Give Your Blog a Fighting Chance

With so many blogs on the Internet competing for attention, what can you do to make sure that yours stand out? At the very least, you can try to avoid making mistakes. Better, you can take the tips that tell you what NOT to do and turn them around into things you SHOULD do.

Recently I read Neil Patel’s piece on mistakes that will bury your blog posts. It occurred to me that warnings like “don’t forget” do not get remembered well. So let’s look at his list of mistakes, and turn them around so you know what you should be doing to avoid those mistakes.

Patel starts with the first thing most readers of your blog posts will see – your headline. They’ll see this long before they arrive at your website. It’s picked up and displayed on the search engine results page, in feed readers, subject lines, and even links included on social media sites, if you’ve structured your URLs and permalinks correctly.

Since it’s the first thing potential readers will see, your headline needs to draw them in. You can find plenty of articles on writing good headlines. Patel recommends that you write with “u” in mind: write “headlines that are unique, ultra-specific, useful or urgent.” You can even use more than one “u” quality. “Five Things You Must Do Right Now if You Want More Conversions” is both ultra-specific and urgent, for example.

Patel’s second point concerns old posts. Don’t write them and forget about them; link to them when you can. They give your posts new life, and they show your readers that there’s more content on your website in which they might be interested. When you can use a link to further explain a point you’re trying to make, you give your reader the option of delving deeper if they’re so inclined. You also point search engine spiders to related material, including keywords you want them to notice.

But you shouldn’t just link to your own earlier blog posts. As Patel points out, when you link to posts by other bloggers writing on similar topics, you’re inviting them into the conversation. They can come back and leave comments to which you can reply, starting a dialogue or even a relationship. These comments deeply enrich the blog post for anyone who reads it. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read a blog post and found more gems of wisdom in the comments – some of which have directed my own thinking on the topic, or even inspired me to write separate articles.

Linking to posts by other bloggers also gives you a chance to give credit where it’s due, which is simply “proper manners on the web,” as Patel notes. That’s especially true if that other post inspired your blog post in the first place. Readers will notice if you got the idea elsewhere but didn’t link, as many with a particular interest will read several blogs on the same topic. Outbound links also, as it turns out, have a good effect on your rankings if you’re linking to authority sites, according to Patel.

So far I’ve focused on what may appear to be little details, but they’re far from being the only ones you need to get right to get your blog posts noticed. What about your meta data? Some meta data may not be important because the search engines don’t look at it anymore (you can thank keyword stuffing practices for some of that), but there are a few items that still matter. At the very least, you should fill in your page title field; filling in your description field is also a good idea. These fields can help the search engines figure out where your page belongs in the results. They can also help social sites pull the right information when someone is posting a link to your blog. 

Patel recommends making this easy on yourself if you use the WordPress platform by taking advantage of a plug-in. The All-in-One SEO pack can make your life easier by including fields for the page title and description at the bottom of your post. Fill those out, and you’re good to go.

Now I’d like to come back to the subject of URLs. I’ve already hinted at it once or twice. You need to make sure the permanent URLs for your blog posts are user-friendly. If you check the URLs on any post here on SEO Chat, you’ll notice that they all include real words; usually, you’ll see the title of the article. You should shoot for this on your own site.

This point mattered even before social networking sites grew popular, because a good URL helps the search engines to understand what the page is about. It also helps searchers who see your URL in the search results. Now it’s more important than ever, because readers who like your article will post a link to it on social sites. That means people who might never have searched for your article may come across a link for it, recommended by a friend – and if what they see in the link looks interesting, they might actually click and read. Including real words in your link gives you a better chance to entice them.

I’ll wrap this piece up with a less technical, though no less important, point: like anything, blogging requires persistence if you want to get noticed for it. By this, I mean consistent effort. Attention spans run short on the Internet, so if you’re not blogging frequently, readers will forget about you. As Patel observes, “the more frequently you post, the more traffic you are going to get. That traffic eventually slows and then dies when you stop posting.” Not only will your human visitors stop showing up, but Google will stop showing up to index your site if you don’t keep putting up new content. Patel recommends an absolute minimum of once a month, but you’re much better off if you can manage once a week or more.

That’s all I have room for today. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to giving your blog a fighting chance to capture an audience. And really, isn’t that what your content deserves?

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