A little over a year ago, Brian Clark gave us a What Not to Wear guide to blogging.
Brian laid the groundwork for the inherent value in talking about what’s not working. And if you haven’t read the post, clickity-click and get on that — and here’s why:
We don’t change a damn thing when we’re right.
Being “right” makes us do exactly the same thing, time and time again until it become rote. Habit.
But being wrong … ah — dawning recognition.
When we’re wrong, we can change things.
We can change our direction, our strategy.
Or in the case of Tim Gunn, our clothes.
If you don’t know Gunn, he’s the critical eye behind “Project Runway” and “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.” He knows what works, and just as important, he knows what doesn’t.
We have to learn to “make it work.”
So in the interests of learning and building a better blog, here are five things that, if I were to channel Tim Gunn (and that would be a fabulous and incredibly stylish stunt), you might be doing wrong with your blog.
1. SEO is not the new black
I’m a huge fan of the Scribe SEO software to optimize content, and I use it often on client blogs. It’s a powerful tool that combines keyword research, content optimization, and link building in a single, easy-to-digest package, and it’s a no-brainer for anyone with a blog.
But you don’t have to optimize every piece of content you create.
If you fill your entire closet with black, you have no versatility and you kinda screw yourself when you’re in a mood for a splash of color.
Don’t limit the incredibly powerful tool you have in blogging by binding yourself 24/7 to a keyword-based strategy.
Yes, have an SEO strategy. Yes, create terrific content that’s optimized for search. That’s just smart.
But going on to add to that with something of your own — something that’s not so easily optimizable — is even smarter.
People share great content, not great keywords. If you’ve got a great idea for a post but it doesn’t lend itself to SEO optimization, don’t hold back. This is one case when less isn’t more.
2. Conversation never goes out of style
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
If you’re going to wear those four-inch purple metallic platform shoes with the mustard yellow tights, you need to be aware that you’re going to cause some buzz.
The blogging equivalent is taking on a juicy topic — and getting some major attention (not necessarily positive) in return.
In the blogging world, buzz mainly finds you in your blog comments. When you hit a hot button, that’s where you first find out.
When you look at great blogs, it’s not uncommon to find that the comments become even better than the post itself — so let them.
If you’ve written something that’s whipping up controversy, don’t hide from your comments.
Embrace the buzz, both positive and negative. Learn from it. Dive in and chat. Your readers will thank you (and become even more loyal on account of it).
3. Engagement is the key to style
Tim Gunn once said,
Perhaps the real secret to style is filling yourself to the absolute brim with engagement.
Engaging isn’t just about asking for retweets and responding to comments.
Engagement is about getting out there and understanding the true lay of the land. Attending conferences, making connections, reading other blogs, building relationships.
Start going through your comments and clicking through to your commenters’ blogs. Read them. Get to know your fans and your opponents. If you’re not doing this now, make it a to-do item a couple times a week.
Showing genuine interest is the least you can do to reciprocate a reader for showing an interest in you.
Engage. It’s the most stylish thing you can do in the blogosphere.
4. Make it accessible
One of Tim’s most famous quotes is from a critique of a Project Runway contestant’s design:
It looks like pterodactyl from a gay Jurassic Park!
While I almost fell on the floor when I heard that one, it reminded me of a simple fact: if no one can figure out what you’re trying to do with your content, you fail.
When you invite readers to spend some time reading your content, make sure you’re actually making sense.
That doesn’t mean being trite or going face-first into cliché. It means using examples, situations, and metaphors that people can relate to.
If people have to work too hard to “get” your content, they’re going to stop trying.
(And if you can’t live without the occasional cliché, try this cool cliché finder. Because the truth is, sometimes the right cliché is the perfect way to get your idea across.)
Don’t be predictable … but try accessible on for size.
5. Carry on!
Great blogs don’t just happen — they’re built.
A fantastic blog is crafted, just like a fashion collection that shows up on the runways. Designers and artisans spend hours painstakingly creating each piece that makes up the collection, and they all work together.
It amazes me that Tim Gunn isn’t a blogger, because he truly knows how to make it work. So if you’re looking to build a blogging empire (or simply one that makes you proud of what you’ve built), remember that it’s all about community and critics.
Your community needs to be built and nurtured. Your content needs to be shaped around their interests and desires. They’re the ones who will buy your stuff and wear it proudly.
Your critics will give you things to think about and ways you can improve. While some will be full of hot air and in love with the sound of their own voice, if you listen hard enough, there will be some pearls of wisdom worth stringing together.
And pearls go with everything.
About the Author: Erika Napoletano is the Head Redhead at RedheadWriting LLC, a Denver-based online strategies consultancy. Her blog, RedheadWriting, is a bastion for “unpopular thoughts and blunt advice — delivered” and consistently strives to say what others won’t (but should) about marketing, social media, business integrity, and life in general.