While it’s a hobby for a lot of people, for more and more people, blogging is serious business too. Are you serious about your blog(s) and blogging? Maybe you’re even making a good income out of it? If so, you’d better make sure you can answer yes to all of the following questions:
1. Do you know first when your blog is down?
I’ve had this happen to me in the past quite often, people emailing me or calling me telling me my site was down. A few months ago, when I decided that my blog was one of my most important business ventures, I started making moves to make sure I was the first to know when my blog went down.
That’s why I’ve started using Pingdom. Pingdom checks my site every minute, and will tell me by email and SMS if it hasn’t gotten a signal for 2 times in a row (you can configure that very easily) and on top of that, it gives me graphs like the one below, which measure my site’s response time.
You can add checks for 5 sites in a normal account, so you can either share it with some other people, or use it for a couple of blogs. Of course you can add more sites, you’ll have to pay more though.
2. Do you use reliable hosting?
When I wrote my last post on WordPress hosting, I was surprised by some of the reactions. The “yeah they’re not that good but they’re cheap” kind of comments made me wonder whether these people are really serious about what they do with their blog. Whether you’re blogging for a profit, or to build a name for yourself, a lot of downtime will reflect badly on you.
It really is better to pay a bit more for hosting to prevent those 10 downtimes a year, and trust me, you’ll sleep better too!
3. How do you treat your regulars?
Any business that can have the benefit of regular customers should be working hard to turn normal customers into regular customers and then treat those people well. For me there are three kinds of very important regular customers / visitors to this site:
- Feed subscribers, through RSS or e-mail
- Mailing List subscribers
- “Normal” Regular visitors
Are you making sure these people get what they expect from you? Or, even better, are you giving them a special treat sometimes? For instance, my last plugin, a plugin that improves your posts slugs, is only available for subscribers to my mailing list. That turned out to work very well!
Another thing I do is thanking first time commenters, by using my comment-redirect plugin, and asking them to subscribe to my feed. This is both because I love the fact that they commented and gave their opinion or shared their wisdom (as should you when you’ve finished reading this post!), and because if someone is engaged enough to comment, that’s also the perfect moment to ask them to sign up for your RSS or mailing list.
4. Do you know what people love you for?
The most important thing to know when you have recurring visitors, is to know why these people are coming back. Why? Well if for instance, you write a lot about cats and do the occasional post about dogs, but most people read your blog because they like your dog posts so much, maybe you should be doing a bit more of that, right?
How you know what people like you for? Use vanity searches everywhere. For instance, I have a vanity search on Twitter, that recently showed me this tweet:
Now that tells me that this person likes my WordPress tips, good, I’ve got loads of them! Now you should be making sure you know stuff like this too by using searches like this on Twitter and Google Alerts on your own name and your blogs name. You’ll always know what people feel about you and your blog!
5. Is your blog well kept?
When your blog gets older, pages and posts will sometimes move, or other things may occur that lead to search engines having listings for pages on your blog that no longer exist. Or other sites might be linking to pages that no longer exist. Do you know if that’s the case on your blog? Do you keep track of your 404 (aka “page not found) errors?
If you don’t, now is the time to start doing that. If you use WordPress, my way of doing that is installing the 404 notifier plugin, and adding the RSS feed that provides to my feed reader. Any 404 that should be fixed I then fix immediately with Redirection.
Another question to ask yourself about your blog:
6. Is your sidebar there for your readers?
I see so many cluttered side bars these days that I’m getting sick of them. There’s a couple of things I might be slightly interested in, like your FeedBurner stats, your Twitter followers and your Technorati authority, or your ranking on any major blog list, but you have to keep asking yourself: do I add yet another button because I like it, or because I think it will benefit my readers?
If your answer is “it’s only for me”, consider making a small page on your blog for yourself that keeps track of those things, and don’t annoy your readers with it!