May 10, 2011
I started blogging on February 18, 2005. It was on blogspot, and my first post was entitled, Do You Make More Money as an Editorial Freelancer When You Specialize? Oh my, the lessons I’ve learned since then. If I knew even half of what I know now, I would probably be earning three times what I earn now from blogging. But, it’s all good.
33 Traffic-Generating Blogging Tips for Freelance Writers (and Anyone Else Who Wants to Succeed at Blogging)
Following are 33 things I’ve learned since I started blogging over six years ago. Whether you’re new to blogging or are more experienced but still aren’t where you want to be, the following blogging tips will help you get more traffic (which leads to more leads and sales).
1. Get a professionally designed blog using up-to-date web design technology.
For years, this site (my blog) was designed using FrontPage, a now-obselete software. Today, the online blogging software of choice is WordPress. In three years, who knows what it could be. The bottom line is, you need to stay abreast of technology and move with it.
2. Get your own domain name; don’t blog on free domains like Blogger and WordPress.
Why? As I recount in the post, 7 Things You Must Know Before Moving Your Blog, you could one day log on to find all of your content – and your hard work – gone. This creates a slew of actions you have to take – most of the time consuming, and some of them expensive.
If you continue to blog on free platforms, you run the risk of being suckered out of a helluva lot of time and/or money. Just trust me and register your own domain name and have it hosted independently with your own host company. You’ll be so happy you did.
Much like brick-and-mortar businesses have regular business hours, your blog is an online business. Hence, keeping “regular business hours” (ie, blogging on a schedule) will help build readership/a blog audience faster.
4. Gather subscribers.
To do this, sign up with a newsletter distributor like AWeber. One reason you want to do this is you rely less on traffic from sources you can’t control (eg, search engines) to traffic you can control, ie, those who’ve freely given you their information and WANT you to contact them.
I learned how valuable a lesson this could be when I was falsely accused of copyright infringement and had my sites taken offline for almost two weeks. As I make my living completely online, I was able to get notices out to my subscribers about how to contact me, how to continue to purchase Inkwell’s products and much more.
I would have been royally screwed if I didn’t have this “backup measure of traffic generation” in place.
5. Create original content.
I used to post my content on places like AssociatedContent and EzineArticles. I stopped doing this a while ago. And boy am I glad I did. In light of Google’s recent algorithm search change (ie, the Google Panda Update), all content on your blog/website should be original (and in depth, and useful and a whole bunch of other stuff).
Learn more about SEO writing guidelines according to Google in the Web Pro News article subtitled, 23 questions to ask yourself about your content quality.
6. Create more in-depth posts.
Short, regurgitated articles won’t cut it anymore. As stated in tomorrow’s blog post (5/11/2011) on SeoWritingJobs.com entitled, SEO Copywriting Tips: 23 Questions Google Says SEO Copywriters Should Keep in Mind When Creating Content:
While length is not the sole indicator of quality content, it is one – one that Google is paying attention to. In fact, some blogs/websites require short posts by the very nature of their subject matter (eg, a blog that posts stock updates) . . .
BUT, in general, it is hard to give “helpful specific” in 50 or 100 words. This is why some internet marketing experts state that blog posts should be at least 400 words, with 500 or more becoming more the norm for many.
If you comb through this site, you’ll see that many of the posts run to 1,000 words or more. A rule of thumb to follow is solve a problem for the reader; don’t just rewrite stuff that can be found on a zillion other sites on the web.
7. Quantify what you say in your blog posts by citing noted industry sources.
One of the SEO writing guidelines outlined in the Web Pro News post cited in #5 here goes to the heart of this. It states, “Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research (emphasis added), or original analysis?
Don’t just state something – back it up with quantifiable research. This gives readers value because they don’t have to just take your word for it. They can dig deeper if they choose to.
8. Monetize where you can – but don’t overdo it.
Readers are accustomed to being advertised to on the web. But, they don’t take too kindly to having the ads shoved down their throats. Your ads should not distract the reader from what they came to your blog for – to get information.
Always remember this.
9. Realize that blogging is part of your job as a freelance writer.
I had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago – and I’m embarrassed to admit that it just occurred to me because I’ve been blogging since 2005. What was it? Quite simply that blogging is an important part of my job. Why was this such a realization for me?
Because for the longest time, I thought of blogging as something “I’ll get to if I have time.” But, particularly as I’m a product producer (ebooks/seminars/workshops) and promoter (affiliate marketing) – the dispensing of information is a critical part of the internet marketing sales cycle for me.
In fact, one could argue that web marketing begins and ends with content creation. And when I say content, I don’t just mean the written word; I mean video marketing, podcasts, newsletters, special reports, etc.
And I see it in my sales – if I don’t constantly create useful content, my sales reflect it.
So as a freelance writer, when you sit down to blog, don’t think of it as a side activity. Think of it as giving current and future customers the information they need to make critical decisions about your product/service.
10. Don’t be afraid to go “off topic.”
It keeps life (and your blog) interesting. It gives current and future clients more insight into the person behind the blog. And you just never know, one of those quirky posts that have nothing to do with freelance writing can be just the thing that lands you a new client/customer.
Note: Be careful not to go off topic too often. Keep the primary goal/niche/target market of your blog front and center.
11. Put YOU in your posts.
What I mean by this is, give a tone to your blog. I touch on this in a guest post I did for Copyblogger entitled, 3 Things to Consider When Deciding How Long Your Blog Posts Should Be, writing:
Bloggers usually blog for a while before they think about an intangibles like setting a tone for their blog. However, if you’re serious about making money from blogging, then you are going to have to eventually turn your attention to this.
Tone is important to how long your blog posts will be because they determine how you talk to your audience, not just what you talk about.
More important than this when it comes to tone though may be more aptly referred to as “setting a tone” for your blog. I tend to write like I talk and also from personal experience. This makes my posts wordy, usually no nonsense, sometimes quirky and sometimes with a potty mouth.
See what I mean?
12. Don’t strive for perfection.
If you’re pumping out blog posts on a regular basis – AND writing for clients AND perhaps writing and self-publishing your own ebooks AND responding to comments AND engaging in social media (see what I’m getting at here) – you’re going to have errors.
I ran across a post ([Why] Writing Without Typos is Totally Outdated) on the uber popular blog BrazenCareerist.com by Penelope Trunk that put it best. She wrote:
Will everyone please shut up about the typos on blogs? Show me someone who is blogging every day and also complains about someone’s typos. Just try. See? You can’t. Because anyone who is trying to come up with fresh ideas, and convey them in an intelligent, organized way, on a daily basis, has way too many things on their plate to complain about other peoples’ typos.
Some people take pleasure in pointing out the mistakes of others; it happens to me a lot. So when I read the post by Penelope, I thought, “Thank goodness someone said this.”
I mean really, if you’re writing 3,000 to 10,000 words a day (which I do on a regular basis), you’re bound to make mistakes. Every blog post is not going to be perfect, so don’t kill yourself trying to make them so.
13. Ignore the “rules of blogging” – there are no set ones anyway.
If you’re a freelance writer, you’re already somewhat of a rebel because you’re defying the “traditional” routes of employment. Don’t be afraid to continue that “life theme” when blogging. When you blog, YOU set the rules.
14. Read the blogs of other freelance writers – especially those you tend to disagree with.
Again, it keeps life interesting and is great fodder for inspiring posts for your own blog – eg, I respectfully disagree with what [insert blogger name] said because of the of the following.
Some great blogs to start with (and you’ll probably agree with almost everything they have to say) are GetPaidtoWriteOnline.com, CopyBlogger.com, FreelanceWritingGigs.com and FreelanceSwitch.com.
15. Keep an idea file – you never know when you’ll be hit by a brilliant idea for a post.
Ideally a tape recorder you carry with you everywhere; keep it by your bed at night, in your purse during the day; and/or in your car at all times.
16. Write down ideas for blog posts as soon as you can.
Piggybacking on #15, I don’t care how much you tell yourself you’re going to remember, you just won’t – especially if you’re over 35 (sorry my generation; you know it’s true).
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17. Don’t be afraid to take a break; but let your readers know why and for how long.
Sometimes, life dictates that you be away from your blog – birth of a child, honeymoon, vacation, etc. It’s okay. Your readers don’t mind. But, respect them enough to let them know you’re going to be away for a while.
This is particularly important if you take the suggestion in #3, which is to blog on a schedule. Even if you don’t want to give a formal explanation, just let them know you won’t be posting for a while and an approximate date of when you will start posting again.
Just because blogging is a new medium doesn’t mean you shouldn’t employ old-school manners, no?
18. Link to other quality blogs as often as possible.
This can not only help your search engine rankings, it’s just good blogging technique. The reason is, you can’t possibly cover every scenario/topic/nuance of your niche – I don’t care how qualified you are, how great your team is and/or how popular your blog is.
Practically no topic under the sun is new; hence, there’s going to be some blog post by some other blogger in your niche who can add value to a post you create – if you have the foresight to link to it.
19. Use social media to promote your posts – it’s no longer an option y’all.
It took me forever to get into the swing of social media. I was blogging three years before I opened a social media account (Twitter). Now, I can’t imagine NOT engaging in this medium.
Like quality content creation, social media is a vital part of blogging. And it all boils down to content distribution, as in, it’s another way to distribute your blog’s content – and it’s free, quick and easy. For example, I have over 3,000 followers on Twitter.
Would you miss a chance to have 3,000 or more prospects be exposed to your blog if it took you less than 10 seconds to reach out to them? Of course not.
Well, this is how easy interacting on social media is. Of course, it’s a bit more involved on an ongoing basis, but this is how easy it is to get the word out about a new post when you engage in social media.
20. Know your audience.
The first rule of knowing your audience is that your audience is not “everyone.” Decide who you’re talking to before you begin your blog (if you’re starting a new blog); it’ll make it that much easier to write content.
A Note about Your Target Audience: If you’ve already started your blog and can’t answer right off the top of your head who your target audience is, then it’s time to put some thought into it and start crafting content that speaks to this base. Otherwise, your content is likely scattered, which means it’s probably not getting read a lot (and you’re not generating leads and making sales — or at least not as much as you could).
Let me give you an example from personal experience.
When I first started my minisite, ForeclosureBusinessNews.com, it was just to promote an affiliate line of products. But when I decided to expand the content beyond this product line, I had a hard time figuring out who to talk to, eg who the blog’s audience was going to be beyond foreclosure cleaning business owners.
Then one day a slogan hit me, “Foreclosure News the Average Joe Can Use!” THIS was my target audience – homeowners who were going through or facing foreclosure. Once I honed in on exactly who I was talking to, it was easy to figure out what to say.
21. Solicit guest posts.
It’ll cut down on the writing you have to do, and give your blog some much-needed variety.
FYI, this site accepts guest posts. I look forward to reading yours.
22. Don’t be afraid to turn down guest blog posts if they’re not up to par or are off topic.
Following up on the last point, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by those who want to submit a guest post that has nothing to do with freelance writing. This is especially true since the recent Google algorithm change, which has forced webmasters to focus on creating unique, quality content like never before.
It’s like writers have come out of the woodworks offering to “write for free;” all they want is a link back to their site to be included. And of course, this is fine. But I’m always wary when I get one of these “form letter” requests to write for free for my site. Why?
In the last two months or so, I’ve turned down way more guests posts than I’ve accepted because the quality of writing is poor and they are so off-topic that I wonder if they even read Inkwell Editorial’s guest post submission guidelines – which are pretty straightforward.
One of the Best Guest Post Submission Tips I’ve Ever Run Across
Submit your best stuff; don’t hold on to it for your blog. As James from MenwithPens.ca explains in Guest Posting: Finding the Motivation to Write:
It isn’t as much fun to write guest posts. It creates pressure. It can be a chore. Many writers feel they shouldn’t give away something that good, either – a truly great post should benefit their blog, not someone else’s. . . . [but] Aim for that fulfilling moment that occurs when you sit back, look at your work and realize, “Wow. This is good. Damned good.” That’s your guest post. [emphasis added] Give that work away.
23. Keep reader interests front and center.
If you know your audience – and keep their needs front and center – it’ll be easy to discern what and what not to publish.
When I publish content on Inkwell Editorial, it’s my (and my site’s) reputation on the line. My readers have entrusted me to keep their best interests at heart. So if the content can’t help them and/or is not relevant to their lives, then it doesn’t get published – period.
It’s also why the site doesn’t accept just any type of ad and won’t just publish just anything submitted by a guest blogger, no matter how well written it is.
24. Don’t be afraid to blog about your failures.
As I say in our guest blogging guidelines, your failures are usually a heck of a lot more interesting than your successes; for, they allow readers to learn from your mistakes. They also “humanize” you and make you more approachable – one of the first steps to building a community on your blog.
25. Ask for reader feedback when you blog.
Just in the last month or so, I’ve started to get more comments on my posts. And, you know what — it’s exciting! As Marcus Sheridan from the TheSalesLion.com says (his posts receive tons of comments) in the comments section of his post, 10 Ways to Get Tons of Massive Comments on Your Blog Every Time:
Don’t See Comments as a One-Way Street: Many bloggers see comments as a simple exclamation point, confirming their article’s greatness. This makes no sense to me at all. Personally, I don’t think the ‘learning’, in most cases, starts until the comment section. The comment section is the place where the community converges and a synergy of diverse thought mixes.
26. Recycle old blog posts.
Don’t be afraid to go back and tweak old blog posts. As I talk about in a post I wrote for BloggingTips.com entitled, Blogging: How to Get New Life Out of Old Posts, it’s a great way to save time while breathing new life into old content.
Some reasons to recycle old blog posts:
Update them with new information, eg, software updates, recent legislation; ideas that no longer work;
A change of heart you had about something (don’t ever be afraid to say you changed your mind, but be prepared to explain why);
Put a different slant on them because of something another blogger said;
This not only revives old blog posts, it’s good from an SEO perspective as well because it encourages deep linking (eg, intrasite linking) on your site.
Learn more about how to recycle blog posts effectively.
27. Write guest posts for other blogs.
Refocusing on guest posting, this is one of the easiest, free ways to grow your own blog’s traffic. I’ve been fortunate to be featured on some high-traffic blogs in my niche, eg, Copyblogger, FreelanceSwitch and FreelanceWritingGigs to name a few.
This lends credibility to my blog, and also brings new readers.
28. Have seamless site navigation.
When I had my blog redesigned a few years ago, one of the first things I did was create site categories. This makes it easy for visitors to find info.
See more on this in Blogging Tip #30.
Editor Note: Learn more about How to Publish a Profitable, Popular Freelance Writing Blog.
29. Always have a miscellaneous category.
I don’t care how hard you try to make all of your blog posts fit into pre-defined categories, there’s always going to be a few that don’t, especially if you follow the advice dispenses in #10 here, which is don’t be afraid to go off topic.
So, when doing your site navigation chart and creating your content strategy, remember “Miscellaneous” is just a synonym for living – fitting in the stuff that happens that makes life . . . well . . . life.
29. Keep your site categories up to date with fresh content.
One of the reasons I wrote this blog post is because I clicked on the “Blogging” category of InkwellEditorial.com and realized that I hadn’t written anything on this topic in a long time. I’m embarrassed by it, but hey, it happens.
But when I did my site categories, I obviously created this category because it was a topic I know my readers want to know about. Note: If I thought it was no longer relevant I might have posted a notice saying I wouldn’t be creating posts for this category any longer.
But, blogging is a huge topic of conversation in freelance writing, my niche. So I said to myself, “Tsk, tsk young lady – time to sit your bootie down and create a post for the blogging category.”
Hence, this monster post. Hope I’ve made up for the neglect to some degree. 🙂
30. Have a blog content creation strategy.
FYI, many web design experts state that if a visitor has to click more than twice to find info they’re looking for, then the site is considered to have poor design. I know site design/navigation is one factor search engines like Google use to rank a site.
So, it pays to pay attention to this. And really, when you think about it, it makes sense because it goes to foundation of your business (ie, the niche you’re in, knowing your audience, what content appeals to them, what to write about, etc.).
I submitted a “site plan” to my web designer when I had my site redone, and figuring out the categories was one of the most tedious parts of the process for me. But, it forced me to focus on what I should be writing about, why, why my audience needs/wants to know about it, etc.
In short, it’s a critical part of your blog’s content creation strategy.
31. Create timeless content.
As in, evergreen content. This will drive traffic for years to come. An example of this is the post entitled, The Work-Flow Cycle of the Editorial Industry. At the end of the post, you’ll see that the post was first published in 2001; it was republished in 2009.
It’s still relevant today, a full 10 years later.
32. Create time-sensitive content.
While this may seem to contradict the above, it doesn’t. An informative, in-depth blog will have both types of content. Life is not one or the other. And, blogs are a reflection of life – no matter what your niche is. Hence, your blog’s content should reflect this.
33. Learn at least the basics of search engine optimization (SEO).
This will help you not only land more clients as a freelance writer (as many companies are pouring more money into web marketing and seek to hire SEO content writers), it will help you get more traffic to your blog.
SEO involves knowing about concepts like keyword research, anchor text, web content strategy, etc. If you don’t know SEO, it’s like blogging in a vacuum. You may be putting out great content, but if the search engines can’t find and categorize it, you’ll find it harder to rank in search engines.
Note: SEO is only a part of getting blog traffic. It’s not the be all and end all. In fact, some successful bloggers don’t care for SEO (and SEO “experts”) in particular. But if you’re starting a new blog (or a newbie to online marketing), learning the basics of SEO is critically important – in my opinion.
Blogging Tips: What Have You Learned?
When I came up with the idea for this post, it was 7 tips. Then, I kept adding to it as ideas popped in my head. I know there are tons more, but I figured I’ve gabbed enough.
Which tips on blogging did I NOT mention that you’ve learned? Share them in the comments section below.
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