The benefits of business blogging are well-documented. If you are not convinced that blogging is a powerful way to reach your audience, build awareness of your brand and generate significant sales, this is a great time for you to go through some of the archives on this blog and some of my “recommended blog tips” articles. The facts speak for themselves.
However if you are already convinced, you are probably on this site seeking great advice on how to maximize the results you see from your blog. That’s smart.
There Are No Real Rules
I’d like to submit a thought to you that may save you some time in your pursuit for the hottest blog tips. There are no real rules. OK…maybe just one small rule, and I’ll let you in on that rule in just a second. But here’s the thing about rules: many people read them and automatically feel they HAVE to follow them. This is not how successful businesses are built.
For now I just want to point out that there are SO many articles out there telling you what to do, leading you to believe they contain the “secret” you’ve been looking for, that if you were to try following all the advice out there, you’ll never go anywhere. Don’t get stuck in this trap. Here are some examples of “rules” that I don’t believe in following:
- You need to post often - this is good general advice, but it’s important to know that many successful blogs only post sporadically. Scott Stratten from UnMarketing just wrote about this recently as well, after not having posted anything to his blog in 6 weeks. Some blogs publish new content several times per day. Others post once every few weeks. Your approach has much more to do with what works for your business, not what actually works for blogging in general. With regards to blogging in general, there is no rule.
- You need to write long, detailed posts - there is a school of thought which dictates the highest quality posts are long, detailed, highly valuable articles posted to your blog. Some blogs such as ViperChill and many others specialize in writing longer content. Bravo…it works. But it’s important to understand…it works for them. What does that have to do with YOU? With some things, you simply need to follow your own path. Long content and short content both work. There is no real rule.
- You need to write short, pithy posts - Some tools such as Blog Grader suggest that your posts should be no longer than 800 words. It even appears to use this metric as a means of grading your blog. Longer posts seem to score lower. I don’t know what the heck this is about. Everyone knows that some of the greatest resources online are very long blog posts that took the authors many hours or days to produce. They generate thousands of incoming links, because they offer huge value. Yes, short posts are quicker to read, but your audience may value longer, detailed posts on occasion. The best approach is not to follow the arbitrary advice of only writing short posts. Nothing replaces actually knowing your audience. Again, no rule.
- You need to search-optimize all your content - Sorry to all the SEO pros out there, but this is just B.S. I certainly believe in the power of search optimization, and I think every blogger should take some time to learn the basics. Michael Martine’s Wordpress SEO Secrets is a good place to learn what you need to know. Here’s another rockin post on blog SEO. Here’s another great article on SEO. But here’s what I’ll tell you…stop there. Absorb those resources and then get back to your life. SEO professionals could easily have you believe that your success online hangs in the balance, and if you don’t pay more attention, you’ll slide off the face of the earth without their advice. Ain’t gonna happen. Some of the biggest bloggers in the social web like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and many others admit they know very little about SEO and do almost nothing to “optimize” their content. What does that tell you? Is SEO important? Certainly. Is it worth hours and hours of your time? That’s up to you…but probably not. This is just another example of something which distracts many new bloggers. It’s not about learning the “trick”. There is no trick. Blogging is simple. It’s just talking to your audience. You don’t need an internet marketing PHD to get this done. Just talk to your audience.
- You need a professional design - I’ve built blogs for many clients. Everyone wants their site to look cool, and that’s understandable. But it’s also essential to understand the difference between pretty and effective. My specialty is in doing what works. If you want conversions, leads and sales, I’m your guy. If you want pretty pictures, I’m probably not your guy. I submit that most new bloggers and marketers spend way too much time worrying about how their site looks. You don’t win a race by sitting in the driveway putting on a fifth layer of wax. I don’t mean to argue that design is not important. It is, but it’s so easy to spend hours and hours on trying to make your site look cool. It’s easy to get burned out on all this, and it’s such a waste, because it has nothing to do with getting results.
Of course, the list goes on. What other rules have you come across? Leave a comment and share! It’s important to take the advice of others with a grain of salt. Yes, the advice on my own blog is included. Here is the truth: there is no recipe…there is no turnkey, guaranteed, “cookie cutter” way of achieving success. Of course you already know this, don’t you? Perhaps you know this through experience. Perhaps you simply know it in your gut. But one way or another, you sense that good things take time and hard work.
Where to Spend Your Time
I believe it’s crucial to read other sites and learn about your craft. Don’t stop learning how to improve your work, but be mindful about what you’re doing with your time. Before you apply some new tool or technique to your approach, ask yourself some important questions:
- “How much time is this going to take?”
- “Is this something I’m going to enjoy doing?”
- “Is it sustainable?”
- “What benefits do I honestly believe will come of this?”
- “Is the return commensurate with the expenditure of time or money?”
- “Do I actually understand this technique and what it will do, or will I just be doing it because it sounds cool?”
- “Can I delegate it?”
Answer these questions first, and if a tool or technique you’ve come across passes the test, then put it to use. If not, trash it.
How Much Time Do You Have To Waste?
Business owners often struggle with the return on investment from blogging. I hear this a lot… “How can I justify the use of my time?” Do you have this concern as well? Do you want to make sure you get a good return from the time you spend blogging?
Here’s the key: blogging can have a HUGE return on investment. But this is only true if you do it well. You need to do what works. Use the questions above, and they will keep you from blindly following arbitrary advice. This is what makes the difference between getting a huge return on your blog and burning out. Successful bloggers get results; they don’t follow arbitrary advice just because it sounds cool.
The One Rule To Follow
I promised one rule, and I will share it with you now. I think this one rule will serve you well as you go about the process of building your blog. Use this as your guide, and it will not only keep results coming your way, but it will also steer you clear of useless advice.
Here’s the rule: “Give first, then receive.”
Let me expand on this briefly, because a rule this simple can easily be glossed over or misunderstood.
- Do you want more incoming links? Then link to other people first.
- Do you want other bloggers to talk about you? Then talk about them first.
- Do you want people to submit guest posts to your blog? Then submit guest posts to other blogs first.
- Do you want people to comment on your blog? Then comment on other people’s blogs first.
Do you get the idea? Does this make sense? It may seem overly simplistic, but the idea stems from a foundational belief I have about blogging. I believe blogging is inherently social in nature. To attract the attention you want in the social web, you need to be active socially.
Finally, don’t be the nerdy kid in the corner
Most new bloggers spend WAY too much time on their blog. They need to spend time on other people’s blogs! Does this sound counter-intuitive? Think about it for a second. Spending all your time on your own blog is like being the nerdy kid in high school who sits in the corner and draws pictures, never looking up, never talking to anyone. He’s a genius, yes. He’s talented, yes. He has a lot to offer, no doubt. But he never actually offers it. He sits in the corner. He works endlessly refining his talent. The other kids see him, but no one really knows him.
Don’t be the nerdy kid in the corner. Share your genius with the world. That requires getting out there. Trust me on this, your design doesn’t matter, the length of your posts doesn’t matter. How often you post doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get out there, and you can do that in whatever way makes sense to you, in whatever way that works with your schedule, in whatever manner that is consistent with your goals.
You can “put yourself out there” by building links, writing content, spending time on Twitter, handing out business cards at your local brew pub or shouting the name of your blog from a high building…whatever truly, earnestly makes sense to you, your business and your customers. Just do it. Don’t sit on your hands, reading blogs and trying to find “the rules to success”, cuz there aren’t any. The rule I share with you here in this post isn’t even a blogging rule. It’s a life rule. If you rock, you will get results. I promise.
What are you going to do to get results this week?