There’s no denying that blogging has come a long way over the years. What just a few short years ago was seen as a tool for personal electronic diary keeping is now a powerful marketing tool. In the late 90s to around 2001 or so, people who called themselves diarists or journalists would keep account of their day, their feelings or the happenings around them in an online journal called a “blog”.
Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years after, becoming even more popular when early hosted blog tools joined the scene. Back then, I was still a teen and an up-and-coming content writer. I had a GeoCities website and yes, my own blog.
Some key milestones to blogging in those early days include:
- SlashDot, still a popular tech blog today, launched in September 1997.
- Open Diary launched in October 1998, soon growing to thousands of online diaries. It was the first blog community where readers could add comments to other writers’ blog entries.
- Brad Fitzpatrick, a well-known blogger started LiveJournal in March 1999.
- Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan launched blogger.com in August 1999 (purchased by Google in February 2003)
Early blogs and blogging tools gave the user more control over their website content and the ability to update regularly without the help of a coder or web designer. They also brought us tools to link to other pages more easily with things like permalink, blogrolls and TrackBacks. This made it easier to find similar blogs on interests you enjoyed. We also saw the development of community-driven web-rings and blog awards.
Now fast-forward to around 2005 where we get microblogging platforms like the very popular Twitter. The significant difference in microblogging and traditional blogging is the word count limits. Some key issues with microblogging are the privacy concerns and Twitter, FriendFeed and Tumblr are top of the microblogging list today. Plurk also has a decent following in US and Southeast Asia.
So how did we move from blogging for personal use to blogging for business?
Blogging for Business and Website Traffic
Now this brings us to today where blogging for business is commonplace. All the major household brands have a blog of some type and even small businesses are learning the power of blogging to build traffic and brand awareness. Having a blog is a way for you to directly connect with your reader. Early business blogs contained mostly industry news or site updates but over time, they also evolved into more detailed information.
The “big guys” as we call them like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s usually have multiple authors and an entire team working on their content strategy. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs have to handle this work on their own or with a very small team or hired freelancer.
Let’s take a look at some big brands and their blogs:
- Library of Congress
- Southwest Airlines
- Texas Instruments
You don’t have to have the money and the resources of these big brands to get people to read your blog but you can watch what they do and learn some valuable lessons from it. How are they marketing their content? How are they engaging the reader? Are they offering information that people actually want to read?
Getting People to Read and Follow Your Blog
Now here comes the real trick: Why should people care about your blog? Since everyone and their grandmother these days has a blog, why should anyone care about reading what you have to say? How will your blog even get discovered in the sea of content found today on the Web? How do you engage the readers to make them stay on your blog, share or subscribe and come back again?
The biggest challenge with getting people to read your blog is writing about things that they want to read. It sounds simple but it’s more complicated today than ever before. This is because the Internet has grown at such a rapid rate that there is now more content than ever before and a large percentage of it is not helpful at all.
So just when you think you’ve come up with a great topic, you do a search and find pages upon pages of the exact same thing. Now you need a new topic or you need to have a very unique and interesting spin on the existing topic. That idea you thought was so unique really isn’t and few, if any, are going to want to read it.
Then you add to the equation search engine ranking and SEO. Your topic needs to be valuable to the reader and it also needs to be optimized for top placement in the search engines in order for more readers to find in. Just a few years ago, SEO in blogging was as simple as putting a few select keywords in the right places. I had a very effective tactic that involved 3-word+ keywords use in the H1, H2, H3 tags and in the first and last sentence of the post. This formula when used with the right keywords could get a blog post to the top of search in a day or two.
The problem with this is that not everyone was publishing quality content. So when spammers found out they could use the same or similar equations, Google (and other search engines) had to do something to fix it in order to improve search results for the Internet user. There are over 250 variables in Google’s search ranking algorithms and they don’t tell us what they all are but they do give us some great hints and advice on how to rank well with quality content. If you want to keep up to date on what Google has to say about search practices and quality content, follow their blog.
Here are some brief tips on creating quality content for your blog:
- Ask yourself with each post what you have of value to offer the reader. If you cannot answer, then go back to the drawing board.
- Follow other top blogs in your industry. Don’t copy their ideas but use them as a sounding board for your own fresh ideas and to gauge what is popular with the community.
- If you can Google your topic and get search results, it’s probably not unique enough.
- Take a topic that’s been done before and find your own unique slant to it, personal advice or case studies for original content.
- Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box- or to throw the entire box away and do something completely different. Some rules are meant to be broken.
- Have fun! It sounds simple but this was the premise behind blogs in the first place. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing and enjoying what you’re doing, the reader won’t either.
In the end, it’s all about creating content the reader will care about. You need to give them a reason to care, a reason to read and a reason to return. If your content is not doing that, it will show in your engagement levels and your traffic stats. When writing your posts, put yourself in the seat of the reader. What compels you to continue reading a great blog post? What causes you to leave a comment or to share it with your social media networks? Are you giving your readers the same?
Blogging is quite possibly the most powerful content marketing tool available today if used correctly. What tips do you have for getting readers to come and to stay on your blog?