The following advice is from Michael Hyatt’s newest release, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. The book is one of the most comprehensive guides on building an effective platform I’ve seen. Both beginning writers and established authors will find excellent and insightful instruction.
Assuming you want to increase your blog traffic, there are certain mistakes you must avoid to be successful. If you commit these errors, your traffic will never gain momentum. Worse, it may begin to plateau or begin to decrease.
How do I know? After writing more than 1,200 posts and receiving almost 100,000 comments, I have made most of the mistakes you can make—numerous times. As a result, certain patterns emerged.
1. You don’t post often enough.
Frequency is what separates the men from the boys … or the women from the girls. You cannot build solid traffic without frequent posts. I have seen time and time again that there is a direct correlation between frequency and traffic.
2. You post too often.
Yes, this is possible too. People don’t need to hear from anyone more than once a day—unless it is a group blog or a news site. You would do better to focus on writing one really great post a day rather than several mediocre ones. The trick is to find your frequency sweet spot. For me, it is four to five posts a week.
3. Your post is too long.
I shoot for less than 500 words. But I often post up to 600-700 words. Sometimes more. You can get away with this if your posts are scannable—that is, you make use of subheads, lists, and other devices that keep people moving through your content.
4. You don’t invite engagement.
Engagement refers to a combination of page views, reader comments, and social media mentions. The posts that generate the most engagement for me are those that are controversial, transparent (especially about failure), and/or open-ended. That is why I try to end every post with a question.
5. You don’t participate in the conversation.
When bloggers don’t comment on their own posts and respond to their readers, it is like hosting a party at your home, making a brief appearance, and then disappearing. In any other context, that behavior would be perceived as rude or odd. The same is true in blogging.
6. You don’t make your content accessible.
I often get asked if I think people are reading less. The simple answer is no. In fact, I think they are reading more than ever. But they are reading differently. Readers have shorter attention spans. They are scanning content, looking for items that interest them.
7. You don’t create catchy headlines.
According to Brian Clark, who runs the must-read site CopyBlogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” This means your headlines are the most important thing you write. Fortunately, Brian has an entire series of posts called How to Write Magnetic Headlines.
8. Your first paragraph is weak.
This is critical. Assuming you have written a great headline, people will next read your first paragraph. You must use this paragraph to pull them into the rest of your blog post. Start with a story, a promise, or a startling fact. Many bloggers spend too much time trying to set up the post or provide context. Just get to the point.
9. Your post is off-brand.
If you are trying to build a platform, you need to find an editorial focus and stick to it. A tighter focus leads to higher traffic. This is why I have tried to narrow my own focus to four areas: leadership, productivity, social media, and publishing. If I want to write on something else (e.g., fitness), I do so through one of these four lenses.
10. Your post is about you.
Unless you are a megacelebrity, readers don’t care about you. Not really. They are about themselves. They want to know what’s in it for them. your personal stories can be a doorway to that, but in the end, the best posts are about your readers’ needs, fears, problems, or concerns. Always ask, “What’s the takeaway for my reader?”
There are other mistakes too; I doubt this list is exhaustive. But if you can avoid these, you will be well on your way to increasing your traffic and growing your home base.
Michael Hyatt is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S. Click here to visit his blog.