Computer Shopper has an article on Optimizing Your Blog. The article has some advice that is useful but I don't think they got their priorities right nor did they cover all the essentials. I've been steadily growing traffic to my blog over the last couple months. I've been carefully measuring my readership, the sources of my readers, and adjusting accordingly. I've learned a ton over the last few months.
Here is my Top Ten:
- Don't worry about how your blog looks. I disagree with the article on this point. Many blogs are very simple, and some great blogs are downright ugly. People are attracted by the quality of the posts, not a pretty layout. The exception, of course, is if you blog about design and graphics.
- Put a picture or multiple pictures of yourself on the site. Notice the pic of me in my header as well as a picture on my About page. A blog is a conversation with your readers. It's difficult to have a conversation when you don't know who you are talking to!
- Be sure to utilize blogging software that has the following features: trackbacks, pings, links, tags, categories, permalinks, comments, search, sitemaps, spam protection, search and RSS. Learn how to utilize all of them effectively. I use WordPress. It requires some plugins for some of the features, but it's simple to use and very robust. Rather than host with WordPress, I downloaded the software and host it myself – that way I have control over the software, data, URL and advertising – and can customize it to my liking.
- Sign up for at least one service like Technorati to increase exposure to your blog. Folks search Technorati through tagging to find posts to read.
- When you find a blog you really enjoy, put a link to it on your site. Notice my links on my sidebar. Don't be bashful and ask readers that enjoy your blog to put a link to yours. As more and more sites link to your blog, your blog will continue to increase its authority. This will improve it's placement in blog search engines.
- Begin utilizing a good RSS reader and begin to subscribing to a number of other blogs. I subscribe to about 30 right now utilizing Google Labs Reader. It keeps track of what I've read and has a few other cool features. I comment often on other posts and always leave a link back to my site. If I want to write a full post rather than a comment, I always ensure that I designate a trackback to their article.
- Utilize a good Analytics tool. I use Google because it's both free and very simple to integrate with WordPress. I simply put a little script (that Google supplies) in my theme's footer and I'm good to go! Checking your Analytics will help you see how readers are getting to your site, the popularity of your articles, and what search words are attracting them, etc.
- Utilize a feed tool. I use FeedPress. It's got a ton of additional features with it and allows you to measure your feed usage. One word of advice, be sure to replace your blog header RSS designation. Most RSS subscription tools simply look for that link in the header. If you don't replace it with your Feedburner RSS path, you won't be capturing all those subscribers!
- Blog often. With my blog, I notice that if I write 1 or 2 articles daily that my return visitors continues to increase. Interestingly enough, if I skip a day I have to ‘catch' back up on visitors. If I skip 2, I lose quite a few. Be careful not to blog too often, though. I used to subscribe to Instapundit, but single sentence articles every few minutes were driving me nuts to try to keep up. He's had some major success with his blog, though. Some people enjoy it. I suppose this is just one of those things you're going to have to track and see through trial and error. The other factor here is timeliness. Ensure that when you hear or see something on a topic, you react as quick as possible if you'd like to grow your audience. Readers search most at the time of the event, not after.
- Blog well. You need not always stay on topic with your blog. Remember, the blog is a conversation between you and your readers. They are getting to know you and you are trying to get to know them. A couple pictures of your vacation or your dog will let them into your world a little deeper and create a greater bond with them. I often spend time each day thinking about what I might blog about. Not a day goes by that I don't learn something, observe something, or hear about something… so I enjoy relaying it to my readers. Be honest, and speak to what you do well.
So that's what I've learned thus far. I'll continue to make adjustments to my blog to increase exposure and improve the quality of my posts. Blogging is about continuous improvement.
Update: August 17, 2006 – Submitted for ProBlogger's Group Writing Project for Lists.