If you have a free blog or if you have a registered domain where you host your blog there are some things your blog must have in order to succeed. These simple how to blog tips and tools are often overlooked but are very necessary. They bring traffic, give credibility, and improve the readers experience for your blog. Best of all everything in this article is free to use!
When you think about how to create a blog or improve it you must consider what it is your reader’s want available to them outside of the content itself. Tools for you and them are something you must utilize for your blog to become a succesful blog. You must also find ways to get traffic incoming to your blog while getting readers to come back and subscribe.
The first and most important thing for your blog is the quality content but this article is not about that, it’s about everything you need outside of the content. You provide the content, this is the article that will give you the tools to help make your blog like all the A-list blogs instead of a new blog.
Couple things to help make reading and understanding this article easier.
“Above the Fold” is everything that appears on the screen with out scrolling down, so first time visitors will see this stuff no matter what.
“Organic Traffic” is what Search Engine traffic is, it’s the traffic that comes to your blog because of search engines. So you didn’t pay for the traffic or have to self promote the blog.
One of the most important things your blog can have is many options to contact you directly. A simple chat with someone can make them a reader of your blog for life and cause them to recommend your blog to friends. It helps build trust if they know how to contact you and that you are a real person willing to help in the online world of anonymity. Plus it’s the great to provide your readers a way to give feedback. At least one of these ways should be Above the Fold.
Some recommended ways of contact are…
Absolutely needed to build trust and credibility with your readers. Make it a full page or just a short bio about you. It should include some sort of “credentials” proving you know what you are talking about in your blog. I.E If your blog is about baseball, your bio might say I was a umpire for 12 years.
You should also include something about yourself to give it a more “get to know me” type of thing, like I collect Rubber Ducks.
Not everyone likes to view a blog the same way. Making sure people can navigate anyway they choose is important for developing constant readers and for new readers to find what interest them. Some like to go ahead and view the most recent posts by using the archive, while others will start at the beginning using the same archive. But then others only are interested in one specific section of your blog. So they will use the Categories/Labels/Topic section to find all posts related to what they want to read about. It’s important to keep these two parts of your blog visible at the same time, so don’t space them out far from each other. Put one on top of the other, or side by side if you use multiple columns on your blog. If you use three columns where you have one sidebar on each side of the main portion where your content is, it’s nice to keep both the Archive and Categories at the same approx level of the blog. So people can see them both with out having to scroll.
This is another important function to give readers another way to navigate your blog. Many online users do not like to do a bunch of looking or sorting so they will use the search box. Most blogging services have a simple Google search box plug-in/gadget that you can add very easily. If you choose to go with a search box, make sure this is above the fold.
Personally I like to use the “Pax Search Tab” this helpful tab takes about 5minutes to set-up but it’s worth it. This tab attaches to the side of your blog (see my blog, right hand side for example) and it will scroll with the page staying in same position on the screen. All anyone has to do to use it is click the tab and a little window pops up, giving two options. Search this blog, or Search the web using Google, by default Search this blog is selected. You can customize the color of the tab and where it’s displayed on your blog. It’s a free service and very handy.
There is no doubt Twitter has taken over the world and not capitalizing on the fact that it’s the 14th most used site on the internet is a huge missed opportunity. So by taking 5 minutes to set-up a tweet this button for each of blog entry’s is well worth it. It’s a one time copy/paste code on your blogs template that puts a button on each one of your blog entry’s that quickly and easily allows anyone reading your blog entry to send out a tweet about it to all their followers. Read this blog entry about how to add Tweet This to your blog.
Social Bookmarking has become a normal way for people to say “I like this article or blog entry”. Outside of tweeting this is the most popular way for many to share and find relevant reading. Just like the tweet this button, the “add this” button is a simple copy/paste code into your template that puts a button on each of your blog entry’s allowing people to share your blog entry.
Many people choose to subscribe to blogs via RSS or Atom feed’s. Most templates now automatically have one of these features built in. But if your template does not, make sure to add it above the fold. Some also choose to subscribe via E-mail so giving them this option is nice as well. But it’s not as important in the early stages of your blog. Just make sure to put it on the to do list as the really good “auto responders” that handle subscribers via E-mail are paid services. So after your blog has been active for 6 months and you are considering taking your blogging more seriously to do some research on “auto responders”
There is “A-list” bloggers out there for pretty much every niche out there. Find them and link to them. Doing this does many things. It will help your readers know you are reading and learning from the best, you know that your blog offers something different then those blogs, and perhaps most importantly it provides great info to search engines like Google that you are a relevant blog and worth having in the search engine. The better your search engine ranking the more Organic Traffic you will get. You should link to 5-20 blogs/sites that are relevant to yours. Having a “Blogroll” gadget in your sidebar is the easiest way to do this as all you will have to do is provide the site link and the gadget will then display the blog/site name and the most recent entry of theirs.
A great site to find some A-List bloggers is IM report card, this Paid to Review site has about 100 of the top bloggers and names online that have been reviewed by the site itself and the users of the site. Along with providing links to the person’s blog. This site will pay you 50 cents per review you give on the site, so once you know some things about a person go back, write a review and earn some money while getting this free info.
This free service by Google is for you. It will give you key info, like number of visitors to your blog, where they came from on the web (search engine or link from what site), where they are located in the world and how much time spent on the site and what they clicked on your blog. This service takes about 10 minutes to set-up and another 24hrs before it start’s working. Then just spend 10-20 minutes a week looking at the data and finding out about things on your blog.
Getting traffic to one’s blog is arguably one of the hardest things. Getting Organic traffic is all about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is a complex thing to learn and even harder to master. Read this for a few basic SEO tips to know.
Outside of Organic Traffic there is self promotion traffic, traffic exchanges and residual traffic.
The best kind is residual traffic, where you put your blog link on a site and it gives you a steady stream of visitors wit having to do anything extra. A great site for this is Link Referral, You submit your blog link in the relavent category and people can visit your blog to help them get visits to their blog through the site. You can also log in each day and visit other blogs to help improve your blogs ranking on the site, you don’t have to, but it is recommened to get more traffic. Takes maybe 10-20mintues a day and will bring in a solid amount of traffic each month for you.
Self promotion traffic, where you promote your blog on sites like forums and social networks. Just utilize your signature to promote your blog or post in groups on social networks where appropriate and you will usually get some visits from each post you make in the short term and the occasional visit down the road. This form of traffic is best used in moderation for each site. To much self promotion comes across as spam and will generate very little traffic if seen as spam.
Traffic Exchanges, where you visit someone’s site in exchange for someone visiting your blog is usually not quality traffic in that the other people visiting your blog have little interest in your blog, they just want to get traffic for their site just like you do. But what this can bring is the occasional consistent reader. Your blog is bound to come across the screen of someone who is interested in what your blog is about and as such they will begin to follow your blog, if you gave them the ability to follow it.
For more Traffic tips and idea’s to improve your blog, I recommend reading this 5 part series on how to get referrals, It’s not directly aimed at blogging, but everything discussed there goes more in depth about many of the things discussed here. Part 5 of the how to get referrals series goes much more in depth about traffic