Yesterday was quite a big day for this little blog. Advance Your Slides was chosen, out of the 16 million WordPress blogs out there, to be featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed section and it’s still up there as I type this. The resulting spike in traffic has been enormous, at least by comparison to anything else I’ve seen in my short blogging career. The blog was viewed a nice, round total of 1500 times yesterday, and already has 325 hits this morning. The post that was featured, Five Ways To Improve Your Skills, got 1, 123 views and received 25 comments. So today, I’ve decided to share the top ten things I learned during all of this. Some of the things are specific to blogging, but some of them apply to life in general. I hope you enjoy.
As a side note, if you’re someone who came and visited for the first time yesterday and have decided to return today, I want to say thank you for doing so. This isn’t the kind of thing I typically cover here, but I’ll be back to my old tricks starting tomorrow. I hope you’ll continue to check back in the future, but thank you very much for visiting yesterday and having the confidence in me to visit again today.
On with the countdown.
10. Blogging is a viable medium. I’ve heard a lot of talk recently about how blogging is so out of style. There are too many of them, it’s too easy to get one so how can they be credible, etc. Up until yesterday by busiest day on the blog was 138 viewers, but yesterday pushed that total to over ten times that number. In a single day. That’s probably the largest audience I’ve ever had for anything I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some acting, spoken at a conference, and written a good bit in the past. Blogging may not generate those kinds of number everyday, but the potential is there, and that’s a powerful thing.
9. Don’t moderate your comments. Until yesterday, I had my discussion settings for my blog set to ask me to moderate all comments. I had never received more than three or four comments on a given day before that. But the events of yesterday convinced me that this is not the way to go. It was too difficult to try to keep up with all of the comments as they came in, and the spam filter on WordPress.com is really good at catching the spammy comments, so that only the good ones actually made it up there. Of course, I still have the ability to remove comments if they become negative or inappropriate, but not publishing comments immediately can cause you to miss out on some good discussion or reply comments.
8. Use post tags. I only started using post tags to add metadata to my posts about a month or two ago. I just didn’t know how that worked before. But it turns out that tag pages are how WordPress.com chooses blogs for the Freshly Pressed section. If I hadn’t been using them, I wouldn’t have been found. Aside from just becoming eligible for Freshly Pressed, though, there’s no telling how many other readers can find you that way. It takes all of two minutes to add them, so why not do it?
7. Be a person. Most of the time in the past I’ve tried to be somewhat formal in my posts, discussing things like I would expect them to be discussed in an instructional booklet. Yesterday’s post, however, was much more personal, discussing my recent transmission problems and the goals I’m setting for myself as a presentation designer for the coming year. While most people read Advance Your Slides for the benefit it will bring them as speakers or slide designers, I’ve definitely noticed that the posts that include some amount of personality are more popular. It took some getting used to to expose some of my human vulnerability in such a public forum. But if you can get over that you become much more interesting to your readers.
6. Try to be broadly applicable. Of course, much of what I right here concerns public speaking and design, but many of the pointers I give apply to much more than just those two areas. By writing in a way that expresses the core ideas behind your specific topic, you can make your content appealing to a broader audience, which increases the potential readership for your stuff.
5. Use headings or make the key points bold. This helps people scan your post quickly to see if it’s worth reading the whole thing. Blog readers may check hundreds of blogs in a day via RSS or sites like StumbleUpon or Digg. They’re in a hurry and want to know that if they spend the time to read your whole post it will be worth the time. Adding content cues helps convince them to stay.
4. Content is king. It’s nice to have a pretty blog with lots of cool graphics and such, but I’ve always been a fan of keeping it simple, which is why the design on this blog is so minimal. I want it to be attractive, but emphasize the content of the posts. It seems to me that blog layout and design, while important, can almost be a distraction from good content. If yesterday is any indicator, people come for the content, not the pretty window-dressing.
3. Use images. Okay, I didn’t do this yesterday, but I should have. One of the things I noticed during all the commotion yesterday was that the picture accompanying the link to my blog on the Freshly Pressed page yesterday was just a screenshot of my blog. I like my blog’s look, but many of the other pictures from other blogs were more captivating. I should have found a more compelling image to capture people’s attention. You can find an image to supplement nearly any post and I should have taken the time to find one.
2. Use good headlines. Your post may be great, but the headline has to convey that. It’s the first thing the audience sees and if it’s weak, they may “celebrate the passover” on you altogether. Don’t be gimmicky and use misleading titles, but spending a minute to make yours catchy and enticing is worth it.
1. Be patient. I’ve been blogging seriously since fall of 2009. Not a terribly long time to stick with something, but I had wondered if I would ever get any significant traffic. Is all my effort worth it? First, I would say that the ability to help even one person that I might not have reached otherwise is very rewarding. Second, I’d say that I’ve derived great value out of the exercise of sitting down to write everyday. Even if no one reads it, at least I took the time to organize my thoughts and share them. What happens after that doesn’t matter as much. And lastly, I know now that if you stick with it long enough, eventually you’ll get better at writing (or whatever it is you do). And if you get good, people will read it. And hopefully tell their friends about it. And that’s good for everybody involved.
Image by Jorbasa via Flickr