All about blogging – who is this for?
I have written this article about blogging to help readers and People Development Network members who either don’t blog or who maybe don’t find it a beneficial habit – YET! If you are a prolific blogger who understands wholly what I am saying, then forgive me, you can probably skip most of this. If you do read this muse, I hope at the very least it might give you some inspiration!
Why should you listen to me?
I am not an expert on social media. I am a leadership and people development consultant, who has spent 30 years leading and managing teams across a range of sectors. What has this got to do with blogging you might ask? Well when I set up my own business early 2012, I wanted to get my message out. I was told and knew on a level that social media was the key to this. However, I simply couldn’t make sense of it. My daughter who had at that time recently finalized her degree on communications and PR said to me. “Mum, you have to get blogging”.
Your blog will grow
Before I started blogging, I didn’t follow any blogs at all myself, so I wasn’t convinced. When I started writing I realized I really enjoyed it. The first blog I wrote took me about a week. I wrote and re-worked, proofread, then started again. I was very nervous! One day I took a deep breath and simply posted it. Some months later when I looked back, I cringed! Nevertheless, my blog was born. I actually wrote the blog for about 6 months with only about 150 followers, and about 20 visits per blog to my page. That was in the days that I had 109 followers on Twitter around 38 connections on Linkedin and well I didn’t really have a Facebook or Google + page.
I was just about to give up on social media and blogging when I found myself on a training course. On the course, I was given some basic information about how to manage my twitter account and to find people I wanted to connect to. It was then I began to learn about social media and the power of blogging.
Since that time, I have developed a social media network with around 250k connections. I’ve also created this online magazine which is averaging about 25k views a month and growing. I know in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t massive. But it is with this background, I thought it might be useful to share a little of what I have learned.
Many of the members of the People Development Network do blog. It is the members with blogs who get the absolute most out of their membership. There are three main benefits of blogging
a) A blog is like handing out an informative business card. Unlike your website, a blog can be shared and passed around by many people. It is therefore much more flexible than a traditional website.
b) Writing a blog gives you an opportunity to show you know your area of expertise. It sets out your stall clearly and gives people an opportunity to resonate with your own unique style and perspective.
c) A well-written blog and article can lead people to your website. By whetting their appetite it can make people want to know more about you and what you can offer.
d) Blogging keeps you focused on what’s important to your readers and potential clients. If no-one is reading your blog then you probably haven’t hit pay-dirt with it.
e) If you see writing a blog as a chore then you likely don’t understand the power a blog has to get your message out if it’s done in the right way.
What should I blog about?
Your blog needs to be able to hit your targeted market. In the early days of my own blogging, I mixed up my blog posts. I would like to say deliberately, but in all honesty, I had an identity crisis. Although I was an HR Professional and had worked in HR for the last 10 years, my heart and inspiration is about leadership.
Prior to becoming an HR professional, I had led and managed teams for 20 years. I was torn between writing about what I loved and what I thought was expected of me. I know, I know, classic mistake, but that was in the early days. Once I decided to write about leadership, I was set. Having said that, I blogged for a national UK bank, and they asked me to write about HR matters. In some respects that made it easier because I was very clear about what they wanted for their target market.
The most popular blogs are those that give away your expertise and knowledge. The more helpful and useful it is the more popular a blog will become.
I watch a UK based program called “The Hotel Inspector”, it’s one of the few programs I actually record to watch when I relax (not often I know). One of the things I like about it is that it has a consistent format. The Inspector picks a hotel which is not doing well, she discovers some shocking things. The hotel owner is upset about her findings and resists change. The Hotel inspector is dogmatic in her persistence, and finally, the hotel owner is won over. The owner grudgingly gives their thumbs up to the work of the Hotel Inspector and hey presto, their fortunes are turned around.
What attracts me to the program is that it demonstrates how even with something as simple as managing a hotel, so many people just simply cannot see what they are creating. I also love it when they have “light bulb” moments and they polish up their act.
So what has this got to do with blogging you might ask? Well, blogging is similar in that the format should be the same. In some respects, the structure and format aren’t too important, except that they need to be the same each time you blog. After all, if any of you have seen Disney movies, the majority of them have a very similar underlying format. Most of which include heroes, villains and overcoming adversity.
The trick to keeping the format the same is to make sure it’s the content and useful information which differs. The length and structure of the way it’s delivered should stay the same.
The most popular bloggers write most days. If you find it difficult to get motivated to write a blog post at least every week, then you need to change your mindset. Blogging as often as you can means you are consistently engaging and extending your reach. It’s like having a low-cost advert – out there across the internet every time you share. It’s been proven that the more you blog, the more people engage.
Apart from prolific bloggers like Seth Godin or Dan Rockwell, the majority of successful blogs are collaborative blogs. The Lead Change Group founded by Mike Henry, and now managed by Weaving Influence is one of them. While I love all of these blogs, and the many authors which participate in the Lead Change Group stage, I realised there was room for more global collaboration. This is why I set up this community. Our community blog is People Development Magazine. There is a huge benefit to collaborative blogging.
Like many people who are considering entering collaborative blogging, you might think that it will be at the detriment of making your individual blog a success. On the contrary, a collaborative blog will extend your reach and get you known for your expertise much more quickly. I know this because I joined and still support the Lead Change Group for a period of time and it accelerated my following and reach tremendously. (I don’t blog for them now, simply because I am setting my own community up and don’t have time, but I hope to do so in the future).
Collaborations do not duplicate blog posts, rather they post original full blogs from contributors. These are then linked to appropriate blog posts from the contributor site.
Guest posting has been the Holy Grail for many SEO experts and marketers in the past. Creating links back to your site was one of the criteria used by Google to determine PageRank. The greater page rank the more likely your target audience was likely to find you by searching via Google. (Or indeed any of the other popular search engines). While link backs still seem to have some credibility, it is diminishing. In fact, if Google suspects by your activity that you are simply writing guest posts with a view to increasing searchability, they will more likely put a black mark against your post.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t guest post, but do it because you want to write really interesting and compelling information for your target market.
Original articles are key
Guest posts are great to extend the reach of your blog and to engage with potential readers or your target audience. In the early days, I used to post my blog on many industry-specific sites. However, posting duplicate blog posts on an array of different sites actually were detrimental to my own blog. I was given advice sometimes in to change the header and footer paragraph and the title. I have since found out though that this tactic doesn’t work. When search engines find duplicate content, they only rank one of the posts. Guess which post doesn’t rank? Of course, it’s usually the bloggers’ post on their own website or blog which doesn’t get indexed. All you are doing by posting the same blog everywhere is pushing search engines away from it.
If you guest post, write an original article and make it meaningful and relevant, so people want to engage and find out more. Your host should post a useful and contact rich bio so people can get in touch with you. There is nothing wrong with featuring a snippet on your own blog though, with a link back to the original article.
Develop an email list
Don’t be too worried if you don’t get signups as one connection wrote me: “I can read your blogs without signing up because it’s freely available over social media” Having said that; it’s still good to develop a list of people who follow your blog. This should not be solely used as a lead generation list, because if you send too many sales or promotional emails, then they are likely to unsubscribe. Your list should be used to build up relationships. Remember they’ve signed up for your blog. That’s not to say, you can’t tell them about your products or services, just combine that with a larger proportion of useful and free information.
Be very clear you are only sending subscribers information they have signed up to get. I made a big mistake in the beginning because I got people to sign up for a free e-book. What I failed to tell them was that they were also signing up to receive regular emails about my blog. I assumed they would know that, but often people take the information you give them literally.
Add incentive’s for potential signups
There are pros and cons to offering someone an incentive to sign up for your blog. An incentive might be an e-book, an activity, a quiz, more detailed content, a video or anything that your target market might find useful and helpful. If your incentives appeal directly to your target market, then most likely they will stay, although this approach can mean some people will unsubscribe once they have their free stuff. This is fine because they weren’t in it for the long haul in any event. You will, however, attract people who will be interested in what you have to say.
Occasionally it’s good to simply give good information away, even without requiring signup. It’s a signal that you are actually there to help and not simply to gather a list of potential buyers. Some people do this as a matter of course and still manage to get plenty of people signing up for their blogs, or newsletters.
Share your blog
Share your blog widely. There are numerous social media platforms you can share to. Also, share to relevant groups on Linkedin, Join communities on Google+, groups on Facebook and company pages on Google, Facebook and Linkedin. Instagram and vine are great forums if you use lots of images. This can all be done easily via a social media dashboard. We use Sendible for the majority of our sharing. We also use Hootsuite for some sharing, which isn’t available elsewhere.
When I first started sharing my articles, and other people’s blog posts, I didn’t understand how important #hash-tags were. Once I realized the power of hash-tags, I rarely send out a tweet or a post without attaching one. There are different schools of thought about whether ordinary #hash-tags like #leadership are relevant or not. All I would say is that in my experience, once I started using #hash-tags, I literally got lots more people following me on twitter.
Social media share and follow buttons
If you do not have share and follow buttons on your blog, you are missing giving your readers the opportunity to share. I see many many blogs where the follow or share buttons are hard to find or don’t even exist at all. If you are growing the reach of your blog then you must allow people to share it.
Use RSS feeds
We share many blogs and it unbelievable to me, how many do not have RSS feeds. If you’re not sure if your blog has an RSS feed, then you can check here: http://feedvalidator.org/
If your blog doesn’t have an RSS feed then go back to your web developer or source and ask them to add one.
Maximise SEO via your blog
If you want people to find you, I cannot stress enough the importance of maximizing your blog for SEO. There are a number of ways you can do this. As our sites are built on word press, we use a great little plugin called Yoast SEO. This plugin basically provides a checklist which shows that your blog post is SEO friendly.
You can see the results of using great SEO on one of my blog posts, called How to Make Managing Poor Performance Easy.
I wrote this specifically for people who were searching for “Managing Poor Performance”. If in the UK and you search for this term on google, you will (hopefully) see this post on the front page, out of 14 million hits. Not bad? This particular post has been visited 10’s of thousands of times.
Google is changing and all its algorithms are designed to increase the visibility of great content. By rule of thumb, if you have a choice to make about being SEO friendly and posting great content, choose great content all of the time. Ideally become adept enough to get both right!
You need to be constantly evaluating how useful your blog is to others, and how often people are commenting or reading. On my actual blog, I don’t get lots of comments, but because I regularly share across Linkedin, I literally get hundreds of comments on that platform. In the early days, that used to bother me, but now I know that it doesn’t matter where the comments go, as long as people are engaging.
I have been blogging for 4 years now and took about a year to grow my subscriber list from 0 – 2k although I am averaging about 1k views per week just on my own blog post. I’m currently nearing 10k subscribers via email, and over 1200 onsite subscribers.
I also recycle my blog posts and have about 100 which I review and re-post, not as new posts, I just send out the link to the old post. This proves popular because many of my growing audience haven’t seen them. I try not to re-post blog posts which are not evergreen, in that they are related to an event or certain time.
If you haven’t got a blog yet
It is a lot of hard work, but it is worth it. If you have a website and not a blog, then think about incorporating a blog. It really does help to get your message out. If you aren’t able to incorporate one into your existing site, then I would recommend you don’t’ use WordPress.com or Blogger. While they are great for start-up blogs: they really do have some limitations.
To get set up with a self-hosted blog, there are some initial costs like a new domain name, and if using WordPress, investing in a great mobile, user-friendly theme. This can be a one-off cost of anything from around £40 to £100 depending on what you want to buy. After that, there are web-hosting costs. You will have an idea about how much this will cost you if your current website is hosted. It’s always good to get them hosted together. Setting up a self-hosted blog is relatively easy. I’ve set up a few now for clients, and I’m quite adept at it. However, if you aren’t keen on taking the time to pull it together then your web developer will probably design one for what should be quite a conservative cost; unless of course, you want something completely customized.