As with everything digital, blogging is an evolving field. What was once an accepted blogging practice may just not work in today’s changed landscape. So it may be time to sit back and evaluate whether generally accepted blog best practices still apply to you or not.
Here are eight current blogging practices that may be near the end of their lifelines:
1. Post Five Times a Day to Increase Traffic
It was once considered a standard rule that traffic is directly proportional to the number of posts. Therefore, to increase traffic, you upped output and frequency. There are many bloggers who would benefit from an increase in post frequency. However, each blogger’s threshold of that frequency will vary.
For example, a prolific high-profile blogger such as Michael Hyatt recently stated: "I used to recommend blogging five times a week. For some time now I’ve blogged two to three times a week and have seen the same level of reader growth. By cutting back the frequency I freed myself up to do other things."
Hyatt also referenced Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Body, where Ferriss discusses the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose (MED). The MED is the "smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome" or as Ferriss quotes Olympic coach Henk Kraaijenhof: "Do as little as needed, not as much as possible."
The concept of blogging as much as is needed to maintain or grow traffic is a new one. No longer do you have to increase blog frequency to increase traffic. Glen Alsop from Viperchill posts once or twice a month and gets 120,000 visitors per month while Seth Godin posts daily (sometimes even twice a day) and has similar stats.
New Rule: Therefore, the new rule of blogging is to find your frequency sweet spot. It may be more or less than your current frequency, but by experimenting, you’ll be able to find your optimal posting frequency – the minimum number of posts needed every month to keep your blog on an upward trajectory.
Put another way, Hyatt states, "To make progress on the things that matter most, we can’t afford losing ground by trying to do too much — even if we’re trying to do the right things."
2. Leave Blog Comments
Like most people, I was quite surprised when Copyblogger closed off comments on its blog. Weren’t comments supposed to be the life-blood of engagement? And wasn’t Copyblogger all about encouraging a dialogue with your blog audience? These questions swam in my mind before I read Sonia Simone’s post explaining why.
It seems that the decision was in large part administrative. Copyblogger receives a lot of spam and to sift through that was becoming counter-productive for them. Instead of comments, they encouraged their audience to start a discussion on their social media outposts, most especially on Google Plus. But more than that, they lobbied that those who have something substantial to say should say it on their own blog and reference the Copyblogger post.
What Copyblogger ended up doing, in fact, is helping us remember that the only way to cut through the noise is to produce substantive content. And if a comment is thoughtful, then why not put it on its own pedestal as a complete blog post?
New Rule: Thanks to Copyblogger, the new blogging rule is to write out a blog post in response to a post and expand your initial comment to include a divergent viewpoint or more insights. Remember, if your insights are substantial, they probably warrant a blog post of their own.
3. Outsource Your Blog to a Professional
Content creation has always been outsourced and will always continue to be outsourced. But more and more bloggers are now realizing that outsourced content will never get them the leadership status they crave. This point is ironic coming from me, as my company produces content for clients.
Neil Patel recently wrote an excellent article for HubSpot titled "Why You Should Write Your Own Content," where he said, "Content writing isn’t just something that I do on the side. It is a core component of what I preach and practice every day of my life. Content is that important. As an entrepreneur and a content marketer, I recommend that you write your own content."
Patel cited five reasons why entrepreneurs should write their own content: better expression, brand authenticity, experience of speaking and responding to your audience, and staying abreast of industry trends.
New Rule: Produce your own content. If you absolutely can’t, then make content creation a bilateral process. Have brainstorming content meetings where the client and the bloggers together forge topics, direction, and voice. I encourage my clients to write their own posts in addition to the ones that we write for them. And I have seen the results first hand.
Entrepreneurs who write for their own blogs (in addition to outsourcing content creation) are more confident about what they want to say and are more in tune with their audience than those who outsource the entire process.
4. Always Write 100% Original Content
Oh pffft! With so much pressure to create content, bloggers need to cut themselves some slack and embrace the time-saving practices of content curation and repurposing. No one creates 100 percent original content all the time anyways. People are always getting inspired by others and riffing off of others.
New Rule: Curate, re-purpose, mash-up other people’s content and give your unique take on it. Give attribution and credit to your sources and references always.
And don’t just curate other people’s work, but also repurpose your own work. Dig through your archives looking for ways to put a new spin on an old topic or converting your post into another format to give it new life.
5. Not Every Post Needs to Have an Image
Every text post MUST have images. So should every podcast or video post. The Web is increasingly visual, but you already knew that, right? Do you also know what every image should have, besides being compatible with the post?
Derek Halpern states, "You should never run an image without an interesting, persuasive caption. I know this sounds crazy…it’s just a silly caption. But, as Drew Eric Whitman points out in Ca$hvertising, 'Studies have shown that up to twice as many people read captions as body copy.'"
If you think about Twitter and consider the 140 characters a caption of sorts, then the attached image becomes even more relevant. When Buffer experimented with adding images to tweets and measuring the results of the last 100 tweets, here’s what they found: Tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 150 percent more retweets, and were favorited 89 percent more times than tweets without images.
New Rule: Add both images and captions to every piece of content you create. It’s good for capturing eyeballs, it’s good for SEO, and it’s good for social sharing.
6. Stick to One Type of Format
Trent Drysmid of BrightIdeas.co was frustrated as to why his blog traffic was not increasing at a faster pace, despite him having a podcast with big-name entrepreneurs and earning some stellar praise from fellow bloggers. Turns out, his problem was podcasting. Or, only podcasting. As soon as he started to also write content (among other tactics), his readers were able to quickly scan his content and subscribe to his blog and he experienced a rise in traffic.
When you restrict yourself to producing just one type of content format, you also risk a traffic plateau for visitors who consume content in that format.
New Rule: Jazz up your content by producing the same or different content in multiple formats: written content, graphics, podcasts, videos, presentations, etc. This way, you’ll attract people who and squeeze plenty of SEO juice for your multiple formats.
7. Write a 500-Word Blog Post
Honestly, the era of the 500-word blog post is dead. Gone are the days when word count determined quality. Short posts are still popular. Quality listicles are still read. Longer posts (up to 2,000 words) are read, too. Word count just doesn’t matter anymore.
New Rule: Your post needs to be to convey your point and not any longer.
8. Don’t Publish Your Articles on Third-Party Sites
When James Clear wanted to reach more people with his content, he knew that peddling his blog post on his own social media accounts wouldn’t cut it. He needed to promote his posts to a larger audience with a larger social network. Enter content republishing, aka syndication.
Sites like Medium, LinkedIn, Quora, The Huffington Post, Business2Community, and more all allow for your content to be republished on their sites. Of course some have specific rules about what’s allowed for syndication and you’ll need to read each site’s terms to see what they are. Generally, however, these sites will provide you an author bio linked to your G+ profile, and possibly a link back to your site where the original article first appeared.
I know what you’re thinking. What does republishing the exact same content do to invoke Google’s duplicate content penalty? According to bloggers who regularly syndicate their content to quality sites: diddlysquat. Reputed institutes like the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) regularly syndicate their content without any penalties.
James Clear was able to grow his blog to more than 76,000 subscribers using content syndication on sites like The Huffington Post, Medium, and Quora without any duplicate content penalties.
New Rule: Promote your content on reputable third-party sites, which provide a link back to where content was originally published, and also give an author bio tied in to your G+ profile. You can wait a week or two before giving your content for republishing. That’s enough time for search bots to know where and when the original article was first published. Include links within your article that point back to your site to drive traffic.
Your turn! What blogging guideline do you think should bite the dust? Which ones have withstood the test of time and will continue to be hailed as best practices? Share your thoughts in the comments below.