They say you learn when you teach, and I find this to be true. From January to April I taught Audio Journalism at Sheridan College; I’ll return next winter. This semester I’m at the University of Toronto as an instructor in Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media.
As a course requirement, our students are creating blogs and publishing posts throughout the term. Watching them in action, I’m reminded of my own early days as a blogger, although the social media landscape was a little different 10 years ago, in the pre-Twitter era.
Here is some blogging advice accumulated over the past decade. If you’re a newcomer to blogging, I hope you find it useful.
Blog about a topic you’re passionate about and have some knowledge in. If I did a sports or shopping blog, for example, it would be pretty lame, and likely riddled with errors. You’re more likely to carve out time to blog when you care about the subject matter and you want to help others. That helpful mindset is key.
Know what you want to accomplish with your blog. If it’s just to air grievances or muse about your life, fine; have fun with it. But if you want to generate leads for your consulting business, you need to publish solid, useful content.
Imagine who’s reading it. Who is your ideal reader? Try to visualize him or her in your mind. What kinds of content would your typical reader care about? Keep SEO keywords in mind, but always write for human beings.
Take the time to create an editorial calendar. If you plan several months’ worth of posts, your blog will have some structure and cohesion. Of course you can still add ad hoc content to discuss new developments in your industry or area of expertise.
Be sure your headlines are compelling. You are competing with oodles of interesting content out there, and only your mom or your best friend will read every post just because you wrote it.
Curate. In other words, your blog is not all about you. Refer to smart thinking by others, and add your own two cents.
Add multimedia. Record some audio or video. Include a photo in every post, which attracts eyeballs and also makes it easy for you to pin your post to Pinterest.
Amplify your blog content with social media. Only your regular readers, especially if they subscribe to your blog, will see your new content unless you promote it. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Pinterest and Facebook to share your content socially. With any luck, others will begin to spread the word and your reader base will grow.
Check your stats but don’t obsess over them. It’s gratifying to see an uptick in your numbers, but don’t waste energy worrying that your readership isn’t high enough. Your overall measurement of blogging success should not just be about raw numbers anyway. Go back to what you were trying to accomplish. Is that happening?
Engage with readers. Do read and respond to comments. This encourages people to return to your blog, and might just build a sense of community over time. That being said, today many comments occur on other platforms – especially Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus – so they won’t be seen on your blog. That’s OK.
Get the technology right. You don’t need to become an HTML expert, but be sure to get the basics right. For example, enable comments, be sure your photos are tagged properly, and embed all your links. (Don’t display http:// within your posts.)
Know your terminology. One last thing, please. A blog is the overall publication. A blog post is an individual entry. Say, “I’ve written a new post today,” NOT “I’ve written a new blog today,” unless you have created an entirely new blog presence.
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