When we talk about ‘creating’ better blogs, there’s an underlying assumption that it’s only the blog that needs improving.
The reality is, us bloggers could use a huge kick up the ass once in a while as well. We get sloppy, we sometimes let our standards slide and worst of all, when it comes to making improvements we look at external factors, not ourselves.
Last month I started compiling a list of ‘strategies’ to improve my own blogging – I’m sharing that list here. We can’t become better bloggers overnight – it takes a lot of hard work, just like a blog – but like working on a blog, the best results are achieved when you stick to it and work at it for a long time.
1. Create a Commitment to your Blog – and then keep it
In simple terms: right now, someone else who is just as smart as you is working hard to get their blog to the top. They’re committed to the vision they’ve set for their blog, and they’re doing whatever it takes to make it a reality.
The big question is, why aren’t you?
Find that one target for your blog that you are willing to work the most for, and then get busy doing it.
2. Focus on the Conversation on your Blog
Blogging is a one-to-many medium, but smart bloggers know who to turn it into an active group conversation between the readers and themselves. This requires the ability to communicate effectively – and it’s something that us bloggers can train ourselves to do better.
If you want to engage your readers and improve the conversation on your blog, you have to a) be clear, b) refocus your attention towards the audience and c) become credible.
3. Don’t Settle For Being Good Enough
If you’re a good writer (and a good communicator), you should be able to talk the talk when it comes to blogging about a particular subject.
But can you walk the walk? For a blogger dealing with subjects that involve practical application (self help, any skills-based area (SEO, web design, wood-working, photography, fitness, self defense, etc), competence in your chosen field goes a long way in establishing your credibility.
4. Love Your Blog, Love Your Blogging
A blogger’s passion for his subject and his blog shines through his writing. If you have passion, your words will carry conviction, your ideas will be persuasive and you will come across as someone who cares about his work. Without passion it’s quite hard to maintain the drive and energy needed to work on a blog day in and day out (not all of us are blessed with god-like self-discipline).
And if you’ve lost your passion one day (it happens to the best of us), here’s how (and why) you can continue blogging without losing your step.
5. Be Positive and Trust Yourself
Blogging is a tough gig. It takes a lot of time and hard work to be successful and if that wasn’t enough to make you glum, there is always a snarky commenter or two (or hundreds) lurking around who have little else to do but send negative thoughts your way.
It’s easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough, however if you approach blogging with the knowledge that a) it will be tough and b) your reaction to problems (and therefore the likelihood that those problems will be solved) will depend on your attitude, it becomes clear that you have to stay positive.
Successful people don’t get to where they are by accepting defeat when they get knocked down. Dust yourself off, get back up and go at it again. It sounds a bit cheesy, yes, but as long as you believe in what you’re doing and believe in your own ability to make your blog a success, you’ll do fine.
6. Problem Solving
There are two kinds of people – those who deal with their problems and those who use them as an excuse not to move ahead in their lives.
This doesn’t mean that you turn into a robot – in fact I would strongly recommend having channels / avenues through which you can vent about your problems. It helps to clear your head and to focus on the solutions instead of your emotional reaction to it.
However, if you’re not dealing with your blogging problems intelligently, you’re just holding yourself (and your blog) back from it’s true potential. Find a solution, outsource it if you have to but fix it if it’s important (and stop worrying if its not).
7. Take More Risks
Part of the philosophy of giving a project your 100% every day is that you are always pushing for improvements. At one time or the other, this push will require you to take risks, and it is at this point in time that you will feel the most resistance, when you will find it most difficult to ‘bring your A-game’ to the table.
Look at your blog and your blogging efforts and pinpoint the risks that you’ve been avoiding for the last few weeks or even months. Pick one of these risks, discuss the options with your friends and family (or people who know your business) and if it’s the right thing, do it.
8. Learn the Art of Self-Promotion
Self-Promotion is something most of us are uncomfortable with – and it’s not just the prospect of ‘selling’ that turns us off, in reality its insecurity (cleverly dressed as modesty) that holds us back.
As a blogger – whether you want to promote your own services or you’re promoting your blog – you have to learn to blow your own horn. No one else will be doing that for you, so celebrate your success (small or big), talk up your achievements and put yourself firmly in the minds of your readers (and anyone else who wants to listen).
9. Sharpen Your Focus
You’ve heard many bloggers talk about how you should ‘focus’ on a few key projects. Trouble is, not everyone intuitively knows exactly how to turn that ‘focus’ knob up to 100%, and even if you know how to do that, what do you focus on?
The two keys to having a clear focus in your blogging are ‘priorities’ and ‘concentration’. If you have priorities but no concentration (like me), you’ll know what to do but never get anything done because you’ll get distracted all the time. On the other hand, if you have concentration but no clear grasp of your priorities, you will be excellent in something but won’t make much progress (because you’ll be focusing on the wrong things).
10. Instill Character In Your Blog
Character in a blog means:
- Delivering on what you promise
- Doing what you do to the best of your ability
- Staying true to your purpose in face of adversity or success
You don’t build a successful blog by copying the top bloggers on what they’re doing right now – you look at what they did at the start, what type of ‘foundational work’ they did to reach this level.
Getting the foundations of your blog and removing the cracks in it should be your first and foremost responsibility – everything else flows from that.
11. Adopt Othermindedness to be more Charismatic
The four steps to being more charismatic on your blog:
- Be Passionate and Positive
- Expect the Best of People
- Give People Hope
- Share Yourself
When it comes to being charismatic, the bottom line is othermindedness.
12. Give More to Get More
If you’ve read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini (highly recommended), you’ll know that ‘Reciprocity’ is one of the six key ways to influence people (the others are: Commitment / Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity). When you give first, you create a subconscious debt on the other person’s conscience which they will feel the need to repay or risk suffering from guilt. It’s how we are socially wired.
What we’re NOT socially wired to do is to give first and ask later – in fact, we’re selfish (like it or not) and do exactly the opposite. If you want to succeed as a blogger, want to grow your blog and want to do both of these things super-fast, bite the bullet and invest in your future. The relationships you build as a result, with your readers and your friends, will be the foundation for your rapid growth in the future.
13. Go For Broke
They say that “good things come to those who wait” – and while I value patience, it has its place and it is often a convenient rationalisation for people who are afraid to take risks. There are times when you have to grab the bull by the horns and attack an opportunity with full strength.
In simple terms…you can’t wait for opportunities to knock on your door. You have to put yourself out there, put your blog out there, and make sure that you’re first in line when any opportunity comes up. You’ll take risks. You’ll make mistakes. But you’ll be much better off at the end of it than when you started, which is where you would have stayed stuck if you hadn’t moved in the first place.
14. Learn the Art of Listening
As bloggers our job is to talk – we talk to our readers, we talk to advertisers, we talk to our employees, we talk smack with competitors – it’s pretty much a full-time talking job, blogging.
However, in all this talking we need to find the time to shut up and listen to the people around us – to learn what they want, to learn from their suggestions, criticisms and support, and to spot ideas in what they do and say. Listening to others (and more importantly, to the right people) gives you the kind of knowledge few people can hope to attain, and with that comes the ability to do make a genuine difference in your own life and that of others.
15. Build Relationships
We all know that it’s important to build relationships as bloggers but do you do it unconsciously or do you take out time each day to dedicate to networking?
Some of us are naturally better networkers than others. For the rest of us, it would be advisable to take out time every day and spend it on networking. Whether you do your relationship-building through forums, social networks or person to person, it’s important that you take out at least an hour a day for it.
Like almost everything else in blogging, it won’t pay off immediately but once you’ve been doing it for some time the results will bring in many blogging and money-making opportunities and you’ll start getting a lot of help in your blogging efforts.
16. Learn Your Trade
We’re not talking about being competent in your area of interest; learn your trade as a blogger. You don’t have to be a crack designer but you need to know basic design principles and understand aesthetics. You don’t have to be a WordPress guru but it pays to understand how themes and plugins work and how you could work with them in a cinch.
Monetization, SEO, networking – learn the skills and tools of your blogging trade, and you’ll invariably improve as a blogger.
A top blogger without vision is like a top athlete running at full speed backwards on the track. He may be the fastest (and you may be the best at what you do), but if he doesn’t know what his prime objective is, he’ll keep going in circles.
The same goes for you as a blogger. Define your vision, understand it and integrate it in your life – you need to know where you are going, and you need to keep it in mind whenever you work on your blog.
18. Know When to Stick or Fold
Sticking to your guns (self-confidence) and working hard on a project when the going gets tough are admirable traits, and worth cultivating. However, as a blogger you must also know when to cut your losses and move on.
Your decision may be based on your financial situation, the amount of time you have available, new opportunities knocking on the door, etc. Whatever you base your decisions on, don’t base them on your emotional attachment to a blog, or your ego which tells you that you can do everything at same time.
19. Stop Controlling Everything
If you’re really good at what you do (writing, monetization, design, SEO, etc), you might get stuck in a pattern of trying to do everything yourself.
As a pro blogger, you don’t have the time to handle all the writing, the design, the research, the promotion and administration of your blog yourself. Outsource as much as you can (you can always outsource your blogging chores for free), hire help so you can get more work done.
What you’re working on now will not pay off tomorrow but in a few months. What you accomplish this month will pay you back 10x in one year.
The effect of cumulative growth is stunning, but to reap the full benefits you have to be (you guessed it) patient.
This doesn’t mean that you should sit back and wait – no, patience here means being patient with results, not with your efforts (you should still be going for broke).
21. Have Fun
The good thing about self employment is that you can choose to have fun on your own time, on your own terms. Take time off from your blog (not too much time!), change the pace on your blog (write something light hearted once in a while) and most importantly, if you find yourself thinking that your blogging is a chore, step back and re-evaluate what you are doing.
Bonus #1: Self Discipline
You’re not going to last a day as a professional blogger if you cannot discipline yourself to practice new habits and improve your blogging consistently.
Bonus #2: Balance
Blogging is fun and games sometimes but that doesn’t mean that you throw away all that you’ve earned and accomplished in the name of fun.
Find balance in your blogging – from varying the depth of your articles to dividing time between blogging and promoting to finding some personal time in all the blogging mayhem (take Sundays off, for example).
You’re not going to read this list and become a better blogger overnight – it takes time and commitment, and it works best if you take one strategy at a time and apply it purposefully in your life until you have mastered it.