With hundreds of millions of blogs in the world, the one you are thinking of starting or are maintaining right now needs to have a certain something to stand out. This becomes more important all the time, as we are ten plus years into blogging maturity.
1. Keep things lean
Keeping it lean, when it comes to your blog, can be viewed in a few different ways. Writing: “Does that blog post really need to be 2000 words?” Design: “How about increasing some of that white space, it’s looking a bit busy?” Performance: “Yes, they can be useful, but do you really need all of those WordPress plugins?” Sometimes you will ask these questions and decide not to change anything. That’s fine – all that means is that you qualified your choice.
We live in a world where people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, especially when it comes to consuming information online. This means that all of what you see on a website or blog should be relevant, should be there on purpose.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all become minimalists, create blogs with posts containing 300 words or less, on a plain white page using 1 WordPress plugin. The point is to question the existence of things on your site, where you can. When you keep things lean in the design of your blog, you can be sure that people can get to your content as quickly and simply as possible, without getting frustrated and leaving.
When you write posts, where most words are there on purpose, then you have readers who are more likely to be truly engaged, as they are reading relevant information, rather than a body of text full of filler words. This becomes more and more valid the longer the post is, as large bodies of text often scare people off. If you’ve gone through the effort to get rid of anything that doesn’t need to be there, then people are more likely to read through it.
Removing all WordPress plugins you aren’t using, can potentially increase the performance of your site and you are less likely to encounter compatibility issues. The point here is not to unnecessarily remove plugins, but rather to make sure that whatever plugin you do have is of use.
2. Balance listening to advice and trusting your own voice
From opinions on how many times to blog, to choosing a niche, or how best to monetize, if at all – blogging tips are everywhere.
It is easy to believe that most advice should be followed. There you have prominent, successful bloggers telling you to do this and that. A lot of advice you find is incredibly helpful, especially if you are just starting out, but the problem is that all these opinions start pulling you in different directions, so you can end up with a blog that hardly features your own voice. Not really standing out then are you?
Listening to your own voice in practice, can be like applying a filter to the floods of information entering your brain – the filter is your voice. One of the filters you should be applying is to see if any information provided, is from someone who is writing about similar stuff to you.
For example, a pro blogger is telling you how to maximize profits with particular headlines. What you should be questioning is, “Is this relevant to my personal blog, where I am not even selling anything?” That is what’s called applying a filter, listening to and eventually trusting your own voice.
After doing this for a while, you soon find out what works for you and what doesn’t – you develop your own style, and in the end that is what people respond to.
3. Create a brand
Branding isn’t only important to become the next Nike or Coca Cola. What I mean is that you should aim at a cohesive design for your site. From having a logo, to choosing a color scheme, choosing a premium theme, to using consistent fonts and striking images. Treat your blog like a product, wrap it up and make it attractive for your readers.
Even for a non-business, personal blog this is relevant. People are more likely to read what you have to say if things look consistent and attractive. What we see dictates our perception. If the perception is inconsistent, we are more likely to click away.
This becomes even more important if you are selling something on your blog, and are looking for more conversions. Having a consistent look and feel across your blog establishes and increases trust, as it looks a lot more professional. Trust means sales, simple as that.
4. Reach out and make genuine connections
Even if you have a stellar looking blog with knockout content, you often find that getting people to visit your site is very difficult. Once you’ve exhausted your initial outreach options, which usually include your circle of friends and family, you will find it difficult to get more traffic.
Find people who blog about similar things to you, who are possibly a bit further ahead in the blogging journey, so you can learn from them. The point here is to select people you actually like. This is because when you start reaching out, knowing what to say comes a lot easier. Simply sending an email, introducing yourself, or telling them how much you like their blog can work of course, but there is a better way to go about it.
Aim at creating an awareness of yourself before making a more direct contact. Read their blog, actively comment on posts, and engage on Twitter. When you do eventually establish contact, the person in question should know who you are by now.
There are many schools of thought on how to contact and connect with “influencers”, but following that advice can often make that first email seem a little contrived. My point of view is that you shouldn’t really script what you will say. If you follow this person online, share the same views, what to write will come naturally, just be genuine. If there is anything you shouldn’t do, is ask for something. This is simply about establishing a relationship. Even if you get nothing from it, at the very least you have connected with a likeminded individual.
The beauty of this though is that most of the time, you do eventually get something out of it without even asking, it just develops. Anything from advice, to guest post opportunities, links or even work on your blog. Funny how that works right? You try too hard, force things, you don’t get far. You establish and build on a relationship naturally, you potentially come out on top and get more visitors to your site.
5. Market your blog offline
This one is often overlooked, but can be very effective. Tell people you meet about your blog, mention it naturally in conversation. You’d be surprised how many people you can attract to your site like that. Reach out to relevant magazines or local newspapers and offer to write an article or more. Feature a link to your blog on business cards and hand them out actively.
Depending on what your blog is about, or what your aim is, attend groups and networks. Surround yourself with people in your field and speak about or teach what you do online.
Create a mini, high quality brochure or flyer, with a few excerpts of what is featured on your site. Hand them out at leisure. How about apparel? Put your cool blog logo, featuring something else catchy and print it on a t-shirt.
As you can see, there are several ways to market your blog offline. It can be potentially vital in extending the reach of your blog. Traditional ways of marketing are still very relevant in 2015.
In blogging, as with most things there are no silver bullets and following these steps won’t guarantee you success. What they do achieve however, is help raise your game, to stand out in a seemingly endless sea of blogs.
What are you going to start doing, continue doing or change this year, for your blog to rise above the pack?