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10 Ways to Pimp Your Blog

10 Ways to Pimp Your Blog
Pimp Your Blog

    A couple months ago, I wrote a newbie’s guide to blogging to help you get started with blogging. If you’ve been blogging for a little while now, you might be looking at how you can take the next step. To that end, this post offers 10 ways to “pimp” your blog, both in the sense of “tricking out” your blog to make it more attractive and more useful, and in the sense of pushing your blog to earn more readers, subscribers, and (hopefully) fans.

    Getting over the hump (or is it a Dip?)

    Launching a blog can be a heady experience, especially if it’s your first blog. Suddenly, what you have to say is “out there”, potentially available to millions of readers. You feel something like the pamphleteers of the French and American Revolution must have felt, sending your ideas forth into the Great Wide World.

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    Pretty soon, you might see a few readers, even get a comment of two, and that feels pretty good. After a couple of weeks of watching your statistics slowly inch into the double digits and waiting anxiously for the next comment, though, the initial enthusiasm fades a bit, and the realization sets in that blogging is long-term work. The Internet is littered with thousands, maybe millions of blogs that were abandoned after a few weeks or months.

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    If you’re writing good content and actively marketing your blog, though, there’s no reason why you should get discouraged as you slide into your first dip. Although it can be frustrating to commit your brilliant thoughts to the ether knowing only a handful of people are reading it, you’re doing important work for the long-term success of your site. You’re building up an archive of content that search engines will eventually be directing traffic to (Google, for instance, likes to see several months to a year of content on a blog before it starts bumping it up in search results), you’re building up a reputation, and you’re building a core readership — people who will link to your blog, bringing it to a slightly larger audience, who will also link, increasing the audience a little bit more, and so on.

    If you’re serious about blogging, the only thing to do at this point is to power through the dip. Spend some time buttressing your site’s functionality to make it more useful to your future readers (and avoid having to do much renovation later when the number of people it will confuse is vastly greater). And commit about the same amount of time you spend writing your blog to promoting it to keep that growth process moving forward.

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    Gussy it up a bit!

    The first group of tips are ways to add functionality or improve the way your blog looks. The idea is to turn your factory-stock ’04 Taurus into a lean, mean, street-racing machine. Let’s get started:

    1. First things first: UNPIMP YOUR BLOG! That’s right. Like a pimply-faced teen with no money who puts plastic wheel covers and fuzzy dice in his grandmother’s Civic hoping to impress the hot rod babes, beginning bloggers tend to put a lot of cra… er, “stuff” on their blogs. Counters. Chat rooms. Off-site forums. Badges for every web service and social network imaginable.  LOL-Cats. Glitter art.

      Most of this stuff isn’t making your blog any quicker, easier to use, or (let’s be honest) more attractive. It’s just cluttering it up and making it harder to find the good content your readers came to read. Be vicious in decluttering your blog — if a particular element adds no useful function for your readers, either a) lose it, b) move it to your “About” page (if it says something meaningful about you), or c) move it to a private page that only you have access to.

    2. Install a new theme: While you don’t want to get into the habit of changing your site’s layout all the time, now that you’ve been driving it for a couple of months it’s a good time to ask whether your theme is everything it could be. Most popular blogging platforms offer hundreds, if not thousands of free themes — Google the name of your blogging platform and the phrase “free themes” and check out the first few search results. Put some thought into the mood you want your site to convey — is it serious and professional, fun and whimsical, tech-savvy, homey, country, urban? There’s bound to be several themes for any mood you can dream up.
    3. Revise your “About” page: New bloggers tend to give short shrift to their “About” page. If your writing is at all good, people will want to know about the person behind the voice. Flesh out your bio with information about your background, experience, and reasons for blogging. This is also the place to put all those links to your profile on various social networks that you stripped from the front page while un-pimping.
    4. Create an “Archive” page: Most blogging software will automatically post links to monthly (or even weekly) archive pages into the sidebar of your blog. While this can look pretty neat when you’re just getting started, after a while that list starts getting pretty long — and it’s debatable whether it’s useful to let your readers browse by date, anyway. Before the list gets too unruly, move it to its own page (put a link to “Archives” in its place on the front page). Better yet, create a page with links to your archives by category or tag as well as by date.
    5. Add or update your logo: Most blogging programs create a nicely formatted header with your blog’s title and maybe a tagline, which is good, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to want a stronger brand image than just a title. Create — or have a graphics-savvy friend or even a professional create for you — a cool logo that says something interesting about you and your blog. This can be as simple as the title or its initials in a cool font that expresses the tone of your site, or an actual graphic (think: Nike’s “Swoosh”) that sums up the way you want your readers to feel.

    Work the streets

    Making your blog friendlier to readers won’t do much good if you don’t bring more readers to the site for a look. To build up traffic, you’re going to need to reach beyond your site and put links in places where your potential readers are likely to see them. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Add links to all your profiles: It seems obvious, but so many people don’t even fill out a profile on social networking sites — leaving a great resource untapped. If you participate to any significant degree on networks like Twitter, Pownce, Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on, people will check out your profile to find out more. Those are exactly the people you want reading your site! Make sure you give them a link that’s clearly marked as your site (so many people put their favorite sites in their profiles; make sure yours stands out as yours).
    2. Recognize active commenters: Respond to as many comments on your site as possible. Then, click through to your commenter’s sites and leave comments there. Build up a community of like-minded readers — ideally with your site as the “hub”. Some people post weekly or monthly “thank you” posts with links to the top 10 or 20 commenter’s sites — this not only helps build up a sense of warmth and goodwill, it makes it more likely that your readers with websites will link back to you.
    3. Write at least one valuable comment a day on someone else’s site. This is basically the above tip, inside-out. Leave good, insightful comments on other people’s sites — a sort of “mini-version” of your own site’s content — to get people interested in you. Remember, some people recognize quality commenters, by linking to their site and even by creating new posts around the points made in their best comments.
    4. Invite someone to guest post: In my newbie guide to blogging I suggested approaching well-established bloggers about writing a post for their sites. Once you get a little traction in your niche, you can also ask other bloggers if they’d like to do a post on your own blog — maybe as an exchange. You post on their site, they post on yours — you’ll both enjoy the opportunity to write for a slightly different audience, and of course you’ll both link to the other blogger’s site where your new post can be found.
    5. Create a massive resource post: Put your knowledge of your niche to work creating a massive resource — the 50 best sites in your niche, 100 great posts on your topic, 25 great web tools, etc. Make sure that you keep the filler to a minimum (there’s nothing wrong with posting the best 47 sites, instead of adding 3 more so-so sites to make it an even 50). This kind of post is often referred to as “linkbait”, because if it’s useful, a lot of people will link to it and/or bookmark it to return to later.

    Of course, you can always pay for traffic — you can buy StumbleUpon hits and Google ads and place banners on other people’s sites. It’s uncertain how powerful this kind of promotion is — some experts believe that on-line advertising doesn’t help anyone, and blogs are a special case even among online brands. While you can build a short-term spike in traffic through paid placements, it’s much harder to build long-term return traffic — that is, “fans” — in any way other than providing quality, meaningful stuff for them to read, both at your site and around the Web.

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    In my experience, the people who go for the quick burst of traffic rarely offer any reason to stick around. The ones who write well, show they’re serious, and have some staying power — the ones who manage to get over that first bout of doldrums a month or so into their blog’s life — those are the ones worth following. Follow some or all of the tips above, and you’ll be part of that select group.

    If you’ve been blogging for a while, let us know: how did you manage that first plateau — and all the slow periods since? What are your tips for bloggers whose feet are wet but they want to make sure they’ve built a strong enough foundation to make it for the long haul? Tell us your tips in the comments!

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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