This guest post is by Julien Smith of inoveryourhead.net
Are you repeating the same things every other blogger is saying? Are your valuable visitors turning away as soon as they see what you have to offer? Is your blog great, or is it boring?
How would you know?
Very few blogs turn you away with their design. You may have a custom theme or you may have something you just plopped on there for free. But what matters is getting people with your words and your ideas. Are they any good? Only an outside force can tell you.
Boring by numbers
If your blog is boring, your numbers will tell you. Google Analytics has a bounce rate, will teach you which posts keep readers around longer. What matters is not where your bounce rate is right now (it could even be in the 90% range), but that you work constantly to bring it down.
Test different titles. Put videos or images at the beginning of the posts to see if people stick around more. Try anything, but assume nothing about your visitors! If your blog is boring, then obviously, you can’t trust yourself to know what works. Trust the numbers instead, experiment a lot, and see what brings them down.
Another way to tell is looking at your subscriber numbers—are RSS and email subscribers slowing down, or stopping entirely? Your content is your entry point, and people won’t subscribe if they don’t believe more great stuff is coming.
If this happens, your blog is probably boring. Sorry.
Boring by consensus
You can’t tell boring by yourself, but you can’t tell good, either. Thankfully, this is the Internet. We have access to others, and we can bounce ideas off of them. Use that to its full advantage! Your network is an asset, and if your blog is boring, the network will tell you. But you have to see the signals, not ignore them. You’ll never hear it straight.
Your regular commenters will dwindle and maybe disappear. They won’t tweet your stuff out as much. Traffic will stall while you continue to work just as hard.
Absence of activity is implicit consensus, too. If nobody wants to buy a house on a certain street, or go to a certain restaurant, that’s telling you something. Are you getting traffic, but no comments? If comments appear only certain posts, maybe you need more of that type. But watch the signals, they will tell you.
If there’s less and less activity around your blog, it might be getting boring.
Fixing the boring blog
1. Admit you can’t see the problem.
Both your network and your numbers will give you an idea of what’s going on, but you might not be able to see it yourself. You’ll probably keep chugging away, thinking you’ll eventually hit the tipping point.
But this is wrong. You are spinning your wheels and getting no traction.
Last weekend, I created a website called Shut Up and Get to Work. In its first day, it got 200,000 pageviews, and now it’s close to a half million. This proved to me that you don’t need a big network or a huge audience to get things rolling—you only need a good idea. And you probably have good ideas, so what it’s really about is the hurdles between them and their execution. But you can never see that clearly.
2. Break your patterns. Often.
Is the problem your delivery? It’s possible. Is the content itself just not new enough?
These questions go beyond boring. There are several problems with content that we can solve just by looking at what we do from another point of view.
Try writing as if you’re someone else. Use another style. Emulate a blogging style that you admire for a while and see if it works. Or, take another blogger’s style and parody it.
No matter how successful you are, you probably have bad habits. It’s possible that just one of these things is cutting into your momentum. Find out what it is by changing, maybe even dramatically.
3. Push your work closer to the edge.
You may sound the same as everyone else because you’re not taking any risks. Blogs need a strong editorial voice to compete—something that cuts through the din of similar-sounding talking heads. Maybe you’re not doing that.
What is it going to take? Is it a better, more compelling story (as Chris Guillebeau would say)? Is it a different voice? Think of what your friends like about you—are you portraying that in your writing?
Stop being mediocre with your writing. Maybe even offend people a little. Polarizing opinions get heard when much of the rest does not.
4. Start now, and put in the work.
The biggest hurdle to all of this is that you think it doesn’t apply to you, and that you’re doing fine. If you don’t take this advice today (or you think it doesn’t apply to you), it may be months before you figure it out yourself. Do you really want that to happen? Make the hard decisions today, put in the hours, and you’ll come out stronger.
Do it now. Your audience deserves it.