synonyms without compromising your meaning, do so. That way, more people will be able to discover your post via Google.
- Practice zero tolerance for negative comments. There is already too much negativity in the world. You have no obligation to provide an audience for snarky people with too much time on their hands. Your blog is like your living room. You are inviting people to come in and have a civil conversation. If they are rude are abusive, show them the door. Make your blog comments policy prominent, so people know the rules before they comment.
- Keep it fun so that you stay engaged. If it is not fun for you as a blogger, you will post less frequently—or not at all. If you stop posting, that’s the end of your blog. So it’s better to write something, even if it is off-topic or silly, than to write nothing at all. Tim gave an example of a post he did called, “How to Peel Hard-boiled Eggs Without Peeling.”
- Break the rules. Don’t listen to people who are not paying you to blog. Nothing is sacred. Experiment. If it sounds like a good idea, try it—then measure the results. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else.
After listening to Tim, I went back and made some “strategic tweaks” to my own blog. Now I am going to collect the data and evaluate the results.