The 7 New Rules of Blogging
By Content Marketing Advisor, Nick Nichols
Once upon a time, there were generally accepted blogging practices that most of the "gurus" recommended and sometimes even practiced! But in the digital world, change is the only constant.
I’m known for saying, "The only rules are the ones you make," and what I’d like to offer are more guidelines than rules when it comes to blogging in 2016 and beyond.
The key to a high-ROI content marketing strategy is to adopt concepts and ideas that you believe will appeal to your audience and adapt them to your style, personality, schedule and resources. Over time, your audience will tell you one way or the other if what you’re doing is working. If your content is being shared and talked about by others, and, your mailing list is growing and your bottom line is increasing, then you know you’re on the right track. If not, feel free to experiment until you do get the results you want.
Here are 7 "rules" that may not apply anymore and some new guidelines to help you get the most from your blogging efforts.
Old Rule #1: Post Early, Post Often
Most SEO experts would agree that Google likes fresh content and blogging experts often recommend posting as often as once every business day to keep your blog fresh. However, unless your topic lends itself to volatility, constant innovation or breaking news that your target audience can’t do without, reading your blog every day is probably not their top priority.
Don’t Overdo It
New Guideline #1: Post Regularly, Post Strategically
Unless you have a large, monetized following (mailing list of at least 1000 people who have bought something from you) the hard reality is that your blog posts are probably not being seen by a lot of people right now. You can verify this via your analytics.
So how do you balance the time necessary to write meaningful blog posts with the lack of immediate return on your time investment?
Start by setting a goal of posting one item a week on the same day and time every week. Then, set up Google Alerts for keywords that you might expect to yield news and other timely information about topics that your target audience needs to know about. Monitor the alerts and use them as idea starters. When you have at least four ideas, write four posts to drip to your blog over the next four weeks. During that time, collect more ideas and set a specific day and time in week three to write your next four posts. Rinse and repeat.
Over the next year you’ll have created 50+ posts, which is probably a lot more than your competitors have written. You’ll have demonstrated your commitment to keeping your website fresh. And you’ll have 50+ more chances of being seen in search results in a meaningful way.
Comments Can Be Detrimental
Old Rule #2: Allow Comments
If you’re like me, you probably read articles and blog posts that come across your email inbox from time to time. And you’ve probably noticed that many articles and posts have comment areas. And if you’ve read comments on those articles and posts you’ve probably noticed that most of them add little value to the main content. And some of them are self-serving or negative. And comments need moderation, which takes time.
New Guideline #2: Turn Off Comments, Turn On Follow-Up
Instead of allowing comments that may detract from your content, keep abreast of other articles and posts that might support, add to or even disagree with your point of view. Then write a follow-up to your original post that discusses the other point(s) of view or adds to your original thought process. This demonstrates that you are paying attention without having to respond to individual comments. It also freshens up the original post and may cause it to be re-indexed for better search positioning.
Old Rule #3: Use a Ghostwriter
Content outsourcing has been used since the dawn of the written word. Politicians use speech writers. Comedians use joke writers. Businesses use advertising copywriters. They do this because they think they don’t have the time or expertise to create their own content and because they feel that this kind of writing requires a professional. And in many cases, they’re probably right.
Who are you?
New Guideline #3: The Best Person to State Your Point of View is You
The primary goal of a blog post or article should be to offer insight about, guidance on and/or a solution to a real-world problem your target audience has that they can benefit from immediately.
The second goal is to position you as a subject matter expert and industry thought leader to your target audience; the media; potential joint venture partners – even potential suitors.
Subject matter expertise and industry thought leadership are largely a matter of perception – both by third parties and by the would-be expert or leader. You become an expert or leader by acting as an expert or leader. And one great way to do that is to take a stand on an issue or topic you’re passionate about that demonstrates your expertise and leadership.
The good news is that your content doesn’t need to be at the level of a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece. But it does need to offer value-based information that stimulates thought and, hopefully, motivates positive action.
Raise Your Awareness
Old Rule #4: Be 100% Original
In our digital age nearly all non-fiction content is derived from, inspired by or even "spun" from existing content. And a lot of fictional content is based on existing premises, story lines and plots. The fact is there’s very little – if any – 100% original thought left in our universe.
New Guideline #4: Adopt and Adapt
Most of my blog posts, articles, podcasts and video material were triggered by content that was created by someone else. Or my content stemmed from the actions or inaction of someone else. So it is with just about all content creators.
The key is to put your own brand or spin on someone else’s ideas and clarify, amplify and enhance those ideas in your own words, with your own personality and style. Never plagiarize. I always run my content through CopyScape to make sure it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s work. And give attribution when you state a concept, statistic or quote from someone else’s work. But remember that ideas cannot be copyrighted. Only the exact expression of those ideas can be copyrighted.
Old Rule #5: Words Are All It Takes
In the early days of blogging and B.W.P. (Before WordPress), a blogger had to know HTML or master unfriendly WYSIWYG editors to place images in articles or posts. WordPress – and to a lesser extent, other content management system platforms – make it easy for anyone with reasonable MS Word skills to place images in a post or blog. And stock image sites like iStockPhoto offer thousands of images at reasonable prices.
All Text is Boring
New Guideline #5: Pictures are Worth Their Weight in Attention
Imagine watching a movie with no soundtrack. It would be far less entertaining and might even be boring. So it is with blog posts and articles. We live in a very visual world and a post without at least one good image will be crippled from the start. A picture may not be worth a thousand words in a blog post, but a good, relevant, funny or controversial image can break up paragraphs of text and add dimension and balance.
Make an effort to add at least one licensed or permission-based image to your articles and posts to make them more tempting to read. And do what most people who use images don’t do: put a caption under your images to make them even more relevant. It’s a proven copywriting fact that people often skim text but read sub-headlines and image captions. Help people to absorb your content and more of them will.
As a faster alternative to finding and posting images, use blockquotes like this to create a callout effect to draw attention to points you want to emphasize and to break up the page.
Size Does Matter
Old Rule #6: Size Does Matter
As blogging evolved as a content deployment strategy, the consensus was that blog posts should be in the 400 to 700-word range and not longer. I’m not sure who made this rule but it goes against a fundamental principle of copywriting.
New Guideline #6: Quality Trumps Quantity
As a website and advertising copywriter I’m constantly battling uninformed people who believe that shorter is always better. Yes, we live in a sound bite, quick-cut, attention deficit society but I can prove to you that people will read, watch or listen to content of any length as long as they perceive it to be interesting, relevant, entertaining, controversial, clever, or a combination of these.
Legend has it that Max Hart, co-founder of suit maker Hart, Schaffner & Marx, was having an argument with his ad man who wanted to run a full-page ad in the New York Times during The Great Depression when cash was tight.
Hart lamented that no one would read a full-page ad and it would be a waste of money. The ad man then bet Hart $100 (a meaningful sum in those times) that he could get Hart to eagerly read a full-page ad from top to bottom and all he had to do was write the headline.
Hart agreed to the bet. Here’s the headline:
"This Page is All about Max Hart"
An embarrassed Hart coughed up the c-note.
The point again is that people will read, watch or listen to content of any length as long as they perceive it to be interesting, relevant, entertaining, controversial, clever, or a combination of these.
So don’t fret over the length of your posts. But you might want to think of your blog content as articles instead of posts and make them just long enough to make your points, tell your story or get your message across, and not a word longer – or shorter.
Old Rule #7: Hoard Your Content
Some bloggers and article writers believe that the only way to get people to visit their websites is to not allow republishing of their content on other sites. Their thinking is that if someone sees their content at another site they will have no reason to visit their site. This is hogwash.
New Guideline #7: All the World’s a Stage
What good is your content if no one reads it? Unless you have a broad-based and monetized audience that visits your blog regularly, you are doing yourself and your potential readers a disservice if you keep you content under wraps at your own site.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but having your good content appear on relevant third-party sites will actually drive visitors to your site for more. This is because when your content appears on third-party sites you get the implied endorsement of that site. This principle has applied to printed magazine and newspaper articles for decades.
Important note: In recent years there has been continuing scuttlebutt in SEO land about the penalty that Google is alleged to apply to so-called "duplicate content." This penalty is said to adversely affect the rankings of content that appears in more than one place, also known as syndicated content. Some "experts" advise against content syndication for this reason.
Google’s SEO spokesperson, Matt Cutts, has responded to this by saying that Google will penalize what he calls "spammy" duplicate content. By this he means, content that has been manipulated through content "spinning" to appear different and avoid the penalty. Cutts has said that in its quest to deliver the most relevant content after a search query, Google will attempt to filter out similar results. Perhaps you’ve seen Google’s message to this effect when doing searches.
Here’s what you need to know about duplicate content…
While it may be true that Google will filter out duplicate content in search results, it is false that duplication of quality content will hurt you.
I have a saying: "You can’t make it too easy for qualified prospects to find you." The more good content you get published in places that are relevant to your target audience, the more exposure you will get and the more money you will make.
- Sign up for Google Alerts
- Monitor the results for idea starters
- Write at least four articles with at least one relevant, captioned image.
- Post one a week on the same day at the same time.
- Write more articles in week three and continue to post them.
- Look for third-party sites to submit your content.
- Post links to your content on social media sites and on your Google+ page.
Need help with your marketing? Call Dalfort Media at 214-458-2290.