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There’s no doubt about it: blogging today is all about getting noticed. With m(b?)illions of bloggers out there, competing for attention, how can you propel your blog into the blogostratosphere?
The good news is that 95% of bloggers don’t have a clue. Never mind seven habits, most bloggers don’t even have one good habit. They just bumble along, posting a few boring posts, and when no-one reads their stuff they give up, abandon their blog, and leave it to be kicked aside by the people heading for the top of the niche that they should have been in.
Blogging is simple but it isn’t easy. Learn a few successful habits and it becomes a breeze. So, here are the seven habits of highly effective bloggers:
1. Have Something to Say
Sounds obvious, but how many blogs do you read where the blogger drones on and on without actually saying anything? And what do you do? You hit that back button faster than a bat out of Hades.
The best blogs are those where the blogger has something interesting to say, whether it be about planting his garden, supporting a football team or electing a president. Say it with verve, say it with feeling and above all say something different. Make it a habit always to put an original slant on a topic and you’ll attract readers like flies to a midden heap.
2. Project Your Personality
It’s about you, stupid. When readers find your blog they naturally want to know all about the person who wrote it. And they want to know what you look like and where you live and what is the name of your dog. Now you don’t have to go overboard with this because you might not even have a dog, but what you do need is a presence, a persona.
Have an interesting, tantalizing ‘About’ page. You can have a pen-name if you want. You should have a picture but if you are shy or ugly or need to remain anonymous that’s OK: put up some jokey cartoon or avatar. If you are overweight and wear dark glasses the right picture is especially important.
If you’re going to have a picture of yourself don’t just use a mugshot: you’ll look much more fascinating if it’s a picture of you actually doing something, or you in an interesting location. What you want people to do is talk not just about your blog, but about you. Get into the habit of being a personality.
3. Post Regularly
The most successful bloggers have sticky blogs. That means that they have regular readers who come back because they regard their blog as an essential distributor of content – content that they crave. And so you must continually satisfy this craving with a steady stream of sparkling content.
If this is difficult at first do not despair – it’s a habit. All addicts will tell you that habits grow on you quite quickly. One easy trick is to find a big topic that you can break down into a series of posts. Post as ‘Part 1′, ‘Part 2′ etc (for example ’20 Tips On Growing Great Cabbages’). Make the series addictive: hold back just enough information to have them crying out for the next riveting episode. If you can get this right, you’ll become their habit.
4. Engage with Other Bloggers
Blog with a smile on your face but aim to be an authority. What you want your visitors, and other bloggers, to do is to like you, trust you and respect you. But don’t be afraid to be controversial: being opinionated will ignite their responses and get them to comment. Ask your visitors questions. Find out the answers. Reply to their comments. Flatter them that they’ve just made a great contribution. But if their comment will only bore the pants off your readers then just delete their comment: it’s your blog and you’re the boss.
Comment generously on other blogs. Give and leave trackbacks. Meld with your blogging community.
If you can become your readers’ constant source of information/entertainment/news/gossip/scandal you’ll get them hooked. And they’ll tell their friends. Which is where you want to be. Be in the habit of being engaging.
5. Optimize your Blog
OK, this is the boring bit but you really only need to learn this stuff once and you’ll find yourself doing it automatically.
First, think of who you want to find your blog. Who is your ideal visitor? What will they key into the search engines to find you? If they want to learn how to charm snakes then they’re probably not going to be looking for you, Joe Soap. (Unless Joe Soap is a celebrity snake charmer…) So don’t have a blog URL like ‘joesoap.com’, have it like ‘learnsnakecharming.com’. Google can be quite dumb at reading your mind: why not give the bots a great big hint at what you’re all about?
Post titles are very important. What’s the more interesting title?
‘What I Did Today’
‘My First Snake-Charming Class’
Your title is the most important part of your post. It’s what humans read first, it’s what RSS displays and it’s how the search engine spiders will index your blog. Your title should contain one or more words (keywords) that describe what your post and/or your blog is all about. The title should beckon the reader in.
The first two or three sentences are the next important element. You’ve got to grab their attention and you’ve got maybe eight seconds to do it. Start with a question or a controversial statement. If your post is one of a series, say so and refer back to the previous post and onwards to the remainder of this one. Make these first sentences a succinct summary of your post but phrase it such that they’ll want to read on.
Sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your post. Use tags, categories and slugs to explicitly spell out what your post is about.
And finally, the last one or two sentences are important, too. Conclude what you’re saying, but hold out the promise of more. (‘Coming next: My Second Snake-Charming Class’). Optimization doesn’t sound very sexy but it’s a cool habit to get into.
6. RSS it.
Many bloggers pay more attention to the design of their blogs and posts than their words. This is a mistake. RSS can syndicate your content around the globe in seconds but what gets displayed in the feed? Words and more words, not pictures. Words speak louder than pictures.
Effective bloggers know this well and here’s what they do. They make sure that they display their RSS feed widget prominently on their blog. They make sure that their titles and the first one or two sentences of each post are relevant and meaningful (see habit 5). They make sure that links in posts are text links, not buttons. Only then do they pay any attention to the graphics (if any) in the post.
Get smart with syndication: practice the habit of being an RSS wordsmith.
7. Keep on Blogging
Successful bloggers find their voice and this voice matches their personality. When you are comfortable in the skin of your persona it’s not too difficult to find something new to say. So keep on blogging. The most effective, creative, communicative bloggers are the most compulsive bloggers. Blog every day, or at least three times a week. An authority blog is a big blog. Acquire the habit of fluency and both you and your blog will thrive.
Sarah McHarry is a blogger, writer and programmer. She lives in UK although she is half-Canadian. Her blog http://wordpress2go.com provides tips and tutorials to help people build WordPress blogs.