Having now read and linked to hundreds of blogs as part of my postings and round-ups during my first year, and having exceeded my expectations for a niche blog (The End of My Rookie Year: Thoughts, Metrics and Changes), I wanted to list a dozen tips on better blogging to kick off my second year. Perhaps one or two of the points will help someone somewhere, particularly those in my field, but these can be adopted elsewhere:
1. Blog optimization is different than search engine optimization: SEO experts tell you to use the same buzz words as often as possible so that it increases presence with Google. Except that doing so means your writing will probably suck. Does a reader really want to see the phrase “personal injury attorney” in every other sentence? And if the writing sucks, no one will want to read it, link to you, or come back. Incoming links, of course, are important both to bringing in new readers and improving Google PageRank. Otherwise you have to hope that new readers will blindly stumble upon your poorly ranked blog. So forget SEO and work on being a better writer and providing real content.
2. Don’t engage in blatant self-promotion: Blog posts that look like advertisements (“If you or a close friend was injured, call me at …blah, blah, blah”) are posts that no one wants to read, and fewer want to link to. Perhaps a potential client will find you, but without the incoming links that come from better writing, it isn’t very likely.
3. Don’t use crappy back links to yourself in the post: If you continually link back to your own blog or website in the text of a post every time you use a favorite buzz phrase, you have added nothing. In fact, you’ve made it worse. Perhaps you think all those internal links make Google happy, but don’t count on readers who chased bum links coming back again. While I’m not privy to Google’s algorithms, you can bet your last pixel that external links are vastly more important than internal links. Google didn’t get to be king of the hill by being stupid. I use one identifying link at the bottom of the post, and have an “about” section in the sidebar. That’s more than enough if someone wants to find me, and doesn’t destroy the text.
4. Breaking the news beats the hell out of commentary on the news: The posts that most readers found to be of interest were those that had originally sourced material. Why? Because other bloggers (and news media) saw them and linked to them, thereby bringing in more readers. Commentary is nice, and allows you to give your views, but it’s still just commentary.
5. Link to others often: While this is part of every “how to” on blogging, many people still don’t get it. Links are how others find out about you, and they bring in other bloggers who might, if you write well, link back to you bringing in more readers.
6. Your competition is your friend: While you may compete in the same niche for clients with other firms, they are also your readers and sources for stories. A successful blog doesn’t ignore that.
7. Quirky is good: If a blog isn’t enjoyable to read, then people won’t read it. Simple. A little personality is fine. Don’t make reading your blog look like work.
8. Stay focused: If you are off-topic more than 20% of the time, people won’t really know what you are about, and therefore may not come back. And 20% is probably too high.
9. Add value: A blog that is merely parasitic of news stories or other blogs isn’t worth much, unless you intend to be a news aggregator like How Appealing or Kevin M.D. If you’re writing about a news story or decision reported by others, add your own thoughts on its significance.
10. Don’t try to monetize the blog with ads: Very few blogs have the traffic that will attract meaningful advertising dollars. So if the money is minimal, don’t uglify the blog with ads.
11. A blog is indirect promotion: When people write articles for publication, they don’t scream “hire me!” Writers for traditional journals simply hope that their reputation will be enhanced by demonstrating knowledge in a field and that this may indirectly help them professionally. It’s a form of networking. Treat your blog the same way.
12. Enjoy yourself: If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. If it is done as a hope for obtaining business it will be quite clear in your writing, and more importantly, it won’t be fun. Let’s face it, no one will ever hire me because of my marathon Blawg Review, but I had a blast doing it. And that’s the important part.
This past week has been devoted to blogging due to Blawg Review and my one year anniversary. The navel gazing will now stop and I’ll return to the theme of the blog. Unless the mood or a good story messes with my plans.
(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York)