Carrie Rollwagen, author of The Localist, shares her blogging resolution tips and five ways to blog better in the new year.
There was a time when writing a blog was quirky and trendy — something a little bit cool to add to the top of your website or to mention at meetings and maybe even at parties. But then everyone started blogging, and it lost some of its luster: It got harder for people to read your blog. It got harder to see which keywords led people to your blog. Media outlets started announcing that the first generation of bloggers was retiring, hanging up their WordPress logins and shuttering their Tumblrs.
It’s true that blogging isn’t the quick fix that it used to be. It’s true that just having a blog isn’t going to win you any cool points. (For the record, using terms like “cool points” will also not win you any cool points.) Blogs can still be relevant and effective — and even cool — but it’s up to us to think more creatively about how to use them than we used to.
Case in point: My blog, Shop Small, which was about shopping locally in Alabama. It started as a New Year’s resolution in 2011 — I vowed to shop from locally owned stores for a year and to write about the experience. I did that, but I also made connections with local business owners that helped when I opened my own business (Church Street Coffee & Books). I also created themed events around the blog (like the Shop Small Social) and met blog readers face-to-face. And, most recently, I published a book, The Localist, about my experience. The book outsold my expectations in just one month, and I’m already booked for a handful of appearances and events in the new year.
My book isn’t successful just because of regular blogging — but regular blogging is the foundation on which my other success is built. Blogging is how I build a readership, how I communicate with my base, and how I reach out to others. Blogging is the glue that holds my social media, my marketing efforts and my book together. It also helps me attract new readers through SEO and gives me a real-time look at which topics my audience is interested in hearing about. (I’ve moved from my old Tumblr, however — my new blog is a WordPress, carrierollwagen.com.)
If you’re trying to build your business or your brand, a blog is still a really great way to do it. It’s not as flashy as it once was, and it takes commitment and creativity to make it work for you, but if you ask me, it’s worth it. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Decide on your blog’s voice.
Do you want to be casual or serious? Chatty or straight-to-the-point? Your blog’s voice will change a bit over time — any good blog evolves — but it helps to know from the beginning what tone you’re aiming for.
Create a blog schedule.
It’s old advice, but it’s good advice — create a blogging schedule and stick to it. Readers don’t like reading three posts from you one week and not hearing another word from you for a month. Daily blogging is ideal, but even a weekly blog can be effective if you keep it fairly consistent.
Blog about newsworthy topics & don’t overdo it.
Once in awhile, it’s great to hop on whatever topic happens to be taking over your Facebook feed and to write a blog that’s incredibly timely to get yourself a spike in traffic. But it’s important to choose topics only when they really do apply to your subject and you have something interesting or unique or relevant to add. Otherwise, newsjacking will just end up making your regular readers feel tricked, and then they’ll switch to other blogs.
Thank, promote, praise, and give credit.
The Internet loves sharing. Don’t promote people, blogs or businesses you don’t believe in, but don’t hesitate to publically praise ideas and people you do agree with or who you know your readers will enjoy. This makes your content more valuable, and it’s likely to result in a few new friends in the blogging world who might promote you right back.
Use social media to promote your blog.
Just because Facebook isn’t what it used to be, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it’s not an important tool for blog promotion. True, not every follower will see every post. True, platforms like Instagram don’t allow you to link back to content. But social media remains a powerful way to build your brand and to remind people about your blog, and sharing your new posts on social media is still an essential part of the blogging process.