A hugely frustrating problem for me is the growing number of websites online that are there for one reason and one reason only – to appeal to search engine crawlers. You know the type. They’re stuffed with keywords to the point of making no sense and they have no benefit for the reader at all. Anyone with an ounce of common sense will know that the long term success of a blog does not depend on what the crawlers think, but on whether or not the people who do find your site will return and become a part of the community built upon it. A blog is nothing more than pointless words without a readership and community. So just how can you get your readers to return?
There’s no point in even having a blog if you’re only going to update it once in a blue moon. Why would someone keep checking your blog if, for the past three months, every time they have checked there has been nothing new? Plus, blogs that aren’t updated frequently are simply out of date. That news story you told six months ago…. guess what? It’s not news anymore. And out of date blogs are hugely unappealing for readers.
Keep your language simple
Reading blogs is considered a light reading activity for many. I personally don’t like the idea of getting out the dictionary and spending an hour translating a 300 word post from pretentiousness into English. Keep your language straightforward and simple. You don’t need to show off your vocabulary. It’s not enjoyable reading when it’s more confusing than a lecture on rocket science in Swahili. Know what the point of your post is, get to the point and do so in a way that people understand. This has SEO benefits too, given that people generally search in simple, straightforward terms.
Ask yourself what the point is
It might seem harsh, but before you hit the ‘publish’ button, read back over your material and ask yourself what the point in it is. Has it been written to educate or inform? Has it been written to entertain? And most importantly, does the final piece do what it set out to do? What’s in it for your readers? There has to be some sort of benefit for your readers in reading the posts you publish, otherwise, why would they bother?
Let your readers get to know you
If a blogger does not apply a little of his or her personality in the posts they publish, they don’t come across entirely human. In exposing some of your personality when you write, your readers feel as though they get to know you as a person and become familiar with your style. People feel much more comfortable commenting when they at least feel as though they have an idea of who the person they’re commenting to is. Blogs that lack personality, to me, feel as though they’re auto-posted by bots! And even if this isn’t the case, I find them bland and never return to them more than once.
Invite Guest Contributions
While you may have a readership loyal to your posts, it’s always nice to inject something a little different. I think that a guest post offers a different perspective and can be refreshing for your readers. It’s also a great opportunity for you to invite members of your community to share their thoughts. This, in turn, can bring a whole host of new visitors to your site, as the poster passes the link on to their friends and contacts.
Don’t Over Police Your Comments
While spam is the bane of all our lives, closing comments altogether or getting a little too tough with the moderating is a sure fire way to put people off. By all means, delete those comments laden with links to sites offering ‘cheap Viagra’ but don’t go all power-trippy on us! Don’t completely delete someone’s comment because you don’t agree with his or her opinion, for example. Yes, any insults, expletives etc should be moderated. But if you want to build a community around your blog, you have to be prepared to let people have their say. As I see it, if you blog, you’re putting your opinions out into the public domain and then have a responsibility to hear out people who wish to respond to them.
Be an Active Part of the Community
This means not just blogging on your blog, but contributing on the blogs of others as well, either as a guest poster or taking part in the discussions through thoughtful comments that contribute something to the conversation. As a part of the community, people will be more likely to revisit your site frequently to engage in the discussions there.
Avoid Repetitive Posts
Even if your blog is particularly niche, you need to ensure that you have enough scope in the area to blog frequently without repeating yourself. Of course your opinions and beliefs on the topic area will echo throughout many of your posts. But if you frequently post pieces that are almost like rewrites of previous posts, you are not telling your visitors anything they don’t know by coming back a second time.
Stay on Topic
Getting the balance between this and the last point (avoiding repetitive posts) is tricky but critical. You need to vary your posts within your niche and, of course, from time to time your posts may wander off topic. But people subscribe to your blog because they like your writing style and are intereste din your topic area. Wandering completely off topic too frequently will alienate your readers.
Blog on a topic you’re passionate about
Blogging on a topic that bores you to the point of sleep will make your posts bland. The best blogs are written by people with a passion for their subject matter. It keeps the blog alive and the material dynamic. This, in turn, keeps the readers awake!
Of course search engine traffic is critical in referring new visitors to your site. But I personally find the best blogs are the ones written to keep the visitors coming back!