When was the last time you gave your blog a physical?
Just like all marketing, you need a periodic health check to see what’s performing (or not.)
In this post, I will take you through a 10-point healthy blog check-up that I recommend to anyone who asks (and some who don’t, but should.) Make any of these changes and you move up a row in class. Make all of these changes and you can teach the class.
Why blogs work
There’s a reason why over 40% of American companies have a blog – they work. Your blog is a sample of your work, thinking, philosophies, and innovations positioned to make your prospect want more.
Imagine the cost of putting a brochure or sales sheet in front of thousands of people every week. That’s what you blog does – for free.
What’s better, your blog is non-threatening, archived, available cross-platform, and linked to your products/services.
Your blog is gateway content.
Now, let’s give it a tune-up.
1. Be current
If your blog is old your site is old and I don’t trust it.
If your last post was 5 weeks ago (I recently saw an example where the last post was 2008), why should I believe anything on your site is current? While we’re at it, check the copyright at the bottom of the page and your pictures.
Dated content dates the site and kills consumer confidence.
The solution could be as simple as re-dating older posts or posting less frequently but on a more consistent basis.
2. Give ‘em more of what they like
Amazon broke new ground and added to their fortunes when they introduced “Featured Recommendations” (those tempting suggested books lined up below the one you’re looking at.) Some 30% of Amazon customers will snap up a second book after selecting the one they came for.
Do the same with your blog content – give ‘em more of what they like.
I know if I write about mistakes speakers make, productivity, or how to make money as a speaker, my numbers shoot up. Of course, I need to write about other topics, but those 3 topics have to be in my publishing rotation.
The most accurate way to get a list of most read posts is in Google Analytics (see how to get the list and how to email it to yourself in this post.)
The most accurate way to get a list of most read posts is in Google Analytics
3. Add eye candy
A quick way to spruce up your blog is with images. The mind can process images 60,000 times faster than words—an eye-grabbing images will snag your reader and stop them from scrolling away.
I try to avoid images that scream “stock photo” and instead look for intriguing images of people that I can overlay text on. If the post is over 700-800 words (like this one) I’ll add a second image.
I wrote about finding free images here.
4. Cross link and reduce Bounce
The “Bounce” rating for your site (found in Google Analytics) reports the percentage of readers who leave (“bounce off”) your site after only getting to one page. For example, if one of your followers on Twitter sees your blog announcement, clicks to have a look, sees nothing of interest, and leaves, that’s a bounce. Obviously, the lower the bounce rating, the better.
In addition to adding eye candy (above) you should link to top blog posts (either most popular or ones, or the ones you want new readers to read). The idea is for someone reading your latest post to visit a related post and stay on your site longer.
5. Make it easy to share
Here’s an easy fix—make your blog easy to share.
Sharing brings new eyeballs to your blog (emailing is great, but you already have them on your list), so make it easy share. We use Noel Kagan’s SumoMe Share tool – it’s been great. As your reader scrolls down to read your blog, the Share tool bar floats alongside. It looks great on mobile to boot. You can get started with the free WordPress plug-in.
6. Use keywords
While Google has wised up to some bygone strategies, like backlinking, using keywords will never get old. The idea is to drive “organic” search traffic, from people typing certain words in their search bar, to your site by using those same words in your blog.
The trick is to have a list of short-tail keywords (most popular, like “leadership” and “customer service”) and long-tail (less popular, but still pulling traffic, like “leadership delegation”, and “difficult customers”) keywords that represent your business and to work them into headlines and blog content.
Start by brainstorming all the words prospects would search with. Even better is to use the Google keyword search tool.
7. Let your personality out!
I’m sure when I started blogging I unintentionally copied folks I admire. Bad idea.
Your readers are coming to your blog for you, so let your personality out. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re Brooklyn blunt, be blunt. If you’re thoughtful and caring, be so.
I like to be succinct, so I use lots of dashes and em-dashes. I also break up my sentences and use short paragraphs.
More writing can make you a better writer, so can a writing coach, but also reading standards on good writing. Here are my favourites:
Stephen King on writing – A memoir of the craft
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann Handley
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, William Zinsser
8. Make headlines count
Writing killer headlines is a huge topic – here I’ll share some quick tips I know work.
First, I live by Anne Lamott’s advice: my first attempt will be my “shitty first draft”, so be willing to write a bunch of them.
Next, look at how your topic is already being written about. In your search bar, type “blog: [your blog topic]” this produces a list of top blog posts on your topic – look at how other authors address your topic. You can also type your topic into www.buzzsumo.com to see top shared posts.
When I was writing my last roundup post on favourite books I did both the steps above, but my first drafts were pretty lame:
“My favourite books for 2015”
“Books that will make you smarter”
I knew I wanted this to be a list post (“10 books”) and I wanted to use the rule of 3 (think “The good, the bad and the ugly”, “Three little bears”, etc.) by adding 3 adjectives. From there I can came up with: “smarter”, “richer” and “more fun”. I played with 6-7 sample headlines before landing on:
“10 books that will make you smarter, richer and more fun to be around”
9. Use popular themes
I wrote about creating your Editorial Calendar recently. In that post, I described the value of matching themes (the style of the post) with sub-topics. Here are some popular themes that will always get you more shares.
- list post – virtually guaranteed to get you more traffic – list posts work (like this one about Powerpoint.)
- book reviews – great way to get authors promoting your blog.
- resource/link post – people love tools, pick a topic, create the list and you’ve got a winner!
- mistakes to avoid – some of my post popular posts were all about mistakes to avoid: “15 mistakes you should never make on stage” and “Why you should never, ever use these 15 repetitive redundancies in business, romance, or life.”
- case studies – you could use a client example or a famous example: rebirth of Mr. Potato Head anyone?
- stories – like a great keynote, you can start with a story and lead into a lesson.
- research posts – sometimes I’ll share fascinating research that points to my lesson, like in this post.
- cheat sheets/checklists – save people time with a cheat sheet on one of your areas of expertise, like: book publishing, leadership, launching a blog, hiring staff – get creative!
- templates – I created my “Ultimate writing template” because I was constantly giving writing advice.
- “round up” posts – you list opinions of other experts (even better, get all your contributors to share your post)
- contrarian post – explore an unpopular view
If that doesn’t do it for you, I list 16 in this post and Darren Rouse at Problogger has 52 on his list.
10. Writing interesting stuff
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, write interesting stuff. There are over 200 million blogs competing for attention – you cannot afford to publish dribble. Bland articles about 3 ways to be a better leader (guilty) won’t cut it – be controversial, take a stand, be irreverent, but do something that makes your reader sit up and think “Damn! I want to share this.”
You blog can build business, but first you need to build a better blog.