7 Essential Things All Bloggers Should Be Doing

With the number of blogs online growing every day, it is increasingly difficult to stand out and achieve success with your blog. In the end, many bloggers that start out with high hopes and expectations wind up deciding that blogging really isn’t worth their time. Those who have some patience and a plan to achieve specific goals with their blog will have a much greater likelihood of long-term success.

In this post we’ll look at 7 things that you should be doing to set yourself up for success and to avoid common pitfalls. The topics covered here should prove to be helpful for bloggers who are just getting started or for those who have been feeling like their efforts haven’t been producing enough results. Here are 7 things that all bloggers should be doing.

1. Finding Their Role/Voice

There are a lot of different types of blogs out there. Some break news, others provide though-provoking articles or commentary, and there are always corporate blogs, and the list could go on. For example, in the design industry there are several different blog types, including: news, tutorials, inspiration (lists/showcases), in-depth articles. Of course, most blogs publish posts that overlap into a few different types, but in general an established blog will have developed some sort of role that keeps readers coming back.

Every blogger needs to find their role and develop their voice within the industry in which they are blogging. Having a variety of different types and styles of blogs is good for an industry, but frequently new bloggers try to duplicate what the most popular or successful blogs are doing rather than finding their own role and focusing on what they do best.

How can you go about finding your role or your voice? My advice is to start with what you do best and find what you have to offer to readers in your industry, as opposed to seeing what other blogs are doing and trying to duplicate it. This is often a process that involves some change or evolution as the blog progresses.

2. Evaluating Reader Response to Post Types and Topics

Readers are ultimately what determine the level of success of any blog. Successful bloggers will pay attention to how their readers are reacting and interacting with their posts, and will use that information to help determine what topics and types of posts should be published in the future.

The evaluation process involves observing comments that are left on posts, paying attention to emails from readers, seeing which posts get tweeted or shared on Facebook, watching the social media votes that are received, and analyzing statistics such as page views. All of these things can help to tell you what content your readers are most interested in, and what content they really don’t care to see very often.


3. Networking with Other Bloggers

One thing that almost all successful bloggers have in common is that they are well connected. Having a strong network of other bloggers and influential people can help your blog in countless ways, including link building, recommendations, guest posting opportunities, partnership opportunities, social media votes, general advice, and so on. It’s very difficult, and very rare, to build a successful blog that is recognized as a leader in an industry without becoming well-connected within that industry.

Networking can be done through social media, email, IM, Skype, in person, or even simple blog comments. Your network doesn’t have to consist of all the most successful people in the industry, in fact there are a lot of benefits to have connections with others who are at your level even if you are just getting started with your blog. One common mistake the bloggers make is that they only try to network with the top bloggers in their industry, when really there is just as much to be gained by being connected to other bloggers who are motivated to grow their blog over time and are committed to making that happen.

From my experience, one of the best ways to network with other bloggers is through guest posting. Almost every blogger is interested in getting more quality content to publish on their blog, and if you are willing to provide that content to them it is easy to develop a connection. When it comes to guest posting, most bloggers see the primary benefits as being the inbound links or clickthrough traffic to their blog, but many times the development of a new relationship will be far more significant in the long run.

4. Developing Diverse Traffic Sources

Every blog needs traffic. This is one of the biggest struggles for many bloggers, and ultimately it is what discourages some to the point that they give up on their blog. If you are able to develop diverse traffic sources you will be drastically increasing your chances for long-term success.

Simply getting traffic to your blog is really not enough, that traffic should also be coming from diverse sources in order for it to last. Social media sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Digg are the focus of many bloggers because they are capable of sending thousands of visitors in a short period of time. But the key is that without diversity that traffic is shortlived.

Ideally, a blog will receive traffic from search engines, from links on other websites, from subscriber clicks in RSS feeds and emails, from social media sites (including voting sites like Digg as well as networking sites like Twitter and Facebook), and also from repeat visitors that type the URL into their brower or return to a bookmarked page. The longer a blog has been around the easier it is to develop search engine traffic, subscribers, and links from other sites. For newer blogs that are still working on gaining diversity, building links from reputable blogs in the industry will help with search engine rankings, clickthroughs, and also with building a reputation within the industry. One of the keys to developing diversity is being in a lot of different places. This includes guest posting on other blogs, leaving intelligent comments on posts throughout the industry, and being active at social media sites that are popular with others in the industry.

5. Planning for Sustainability

Most bloggers fail because they give up. One of the most common reasons is that the results do not come fast enough to keep them motivated. Maintaining a successful blog takes a lot of work, and there are plenty of times when it may not seem to be worth the effort. In other cases it may not be an issue of motivation, but maybe there are not enough financial resources to keep the site moving forward. Whatever the case may be, a sustainability plan can help to get through the difficult times.

Planning for sustainability includes identifying your goals to know your true motivation for blogging, establishing a posting schedule and setting hours aside to work on your blog, identifying any areas where you need help from others (such as outsourcing content development, marketing, or design work), and determing how the blog will generate income to keep itself in operation (and maybe how you will sustain the blog until that time when it starts to produce something of value).

Without considering these things you’ll be more likely to fall into that large percentage of bloggers that start out with high hopes but fade quickly. But with a plan you’ll have a more realistic idea of what you will need to put in before you are able to benefit from your work.

6. Developing a Monetization Plan

As was mentioned in the previous point, developing revenue from your blog is critical to things moving forward (assuming we’re talking about blogs that are in existence for business purposes). When the subject of blog monetization comes up, advertising and AdSense are often what comes to mind, but there is a lot more to blog monetization.

Making money from a blog can be done in any number of ways, and it can even be done somewhat passively. For example, your monetization plan may have noting to do with ads or selling products, but maybe you want to use the blog to position yourself as an expert in an industry and to provide some type of service. In this case, the blog is passively marketing your services. Some bloggers have even used their blogs to land book deals, which is just another example of how it is possible to profit from a blog.

In many cases a blog’s monetization plan will change over time as new methods of making money are explored or developed. Some common ways to make money from blogs include, selling banner ads, selling text link ads (not recommended due to potential penalties from Google), AdSense, affiliate programs, product sales (such as e-books), membership or premium content, and promoting services.

7. Developing New Ideas

New ideas are critical to the success of any blog. This includes ideas for post topics, strategies and directions for the blog, new monetization ideas, design modificantions, and more. When running an active blog it is easy to get caught up in all of the work that is required to keep it going, but it is also important to take some time to step aside and just work on new ideas for the blog. New ideas are often difficult to develop when you are overwhelmed with work and are focused on just getting things done.

What’s Your Experience?

If you are a blogger, what have you found to be important for long-term success?

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40 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Andy @ FirstFound, March 3, 2011

    You’ve got some great advice there, and I can definitely vouch for the power of networking. A good guest post is always worth it!

  • Sander-Martijn, March 3, 2011

    As a relatively new blogger, I was both impressed with how many of these things I’m already doing because it made sense or because someone suggested it to me. I was also happy to read some suggestions I’m not yet doing so that I can start before I get discouraged. I developed a pretty quick following, but I have been afraid of it dropping off as quickly as it started – now I have some new avenues to pursue that will hopefully keep my momentum going!

  • Ed Han, March 3, 2011

    I love the suggestions here, but further #3, I would say that it’s important to comment on blogs as well. In fact, I’ve been challenging people to comment on blogs that they retweet on Twitter or share on Facebook.

  • Great article and good advice. Your blog is an excellent source of information. thanks

  • Kari, March 4, 2011

    Fabulous post! I definitely agree with the statement that most bloggers don’t stay with it long enough….. The networking with like minded people is the most interesting part of blogging… love it!

  • GraphicDesignBoss, March 4, 2011

    I’d agree with your comment developing diverse traffic sources.

    My blog http://www.graphicdesignboss.com got RT’d by @99percent this week which was completely unexpected, but very welcome. A completely new source of traffic for me as it was referral rather than RSS or other subscriber links.

    One tip I would give is: If you receive an unexpected diverse source such as an RT do something about it – quickly. For example I updated the post to help more people reconnect via RSS or email. My subscriber base is up 70%.

  • HanadEducation, March 4, 2011

    I agree with most points here and will come in handy since i am launching a blog myself but the second point on readers is tricky for me right now. I am using this advice i read on writing well by William Zinsser which is write for yourself. I hope for good results. Thanks for this excellent article.

  • Mythic Tech, March 4, 2011

    Thanks for the tips, I have been designin websites for years but I am ust getting into blogging now.

    Trevor Seabrook
    Mythic Tech

  • Ask A Punk, March 4, 2011

    Sound advice.

    Like many other longtime bloggers with anemic Google Analytics numbers, I often wonder what is ‘missing’ … I know I’m doing some things right (reliably constant posting, and sticking with a consistent & sincere voice/theme etc) …but the numbers don’t lie: few people are reading.

    In my attempts to fix this situation I get a lot of conflicting advice:

    “use more pictures! or better yet, video!” -vs- “pictures and video will make people ignore your writing”

    “put more links in your posts” -vs- “put fewer links in your posts”

    “write longer posts” -vs- “write shorter posts.

    – You get the idea.

    …but the one consistent piece of advice I have gotten over and over was your point #3: NETWORKING… My blog doesn’t have a blogroll, and I haven’t solicited other bloggers for links… I also haven’t dug deep into reddit and stumbleupon but in that case, it is because that seems so blatantly self-serving…

    obviously I have to get over that if I want more readers.

    Thanks for the wise words.

  • Vandelay Website Design, March 4, 2011

    Ed,
    I agree that commenting on other blogs is a good practice, especially for new bloggers. When I was first getting started I connected with a lot of other bloggers through comments on my blog and comments on theirs.

    Ask A Punk,
    Networking is definitely key. It can help in so many different ways.

  • Marjorie Stine, March 4, 2011

    Nice summary of the key points. In a world where everyone wants immediate results, I appreciate your point #5 on not giving up. I believe it is the exception rather than the rule for a product, site, blog that can have overnight success.

  • Photoshop Dummy, March 4, 2011

    It’s very surprising how this post comes in very timely. I’ve just started blogging (just a week long) and I’m having a hard time because of high expectations. I’ll keep these things in mind.

  • Ask A Punk, March 4, 2011

    Thanks Ed.
    I couldn’t agree more.

  • Carine Ferry, March 4, 2011

    Thank you for another great entry in your blog!

  • Giannis, March 5, 2011

    Nice article but the advice is very general. I think that it would be more interesting to show us some case studies of successful blogs and bloggers :-)

  • SeoWeb Seco, March 5, 2011

    Great article and good advice. Thank you for another great entry.

  • Blogged It, March 5, 2011

    great post! but for me #4 is what it all matters. I have seen blogs that really don’t talk about one specific theme but does well in traffic.

  • Surrey Web Design, March 5, 2011

    Just wondering, it is worth pushing out a big social network campaign to get traffic to my blog? I’ve read that it helps somewhat, would really appreciate some advice?

    • Vandelay Website Design, March 5, 2011

      Surrey,
      I would say it depends on the situation. If you have a plan to do something with the traffic (i.e. to convert it to something useful, or even just to build links), then I would say it is worth the effort. In my opinion, one mistake that a lot of bloggers make is to think that social media traffic is the ultimate goal. Even if you’re successful at getting traffic with social media it will fade pretty soon. Then hopefully you’re left with something valuable, it could be more subscribers, more links, a post/page that is optimized for search engines and now has some in-bound links, or even just better exposure to a target audience.

  • Surrey Web Design, March 5, 2011

    Ah okay great. Guess I’ll have to optimise the site to capitalise on this extra traffic for it to actually be worthwhile instantaneously. But there is also definitely long term benefit. Thanks

  • CF Oxtrot, March 5, 2011

    So the reason for a blog is to earn revenue?

    Gosh, no wonder I suck at blogging! Mine’s free! What an idiot I’ve been!

    IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS! HALLELUJAH! WOOOOOOHOOOOO! I’m gonna be rich, BEEEEEEEYOTCH!

    • Vandelay Website Design, March 7, 2011

      CF Oxtrot,
      The article is intended for bloggers who are writing for business purposes. If you read under point number 6 about monetization you’ll see “assuming we’re talking about blogs that are in existence for business purposes”. There’s nothing wrong with personal blogs, but the article was intended to help a different audience.

  • Bradley, March 6, 2011

    Networking and finding your voice would have to be the two big takeaways that would help any blogger take it to the next level.

  • Ana, March 6, 2011

    I have been blogging for the past four years, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it is more than leaving ‘thoughts’ on the net for my far-away family to read. This can help me as I advance in my design career. I realize that it will take a lot of work, but I am up for the challenge and this article has surely fired me up. Thanks!

  • kendra, March 7, 2011

    Thanks! This was a very helpful post for me, since I have just started my own blog.

  • Charles McCool, March 7, 2011

    Thank you for the summary of tips. As a relatively new blogger, I should work on some of these areas–especially the $$$.

  • A very informative post and very timely !

    We have just launched our blog recently and some of these tips are definitely what we are trying to implement.

    Still learning …. especially how to drive traffic using social media … would love to see a lengthy post from you just on that topic :)

    Best regards,

    Nick Desai

  • Reaction Web Services, March 8, 2011

    Good tips. I’ve been trying my foray into blogging without much success. Bookmarked! Thanks for taking the time to share some of your wisdom.

    I think the hardest part may be monetization without scaring away the user-base, but what do I know?

  • Don’t neglect the power of networking with other bloggers in person at meetups.

  • Ann, March 9, 2011

    totally agree with all of these points.

    i know thinking about networking and being active about growing your blog can seem daunting – especially when you’re also focusing on creating great content! I’ve created a simple daily task list to keep me engaged with my audience and other bloggers – this includes commenting on other blogs, commenting back on comments on my own blog and visiting the sites of new commentors to say hi, using Twitter, using my Facebook fan page etc.

    I’m not personally really a fan of guest posting on other blogs, I’d rather be creating great content for my blog, but I do like doing collaborative projects with other bloggers such as featuring each other. Also, getting involved in “trade publications” (so for me that’s IFB – Independent Fashion Bloggers) as a writer or volunteer is always great.

    Sorry, this got very long : )

    Ann

  • David @hotelpepper, March 11, 2011

    Great article. No.4 is the hardest for us at the moment.

    Building meaningful links overtime is hard work as it is time consuming and difficult to see real results at first. It’s one of those things that takes time to snowball and often people give up with it too early on before it has taken effect.

    The real difficulty though is sustainability and this ties in with no. 5. Sustainability for no.4 is how can you create meaningful links that bring in traffic and an audience consistently over months rather than just spikes in traffic. Getting on the front page of digg or Techcrunch is not sustainable and won’t really do much for your business.

  • Vandelay Website Design, March 11, 2011

    Ann,
    If you’re able to get links and traffic to your blog without guest posting then you may not need it. It does help to get your name out there, but the main reason I recommend it is because when blogs don’t have much of an audience it doesn’t really matter how good the content is without people to see it. Guest posting helps people to see what you are capable of. In my opinion, as a blog grows you should be spending a higher percentage of your time working on your own blog rather than things off your blog, like guest posting and social media marketing. I dedicated time to those things early on, but once I got some momentum going they weren’t really needed anymore.

    David,
    If definitely takes time. I agree with you, a lot of people give up too early.

  • nathan powell, March 11, 2011

    Many thanks for such an informative post.

    I have recently started up my blog with the hopes of attracting more people to my portfolio, and at the moment it seems to be working.

    There are some areas that I havent looked at yet, like networking and developing diverse traffic sources.

    What I am enjoying is seeing that people are actually reading my posts and that some even enjoy them. I look forward to seeing what my blog brings me over the coming months.

    Again, many thanks good luck
    Nathan

  • KoolDot, March 11, 2011

    Very informative post, especially (for us being a newbie) your advice in the section: Finding Their Role/Voice. We’re in the process of putting up a blog to support our web-publishing site and identifying a niche has been a challenge. Thanks.

  • Angelina, March 12, 2011

    Hi,

    These are essentials for sure and networking can be a key. There are a lots of ways to promote a blog. A blogger can go for great compilations and do follow can work wonders too!

    Thanks,
    Angelina

  • Danielle, March 12, 2011

    Great tips, but not all bloggers are good bloggers.

  • Edwin Waelbers, March 16, 2011

    Nice essentials

    More issues:

    • Post often. You don’t have to post everyday, but once a week isn’t that bad.
    • Post quality.
    • Don’t focus only on your articles. Gradually improve the usability.
    • Use high quality graphics.
    • Comment on other blogs.

    Cheers!

  • When I first starting blogging two years ago, I wondered if anyone was taking the time to stop and even read what I was posting. To increase traffic, I set up accounts at Digg, Reddit, Mixx, Stumble Upon, and many other sites of similarity. And then one day, ‘lo and behold people were actually reading my posts!

    I’d heard that it can take 3 to 4 years to get established enough to receive a decent amount of followers and traffic, so I decided early on to nix the idea of monetizing my blog. I also figured that the few people who were finding my blog on the Net probably would find it refreshing to visit a blog that wasn’t pushing any advertising. But, at the end of 2010 I finally decided to “get my feet wet” by adding a couple of banner ads, first.

    After that, I tooled around the Net looking for other types of advertising options (text link, video ads, and so on). Eventually, I added Google Adsense. I also signed up for the Google Affiliate program around that same time. Then I spent a MAJOR amount of time researching SEO. And it’s paying off well. I’ve become pretty good at it (SEO), with many of my blog posts ranking on the first page Google, Bing, Ask.com, and AOL. Quite naturally, having pretty good SEO success, traffic has increased substantially. Now I’m starting to make a decent amount of money from my “add advertising slow but steady” advertising plan.

    Currently, I’m writing my first white paper and finishing up my first eBook too. Next, I plan to delve deeper into marketing concepts, along with going into my third phase of redesigning the look of my blog. As I continue to build a better reader base and stronger community, I’m still as excited as ever about sharing useful information and ideas with the people who find my blog via the search engines.

    Recently, I was feeling overwhelmed about having so many things to do to increase readership and traffic. But after having done my due diligence (in regard to where I want to go next in order to grow my blog), I am currently in the early design phases of reinventing the look of my blog. After adding more revenue-making content resources, I’ll have the day-to-day “housekeeping tasks” of communicating more with my subscribers, which I look forward to.

    For me, taking it slow, reminding myself (often) that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will my blog, doing a ton of research, networking with other bloggers and Internet marketers, has been extremely worthwhile. I’ve learned a lot, met several really cool, helpful people. And since I’m in it for the long haul, I don’t mind doing a a lot of things myself, so I feel really good about blogging and am proud of myself for not giving up.

  • Toronto Web Developer, June 9, 2011

    I use my blog as a personal diary. I post all current events in my life and talk about things happening in the community and rest of the world. Mostly family and friends read my blog and it is a way to keep in touch.
    I think the most important factor in having a successful blog is consistency. I hate going to blogs that are never updated.

  • Lisa @ www.bakedinmaine.com, August 12, 2011

    I’m inspired to stick with it now. I’m doing the things that you mentioned. My fingers are crossed….

    PS. Not to be a pain-in-the-ass but I need to remind you to use your spell-check or go back and edit a few typos. This is from the teacher in me, lol! ;)