Marketing is queen
Content is king, but marketing is queen, and runs the household.–Gary Vaynerchuk (b. 1975)
It is true, as Bill Gates posited in 1996, that “Content is King,” but your content is specific to you and to your blog; and I don’t feel comfortable advising you on something so personal. You must be able to write well; and you must write appealingly. On a fundamental level, your content is the substance of your online identity so you should take it seriously!
These blogging tips of mine are intended for those of you who already have a handle on your content. Once you have figured out what motivates you to blog and what you are blogging about, the following advice becomes very relevant. My pieces of advice are all technical or strategic.
Now, going back to the quote from Gary Vaynerchuk above, I would classify the following guidance as marketing-oriented, although not directly about marketing, per se. Keeping in mind that these tips are intended primarily for bloggers who are just starting out, I’m focusing here on marketing one’s blog on WordPress itself, which begins with aesthetic appeal.
Aesthetic appeal – the elements
The featured image
When one scrolls through the WP reader, which is available to all WP bloggers, one can find limitless blog posts. Take a look at your WP reader and ask yourself – what are the elements of a blog post, which first draw your eyes?
When one looks at a blog post, one sees the featured image at the top, but the featured image is also visible in the WP reader. Take a look at the image below:
To me, it’s very clear that including a featured image is worth it if you’d like to increase your subscriber count. After all, from a marketing perspective, you must first and foremost be able to catch potential readers’ attention. Your posts must draw their eyeballs.
By the way, I usually spend a fair amount of time looking for featured images on http://images.google.com/ – I always try to find free images that best suit (and sometimes even enhance) my content. I take images very seriously.
And(!) ~ consider for a moment how the additional images that I’ve included above have affected your experience of this blog post as its reader.
My professional experience of the last ten years has been in the field of online communications, which has given me an eye for appealing online content. When I send out e-newsletters or post articles online, I always look at the text from the perspective of an artist.
Putting aside the fact that readers are unlikely to read very long blog posts (most op-eds in English should be no more than 800-1,000 words), long, unbroken blocks of text are simply not appealing to the eye.
This is why you should look at your writing with a critical eye. Make sure your paragraphs are only several sentences long. Figure out where you can break them apart and do it. If a blog post simply must (for whatever reason) include an especially long paragraph, make that the exception rather than the rule!
Bold and italics
Likewise, on the most basic level of formatting, bloggers can bold their text or italicize it.
Don’t overdo this because text can quickly become overly busy and unappealing; but, at the same time, you should always scan through your paragraphs and find the sentences that deserve your readers’ special attention. Pretend that you are speaking through your writing… which of your written words would you emphasize in a speech?
Bold and italics draw your readers to particularly important points; and, perhaps even more importantly, they make lengthy blog posts more appealing to the eye. Regardless of the quality of the content, a bit of extra attention to text formatting will make your blog posts more attractive.
Don’t overdo it… but… do it.
I consider headers to be incredibly important, particularly in longer blog posts.
Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Therefore, they should indicate what a section or a paragraph is about. Otherwise, people won’t know what to expect.-Jono Alderson, ‘How to use headings on your site’, Dec. 7, 2020
I have no intention of recreating the wheel so I will simply encourage you to read this article by Jono Alderson, which I’ve linked to above. He explains the advantages of using headers and provides us with several best practices.
I will, however, highlight one technical point, which you should bear in mind: the highest level heading is called ‘H1’, and it is automatically assigned to the title of your blog post. The 2nd level for headings is ‘H2’, the 3rd level is ‘H3’, etc.; and, as Alderson suggests, “It’s rare for most content to get ‘deep’ enough to need to use H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing really long, or really technical content.”
Quotes, links, text separators…
In this blog post, you’ll note that I included several links, one separator (which I tend to use before every ‘H2’ heading), two quotes, and two superscripts. In addition to each of these elements being of practical use, they can also break up your text from a visual perspective.
Take the time to play around with the formatting options available to you on WordPress if you’d like to increase your subscriber count.
On a personal level, and entirely regardless of my subscriber count, I take pride in the visual aesthetic of my blog. You should too.