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Building content and traffic for your new blog

Focus on blog content first, traffic second. This is the advice I read in a recent post by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. While I largely agree with his five recommendations for producing posts, a content-only focus—even in a blog’s earliest phases—is short sighted.

Of course your blog needs solid content. But leaving traffic worries for another day is like opening a restaurant without considering publicity, location, decor, service, or neighborhood tastes. You’ll either fail, or work your bum off making up for lost time.

Great, even superb, blog content is pointless if it exists in a vacuum (unless you’re writing for writing’s sake, but don’t fool yourself). You have to simultaneously compose and promote your blog.

You need more than good content. You gotta have good blog bones if you’re serious about attracting readers.

Assuming you have chosen a blogging format and topic, here’s a game plan that will build those bones and instill traffic-friendly habits into your daily blogging routine.

1. Customize your blog visuals: Upload a simple logo into your header; choose a theme that suits your audience and message. You can spend more time on design later, but first (visual) impressions mean a lot. If your blog looks amateur, why would anyone read the content?

2. Install a few basic plugins: I recommend, at minimum, installing Google Analytics to track visits, social bookmarking icons so readers can share your content, an anti-spam filter and an SEO tool (see #5). You don’t have to go crazy here.

3. Establish content frequency: Once you gain a following, readers will expect regular content updates. It’s OK to increase frequency over time, but it’s not OK to peace out for a few weeks. At Wax Impressions, we’ve built the blog from one weekly post to four or five as we’ve gotten into a blogging groove.

4. Write: Write relevant posts. Write well. Read copyblogger.com to become a better writer.

5. Start on-page SEO immediately: Use your handy SEO plugin as soon as you begin writing. Optimizing each blog post and page as you go is a much smaller burden than backtracking to implement weeks or months worth of on-page SEO. Choose thoughtful categories and tags, as well. This makes for a better user experience (if readers want to search for posts) and helps the bots find/understand your content.

6. Join a community: By writing regular, meaningful feedback on related blogs (without pandering or looking desperate), you’ll gain respect from an established community. Intelligent commenting = content. Provide content for others’ blogs, and they may return the favor.

7. Start your own community: Don’t make readers register or go through other hoops to comment on your posts. Reply to your readers’ comments. Make it easy for them to grab your RSS feed. Let them know how to find you elsewhere on the web (see #8).

8. Get social: Blogging IS social media. Don’t embrace this one content-heavy cousin and ignore the rest of the family. It takes less than 30 seconds to promote your blog on an existing Facebook account. Another 60 seconds to set up a basic Twitter account. One click to promote your best post on a social bookmarking site. Just do it.

If you have time to conceive a blog and write articles, you have time to build traffic. You owe it to your content and your (future) audience.

–Caroline Hatchett