I've created highly successful business blogs: the "Sales Machine" on CBS BNET and "Sales Source" on Inc.com. Since my blog writing has generated a huge amount of web traffic, other business bloggers often ask me to share my secrets. Here they are:
1. Content, Content, Content
The only way to gain a loyal readership is by consistently providing high quality content. Focus 90% of your effort on content and 10% on everything else. As marketing guru Seth Godin once told me: "Comment less, contribute more, retweet none. We need you to be generous, not Dan Rather."
2. Brand Your Blog
If people hear about your blog and want to read more, you want them to be able to find it. For example, whenever I talk or write about my blog, I always call it "Sales Source on Inc.com" rather than just plain "Sales Source."
3. Make Your Blog Your Bio
Rather than making your bio a resume use it to market your blog. That way, when individual articles get reproduced or written about, your bio draws interested readers to the blog. Emphasize elements of your prior experience that buttress your blogging cred.
4. Be Objective and Never a Shill
The reason why most corporate blog never get popular is that they're forever hyping the products that the corporation has to sell. However, readers can smell self-serving hype a mile away and will only read your blog if it shows some independence.
5. Actively Solicit Comments
Your readers almost always know more about your subject topic than you, so it's crazy not to ask for their input. The best comments are the ones that really force YOU to think, and maybe back down on your own opinion.
6. Banter With Your Readers
You can't respond to every comment (nor should you) but when a reader spends the time to add a comment that's worth reading, you should call attention to it and, if appropriate add your own perspective.
7. Have a Real Opinion
Your readers want you to be authentic and genuine even if that sometimes means being controversial. Nobody wants to read puff pieces from a corporate weasel who's terrified to offend somebody.
8. Always Answer Reader Emails
If somebody takes the time and effort to actually send you an email, the LEAST you can do is get back to them quickly, even if it's just to say how much you appreciate that they bothered to write. When you do, you've probably captured a reader for life!
9. Link to Your Own Posts
On Inc.com, we provide links at the bottom of the post, but you should also provide links inside the text. The more posts you get a new reader to open, the more likely you are to create a loyal reader.
10. Don't Be Predictable
The signal that you need to "change your schtick" isn't when your posts are falling flat; it's when a bunch of them that are similar have all done well. Predictable is boring. While you don't want to post stuff that's completely off topic, you want readers to wonder: "what's he going to say next?"
11. Value Loyalty More Than SEO
Obviously, generating traffic is essential to a healthy blog, but it's an expensive effort with temporary results--unless you're converting that traffic into loyal readership. Consider: 10,000 loyal readers generate 2.6 million page views each year--the equivalent of a viral video on YouTube.
12. Work With a Great Editor
There's no question in my mind that working with a talented editor is hugely important if you're going to build up big numbers. An editor gives you another perspective, makes certain you're not "going off on a tangent" and ideally helps with promotion, too.
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