"I don't know" seems to be an unsatisfying answer to this common Q; so, I chatted with a few friends about what's worked for us and what seems to be working for bloggers infinitely more successful than us.
Here are the seven big ideas:
1. Make a plan: Think of it as strategy-lite. A little guiding framework that sets expectations for you and your readers.
- Define your audience: Knowing who you're writing for helps determine what you'll write about.
- Choose your specialty: Great blogs have a tight focus (writing about world politics one day and your cat the next tends to limit your readership to your mom and your arch-enemy from summer camp).
- Select a “repeatable” URL: People talk about blogs online and in real life. Make it easy for them to tell someone about you - go to advergirl.com (that will redirect you to the URL mess you see above).
2. Prioritize content. It all comes down to what you write. Design, frequency, platform, syndication - all that stuff is good, but you win or lose audience based on how intriguing your perspective, how hot your finds, how smart your commentary.
- Invest in memorable pieces: Once a month, blow it out of the water. Use images, charts, original pictures, interesting frameworks.
- Share new ideas: Most of the social Web is collecting and trading. Adding new cards to the stack puts you ahead.
- Involve others: Can't think of anything good? Ask an expert. Post interviews, roundtables, content from conferences, guest blogs, etc.
3. Write the way people like to read.
- Have a big voice: Make your style of writing work as hard as the content of your writing
- Use lists and bullets: Blogs are the cud of media. People come to them for easily digestible ideas.
- Integrate multimedia: Because 20-somethings swear podcasting is fun
4. Build networks. Your best blogger friends are also your best syndication network. If you're an advocate of theirs, they'll be an advocate of yours.
- Link, link, link: Share the link love. Reference source material, link to similar content.
- Read and interact: Yeah, Twitter is easier, but you've got to dive into your overflowing RSS reader and see what other people are talking about if you want to be relevant and read.
- Respond to comments and ideas. Bloggers win loyal readers and ambassadors by being part of the conversation they start. (Yes, I know, I am terrible at this)
5. Make it easy.
- Prioritize subscription options: Let people subscribe in any reader, via any medium.
- Tweet the latest: Feeds can pile up. Tweet what you're blogging about for instant clicks. (Just make sure you tweet about more than self promotion, or followers will wander off).
- Work in series: It makes reference easy and gets your community involved in idea generation.
6. Tell people about it. Yeah, your mom will tell a few people about your blog, but mostly it's up to you. Go ahead, don't be embarrassed. Blogging isn't just for geeks anymore.
- Create anticipation: Let people know what's coming.
- Get podiums, bylines: Get your marketing department to pimp you.
- Add your blog address to your email signature
7. Understand the tools: Sometimes success is in the software.
- Pick a powerful engine: Servers like Typepad and Blogger are so chock full of interlinked content and reference that they're basically like steroids for search engine optimization.
- Use titles for search terms: Google loves the title field on blogs. Use it wisely.
- Track readership: Free reporting tools like Google Analytics and Feedburner make it easy to see which posts people loved.