The short version
If you're short on time and focus for kicking your blog into shape, I give you 7 ideas for where to start and what to do. Take one a week, and you'll have your blog looking like new - and performing like a pro - in double-quick time.
Is 2018 the year your business blog is going to start acting like a fully-fledged team member? Or is it going to continue to laze around the sidelines, taking up time and giving back nothing?
There are lots of ways you can kick your blog into shape. Most of the good ones involve planning, strategy, goalsetting, and more planning, but we don't want to stress anyone out.
Instead, today, we're going to take a look at 7 things you can do over the next week or two that will help set your blog up with the foundations it needs to get 2018 off to a flying start.
Establish a baseline
(Note: I started this post at the start of January, and have been felled until now by the flu. Not "the flu", the actual, goddam flu. I'm incensed.)
Don't even *think* of wading into 2018 before setting a baseline. Now's the time to set up an elaborate system of rewards or whatever is necessary to get you to sit down in front of Google Analytics and find out what worked and what didn't in 2017.
When you know what's what, it's time to kill, change or double down.
How much data you have and how useful it will be to you depends on a lot of things, including how consistently you have been blogging, how you have been tracking your URLs, and how well you have been documenting and monitoring your content production efforts. Even if you have done none of these things, as long as Google Analytics is set up, there should be some information you can glean.
How to do it
Find out what is important to you, and see how you did last year. Popular content, time on page, visit sources and bounce rate are the kind of thing that you might be interested in here. Find out what your metrics looked like last year, and note them down. Now you need to monitor how they progress. There are a few ways to do this...Ideally, you would become more proficient at Analytics, but who am I kidding? Do what I do and download or find an Analytics dashboard or report that's suited to blogging.
Here's a selection of reports, for example.
And this is the one I use personally. It displays all my most important metrics in an easy-to-view dashboard. Of course, you can also make your own dashboard, if you're hardcore like that. Either way, get to a place where you can log in, look at one thing and have an accurate idea of how things are going. Now promise to log in at least once a week (more often might even be counterproductive), and just keep an eye on things. How easy is that? I haven't even asked you to do anything with it (although if you notice things going pear-shaped, you might want to).
Commit to a promotion plan
Yes, yes, everyone knows I am obsessed with promotion, but that's only because I am 110% convinced that all your blogging is for NOTHING if you don't make sure people (preferably your target audience) sees it. What's important to lay down today, however, is that there are improvements you can make whether you're already an experienced promoter, or if you've never done more than post your blog to Facebook. The important point here is that there is ALWAYS something extra you can do, so get into the habit of doing something extra regularly.
How to do it
- If you already promote fairly well, try making sure you hit 3 - 5 more points on a list like this.
- If you're new to promotion, but have a decent social media presence, try posting multiple times to 2 or 3 of your networks, diluting your content well with other relevant content and audience engagement posts. Have a look at an article like this, and make sure a given blog post is promoted at least 10 times in a 3-month period, for example. This will be easier with a tool like MeetEdgar* or Buffer.
- If you're new to promotion, but don't really have much of a social media following, pick 3 - 5 actions from a list like this and do them religiously for the next few months.
Tighten up your grammar and spelling
If you don't think that grammar and spelling are your strong points, then they are almost certainly not! Spelling mistakes and other typos are small but deadly to your brand and authority. There is absolutely no excuse these days, however, so it's a problem you should pledge to resolve sooner rather than later.
How to do it
Install a spellchecker on your browser. I use and love Grammarly. It's really in a class of its own, even though there are some alternatives. For those of you who aren't aware, the kind of spellchecker that you might get with Microsoft Word, for example, doesn't work on the internet, so you're going to have to make other arrangements. If you want more information about the kind of support you can put in place for yourself, check out this article that I wrote about tools and apps to help improve your writing.
Schedule some love for your old posts
If you've been blogging for a while, there's a good chance some of your old posts are languishing, forgotten. The internet isn't a static place - all kinds of things can happen that mean your post isn't quite the beast it was when you first published. Among other problems, you can have images that disappear, links that vanish, information that changes, typos you didn't catch, and undesirable comments left. Your content will look much fresher and make a better impression if you deal with these problems on a regular basis.
How to do it
I like to make sure I have an article database (and I talk about this more in the next point) where I list all the posts and anything I'm doing with them. If you list the article and the date it's due a refresh, you can program them into a calendar app to get reminders. I like to refresh every 3, 6 and 12 months, and I sandwich that in with the republication actions I detail below. So, for example, I will publish an article in January, check it for updated images, links, etc, in March, check and republish to a 3rd party in June, and check and re-spin into new content the following January.
Republish to a schedule
Republishing is an entire second chance for your content, which is why it surprises me so much when people ignore the opportunity. You've got two approaches here - either respin the old content into something new, and promote as something new, or check the content is still good and simply pass it through the promotion mill once again. The second option is the lower-effort, but the first, as so often in life, is the one that opens the door to more impressive results.
How to do it
If you don't already have one, create an excel or spreadsheet with every single one of the blog posts you have published. Depending on how long you've been online, that could be a pretty long list, but push through - it's worth it. Now, if you want to get fancy, you can add details to the list (like when you're planning to refresh it, above). You don't have to add in historical information, though - the important thing here is to start recording.
Now, edit the list and get rid of anything that, for whatever reason, you don't want to draw attention to. If anything sticks out as being particularly juicy for respinning into a more visual or otherwise interesting republication, mark it for further attention. If not, just take a post a week and repromote it as before. You know the deal - among lots of other options:
- Make up a nice cover image for it with a tool like Canva, and share that
- Share to social networks and re-populate any auto-sharing tools you use
- Reshare it in any online groups, forums, etc, you're active in
- Republish on 3rd party sites like Linkedin
- Grab a list like this and promise to do, say, 3 things that you didn't do last time
Then go back to the interesting posts you've marked and see what you can reimagine them as. Videos (even Instagram Stories or Facebook...Stories) can be an easy, accessible way to do this. Graphic things like infographics tend to be very popular, and there are always slideshares, flipboards, podcasts, ebooks, and whitepapers.
Up your headline game
Along with images (below), headlines are a reader's first contact with your content and deserve plenty of thought. If you don't currently have a method for devising headlines (and in a related fashion, messages for sharing on social media), you should incorporate some of the changes I mention below. In the absolute worst case, it will stretch your writing ability a little. In the best, you could come up with a whole new fresh take for an article, or find a message that absolutely blows up online (in a good way).
How to do it
For your next article, use a placeholder headline while you write. My placeholders are inevitably a very straightforward description of the article I am writing, so, for example, "article about great pet-friendly hotels in Spain". When you're finished, take a piece of paper and either jot down all the possible titles that come to you (if this kind of thing comes to you easily) and, if not, use a tool like this. Now I'll stress that these are not to be taken literally - they're to get you to think outside the box and see some new possibilities. When you're done, you should have anywhere between 7 - 20 possible titles. Read them all and nix any that really won't work (but don't be too quick to do this!). Now, run them all through this analyzer and keep the best 5. Use them in the article, and when sharing and see how they work.
Upgrade the images you use
A different style, layout or treatment of the images you use can give the impression of a completely fresh blog, even if you change nothing else. By changing things up, you can improve the way people perceive your blog, improve their experience while using the website, and help Google get a better grip on whether your website and blog deserve to be up there with the big boys.
How to do it
First of all, get to grips with the options you have built-in to your blog. If you work on Wordpress, add your image, and then click on it to see more options relating to how it displays next to text, how big it is, and whether or not you use a caption. By using themes and plugins, you'll have the opportunity to do even more with the appearance of your blog, so look into that too. Don't forget to examine and possibly modify the details when you upload the image too. There's more information about what you need to look out for here.
If you use Squarespace, like me, you have other options and the ability to drag and drop the image. Move it around and see where it looks best, or examine the options under >Design to see if it might look good in a slideshow or carousel.
The drag and drop can sometimes be a little fiddly to use, but it's worth persevering with as you can come up with some lovely effects.
Don't forget the additional options under >Edit, where you'll be able to do all manner of other things.
Secondly, examine where you're getting your images from and what kind of style they are. There are oodles of image resources out there, all with a different style and feel. Try a new source and you might just find a whole new look for your blog posts. I've rounded up some great places to get free images in this post, 19 Great Places to get Free Images for your Blog.
Blogs are great marketing tools, and the great thing about them is that they're slow burn, meaning you can reap great rewards from them for years after you first set them up. That doesn't mean you can forget about them, however. They'll show you much greater returns if you keep them maintained in ways other than simply adding new posts. Likewise, making small changes designed to get more eyes on your content, or make the eyes that are already on it more appreciative, are wise moves to make on a regular basis. There may be no overnight success story, but you should see reader numbers, conversions and time on page creeping up over time.
So, take one or two of these points and work on them over the next few weeks. You'll hopefully learn some new skills, and bolster your blog in the process. After a few months of changes, check in on those metrics - I'm positive that you're going to see some great results!
As ever, please share this post if you know someone who might benefit from it, or let me know your thoughts - or problems - in the comments!
*This is an affiliate link. If you use it to sign up for MeetEdgar, I get a small payment. I think you should sign up, but that's because I already use it and would happily sing its praises even if I didn't get a small payment.