Discovering the Secrets of Blogging Success - dummies

Discovering the Secrets of Blogging Success

By Amy Lupold Bair

While you watch your competitors’ blogs, you have a chance to figure out what topics they blog about, of course, but also how they reach out to their audience.

Your competitors might not be blogging in the most effective way. While you look at these blogs, decide whether your competitors are actually reaching their audiences successfully or whether they’re falling short. For example, do their blog posts receive a lot of comments? Has their content been shared often on social media sites?

While you visit these blogs, keep a journal of your impressions. Watch the following to investigate how these bloggers handle publishing and outreach:

  • How frequently the blogger puts new posts on the blog: Frequency of blog posts is a big deal. Any blogger can tell you to post “frequently,” but almost none can tell you what that really means. You can explore this idea by noting how often your competitors choose to post to their blogs. Do they create new posts daily, or even multiple times a day? Or do they post a few times a week, or even once a week? When you become a reader of that blog, do you find yourself wanting more content or less?
  • When the blogger publishes blog posts: Time of day can have a surprising impact on how readers receive a blog post. You need to reach your audience members when they’re likely to be sitting at their computers. If your audience consists of stockbrokers, time your posts so that new content becomes available just before business hours start on the East Coast, not during dinnertime on the West Coast. If you’re targeting teens, try to publish before or after school hours, not while they’re sitting in homeroom. (Theoretically, they are doing schoolwork at that point and not surfing the Internet!)

Sure, your readers can visit your blog anytime and pick up content that you posted in the middle of the night, but you can impress them with a blog that always seems to have fresh content just when they want it.

  • The length of posts on the blog: You might be surprised to know that the ideal length of a blog post is a hotly debated topic among experienced bloggers. Some bloggers swear by the short-and-sweet recipe that guides most web writing: Blog posts should get to the point quickly and allow readers to get back to their busy days with the information that they need. Others find that longer posts — even essays — do the job, keeping readers on the site longer and providing more thoughtful commentary. The topic of your blog and your audience’s appetite and available time combine to dictate the natural length of your blog posts. Looking at your competitors’ blogs can tell you the number of words that they find optimal in a blog post, which you can use as a starting point for your blog.
  • When the blogger links to outside websites: Linking to other blogs and websites is a great way to serve the reader. By pointing out other sources of information or even other blogs, you help them become more knowledgeable about your topic and keep them engaged with it. So, when do your competitors choose to link to other sites, and what sites do they link to? Are the links designed to entertain, educate, or inform? Are links included in the text of the post or broken out at the end? What makes you click a link yourself?
  • When the blogger addresses his or her audience directly: Many bloggers use a very personal writing style that directly acknowledges the reader. You might enjoy being addressed directly by a blogger because the conversation feels more personal. Or, depending on the topic of the blog, perhaps a more formal, almost academic approach is more appropriate. Either way, check out how your competition is handling this issue. When do they ask readers for input or feedback, and how do they phrase those requests? Do readers actually respond, and if so, to what kinds of approaches?
  • Use of multimedia, such as photos, audio, and videos: Although a whole lot of words comprise most blogs today, photos, graphics, and videos are becoming equally important in the world of blogging. Take a look at how your competitors include multimedia in their blogs. Do they use photos to illustrate the ideas in the posts or just to attract the eye? What about animation or video? Do posts that have these extras get more comments or fewer? Do you like getting information in these other formats or do you find them distracting?
  • Posts that get a lot of comments and posts that get very few: A blog that gets a lot of comments signals that the blogger is resonating with his or her audience — even if just to make audience members mad. A blog that has no or few comments probably just leaves people flat (or maybe isn’t even read). Not all bloggers get hundreds of comments every time they post. Some blog posts just get better responses than others, and part of what makes bloggers successful is being able to know what makes those posts really work so that they can repeat the success. Watch your competitors’ blogs to see when a post gets a big response and look at what kind of response it gets.

Also, watch for the posts that don’t get any responses. Try to figure out why those posts didn’t work so that you don’t make the same mistake!

  • The writing style of the blogger: Bloggers need to have good content, and for most bloggers, that comes down to having an accessible and readable writing style. For those blogs in your niche that attract participation and good press, what style does the blogger use? Personal? Professional? Humorous? What tone appeals to readers and makes them come back to the blog again and again? What approach do you find more readable and engaging?

Use these same points of analysis on your own blog. After you have your blog up and running for awhile, take a look at your content with the same critical eye that you use on your competitors. What are you doing right? What are you doing incorrectly?

You may find this exercise hard to do. You probably think that everything on your blog is great; after all, no one sets out to write a bad blog post! Still, some of your posts are likely more popular with readers than others, and if you can figure out why certain posts work better than others, you can repeat that success again and again.