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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.