With nearly 65 million sites on WordPress alone, it can be difficult to ensure that a blog stands out from the crowd. Many first-time bloggers – whether they are businesses or individuals – are faced with the challenge of producing something that’s new and interesting, only to find that almost every topic imaginable has already been covered. However, there are stylistic and technical aspects of the process to consider that can bring a blog out of the foggy depths of the internet into a place where it can build up a large and loyal following.
(SEE ALSO: 40 WordPress Tips, Tricks, Tutorials and Plugins)
Developing a Theme
A large number of blogs, particularly personal and lifestyle blogs, frequently stray from one topic to another with reckless abandon, while others stick to a few key topics. Either method can work, but generally it is more effective to focus on one particular area. Travel blogs are a good example of this – the topic is broad, but if they are all about travelling then their readers will tune in to find out about the latest place that the blogger has visited or has chosen to research. Similarly, a craft blog that gives a regular example of converting something old into something new – such as old magazines into a footstool or clothes into more fashionable clothes – will attract readers who want frequent ideas. If the craft blog then strays into a social observation piece, for example, it risks losing followers.
This also raises the issue of knowing the audience. This is particularly important for businesses that are trying to expand their customer base; they need to be aware of what their customers are interested in reading about. A website selling sports clothing is better off blogging about sporting news than it is about 50 ways to use an old milk bottle. Tone and style are keys in engaging a particular audience, and it is important to bear the reader in mind while writing. Some bloggers write in order that potential employers can be referred to their work, in which case they are more likely to adopt an authoritative tone than someone who is only writing for the benefit of their friends.
Even with a fantastic blog, readers will become bored with waiting and forget about it if it is not updated regularly. Successful bloggers often use a formula to ensure that their posts are at least weekly, if not daily. Neil Pasricha, for example, created a blog called 1000 Awesome Things, providing his followers with a positive thought each day. Having posted every weekday since June 2008, Neil has had over 50 million hits. The benefit of the simple, list-like approach is that people look forward to the next post, tuning in each day for a quick look. It is not necessary to adopt Neil’s list-like style in order to update regularly, but it helps to be confident before starting that there is enough material for at least one blog post a week. Planning ahead before publishing can ensure that there is at least a range of topics waiting to be written, if not a selection of completed posts ready to be uploaded at the right moment. Having a reliable source of inspiration can help to provide structure to ensure regular updates, whether it is a word chosen at random from a dictionary, that day’s headline or an interesting fact associated with the date. Using the news headlines as starting point is a good tip to keep the blog current, and will give readers something more to think about than more general topics.
Many bloggers include a weekly feature on their site, and often to great success. This could involve a weekly chance for followers to submit suggestions for a blog post, for example. Not only does this encourage followers to read the blog at least weekly, it can also give bloggers the chance to write about something different each week without it affecting the overall tone and style of their site.
A key rule when taking written exams is to check the answers thoroughly before handing in the paper, and it is a key rule of blog writing as well. A large number of people do not read through what they have written before they publish it, and it is obvious when they haven’t. The most experienced writers in the world make errors from time to time, whether it is a typing error or accidental repetition. Reading through the content before publishing will not only highlight any errors, but will also give a better idea of what others will experience when they read it; if the writer is bored reading over it again, the likelihood is that the reader will be too.
A significant aspect of editing requires writers to be ruthless. It is often difficult to cut out words from an article or blog post but the more concise the writing, the more interesting it is. If a lot of research has gone into the post, providing readers with links to continue their reading if they are interested is more effective than putting all of the information into one article. This can even be used to create another post that can also be linked to, so giving readers the choice of how much information they consume. This will satisfy those who have only a few minutes to spare as well as those who want to find out more.
Break It Down and Keep It Organised
One of the benefits of blogs is that they are quick and entertaining to read. In light of that, a wall of text can be extremely off-putting and difficult to focus on. Breaking a post down into subheadings will not only make it look smarter and more appealing, but also allows readers to come back to a particular point in the article later on when their boss isn’t looking over their shoulder.
Subheadings are not only useful in the article but also for a blogger’s entire site. WordPress archives users’ work for them, grouping it into monthly chunks. However, if a variety of different topics are covered within the general theme, it is much easier for followers to find an old article if the posts are organised by category on the right hand side of the page. For example, in the craft blog mentioned above, categories might include ‘Fashion’, ‘Kitchen’, ‘Home’, ‘Garden’ and ‘Kids’. An organised page looks more professional and allows newcomers to browse past posts before following.
A Splash of Colour
In addition to using subheadings for breaking up a wall of text, images also help to generate and maintain interest. When using images that do not belong to them, it is important to provide links to the source to avoid any trouble. Using personal images can be more interesting, and bloggers do not have to be experts in photography or Photoshop to create a good image. Simple software and applications such as Instagram can edit images to make them look more professional and to keep followers entertained.
The success of a WordPress blog does not rely solely on content – there are matters such as plugins to consider, too. In its list of technical tips for WordPress success, Hongkiat includes suggestions such as installing a plugin that allows users to submit posts to others bloggers’ sites. Allowing followers to get involved and creating a higher level of interactivity can broaden the market of a blog as well as maintaining interest. It can also benefit the blogger by allowing more regular updates without having to produce work when they don’t have time. Other suggestions from Hongkiat include creating a neat calendar view of the date on which the post was uploaded and adding Reddit buttons to allow users to promote the post on Reddit. This can also be applied to other sites such as Twitter and Pinterest (which would be appropriate for the craft blog). Sharing has become an integral part of promotion and marketing, and one share from a follower could dramatically increase the number of followers.