“Cheers to the New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah
The new year is a perfect time for a fresh start. How about your blog?
Whatever your results were last year, the new year brings new ideas, energy, inspiration and, with a bit of focus, even better results. Your blog could be one of your most powerful marketing tools if you put it to work.
In this article, we are sharing our 7 favourite new year blog improvements. You can do each one independently. And most of them can be done in less than one hour.
Ready? Let’s get started…
Clear the clutter
Your readers don’t need more distractions. Now is the time to remove low-value parts from your blog pages that pull your readers away from your content. Here are some examples:
Blogrolls. Your blog is not a library where people park themselves for hours and your readers don’t need a list of past blogs (we all know how to scroll down the page and click the “previous” button).
Tag clouds/lists. Unless you are getting thousands of readers a day you will want to direct readers to your latest blog post. Lists of tags (or blog categories) are for high-traffic sites that need to direct readers who are returning multiple times.
Social media widgets. An invitation to go to social media is an invitation to lose readers. If you want to invite readers to connect with you on social, add social share buttons to your blog with tools like sumome or social warfare, plus add the widgets at the bottom of your site.
Watch the numbers
You can’t make good decisions about your money until you know your current financial status, and you can’t get better results from your blog until you know what the current performance is. And the only way to see what’s happening with your web site is with Google Analytics.
To go one step further, log in to Google Analytics, Go to Audience>Overview then click the “Share” button in the top-right corner of your screen and set up an automatic monthly report to be emailed to you. This is a great way to get a nudge in your inbox every month to pay attention to your numbers!
Create a calendar
A great way to kick off the new year and to get your creative juices flowing is with a content calendar for the year. Think of this as a map of all the topics you want to share with your readers.
You can organize future posts around seasons, holidays, annual events, or product launches. This is also a great time to look at past blog posts and think about updating old posts that have done well (#4 idea) but are outdated.
The old is new again
One of our favourite traffic-building strategies is to update old blog posts that have done well in the past but are in need of a quick update. Not only can this be a big-time saver (compared to writing a completely new post), but you are building on the traffic the post is already getting.
The strategy is to give each article a quick make-over to update the content, refresh the look and then to republish with a new date. The goal is more traffic, plus you save a lot of time and effort, compared to starting from scratch with a new article.
This post explains in detail how to use this strategy.
Linking is the new Liking
Imagine you park your car, walk into a store, ready to buy an accessory for your computer, but there’s nobody there to help you. You’d probably leave. Right?
With most blog posts we look at, that’s what happens – over 90% of readers leave the site.
One of the quickest ways to get better performance from your blog is to add a call-to-action. The call-to-action (CTA) might be a simple link to your book or programs, or an invitation to learn more about your products, like “learn more about our custom leadership workshops.”
Keywords are the key
Confused about SEO, keywords, meta tags, and jargon concerning attracting more organic traffic? Well, it can be confusing – especially if you try to follow the advice of guru’s who spend their whole day thinking about this stuff. Or it can be really easy.
The basic concept of SEO for your blog post to include what the readers you want are already looking for. If your target market is searching for “leadership training’”, “roll-up garage doors”, or “Denver real estate lawyer” you need to include that phrase a number of times in your article (ideally in your headline as well).
A super-quick way to discover what people are searching for is to start typing a query into your search bar and then see what Google suggests people are searching for. You can also see a list of suggestions in blue at the bottom of your screen.
You can also use Google Trends to discover keyword phrases used in the past 7 days, month or longer.
Practice writing faster, better
When it comes to blogging, it’s more important to stay connected with your followers with regularly posted articles than it is to keep reworking an article until perfect. Learning how to turn a blog idea into a finished post faster and better will make it easier to keep up with your publishing schedule.
This article is an example: I wrote this over 3 mornings and for about 30 minutes each time.
Here are some tips on how to write faster and better.
- Start with your content calendar (#3, above). Having topics ready to go allows you to start thinking about the post – even taking notes – long before the article is due.
- Use a writing template. Every blog should flow from: attention, personal, promise, content, to call-to-action. Get your free copy of the template here. At Blogworks, our team all use The Ultimate Writing Template for most of our client’s articles.
- Only edit at the end. Each time you go to work on your draft post, avoid the temptation to edit what you’ve already written. The goal should be to first write what author Anne Lamott calls your “shitty first draft” and only then to go back and clean up your post.
- Write like you speak. A blog is a conversation where you solve problems or share topics of interest with your audience. The best blogs use a conversational style of writing (without a lot of jargon or “$10 words”) that makes the reading experience easy and enjoyable. Try recording your thoughts as you speak and then using a service like rev.com to transcribe your voice into a draft article.
- Ship it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how clever your ideas are or how amazing your solutions if you don’t, as serial blogger Seth Godin would say “Ship it.” Even if it means cranking out a 300-word muse about an article you just read, it’s better to stick to a regular publishing schedule and keep your followers coming back for more.