When I first came to China nearly four years ago, the purpose of my blog was to keep my friends and family back home updated with my China adventures. Since then, I’ve definitely evolved as a blogger, and the purpose of my blog has become to share my knowledge (whether it be about living in Beijing or what I’m learning as a digital marketer) with an ever-increasing readership, and be intentional about my writing to increase the authority of my blog.
Last week, I had some awesome talks with a fellow blogger about creating a successful personal blog, and here are some of the tips I came up with:
#1: Define the purpose of your blog
Is your blog just an online journal, a place to keep track of some great memories? Are you blogging to answer questions for a niche topic? Will you be writing about anything that comes to mind, or a few key issues? My thoughts are, write about a few niche topics and keep in mind the keywords people will use to find your blog. Are you a travel blogger? Maybe you have experience living in another country (like me) and can write about that. Having a purpose for your blog will make it easier to write intentional posts, and will also help people looking for answers to find your blog.
#2: Be consistent in posting
This is something I’m learning to do as well. Consistent posts are awesome because it gets people to your blog regularly. Humans are creatures of habit. If you write consistently, they will visit your blog consistently. One great example is my friend Jocelyn over at the blog Speaking Of China. She posts every Monday and Friday, and has a huge readership as a result of her consistent efforts. If you don’t have the time to post on certain days each week, write a few posts ahead of time and just schedule them. At the same time, though, don’t just post anything for the sake of being consistent. Post good, quality content.
#3: Don’t ignore the About page!
This is where my fellow blogger friend and I had a difference of opinion. My friend chose to post anonymously, not wanting to be associated with the blog, whereas I feel that it’s important to have a face behind the blog. I think that it makes a blog more personal, and this applies to both personal blogs and company blogs. I believe that company blog posts should always have the name of the author (if not a small photo as well). So make sure to take time to write a good description of yourself in the About page. Unless you’re using your blog as an online dating profile, I believe that this section should focus on your blog’s purpose and not necessarily the fact that you like long walks on the beach. Check out my About page here! Another great tip for the About page is to include social media handles to increase your personal branding.
#4: Provide value
People often take to Google to find answers to their questions. In my experience, a lot of the traffic that comes to my blog is from search engines such as Google. For example, when people search “z visa Beijing”, my blog post on the topic is at the top of the search page! (I just wanted an opportunity to slip that in there ) It’s because I’ve written on a topic that many expats in China have issues with, and they turn to search engines, or come directly to my blog, for the answer. The more value you provide in the content you create, the more people will come to your blog as well as recommend it to their friends.
#5: Include personal anecdotes
Even if you’re writing on a general topic (such as “Cooking For Beginners”), personal anecdotes are great for two reasons: 1) They help the reader feel more connected to you and 2) They put things into context, which makes it easier for some people to understand what you’re talking about. When I write about finding housing in China, instead of writing a checklist of steps to take, I pull from my own personal, agonizing experiences finding housing. My view is that people are more inclined to read stories, not lists.
#6: Use content in different formats
Incorporate content in the form of videos, podcasts, photos, or infographics (personal favorite). It will help to attract more readers, and spice things up a bit so that your blog is not all text. When including photos that you find online, make sure you have the right permissions to use the photos and link back to the source. Posting regular videos, such as a weekly How-to video, is also a good way to keep readers coming back to your site.
#7: Engage with your blog community
A personal blog is a great way to build a community around certain topics. In my experience blogging about intercultural relationships, I’ve “met” (virtually…AND in person one time) many other Western women who are married to Chinese men. One of the ways I built up this community was not just by posting comments on similar blogs, but by responding to the comments on my blog. Having a relationship, though just online, with readers leads to a more loyal reader base, something I’ve seen as both a blogger and a reader. See #8 for another way to engage with your readers.
#8: Create a Facebook page for your blog
Creating a Facebook page for your blog extends your personal brand. Some blogging sites, such as WordPress.com, have options to post automatically onto Facebook. It’s also a good platform for posting videos and photos that you post on your blog. I use my Facebook page to push out my blog posts as well as post shorter updates on everyday tips for living in China. It helps me to be constantly engaged with fans and have more one-on-one interactions and conversations.
#9: Use correct grammar & spelling.
I’m a huge stickler for correct grammar and spelling. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see people using “you’re” when it should be “your” and vice versa. For the record, “you’re” means “you are” and “your” is like “your blog.” For more grammar lessons, check out this grammar bot. Now that that’s out of the way, when I see a blog that has run on sentences, multiple misuses of colons and semi-colons, and particularly spelling mistakes in each sentence, I close the tab and move on. Don’t let that tab be yours.
#10: Blog about other businesses or vendors
I’d like to believe that we live in a world where we are constantly paying it forward. Sometimes it works out where the people you help turn around and do the same for you. In the blogosphere, if you blog about a business or vendor (assuming it’s good PR), they’ll want to pass your blog along, or at least the post where they were featured. I recently wrote about the best bagels in Beijing, and forwarded my post along to the guy who owns the business. He emailed me back and asked if he could put it on their website, to which I said, “Hells no!” Just kidding, of course I said yes. That means new visitors coming from his site, which is awesome. However, don’t write good reviews just for the sake of blog publicity. Being genuine is more important a high visitor count.
#11: Include internal links
In case you haven’t noticed, in this blog post alone, I’ve linked to my blog at least twice. When you link to another page on your website/blog, it’s called an internal link. This is a great way to increase the time readers spend on your blog, and is also great for SEO, or increasing rankings on a search engine. This is definitely something I’m trying to remember to do more often. If you haven’t already, go through your blog posts and see if any content can link to another post on your site. It’s not too late to start!
I’d like to hear from other people with their own personal blogs. What are your blogging best practices? What tips would you give people just starting out?