Some background information:
The evening started with some interesting background information about Marko Saric. Not only is he a semi-professional blogger, he is also a music enthusiast and a big fan of heavy metal band Metallica. Originally from Denmark, he is the face behind one of the world’s top 50 blogs, HowToMakeMyBlog.com, a blog about blogging for budding bloggers up to intermediate-level bloggers. He’s currently a social media manager for PartyGaming and he’s in charge of driving traffic to the website using social media.
With his years of experience with his blog, Marko shared with the audience 4 keys to successful blogging.
Key #1: It’s the content that makes all the difference.
A blog is like a platform, and as such it’s the content that you put into it that makes the difference. There is currently so much bad content online that people are just bored and tired of endlessly looking for great content. If you create content, make sure you create something memorable, something that educates people.
So how can you write great content?
Marko shared 7 tips on how to create great content:
- Be original and credible: don’t settle for an amateur design. Create your own design for your blog or invest in a professional designer. Be original but most importantly be credible. Don’t be afraid to show your face and put your name on display; make sure you have your contact information on your blog for people to contact you.
- Put your personality in your blog: your content is a way to tell people who you are.
- Create catchy headlines: your visitors will decide whether to read your blog post or not by taking a glance at your post title. Create “how to” posts, list posts – they’re easily scannable and they’re an easy way to break down long posts.
- Be concise: make sure that your content is easy for your visitors to consume. You can do so by following these suggestions:
- split your text into shorter paragraphs,
- use lots of wide space around your paragraphs,
- use links to relevant posts or subheadings,
- use bullet points or number lists.
If you’re looking for an alternative to text, consider using other type of content, such as pictures, videos and infographics.
- Stand out: publish something that stands out, put your own opinion, do something for people to come to you.
- “Namedrop”: use popular names in your blog, whether it’s people or brands (as long as it’s relevant). Google will pick this up and it will drive people to come and read about it.
- Post regularly: for the first 18 months try to blog three times a week, every week. This helps build a momentum and a regular audience.
Key #2: Attract visitors to your blog.
Creating great content is just the first small step of having a successful blog. Promoting content is just as a valuable.
How can you promote your blog and its content?
- Create connections using social media (especially Twitter) proactively every day.
- Connect with other bloggers – read their blogs, comment, share their posts and leave a link to your blog.
- Choose the right domain name – this is extremely important, as picking the wrong name can have a negative impact on your blog.Choose a domain name that uses targeted keywords relevant to what your blog is about. In that way, search engines can drive more traffic on your blog. That is why people who use their own name as their domain name often struggle to get traffic when they start blogging.
This leads us to SEO, which Marko doesn’t put much emphasis on. This is because, as he said, it’s not something that we should worry too much about. As long as we concentrate on putting out great content, Google and other search engines will find your blog.
Key #3: Make your visitors come back
What should you do after you get new visitors? Give them a reason to come back. This can be done in a number of ways:
- Enable sharing options in your blog posts: by doing so, visitors can easily share (and save) your content. Don’t overload them with too many sharing buttons: just include the most targeted ones.
- Post good-quality content: if your visitors see that you post good-quality content, they will be motivated to return.
- Enable email subscriptions: this will not only notify your readers of any new content on your blog, but it will also serve as a reminder to check out your blog.
- Create a presence on social media networks, especially Twitter and Facebook. However, don’t use it just to get new visitors. The number of new visits and other similar statistics is what Marko calls “soft numbers”: they’re an indication, not the only thing to focus on.
- Focus on a goal – what would you like your readers to do for you? Set a goal and monitor daily what are you doing to achieve that goal – focus and be strategic on your blog.
Remember: spend 50% of your blogging time on creating content, and the other 50% on promoting your blog.
Key #4: Manage your time wisely.
Many people have unrealistic expectations on their blogs. Don’t worry if you think your first blog post is not up to standards – it usually isn’t anyway. Don’t let that deter you from carrying on. Don’t let your early blog posts discourage you, but rather use them to help yourself, to better yourself and to improve your blogging skills. If you feel like it’s taking too long to see some results, don’t worry – it generally takes at least 6 months before you can see some real results. Remember: blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
To conclude, Marko gave the audience a chance to ask some questions. Here are the questions and answers in a nutshell.
Q. I’m thinking of moving from Blogger to WordPress. Which platform do you think is better?
A. I’m currently on WordPress using a self-hosted domain, but I’ve used Blogger as well. The main difference is that, with Blogger you’re just renting your blog from Google, whereas with a self-hosted domain you have the flexibility you need to do whatever you want with your blog using WordPress. Hence, I’d recommend the latter.
Q. What is the easiest way to have people retweet your blog – any particular hashtags I should use?
A. Hashtags are an easy way out to get your post noticed. Just push any blog updates to Twitter, but don’t be too pushy with your followers. If you want you can just give small hints about new blog posts, to encourage people to have a look at your blog for all the details.
Q. Which domain is the best to use: .net, .com, .org, .co.uk or others?
A. If your aim is to target a bigger audience, then by all means choose .com, as it’s global. However, if your main target is the UK, then choose .co.uk. The same applies to any other country you’d like to target.
Q. Should I keep my blog separate from my main website?
A. Keeping them separate is generally a bad idea. The good thing about WordPress is that you can incorporate your blog with your website, so there is no real reason to separate the two.
Q. Can I use Facebook to blog?
A. You’re limited on Facebook. Evaluate your goals, your targets, how do you want to blog and where. Facebook might work for you, but if you’ve got a bigger scope then it’s best to have your own domain and have full control. Besides, depending on your privacy settings, Google might not index your content on Facebook, hence stopping potential visitors from finding you.
Q. What is the best way to encourage people to comment?
A. Don’t push people to comment – it will happen when the time is right. What matters is making an impact with your blog posts – people will either hate you or love you for what you write, and that will cause a reaction from them, which often results in comments. You could also simply ask your visitors to comment: ask questions, run competitions, interact with your readers. However, don’t focus too much on comments – they will come eventually.
Q. What refers more traffic to your blog?
A. Google – it helps you if you have great content, great links and a great domain name. Don’t rely on Google alone – make sure you use various social networks as well to drive traffic to your blog.
Q. How can I make my website stand out if the topic of my blog is a very popular field (e.g. football, art)?
A. You have to do something unique, something that sets you apart from other blogger that write about the same (or similar) topic. Be original, have something others don’t have, and put your own spin to what other people use on their blogs.
Q. What social media tools do you use the most?
A. I try not to use social media too much. I’m on Twitter and Facebook, and I use Tweetdeck and HootSuite. However, I don’t spend too much time on them. Having said that, I particularly like HootSuite for its ability to update multiple social media profiles at once.
Q. What is the minimum commitment I should put in my blog?
A. Start by blogging 3 times a week, writing not more than 300 words per post. You don’t even have to write posts every time, you can use other media as well, especially infographics.
Q. How can blogging help you get a job and get promoted?
A. I got my current job through my blog – the head of marketing of the company I work for saw my blog and contacted me. Give your best through your blog’s content and present yourself in the best way possible, but allow people to find you – so include Twitter, Facebook links and email. Don’t want to be contacted though – be proactive and find the people you want to connect with.
Q. When is it the best time to monetise from your blog?
A. Make sure you decide on whether you want to monetise your blog or not from the very beginning, have goals and targets set in mind before you create your blog.
Q. What do you think about affiliate marketing?
A. I personally think it’s great, as long as you have a product that you like, that works and that you would recommend to others. Show your readers how they can use such product(s) and write reviews about them in a non-pushy way. Affiliate marketing is the one of the best sources to get money from you blog.
Q. How much do you make from blogging?
A. I get enough to have it as my full-time job. I’m quite happy and content with what I do and what I get from it.
I personally enjoyed this event. As a blogger, I’ve taken quite a few tips from Marko’s 4 blogging secrets and I’m going to use them on my own blog. I’m definitely going to use list posts more often and other forms of media – I’ll start using infographics as well. I will still keep an eye on the “soft numbers” regarding my blog (number of visits, number of new visitors vs. returning visitors etc) to give me an indication of how well I’m doing. However, I won’t let these “soft numbers” distract me from my main focus of writing good-quality content for my readers – old and new.