Blogs are a great way to increase traffic to your site but only if they are given the same amount of attention as the rest of your marketing.
The power of a successful blog is well documented and the promise of more traffic and brand engagement draws in countless webmasters every year.
Content is king
What you say, how much you say and how you say it should all be constructed with your target audience in mind. The two big questions to ask are – Why should anyone read the blog? and Why would they want to come back and read it again? Corporate press releases or staff hires are fine in moderation, but not if that is all the blog is about, people simply won’t read it. To gain traction with a reader a blog post has to be informative, interesting, amusing, original or shocking. Committing yourself to this long term takes a lot of time and effort. If you approach the blog something to be done when you get a spare minute, it will fail.
On the flip side, It is just as easy to fall in to the trap of sacrificing quality for quantity under the misconception the more posts published the better, regardless of what they say. Jakob Neilson’s site www.useit.com has a relatively small number of articles published each month but each of them brings some useful insight in to usability for webmasters to apply and as result is a respected source of information. Popular topics to try include top X lists, Interviews with known industry figures site owners, competitions, How to… guides, free resources and biting industry commentary.
Gaining and keeping your readers
Writing a blog no one is reading is a depressing affair. You spend hours writing an insightful article that you are genuinely proud of and your analytics shows a big fat zero for page views. If your blog is part of a larger site, prominently linking to the blog from the home page will deliver instant results and you should also consider adding a feed to the home page to show the latest posts. If you send out newsletters, link to stories from your blog to help drive traffic and avoid duplicating work. If you have a standalone blog, attempt to capture your reader’s contact details through any means at your disposal e.g. user registration, competitions, twitter followers etc. and then use this data to send alerts or monthly emails/ newsletters listing your blog’s new posts to proactively pull in traffic.
Rather than attempting to build your own community from scratch consider engaging with existing communities, be it forums, niche networks or leaving post comments on popular blogs. If you are confident in your writing skills and knowledge, approaching sites to write for them is a great way to gain exposure, position yourself as an expert and get a high quality link to your site. For example, if your blog was about search engine marketing www.searchengineland.com would be a logical site to approach with an idea.
When you get started out it is vital you treat every reader like gold dust replying to every comment they leave, and just as importantly, replying as yourself and not ‘The Website’. Personalisation shows your readers the human side of your blog and using author photos, comments from other team members, and your name rather than a generic name (e.g. Admin) encourages further engagement with you personally rather than a faceless website. www.seomoz.org is a great example of using personalisation to create a community based around their blog.