Most new bloggers just take stabs in the dark. A new blogger knows her topic, and may even have a vague notion of keyword stuffing and pronoun removal.
But most new bloggers don’t know how to engineer good content. That’s why I’m writing this article. Because you can’t be a problogger until you know how to engineer good content.
Strategy 1: Reverse Engineer Search Logs
You probably already love stats. And even if you’ve just been stabbing in the dark with your blog writing, you probably have gotten some search results (out of billions of searches, Google is bound to send a few lost souls to your site…especially if you have an accidental phrase or two from one of your poems that goes something like “the freshly cut wood was supple, soft like the newborn skin of a naked child.” Ok. So you probably won’t want to reverse-engineer any searches that come into your logs on these phrases. Nonetheless, eventually you’ll find that Google has paired your blog’s pages with at least a few of billions of searches. Some of those are bound to be relevant to your site, we hope.
Your search logs are a gold mine. They tell you what people are looking for. And since you most probably maintain a blog with the intention of growing an audience, your search logs give you a priceless view of what your audience wants. Your task is to feed your audience what they want.
Let’s say that you’ve written an article on “Red Apples Grown in Oregon” but in the article, you’ve included the phrase “green apple orchards” and a few sentences later “green apples are primarily grown in Seattle Washington” – a few weeks after publishing this article, you notice that twenty visitors have come to your site on variations of the phrase “green apple orchards in Washington D.C.” – now you know that there are people looking for information on green apple orchards in Washington D.C. Google was sending these visitors to your site by mistake. Your task is to make sure the next time *is not* by mistake.
Spend at least twenty minutes each day analyzing your search logs for new and exciting topics that you hadn’t even dreamed of. Your search results allow you to reverse engineer the thoughts of your target audience.
Strategy 2: The Generic Drug Model: Re-engineer other people’s success
Take three successful blogs, two days monitoring the Digg/Reddit front pages, and call me in the morning. Seriously though, you just need to pay attention to what works and you’ll start to identify patterns. You’ll notice that bullet points fit nicely with human psychology… that numbered, how-to guides titillate the average online reader … that people like the number seven better than the number six and the number 10 better than the number nine … that people like strong opinions and believable controversy …
Got the point? Just start paying attention. That’s the key. Read the premier blogs and look at their headlines. 4-7 words tend to be ideal, unless you’ve just got to get the eighth to seal the deal. Notice that some of the best blogs post article series, keeping their readers attention for weeks on end and giving them something to look forward to.
Strategy 3: The “Duplicate Your Own Success” Model
Sooner or later, if you’re intentional about writing good content and creating linkbait, you’ll find success. Much of the time, you’ll also discover failure. Don’t let failure discourage you. Rather, focus on what works and don’t be afraid to try variations on a successful theme.
As you blog, you’ll discover your strengths and your weaknesses. Capitalize on your success by finding your voice and sticking to it. Did you land a front page Digg? Could you write the same basic article on a completely different topic? Then do it. Yesterday.
The important thing here is to not run away from you own success. There’s a temptation to feel like you’ve always got to do something new and original. Most of the great things in life are variations on pre-existing themes. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with what works.
So what’s the main theme of this article? Here it is in one sentence: First, discover what people want, respond to, and get excited by and then give it to them.
Don’t fall for the illusion of self-projection. Most of the world is dumber than you, and most of the world has different tastes. Give them what they want, not what you want. Then, as they say, you’re golden.