“Your blog will only ever be as good as it’s weakest component.”
Warning: Tangent Ahead
Imagine you’ve been given a task of hauling water from one place to another (over a long distance) – but that all you’ve been given to do the job is a rusty old bucket which has multiple holes in it. There are holes both low and high on the bucket which make transporting water a real challenge.
You’re given materials to patch some but not all of the holes in the bucket. Which one’s would you fix?
There are a number of ways of approaching this problem – you could attempt to patch the biggest holes first, you could patch those which are most prominent on the bucket etc…
But perhaps the smartest thing to do would be to make the priority of your repair work those holes which are lowest on the bucket.
The reasoning for this approach is that over time your bucket will only be able to hold as much water as the lowest hole on the bucket. Common sense really and a principle I want to suggest bloggers think about on their blogs.
Your blog will only ever be as good as its weakest component allows it to be.
I’ve been thinking about how to say this all week after what must have been around 50 conversations with new bloggers via email, IM and in person. In conversation after conversation it seems that many of the bloggers I’ve talked to seem to be quite obsessive about one element of their ProBlogging efforts. Whether it be Adsense, finding readers, Search Engine Optimization – in most of these conversations the bloggers have seen all of the answers to their blog’s success as laying in the one area.
What I’ve found myself suggesting this week to many of these bloggers is that to concentrate on one area of your blogging is ok for a short period of time – but for your blog to grow to its fullest potential you need to be willing to work at it on a variety of fronts. If you don’t it’s like patching holes high on the sides of a bucket and ignoring others lower down.
One of the common holes that I’ve noticed recently on new blogs is a severe lack of content.
I spoke to one blogger this week on around 20 occasions – each time they asked questions about design and ad placement issues. They spent hours and hours chopping and changing things on their blog but in that week wrote no new content on a blog that only has a handful of pages. At the end of the week they asked me why they didn’t seem to have any readers and why the ones who had stopped by didn’t come back? The fact that the page’s content hadn’t changed all week didn’t cross their mind.
Another problem on some blogs is to focus upon content TOO heavily at the detriment of other factors.
I had contact with another budding entrepreneurial blogger this week who writes brilliant content for his blog (and has done so for months) but who has virtually no readers because he has never worked on blog promotion, SEO or networking with other bloggers. As a result in the months that he’d been blogging he’d not had more than 10 visitors to his blog per day. He’d never left a comment on another blog, he’d never even submitted his blog to a search engine or to his knowledge been linked to by anyone else (and subsequently he’s still not been indexed by any search engine). Writing content is a great start – but if its all you do it won’t take your blog to its fullest potential.
I could go on with example after example of bloggers who either ignore or become obsessed with different factors of their blogs. I’m getting to the stage with some where I’m going to start saying that if they don’t work on the areas that I suggest that I’ll stop helping them because while their intention is to improve their blogging – some are getting to a stage where they are just wasting their own time (and mine) with their efforts.
So what should a blogger work on?
This is a difficult question to answer with a sweeping statement because each blog is different and needs different levels of attention put to different areas of it depending upon many factors. Having said that – there are a number of areas that I’d suggest bloggers consider devoting serious time to.
• Writing Content – without content your blog is nothing.
• Sourcing Content – this will depend upon the type and style of blog you’re running – but if your blog is not solely about original content (for example here at ProBlogger I mix original content and link/quote posts to other blogs) you need to work on developing good sources of content via RSS, other sites, alert lists etc.
• Design – while not essential to be successful I believe that thinking about how your blog is designed and laid out can improve it on many levels.
• Income streams – not all bloggers are into making money from blogs but I’m assuming most readers of a blog on the topic are. This doesn’t just happen – put time aside to learn about different income streams, ad positioning, affiliate programs etc
• Networking – I’m a massive believer in NOT blogging in a vacuum. Build relationships with other bloggers and site owners – work on common projects, share ideas, learn from one another.
• Promotion and PR – You don’t have to hire a PR company or have a complicated publicity plan – but ask yourself how potential readers will find your blog and work on some ways to get your name out there.
• SEO – Most web users start with search engines when looking for information online – if you’re not working on being on the end of their searches you could be ignoring potential readers.
• Trend Watching – I recommend that bloggers keep an eye on the big picture as well as their blogging niche. Is your niche growing or shrinking? What opportunities might exist to expand your blog or even start another one? Are their areas within your niche that can be developed?
• Tracking Performance – I devote time each day to analyzing the performance of my blogs on many fronts including traffic levels, earnings, mentions on other blogs, search engine rankings etc. Keeping an eye on these internal trends help to determine future strategy.
I’m sure there are other aspects of blogging that we could (and should) add to this list. I’m really interested to know what you think? What do you spend most time doing on your blogs? Where are the holes in your blog? What factors would you add to or subtract to this list?
This is just an excellent, excellent post, Darren.
The effects of networking have been really incredible for me, and it’s something I go out of my way to put a lot of effort into. I personally like to check Technorati or BlogPulse every day to see where I’ve been mentioned and then go immediately to that post and say “Thanks!” for noticing my blog.
Finding other blogs that are relevant to yours, and developing relationships with them via comment, e-mail, etc is also very helpful.
If you’re blogging by yourself, and you’re blogging for money, you really have to be able to do everything yourself, and be half-way decent at it too!
Well, I’d better go over the list above and see where I’m lacking…I’m sure I’ve got plenty of holes to mend ; )
Very good advice (as usual, should I say?). It’s not evident, especially when starting blogging, to keep all of these elements in mind. I know… I’ve handed some of them well, while lacking on the others. Whether these were the lower holes or not, I don’t know yet (but I somewhat feel comforted by the idea that before even reading it in your post, my first answer to “patching holes” was “starting with the lower ones”).
Excellent post Darren.
I like the idea of patching holes from lowest to highest to. So, I’d like to propose an order for the ‘blogging holes’. This is the order I think bloggers should concentrate on things:
Writing/Sourcing Content (depending on the nature of you blog)
Promotion and PR
If you identify several weakness start on the lower one first and work your way up the list. I’m sure other people would propose other orderings. Did you intend to list them in order, Darren?
Excellent post. I’ve found networking is especially helpful when launching a new blog, esp. if it’s similar to work you’ve done before. My Parents Behaving Badly blog stands to garner about 400 visitors today, one week after its inception, thanks to the networking I’ve done via my other blogs.
I didn’t intend to put them in that order – but I guess did it subconsciously as I thought of the important things to me.
I’m not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing, but my interests seem to change pretty regularly. One day I’ll be very excited about traffic, another day about content, and yet another about income streams. This sometimes gets me into trouble because I’ll stay focused on something for too long. One goal I’m setting for myself right now is to make a list of “work on areas” and check those regularly to make sure I’m not letting something slip through the cracks.
I think sometimes new bloggers fall into the trap of thinking all their content must be original. Afterall, that is what a blog sounds like when described.
But as you’ve highlighted Darren, and ProBlogger demonstrates, there’s nothing wrong with cross linking and giving your own slant. I do that a fair bit in my tech and cricket blogs. It can be a good source of content when your pressed for time or inspiration.
What about incorporating other people’s articles that are freely available for use as long as you include their byline and a link?
I have found a good amount of content that is available through this means that would definitely supplement my own writing. Is that frowned upon?
that’s one way to develop content Alexander – but you need to remember that you’re not the only person using those articles – I’ve seen the same article appear on about 50 sites at times – (probably more). This means your site’s content is not unique and those pages will probably never rank well in Search Engines.
You also risk being penalised for duplicate content.
You could also disillusion your readers…. depending which articles you choose of course. I tend to steer clear of them these days.
You know it’s so creepy how you often have similar topics running to what I have just written or am about to write – and even without looking at your blog for inspiration, although I do that too.
Tomorrow I have an article coming out about blogging post styles and which have worked best for me to bring in the most traffic. While it’s not quite the same topic as this article of yours it certainly touches on similar themes, especially the idea of working on many aspects of your blog to keep the boat afloat.
I must agree that content writing should be the first port of call for blog building. Much like what I have written about regarding building successful community forums, you must have something worthwhile at your blog that will keep your readers interest (and convince them to subscribe for blogs or participate in the case of forums) or all your efforts to bring in traffic will be wasted. You must have sites for people to see before sending out the tourist maps…if that makes sense! Otherwise people will click through and then click away within seconds never to be seen again.
I’ve never actually commented on your posts before so here it goes.
I’ve been writing about how to improve the way you blog recently especially during the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project and I agree wholly…the heart and soul of what a blog is begins from the content you put in, expecially that which you write.
I come from Malaysia which makes up a pretty wide part of the blogosphere itself, alot of bloggers are interested in hits and sometimes they would do anything to get that but without building their own blogging identity and would rather imitate the writing style of those that are already famous in our part of the blogosphere.
I believe that blogging for the better part of it is all about your identity of who you are. If you write, they will come. The question I like to pose in the posts I write about blogging is…how well do you want to write?
[…] The thing is I notice a lot of people have different opinions about it. Some for the most part think that changing the way you blog means changing your layout or outlook into something else entirely whether it may be more or less pretty colours and different placement of their ads. True enough, Darren has had some dealing with this himself when he started the 31 Days Building A Better Blog project. The spirit is there, it’s just that it’s in the wrong place. […]
I greatly appreciate this article – we need more information for new bloggers +/or novices – I just began my site savvyspender and am trying really hard to focus on content while still keeping the graphics interesting. Keep up the good advice – please!!! The blogosphere needs your help!! Sloane
Excellent stuff! I hadn’t really thought about what I was doing. Just writing content and thinking about going public one day. That’s probably because I can’t see any way that a blog will make money, but it has to be worth a try. And of course, any comments on my humble efforts are always appreciated!
Great article – it’s always important to have a thought pattern to your writing.
Another great article! I’m realizing that I’m spending a lot of time and energy on content (even though I have a few “dry spells” from time to time) but haven’t really thought about SEO, ad placement or anything else.
Although I do spend a lot of time placing small ads for my blog in a free online classified community! This seems to work rather well. But to date I have yet to hit 40 visits per day mark. I think right now, my best day was a little over 30 unique hits. Not bad considering I’ve been at it since late May, but I still have a long way to go.
I really want to build my content up so when people do visit, they’ll stick around to explore what I have.
Right now, however, my blog is just a hobby. I’m doing it only because I’m passionate about the subject I write about (writing/literature). Any money I make on adsense because of it is just an added bonus!
Only time will tell though…
PS. How’s the new family, Darren? I hope all is well!!!
Ok wonderful post.
I think design is a more decising factor . people do go for looks..
Excellent post. But to me , content is the most important aspect (hole!), a blogger should always give attention to. Content is still the KING, and hopefully it will always remain.
[…] any other aspect of a blog – become obsessed with Digg and you’ll get things out of balance (read more on holistic blogging). If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to the Free ProBlogger […]
“What about incorporating other people’s articles that are freely available for use as long as you include their byline and a link?
I have found a good amount of content that is available through this means that would definitely supplement my own writing. Is that frowned upon?”
I know from personal experience , a lot of writers are touchy about their content being snagged off their websites and slapped on to other websites. It took me a long time to convince my husband who is the technical partner in our web development business to implement some changes to our back end wordpress blog. I am happy to say that he has totally revamped the site to make it more accessible to feeds, subscribers, and getting what we see as our value added content out there. But we both are kind of territorial about the professional image we project and worry somewhat about who might be taking our articles to place on their sites/blogs that we feel aren’t projecting the same professional image. I would say use others articles sparingly, ask for permission first, and cater to the writer’s ego and they will give you access to their best stuff.
One other small point is: you might find it is less time consuming to write your own fresh content, then to scour the internet looking for other writer’s gems.
Great article and awesome comments. As a newbie blogger, I really appreciate the amount and quality of information here. Networking for me has always been a difficult thing for me to do, whether is be in person, or online, I know that’s my weak point and one I really need to concentrate a little harder to work on.
What you have written hit the soft spot of my heart. I am a health care profession. Holistic care is the trend now in our field. We look at the person at a whole, not just fixing the symptom that our client has .
[…] good content is key. Spend too much time doing non writing activities and your blog will suffer. A holistic approach to blogging is […]
Very good content and Tips. Thanks Darren.
I spent most of my time posting up good content in my blogsite. Alot of attention was also put into getting people to interact in my blog with their comments. I am constantly looking at different ways of monetizing my blogsite also with adsense, kontera links, other advertizing links, etc.
Two things that i am not doing enough are:
1) Analyzing the blogdata of my websites
2) Driving enough traffic to my websites
2 websites i currently have are:
Thank you once again
This is exactly what happened to me during my first months of blogging. I concentrated so much on how the site looks that I neglected updating my content for months.
Now I’m striking a balance between writing content and tweaking the look of my site. When I get tired of one I start focusing on the other one.
Thanks you’re really helping us out with all these tips.
I actually focused now updating my content daily and thanks to this post that i was able to improve my sites traffic and efficiently raise enough money.
Hope you will gather subscribers
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