This is the sixth and final part of my 90 Days of Blogging Series.
Well, I think it’s time to wrap up my little series on blogging. And I thought I would do it with a bit of a catch-all lesson, hitting all the major tips and lessons learned that didn’t fit neatly into a previous category. So here we go:
7 random tips that can make your blog work better for you:
- Pay attention to your layout
I’m a big fan of 3-column blog themes. It just gives you more options when it comes to links and widgets on the side (see below). I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and from a simplicity standpoint, a 2-column layout is probably much better. But the 3-column gives you much more opportunity to put content and links above the fold (the bottom of the screen before someone has to scroll down). And I think that’s important. I like the one I’ve been using so far, but I think I might mix it up in the next week or so, give it a little different look and see what happens. The good news is you don’t need to bother with making a theme unless you really want to. There are plenty out there for you to use out of the box, especially with WordPress. Find one that fits with your personality, or topic, or whatever, and let the good times roll.
- What’s a blog without widgets?
“Widgets” is the all-encompassing category of links and fun stuff in the sidebars that makes a blog, well . . . a blog. I’m not a big fan of having tons of crap all over your page, but there are many widgets that can really make your blog pretty robust and drive more traffic. The musts you need are recent posts, archives, categories, an RSS feed subscription link, a search bar and links to other sites (your blogroll). Your blogroll is an important one simply because once friends see that you’re putting up a link to their site on your blog, they’re likely to do the same for you. I am pretty picky about who I put up there, but in all honesty, I should probably be a bit more liberal with it. By having all of these links on your site, easy to find, visitors can get around your site pretty simply, and they can quickly get a taste for what your blog is all about. But, I left out the most important widget of them all . . . .
- Make your top posts a top priority
I’m a big, big, big fan of having a “Top 3 posts” category. You can edit the number (to top 5, etc.), but I wouldn’t suggest it. Keep it narrow. People love”top” lists, and these are the links your visitors will most likely want to check out. Which means you put your best foot forward. And because it’s automated, that foot is determined by your readers, not by you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a post, thinking it’s awesome, only to see it surpassed by one of my more shallow posts like this one. But that’s OK – let the readers determine what’s the best, and then let people see it. It will attract them like nothing else on your blog.
- Link it up.
At least once a week, have a post that just shares links to great stuff you’ve come across. I call it my “Weekend Reading“posts, and I take the approach of just giving a brief description of several good reads I’ve found over a weekend. For one, your readers will love the occasional reference to other sites. For another, you’ll gain a couple new readers just because you link to their blog – they’ll have to come check yours out. I’ve probably gotten more new readers who actually comment by doing this than anything else. Word of caution, though: don’t do this too much. I’m not fond of blogs that just list long lists of links 4-5 times a week. That’s not a blog; it’s the yellow pages. Instead, you should consider this . . . .
- Don’t forget the commentary post.
What I call a “commentary post” is one in which you link out to an article you’ve read, then add a paragraph or two on your opinion of it, or some thought that reading it has sparked in you. In my mind, these are key to keeping your blog fresh and updated daily. None of us can write six paragraphs of good content a day. But most bloggers do read at least one thing every day that gets them going. So write about it. It’s a great way to keep your momentum going while sharing the link love with some great blogs our there and increasing your traffic. Here are a couple examples of commentary posts I’ve written.
- Leverage your time.
Most blog services allow you to write something and arrange for it to be published at some time in the future. On WordPress, it’s called the Post Timestamp. Use it as much as possible. Sometimes, your writing will just flow, so you’ve got to capture it. But if it’s not a timely piece, don’t unload 5 posts in a single day just because your brain decided to work overtime today. Space them out and set it up to where they all post at different times, say, over the next 2 weeks. Or save them in your vault of ready posts, and when the well is dry, you’ve still got something fresh to put up there (at least fresh for your readers).
- Capture your ideas.
Kinda along the same lines as the previous points, one thing I do quite a bit is that I simply save a headline and a link or single idea in a post and come back to it later. Because you don’t always have the time or the will to actually write about something at the time it hits you, but you know you don’t want to lose it. I probably have 10 posts saved right now in my WordPress backoffice, just waiting for me to figure out how to write about them. In the same way, have a pad of paper or audio recorder handy in the car, at the office, wherever. Stuff will start popping up from all over the place on what to write about, so capture just enough of it so you’ll remember it later, and then move on.