Take a step back from your blog for five minutes. We are going to try our best to evaluate your blog and pinpoint a few areas you can improve. Specifically, we’ll race through 10 specific characteristics that define a spectacular blog.
A spectacular blog, in my opinion, is a blog that achieves the publisher’s goals. Business blogs deliver customers. Hobby blogs are a trusted information and feedback resource. Whatever your goal might be, your blog should be working 24 hours a day to achieve it.
So how does your blog measure up? Let’s see…
1) A Defined Audience
Blogging starts with understanding your audience and their interests. The most effective blogs zero in on a small and passionate slice of a larger audience. They know that smaller, well-defined audiences can be served with relevant posts that are customized to the reader’s needs.
Action Step: Describe your audience? Is it too broad?
The Reverse: Sometimes you can slice your audience into a barely recognizable sliver. Your audience should be small enough to easily target with highly relevant posts but large enough to accomplish your business and personal goals.
2) Consistent Creative
Your blog needs to make a sensational first impression. Your readers will arrive at your blog with one question, “is reading this blog worth my time?” A poorly organized blog that is difficult to read and navigate will scare readers off – forever.
Action Step: Are you secretly embarrassed by your blog? Listen to your instincts. Professional WordPress themes are affordable and will give you a firm foundation to work from. By the way, you aren’t saving money by using a chintzy BlogSpot or free theme. You’ll lose readers, sales, leads, donations, and subscribers.
The Reverse: There isn’t a situation where an ugly blog design makes sense. Never.
3) Attention Grabbing Headlines
Headlines are the Welcome Mat for your blog. They need to be relevant and interesting. The best headlines pull your readers into the blog post. I tell my blog review clients that the headline’s job is to entice your reader to read the first sentence. Getting your headlines right is a core discipline of spectacular blogging.
Action Step: Become a student of great headlines. For the next month, brainstorm at least 3 headlines for every post you write. Pick the headline that has the best chance of exciting your readers and getting the first sentence of your post read.
The Reverse: Bait and switch headlines that grab attention but deliver readers to a post that sucks will kill your blog. Trust is a precious commodity, writing misleading headlines is the quickest way to squander it.
4) Compelling Post Leads (lede)
The first three sentences of your blog have the honor of setting the stage for the rest of your post. If the headline’s job is to get the first sentence read, then the post leads job is to get the first half of the post read. The best post leads focus on the reader and adopt a conversational tone. They employ stories, questions, and provocative statements to engage the reader.
Action Step: Read respected magazines like the New Yorker to see how the master’s snare readers with amazing leads. The headline may be the welcome mat, but your lead is the foyer. Review your posts with a critical eye. Do your leads entice and captivate your reader?
The Reverse: Like headlines, your post leads should maintain the integrity of the post. They should seduce with truth. Avoid gimmicks that will annoy and frustrate your reader.
5) Sexy Bodies
After the lead, readers move into the body of the post. By this point, they should be aching to see how you pay off the promise in your headline and lead. Satisfy them by concisely delivering your subject. Be clear. Back up your assertions. Make it easy to visualize and implement your advice. You’re finished when you are satisfied that the body has paid off the promise of the headline.
Action Step: Outline your posts before you start writing. Write the main points/arguments/tips you will offer in the body. Check your outline to insure that your post is effectively delivering your content. Delay writing until you are satisfied with the outline.
The Reverse: Sometimes the subject demands a more thorough approach than most readers will accept. Carefully consider if your “epic” post is better served by being converted into an ebook or special report. If you choose to use your blog, split up your post into short sections to make it easier to read and understand.
6) Hard Working Call to Actions
How easy is it for your readers to build a relationship with you? Is it simple to share your posts? Blog publishers have a tendency to hide their call to actions. I suspect it’s because asking someone to sign-up for an email list, or promoting a product feels “salesy.” But, your readers WANT to help and support you, if you are delivering helpful, relevant, and interesting information.
Action Step: Select the primary way for building a relationship with your reader. It can be comments, newsletters, special reports, or anything else that delivers value in exchange for engagement. Now, look for opportunities to place that call-to-action front and center. For example, I want you to sign-up for my Blog Strategy Guide. That’s why it’s offered at the end of every post.
The Reverse: Be bold but tasteful. Twisting your reader’s arm won’t help. Always offer your call to action after you delivered value.
7) Lean and Mean Sidebars
You’ve heard me rail against sidebars that resemble junk drawers. Sidebars are meant to engage your readers and encourage them to use your blog’s resources. They are not meant to be packed with every throwaway plugin, flashing ad, and widget that you can find. A cluttered sidebar destroys the professionalism and focus of a blog. Make sure that your sidebar is lean and focused on serving the reader.
Action Step: Pick 4 items to place in your sidebar. Disciplining yourself to four items will force you carefully consider what is important for your reader.
The Reverse: I’ve seen blogs that only have one item in their sidebar. I absolutely love the focus. In this case, the reverse, selecting one or two items could be an effective strategy.
8) The Personal Touch
One negative impact of professional themes is that bloggers are relying on the theme graphics to communicate personality to the reader. This is a mistake. Blogging is still about creating one-to-one connections. Your readers want to know more about what makes you tick. They want to see pictures. They want to know that there is a human being on the other side of the screen.
Action Step: Look for ways to introduce yourself on your blog. You can create a quick bio and pic for your sidebar or record a video about yourself. Also look for opportunities to inject your personality into the color scheme and layout of your blog.
The Reverse: Remember to be tasteful. Too much personality can distract readers rather than complementing and enriching the experience. For example, I reviewed a blog that used a cursive script for headlines. The cursive font definitely reflected the personality of the blogger. But, the script made the headlines impossible to read. Like I said, be tasteful (and careful).
9) Know Your Business
This next point applies to small and large business owners. Your blog is an incredibly flexible and powerful marketing asset. However, you have to have a clear business model in order to fully use your blog to create customers. Simply using your blog for repurposed press releases will not work. Instead, spectacular blogs fit comfortably into the businesses’ larger marketer strategy.
Action Step: Get clear about the role your blog plays in your marketing strategy. Look at your editorial calendar and decide if your blog is helping your business. If it isn’t, stop blogging until you’ve thought through your strategy. Remember, blogs, social media for that matter can’t help a business without a great product, business model, or customers.
The Reverse: There is no flip side to knowing your business. Winging it is one the most efficient ways to end up in bankruptcy court.
10) Promote Like a Rockstar
The web is littered with failed blogs that shunned promotion. Their publishers felt that somehow, the 10 people that visited their blog would magically turn into 100, 1000 or 10,000.
These folks listened to idiots who encouraged them to not guest post. They refused to promote via their social channels (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn). They didn’t aggressively test multiple methods for attracting readers. Although they were passionate, their blogs still sputtered and died.
Promote your blog. Look for any opportunity to get your blog in front of readers. You can’t sneak up on blogging success. You have to go out and take it.
Action Step: Decide on a promotional strategy for your blog – today. Get help if you need it. Once you have your plan, start implementing it with conviction and focus. Learn from your mistakes, pivot, and try again. This is the only way to build a blog that gets’s noticed.
The Reverse: Can you over promote a blog? No. You can use bad advertising methods, be intrusive, or a jackass. But that is promoting badly. Don’t promote badly. Ok?
One Step at a Time
There is a lot here. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Focus on one step at a time and then move on.