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Flogging a Dead Blog ?

“Blogging is dying.” Yep, you get that a lot these days. There might be a certain level of truth to that, but I believe, niche blogging is getting more and more popular. I find myself and people I know picking blogs that they like and sticking to them.

From the way I have seen blogging evolve in the last 5-7 years, the kind of blogs people subscribe to now are topic-specific rather than the dear diary types. If you are writing personal posts, it is very likely that they’ll reach people who know about it and a little further. This type of blogging has limited scope by definition.

Now, on the other hand if you have a blog that is dedicated to a specific topic, you are likely to attract and keep readers who are interested in that niche. Once a reader finds what he likes he is likely to return and/or subscribe to your blog to keep himself updated with what you have been writing.

That brings us to, “finds what he likes.” How do you make your posts likeable? How do you make readers stay on a little longer? How do you make sure they come back?

To answer these questions we can break the requirements down into a few categories.

Content:

So, let me ask you this, what are the kinds of blogs you would like to read? That is the kind of blog you want to write.

Passion:

If you observe closely the kind of writing you like, you will more often than not realise that the writer is interested in what they are writing about. They are passionate about their writing. Similarly, your readers can make a similar deduction about you. If you are writing for SEO or writing for the sake of writing, your readers will be able to tell and you will sooner rather than later, lose them.

Grammar and Language:

It is needless to say that for most serious readers, SMSese, typos, grammatical mistakes are a huge put off. More than being a stickler for language, it is about what they read about your attitude towards attention to detail. So yes, all those rules apply –

  • Use one voice – active voice rather than passive voice.
  • Pick first person, second person, third person and stick to it.
  • Use one tense.
  • Spell check.
  • Write short sentences.
  • Break longer passages into logical, short paragraphs.
  • Summarise your post in the first and the last paragraphs.

Quality of content:

Once again these are the most obvious ones. And some not so obvious.

  • Know what you are writing about and why. Don’t ramble, stick to the point.
  • Tell stories. Try to convert whatever you are writing about into a relatable story.
  • Keep the tone conversational. Use of first person really helps here.
  • An oft-repeated but can never be stressed enough tip – end your post with a question. Or better yet make the title of your post a question which encourages readers to answer it.
  • Your content has to be one or more of the following to keep readers engaged: entertaining, insightful, educative.
  • Don’t get preachy or write in a high-handed manner. That is surely a put-off.
  • Use humor. A smiling reader is certainly more likely to come back.
  • Use images. A picture, is certainly, worth a thousand words.
  • Use memes. They entertain and at most times you can relate to them – that’s two birds with one stone!
  • Use videos. Video is the “in” thing. Make most of it. Of course, keep them short and don’t bore the reader with a droning voice. But you can use music, call-out buttons and other tools to make the experience an enriching one.
  • Use current events. Tying in contemporary topics to your topic makes the reader more interested and your post will be more relatable.
  • Use pop culture references. When has a movie/song/TV serial reference in a mundane topic failed?
  • Attempt at bringing in new insight to the topic – try to bring an “aa-ha” moment to the reader.
  • Make sure you give credit for the material you use.
  • Be honest, be genuine. We all detect fake real quick, don’t we? Well, so do our readers.

Tips on content quality:

Here are some things I have seen work personally as I have written over the years (versus gathered from experience or from reading other posts) –

  • When you are being witty, discard the first two thoughts that come to your mind. Those are most likely the usual jokes people would crack. For example, an obvious pun on the name of a movie when you are writing about the movie is most likely going to be done by at least five other people.
  • Make at least one line in each paragraph interesting.
  • Create controversy. While I didn’t go out an create controversy intentionally, I noticed controversial posts – where I had an opinion contrary to what was held by public at large or posts that people had strong opinions on, got a lot of traction. Be careful, not to pretend and let the debate be genuine because like I said, people see through fake.

Kind of content:

Some content is more prone to likability than others.

  • Lists. They never fail.
  • “How to” posts. People love a quick guide on something they are stuck with. Keep it simple.
  • Series posts. Having a series of posts gives lots of scope to generate and retain interest. Also, readers will go back and forth amongst the posts making your blog a lot more sticky.
  • Introduce games/puzzles. Like say an A-Z of a sub-topic in your niche. Or having readers make their top 5 list about something or the other related to your topic.
  • Contests. Every once in a while, it is a good idea to run contests so the reader gets something tangible out of your blog.
  • Every once in a while, ask for a feedback. Nothing more valuable than the reader feeling like they can opine about your opinion.

Logistics:

  • Write consistently. Sure, people like unpredictability, but you expect your newspaper to arrive daily and your monthly report to arrive monthly. Similarly, have a rhythm for your blogposts, so readers know when to expect them.
  • You can try involving your readers in decisions related to the blog. For example, you can have a poll to decide on a colour change on your blog. This makes the readers feel valued.
  • Get the readers excited about your next post by announcing what’s coming up. Much like a “coming up in next episode” of a TV serial.

Interaction:

  • Engage with comments. Make sure you are around to reply to comments. If a reader is taking time to leave a comment, you better make time to respond.
  • Don’t give a cookie-cutter, pre-drafted response. Spend time to make it a thoughtful reply, that turns a one-off comment into a conversation.
  • Make it easy to comment. Do not have thousands of impediments towards a reader leaving a comment.
  • Make it easy to follow-up on comments. Have an option for the readers to receive notification if the post receives more comments and so on.
  • Get commenters to talk to each other by tagging them together or pointing one reader to another reader’s comment.
  • Invite future comments by asking the commenter a question in your reply to their earlier comment.
  • Start a healthy debate.

Layout and Technical:

  • The layout certainly has to be easy on the eye.
  • It has to be easy to navigate.
  • Use your sidebars wisely. The content you link to from the sidebars should be interesting.
  • Display posts related to your current post, so similar content is handy.
  • Display search box well so that people can find what they are looking for easily.
  • Use only excerpts of posts on main page. This way, the reader has access to more posts when they land on your main page and they can click on to read what interests them.
  • Subscription to the blog should be made easy.
  • Like mentioned earlier, it should be both easy to comment and to follow-up on comments.
  • Use internal linking. It keeps the readers on the site longer.
  • Open external links in new window, so the reader is not steered away from your blog.
  • Speedy site. No one has the patience to wait around for a site to load. Can you?

You:

The mother-of-them-all requirement to engage your readers is to create your own style, have your own voice. It is your blog. You are creating a brand, it should have recall value. Think a lot about what will make your readers come back not just once, but over and over again.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there’s no 1000-word advice for you to pick that up from. That voice can come only from within.

* * *

We surely must’ve missed something. What tip do you have for us? What’s it that you do to keep your readers coming back? How do you make your readers stick? What makes your blog tick?

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

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    Flogging a Dead Blog ?

    “Blogging is dying.” Yep, you get that a lot these days. There might be a certain level of truth to that, ...
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