26 Ways to Bring Your Blog to Life
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
We all want more engagement on our blog posts. I mean traffic numbers are nice, but when no one comments or shares your posts, you just feel so alone. (Is anyone listening to me!?)
User interaction is the soul of a blog. Not only does it help build your confidence, but it could help turn your blog into a cash cow.
Here are 26 ways to bring life to your blog.
1. Post a lot. When it comes down to it, it's a numbers game. The more posts, the more chances for engagement. Cover a broad base of topics with varying degrees of depth. Sometimes a casual article with no depth works as a great gateway to more detailed articles.
2. Write titles for readers. Before you can get users engaging with your posts, you need to get them to read them. To do that, you need a catchy title they’ll click in the search results. This is why the sometimes controversial "link bait titles" can be so effective.
3. Optimize titles for Google and other search engines. Of course, to get your posts onto the search results where they’ll be seen, you need to optimize them for search engines like Google and Bing. Keep them short enough they aren’t truncated, include a topic phrase and be specific.
4. Pick popular subjects. Some – but not all – of your posts should be written on the most popular topics in your niche. Popular topics have people with strong opinions, and those people are more likely to broadcast their opinions.
5. Select niche subjects. Some of your posts should be written on narrow niche subjects that have small but dedicated followings. You won’t get broad audience engagement, but the interaction you do get can also be valuable.
6. Choose controversial subjects. Some of your posts should be written on subjects designed to possibly stir up controversy. Play devil’s advocate. Take the opposing viewpoint and get people talking.
7. Use casual language. The more approachable you seem, the more your users will approach you with comments. It will take time to develop a suitable casual voice, so don’t try to force it. That said, don't get sloppy. It is still important to have standards when it comes to grammar and spelling.
8. Ask questions that invite discussion. Don’t just toss out “any comments?” at the end of your post -- you will likely hear crickets. Instead, ask questions throughout, to encourage readers to say something at any point along the way.
9. Join a blog network. Particularly useful for new blogs, a niche blog network gives you additional exposure through a communal RSS feed and a shared, interested audience. You can always leave the network later, if the fit isn’t right or if it becomes detrimental.
10. Use prolific subheadings. In post formatting, subheadings are critical. Blog readers skim for value, so pointing out paragraph topics with subheadings is important.
11. Bold and italicize key points. Bold, in particular, is a great way to draw attention to particular sections of a post. Short, powerful sentences in bold attract attention and invite commentary. This format can also be used to divide up your text into subheads. Italics and underlines are useful as well. Colors can be used but do so sparingly, as you want to avoid making your post look like a typography nerd’s nightmare.
12. Use pull quotes for emphasis. Pull quotes is when you pull a section of your own text aside and emphasize it. Use it sparingly, for quotes that can stand on their own. These types of quotes can also be used on Twitter to engage with social-media users.
13. Include compelling images. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the world of blogs, this couldn't be truer. Make sure your images are intriguing, while also giving them context and an implied narrative of their own. Value in images comes from what they have to add to the content.
14. Consider a video series. Video is hugely attractive and it’s surprisingly easy to produce. Yes, you need equipment to get started, but the bonus to engagement is worth it.
15. Consider a podcast series. Podcasts need less equipment than videos, but they also require stronger writing or impromptu conversation skills. As a side benefit, podcasts open up your content to the audience on iTunes and other music services.
16. Thank users for insightful comments. Just like you don’t like posting blogs and having no comments, users don’t like their remarks to go unnoticed. Thank users for their comments. Avoid a canned “Thank you for your comment!” on every post. Instead offer a customized response to the person and his feedback.
17. Respond to questions or save them for later. When a user asks a question in your comments, try to answer it. If the answer is valuable clarification, add it to your main post. If it spins off into a related subject, save it for a future blog post. If appropriate, credit your commenter in your edits or new posts.
18. Include internal links to related posts. Go beyond the “related articles” box at the bottom of your blog. Add links throughout your content -- aim for one every 250 to 300 words -- to a relevant piece of related content, ideally on your own blog.
19. Run polls that encourage discussion. Asking for user feedback in your main text is transparent and not quite as beneficial as organic engagement. An alterntive is a poll, which allows you to ask for feedback without needing to explain your motives.
Related: The Rule of 5 for Bloggers
20. Contact fellow bloggers for collaboration. No engagement is more valuable than engagement from fellow bloggers. Comment and collaborate with each other in your blog comments. Share posts and build a network of insight and commentary.
21. Include a narrative arc. Where does your post begin? Where is it going? Where does it end? You don’t always need to tell a story, but your posts should always have a hint of narrative to compel users to keep reading.
22. Create a post series. A related series of posts, written to draw on the experience of reading previous posts, encourages users to go back and read from the beginning. Publishing a theme series on a regular weekly schedule also helps you build followers for a particular sub-brand of content.
23. Create a user-engagement day. Set aside a few hours on Friday to answer any and every blog comment that comes by. Set the topic by writing a special Friday post about the event. Keep up the event every week, so users know when they can be guaranteed to get some attention.
24. Write evergreen tutorials. Tutorials are the ultimate in value through text and adding images or videos make this how-tos that much better. Pick an evergreen topic -- something where the basic instructions won’t change -- to ensure minimal upkeep.
25. Make use of social-media trends. Facebook and Twitter both have active trend boxes to show you what topics are popular. Take advantage of any relevant, popular topic you can, as the audience is already there and interested.
26. Promote your authors. Adding a public face to your writing helps users feel comfortable engaging. (It’s easier to engage with a person than a brand, after all.)
Finally, don’t treat these tips as unbreakable rules. Some techniques apply best to only a few articles per week or per month. Don’t cram everything into one post and hope it works.