Anyone can start a blog, but making your blog exceptional is another matter.
Take any one topic, and you can be certain there will be thousands of people blogging about it.
Whether you’re a new blogger or have built yours up to have a substantial readership, everyone can benefit from reviewing how they run their blog and identifying where there’s room for improvement.
Here are 10 tips for polishing your blog.
1. Buy a domain name
Sure, you don’t need to have your own domain name when you begin your blog, but if you’re serious about building it up you should buy one before too long.
The best blogs are a brand, and how can you have a brand if your blog address ends in blogger.com? You’re advertising their brand, not your own, and you’re making your blog appear less professional.
However, if you purchase a domain name (which needn’t be expensive), readers will be seeing your “business name” appear in the browser bar every time they click your link, and it’s also a lot simpler for people to type in if they’re not coming to your blog via a link.
Having your own domain name also does more to put you on an equal footing with bigger names. It makes you seem more professional, whereas a blog host’s name in your address comes across as rather amateur.
If you want to be seen as a go-to authority and stand out in a very crowded field – any subject has thousands of blogs on it – then you need to pay a lot of attention to a professional appearance.
This will also be relevant when it comes to the look and layout of your blog, so you must invest time, effort, and even some money in maintaining a clean, professional look.
2. Be consistent
You probably start off intending to post every day, and then gradually tail off as you realize the commitment required to maintain that rate of output.
Do you really want to spend every lunchtime or evening coming up with material for the day’s post?
The risk is that you’ll burn yourself out, or bore your readers with hastily written content that doesn’t merit publishing.
The answer is consistency.
Many blogging experts value this as one of the top rules for bloggers. Even if you post just once a week, your readers will know when to expect, and they’ll also know that they can anticipate something that’s worth reading.
One other aspect of being consistent is quality. It’s far better to spend time working on a high-quality post than to rush out content that won’t appeal to your readers.
Just think of how many news outlets are full of content taken from other sources.
Do you like reading that?
Or would you rather see less content of higher quality?
The type of content is also important.
Readers want to know the kind of content they’ll find on your blog.
If you constantly switch around from one subject to another, especially if the different subjects are not connected, they’ll be put off by the fragmented nature of your content.
When you begin your blog, you’re probably all fired up with enthusiasm and sign up to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Your reasoning is that the more social media accounts you have, the more people you’ll reach. But this can mean spreading yourself too thinly.
If you concentrate on one platform to begin with, you can gradually build up your following there before adding other social media sites as your readership expands.
A slow expansion will take the pressure off you, as constantly posting on all sites, taking and adding photos, and thinking up tweets will take a lot of time that you probably don’t have.
If you do want to use more social media platforms, consider setting up auto-posts.
This can be a useful way of reaching interested people and letting them know that they can read a new blog post. Just try to make your auto tweets interesting, and change them every so often.
You can also retweet old tweets and links to archived posts.
But don’t try to use every social media outlet going; not only is it time-consuming, but social media can also be a terrible timewaster, as you’ll probably browse your timeline and look at other people’s links.
4. Refresh your content
Once you’ve built up sufficient content in your blog, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by updating old content.
It’s hard to constantly come up with new ideas, and reposting old content will allow you to add “new” material at very little effort to yourself.
This can also be handy for readers, as it will bring older posts that they may have missed to their attention.
It also allows you to get maximum value out of content that you’ve paid for, such as guest posts.
And since Google will regard it as new content, providing it’s sufficiently updated, you’ll be ahead in the search engine.
You can of course simply repost old material, but it will be more useful if you update with a purpose.
Check through your past posts and look for content that is still relevant but needs to be brought up to date.
Perhaps statistics have changed, or the topic is trending.
Simply adding popular keywords or a “how to” guide will provide you with a new post that will attract new readers and can still be relevant for people who have read it before.
Those readers will appreciate your attention to detail and keenness to provide them with updated information.
5. Use guest posts
In order to keep the interest of your readers, as well as attract new ones and build your blog, you have to continually post content for them to read or look at.
However, in spite of what the media would have you believe, the majority of bloggers are making little or no money from their blog and run it alongside a day job.
At times, they simply don’t have the time or energy to write for their blog, never mind come up with yet more interesting ideas.
And readers are fickle; they’ll soon move on to another blog if you’re not regularly updating.
What’s the answer?
By bringing in guest writers, you not only take the pressure off yourself, but also bring a fresh aspect to your blog.
If you don’t know any other bloggers who might like to contribute, turn to a site like peopleperhour and commission a guest post.
It’s a fairly inexpensive way to shake up your blog a little, avoid it getting in a rut, and keep new content flowing in.
6. Use analytical tools
Don’t try to imitate their content, but look at what they’re doing well.
Tools like Buzzsumo will help you identify what is working for them.
You can see which type of content is shared more, which social media networks are used the most, and whether longer or shorter length content is more popular.
You can even check which headlines are shared more than others – a very useful tip for helping you to write headlines that will grab attention.
Tools like this are extremely helpful as they will enable you to target your readers with the content that they most want to see.
There are also plenty of tools to help you manage your social media accounts.
Do you want to monitor social media for any mentions of your brand?
Or add designs and images to your posts?
If you have more than one social media account, it can be convenient and time-saving to bring them all together on the same dashboard, which can be done via a tool like Hootsuite.
You can also use tools to find out who your audience is, identify mentions of your brand so that you can respond with immediate customer service, and connect with influencers to share each other’s content.
7. Revamp your blog
Even the best blogs can get a bit tired-looking from time to time.
They also need to evolve.
You might start out with a clear perspective on your intentions, but will those always be the same?
Your blog might actually evolve organically and begin to take a different direction.
So don’t be afraid to give your blog a new look, change your approach, or add a new strand. Let’s say you write about cruelty-free cosmetics.
You could decide to write about other aspects of a cruelty-free lifestyle, such as non-leather shoes or vegan cookery.
As long as there is a logical connection between the different sections of your blog, diversifying can make a lot of sense and bring in new readers.
A change of look occasionally will also help keep your blog looking fresh.
Of course some of your readers won’t like any changes and may take a proprietorial attitude towards your blog; people often prefer familiarity.
But while you won’t want to alienate your readership en masse, you also need to make changes from time to time if you’re going to maintain your enthusiasm for your blog.
New look, additional sections, or cutting out content that you’re no longer interested in writing about – all of this will help to refresh your blog and keep you and your readers interested.
8. Incorporate videos
Blog readers love videos, especially when they show you ‘how to’ to something.
They’re also easy to share, which can help you reach even more readers.
Videos also take up less space on the page than an article would, meaning your readers don’t have to scroll through as much to reach the next post.
And perhaps most importantly for anyone trying to create a brand – they’re much more personal than the written medium. Your readers enjoy feeling that they’re getting to know you as a person.
If you’re trying to show people how to do something, for example make-up techniques, a video will get the idea across much more effectively than illustrations or descriptions ever could.
The technical side of making clips doesn’t have to be that difficult.
A decent webcam will allow you to record high-quality clips, which you can then edit using a software program.
Be sure to use good lighting (a photography lighting set can be relatively inexpensive).
Don’t expect to produce amazing clips right from the start; you can improve them as you gain experience. It’s also easy to post videos on your blog as most will have a simple video button.
Many bloggers make the mistake of writing their posts one at a time.
Then comes the day when inspiration completely deserts them and they panic.
Readers are expecting something new, so what do they do?
The answer is to have a list of ideas on the go, for which you’ll need to set aside some time to brainstorm.
Sit down with a big sheet of paper and write down anything that comes to mind.
You probably won’t use most of these ideas, but nothing is ever wasted – it’s just as useful to think of ideas that won’t work, and they may spark off better ideas.
Or you can go back to them later and see if they’re more relevant now.
Eventually you should be able to distill your brainstorming session down into a shortlist of topics you want to work on.
Then when you sit down to choose and write your next blog post, you’ll have several to choose from.
They could belong to a particular theme, or be completely unrelated to each other.
The important thing is to have plenty of ideas ‘in stock’ so that you don’t have to wrack your brains trying to think of something, anything, to write about – putting yourself under that kind of pressure is pretty much guaranteed to make you draw a blank!
10. Check everything
Checking your blog posts for errors might seem unnecessary, but if your readers spot any mistakes they will be only too keen to point them out, especially if there are any factual errors.
You’re trying to present yourself as an authority that your readers will want to turn to for information, so make the effort to read through your posts before publishing (or get someone else to check them).
It’s also a question of giving a good impression; the continual presence of mistakes suggests someone who doesn’t really care about their blog.
Moreover, the larger the audience, the greater the potential for problems.
You have to be careful that you don’t post anything that could get you into legal trouble.
So before publishing a post, read through and make sure that there’s nothing inappropriate or that you might regret saying.
Even if you remove or edit the post, you can be sure that someone will have screenshot it.
And never get into arguments with your readers; you won’t win anyone over, and will just be wasting your time.