9 Random Lessons From A Successful Blog
We got word today that our Unreality TV blog is the place to be for hopeful auditionees on some of the latest reality TV shows. Apparently it’s being highly recommended on the audition circuit (there are three or four talent-based shows in production at the moment).
Little stories like this put a smile on our faces, because Unreality essentially started as an experiment into blogging and escalated into a phenomenon. Last month Unreality received half-a-million hits from all across the UK and Ireland.
I’m not just saying this as a trumpet-blowing exercise – there’s a web development lesson to be learned as well. Here are some of my thoughts on the factors that helped make Unreality TV such a success:
- Be Personal – Perhaps one of the most important lessons. Every blog has a voice – be opinionated, give your perspective on news and events that your readers care about.
- Make Sure Your Blog Is Optimised For Search Engines – Most blog designs are pretty search engine friendly, but we went a stage further with our search engine optimisation and site structure. The excellent search engine rankings really helped draw a crowd to the blog in the early days.
- Regular Content/Quality Content – At the start, we did our level best to identify up-to-date news sources for stories on reality TV shows. These – combined with editorial opinions – sparked comments and controversy on the site and drew regular commenters. For a blog, regular content is essential. Once your draw in a readership, you need to keep them engaged.
- Offer Subscription Facilities – The RSS bandwagon was slow to take off on Unreality TV, so we added the ability to subscribe by email. Today, between RSS and email we have a total subscriber base of about 450.
- Make Good Use Of Pictures – Never underestimate the difference good graphics make to your blog. For the first year on Unreality TV, we had no access to publicity pictures, but as the site grew more popular, we were able to gain access to promotional pictures. These really lift the site and help draw people to the information they’re looking for.
- Get A Reliable Web Host – A critical component for a popular website is uptime. If you’re on a low-cost shared hosting plan, chances are your site may not stand up to a heavy battering when a surge of visitors hits your site. We’re about to move Unreality TV to a better host for the third time, so you can imagine we haven’t quite got this right yet.
- Build A Community – A year after we launched the main blog, we added on a forum to allow our visitors to chat among themselves and raise topics that we hadn’t covered on the main blog. Although not as popular as the main site, it draws a respectable amount of search engine traffic on its own. (It’s also a great place to get feedback on what your users want!)
- Promote Promote Promote – We spent a lot of time initially attracting links back to the site, through a variety of methods. Most recently, we’ve managed a very successful local media campaign which has resulted in great exposure for the site. We’ve totally avoided paid-for advertising both on and offline, preferring to use guerilla marketing techniques instead (although I’m itching to try out Pay-Per-Click marketing to see how effective it is).
- Create Regular Features – A lot of successful blogs run regular features, maybe a movie review every Monday or an open forum session where commenters can ask random questions from the blog author. For example, during the X Factor series, we run a chart every Saturday night giving our verdict on the best performances that night. It’s always interesting to see how readers respond and how they justify their own opinions.
Anyway, that’s my 9 random lessons from a successful blog. There are certainly others, which I may cover in another post. Tonight’s post is very much a braindump of ideas, which I hope will be of use to existing bloggers and those thinking of getting started with blogging.