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Five Blogging Rules to Make a Great First Impression

Guest Post: Andy Beal is co-author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online and a recognized expert in online reputation management.

When someone first discovers your blog, it’s much like that awkward first date. Will they like your appearance, do they find you interesting, and did you remember to brush your teeth? As a blogger, your goal is to demonstrate that you’re worthy of a second date and perhaps even marriage–or at least worth subscribing to your RSS feed.

To convince your readers that you’re worth their effort, you need to make a great first impression. Your blogging reputation may not proceed you, but there are five rules that every blogger should follow–if you want to make a great first impression and grow your audience.

Rule 1: Dress Your Blog to Impress

That free WordPress theme you’re using on your blog might be enough to impress a few readers, but if it’s the same theme used by dozens of other blogs, you’ll blend into the crowd. Just as you’d consider a new suit a great investment for impressing your date, you should consider a custom design a great investment for your blog.

When I first started MarketingPilgrim.com, I used a really bad off-the-shelf theme. Two years ago, I invested in a custom designed WordPress theme. Did it help me dress to impress? Within one month of launching the new design I doubled the number of RSS subscribers and attracted new advertisers–which more than paid for the cost of the theme.

Rule 2: Mind Your Blog Language

Blogging lends itself well to a casual attitude. What does it matter if you don’t spell-check your post? Why worry if you happen to insert an expletive here or there? Well, if you were to turn-up to your first date and subsequently cuss throughout dinner, or utter sentences such as “I is very smart,” what do you think you chances would be of getting a second date?

You should understand that the voice and style you use in your blog posts, reflects on your blogging reputation. Whether you’re hoping to land that new job, attract new advertisers, or just want to increase the number of people that link to you posts, you’ll be judged by what you say in your blog posts.

Rule 3: Always Bring a Gift

If you want to make a great first impression, bring a gift on your date. Likewise, if you want to build your reputation as blogger, you should shower your readers with gifts. Now, I don’t mean you have to give away an iPod every week–although I’ve certainly gained readers with such promotions–but you can give them ideas, tips, and insight that they can’t find anywhere else.

While it might feel unnatural to be so giving, you need look no further than ProBlogger as a great example of giving away the farm, in order to build your blogging reputation. Have you ever known Darren to hold back? Do you ever get the sense he’s not spilling all the beans? Nope, me neither. Darren’s tens of thousands of daily readers proves that having a reputation as a “giving” blogger will make you the hottest date in town!

Rule 4: Listen as Much as You Talk

Do you know what happens if you spend your entire date talking about yourself? You don’t get a second date! The same is true with your blog. Sure, your readers want to hear your advice, thoughts, and opinions, but you’ll build your reputation as a blogger by learning to listen to them.

I know what you’re thinking: “readers are free to leave their comments.” Whoopdedo! Do you actually read their comments? How about responding to them? I make a point of reading every comment left on my blog. If a reader has taken the time to share their thoughts, you might just learn something from them. Go one step further and engage them in a conversation, and you’ll build a reputation of being a fantastic blogger.

Rule 5: Don’t Let the Flame Burn Out

What do you think would happen if you went on a dozen great dates, then didn’t phone the object of your affection for two months? Do you think they’d readily come back to you? So why would you blog consistently for a month, then not update you blog for 8 weeks?

You don’t have to be as prolific in your posting as Darren–who can?–but you should be consistent in your posting. You readers will become comfortable with the frequency of your posting. If you post once a day–or once a month–they’ll get used to that schedule. Stick to it! Nothing kills a romance faster than ignoring your amore’s phone calls, and nothing kills your blogging reputation faster than going quiet without an explanation.

Of course, like a romantic relationship, blog relationships take more than just making a great first impression. In Radically Transparent, we discuss how you can use a blog to build a stellar reputation and my sincere thanks to Darren for his generosity in sharing his advice for the book. Such benevolence is part of the reason ProBlogger is the most eligible bachelor in the blogosphere!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. OldSailor says:

    Nice tips. I agree with all your rules. Like in romance, the blog must trigger “Love at First Sight”

  2. Lori says:

    I think #4 is key! Many times, my reader’s comments determine what I’ll be blogging about next. I blog for them so I care a great deal about their opinions, questions, and concerns.

  3. jhay says:

    It’s a classic rule, “first impressions last.”

  4. Hehe interesting take using the dating analogy. It makes me thinks of Darren’s recent series on using anticipation. When dating you wouldn’t want to give everything up on the first date (I hope not anyway!) so you flirt a little, but keep a lot back to keep them coming back for more. As a blogger, give them a really interesting post but show them how much more you can offer them if they come back or subscribe to your feed.

  5. Mike King says:

    Rule 3: the Gift is my favorite and I find to be so true. So many bloggers nowadays seem to be starting a blog to make money or to gain fame or reputation but they really are NOT offering much themselves. Unfortunately, this has also built a bad reputation for blogs since there are so many that are selfish and simply advertising themselves and BEGGING for you to click their adds, stumble and digg their every post.

    If you offer the best you have, and do it consistently, all those things will come. I certainly believe that and hope my blog works by what I offer to my readers and visitors.

  6. bugsy says:

    Today’s grade: A+++

    All I can say is I wish i knew what I know now, about 2 years ago before going on the adventure of a lifetime. Though I suppose that’s the idea of life, you learn as you go.

    I thrive on simplicity at times, and this entry servers just that purpose. Simple ideas, quick to understand, and quick to realize why we should all do those things.

    All the best.

  7. Andy Beal says:

    @Bugsy – thanks for the grade, glad you found it useful.

    When I started writing the post, I didn’t plan to go down the road of the dating analogy, but it seemed to fit, so I went with it. If only I’d followed my own advice when actually dating! ;-)

  8. CatherineL says:

    Hi Andy – these are great tips. I hate it when bloggers don’t respond to comments – even if you ask a question. No matter how great the content is, I stop visiting once they’ve done that a few times.

    Theming is important. I ran a plain old free theme for ages and I’ve just got a new customised one. I really wish I’d done it in the first place – it really does help with branding.

  9. Troy says:

    These are some great points, especially about not holding back. I have found it’s better to write a short post about something than to save it for when you have no other ideas, because you end up providing more resources and more total value to your readers.

  10. Good advices and I must agree with Troy – short posts rulz :)

  11. Jan Yong says:

    Your theories definitely makes sense. I like the way you used the “dating” method to explain how do you get viewers to read your blogs. One question though, how are we supposed to get unique “gifts” such as ideas and insights which viewers don’t normally get from any other websites they’ve searched off Google?

  12. Rule 4 and 5 jumped out at me. I think this is some great advice; I most certainly need to make sure the flame doesn’t die out–which happens often in the beginning stages of blogging.

    Thanks for this article.

  13. I like the dating analogy! It is important to give out good information that the readers haven’t read anywhere else in order to attain new regular readers. Re-hashing what is written on everyone else’s blog will not get you new readers.

  14. Bruce says:

    Thanks, Andy…Good advice that I’ll take to heart.

  15. Bob Younce says:

    Great analogy, Andy!

    If anyone doubts the gift point, you should rethink your position. Look at The Pioneer Woman. She owes much of her success to her weekly contests.

    Anyone who gives away a Wii one week and a $500 gift card to Home Depot the next is going to develop a loyal following of readers.

  16. Heh, d035 |337 5p34k c0un7 as bad blog language? :P

    Great article!

  17. That’s a nice article. You summed up the must-haves in a great way, and it was a perfect read, too. Now if we can only get all the webmasters in the world to pay attention… *sigh*

  18. Aw, Andy, they like you! They really like you!

    Happy to see you over here, though I missed the byline and didn’t realize it was you until I saw MP’s name in the fourth paragraph.

  19. I especially liked rule #4, “Listen as much as you talk.” Although my blog is relatively new and comments are manageable, I can see how it could become tough to keep up.

    Yet that’s what a blog is all about, the conversation.

    Happy Marketing.

    Patrick Byers
    The Responsible Marketing Blog
    http://responsiblemarketing.com

  20. Jason Boom says:

    Can’t argue with the analogy. I think the looks of my site have served me just as well as the content. Good read, Andy.

  21. Leon says:

    I agree with all the rules, except #3. Sorry, but my blog has to be raking in some serious AdSense cash before I give away iPods or anything like that. My blog,/a> has a pretty rare template, so I guess it sort of follows rule #1.

  22. This is a great comparison..I totally get the picture clearly..^^ thanks for the tips and for the real life examples..^^

  23. Andy Beal says:

    @CatherineL – a new theme really is like buying a new suit. If a new theme is not within budget, even customizing a free template is a good start.

    @Jan Yong – reading the comments by your readers is a good place to get new post ideas. You might also consider hanging out at Yahoo Answers and seeing what questions are being asked.

    @Bob Younce – it doesn’t even have to be an expensive gift. Over at http://www.govisithawaii.com, my wife gives away a monthly prize that costs her less than $30–but it’s themed towards what her readers will like.

    @Jordan – I should have bolded the byline. ;-) Now you now why we have your photo at the top of your posts–so readers don’t confuse us. ;-)

    @Leo – see my comment above. You don’t have to give away something expensive to make it work for you.

    Thanks all for your feedback and encouragement!

    Andy

  24. Great post, Andy. I think a sixth rule if you had had room would be to talk to your readers in an engaging way. Talk about things they relate to in the language that they would use. Your post is a perfect example of that.

  25. Andy Beal says:

    @Barry – very true. When I wrote this post, I used a voice that I hoped would appeal to the readers of this blog.

  26. Robert A says:

    Hmm. I guess MOST of us could do a lot to improve our blogs to make a better first impression. Thanks for posting this, getting conscious of some of these things really helps take a blogger to a new level.

    I’ll share this article for sure.

  27. natespost says:

    Excellent rules. Now just to get the traffic! I am giving away $50 to the winner of my contest….be in the top 5 commentators and sign up for my feed and you have a 1 in 5 chance of winning.

  28. Oz says:

    I find that it really doesn’t take much to tweak a good WordPress template and turn it into something that bares little resemblance to the hundreds of other people using it.

    Case in point – my baseball blog uses the Talian 1.0 theme, but I defy anyone to look at my site, and the original, and make the connection between the two without thinking hard about it.

    A change of header, a new color scheme, some image-heavy widgets, changes to font and styling… it usually takes me about half an hour to make enough of a change so as to save a few hundred bucks on design costs.

    Personally, I’d rather put that cash into a nice logo, which I think gives a much stronger first (and corporate) impression.

  29. Musing says:

    Good points!

    I’ve heard that when people meet others for the first time they size them up and decide if they want to know them better in 5-7 seconds. It’s probably similar when first “meeting” a blog.

  30. A great article from you Andy. I really enjoyed the read. As a result of your first tip, about the wordpress themes, ill be taking that on board and commissioning a custom-theme right away. Something i have been thinking about for a while, but your advice has pushed me along.

    thank you!! Hope to see you are ProBlogger again sometime.

  31. Andy Beal says:

    @Andy – thanks for the kind words. I’m sure the custom theme will help greatly.

  32. Dr. R says:

    Blogger and WordPress are my favorites because they are very easy to use and tweaking them is fun.
    It is easy to go overboard and make a Blogger site very cluttered and ugly.

  33. Granny Smith says:

    Well, I don’t have a blog yet, but have been in sales and marketing since 1870.

    We always train our salespeople to have their own 30 second commercial. So when someone asks, “What do You Do?” they will be well prepared to make the proper first impression, and help peak interest and lay the groundwork for further interesting conversation.

    People do judge a book (and a blog) by the cover. It may help to see what your blogs says in its 30 second commercial?

  34. I think another key is to blog only about things that you are passionate about – if you care about it, you’ll attract people who share your passions. :-)

  35. Excellent tips! I like your points about listening and giving gifts to your readers. Lastly, i realize that blogging is a process. I really enjoyed this post.

  36. Great advice. I’m particularly mulling over your suggestion on language. I walk a line in my blog of humor and genuine tips/advice. So I have to tread carefully, encouraging readers to take me seriously but also encouraging them to laugh when I want them too. Good stuff to think about!

  37. Vinh Le says:

    I like to dress my blog in the equivalent of a pink tuxedo. First impressions are important online just as much as they are in our daily lives. The frame of something has a lot of effects on what a person thinks about it.

  38. those are some great tips Darren. I definitely agree with only blogging about things that I am passionate about.

  39. Your tips are always stimulating. First impression is always the lasting impression. I will have to watch those mis-spelled words. I oftentimes get so carried away and lost in what I am saying that I forget about the simplicity of spell check. Thanks!

  40. Brian says:

    I find your knowledge very useful. I am just beginning and it is intimidating. Right now I am throwing up random posts just trying to make my friends laugh (since they’re the only ones reading it anyway). I just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for the information.

  41. Sanjai says:

    I totally agree with you. The theme makes your visitor stay in your blog and spend time. Content is main thing I would say rather than theme first

  42. This is a great analogy Andy. It really gets the message across well.
    I’m off to shine my shoes before my next date now.

  43. Great tips Andy, especially number 4, listening is always important I think.

    My first post on my new blogging for money blog, if anyone is interested.

    “Top 5 Free Blog Directories that Actually Bring Traffic”
    http://www.weblogmoneytips.com/2008/03/top-5-free-blog-directories-that.html

  44. Ana says:

    This was a really good article Andy although (here it comes) I’m going to have to disagree with bringing a gift along on a first date. It’s way too premature and can actually backfire by creeping ones date out. Likewise I’ve seen some blogs holding contests that received very little response. This gave off the appearance that the blog had a very low readership. It seems like one of those areas that can be worth waiting until ones blog is a bit more established, just like a relationship and gifts.

  45. Andy Beal says:

    @Ana – I think you may have misread that sentence. I actually say that you don’t have to give a tangible gift, but you should “give them ideas, tips, and insight that they can’t find anywhere else”

    Maybe it’s my English heritage, but I’d at least bring flowers on a first date. :-)

  46. Kemi says:

    I’ve been blogging for a while but was looking for a simple useful and inspirational “list” for a current client who I recently setup with a hosted wordpress blog. Thanks Darren.

  47. Rishil says:

    Nice article, enjoyed reading it completely. If fact as you mentioned about RSS feeds thought of sharing some tips to convert RSS feeds to HTML. Do check them out.. looking forward to hear from you. Keep blogging.
    http://askwiki.blogspot.com/2008/03/tips-to-convert-rss-to-html-for-your.html

  48. Jodi Rudick says:

    I’ll add this one: Don’t treat your readers like a one night stand. In other words, don’t just keep the fire burning, but remember that there’s another blogger vying for attention. We live in a fickle age, so keep it fresh or someone else will.

  49. Denise says:

    Good afternoon, I had a quick question for you – you mentioned that at one point you gave an ipod to a winning reader and I think this is a great idea. I’d like to do the same, but with something more like a book from a prominent Christian author like Joyce Meyers or Billy Graham, for my Blessings from Above blog.

    How do you go about giving an incentive though? Do you actually ask for the address? Are people open to provide that? I think I’d be a little hesitant as a reader, but obviously can’t think of any other way to go about it. What’s your experience been?

    Thanks in advance!
    Blessings!
    Denise

  50. Andy Beal says:

    @Densise – that sounds like a great prize for your readers. Maybe have them leave a comment in order to enter, and then only ask the winner to provide their mailing address.