Now that you’ve read my post about why you should be blogging, I expect you now have a blog setup and have published a first post to share your knowledge and expertise and are now wondering why no one read it….. ok, I don’t REALLY expect that, but I do want to talk about how to see success as quickly as you can:
One of my awesome colleagues, Erika Horrocks, blogged internally today about “3 reasons your blog post only has 70 views“. In her post, she touched on the following topics which are problematic to driving traffic, and more importantly, audience engagement once they are reading:
- You offer no value
- Your buzz words are boring us
- Your entry is long and dull
Restated, you could say that to build a well read blog that drives a lot of traffic and engagement you need to:
- Offer value. Give your audience something they can use whether it is deeper technical knowledge or a direct call to action
- Speak in real and clear language. Jargon and buzz words don’t mean anything. Drop the buzz and be human.
- Be concise and provocative. Bullet points combined with brief story telling can be quite compelling… and don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit, like my title may imply 😉
Obviously, I don’t quite adhere to these bulleted items all the time. Concise is just a high scoring word for me if I land it on a TW/TL tile in WordsWithFriends. I also often speak in industry jargon, forgetting that the real meanings behind my ideas are lost that way. These are all reasons why I rarely ever reach even a paltry 70 views on my posts. But, I do also have a few other tricks up my sleeves to ensure some level of visibility greater that what a “build it and they will come” attitude would draw (which is entirely zero by my calculations and observations).
To drive traffic to your blog you NEED the following components:
- Solid content. This is the value side of the equation. Content is king; without content, there is no reason to bother reading. I want to come away with a sense that I got something from your post that I can use to take some action later.
- An established or growing network of people who would want to read your content. Without an audience you’re just yelling into the vacuum of the ether; no one can hear you scream there 😉
- A balanced sense of self promotion. Once you’ve built your content and your network, you NEED to promote it. This is where the “build it and they will come” attitude does you more harm than good. No one is going to come read if they don’t know you’re writing or where to go. You’ve got to let them know about your content.
The last point there is tricky for me, as I’ve never been comfortable with self promotion, but I’m also guessing that 95%+ of you reading this post didn’t get here because you subscribed to my RSS feed or email list… you saw it because I promoted it, which hopefully helps prove my point here: Once you’ve created your amazing content, you’ve GOT to tell people about it.
I had a practical lesson in the benefits of blogging on Friday morning. During a routine skip-level conversation with my program director, I was able to impress upon him some answers to his questions by referring to a few blog posts I’d published that week and prior in the past few months. Even as I was pointing him to those entries did I realize the value of blogging: I had content available, on demand that I was able to quickly reuse to address a few questions in a relatively concise fashion. Not only did these posts immediately address his questions, but more so they showed that I was a step ahead of the game, that I’d already been thinking about the issue before he even asked. In this way, blogging for me has become a source of reusable self-generated content I can rely upon to either provide solutions or supplement larger strategy conversations and stands as testament to my expertise around my job and is now working its way to being a solid piece to my resume.
But that’s not how it started for me. In the beginning, my blog was like any other: a simple place to wax philosophic or rant a bit, to flex my creative writing muscle now and again, and to simply keep in practice with writing. When I first began to see how blogging on professional topics could be valuable (without really knowing how), I started with some opinion/editorial pieces here and there purely with the intent to voice my opinion. While I do watch traffic out of a data driven curiosity, I’ve not tracked visitors or clicks on my personal blog. Traffic was never the intent for me (and that shows based on the low volume of comments on my posts). But I kept posting for me, for a make-believe audience, and sometimes even for a small specific audience of readers whom I know will benefit without any mind to a return on my investment.
After I began posting more professionally related articles, I’ve found I’m referring back to them more and more often as others are coming on board and becoming more active in social business. I’ve also seen a few of what I’d consider my more boring technical posts pull in consistent visitors month to month. As a knowledge manager and social business program manager, the reuse of publicly available information in this clear and transparent fashion makes me very happy and proves to me the value of blogging.
So, what are the lessons and advice I can pull from my experiences to help you?
- Start now. Begin publishing short posts, find your voice and rhythm.
- Build a small archive of posts and try to have a few ideas in your pipeline, preferably a post or two ready to publish.
- Value will come from the breadth and depth of your combined posts. Blogging is not going to provide an immediate return on investment. The value seen from blogging is organic and cumulative.
- A consistent and expected frequency of posts will help grow your audience. On my professional blog I maintain a post-a-day frequency; here on my personal blog I strive to maintain a once-a-week frequency. Both work for the audiences of each blog.
- Keep at it, even if it seems like no one is reading. Five engaged and attentive readers are worth more than a thousand click-throughs. Appreciate those who find your content interesting enough to share on their own social channels.
- Culture changes are most often glacial in pace. Take every single “like”, “plus one”, and especially every comment as a sign of small success. Take those successes to heart and let them be your encouragement to continue blogging!
Recently my “secret” for coming up with blog topics was discovered: I base most entries on conversations in which I am asked for an opinion, answer, or guidance. In those conversations I realize the information is often beneficial to more than just the individual with whom I’m talking, and thus a blog post is born. This, my friends, is one such post:
I was discussing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with a friend who is going to be undertaking the challenge. Naturally I had some advice and words of encouragement, and recalled a few blog posts from years past when I tracked my own progress through the month-long challenge. I figured those may be helpful in some way… so, in tribute to the upcoming 2013 edition of NaNoWriMo, in which many people will be endeavouring to write their own 50k word novel in thirty days, I’ve rounded up my old NaNoWriMo posts.
From my 2008 attempt:
From my 2011 attempt:
Keep in mind as you read through the above posts, I was blogging in-stream while also trying to write 1600+ words per day. Transitioning from stream-of-conscious word-count focused writing to more structured and self-edited blogging was difficult, and it shows in the disjointed posts. Let that in itself be a lesson: writing that much every day is not a small task, but still, it can be done… even while maintaining a 40-60 hour work week and still being somewhat social.
And for those curious, no I won’t be undertaking NaNoWriMo this year… but, I will be making a more concerted effort to use the month to focus on some other writing that I want to accomplish. Using the NaNoWriMo structure as motivation may help me actually get some old goals moving forward.
image credit: (c) 2013 NaNoWriMo.org