5 tips for new bloggers. Sort of

I was talking with a friend the other day and he was bemoaning the stats to his (fairly new) website. Traffic was plummeting from what it was the first time he posted and it seemed that with every new post, it got cut in half again. Was it the content? Should he be posting more often?

Alas’ advice to new bloggers

I am far from being any sort of expert on how to drive up traffic, but in the two plus years I’ve been blogging here, I have made note of a few pretty basic things. So if you’re a new blogger and you’re agonizing over your Analytics, here are a few thoughts:

1. Stats aren’t everything. In fact, I have more or less stopped paying attention to my Analytics (search terms are the main reason I look these days and only because I like to laugh at them) because it served no real purpose and it had a tendency to drag me down and help me lose sight of why I was even blogging in the first place. I’m not saying no one should make traffic a priority, but if you’re writing for any other reason at all, I advise to try to keep that reason the main one. If Analytics is taking away from your joy, then turn it off or don’t look at it. You’ll feel a million times better.

Also, many people use feed readers. They might be out there reading and not coming to your site. If you insist on tracking these numbers for added self-torture, check out Feedburner.

2. It takes time to build a following. Unless you have already been out there interacting with your target audience in some way, no one is going to know who you are or why they should read what you have to say. The closest you’re going to get to instant fame is if you have something linking back to you from a bigger/more popular site and you have written something just completely fantastic. Even then, you’ll need to have quantity and quality to sustain interest. Most blogs are going to grow in popularity just a little bit at a time, so check those dreams of instant Internet fame at the door.

3. Pimp yourself. No one else is likely to do this for you. A key to this tactic is to do it with a degree of class. Go comment on posts by other bloggers who are reaching your target audience already and make sure to leave a good, relevant and interesting comment. If people are interested enough in what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, they’ll be more likely to click that hyperlink. Do not ever pull a stunt where you’re commenting just to say “I wrote about this the other day and it was pretty awesome. Everyone should check it out.” That’s a huge turnoff.

You should also leverage social media. Get on Twitter or Facebook. Cross-link all your Internet presences. Be open. Be friendly. Start conversations. I’m not sure how other blogging communities interact, but I can vouch for the WoW community being highly social. And a little bit frightening in their collective insanity.

4. Be responsive. This goes along with number three, but I think a lot of bloggers fail to recognize the impact that responding to comments made on their posts can have. I always appreciate when a blogger takes the time to reply to what I had to say. It feels a lot more like a conversation and like they do care that I took the time to make a reply. I don’t think there’s any set rule where you have to reply to every comment ever, but trying to make it a general practice can’t hurt.

5. I don’t actually have a number five, I just think five is a better place to end than four is. I could probably think of something, but to tell the truth, I feel a bit stupid writing this post at all. So I’m not going to stretch for something sorta related and pretend it’s a real thing that’ll help a new blogger get established. I guess I could mention Blog Azeroth. I did say hi there when I was pretty new and lurked about for a few weeks before I got distracted by something shiny and apparently never managed to look back. Everyone was nice and I think it is a great resource for WoW bloggers, if it’s something they want to get involved in.

Bloggers who actually know less obvious things a new blogger could do to feel successful in their endeavor? Chime in any time. I’m going to go blush in a corner for being such a poser and writing this post.

Comments

5 tips for new bloggers. Sort of — 9 Comments

  1. Great tips and yes, using social media and interacting is pretty much a must do thing in any blogging community. People are more likely to want to read your blog if you’re friendly, interesting and approachable.

    I can also vouch for layout. Not saying you have to be a design wiz or pay somebody else to do it for you, but if you struggle at least be TIDY. Cannot stress this enough. If you don’t know how to make a website look good, go minimalist. Nothing worse than a noisy layout. It’s the first thing visitors see so don’t distract them from your excellent content!

    • I agree with the tidy/minimalist statement so much! Clutter is hard to get through and ignore in favor of the words. Feed readers can save the end user a lot of that, but it’s true that I am less likely to get hooked on reading a blog if I cannot concentrate enough on the content my first time there.

  2. My biggest suggestion would be… MAKE IT EASY for readers and commenters.

    -Make sure your “subscribe” link is easy to find, even ostentatious.

    -Even if YOU don’t like using twitter, make sure you have the option for other people to follow your blog on twitter. Some people like to get blog updates that way. (I have noticed that Facebook is less popular than twitter for this purpose. Also, Facebook is the debbil.)

    -Full text feeds, guys. A lot of people will just take you off the feed reader if you make them click through.

    -Make commenting easy. Try to avoid captcha if at all possible. Make sure you can comment without registering for ANYTHING (with just a name and e-mail address). Blogspot is particularly bad about this, it’s kind of a hidden setting.

    -A search box. Nothing will make me fly into a stupid rage faster than having NO SEARCH BOX for that post that I KNEW I had read (and probably am trying to find to link on my own blog, thereby giving YOU traffic). I’ll just abandon the search right there and wander away from the site.

    You are more likely to get (and retain) readers and get comments if you don’t make the readers and commenters jump through hoops.

  3. Great suggestions both in your post and the comments.

    I very much agree with the notion that comments should be replied to. Not every single comment necessarily, but I always get a bit turned off if I visit a new site and see that the writer hasn’t responded to a single comment like..ever.

    The easy commenting that Zel mentions is also important. I’ve had arguments with people about this. Some people seem to think that they shouldn’t have to “fix” their blogs so people can comment, but I personally feel that as a writer, if you want comments you had better make it as easy as possible for people to do so. A lot of times people are busy and just have a minute, if they then have to sign up or do some jumping through hoops to do so, odds are they won’t.

    I read an article on blogging at some point, and I remember that they said that unless you’re some huge, well-known face already – the best way to get comments on your blog is to comment on others. So that’s definitely a good tip (which you already had).

    I can’t think of anything myself really, everyone else already said the ones I can think of :)

    • It’s sometimes difficult (I think) to strike a balance between not replying to every comment just because one feels one HAS to and making honest replies that might lead to a conversation. But I tend to kick myself more for not replying (or replying really late as I am doing now) than I do for leaving fluffy and nonsensical sorts of replies.

      Perhaps the ultimate advice for new bloggers is to ask what would they like to see on other blogs/from other bloggers and then set out to recreate that as much as possible. I think the goals of bloggers are similar enough for such a crazy scheme to work!

    • Yeah. Everything else aside, it’s the writing that will get you. Easy to do at first, but you’ll eventually hit a bare patch for a few days (or weeks, or… no, let’s not go there).

      If your blogging software will let you save drafts, consider building up a backlog of non-time sensitive posts that you can haul out when the inevitable word drought comes.