Sorry, Darren Rowse. I just don’t have the commitment to build a better blog in 31 days. Nor do I have $20.
In fact, I don’t think anyone needs 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. You have the talent, you have the passion, and, evidently, you have the desire to improve your blog. So join me, young Frodo. Let’s build a blog people want to read. In 7 days.
Look at you! Your blog is better already as you read this sentence! Pat yourself on the back!
Alright. Before I continue, I will ask you 3 important questions. 3 questions that as a blogger, you need to be able to answer:
- Why do you blog?
- What is the biggest mistake you ever made as a blogger?
- What is one word people should use to describe your blog?
Simply, the toughest question I ever had to tackle as a blogger, but it’s incredible how we often we fail to ask ourself this before we start blogging.
Awhile ago, my roommate in college posed that question to me. Why do you blog, Tony?
I was caught off guard. It felt like such a simple question, yet I felt almost embarrassed when I couldn’t respond right away. I told him that I blogged because it served as a way for me to express my interest in social media, technology, and design. I wanted people who shared my interest to read my blog.
So, tell me. Why do you blog?
No, I don’t want to hear how you accidentally hit the Publish button prematurely before you finished your post about Lolcats. Admitting your mistakes is the most important thing for anyone who wants to take that next step to success.
Are you funny? Are you interesting? Are you outrageous?
No one likes an Average Joe. Be somebody unique. In fact, you already are. Show that in your writing. Express your personality into everything you do.
Today, we’re going to focus on your About page. Don’t have one? Shame on you. But, no worries. We all have to start somewhere.
For those who already have an About Page, it’s time to start anew. Delete that dreadful About page! I’m not kidding, brother.
So, what are we going to do? For starters, whip out your camera and take a lovely photo of yourself. Already have one? You can use another one. Trust me.
The first thing people want to see when they go to a blog’s About page is a face. Who is the person behind all this splendid writing? Heck, you’re so good looking, this can only help you.
Next, we’re gonna do something you probably haven’t done before. Record a video introducing yourself to your readers, explaining why your blog matters to them. Keep it short and engaging, since people who don’t have 31 days to build a better blog, surely wont have 10 minutes to hear you tell them how awesome you are.
Lastly, there is only one thing left to make your About page absolutely spectacular. I’m sure you already know: write something. What are your hobbies? Do you hate your day job? Why did you start blogging? Are you into politics and have a strong opinion about a current event? Let us know. Believe it or not, people want to know this. Even if you’ve done this before, write it again. You might be pleasantly surprised with the result.
Well! Will you look at that! Google Analytics is reporting that your traffic is through the roof! To top it off, your web host called you this morning telling you that because of this outrageous traffic, you single-handedly took down their servers! You must be beaming right about now!
Today, we’re gonna do something that countless blog posts about how to drive traffic to your site continually recycle: guest post. From my experience, guest posting is one of the most important things you must do as a blogger. Besides the increase in traffic to your blog, guest posting lets people know that you actually exist on the Internet. Search engines can take you far, but with guest posting, you are taking that initiative yourself and saying to everyone that you deserve their attention.
So, how do you go about this, even if you’ve done this before? Here are the most important things to consider:
- Is this blog relevant to my own blog?
- What should I write about?
- Aim high! Don’t be afraid of rejection!
In other words, if the blog is about Lolcats and you blog about Lolcats, you have a great match. If this isn’t the case, look elsewhere. There are plenty of blogs for you to find.
Take a look at some of the articles at the blog. You aren’t expected to write in a different style you aren’t familiar of course. But, it sure helps if you keep the topic along the same lines as the material that the blog regularly produces.
Don’t tell yourself that you’re not good enough for any site. Heck, you should have the mindset that your blog is the best in the world! Furthermore, it’s common that guest posts are rejected. Don’t be devastated and isolate yourself from the world if this happens. It’s completely normal.
Today is all about engaging your readers.
What does that mean exactly? It means transforming your blog posts from a one-way stream of thoughts to a two-way conversation. When you blog, it’s easy to go off into your own thoughts, writing anything that comes to mind. Of course, I won’t argue against that. If you want first-time visitors to your site to become repeat visitors however, you need to offer readers the opportunity to share their opinions and ask questions.
Simple, right? Throw in a comments section and BAM! You’re engaging with your readers. It’s a done deal, right?
For starters, consider replying to all of your comments. All of them. Yes, even those awesome “Thanks! Great post!” comments that litter every site.
Even better, replying to every single comment artificially inflates the true number of comments on every post. Trust me, I tend to click on blog posts that have more comments more often than others.
So, what else can you do? For starters, write blog posts that pose a question to readers. “Why should people care about Lolcats?” “Why do you hate driving?” That ought to spark some interesting debates!
Why not go the extra mile? Embed some polls in your blog posts or sidebar. I recommend using Polldaddy. Of course, don’t just confine it to your blog! Ask your legions of followers on Twitter and Facebook to fill out some polls. It’s a known scientific fact that people love to answer multiple choice questions. Honestly.
Lastly, you want to be everywhere. Not literally, but on the “Internet” everywhere. People often say you should create a Twitter account and Facebook page for your blog. I believe you should do way more. For starters, create an account on Digg, Stumbleupon, and Reddit, if you haven’t already. Use the same username, preferably the name of your blog. By doing so, you open more portals for people to find you. Furthermore, it establishes your blog across numerous mediums that aren’t confined to just your blog. You want people to know that there’s plenty of ways to reach your content besides visiting your site.
Here are some more examples:
- Create a Flickr group
- Join a Forum
Forums are a great way to interact with like-minded people. I regularly visit the WordPress forums to ask questions and offer my advice. I do it because I love WordPress and it helps me gain valuable knowledge which I can later apply to my own work. Here are some forums that might interest you:
- Comment on related blogs
Do you blog about Photoshop? I highly recommend you create a Flickr group so that people can share their photos.
No “Great post! Thanks!” comments, por favor.
We’re closing in on your biggest competitors in your niche. You’ve successfully run your web host out of business with your massive influx of traffic. Things are looking pretty swell.
But you can’t possibly sustain this without implementing some desperately needed site optimizations and maintenance. For starters, you should evaluate your current hosting situation. Is your host reliable and ready whenever to answer your questions when all hell breaks loose? That’s my first criteria when choosing a web host. For example, do they have a Twitter account? Having an account is only skimming the surface. My current web host, Bluehost, has one. The last time they updated their account? February 24, 2010.
Tragic, yes. Good thing their online chat support is decent.
Check out this useful guide by Net Tuts on choosing the ideal web host:
Here’s a list of some of my favorite tips on optimizing websites:
- Delete unnecessary plugins
- Install a Caching Plugin
- Reduce your reliance on external websites and scripts
- Reduce PHP and Database Requests
My rule of thumb is too maintain no more than 25 plugins. I currently have 21 plugins being actively used, but that number was closer to 30 when I started blogging. Ask yourself this: can I do the same thing without this plugin?
Images alone can easily account for most of the resources that must be downloaded from a site’s server. Thus, it’s important that images be optimized for the web. If you use Photoshop, there is a “Save for Web & Devices” option when you save your images. Alternatively, there is Smush.it, a free online tool that does basically the same thing.
If there is one plugin you shouldn’t be deleting, it’s your caching plugin. I’ve used WP Super Cache before and currently use W3 Total Cache. Super Cache is good for starters and easier to setup, while W3 Total Cache is more robust with more features but may take longer to familiarize yourself with. Remember, you can’t have multiple caching plugins running at the same time or else the world would end.
Many blogs host Google Adsense ads and as you probably guessed, the site loads considerably slower. Take a look at Mashable. The site loads for an eternity. Of course, there are probably other reasons why the site is slow to load, with site traffic being a big factor.
Another example is the Facebook like box. To be able to render that box on a site, the browser must query Facebook’s servers, which you have no control over. If you haven’t heard of Firebug, I highly recommend you download the extension on Firefox to learn what happens behind the scenes.
Rendering web pages depend on the client-server model. Your browser acts as the client which sends page requests to web servers. The web server acts on the request and returns the appropriate resources. During the process of retrieving the correct data, web servers may be asked to perform actions on the database. This is done with PHP, which results in the dynamic nature of WordPress. However, with many PHP requests, the server may take longer to respond. Here is an example of what you can do:
Rather than doing this:
<?php bloginfo(’name’); ?><?php bloginfo('description'); ?>
Awesome Site: The Most Awesome Site Period
Don’t worry. There’s an endless amount of tutorials you can find on the topic of optimizing your site. Like the wise man always says, “Google it!”
By now, your site is wicked fast, generates boatloads of reader comments daily, you have a tremendous social media following, and a book deal is inevitable. You’re pretty hot stuff.
The amazing thing so far? You haven’t even written a thing aside from that guest post on Day 3. Well, now is the time to change that.
As I asked you on Day 1, your blog posts should be exuding your infectious personality and warmth in every sentence and every word. We need to give it a nice jolt of life, pushing your posts above mediocrity and beyond a lack of imagination. I don’t want your blog to resemble Mashable and their systemic production of dullness. I want you, to be you.
Drawing on those three questions I asked you on Day 1, I want you to take your responses as supporting guidelines that you should always draw on and demonstrate in your writing.
Do you blog because it gives you satisfaction when you help people solve problems? Show that.
What have you learned from past mistakes that you can use today to become a better blogger? Use this knowledge to your advantage.
You want people to describe you as funny? Prove it.
Every blog post is a challenge. Every mold and practice must be continually refined and improved upon. Write your heart out, young Shakespeare.
Today’s the last day. If everything up to this point proves ill-advised or even detrimental to your blog, I apologize. On the bright side, my advice didn’t cost you a dime. Hooray for freemium!
The last task of this week aims at introducing you to the valuable tools and resources you need in order to maintain your level of progress. My intent is that with the ideal support around you, it will enable you to continue along in whatever endeavor you pursue to improve your blog.
Here are some essential tools for bloggers.
- Text Expander (Mac only)
- Quicksilver (Mac Only)
Dropbox is an online syncing tool that helps you backup your data and access your files across multiple computers and even on the Internet. There are numerous syncing tools available, but Dropbox is the best because of its ease of use. Best of all, you are given 2 GB of free storage with an additional 8 GB through referrals.
Text Expander is a text-substitution tool that will save you unnecessary keystrokes and a lot of time. Some practical examples of how you can use this app is when typing email signatures, the current date and time, and code snippets. If you are on a Windows PC, Breevy will accomplish the same thing.
Quicksilver is for those who hate using a mouse and prefer to use their computer with the keyboard. The program allows you to quickly access and launch any file, folder, application, or anything that is on your computer.
While the interface may not be the easiest to navigate around, Filezilla is one of the best FTP client around. It’s my preferred choice and best of all, it’s free.
Sorry, but imsexy101 won’t cut it anymore as your sole password for online accounts. With LastPass, the task of remembering passwords will be narrowed down to just one master password. You can use its built-in password generator to create unique and secure passwords every time you create a new account online.
The following are some of my favorite resources to give you a jump start to building your own resource list.
It’s no secret that bloggers often have trouble finding that killer picture in their next blog post. So, where should you look? Here are some great options:
- Creative Commons Search
This is essentially a tool that let’s you easily search multiple sources for images licensed with Creative Commons. They include Flickr, Google Image, and Wikipedia Commons.
This library of photos is mostly of people that you would find in the newspapers or magazines. It doesn’t have the personal touch of photos on Flickr, but they are still free to use.
Tired of scouring hundreds of blog posts looking to download icons for your website? I know I am. With FindIcons, the bulk of the work is gone since it serves as a search engine for all sorts of icons.
It’s important to follow other blogs in your niche to keep yourself up to date on the latest. My primary way of finding new blogs in my niche is using Twitter. I like to follow web designers and tech people since they often tweet links to blog posts that interest me.
Another option is to use Google’s Blog search tool. Enter some keywords and it will output the most relevant articles.
If I got a dime every time my father told me to “Google it!” when I ask him a question, I would be richer than you. Yes, even you.
In theory, my dad is sort of right. It’s incredible how far Google has advanced this last decade. It continues to be the predominant go-to place for answers to everything that people wonder and ask about. Imagine how unproductive our world would be if for one day, we weren’t able to access Google. Sure, there’s Bing and Yahoo trying to morph together like a Power Ranger, but really? Nobody is paying attention to those guys.
So take it from me. Remember the phrase “Google it!” whenever you can’t figure something out. You’ll be glad you did.
Hey, what should I do on Day 8?
If you have been following along each day this week, I thank you. If my daily advice served you well, feel free to share your comments or questions below and I’ll be glad to answer them. If everything I’ve said failed to produce even an ounce of results, I can only offer you this. Cheers!