As I stumble to the finish line of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog challenge, I've apparently begun to block out assignments in a vain attempt to get closer to the end. Here, I'll try to backtrack and catch up.
Back to Day 22--Catching New Readers Up on Your Blog
As Sue Waters pointed out to me via comments and email, I skipped over the Day 22 assignment, which was to catch new readers up on my blog. It's not that I didn't SEE it, it's that I had already done several of these things in my blog redesign, so had decided that I wasn't going to actually do any more at this point.
At any rate, for this task Darren points out that if you've been blogging for awhile, it can be helpful to help new readers get into your blog by creating a post or two that shows them how to navigate through your blog and how to use it most effectively. I'm happy to report that I'd already done several of these things, including showing readers how to subscribe and explaining how to use comments and pointing to some articles they might want to read via my redesigned About Page. So got that one done.
Day 25--Go Shopping to Improve Your Blog
This brings me to day 25 (getting my numbering back on track) where the assignment was to go shopping to improve my blog. Have I mentioned how much I LOATHE shopping? Nonetheless, this is actually a great piece of advice, as getting out of the house and into an arena where all they try to do is entice you to buy is actually an interesting exercise to apply to a blog.
Darren's suggestion was to go shopping with ONLY the goal of observing, but I didn't have time for that this weekend, although I did have a shopping experience that gave me some good insights.
Canal Street in New York City--My older daughter returned to college on Saturday, so her sister and I went into the city to get her settled. After a lunch in Little Italy, we headed down to Canal Street to do some shopping. This is where I was reminded of few things about blogging:
- Differentiate yourself as much as possible. For those of you not familiar with Canal Street, it's basically one long line of look-alike stores selling the same stuff--jewelry, "designer" bags and purses, perfume, and some other odds and ends. Each store looks EXACTLY the same, usually offering exactly the same merchandise at the same prices. This meant that we looked at the first few, but quickly passed by the last stores. Same thing with a blog--if I'm new to blogs, then I'll look carefully at the first few. But if you look like everyone else and your blog is one I see later in my surfing, then I'm going to pass you by. You have to show me something new and different to catch my attention.
- Less is more--too much and you'll overwhelm your readers. Frankly, I couldn't even get into some of the stores. The ones that I could get into were so packed with people and merchandise I couldn't really see anything. It all just blended together for me. Same thing can happen with a blog, which is why that whole sidebar decluttering exercise was a great one for me.
- Make it easy to get around and find things without guidance. I'm one of those people who doesn't like salespeople asking me if they can "help." I want to go into a store, find what I need with no help from anyone and then get out. On Canal Street, you're constantly bombarded with salespeople inviting you into "secret" back rooms and trying to show you the deal that's on the top shelf. That just turns me off. I want things to be easy to find with no help from anyone. That's why I think that adding Google Customized search to your blog is really a key strategy. It's actually made it much easier for ME to find stuff that I've written about, even easier than using the million tags that I once had in the sidebar.
To conclude Day 25, let's just say that I won't be heading back to Canal Street any time soon.
Day 26--Link Up to a Competitor
The task for today is to link up to a "competitor"--that is, someone who blogs in the same niche that you do. Luckily this is something I do all the time. Frankly, I'm not totally sure how you can blog and NOT link to other people in your niche. I do it because it's part of having a "conversation" with people, but apparently it's also good for optimizing your search engine results, so I'm killing two birds with one stone on that one.
Day 27--Find a Sponsor for Your Blog
Finding a sponsor for my blog is my assignment for today. This is one that I might actually be interested in pursuing at some point, although not right now. For nonprofits, though, this might be an excellent strategy to consider. I highly recommend checking out Darren's post and resources if you want to go this route.
I have now caught up and only have a few days to go. I have to say that I think I'm going to miss this whole process. I may need to set another challenge for myself in September.