A blog can be an excellent tool for building “You Inc.” For those out of the loop, a blog is nothing more than an easily updateable Web site intended to inform or influence. Here are eight things to avoid while blogging to help attract site visitors, garner trust, heighten exposure and increase revenues.
- Unoriginal content. If your blog doesn’t have something interesting to say, people won’t visit it. Original content is created, not regurgitated. It explores new ideas, provides a fresh angle or added context to an existing story, and is imaginative. If your creative mojo is lacking, examine subjects beyond just news and leverage offline experiences while telling informative stories. Be distinguished, unique, and pioneering, and avoid tired clichÃ©s and buzzwords that make for dull reading.
- Inconsistent updates. Be liberal with your weekly postings. People read and return to blogs for new content. If you don’t update at least 3-5 times week, don’t bother. While blogs require little, if any capital, they do take a lot of time. However, I owe nearly every new business opportunity over the last year and a half to blogging, so for me, it’s time well spent.
- Professional dress. Dress business casual while blogging and embrace rational subjectivity. Blogs didn’t get where they are today by pretending to be an objective editorial in the New York Times. Be personable in your writing, and admit to quirks and idiosyncrasies that are enjoyable to read. As a general rule of thumb, avoid sharing anything that might make your audience uncomfortable.
- Ulterior motives. You’ve got additional business ventures and cross-promotional ideas? Join the club. But don’t sacrifice your integrity by marketing your economic interests that are of no direct value to your audience. Be authentic and genuine while blogging. Use disclosures on every post when necessary (e.g. tell readers if you have stake in the success of what’s being discussed), even if your “about” page already states an acknowledgment. Overly favorable commentary on what your business is doing should also be avoided. That’s not to say you shouldn’t comment on your commercial ventures, just be honest and up front about it while avoiding PR fluff.
- Giving in. Get controversial with your writing and state a formulated opinion. Be snarky, push buttons, and get facetious when applicable. Disagreement doesn’t need to induce an angry response; rather, it can be used to encourage progressive thinking. If you need to comment on a sensitive topic, wait a day or two before publishing any thoughts that may have been heated at the time of writing.
- Long post entries. It is widely believed that readers of online media have shorter attention spans than those of print media. A typical blog reader generally stays only one to two minutes on a given site. So get to the point, avoid multi-topic rambling, and focus on bite-sized infotainment. If you feel your subject matter warrants a post longer than 300 to 400 words, ensure your audience will benefit from the added context and that it’s well written. As a bonus, shorter posts allow you, the blogger, to write more. The more posts you have, the more content people can find on your site which leads to higher traffic, more exposure, and better SEO.
- Absolute rule. Be democratic in your posts and with the overall tone of your blog. Contrary to what you might think, there are other experts on the covered subject. Learn from your community and be sure to never delete critical or opposing user comments, however tempting. The act will only undermine your credibility.
- Poorly written titles. The blogger with the most descriptive post title will enjoy the most traffic. That’s a fact. Descriptive headlines are straightforward and simple. They are not cryptic or ambiguous. If your headline skills are lacking, attempt to describe the key take-away of your post in fewer than 50 characters. It’s OK to be clever, but never sacrifice descriptiveness for creativity in post headlines.
By avoiding the above eight items, you can ensure content that gives your audience something worth reading and something worthy of exposure. Now blog on, Utah.
Originally published in the November 2006 issue of Connect Magazine.