What is a successful blog?
Success in blogging terms means different things to different people, depending on why you are blogging. For instance, a business blog will have a different purpose than a personal blog; a blogger whose blog is providing an income stream will judge success in different terms than someone whose main purpose for their blog is personal development. In my case, I blog to chart the development of my photography journey and to help anyone else who is learning or improving their photography. Success to me is in terms of readership as it is disheartening to talk to myself all the time. I would like to be useful to those who read my blog, so rather than seeing success in terms of hundreds of views (not very likely!) I would like to know that those who visit my site like what they see and would be willing to come back or to share a post with someone else who might be interested. While I don’t want to sell anything, promote anything or make money from my blog, I do want to continually produce the best content that I can, content that is useful to my readers, so for that reason I am always trying to improve the success of my blog.
Photography is my passion. By writing about my journey as a learner in photography I hope I can be of help to others undertaking a similar journey. This is the aim of my blog
A recent article called ‘New Blogging Statistics: Blogging still works, especially for the 10% of bloggers who do things very differently…’ caught my eye. It was published on https://www.orbitmedia.com and gave details of the 7th Annual Blogging Survey carried out by the group. The author, Andy Crestodina, explains that each year they survey 1000+ bloggers as well as some content marketing experts and ‘look for correlations between the data and results.’ While they accept that, given the wide range of goals among bloggers, it is not feasible to ask bloggers to report on specific results, they are able to determine what ‘successful’ bloggers do, regardless of how they view success.
The survey reveals some interesting facts:
There are around 31 million bloggers online
Bloggers who report most success:
(a) Spend 6+ hours writing each article
(b) Add video to their content
(c) Publish multiple times per week
Mixed media posts consistently outperform words-only posts
‘How-to’ articles are by far the most popular blog format
Conducting original research is an emerging trend for bloggers
Most bloggers post consistently, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. High frequency bloggers get best results Source
The article goes on to consider the popularity of 12 blogging tactics and the link between these tactics and successful blogs. Some bloggers equate success with monetization or returns in terms of business contacts but since this does not apply to me, I picked out 3 of the tactics which I feel are most relevant to my blog at this time and which I hope would lead to what I see as success – an increase in readership, a greater number of return visitors and more post shares.
#1 The link between headlines and successful blogs
“Headlines have a huge impact on the success of a piece of content…bloggers who write more draft headlines get better results”
When we think of how we, as consumers of content, treat headlines, we will realise that for most of us the approach is to quickly scan headlines that we see online, stopping at the ones that take our interest or have something to offer us. If we do this, then our readers do it too, so our headlines must be attention grabbers, they have to offer potential readers something that they want. I must admit that when I published my first blogs, I paid little attention to headlines, and that could be the reason why those early posts had very few readers. Now that I have come to see why headlines are so important, I try to put more effort into crafting my headlines, often writing several draft headlines before I settle on one. Research quoted by orbitmedia.com suggests that bloggers who write lots of headlines before choosing one are the bloggers most likely to report success.
I have done some research into what makes a successful headline and try to stick to these formats as much as possible. I try to put myself into the shoes of a potential reader coming across my blog and wondering, ‘will this be useful to me?’ If the answer is not in the headline the reader will move on. The headline must promise something to the reader and the body of the content has to deliver on that promise. One interesting point made by Andy Crestodina in his article is that the average person sees 1,300+ headlines each day and dismisses 99.7% of them. That’s a lot of dismissals, so if we don’t want our blogs to be dismissed out of hand, we must pay attention to our headlines.
I recently published a number of blogs based on smartphone photography which proved successful in terms of readership. For each of these blogs I wrote several draft headlines before deciding on the final one.
#2 The link between adding images and successful blogs
“Bloggers who add more visuals get better results”
Bloggers who include 10+ images per post have a more than 56% chance of increasing the likelihood of reporting ‘strong results’, says Andy Crestodina. “Just 3 percent add 10+ images to a typical post. But those are exactly the bloggers most likely to report success.” Since my blog is essentially a showcase for my own photography, I do always include images as part of my blog, but I was previously unaware that the number of images per post was significant. I rarely include more than 10 images, but this is an area in which I can improve. I do try to match images with the content of a paragraph rather than include random images. In articles about aspects of photography this is relatively easy to do, but in articles such as this one my images do not fit neatly alongside this type of content.
As reported at the beginning of this article, the survey found that among those who reported most success with their blog were those who added video to their content. I have not previously added video content but it is worth considering using this medium occasionally.
Below is a quick video roundup of a few of my images from summer 2020:
#3 The link between updating old posts and successful blogs
“Bloggers who update old posts are 2x more likely to get results”
In his article Andy Crestodina reports that, ‘Bloggers who go back and update old content are more than twice as likely to report “strong results.”’ He quotes the statistic that in 2017, 53% of bloggers said they were updating old content while in 2020 this had risen to 70%. In an article based on the topic of updating old blog posts, cleverly entitled, ‘How to teach your old blog new tricks,’ Crestodina even goes so far as to say that,
“Updating old blog posts has been one of the most effective SEO strategies we’ve found.” While this is more likely to be of value to those with many posts, particularly those whose blogs are for promotional or marketing purposes who don’t want outdated information on their site, it is still a worthwhile habit to get into for every blogger. All of us will have posts in our archives that are a bit dated or, alternatively, have information that might be useful to today’s readers that can be pulled to the front of our blog. In addition, you don’t want visitors’ first impression of your blog to be a post with outdated information or links.
Updating old posts is not something I have yet begun to do on a regular basis, but based on Crestodina’s guide there are two options that I might consider for updating an old blog. The easiest way is to do a quick edit, which would involve updating the title and a few paragraphs, adding updated content or removing any content that is out of date or no longer relevant. In my blog I might also update some images and refer to what I have learned since writing the post. The other option is to rewrite the entire post, updating the title and adding new information, new knowledge and new images. In this option there may be some parts of the original post that I wish to retain but these would be expanded upon with new ideas or even new research findings. In both options I would also check links, fix any broken links and remove those that are no longer relevant, replacing them with links to current sources or to one of my own blog posts.
Which posts should we update?
When I look at my archives, I notice a few types of post that might be worth updating. Some of these are posts that were written when I was learning certain skills and could be renewed with information about what I have learned since then. The other type of blog that can be updated is a post that was popular with my readers at the time that can now be brought to a whole new audience. I have some favourite posts that will be first on my list to renew and update as I will enjoy doing so, maybe adding extra material, finding new links, adding new quotes, maybe adding changed opinions and generally improving the layout of the post to make it more attractive to the reader. Since my ‘bank’ of posts has increased I can now create topic clusters from my own posts, making links to topics that relate to each other or build off each other. As well as helping give my blog a facelift, this is also an enjoyable activity as it helps me see my posts as a whole rather than as individual pieces, and it helps me become more invested in the content that I am creating.
As well as doing post updates, you might find that there are posts that no longer reflect who you are, so you might consider deleting these posts. Before deleting you might ask yourself:
a. Is the post useful to my readers?
b. Is it good for me to have on my site, i.e. does it reflect my current thinking?
c. Is it well written and does it have a point to it? Often our earlier posts make us cringe. If so, it’s time to do something about it.
d. Is it still relevant? Does any of the information need to be updated or deleted? Or is the entire post past its ‘sell by’ date?
Often our original posts may be very different to those we write today so it is a good idea to do an assessment and either give them a face-lift so that our entire body of work will look fresh and current or else decide that they are no longer fit for purpose and bid them a fond farewell. Either way, don’t neglect your old posts, they make up part of your blogging journey and were an important part of getting you to where you are today.
I recently updated a post from last year. I changed the title, took out some content that I was no longer happy with and added some new content. I left most of the images, as they reflected where I was in my photography journey at that time, and added a few new ones
These are just 3 tactics that have been proven to improve the success of your blog.
There are many other ways in which a successful blog can be achieved. You may have something that works well for your blog. If so, please share with others.