Mayday is a boat’s distress signal. To celebrate May 1st, here’s a blogging 911 to give you the answers to the top-twenty, distressing, blogging questions.
- Help! My blog needs goals. Like any marketing or other business strategy, blogs need objectives that answer the question: “What do I want to achieve with this blog?” These blog goals set the stage for developing your blog strategies. They provide the basis for setting up your blog and should relate to the metrics you use to track your blog’s progress.
- Help! What should I call my blog? For your blog’s name you can use your own name, your company’s name or a made up name.
- Your name. Using your name, as I do, supports your personal brand. The drawback is that it’s difficult to grow by letting others guest post or share blogging duties. This isn’t an issue for company blogs.
- Unique name. Create a name associated with your blog that gives readers insight into your content. High profile examples are Copyblogger and Problogger. As a business, you can use a related name and integrate it into your overall website. Buy the URL to ensure competitors or angry customers don’t. Examples are Blendtec’s Will It Blend and Stacks and Stacks’ Clutter Control Freak.
- Tagline. Support your blog’s name with a short tagline. For example, I’m an Actionable Marketing Expert. As my tagline implies, I provide marketing information that readers can use.
- Help! Should I host my own blog? While a free blog on WordPress.com or Blogger seems alluring cost-wise, if you’re serious about blogging, host your own blog. It’ll cost about the same as a cup of coffee per week over the course of a year. Hosting your own blog requires buying a domain name (i.e. URL,) opening a web hosting account and installing blogging software. If your blog is part of your business strategy, integrate it into your business’ website to support search optimization.
- Help! How do I make my blog secure? Before you naively think I don’t need to worry about security, realize that you must protect that blog that you’ve worked hard to build. Here are three steps to follow:
- Keep software up-to-date. Older software versions mean hackers have had time to find and exploit weak points.
- Create usernames that aren’t obvious. Other people shouldn’t be able to guess usernames such as Admin or Editor.
- Use strong passwords. Make passwords difficult to guess using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols and change them regularly. If you’re in an office, don’t make passwords so difficult to use that people leave them on post-its on their desks. (Yes, people really do this!)
- Help! Do I need a theme (and what is a theme anyhow?) A blog theme is a framework that provides the skin of how your blog will appear to the public. It contains three major components: page layout, design and user experience. Bloggers can either adapt a free theme or purchase a premium theme. Search Google for free options. A popular paid blogging theme is Thesis. In either case, adapt the theme to your blog design otherwise it looks like no one’s home.
- Help! What do I do about blog design? Blog design is an important element to create branding whether it stands on its own or is an extension of your business. Here are twenty blog design elements to use as a checklist.
- Help! who’s going to write the blog, one person or a group of people?
- Individual blogger. You create all of the content. The blog provides a platform for your point of view.
- Group blogs spreads the workload across two or more individuals. This works well for many business blogs and can showcase different aspects of the organization. For group blogs, an editor is useful to ensure posts are organized, timely and maintain a consistent voice. Include bylines and author profiles for each contributor complete with photographs and their social media links.
- Help! My blog needs content. Blog content should relate to your blog goals. What information is needed to attract an audience to achieve your objectives? Create a list of topics (and/or categories) that need to be covered regularly. What are prospective readers looking to find?
- Create an editorial calendar around the major topics to ensure they’re covered routinely. While many bloggers recommend writing when the spirit moves you, you must provide information your readers want on a schedule so they develop the habit of visiting your blog.
- Combat the inevitable Blank-Blog-Post-Syndrome with these tips to combat this drought of ideas.
- Use these 125 free blog topics and 99 free blog titles.
- Help! Can I rant? Take a deep breath and walk away from your computer when you’re furious at someone or something. Let the issue rest because your readers will smell your anger. Once published, your angry blog post will endure. To avoid issues, have a post or two in reserve for this type of occasion so your audience doesn’t know your inner feelings.
- Help! How do I optimize my blog for search engines? Blogs support search optimization (SEO) both directly and through plugin technology. Choose top-level categories and tags to reflect the keywords for which you want to appear in search engines. Don’t over pack your posts with keywords. It’s more important to make your posts readable for humans (or no one will read them.)
- Help! What do I do about links? Links are an important element of blogs. They give credit to the originator of an idea or post while providing additional information in a condensed format and support search optimization.
- Internal links connect to you past posts, pointing interested readers to related articles and giving evergreen content new attention. They support search optimization by showing how your content is related.
- External links provide context as well as identifying the original source of content. They give readers a background to the public discussion that you’re conducting on your blog. When you create external links, have them open in a new window so that readers maintain a connection to your site.
- Help! How do I use other media? One of the major strengths of blogs as a publishing and social media platform is that they can accommodate other social media formats such as photographs, videos, audio, PDF, and PowerPoint presentations. If you use other people’s content, make sure that you have the right to do so. For example, I use photographs from Flickr.com that have a creative commons license allowing permission-free, commercial reuse, provided I give proper attribution to the photographer or copyright holder.
- Help! Do I have to register my blog? By registering your blog with the major search engines you let them know it exists and where they can find your sitemap so they know what to index. While you’re not required to register your blog, if you don’t, it might take sometime before the search engines find it.
- Help! How do I handle reader comments? Comments make blogs a conversational social media platform. Some bloggers close comments after a specified period of time to force conversation to current posts.
- Moderated comments require approving each one separately. In this case, outline the circumstances under which you won’t approve a comment. Reasons include foul language, spam and blatant self-promotion. Approve comments containing dissenting opinions and respond to them.
- Unmoderated comments are approved automatically. You can use filtering software to ensure that it’s not a bot.
- Forum. If your topics encourages broad discussion, install a separate forum to allow independent, threaded conversations.
- Help! How can I get reader comments? Every blogger wants to have reader comments. Comments give bloggers a sense of validation that people are taking the time to read their blog. Among the top ways to get comments are:
- Have a strong call-to-action with a related question at the end of your blog. Your readers may not know what to do. Remember that most readers will lurk.
- Respond to comments. Answering comments that are more than just “Great post” with thoughtful answers encourages other readers since you show that you’re listening and interested in their opinions. Of course, your response should be more than “Thank you for stopping by.”
- Have a social media tribe. One way to ensure that you get comments is to have a group of blogging friends and you all comment on each other’s blogs.
- Comment on other people’s blogs. This is a longer-term strategy and requires showing up regularly. Here’s blog commenting advice.
- Realize there are other ways to engage with bloggers.
- Help! How do I integrate social media functionality. Simplify social media sharing for your readers by adding relevant buttons. The main options are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can send a feed of your articles directly to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or craft an individual blurb for each post. All three of these services provide widgets for creating buttons linking to your profiles.
- Help! How do I distribute blog content? In addition to social sharing, allow registration for email and RSS feeds. These can be supplied via Feedburner, that’s part of Google. Use appropriate icons and a call-to-action to encourage sign-ups. If you’re a company blogger, promote your blog via your corporate communications vehicles including signature files, website, emailings, offline communications and in-store signage.
- Help! How do I build my blog traffic? Building an audience for your blog takes time and hard work. To ensure success, leverage a variety of tactics while minimizing issues that prevent potential readers from following you. Here’s a list of twelve blog traffic building tactics and another list of fifteen traffic building tactics.
- Help! How am I doing? Take a tip from Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and always ask how your blog is performing. In the early beginning, do yourself a favor and don’t check your stats since it takes time for a blog to gain traction so constantly reviewing results can be discouraging! For your blog tracking, here are forty blog metrics to monitor. For analytics, install Google Analytics, a free metrics package. Check also with your web hosting company since they typically provide tool for analyz and monitor your server logs via your hosting firm’s control panel.
Regardless of whether you’re a new or experienced blogger, periodically assessing the factors can help you keep your blog on track to expand.
What else would you add to this 911 blogging list to help and support bloggers? Please include your questions and advice in the comment section below.
Here are some other blogging related articles to help you.
A big Thanks to my webmaster, Larry Aronson, for his help with the technical side of this post.
For additional help, join Mack Collier’s BlogChat on Sunday evenings at 9.00pm ET. (BTW, Mack’s blog always has useful advice.)
Photo credit: DBKing via Flickr