Content development comprises at least half of the blogging experience. A blog can render positive results in the short run without having much original material, but in the longer term, the absence of quality content is fatal. Repeat visitors are the lifeline of a blog, and if content is wanting, readers will neither sign up nor return.
I’ve been blogging for nearly four years, and during that time, I’ve published over 100 articles on this blog and generated more than 1600 posts on another. This work has given me a feel for the effort required to develop content to sustain an active blog.
Throughout the same period, I spent hundreds of hours reading articles on other blogs, and I have observed some of the mistakes that bloggers make with respect to content development. Below, I identify a few of those errors and offer suggestions regarding how to avoid committing them.
Bloggers often come up short regarding content development because:
1. They have no plans
Having a plan when you start your blog is not so important as understanding that you must formulate one as you proceed. For new bloggers, the learning curve is steep, and knowing everything in advance is simply not possible.
Before I started my blogs, I spent several months reading about domain-name selection, hosting choices, blogging-platform options, theme availability, and a host of other matters that concerned, intrigued, and mystified me. The idea is to learn enough to avoid doing months of work, finding yourself cornered, and having to start over.
2. They publish posts inconsistently
When I began SlingingtheBull.com, I published articles twice a week and soon realized that that pace would kill me. I produced pieces of over 1000 words each, and I discovered that doing a good job at that length is simply not possible on a twice-a-week basis. I shifted to a weekly schedule and found the same to be true, so I continued lengthening the periods until I finally arrived at the comfortable rhythm of posting every two weeks.
The publishing period depends on the type of blog you envisage. If the focus is on providing your readers with snippets of information, then frequent posts of a couple of hundred words may work fine. I tried that on 1stSpanish.com, but I found myself unable to keep up a daily pace as long as I ran two blogs.
Bloggers who want to develop more complex ideas will probably need to post less frequently. Until the blog is generating lots of traffic, I would suggest posting at least every two weeks. Keeping your blog in readers’ minds is important, and even someone with a full-time job can produce a reasonably engaging article twice a month.
3. They choose strained topics
Most of the bloggers I follow are good at creating meaningful content. They understand the amount of research, writing, editing, and hard work that active blogging requires. When they invite guest writers to post, however, the quality of the content often diminishes. Many of the topics that were avant-garde a few years ago have been beaten to death and do nothing to enhance the readers’ experiences.
Prosaic lists of umpteen ways to promote a blog through social media and headlines like “What You Can Learn About Blogging From Observing The Stages Of The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” only make readers run for cover. I click away from such posts immediately, and if the blogger engages in too much such nonsense, I unsubscribe and move on.
4. They select niches that are too limited
Many folks who enter the blogging arena know a lot about some narrow topic, and they dive enthusiastically into their new adventure only to find that effective blogging requires the creation of a far greater quantity of engaging material than they anticipate. A few ideas won’t do it—you have to have a ton of stuff to say in order to make a blog take off.
One approach to avoiding disappointment is to write a dozen articles or so before starting the blog. That way, you can assess your ability to sustain the pace that successful blogging requires. If you decide to go forward, your pre-prepared articles will give you a nice head start on the content creation for your new site.
5. They adopt topics that are too broad
When I conceived SlingingtheBull.com, I had in mind a personal-development blog, but I was unsure about my long-term ability to create enough relevant content, so I chose a domain name that offered me the flexibility to redirect the focus later. Those initial articles are available under the lifestyle category, but I’ve since changed the tag line, and I now see that the blog is heading in a different direction. I still don’t know where it will end up, but I believe that the lyrical use of language, whether through articles, essays, or short stories, will eventually become the dominant theme.
The problem with choosing a broad topic is that attracting repeat visitors is difficult. If each of twenty categories contains three articles, the total is sixty, but only three pieces are available in a single area of interest. A reader who is drawn to a category may review all three articles in a single visit and never return to the site.
6. They prematurely seek guest-posting opportunities
Posting articles on other blogs is an effective way to direct visitors to your site. When I read guest bloggers’ articles, I frequently click on links just to see what’s up. Sometimes the guest poster’s piece is excellent and accurately reflects the quality of work that resides on the linked-to site. At other times, however, the blog at the other end of the link is poorly developed and lacking in substance.
Guest posting before having sufficient home-blog content is a foolish strategy. The host site benefits from the guest’s fresh ideas, while the guest blogger’s site experiences little more than a temporary spike in traffic. Guest posting makes no sense in the absence of a significant body of content on your blog that is relevant to the article you post on the host’s site.
7. They do not focus on the readers’ needs
Always remember that it’s not about what you know or how cool your content seems, but rather about what readers take away from the experience. If you want repeat visitors, your articles must benefit your public. That’s why personal blogs that are basically memoirs rarely become popular. The operative question is, “Who cares?”
I’ve broken the focus-on-the-reader rule on several occasions, but I’m aware that I cannot get away with it often. And when I do venture into a less reader-focused mode, I put extra time into crafting an especially poetical piece.
8. They force keywords into the content
Some Internet writers are adept at weaving relevant keywords into their articles, and the resulting traffic is impressive. I have had only moderate success at waving the keyword wand. Two of my articles have attracted multitudes of visitors and continue to do so, a dozen others have produced respectable levels of traffic since their inceptions, and the rest have dropped to lower levels of attention.
If you find relevant keywords that fit naturally into your article, then by all means, use them. The title, first paragraph, and closing lines seem to carry special weight with the search engines. If the keywords do not flow with the writing, or you stuff them indiscriminately into the piece, you may draw some initial traffic, but those visitors will not stay long and almost certainly will not return.
9. They write bad copy
Sophisticated readers have little tolerance for poor writing, and many of them will abandon the site the moment they run into a grammatical or syntactical error. Exceptions abound, though, and if their needs are compelling enough, readers will wade through whatever rubbish you leave in their paths in order to obtain the information they seek. But this is a one-time shot. If you want visitors to return, you have to make the reading easy.
Your articles should be polished enough to keep folks reading. If the average visitor stays on site for several minutes, you’re on the right track. Readers who find your landing pages interesting will look at your categories list for related articles. The prospect of finding other great content will motivate them to sign up for email updates, connect through their RSS readers, or add the site to their favorite places.
Blogging is a long-term endeavor that, like most occupations, is more pleasant if you are proud of your work. Making your best effort every time you post new content is essential to developing a meaningful presence on the Internet. Content development is not the entire blogging story, but no blog can thrive without it.