Focus on Blog Content Before Traffic

I have read several books on blogging and subscribe to several blogs for bloggers. I have even attended a few blogging seminars. They seem to all talk about similar things.

Two Hands Typing on a Keyboard Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sdominick, Image #103597

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sdominick

I have heard the experts talk about:

  • The differences between blogging platforms
  • The elements of great blog design
  • The merits of including or excluding advertising
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Comment engagement and strategy
  • The use of social media
  • Third-party widgets and hacks
  • Unique visitors, page views, and bounce rates
  • Page load time optimization

But I rarely hear the pros talk about the one thing that is essential: content.

All of these other items are interesting, but none of them will help you if you don’t write great—or at least, pretty good—blog posts. In fact, these items can quickly become a distraction if you are not careful. It is much easier to search for another blog widget or tweak your blog design than actually write. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)

Writing itself is difficult, arduous work. As someone once said, “I don’t particularly like writing, but I like having written.” Amen to that.

So before you open your blog admin page and start fiddling with the secondary stuff, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Commit to a specific number of posts per week. Frequency is more important than you think. In fact, it is second only to the quality of your content. If you are writing good stuff, most people want to hear from you. My goal is five posts per week.
  2. Determine when you will write. Everyone’s schedule is different. You might be in a season of life when you can only commit to an hour a week. Perhaps you can commit to more. But, if possible, schedule your writing time just like any other appointment. I try to write for an hour every morning before work.
  3. Keep your posts short and to the point. Blogs are not a long-form medium. Brevity is a virtue. I shoot for 400–500 words. I often go over this, but I am working to whittle my posts down. I can tell you from experience that readers will bail out or scan if your posts get too long.
  4. Make it easy to get through your posts. Lists—both bulleted and enumerated—are magic. Why? Because reading is hard work. Lists, subheads, and even quotes make your content more accessible and help people get through it. It creates a sense of forward progress.
  5. Invite reader engagement. Make it easy for them to comment. This is why I do not require people to register to comment or fill-in some silly CAPTCHA test to prove they are human. All of this just adds friction and discourages people from commenting. Yet, I rarely have a problem with spam or inappropriate comments.

In summary, focus on creating content before you get too concerned about driving traffic. If you don’t post good content with enough frequency, none of the other items matter.

Question: What are your posting goals? How well are you doing?
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  • mediamover

    Excellent commentary. I just blog for myself, which is good, because no one reads me anyway :D

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  • http://thesecretofmillion.blogspot.com/ TheSecretOfMillion

    Thanks for your great post

  • http://sandcurves.com/ Vernon

    Michael, I totally agree that content is often overlooked. It has been a personal mission of mine to look carefully at how I can improve my own content.

    I agree with you that posting frequency is important, but I personally un-subscribe from many blogs that post to frequently, simply because I can’t afford the time to read it all. I like blogs that write two or three posts a week, and so that is what I also aim for.

  • Eric

    That’s why they say content is king!

  • http://findingforwardmotion.com Tony Elam

    It’s encouraging to read this post.  I have been trying to write three posts a week.  I write them either on Sunday or Monday and schedule them.  I am in the early stages and it is hard to invite reader engagement at the end of each post, and get no response however.

  • http://www.trevhamm.com Trev Hamm

    Great post! I’m trying to find more ways to increase the frequency of my posts. It’s hard work to consistently come up great content.

  • Anonymous

    Michael,

    Good blog.  Quality content that focuses on one’s USP is especially important with Google Panda.

    Erick

  • Courtney Walsh

    If you write a lifestyle blog, not one that’s set up to give advice, but more to chronicle daily life, do you still recommend the bullet points and numbered lists? I agree I tend to gravitate toward them (and also to sidebars in magazine articles, etc.) but I wonder if it would seem out of place in the kind of blog I’m writing. 

    Great advice, and an excellent reminder to keep the main thing the main thing!

  • Tami Nantz

    since I’m a political blogger (Sarah Palin in particular), my posts could go on night and day and never end! The frustration I face, and it has often caused me to fall off the regular-posting wagon, is knowing what in the world to choose to write about when my particular subject is off the radar. I agree completely–when I’m not posting regularly, my readers drop off considerably. It’s vital to the life of my blog. 

  • Anonymous

    This was very encouraging for me. I am developing my blog content before I start worrying about traffic. I love the photo!

  • http://mysimpleinspiration.com Christopher Jones

    Great post once again Michael. I am a beginning blogger and would not be doing what I am doing today if I had not found your blog. Your blog speaks to me in every post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Wow. Thanks, Christopher.

  • Mary Hamilton

    Makes a lot of sense, but I have trouble posting once a week regularly. Probably because I don’t really have a theme or purpose. Can’t decide what my goal in having a blog is, other than a marketing tool.

  • http://www.sarahkovac.com Sarah Kovac

    Fabulous! After a year or so of blogging “whenever,” I recently committed myself to posting every Saturday morning. I had struggled previously to keep my posts brief enough for the average reader, but posting more frequently has caused me to shorten things up and I have noticed the world is a little more “alive” with inspiration, since I always have my Saturday deadline looming. Now, my mom isn’t the only one who reads to the end of my blog. Sometimes my husband will too. ;)

  • Ronbrooks77

    So true—-I am just starting out in the blog world.  After reading lots of thoughts from others, I decided 3 weeks ago to start allowing others to read my thoughts.  I fall into the ‘look for plugins and widgets’ instead of focusing on writing.   I have decided to stop searching for the ‘extras’ and focus on writing for a while instead.  What is the normal number of posts per week?  What is your opinion on the topics within a blog?  Do you think all posts have to have similar topics or is it ok to write about a variety of topics?

  • http://twitter.com/powerofslow Christine Hohlbaum

    I love bullet points myself. It’s easier on the eyes. Thanks for your thoughts. Content is king. I agree!

  • Lonnie

    Happy I found your blog today.  Great post!  I am guilty of infrequent blogging.  Planning to change that starting today focusing on quality content.  Thanks much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tess-Tyler/100002759330788 Tess Tyler

    Yes I agree, I am trying to make my page easy with brief data, yet reliable for new material. Nothing worse than going to a page that never updates!

  • JenSteen

    Wow this is great! I just put up my new blog today…and I’m going to go for the simple…sort of mysterious look. It will be ALL about content, with only a few links at the bottom, and I’m hoping people will want more.  We’ll see how it goes.

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  • http://twitter.com/sadejjackson Sadé J. Jackson

    Mike: I purchased your book — Platform — a few days ago and prior to buying, I briefly scanned the Table of Contents on Amazon.  When I saw “Create a Compelling Product” (amongst other intriguing titles), I wanted to jump out of my seat.  
    (Interestingly enough, that kind of wise advice is what made your product compelling and caused me to buy it!)
    It’s so easy to get caught up in “quantity” in this production-led and consumption-driven society that we forget that “quality” is what matters most… and is the one factor that will keep readers/customers coming back for more.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!-Sadé

  • http://ianpatrickhines.com/ Ian Patrick Hines

    Thanks for nudging me on this. I’ve grown a bit lazy in my approach to writing — a byproduct of increasingly limited time and energy due to being a father — and this post (hopefully) has jarred me out of my funk.

  • Kathie Chiu

    I have a hard time being consistent with my blog. I often have great ideas for a new blog but then I think about the time commitment – do I have the time? I’m hoping for early retirement from my day job so I can spend my time writing more! Do I think that will really happen? Ha! Not likely! 

  • http://strategexe.com Adam Robinson, MBA

    Our marketing firm has been saying this all along! Yes a nice looking website is important, but it’s the CONTENT that truly matters.

  • http://organistheidi.blogspot.com/ Heidi Bender

    How do you know when to switch platforms then?

    I am planning to move to WordPress.org soon, but I have not been writing my blog regularly although I’m planning to. I read Platform recently and was thinking I should just make the switch to WordPress sooner than later, but maybe I would be better off just writing for a bit longer.

  • James Blackburn

    Michael, I would love love to share your blogs with my Google + circles but there is no link to do this. How can I share this with others?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Just plug the post URL into your status update window in Google+. Thanks.

  • http://pocbooks.com/ James Lynch Jr.

    This article is pretty on point. Shows you put into practice what you preach. Well done.

  • http://www.homesforsale-oklahoma.com/ Valerie McEvoy

    Loved this article. Would also love to know some guidance on how best to proceed with ‘blogging workflow’. I want to concentrate on quality writing first. What platform do you use for writing the post? WORD, text editor, Evernote? I have trouble keeping the pending posts, posts in progress, posted in good order.

  • http://www.lisasaline.com/ Lisa Saline

    This is a terrific post. I need to turn my commitment into a habit. I do believe that the more I write the better writer I will become. Thank you again.

  • David Roiel

    Thanks for the post. I post once a day… faithfully so far, its just a pleasure!

  • http://luke1428.com/ Brian @ Luke1428

    When I first started blogging, I only focused on the writing. I had read that most bloggers burn out before 6 months are up, so I didn’t want to concern myself with all the other stuff if there was a chance I might not continue. Turns out that really helped me.

    I’m curious about your 4-500 word post formats. Are you still doing that? I started out that way after ready your advice in another post. However, I’ve read and heard recently from other bloggers that the Google search bots are now more interested in longer posts. So I’ve been writing closer to 1,000 words on some of mine. Have you heard anything about that and would you adjust if that is true?

  • Nancy Holte

    I know that many experts say that it’s important to blog multiple times per week but I have to disagree with you on this point. Here’s why; I don’t have time to read that many posts per week, from anyone. And if I can’t read them all then I generally don’t try to read any. Therefore, I only post once a week; on Mondays. My goal is Monday morning but that doesn’t always happen. Of course, I do have to admit that you have several thousand more readers than I do so what do I know? :)