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12 Essential Tips for Revitalising Your Blog in 2012

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.

As 2011 comes to a close, now is a better time than ever to evaluate your blog, its performance, and most importantly, what you can do to improve your blog in 2012!

A point I always like to drive home is that you will never find blogging success by turning into an “eternal student”, one who always consumes information but never creates or takes action.

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As I am in the process of taking a step back from my own blog to reevaluate what things I could do better, I wanted to present Problogger readers a list of actionable tips that they could act on right now to improve their blog for the new year.

So check this list out, bookmark it for later (or tweet it out to your fellow bloggers), and make sure you go through and see what quick actions you can take to improve your blog!

1. Optimize (or start) your email list

Had you email list become stagnant, with a slow trickle of subscribers rather than a huge flow of new signups? Have you not even started building a list yet?

Now is the time to take action, because your mailing list is the most important aspect of your blog’s long term success. So if you haven’t already, create one now.

If you have a list, let’s think of a few ways to optimize it…

  1. Make sure sign-up forms are in the best locations (sidebar, feature box, at the end of posts).
  2. Create a “toolbox” of freebies that only subscribers get access to (think of it like the free ebook strategy, only kicked up a notch).
  3. Create newsletter only content just for subscribers (makes the newsletter more worthwhile for them).

Last but not least, make sure there is an option to subscribe on the pages of your site with the most traffic. I’m talking about your intro/about page, your resource pages, and any other pages that visitors often visit from your homepage.

Start building your list now the right way. You won’t regret it in 2012!

2. Make a list of every blogger (who writes quality content) in your niche

You might be wondering why bother to do this. Certainly if you at the intermediate stage of blogging, you already know about the power of guest blogging and the kind of traffic and subscribers it can bring you.

The thing you have to realize though is that as powerful as guest blogging is, it is only one part of being good at networking in your chosen niche.

In order to truly succeed as a blogger, you are going to need important people who are truly rooting for you. The best way to do that? Network.

Most bloggers are afraid to start, so by creating a list like this, you are already on your way, and it takes far less time than you might think. Simply use sites like AllTop and Technorati, along with the blogs that you regularly read, and create a comprehensive list of the best ones in your niche.

Plan on emailing each one, maybe breaking the ice with a completed (and awesome) guest post. From there, stay in touch, actively support the other bloggers in your niche, and in time, you’ll find yourself getting links naturally, it won’t take a guest post for your fellow bloggers to mention you…

They’ll be doing it because they support you. And that is an essential ingredient to growing a popular blog.

3. Re-evaluate your blog’s unique offering to readers

What about your blog makes it distinct? What are readers getting there that they simply cannot get on the hundreds to thousands of other blogs in the same niche?

For 2012, you should take a look at your blog, and really evaluate what you are adding to the web that nobody out there is doing exactly the same.

The key word there is “exactly”, because your blog doesn’t have to be a totally unique experience that is doesn’t compare to anything else, it just has to be a twist on existing topics.

For instance, there are a lot of blogs for people who love blogging, but how about people who love Tumblr? Heck, your twist can just be what medium you use to create content.

For instance, there are a lot of personal fitness blogs that use video, that makes sense. But what about a finance blog that uses a lot of video? What about craft blog that uses a lot of video? How about a marketing blog that focuses on podcasts? How about a personal development blog that utilizes SlideShare?

The point is: it’s not too hard for you to put a “twist” on your niche, making it something that adds value and that also helps you stand out from the sea of others.

4. Try new content types to keep your blog fresh

Speaking of different content media, a lot of bloggers get so overwhelmed with different traffic methods and writing techniques that they fail to realize that they could be putting their efforts to a medium they might be better (or more comfortable) at.

Maybe writing posts really is the thing you feel most comfortable at, but I’d definitely suggest giving a few other mediums a try. They can bring extra traffic from being hosted on the parent site (like YouTube videos) and can give your blog a appeal by creating content in an unusual form.

Here are some great content types you can try:

  1. video (on YouTube or Vimeo)
  2. audio on SoundCloud (or by starting a podcast)
  3. ebooks
  4. slideshows on SlideShare
  5. workbooks
  6. infographics
  7. webinars.

See if some of these suit you better from time to time, and you’ll likely be one of few blogs in your industry doing them!

There’s also another great post idea I want to discuss…

5. Interview someone influential in your niche

Interviews are a blog kickstart technique that seriously work for any niche—at least, I’ve yet to encounter one in which they don’t work well!

Interviews are great for a few reasons:

  • The person you are interviewing will notify their following of the interview, bringing you traffic.
  • People will respect you more for getting the thoughts from an influential person, and be more inclined to check out your self-made content.
  • Interviews add instant social proof to what you are saying, and if you can even add small parts of an interview to back up your own claims, readers will appreciate it.

Scared to ask someone for an interview? Don’t be! Research has shown that people are more likely to help you out than you think.

They key: keep your emails short and your requests reasonable. Also, never send the questions in the first email, ask for permission first!

I’ve used interviews with people like Brian Gardner (owner of StudioPress) and popular musicians on my electronic music blog to get, literally, thousands of new visitors in days, not weeks or months.

And this is on entirely new blogs!

Trust me, finding a good person to interview (an interesting or unusual expert is always good) and creating great questions for the interview will likely be a huge benefit for your blog. It’s a must-try technique in 2012.

6. Clean up your sidebar: show what matters

If there is one part of a blog that typically turns into a complete mess, it’s the sidebar in the typical content/sidebar blog layout.

Bloggers (especially newer bloggers) are tend to add way too many widgets and sections on their sidebar, and instead of making their site better, they end up making it far worse!

How? The first thing is site speed. I’ve written about how to speed up WordPress before, and the conclusions you can draw from other website owners and SEO experts is this:

  1. People won’t wait for slow loading sites, general wait time is as little as a few seconds (that’s single digits).
  2. Site speed has an impact on SEO, affecting your rankings.
  3. A fast-loading site is apart of a great user experience, and users appreciate fast page loads far more than you realize.

Those are some pretty important reasons to be concerned about your site speed… But there are even bigger concerns that you should be worried about!

In addition to slowing your site down, the results from this research study have shown that too many choices can actually decrease conversions!

What that means is that a cluttered sidebar is likely to decrease your conversion rates on new subscribers! This is bad, bad news for your blogs potential success.

Fortunately, this can be fixed quickly, by scrapping all of the junk in your sidebar and including only the essentials, which are:

  • sidebar opt-in (must be at the top!)
  • list of popular posts (shows readers your best content, right away!)
  • resource sections (these sections showcase a lot of info on a single topic, or including things like what blogging tools you are partial to using)
  • …nothing else!

Honestly, having only these three items in this list might make you think I’m crazy, but hear me out: those really are the only essentials!

Of course, if you blog offers a product, service, or advertising, these need to be included, but for most people, the three I mentioned will increase your conversion rates after you get rid of the junk.

Unless your blog as 1000+ posts, you don’t need a search bar, categories—none of that stuff. What you do need is a fast loading site that converts well, so make it happen.

7. Improve your knowledge of SEO and SEO copywriting

If you are running a WordPress blog, understanding the fundamentals of WordPress SEO is essential to succeeding as a blogger (I’d highly recommend starting with SEOMoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, it’s a great read that’s highly detailed and includes great visuals).

More importantly though (and non-platform-specific), you need to learn more about SEO copywriting if you don’t know about it already.

The process of effective SEO copywriting is far less confusing than you think. In fact, even if you just learn the basics of good interlinking habits (linking to old posts of yours in new posts, naturally) you’ll already be more skilled than most bloggers in your niche.

It is essential to understand good SEO copywriting as a blogger because it allows your site to do better in search rankings, offers a better user experience for readers by involving your old content in a natural way, and adds a new skillset to your blogging knowledge—one of great importance.

8. Add social proof where it matters

Bloggers sometimes get too caught up in social networking proof, rather than what social proof really means (and when it’s actually useful).

Social proof can be as simple as quote from one of your readers/fans on what a great blog you are running, how you helped them, or how your content has benefited them in some way. This type of social proof is often as powerful as a big Facebook following, and it’s much easier to get legitimately!

Here are a few easy ways to get a powerful statement for your blog:

  1. Ask! Ask one of your readers if they’d mind giving you a quote to use on your blog as social proof. Most people will be glad to provide one!
  2. Use a comment. Take a comment from a reader on your site that states something positive, and use it as social proof.
  3. Quote someone else. Has anybody else mentioned your blog or writing before? Quote them, whether it’s from Twitter or their own site, people will usually have no problem with you quoting them for social proof.

Okay, so we have some ways to get social proof that’s outside of a big social networking following…

Where should we put it? Here are the two best spots to put social proof:

  1. anywhere there is an “opt-in” form
  2. anywhere you ask users to purchase something.

Simple, clear use of social proof boils down to this: any time you need someone to trust you (to opt-in to your list or to buy something from you), social proof is king, and those are the locations in which you should use it.

9. Start a “post ideas” journal

I’ve discussed the importance of using journals (or some storage device) in order to break through writer’s block, as they can serve as a growing list of ideas (that may come at any moment) you can access when you need to write a new post.

Writing down great posts ideas as they come in your head will not only benefit your own blog, it will help with writing all of those guest posts to get your name out there!

The thing is, great posts ideas could come to you at any moment. The problem? You are not always in a position to expand on those ideas or to see if they’d really make for a great post. The solution? Write any decent ideas down, and save them for another time.

This way you can keep any ideas that you might have lost if you relied on your memory, and you also get to work on great ideas later that might turn into dynamite posts.

10. Guest blog using the “funnel” technique

If you are going to utilize guest blogging to build your blog (and you definitely should be), you should start approaching your guest posts with an actual strategy, rather than relying on blind writing.

The best (and easiest!) strategy to try is the “funnel” technique of guest posting. The funnel method involves writing a guest post that has to do with one of three big aspects of your blog:

  1. your blog’s unique offering (discussed above)
  2. a free ebook/guide you’re giving away
  3. an opt-in webinar or course you’re offering.

How and why does this work so well? Simple: you are priming readers with a post about a specific topic. Then, you offer them additional content (via your email list) by offering one of the three options listed above.

In case you still don’t get it, think of it like this: I’m a personal fitness style blogger, but I only focus on writing about high-intensity interval training (HIIT for those familiar with the acronym).

So, it would make sense for me to post on fitness blogs, but to focus on writing an article like “5 Reasons Why HIIT is the Best Form of Cardio.” The reason this makes sense is that anybody interested in Fitness and HIIT would go to check out my blog, where they would be greeted with more content on the subject. This would make them more likely to subscribe.

This also works with the other two methods: offering a freebie such as an ebook or Webinar on the topic that my guest post was about. Try this and I guarantee your blog will see maximized conversions for all of your blog posts in 2012!

11. Evaluate your social media buttons

What do I mean “evaluate” your social media buttons? Simply put, you need to take a step back from your blog and look at the buttons that you are using on your site.

Many bloggers just plaster up whichever buttons they can without really evaluating what’s been working in their niche. The key point here is that you most likely don’t need all of those buttons! It’s been proven time and time that too many options can decrease conversions, and this applies to social sharing too.

The reason bloggers get misled is because they see big sites like Mashable using every button under the sun, but what they don’t seem to get is that Mashable is about social media, so a majority of their traffic and “subscribers” are social media users.

It makes sense for them to have tons of social media buttons, but for a blog like yours, which is most likely concerned with growing a stable and profitable email list, you need to evaluate which buttons work best for your audience.

For instance over on my electronic music blog, I immediately removed the LinkedIn and Google+ buttons when I found out that they weren’t being used. It made sense, but I wanted to test things out first.

The thing was, my audience was younger, and not interested in tech or business aspects as much as most LinkedIn and Google+ users are. Generally, they stuck to Facebook, and used Twitter slightly less.

So I updated the social sharing buttons to include only those two, and guess what? My traffic didn’t drop by a single visitor. In fact it increased, all while I was speeding my site up!

Make sure your social buttons are actually being used by your readers.

12. Utilize the most powerful social network of all

When most people think about networking these days, they tend to think about social networks.

While social networks (especially those like Twitter) are indeed extremely useful for establishing connections, in reality they better serve as icebreakers for real planning on the most powerful social network of all…

Email.

That’s right. All of your guest post submissions, all of your interview requests, collaborations, joint ventures, product launches, everything will be happening behind the scenes through email (or at least the important stuff!).

What else will you be doing to revitalize your blog in 2012? Share your plans in the comments.

If you are a blogger who wants to tap into the psychology of successful content marketing, you need to check out Sparring Mind, where Greg prefers to write about what works (backed with research and data) and avoids the fluff. Find out more here and start marketing your blog the right way.

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This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. I find social media buttons to be a drain, rather than a help – at least in my niche.

  2. Thanks for these great ideas. I hope to initiate some in the new year. I am on Blogger and not WordPress, but I believe I can employ the ideas there as well. Thanks, Stephanie
    Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust and Winged Effigy

    • Thanks for the comment Steph, I would advise a move to WordPress, but I’m biased as I favor self-hosted sites. Glad the post was useful for you!

  3. Scott Meis says:

    This is a fantastic post, excellent insight across the board, appreciate it.

  4. I will improve my blog in 2012
    Thanks for your tips :)

  5. Justin Mazza says:

    I have to agree with not having too much stuff in the sidebar. Nothing worse than going to someones site and it takes forever for the page to load.

  6. Pritha says:

    Great Tips and a really useful post. I have been doing some of this already – but guest posts and interviews do make sense. Will surely try them out. Thanks!

  7. Great suggestions! I’m definitely guilty of being the “eternal student.” Just need to remind myself that students need to do assignments and write term papers sometimes. It’s time to start producing and hold myself accountable. You’ve given me my homework. Thanks!

    I’d add to the list – make some commitments AND WRITE THEM DOWN. Planning to hold myself to it in 2012.

  8. Aakash says:

    I cleaned up my sidebar!! :-D :-D

  9. Super helpful, thank you! You are a great example of what guest blogging can do. This post was so good I have no choice but to get to know who YOU are at Sparring Mind. Thank you, Mr. Gregory!!

  10. The best way to revitalize most blogs is to make the content SHORTER! I think the ideal length of a blog is somewhere between 250 and 700 words. (And the MAJORITY should be closer to 250.) Any longer than that and my eyes start to glaze over. This post offers some good information and has some terrific tips but, yikes!, it’s longer than 2,000 words. You’d have been wiser to turn it into a 3-part series.

    • Hmm… can’t say I agree Daphne, some of my most popular posts have been 2000+ words, better to provide a lot of value than only a little over a lot of different posts in my opinion.

  11. Vahtikoira says:

    Thank you, I will try to improve my blog with your tips, this was very helpful post!

  12. Meagan says:

    Fabulous tips! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m definitely going to go through these one at a time, but the one that spoke to me the most was the SEO tip. My site is under a year old & I’ve spent this first year trying to fill it with great content. Within the last 6 months I’ve been adding keywords to my posts, but I’ve never really sat down & researched how to do it correctly. This is definitely something for me to work on in 2012! Thanks again!

  13. Drewry says:

    2012 will provide a new year of wonderful opportunities for bloggers of all niches to revitalize their blogs spontaneously.in my new content approach, I’m uploading more videos to YouTube, with a link in my video description “so people will know my website”, while building a positive reputation through [online video], “search engine marketing”, as well as creating unique content frequently for people to read and relate to.additionally, I’m extending reach today, by way of using social networks to build and take it advantage of untapped web audiences.

    Thank you to Darren Rowse and everyone here at ProBlogger, for having me around! :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XLRogSdXqw

  14. I never can get the hang of starting an e-mail list.

  15. Tim Barnes says:

    I am an insurance agent. The only advertisements on my site are for my informational books. I only have them available because I have been asked several times the same questions. I blog on insurance issues in order to encourage people to contact me and buy appropriate insurance. For 2012, I am going to invest in Facebook advertising to people Baby Boomers in my location.

  16. James V says:

    Good advice! Thank you for sharing, and Happy New Year!

  17. Prada says:

    I plan to do more video post because I have seen they seem to increase a blogs stickiness.

    All the best in 2012!

  18. Sanjeev says:

    It’s always a good idea to look what is working for your blog and with new year in line it make more sense..:)
    I have not tried interviews till now, might be a good addition to my blog.

  19. Thank you for the great advice. I am adding the seo and sidebar pointers to my to do list! It is getting large and the year has just started :) some of the other items I am doing such as the topic journal so it is nice to have confirmation I am on the right track. Thanks again

  20. Great tips! I had always advocated for clean sidebar, as including only links that will keep visitors within your blog contents rather than taking them away. And that has greatly improved by blog bounce rate.

  21. Hi Gregory,

    2 and 6 work so well.

    Network with top shelf bloggers, become a top shelf bloggers. You can write guest posts or simply show up on top blogs, writing value-packed, insight comments. Powerful comments can develop a strong relationships with the blogger and the blogger’s audience, helping you leverage your presence.

    As for 6 it is absolute vital to the success of your blog. You want readers to take 1 call to action? Kill all other options. Focus on this call. Outside of including social icons, include only this call to action in the sidebar. Too many options creates clutter, confusion, and few calls taken. 1 or 2 options create clarity, decisiveness, and many more calls to action take.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Gregory.

    RB

  22. Ruth B. Cook says:

    Thanks for a great guest post to launch the New Year. Lots of concrete, practical ideas.

  23. Great tips Gregory …

    To build an email list is my top prioritized resolution this year !! Thanks for the tips

  24. Andrea Butje says:

    I appreciate the 12 practical suggestions and the links. I downloaded SEO Copywriting Made Simple and really enjoyed reading it. I recommend downloading it! I agree that “searchers are the most motivated people who hit a website” and all the advice from brian Clark is solid. The links in the download are also really great! Thanks.

  25. Josh Sarz says:

    Nice post as usual, Greg. I like the part about using other types of blog posts aside from just plain text.

    • Thanks Josh, always glad to hear from you. I’ll be doing a post soon on some different content types & how to use them, look out for that!

  26. I’ll be studying these points because I’m in the process of re-evaluating my blog, my shops, and just about everything else in my life. Hmmm – must be the new year! Thanks!

  27. Great information! I plan to work on your tips for 2012 Happy New Year!

  28. Sahil says:

    These tips are really very helpful…..they are very short and simple….will surely try to follow them from right now………..I have a blog on “current affairs questions”…so i guess social networking sites will help me a lot……

  29. Dion Lynk says:

    Brilliant read! Leading up to “12 I’ve done some deep reconstructive surgery on the site and I’m looking forward to servicing my clients better than ever this year. The “post ideas” tip is really interesting, especially for my niche. My sidebar is a lot leaner now and only hosts what matters to my clients. I’m looking forward to an amazing year in 2012. As always, thank you for your tutelage and cheers to your new years :)

  30. This is such a fantastic post. I manage three blogs and love tips on staying organized. I can definitely put several of these into action. I’m also participating in The Challenge – it’s really helped me start looking at my blog as a business instead of just a journal. It’s been amazing.

  31. anjel says:

    good points for web masters and its help to indexing blogs to search engines and get more traffic

  32. Great tips, we have completely changed the look and feel of our website for 2012 and the hits have increased 10 fold over the last few days. We have removed the clutter and are trying to give visitors exactly what they are looking for.

  33. I like your ideas and specially the number 1 (optimize mailing list), number 4 (fresh content for blog) and number 12 (expand social efforts) that I will definitively try this year.

    Thanks and have a great new year!

  34. Sonja Ceri says:

    That`s an awesome and inspiring post! My goal for 2012 is to get 100 followers for each of my blog till spring 2012. Any ideas how to improve my blog http://sonjacer.wordpress.com ? It`s in German but anyway, maybe you have some good ideas. I started blogging a few years ago, but used my blog more as a portfolio to share my published articles. As I love writing I submitted more and more blog post which have nothing to do with my journlistic work. Maybe that was a mistake, cause now you`ll find a lot of different topics on my blog, it`s not a niche anymore. This year I want to focus on publishing only articles about blogging and social media on this blog. I am looking forward to your ideas. Kindly, Sonja

  35. Dippin Slash says:

    Thanks for this set of tips. Blogging has been an essential part of my life so I would really consider these tips to make my blogging career even more successful this new year.

  36. Kim says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. Being a beginner, this is very valuable information to me . I’m going to go re-evaluate my strategy. =)

  37. I have both a wordpress blog and blogger. I am going to read SEO for wordpress on your suggestion. I have a business website Carpet Cleaning Orange County that has a blog tab where I write to my potential clients. I also have a separate blogger acct where I do the same as well. Thanks for the advice and Happy New Year.

  38. Amit Shaw says:

    Awesome Post. It will be helpful for me and thanks to this blog bcz i havent any idea about SEO and i get help means from where i can get idea about SEO. Thanks. Thank you so much.

  39. Naji Patel says:

    I definitely second you on your tips. For me a Twitter and Facebook button is important but you should also encourage your visitors to use them (call to action).

  40. Mj says:

    I really agree with your point about social proof , it has really created a lot of difference for me upto now and i’ll be looking onto capitalizing on it now .
    Next your tips about SEO are really very awesome , i feel like following them and seeing grow my site very well .

  41. I am blogging from last two years but these short and simple tips will help me a lot :)

  42. Kulwant Nagi says:

    By Following these points we can surly make our 2012 a better year !! This year i have started making my E-Mail list because i know this is the only key to get success in blogging. Thnx for this info.

  43. This was really helpful! I finally added an email opt-in form to my homepage last year, but that was the only place I appeared. With your prompting, I’ve now added it to the sidebar throughout my site and look forward to watching my subscriber base increase.

  44. Charul Shukla says:

    Hi Gregory ,

    First of all apology for my poor english

    Although i am daily reader of problogger, but today after reading your post, i feel like sharing some of my views, i feel the first few months are very crucial for newbies without being disappointed and be regular, like in my case i have been thinking about starting a tech blog from last two years, but that day never comes. I have even conducted a small experiment on blogspot like 1 years back and amazed to see that one post on that blog still attract 100-130 unique visitors everyday.

    Anyways that’s history, again feeling motivated as its a start of another year and after reading your post, i think this time i would not get failed and will be soon start blogging.

    Thanks for post :)

    • Mike says:

      Charul – Your English is just fine. Really.

      After reading your comment, I just want to ask: What’s holding you back? It seems to me that you should follow the Nike approach and “Just. Do. It”. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      It’s a new year. Time to take new chances. Do it!

      And send me the URL of your blog so I can check it out!

  45. Obinna says:

    This year shall definitely be great for my blogging career. First i need to do is to build a list, after that i will diversify my content. THANKS! Bookmarked and saved for reference.

  46. Mansi Bharat says:

    That was a great post Gregory Ciotti.

    Thanks for the Tips that i should make a list to learn on how to make my blog into success.
    For a new blogger like me it helps a lot.
    Happy New Year…Thanks !!

  47. John Cole says:

    There are lots of affiliate products and sites that are surely good, but how do I know if it is reliable that will benifit you on the long run?

  48. Chirag says:

    I am planing to interview a couple of industry leaders as It would make a good impression of my blog + would lead to other relater blogs to start following my blog :)

    Nice post!

  49. I will be cleaning the side-bar clutter; and very much like the idea of guest blog posts and keeping a journal of topics and ideas. 2012 will be a great year!

  50. Helpful post. What about becoming an associate for Amazon. Any tips on that?