Around this time last year I wrote an article outlining 22 elements that your blog must have in order to be successful. It occurred to me that people just starting out often need guidance in the areas that that I oftenoverlook or dismiss as common knowledge, so I wrote this article in an effort to offer more well-rounded advice. After yet another year of living and learning, I havesome new things that I feel should be added to this list.
1. A Regularly Updated Website
This goes hand-in-hand with engaging and relevant content, you need to stick to a regular posting schedule so that your readers have access to new content on a regular basis. If you post sporadically, your readers won’t be able to keep track of your blog and will most likely lose interest altogether. When you don’t update your blog, it looks like it’s been abandoned and readers begin to distrust the relevance of the information that it contains. Ultimately, your readers aren’t there to learn about you, they are there because of what your content means to them. Simply put, if you want to blog, then you have to blog! Keep your content fresh (up-to-date) and engaging if you are serious about blogging and generating a following.
2. A Fast and Reliable User Experience
That being said, you can have fantastic content, but if your site is slower to load than molasses in winter, you will have your visitors abandoning your page at lighting speed. Visitors to your site aren’t taking a leisurely walk through the digital landscape; your visitors are looking for specific content that meets an immediate need. If they have to wait for over just 20 seconds for your site to load, they will assume that your site can’t meet their needs and move on to another site that can. If you are having problems with loading speed, consider paring down your images and compressing your website code to help it load faster. If your aren’t sure about your website speed, run it through the free Google PageSpeed Insights tool in order to see how well Google rates your site speed performance.
3. Giveaways to Email List Subscribers
Even with good content and a good loading speed, getting people to return is the biggest struggle for any blogger. One of the best ways to keep your blog from the out-of-sight-out-of-mind curse is to develop an email list allowing you to inform readers of updated content. We mentioned in the last article that you should have a newsletter opt-in form; however, asking people to join your email list to receive a newsletter isn’t always the most effective method anymore. Unless people really like your blog and want to be updated on all new posts, they usually won’t follow or sign up for a newsletter. So in order to actually secure this audience and get them on your email list, it often helps to offer some kind of giveaway to your email subscribers. Like with anything, when people are asked to give something out, they want to know what’s in it for them in return. Your subscribers are giving you their email addresses, so they want to be sure that it is worthwhile. Offering a free e-book, some tips and advice, or the like are all ways to answer that “what’s in it for me” question. If you begin to implement some kind of giveaway, you will see your email subscribers increase.
Of course it goes without saying that any communication through an email list needs to be conducted using a professional email account. A basic yahoo or gmail account is a lot less professional and reassuring than an email address which matches the domain name of your blog or website. Usually your readers will be more than happy to communicate with you if they feel that they can trust the source of the emails that they are getting. If they have to second guess where this email is from, your newsletter will likely end up in spam or they will block your correspondence entirely, dropping off of that very precious email list that you are trying so hard to create.
4. Ability to Comment and Interact
Speaking of communication, your dedicated followers are going to want to be able to communicate or interact on your website. Whether this is in the form of a comments section at the end of every blog post or a formal forum that is included in your website, when people enjoy or even have a problem with something that they have read, they often want to say something about it. Furthermore, not only does this keep your readers happy, but it also works to prove the authority of your blog. If you came across a blog with absolutely no comments or followers, you would most likely assume that no one is reading that blog. In order for browsing readers and the search engine to consider your blog worthwhile – yes that’s right, Google loves social interaction and rankscontent that has received comments in the relevancy and ranking scores – you need to generate some kind of interaction on your blog or website. And of course don’t forget to respond to comments and questions! You will lose readers very quickly if they are trying to communicate with you and you aren’t responding to their enquiries. Responding quickly shows that you care that people are reading your blog and that you care about your blog in general.