What makes a blog good? How can you make your blog better?


I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I have been thinking of ways that I can improve my blog. I also have been tasked with participating on a panel of bloggers across Microsoft who will be addressing a number of moderated questions in about a month. Reading Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail, has helped me identify a number of those ideas into more tangible concept. Blogging is definitely about the reader and the reader typically is drawn by two things:


·         The authority of the blog source


·         The relevance of the information sent out on the blog to the reader


How can bloggers improve their blogs to make the source more relevant and authoritative? I will try to address this briefly but please add any additions that you may have as comments.


Authority.


For authority, there are a number of possibilities that you can leverage to your advantage. You just need to think about the various things that make you unique and then use these things to entice the reader. In my case, I work for Microsoft, which gives me an insider's perspective and access to information and resources that people outside Microsoft don't have. As a programming writer, I am connected to the heartbeat of best practices at Microsoft for clearly communicating programming concepts. I believe that everybody has something that makes them unique to readers and has a perspective that they can provide which translates into value for readers. Beyond the resources that make you unique, you can increase your authority by increasing the number of people reading your blog, the number of people linking to your blog, and the number of times that your blog gets cited as a source.


Relevance.


Relevance in the case of blogs and blogging is really about figuring out what your targeted readers want to be reading about. Being passionate about a concept is sufficient to find sources for things to blog about, but really narrowing down what your talking points are will generate a readership that is loyal. For me, relevance has been an issue that I have attempted to address in a few past years of running my blog. One thing that I have tried is reducing the number of entries that I post in an effort to make each entry more relevant. My entries shifted from "this is an interesting point on the media / technology" citations outside my blog to "I just worked on this and this was what could have been confusing for a newbie". What I'm finding now, however, is that I should also be posting more entries. More frequent blog updates that are on topic to my blog should help to increase my blogs relevance to readers. These entries shouldn't be trash, however; they should be focused to the audience that I am targeting. In The Long Tail, Anderson points out that even the smallest niches have a place in a free marketplace where the additional cost of adding or consuming the niche is low.


The Authority-Relevance Dynamic.


There is a relationship that exists for blogs between relevance and authority: as relevance increases, readership increases, which in turn makes the blog more authoritative. As blogs become more authoritative, the number of comments goes up, making the blog more relevant. See the mini-microsoft blog for a great example of this.


Easy Tricks to Create Relevance and Authority


Share the love and add more links to sources of information.


For example, after writing my post, I went ahead and found a few other blog entries on this that are worth checking out.  I'll list them at the end of the post.


Add your blog to the big aggregators. 


Technorati.com lets you "Claim your blog" which adds ATOM and RSS support via their interface.  This in turn will get you onto the major RSS aggregator sites such as bloglines.com.


Put your blog on a domain.


This is a cheap way to create authority. Buy a domain, put your blog on it. Search engines give people higher ranks when they are hosted on their own domain.


Work to get the keywords right.


This goes hand in hand with working the niches. Identify your niche and make sure that the keywords you are using in blog and entry metadata are appropriate for the entry and your blog.


A Call To Action.


So, now, how can you improve your blog?  What should you do next to make it more authoritative and relevant?


Set some goals.


Studies show that people who set goals perform better. This means, if you identify where you want to take your blog and set some goals around it, it's much more likely that you will succeed in creating an influential blog. When you set goals, a great system is the S.M.A.R.T. system. This mnemonic stands for specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely. More information about S.M.A.R.T. is available in the links at the bottom. As an example, by this time next year I will have twice as many views per post.  I will do this by sticking to my plan and tracking my progress. So here it is, by December 2009, I want to have 2000 views per post.  I also want to be posting much more. 15 entries per month.  I want all of my posts to be relevant (I can't measure this, but it's a qualitative goal that I will measure by looking at the average number of views per entry).


Identify the right niche.


Do you want your readers to be Tablet PC developers who are interested in best practices and examples for the next generation of SDK materials? Or, do you want your readers to be users who are looking for clever tricks for their PCs. For me, this is a question that I don't yet have a clear answer to, but I need to think deep and identify who the people are that I can provide the most value to.


Post more frequently.


This is pretty simple. Believe it or not, the best bloggers blog! A lot! I'm guilty of not blogging enough. Despite my efforts to post less and make the entries more relevant, I have in effect segmented off a few readers from when I was posting more frequently. I will try to post relevant content to keep readers engaged with my blog in the future and will do this with fervor in an effort to drive up my relevance.


Share the love.


If you link, they will come. Links (in and out) are the way that spiders crawl the web. More links equals more touches by the spiders, and the greater your blog's relevance. Again, I'm guilty of not linking out enough. I will try to dramatically increase the number of external links and cross references that I make in entries. Perhaps I will even try to standardize this in my entries by adding a "for more information" section to each entry moving forward that includes a number of resources for further reading.


Develop voice in your posts.


Understanding your medium is very important in any form of writing.  Blogs tend to be very informal. Having dry or wordy posts can prevent readers from getting hooked on your entries.  Make sure that you develop an informal writing style for your posts to further separate your blog from the other 15 million or so blogs out there. Take this last consideration with a grain of salt, however… In some contexts, it could make sense to write up more formal or "stiff" blog entries. A blog presence for a newspaper, is one instance.  But the case for formal blog entries is much more the exception than the rule.


 


Please voice your opinion in my comments, any additional points will definitely be useful here.


 


For More information


·         Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals


·         The Long Tail Blog


·         Custom Blogging – improving your blog


·         Google Success – Improving Blog Traffic


·         Dopp Juice – Improving your Blog


·         10 ways to improve blog traffic in 30 minutes or less


·         10 Ways to Boost your Blog Readership


 

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