Want a Successful Blog? Focus on Content and Connections

in Business

I had a conversation tonight about internet marketing and blogging with a client and good friend. He’s just launched a couple of new blogs, one for himself and another just for gathering feedback on a new product launch. He’s the kinda guy who just GOES for it – design be damned – because ultimately he knows what a lot of successful people know about this space (blogging, internet marketing, etc): it’s only ever about two things: content and connections.

Let me show you what I mean.

Content

You can spend all the time and money in the world making your blog incredibly wonderful-looking. But I will remain on my soapbox about this forever: it doesn’t matter. It is about content. It is about content. It is about content. This is such an important concept to grasp. My client’s blogs are are systematically produced, using the same simple, no fuss layout, which usually has nothing but an opt-in box and a couple of things in the sidebar: recent posts, recent comments and categories. And guess what happens? Comment after comment after comment, trackback after trackback, visitor after visitor. Basically, his content takes center stage.

You see, first of all, a blog isn’t a game or a fancy dress that you want everyone to look at. At the end of the day, it’s a tool. It’s serves a purpose. He’s either growing his list or asking questions that he expects will be answered. He doesn’t intend for people to spend all day admiring his spiffy layout or how great his opt-in form looks. Instead, he intends for people to read his content and get something out of it. And, in the end, isn’t it true that we ALWAYS get what we (really) intend?

The content is completely the center of focus. It’s up to you to determine whether or not you need supporting material, but a basic blog with a column for content and another for an opt-in and some navigation is plenty and many bloggers are doing well with just that. Don’t shadow your content with tons of flash all over the top and sides and bottom of your blog, and don’t tarry over the small, minute details, either. While you’re worrying, someone else in your niche is blogging away and it’s going viral while you sit around and choose the right font color.

Seriously, stop dilly-dallying over design. Content is truly King. Design should always be a supporting, secondary consideration, in order to fully optimize visibility into your content. I choose Woo Themes for my own projects (see the big blue box to the right)  because the design is already done; all that’s left to do is write!

But how do we get the interaction that we all want? Well, that brings me to my next point: connections.

Connections

My client reminded me of something that so many people either don’t know or forget, which is that business is being conducted today the same way as it has always been conducted: people buy from people/companies they know and trust. It is no different on the Internet.

He tells the right people about the blog and new posts. And the right people visit the blog, interact with it, share it, sign up for updates, etc. It’s really that simple. He doesn’t create blogs with mass appeal; that’s not the point. Better to create a blog for this and a blog for that than a huge multi-purpose blog that no one gets anything out of.

He builds a community through the blog. He opens dialog and asks them questions directly. And they respond. Not in droves, since that’s not his purpose. But he gets what he aims for and is always asking for feedback and responding to it.

Instead of writing a post and letting it sit (which I’ve been guilty of PLENTY of times), he tells key people about it and they tell other key people about it.

If you write a blog post in the middle of the Internet and no one around sees it, is it really there?

Don’t worry so much if you don’t know very many people or vocal people (connectors). That’s why you’re growing your circle of influence using Twitter and Biznik (hopefully) and other ways of making connections.

Bottom line is that you can’t hide behind your blog. You have to get out there and talk to people. It’s awesome and really effective if you already have rapport with industry leaders or movers and shakers, but don’t let lack of that be a barrier for you. Instead, find ways to make connections, because you absolutely need them.

Once you establish those connections, tell them about your blog and your posts. Let them know that you think it would be of interest to them and you think they should read it and pass it on. It won’t come off sales-y when it comes from you, someone they know.

Why This Is So Hard

So this is hard to put into action. If it weren’t, more people would be doing this. It’s hard because it requires that we let go of fear of failure and fear of looking stupid, and the fear of people making uncomfortable comments (or making no comments) and it shaking you up. It requires having some confidence in ourselves – knowing where we’re aiming and remaining un-phased by the many, many times we will miss the mark. See, letting people know what we’re doing makes us vulnerable to criticism and so many of us don’t like that.

Your Turn

If you have questions, or something to share, speak up! It’s the best way to be part of the conversation and it’s also really helpful for everyone else.