Source: Jasper James Photography.
I’m currently working as a graphic designer and have completed schooling. The one thing I have however not been able to master is the power of the blog. I enjoy blogging, but I just can’t seem to find the proper balance to get people into reading it. What would you suggest is the most effective way to bring readers into my blog? Am I simply boring, or am I lacking a key factor?
The truth is that getting your blog noticed is a lot harder than it was a few years ago when there was a lot less competition out there. When I relaunched my website in a blog format in 2007, there was so much less saturation! And, there definitely weren’t nearly as many bloggers who were able to sustain a full-time living from their sites. But now that companies have realized the power of having real people pitching their products, bloggers have gained a powerful foothold into a number of industries (along with the advertising dollars). So, what can you do to stand out?
1. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
Of course it’s not necessary to blog every day — we all have varying amounts of time to contribute to our blogs. But, if you’re really serious about blogging and building an audience, keep a regular schedule that works for you. Is your goal to post once a week? Three times a week? Whatever your schedule, once you’ve been posting for awhile, readers begin to anticipate content at semi-regular intervals. If you need to take an extended break, make a note of it so that your readers know what to expect (instead of thinking that you’ve quite suddenly fallen off the face of the earth).
Think about consistency this way: Would you repeatedly frequent a business that was constantly closed without notice or, after a few tries, would you eventually give up? If your blog isn’t your business or livelihood, feel free to ignore this advice. If it is, you’ve got to be fiercely committed and goal driven if you want it to get noticed. Consistency counts because it builds a sense of reader loyalty.
2. Authenticity Rules Supreme.
When you’re first starting out and offers of freebies and other goodies start rolling in, make sure that you’re comfortable with the trade-off. What does the company want in return? If you don’t believe in a product, don’t share it with your readers under any circumstances. People can sense something fishy a million miles a way, even when it’s hidden behind a computer screen. Never, ever compromise your values or the pocket books of your readers. Ethics are a slippery slope, especially in blogging. Once you lose credibility, it’s a tough climb back to the top.
How do you stay authentic? Only share content that you wholeheartedly believe in. Use your unique voice and share experiences, advice and visions that are uniquely your own. Just be you.
3. Always take the high road.
Not everyone is going to understand or believe in what you’re doing. That’s how life is sometimes but it’s important to stay strong and to not give into unnecessary negativity. On the other hand, blogging, like any other profession can become seductive once a level of success sets in. It’s up to you to not lose touch with your readers. We’re all busy but do what you can, when you can. Don’t lose sight of what you’ve set out to do. Hold yourself and the content that you’re producing to the highest possible standards.
4. Share links and build your audience in the process.
No matter how established other bloggers out there are, everyone appreciates it when someone takes the time to link to their content. Producing original content can take some serious time and dedication and it’s a great feeling knowing that other bloggers like it enough to share it with their readers. If you continually share links to content of other bloggers, they will take notice and maybe even return the favor!
5. Use other platforms to your advantage.
When you’re starting out, it’s important to get the word out. To build momentum, pick a handful of platforms that you believe in. Depending on your focus, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (along with dozens more) can help you reach new readers. If viewers like what they see, they can click through and check out your blog. It’s honest and organic. Don’t spam other blogs with generic comments. Instead, if you choose to leave a comment, be sincere and heartfelt – the chances of someone clicking through are much more likely!
I keep my self-imposed social media plan very simple on a daily basis. It goes like this:
Immediately after posting, I share a link to my article on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as well as posting the article photos to Flickr. That’s it. If I had more time, I’d definitely use Tumblr as well but I’d want the content to be unique from what I was already posting on my blog. The five minutes I do spend spreading the word each day definitely contributes to my traffic. Bonus tip: services like Twitterfeed can automatically ping Twitter and Facebook with a link to your blog’s updates!
6. Knowledge is power. Share what you know.
How can you gain the adoration and respect of new followers? Open up and share. We all possess a well of knowledge and have something that makes us unique. By allowing others to learn from us, our human connections grow and so does the quality of our blog’s content. For instance, my passion is design and I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned through schooling, internships and client work. There’s so much insight that I’ve gained over the years through rebuilding my portfolio a million times, freelancing at agencies and learning how to get organized in the process. By sharing my personal experiences, hopefully someone else’s path will be smoother than mine was. Life experience is infinitely valuable and if we can help or inspire someone else, why not share it?
7. Produce original content.
This ties into sharing what you know. While some blogs thrive on the republishing of images and content of others, the easiest way to stand apart from the competition is to produce content that is uniquely your own. Shoot as many of your own photos as possible. Customize what you already have with fonts, photo filters and handwriting. Step away from the computer and experience life and then share what you’ve learned with your readers. Give them something that they can’t find anywhere else.
8. Keep your head up. It’s a long, winding road.
I started blogging at full capacity over four years ago when I was getting ready to start a design program, working a full-time retail job and living with many roommates. My life was much different then but blogging gave me a sense of structure through many uneasy transitions. It was a welcome outlet as I learned about design, traveled extensively, graduated and began working full-time as a designer. Along the way, my life completely shifted from being unfulfilling to working every day doing what I love and being settled in my own house with a wonderful husband and dog. Along the way, I never lost sight of my goals. At first, I just wanted 25,000 unique visitors a month. Then, 50,000. Then 75,000 and so on. I didn’t set lofty, unattainable goals but instead built momentum, slowly but surely. With the schedule I kept through school, I usually had to be up by 6:30 in the morning, putting a post together but it didn’t deter me because I really loved blogging.
Source: Jasper James Photography.
Finally, don’t wait.
I’ve said this so many times before but it bears repeating! Even if you don’t have tons of readers, keep on blogging. Each post is an exercise in your growth as a writer and communicator. Many of the great bloggers that you admire have been chipping away at their craft for years and the quality of their posts has grown with practice. It’s okay to feel discouraged some days (we all do) but don’t give up. Set some realistic goals, ask yourself what purpose you’d like your blog to serve and build it, one reader at a time. Don’t make the process more difficult than it has to be. Just stay true to what you’ve set out to do. Good luck!