I needed to rearrange and clean-up the blog idea tip file that I keep in my head. My blog review clients have gotten bits and pieces of these blog ideas but I realized that I haven’t put together a monster list of them in a long time. It's nice to get my best stuff out in the open so I can start tweaking and adding to the list. So now is a great time to pick through my mental garage sale.
This isn’t a short post. It tops out around 1,800 words and could include another 2,000 if I didn’t push away from the computer.
Review each of the sections and use what you makes sense for you. I’ve included:
- My Google trick for finding diamond-studded blogging ideas
- A nice little plugin that makes creating email optin forms super easy
- A twist on guest posting that should make you smile
- A few of my proven post-writing tricks
- How to protect your blog from being hacked by some pimply North Korean teenager
- Easy ways to keep track of your blog ‘s performance
And other assorted bits and pieces that I’ve uncovered over the last year or so. Enjoy.
Blog Idea #1: Getting More Blog Readers
- Focus on a reader not a topic. Focus your blog on solving specific types of problems for a specific reader. Instead of starting a fitness blog, create a blog that advises first-time moms on fitness questions. It’s a subtle but important difference.
- Promote Reader Benefits: Boil your blog down to one key benefit. Work this benefit into your blog name and tagline. First time readers should understand what you offer with one glance.
- Have an Opinion: Don’t be afraid to asset your opinion and perspective. Readers look for people and businesses that share their values and outlook. Make sure your readers know exactly where you stand.
- Celebrate Loyal Readers: Look for opportunities to showcase avid readers. Let everyone know that you value readers and reward loyalty.
- Mingle: Actively engage on blogs that appeal to your reader. Leave thoughtful comments, reach out to specific readers via email, and submit amazing guest posts.
Blog Idea #2: Getting Retweeted
- Use the BufferApp (Digg Digg): Use this WordPress plugin to put your social share icons under your blog headline.
- Twitter-Friendly Headlines: Create interesting and tantalizing headlines that can be retweeted without editing or shortening.
- Tweet This: Point out catchy 140 character statements in your post. Use ClickToTweet to offer a simple Tweet This link for readers.
- Be a Good Twitter Citizen: Motivate sharing by being an active sharer of other people’s content. I’ve used the Chris Brogan 12:1 ratio, share 12 third-party links for every self-promotional link, with tremendous success for years.
- Thank Retweeters: Thank each retweeter as long as it makes sense. When your audience grows thank new retweeters who just started following you.
- Write Sharable Content: Short, concise, informational posts get retweeted. These posts are simple to scan and evaluate making it easy for people to decide if they want to share.
Blog Idea #3: Getting More Blog Comments
- Write Open-Ended Posts: Ask open-ended questions throughout your post that entices readers to comment
- Simple Comments: I’ve investigated all of the major comment platforms (Discus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate, etc) and I’ve settled on the commenting system that comes with WordPress. I use the Akismet plugin to cut down on spam comments. The key is to pick a system that makes it easy to comment without forcing readers to jump through registration hoops.
- Show Your Voice: Write how you speak. Using a conversational tone makes it easy for the reader to imagine a real person talking to them encouraging feedback.
- Respond to Quality Comments: Make an effort to respond to comments that contribute to the discussion. Definitely answer any questions and address people who have disagree with your post.
- ABC - Always Be Civil: Thank people for offering their comments - good and bad. Disagree with tact. A hostile and spiteful comment response will shut down enemies and friends.
- It’s Your Blog: Feel free to trash comments that are hurtful, obscene, or disrespectful.
Blog Idea #4: Promoting Your Blog
- Cover the Basics: Include your blog in all online and offline signatures. Use WiseStamp to automatically include your blog and last post headline in your email signatures.
- Make it Easy to Share: Make sure your share icons are prominently placed alongside your content.
- Selective Guest Posting: Find a handful of blogs that appeal to your reader. Invest time in creating a relationship with the blog publisher through comments, social networking, and IRL (in real life). Offer a guest post after you’ve built the relationship.
- Publish Frequently: Publish as often as you can without sacrificing quality. Frequent publishing increases opportunities for first-page search listings, 3rd-party blog mentions, and shares. You don’t have to like it but it works.
Blog Idea #5: Protecting Your Blog
- Start with a Great Host: Wordpress blogs are attractive targets for hackers. Use a host that knows about current WordPress vulnerabilities and how to close any holes. GoDaddy won’t help you if you are attacked.
- Don’t Fiddle: You should never have to fiddle with your blog’s internal code. Fiddling with file permissions and hand-configuring plugins is a surefire way to getting hacked.
- Malicious Themes: Hackers and SEO Blackhatters love creating free themes that contain hidden code. Saving a few bucks on your theme could unwittingly turn your blog into viagra wholesaler.
- Watch User Permissions: WordPress allows you to fine-tune access permissions for authors. I rarely give anyone more than “contributor” status which allows submitting posts for review and editing of the author’s contributions. Nothing gets posted until the administrator approves.
- Approved Plugins: Be very cautious about plugins. Make sure that the plugins have received good ratings and are actively supported by the developer. Shoddy plugins are a favorite hacker target.
Blog Idea #6: Blog Post Ideas
- Try InboxQ: This clever application scours Twitter for questions based on keywords. There’s a great write-up for the app on Social Media Examiner.
- Related Searches: Google gives related keywords as you type in your search query on Google.com. Try typing in a popular keyword for your subject and see if any interesting questions pop up in related searches.
- Mine Q&A Sites: Sites like Quora encourage users to ask great questions and provide helpful answers. Mine these sites for questions that can turn into posts. Try Quora, AskMetaFilter, Yahoo Answers, Formspring, and StackExchange. Each site focuses on a different type of question and vary in quality.
- Amazon “Look Inside”: I love searching for top books on a specific subject and using Amazon’s Look Inside feature to scan their table of contents. The Table of Contents is a quick summary of the author’s opinion about what topics to explore. Excellent.
- Google “FAQ” Searches: You’ll love this one. Type the following into Google - “Jogging FAQ” what you’ll get is the highest ranked FAQs or “Frequently Asked Questions” for jogging. Each listing is a potential goldmine of questions-inspired posts. Just replace “jogging” with your subject to find your own topics.
Blog Idea #7:Writing Spectacular Posts
- Write the Headline as a Question: Now answer the question in your post. Get to the point and support your post with juicy facts and stories. The Headline First approach keeps your post on track and relevant.
- Write an Outline: Take 5 minutes to outline each section of your post. Now analyze your outline to make sure you have strong points for each section. An outline will save you time and eliminate writer’s block.
- Start with “You”: Pull the reader into your post with an open-ended question. This question creates an open-loop that can’t be closed until they find the answer. By the way, don’t summarize the answer until the end.
- Become a Storyteller: Researchers believe that our minds are uniquely wired to extract meaning from stories. In fact, it seems that stories are the most effective way to communicate complex information. Pay attention to the stories you hear everyday and find ways to incorporate your stories into your posts.
- Use Storytelling Frameworks: Study tried-and-true storytelling frameworks like the Hero’s Journey, a framework used in many blockbuster hits. Frameworks are skeletons you can use to structure your own story.
- Be Ruthlessly Relevant: Listen, your readers like you but love themselves. They aren’t entertained by your meandering prose about the Summer of ‘99. Check your posts for relevancy. Make sure you are giving the reader something tangible they can use or think about.
Blog Idea #8: Making Money
- Be Patient: Blogs are not great money making platforms. Blogs build credibility and trust. They excel at attracting readers that can be turned into buyers over a period of time. If you try to force monetization you will only upset your readers and frustrate yourself.
- Sell Your Own Stuff First: Create custom Expert Products designed for your readers. Master this before you try other monetization methods.
- Recommend relevant products that you use and trust. Write helpful reviews and how-to posts demonstrating how you use the product. Be careful Review Other Products:about the products you choose. You’ll lose trust if you recommend products that aren’t relevant to your readership.
- Run Advertising IF - you have a large audience. The economics of advertising favors blogs that generate a lot of page views - Think HuffingtonPost, BoingBoing, and Gawker. Putting Google Adsense on a blog with a few hundred visitors a day will earn you a few bucks and probably cheapen your blog in the process.
- Build Trust and Credibility First: Spend months building an audience through relevant posts and quality engagement. Selling products on brand new blogs rarely works.
Blog Idea #9: Growing an Email List
- Be Sexy: No one wants to give away their email address. Offer readers something irresistible to entice them to hand over their information.
- Don’t Hide: Put your email sign-up offer in a prominent position. I like the top spot on your sidebar or under the header on your website.
- Do What Works: Test multiple methods for growing your list. Don’t get bullied by the vocal minority or the Pop-up Mafia. Opt-in pop ups work well for some people. The HelloBar is a great alternative for those put-off by pop-ups.
- Make sign-up easy: You only need to ask for an email address to register a subscriber. Asking for information will quickly lower your sign-up rate.
- Ask for the Sign-up: At the end of your posts, include a call-to-action to sign-up for your mailing list. Use plugins like OptinSkin to quickly create attractive end-of-post sign-up boxes.
Blog Idea #10: Tracking Performance
- Install Google Analytics Now: Use Google Analyticator to quickly install Google Analytics tracking codes on your blog. Do it now.
- Pick and Study Key Numbers: Over time you will get comfortable with a few key metrics for evaluating your blog’s performance. I prefer to focus on pageviews, time on page, and email subscriptions. These metrics are aligned with my blog goals. Review your analytics and determine which metrics make sense for you.
- Set Goals and Hold Yourself Accountable: I’ve come across few “truisms” in blogging but here’s one that is brutally accurate: If you don’t care about your blog’s success then your readers won’t either. I’ve seen many blogs fail because their publishers didn’t commit to success. Don’t be unicorn road kill.