Blogs are (still) critical for online business owners, makers, crafters and artisans. Your blog is, after all, the space where you express your voice, tell your story and share behind-the-scenes snapshots. When done correctly, the blog can be one of the key places for building trust with your readers and customers.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, consider this: Are you still blogging like it’s 2005?
Let’s look at it this way: How does your reader approach your blog? If they are new to you or a follower of one of your social media accounts, they are likely clicking a link to your blog post from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or another social-media platform. If they’re already familiar with your work and have opted-in to receive emails from you, these qualified leads are likely visiting your online home through a link in a newsletter or promotional email, in addition to social media.
Either way, your followers and potential customers are less likely to be experiencing your blog via RSS or a reader — so why are we still writing like we did when RSS was the way to approach a blog post?
If you’re considering a website rebrand or a simple refresh like I just did, be sure you’re considering how readers are discovering you now — whether they’re a lifelong fan or a new visitor stopping by to have a look. By following some of these actionable tweaks and fixes for your site and blog, you’ll be welcoming your followers into your online home like it’s 2016. More importantly, you’ll:
- improve your online positioning to engage with new readers,
- simplify the user experience for current followers, and
- ultimately help with conversion and opt-ins.
Aim for quality, not quantity
When you’re just starting out with blogging, quantity is very important. New bloggers should be aiming to gain some online traction and develop a body of work that is substantial. Once you’ve been writing for a while, you can stand to raise the bar to showcase your best work.
I began my blog refresh by making a list of all the categories I had been writing about since I started my blog over two years ago. Looking to my big picture goals as the blueprint to guide my creative work, I decided to remove the categories that don’t actually reflect the work I’m doing now or want to be doing in the future.
Instead of just deleting the posts outright, which creates a dead end on the Internet (one of those 401 pages we’re all familiar with), you’ll want to take the URL of the old post and redirect it to a working, real page on your site.
For example, I’ve decided I’ll no longer be sharing lifestyle posts that are personal in nature. Here’s an example of the code I used to create a 301 redirect for a blog post about my daughter’s second birthday:
/blog/2014/4/16/rockstar-birthday-party -> http://www.rebeccaapitts.com/articles 301
Notice that someone clicking on the old post will be taken to my latest posts on my blog (www.rebeccaapitts.com/articles), and not to a 401 dead-end page. By redirecting specific posts or pages of your website with a 301 redirect, you’ll avoid sending your readers to a 401 page, which can really hurt your SEO (not to mention, create a bad experience for your blog readers). If you have a bunch of dead ends on your site, the web crawlers won’t be ranking your content as high, because they don’t want to send readers to a site that’s been partially deleted. If you’re looking for more info on how to code redirects, check out the online tutorials or handbooks for whatever website content management system you’re using. (I use squarespace and found this tutorial helpful.)
Give your blog the test of time
While not for every blogger, especially those who are reporting on time-sensitive news, consider a move away from chronological posting (which was relevant in the RSS era) to creating an indexed body of evergreen content that readers can return to again and again. I’m noticing this format of posting online much more these days, with bloggers updating well-performing older posts with new information and re-sharing the link to an older post.
Again, you’ll want to rely heavily on 301-redirects here. Do not just change the URL of a blog post — redirect the old URL to the new URL. Here’s another example:
/blog/2014/6/12/great-with-child-great-with-work -> http://www.rebeccaapitts.com/articles/great
Notice how I removed the date — there’s nothing that I’m writing about that is particularly time-sensitive. The new URL is much more easily shared and readable.
One of my top-performing posts is a tutorial for makers who are considering selling on Amazon Handmade. Instead of publishing additional posts on this topic as new information for sellers is released, I’m updating this “super post” with the latest, most relevant information and reshaping it as I update it.
When done correctly, the blog can be one of the key places for building trust with your readers and customers.
Additionally, if you’re removing dates from your URLs, now is a good time to clean up the key terms in the URL as well. Be sure to choose a few key words that embody the gist of the post — search engines give higher weight to the terms you use in your URLs and these words become super tags, of sorts.
Think like a person, not a computer
As part of my website refresh, I re-read all of my older posts to make sure the tags, title, and filenames of the photos are actually representative of the topic at hand. If you’re feeling stuck, try a search on your blog post topic and look to the other blogs that rank high on Google. What search terms are they using? Would it be appropriate for your post to use those terms, too? Go ahead and spend a little bit of time on SEO keyword searches, but don’t feel as though you need to devote a tremendous amount of effort on this aspect of your website. Remember that most of your new followers will find you through your consistent efforts on social media, and not through organic searches.
Once you’ve done the work of brainstorming relevant keywords and updating URLs and titles, you can use these same terms to update the filenames of the photos in your posts. By renaming photos with the post title and adding captions to images, even if you choose to hide the captions, you’ll increase the visibility of your photos. Computers don’t read images — instead they read the text that you use to describe these images (called ALT tags), so it matters how you name and describe your photos.
Tying it all together
Once you’ve updated the categories of your blog to the key topics that truly reflect your body of work, it will be easy to think of each post as the front porch that will entice readers to enter your online home. Your refreshed categories should reflect what you’re all about, and of course should relate to the newsletters you are sending as well.
Consider this as your next step in the process: the creation of a customized opt-in in the middle of each newly reworked blog post. Check out this CIA article on content upgrades for more information. I’m still in the process of creating customized opt-ins for each post on my site. By creating a space where new visitors and steadfast fans alike want to stay and hang out, you’ll be building trust and attracting your dream customer — someone who wants to join your email list and make a purchase.
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