A lot of people ask how they can take their blog to the next level and be a better blogger, but they don’t really know what answer they’re looking for when they ask that question. Do they want to be more popular, or perhaps have the perfectly optimized blog? Being a “better” blogger is both easy and complex, and it all depends on a few things like:
- Who you are
- What you’re interested in
- How you want to share this information with the world
In essence, better blogging starts with you! If you are truly interested in learning how to be a better blogger and enjoy a better blogging experience, the following five simple steps are for you.
Step One: Keep It Real
The very first step on the path to better blogging can be summed up in one word: authenticity. To be authentic is to be true to yourself, or in more popular terms “keep it real” in all parts of your life. Of course there are some things about you that you might not want to share with your readers, and this is okay. The trick is to keep these personal matters private while at the same time presenting a genuine face to the people who read your blog. In trying to be something you’re not, you will find that you lose a lot of the energy and essence that makes you a better blogger. With this in mind, it is certainly not a bad thing to reveal a few faults or weaknesses at times. This is real life, led by real people, and nobody’s perfect!
For example, take Jimmy B.
Jimmy is naturally funny, in fact he was named “Class Clown” in high school. Jimmy has a blog where he talks about life as he sees it, and lately he has been featuring a lot of pieces about politics and world affairs. Instead of being true to himself, he attempts to stifle his natural humor, and it shows in his writing. Yes, the topics of his blogs are very serious and should be treated as such, but there are still a few places where a well-placed bit of good-natured humor would go over well. The lesson? Jimmy can still be himself and talk about serious things, he does not have to change who he is in order to be a “better blogger” because by being true to himself and keeping it real, he is already on the path to better blogging.
It is always a good idea to be looking for ways to learn and grow; pushing yourself by exploring and testing the edges of your comfort zone is a great way to build confidence as long as you always keep in mind that you are doing this for yourself first!
See what real-life bloggers have to say about keeping it real:
- Blogging Rule #1: Keep It Real - by Meghan Ward
- Keep It Real - by Nalden
- Keep It Real – by David Richardson
So do your best to be yourself, focus on your best qualities and let your strengths shine through.
Step Two: Stick To Your Brand
Following right on the heels of Step One is Step Two, which is all about sticking to your brand.
Your blog is your brand; You are your brand, your writing is your brand, etc. If there is only one truth to all of the teachings out there about marketing, this is it: building a brand takes work, dedication, and consistency. How can you sell someone on something (a product, an idea, etc) if you’re not even sure what it is that you’re trying to sell?
Often, bloggers are tempted to try and reinvent themselves / their blog / their writing style as though they were trying on different outfits in a fitting room at the mall. With each different choice, their connection with their original look fades; this is great if you’re looking for something new to wear, but spells disaster if you are trying to build a personal brand through your blog. This kind of constant shift can confuse visitors to your blog and make it difficult for them to make a connection with you. And since this connection between writer and reader is the foundation upon which all good blogs are built, trying to make it happen under uncertain conditions is a pretty futile exercise.
Once you’ve gotten into your groove and established your personal brand, stick to it! You can always tweak and refine your brand as you develop your skills and learn how to better market yourself as long as you stick close to your original concept. You’ll find that this makes you a better blogger and gives you the freedom to express yourself as you watch your brand grow.
Want to learn more? Check out this great PDF!
- Take Charge of Your Online Brand – by Janette Marx
Step Three: Don’t Rush Things
The short version: Rushing is bad; it results in poor quality posts that nobody wants to read!
But why is that? When you rush a post for whatever reason (deadline, wanting to move on to another idea or project, etc) there are often two critical things that are left behind:
- Accuracy: Each blogger has their own unique perspective on any given issue, that’s what makes the world of blogging such a wonderful and diverse community. Research helps you tap into these perspectives while at the same time allowing you to gather detailed information about your topic. Your readers enjoy your blog because it passes along quality information that they can benefit from! If this information is lacking, or if what you’re saying turns out to be completely inaccurate, you’re going to find yourself losing readers left and right.
- Quality: Quality comes from taking the time to do things right. The time is takes to create a quality blog post can vary wildly from one blogger to the next, so comparing yourself to someone else is like comparing an apple to an orange; it’s not going to give you any answers you can use.
Blog writing is an art form, and it is one that almost anyone can learn! By letting your ideas develop naturally, doing your research, and taking the time to create the best post you possibly can, you’re taking one of the most important steps to better blogging.
For more great reasons to slow down when you write, check out these posts:
- Don’t Rush Your Copy! – by Nicole
- You Can’t Rush Art – by Brian Fleming
- Layering Flavors in Your Writing – by Tim Kane
Step Four: Keywords Aren’t Everything!
If you gasped out loud and shook your head in denial, I’m sorry to inform you but it’s true.
Keywords are no longer the secret to blogging success.
Even as little as 6 months ago it was still possible to achieve a higher ranking in results from major search engines like Google by making sure you included a few choice words or phrases (known as keywords, or whatever words/terms you’re trying to rank for) in your posts. And in your title tags. And in your image alt tags… and can you see where this is going? So did Google. In 2011 they launched a major update to their algorithm which was named “Panda” which has then been updated several times, and on April 24th 2012 they introduced another change, this time named “Penguin.” You don’t have to be up to speed on all of the details, but suffice it to say aiming for the same keywords in all of your posts isn’t a good idea anymore.
In an attempt to encourage people to write more useful (and therefore valuable) content meant for human readers versus search engines, Google made changes to their algorithm that punish what is known as “over-optimization” which can include a lack of variety in the keywords you are using.
For the less SEO inclined, here is an example:
Blog A is a blog all about shoes. For the longest time they have used keywords like “best shoe sales” and “great shoe deals” as well as other similar phrases and terms pretty often in their posts. It made sense to them because they blogged a lot about deals and sales they found online and in print ads for major retailers. Here’s a great post with a “what not to do” case study on keywords if you’re a visual learner!
In the post-Panda / post-Penguin world of blogging this has changed. It is still okay to follow the same topics you always have and continue to blog about the same kinds of subjects, all you need to do differently is introduce a little bit of variety into your keywords.
Here’s a tip:
Research what people are looking for when they look for sites and blogs like yours, and try to include some of these search terms in your posts. This helps people find your blog in a more natural way.
And because everyone likes a helping hand, here are some keyword analysis / generation tools & other helpful tools for diversifying your posts:
- The Must-have Blog Post Topic Generation Tool – by Eric Siu
- 22 Free Keyword Research Tools – by Sig Ueland
- 5 Free Tools for Competitor Keyword Research – by Kristi Hines
Step Five: Stay Grounded & Keep In Touch
To truly be all you can be as a blogger, you have to make an effort to embrace the rest of the world. If your blog is anything other than a personal journal, then someone else is eventually going to read it. When this person reads your blog, they are making a connection with you, and this is the beginning of interaction.
Interaction is a top priority for any successful blogger; through interaction you can learn so much about your readers including what they are interested in and their thoughts on the different topics you blog about. By making yourself accessible you are making your blog a go-to resource where people can not only learn something about the topic, they can learn something about the person behind the information.
There won’t always be time to reply to every comment you get on your blog or every email you receive, but you’re doing a great job if you make the effort to write back as often as you can. When someone reaches out to you, that’s an effort for them and by responding you’re rewarding their effort and letting them know it was worth it.
This also applies to your relationship with your fellow bloggers. Subscribe to a few blogs and follow their posts, commenting when you can add something to the discussion. You’ll find that not only does this let you keep your finger on the pulse of a wide variety of topics and the opinions of the people writing on them, but that it also gives you more exposure and brings in more traffic to your blog. You’ve got to share the love if you want some in return!
Check out this video for some great tips from pro blogger Chris Guillebeau:
(Skip to 1:25 for the start of the content, the time before that is an intro prepared by the video creator)
The moral of the story is…
…that it’s all inside of you, just waiting to come out. The better blogger that you want to be is already there, just waiting for the chance to make an appearance. You might even be taking some of the steps in this post already!
What steps have you followed to become a better blogger? If there had to be one thing you could credit your success to, what would it be?
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