This article was published on March 6, 2011

How to grow and maintain a brilliant blog

How to grow and maintain a brilliant blog
Niall Harbison
Story by

Niall Harbison

Niall is a social media advocate and co-founder of digital marketing agency Simply Zesty. He helps small brands get their message out to the Niall is a social media advocate and co-founder of digital marketing agency Simply Zesty. He helps small brands get their message out to the world and engage with their customers using the free tools available to them.

I always get a lot of questions about business blogging and how people can improve their own blogs or just get started. There are 100s of posts out there on the topic but I wanted to look at things from a slightly higher level today and see what you can do to create a really remarkable blog. None of these tips are going to pay off overnight and none will turn your blog into a massive hit without hard work but they do work and they are important if you are really serious about this. Rather than thinking everything on this list is going to deliver results by the end of the month look at the items on here and try to implement them over the course of a full year to see the full effect.

Write Your Posts On A Train Or Plane

You obviously can’t jump on a plane or train every time you need to write a blog post but all the great posts I write are when I am offline and only have a text editor in front of me. When I am online writing a blog post I’ll be distracted every couple of minutes and pop in and out of email, Twitter and Facebook, which means that even though my blog post is taking hours to write the quality and concentration are just not there. Try switching the online world off and just concentrating on nothing but your blog post. You’ll be stunned by the results you can achieve.

Don’t Compete With News Sites

It’s often tempting to try and compete with sites out there who break news within your niche but it doesn’t work. Sites like ours, Gizmodo or Techcrunch have teams of professionally paid writers whose main job is to break news. We spend our time on RSS, Twitter and chasing stories so as they can be the first to break news. Where you can compete is by adding insight to the latest news and delving behind the story. So rather than telling people that Facebook has launched new comments, provide analysis and show what it means for your own business.

Sell Your Blog Like A Book

I picked up 2 books in the airport this morning. I only had 2 minutes to make the purchase so I ended up going for the books that stood out to me from a design perspective and told me exactly what they were about on the cover. You need to think of your blog in exactly the same way and package it up like a book. The chances are people will only flick onto your blog for a couple of seconds before deciding if they are going to read it. Much like I didn’t have time to read blurbs or the first page of the book your potential readers probably won’t read your “about” section or any of your posts. They’ll scan over your blog and see if they like the design, the layout and the title of your post. If you have all of those things right they’ll read on, if you don’t they’ll move on.

Read Everything You Can Find

When I am not working or writing on the blog I am reading. When I wake up in the morning I read blog posts. When I am in a queue, I read blogs. Waiting on a bus I’ll be reading and before going to bed at night I’ll be reading the work of others. Your own blog is never going to be good unless you absorb the work of others and know your industry inside out. Not only will you become more knowledgable but you’ll also get some great inspiration for your own blog posts and think of angles you never would otherwise. The big popular blogs are not always the best place to start because plenty of people are writing amazing content out there that you have never heard of before but isn’t getting found so look for the niche stuff. Make it your job to find the best content and read it as much as you possibly can.

Network Your Ass Off

Most of you know how to do this already. It’s a lot of hard work and the benefits are not always apparent but networking is the way to make your blog truly remarkable and build an audience. Use tools like Twitter and Facebook. Leave comments on other blogs. Speak at events. Attend events within your niche. Email people within your niche. Strike up relationships and generally increase the size of your network. None of this is going to bring people to your blog overnight but showing that you know your stuff on other sites and creating a network of people who trust your word on a subject within your niche is one of the most important things you can do as a blog owner.

Don’t Let Critisism Influence Your Writing

95% of people who read your blog will love it and thank you for the great content you are producing and the ideas you are sharing. No matter how helpful or accurate your blog is though, 5% will always have something bad to say. It’s human nature and it will never change. Some people find it very hard to take because they find it personal, an attack on the work they have put hours of their life in to. You shouldn’t think like that. It’s right that people should disagree with your way of thinking and challenge you. The most important thing to do is to not let those 5% shape what you would write in the future and to keep writing what YOU think.

Lay Your Blog Out Like A Newspaper

When I pick up a copy of The Sunday Time I know exactly where everything is. The sections are always the same and the way the articles and photos are spread out on the pages rarely changes. Newspapers are very good at presenting the content to you in the way you would expect it to be delivered. Once you have settled on your final blog design you need to keep all your posts as uniform as possible. Layout might seem like a small enough thing but think of all the big blogs you read and think about how standardized their layout is.

Write Stuff That You Shouldn’t Write

There are times when I’m writing a post and I think to myself “I shouldn’t really be saying that” and think about deleting it. More often than not though I’ll leave it in because a blog is about opinions and there is no point holding back. Sure you might get some bad feedback or people disagreeing with you in the comments but I’d always publish 90% of the things you think you shouldn’t. At the end of the day there are 100s of people out there writing about the same stuff and playing it safe so having your own opinions is one way of standing out from the crowd.

Set Targets

Numbers of RSS subscribers, number of posts, number of unique visits, email subscribers and so on. I know some people have personal blogs and couldn’t care less about traffic or hitting targets but if you want to grow your blog get in to the habit of setting yourself targets.

Where do you want to be by the summer? Could you double the size of your blog by this time next year? Think long term rather than short term.

Learn Google Analytics Properly

You probably have a good, basic understanding of your stats and look at them every day to see how your traffic is growing but that is only scratching the surface. I would suggest spending half a day learning Google Analytics properly using their conversion University (totally free). You’ll start to pick up trends and spot content on your blog which is working well against content that just doesn’t get much of a reaction.

Get A Marketing Strategy

Your blog as it is at the moment is barely not going to be found. You are competing against millions of other blogs, news sites, content farms, Twitter and every other site on the web also screaming out for attention. You could be creating the most amazing content in the world but without a marketing strategy it’s never going to be found. Don’t just make it up as you go along but instead sit down and put a bit of thought in to your marketing plan and even get it down on paper.

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