Let’s conclude the brief pause from the normal topics of Bowhunting, Archery and Adventure, and wrap-up our discussion about blogging. Keep in mind, though, that this advice isn’t just for bloggers; this advice applies to anyone that creates content in the outdoors industry. Regardless of your medium – be it a blog, a podcast, a video channel, etc. – this might help you…
Always Bring Value
You can, and should, produce content for yourself, but if you want anyone to enjoy your content in a way that makes them return for more, then you have to bring value to that consumer. Value may be information, knowledge, or even entertainment. Not every article has to be a “How To…”, or a “Five Steps for…” – value can be sharing the ups, and downs, and funny mishaps of your outdoors adventures. Give people a reason to read (or listen, or watch), and a reason to come back for more. Bring value.
Organize Your Ideas
I can’t tell you how many amazing post ideas that I’ve had…and then forgotten. These ideas often come at the most inconvenient times, and I’ve realized that I have to have a system to document and organize them. Not only is it important to organize your ideas so that you don’t forget them, but it’s also important to organize so that you can plan a logical sequence of topics to cover. Everything you produce doesn’t have to relate to the previous content that you’ve released, but it does help build momentum if you can put a consistent focus together.
Speaking of great ideas that come at odd times… Sometimes I have a wonderful idea in my head, and make note of it for later, but when it comes time to sit down and write it all down, I’m not so sure that my idea is great anymore. Sometimes I doubt myself and resist hitting that publish button. But more often than not I’m glad when I take the risk and put the idea out there. In fact, some of my most popular posts – the ones that have struck an engaging response from readers – have been posts that I’ve doubted publishing. Don’t second-guess your first instinct. Don’t doubt yourself. Hit publish.
Now you have some killer content, good ideas flowing, and an audience building. What’s the worst thing you can do? Easy – don’t interact. If you want to keep an audience, then you need to take the time to respond to comments, emails, tweets, etc. This interaction is one of my favorite aspects of running Sole Adventure. I love hearing from readers, answering questions, and receiving advice from those around me. It can be hard to respond to every one, all of the time, but always make your best effort to follow-up and interact.
Social media is one of the greatest assets you have to grow your blog. I mention this near the end, because it’s one of the last steps. Building a social media platform won’t grow your blog, unless you have blog content for your social media followers to consume. A lot of people mix this up, and try to build a social presence before they have a content base. You can build your blog and your social channels at the same time, but don’t begin using your social channels as a platform for your blog until you have the content to support it.
Twitter is a huge asset for bloggers, Facebook is good (but troublesome), and newer channels like Instagram are growing rapidly. Try to use as many channels as you can, but don’t feel like you have to master them all. And most importantly – don’t use social media as a single-purpose outlet where all you do is self-promote. It’s called “social” media for a reason, so get social.
We have spent the vast majority of this series talking about content, content, and content. But what a lot of bloggers have questions about is the technical details of blogging. I certainly want to address this, but I’m hesitant to get too detailed, therefore suggesting that there’s one way to do things, but that’s simply not the case.
However, here are a few technical tips that you should absolutely consider…
- Use WordPress. Don’t consider this one, just do it. There’s no better platform.
- Style with Care. There are approximately 23,405,203 themes out there to change the look and feel of your site. Don’t choose the one with the most features or slickest gimmicks; choose one that is simple, clean, easy to read, and works well on every device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) Less is more; do enough to be distinctive and interesting, but let your content be what brings people back.
- Format and Fill. Make your blog posts readable and scannable by using good content formatting. Keep your paragraphs short, use headlines to section your content, and fill the post with quality images. People won’t read what you have to say if they are intimidated by lengthy, un-broken paragraphs of seemingly daunting words.
- Add Key Pages. In addition to your blog (your rolling, chronological list of articles), you also need to have key pages (static articles that exist in your main menu and won’t get lost in the “archives” of your blog). At the bare minimum you need a way to tell more readers “about” you, and a way for those readers to “contact” you. You can add a few more, but keep your main navigation free from clutter.
This Isn’t Very Good
To be honest, I’m not very happy with this two-part series. There is so much to cover – so many other lessons that I’ve learned in the last few years – it would be impossible to share it all. That said, I hope that these posts highlight the value of good content, establish some of the principles of success, and inspire you to get started or keep going with your blog (or podcast, or videos). If nothing else, I’m following my own advice and “hitting publish” in spite of my doubts.
I’m sure you have questions that I didn’t answer. Tell me about it…