New year, new outlook. The flipping of the calendar from 2014 to 2015 gives us all a chance to reboot and rethink. So why not take a fresh look at your blog?
Here are nine tips that'll put your blog on the right track in 2015 and beyond.
1. Stay focused.
Remember that a blog is a communication tool, not a sales tool, said Shemiah Williams, owner of Modern Graffiti Marketing Group. Don't lose sight of your blog's purpose. That, according to authors Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy, can include establishing your expertise, sharing your passion or expressing your opinions.
"While you can absolutely use a blog to promote a product or service, it's not the same as a traditional website. The mistake that many bloggers make is incorporating too much agenda-pushing into their blog," Williams said.
Readers can spot a sales job when they see one, Williams said. They want you to add value, not ask for it, she said.
2. Aim high.
Don't sacrifice quality over quantity, said Katie Kemerling, chief content officer at digital marketing agency Ervin & Smith, and don't be afraid to weed out bad ideas for blog posts. "One relevant, well-written, quality blog post can endear you to your readers, whereas three weak blog posts can cause them to tune out," she said.
3. Don't make it all about you.
Your blog should not reflect you and only you. As Kemerling pointed out, it's dreadfully boring to limit the conversation to you and your product or services, just as it's dreadfully boring to listen to people at cocktail parties drone on about themselves.
"From a search perspective, people aren't looking for your product, they're looking for a solution to a problem they have," Kemerling said. "Speak to your customers' problems and related solutions, and your blog will become a truly valuable resource."
How-to articles are a great way to accomplish that goal. For instance, if you're an expert in social media, then write how-to blog posts that inform readers about how to navigate social media.
4. Don't put your blog on autopilot.
With a blog, you can't just set it and forget. You've got to create content on a regular basis.
"If you don't produce regular content, you are not giving your readers any reason to come back to your site on any sort of regular basis. This will really hurt your following," said entrepreneur Joe Auer, founder of the Skill Voyage blog.
Set a schedule for publishing blog posts -- daily, weekly, biweekly -- and stick to it, said Tim Chan, editor of an eyewear blog called The Spectacled.
"The worst bloggers will post regularly for a few weeks and then stop updating their sites. Perhaps they've run out of ideas or maybe they simply don't have time," Chan said. "Unfortunately, they'll lose their following, as people will stop checking for new posts."
If you're pressed for time, stockpile some blog posts on evergreen topics so that you can maintain your publishing schedule.
5. Market your blog.
Suzanne Ordas Curry, owner of Write Ideas PR, stressed that you must promote every blog post, not just certain ones, through avenues such as Facebook and Twitter. Otherwise, your work won't achieve the desired reach.
"If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it? Well, in the blogging world, yes they do, but not enough do to make a difference," Curry said.
6. Don't overlook e-newsletters.
Social media is important for blog promotion, said John Turner, CEO of landing-page tester UsersThink, but email newsletters remain "the best, cheapest and easiest way to retain interested readers."
On top of that, Turner said, loyal email subscribers are quite likely to share your blog posts on social media, "creating a virtuous cycle of driving new visitors to your blog, who then join your newsletter, and then share new posts on social networks."
7. Grow your audience.
Gini Dietrich, CEO of marketing communication firm Arment Dietrich, said every blogger must build a community of followers because "if a blogger isn't actively working to build a blog community -- both on their own blog and beyond -- they're missing out on a powerful opportunity for growth." One way to build that community is through an email newsletter.
Scott Chow, who runs TheBlogStarter.com, said new bloggers often assume that readers will flock to their blogs right away. That assumption is wrong.
"Unfortunately, 'If you build it, they will come' is not a fact of life when it comes to blogging. Building a blog audience takes a lot of time and hard work," Chow said.
8. Pay attention to details.
Sara Zuckerman, marketing manager at Idea Marketing Group, said her pet peeves about some of the blogs she comes across include bad grammar, bad formatting and bad links. And those types of gaffes are bad for business.
To avoid those problems, ask someone to proofread your blog posts. "Once you hit publish, make sure you check your work as it would look to the reader. Tweak it until it looks right," Zuckerman said.
9. Think visually.
Be sure that images accompany your words. However, don't pick just any image. Terrible or unrelated photos, for instance, will turn off readers.
Jessica Guida, business development manager at PR and digital marketing firm lotus823, advises every blogger to invest in a high-quality camera and learn basic photo-editing skills. If you're crunched for time, search sites like Google and Flickr to find good images, but make sure you've got permission to use them.
"Using lame stock images is just lazy, and it doesn't draw in readers," said Michael Riley, co-founder of Boxter, a startup that helps companies grow web traffic and attract customers. "A good original photo or infographic can make any blog post special."