Blog Conversion: Twelve Highly‑detailed Suggestions

November 13, 2006

At least three of my friends have started blogs in the past two weeks. Every time I read one, I start to compose an email with suggestions and then I remember that not everyone likes unsolicited advice. So (for those three friends and everyone else who has a blog): here are my thoughts on how to increase your blog conversion (assuming you define conversion as getting your audience to be more involved with your blog.) It is not the Big Picture — for that one, you have to go read Avinash’s post on blogging. It is not about blog SEO — for that one, you have to go read Rand’s post on blogging. No, these are details that are way down in the weeds, but that’s where the devil is, no?

1. Compose in an editor that won’t insert strange characters into your feeds
It’s easy to see who composes in MS Word — those are the bloggers whose feeds look like this:

I’m researching options for being able to find zip codes within a specific distance from a location. Thus far I’ve found a couple of desktop applications, ZIP Code Download’s Lookup GXE and Xionetic’s …

If the subscriber is reading with something like My Yahoo, he only sees the titles anyway and has to click through to the blogsite – so if you are checking this comment against a reader like My Yahoo, you won’t see the mess that I see in my blog reading software. (I use Thunderbird, as do about 4% of my subscribers.)

I have experimented with this problem a lot and haven’t found a way to save the Word document such that the strange characters don’t come through. (The same is often true if you cut and paste an email into a post, which is actually what happened with the above post, the writer told me.) The best is to compose in Notepad, spellcheck a copy of it in Word and then manually fix your typos. This is an opportunity for everyone who uses a Mac to tell me how much better their technology is.

2. Link among your posts.
If I subscribe to your blog (so I can read your content without checking out your blogsite) and you don’t link to your other posts, I am much less likely to check out other posts that you have written. This is also a problem for non-subscribers who land on a permalink with, say, a Google search (so they do visit your blogsite), but you don’t link among your posts and they still don’t see any more than the one page.

3. You have an internal search engine.
Even a crummy search engine, like the one that Technorati provides for free, is better than nothing. Don’t you hate when you remember reading something great on someone’s site, you get to the site, and you have no idea how to find it?

4. When you do a multi-part series, link both forwards and backwards.
I am currently writing a multi-part series on Regular Expressions for Google Analytics. I am up to Part Nine, and I promise you that linking both forward and backwards has been difficult and time consuming and sometimes I just don’t get to it. Why not? Because when I put up Part X, I will have nine other older posts that need to have changes made to them. On the other hand, when I am done (it should only happen!!) I will completely index everything because it drives me a little wild when other bloggers forget this nicety.

5. Set up your software so that your posts are signed in some way.
I see this problem a lot with new bloggers. They don’t explore all the options that Blogger/Wordpress etc gives them — and one of those options is the ability to electronically sign their posts. The WordPress default seems to be Administrator, so if you haven’t set up a name for yourself, your post comes through to me like this:

Clear those Cookies – by Anonymous

This is especially important if you have a blog with multiple authors (as a reader, I want the ability to skip the author that I hate and go right to the author that I love.)

6. Have an “About Us” section
I really, really want to know who you are. Do you work for Microsoft? Are you a Google Analytics Certified Representative? This problem (no “about us” or “about me” section) is the worst when it is combined with #5, because then you have neither a name nor a description of yourself.

7. Use feed chicklets and the Universal feed icon.

Just because your blog is Atom or RSS enabled doesn’t mean that people will subscribe. It’s true that in Firefox you can see the Universal feed icon in the address bar, but if the reader just wants to click that Bloglines chicklet and be all set up, a little orange icon is just not going to do it for them. Spend a minute and subscribe to my favorite company, FeedBurner, and then use their Chicklet Chooser capabilities.

8. Don’t blog so often that I can’t keep up with you
This is very subjective. There are a lot of blogs, like TechCrunch, that do incredibly well with ten posts a day. I still subscribe to them, but now I only scan the titles (an argument for great titles), and maybe look at one item. In general, I find myself unsubscribing when I can’t keep up. Since your mileage may vary, you should test test test.

9. There is no 9. (Really. I skipped it accidentally.)

10. Don’t blog so rarely that I forget to take your seriously
Enough said

11. If you take a vacation, you may have a hundred posts when you get back, but save them to use over time.
One of my friends was unable to write for a few weeks and then published four incredible posts, all in one day. I wish he lived here in Pittsburgh so that I could take him out for a drink and chastise him. If the posts aren’t time sensitive, write them up and just publish them, one each day.

12. Make it easy to scan your post.
Not every post is meant to be scanned. When you write a very technical, in depth post about how to create a certain kind of functionality, the reader need to read it. But a post like the one you are currently reading is perfect for scanning. You can read the boldfacing and then pause to read the test where you are truly interested.


Robbin Steif