This is a very important post. If you want to get more business, feedback and recognition from your blog, this could be exactly what you need to know.
The post was inspired by an email I received from Shannon. She kindly gave me permission to share part of it with you. Here’s the core challenge she wanted help with, along with my answer and lots of tips and examples to help you build a successful business blog.
Here’s what Shannon wanted to know:
“I’ve been blogging for close to three years now. It’s been frustrating to say the least! […] I have no idea what I’m doing wrong and I’ve followed the advice from [she mentioned a very well known blogging site] totally. I’m just about ready to quit. Can you take a look at my blog and tell me what I’m missing?”
I did take a quick look at her blog and it’s exactly the same as countless other business blogs, following the same, general blogging advice.
Here’s what the challenge is and how to resolve it!
Blogging is exceptionally effective
I’ve worked in marketing since 1987 and nothing I have used, studied or witnessed, comes close to the marketing power of an effective blog. Period.
So, why has Shannon and the vast majority of business owners, seen such poor results?
Without doubt, the main reason is that blogging is often touted, incorrectly, as the written equivalent of painting by numbers. In other words, you follow a set of rules and success will follow. This myth persists because it’s repeated by well known bloggers, selling generic courses and programs on how to grow a successful business blog.
The polar opposite is actually true: The CLOSER you follow the same general format, rules and techniques as everyone else, the LESS likely you are to achieve anything worthwhile from your blog.
Here’s how I created one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs, using a more individual approach.
I didn’t SEO my posts
I decided to write for my readers, not Google. This gave me the freedom to express my thoughts, rather than SEO my thoughts.
Shannon’s blog posts are written using SEO software. This means they are often too long, just so she can reach her minimum SEO word count and keyword density. Posts that should be information rich and 250 words long, are filled with fluff to make them more SEO friendly. It has totally robbed her of her voice and individuality.
Google likes it. However, it reads like crap. As a result, Shannon attracts drive-by traffic, rather than client enquiries.
Tip: Read this – Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!
I didn’t guest blog
I focused on building my readership, by producing the most useful content I could and then made it extremely easy for people to share it.
This approach works even better today than when I started in 2008, thanks to the popularity of social networking sites.
Many bloggers waste their best material on other people’s blogs, because their blog guru convinced them it’s a great idea. Guest blogging is one way to build your readership, but certainly not the best. [Or the second best.] Shannon told me that she has guest blogged a lot, with nothing to show for it.
She’s not alone. People tell me similar stories all the time. And it’s heartbreaking.
The solution is to build your own platform. Put your best stuff on your own turf. If your content is useful enough, 1 reader will get you 1 more. Those 2 readers will do the same. Before you know it, by turning up regularly with useful information, you will have built your own community of engaged readers. A subset of them will go on to become clients.
Just don’t sell yourself short. Don’t be someone else’s unpaid content provider!
I removed comments
It was almost exactly 3 years ago, in summer 2013, when I removed the commenting feature from my blog. Blog commenting is a vestige from the days before social networks. It was also a huge time suck for me, as I often got 2500 spam comments a day.
It was still a tough decision though. The only other person I knew who’d done it was Seth Godin, and he had a very different reason. But it was the right thing to do. So I did it.
Back then, I was attacked. Social media gurus said you HAD TO have comments on your blog or it wasn’t a blog.
Today, the mood is changing.
Since I removed comments, other popular blogs including; Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt, have followed suit. Top news sites have done the same, including CNN, Reuters and ReCode. And they’re absolutely right.
My point is that you need to question perceived wisdom. Then if you believe something needs to change, do it your way. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you. Be prepared to lead. We need more leaders.
Shannon has comments enabled and she gets very little feedback. Many comments are from people trying to get backlinks or score free advice from her. This lack of so-called social proof, does nothing to enhance Shannon’s reputation. It also makes her blog look like a ghost town, when prospective clients check her out.
I didn’t pump my posts with buzzwords
Disrupt, ruckus, growth hacking, big data, intersection… buzzwords like those fail twice.
- Firstly, they make informed people cringe.
- Secondly, they confuse the uninformed. That’s a bad idea if you want people to understand your message!
Shannon’s blog uses lots of content marketing buzz words. This, combined with the keyword loading she does for her SEO, means readers have no personality to connect with.
I made 1 rule and stuck with it
I made a rule, which I have stuck to since 2008. It’s simply this:
I will only publish a post when I have something useful to share and I’ll make sure I find something useful, often.
This means I often write when it’s easier not to. I also update older posts daily, to keep the information relevant. Blogging is a primary business activity for me, rather than something I fit in. As a result, I write when I’m extremely busy, when I am tired and even when I’m not feeling great.
The Internet is packed with sites that offer largely the same, general advice on how to build a successful blog.
You should avoid it.
Their advice seems to make sense, until you consider that by following it, you become invisible – lost in an ocean of millions of other bloggers using the same, general advice.
If you’re following what they say, you will be able to identify with Shannon’s situation.
In short: Your blog needs to be as individual as you are. Otherwise, you’re invisible.
Tip: This post asks an important question: Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10,000 daily readers?