It’s often said that starting is the hardest part of any journey. While that’s true of many an endeavor, that’s not the case when it comes to blogging.
Starting is a relatively painless affair, and every corner of the Internet is stuffed with niche blogs authored by aspiring writers, aficionados of a subject, or simply people with an opinion they want to get out there … and the majority of those blogs have lifespans not much longer than that of the average housefly.
No, starting is not the hardest part when it comes to blogging. Scratching, clawing, and writing your way to a loyal and devoted fanbase is, and that can only be accomplished through persistence, self-promotion, a little bit of luck, and most of all, quality content.
While just about any blog could enjoy some flash-in-the-pan success with a little luck or the right marketing, only quality content will ensure that flash in the pan simmers into a long-term triumph and a steady or growing readership.
What makes for quality content and keeps readers coming back for more? Well, a few things; consider the following four.
1. Stick to your niche
It can be tempting to touch on the latest and hottest topic of the day, such as what crazy outfit Miley Cyrus has concocted to drape over her body; and many bloggers operate under the mistaken assumption that a sprinkle of pop culture or trending topics among their posts will bring the unwashed Internet masses to their web domain.
But such is not the case. You’re no more likely to generate traffic talking about Miley Cyrus than you are about whatever seemingly inane topic you could discuss that’s relevant to your blog (and we’re going out on a limb here and assuming your blog isn’t about Miley Cyrus).
Worse, you’re likely to turn off those readers you’ve managed to convince to stick with your blog, because they’ve likely done so for one specific reason: They wanted to read someone’s thoughtful musings on a topic that interests them. When they discover you’ve wandered off into Gawker territory, they’re likely to wander off too — never to return.
2. Stay topical
Nothing turns off readers more than being fed old news — unless old news is actually what they’re looking for. If you’re discussing two-month-old news stories, they’re much better off simply going to the source and getting it sooner, rather than waiting for your belated opinion on it.
Naturally, you can link to older content when that content is relevant to your post, but if the central theme or topic of your story has passed its best-before date, you may want to drop it. At the very least, avoid linking to stories with prominent (and old) dates displayed on them.
3. Provide useful links
Providing useful links greatly enhances the appeal of your posts and gives your readership valuable sources of information. Links are still a tremendous marketing tool as well, and play a major role in enhancing the SEO of your blog.
However, there’s a right and wrong way to do links. First, you should avoid linking to content that essentially mimics a portion of what you yourself are saying. While it would certainly be relevant, that content is now a direct competitor to your own, rather than a complement, and the reader may decide he or she likes the linked content better and go directly there for content needs in the future.
Strive to provide links that are closely related to what you’re talking about and offer a valuable complement to it. For example, if you run a home-maintenance blog and talk about being able to select from 316 different stainless steel washers as a vital option in maintenance work, you could provide your readers with a source to find that selection of washers, rather than just linking to generalized information about their uses.