So far, in this series on improving your blog tips, a look at the redundant tips I give to many of my clients, I’ve covered clarity, cleanliness, and now, consistency.
The most powerful element in your blog’s promotional and audience-building tool kit is consistency.
It begins with a clear purpose supported with blatant evidence consistently throughout the blog. Follow this with consistent content, links, quality, and publishing, and you are on your way to building a trustworthy blog, one worthy of building a readership.
A lot of blog experts throw out terms like “blog focus”, “clarity of purpose”, and “niche blogging”, including me, and they all mean that the blog must have consistent purpose that matches the content, and vise versa.
A consistent purpose is your blog’s focus. It is the reason for your blog. It is the reason people come to your blog. It’s the reason they return. It is what you blog about.
If you start blogging about cars, then change to cats, and get bored and give blogging about recycling a try, you have an inconsistent purpose, and an inconsistent blog.
I started out on Lorelle on WordPress blogging only about WordPress, covering WordPress.com and the full version of WordPress. In time, it was a natural addition to include blogging about blogging, since WordPress and blogging are synonymous. The change was related, thus consistent.
Many changes are a natural part of a blog, and blogger’s, evolution. A change from environmental blogging to a narrow focus of specializing in recycling is a normal, and expected. As the blogger’s writing and interest evolves, they may find more passion in writing about the issues of recycling than just anything and everything associated with the environment.
When the purpose remains consistent, this is when the magic happens. The blog turns from being a catch-all for the blogger’s thoughts to an expression of the blogger’s passions and interests. The blog becomes a source for this information. And the blogger becomes an expert.
Something else happens on the SEO front. Consistent content brings higher page rankings as well as increased traffic from search results.
The more related and consistent keywords in the content, as the content supports the consistent purpose of the blog, the higher the score Google ranks the blog. According to the latest patent information released by Google, each blog post is evaluated, but the whole blog’s content is also judged in the mix of scoring points. The more interrelated the content is, with subjects and keywords, the higher the score, and often the higher ranking in the search page results.
The bigger reward for the reader reading a blog with consistent content is that their expectations are met each time they visit or check in via their feed reader. Your blog is the source of what they are looking for.
When I visit Blog Security, I know I’m going to learn more about security issues related to blogging. Lately, they’ve started specializing in WordPress security issues, which is even more important to me. If they change their content to include security issues for desktop computers or networks, expanding beyond blogging, I may keep them in my feed reader, but unless they consistently provide security information for blogging, at regular intervals, they stand a good chance in losing my return visit.
Think of your favorite bloggers. It might be Darren Rowse of Problogger, Liz Strauss of Successful and Outstanding Bloggers, Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Home, Michelle Malkin or Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. What would you think if you arrived on their blog and found they writing about buying a cichlid for their aquarium or how their cat snored, or about a fishing trip with family – a topic that had nothing to do with their normal content?
One or two unrelated, off-topic posts are forgivable, in fact, often fascinating as they give us a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes real person behind the blog. But six, seven, or twenty off-topic posts in a row and it’s no longer a tiny tangent and personal revelation, but a direction off course.
When you change the focus of your blog, bloggers find the change brings much needed energy and enthusiasm to their blogs, but they also lose readers who don’t want the new trend in content.
Bloggers and readers quickly establish a strong relationship through reading and interaction. Many readers are disappointed and frustrated when content shifts. Some readers say they they lose faith in the blogger when they stray too far from the path. They feel like they’ve lost a friend. And lost trust is rarely regained.
The same applies to consistent looks. Changing a Theme or design can indicate a change in content or purpose to many readers. When I changed my WordPress Theme after about six months, I can’t tell you how many readers commented and sent emails wondering what had happened. They felt like they weren’t “home”. The place looked unfamiliar. Was this the right place?
Sure, it’s easy to flip a new Theme in place for a day or two and then try another, but remember the reaction you got when you last changed your hair color from the long standing brown to blonde? Or added that purple streak? Or cut it a little oddly? People started looking at you differently, and maybe not the same way.
Consistent content keeps readers interested, supplying them with what they want and have come to expect. Consistent doesn’t mean boring. It means consistent content that pushes itself all the time. It’s content that doesn’t disappoint.
Consistent Links and Quality Recommendations
Your blog is a source for inspiration, motivation, and referrals. Every link in your blog says something about you, as well as where you send your readers. Your links are recommendations, and when you invite readers to leave your blog, you want to make sure you are sending them somewhere that will make them return with joy and appreciation.
Links to quality content speaks highly of you and your blog. You can easily build a reputation on those top quality links, as have Mashable, TechCrunch, and Smashing Magazine. When you find a link in their articles, you trust them, right? You know you are getting the “good stuff”.
Make your links consistent in quality and matching your overall content. An occasional link to an off-topic site or subject is fine, but again, don’t disappoint by making too many off-topic referrals.
Keep your links updated as much as possible, even on old posts, but especially on old popular posts. Visitors often don’t pay attention to when a post was published as much as they care about whether or not the link you have in the post will take them to the answer to their question.
“Haven’t heard from Charlie in a while? Wonder what’s he’s been doing? Nothing on his blog lately…”
There is debate over how often you and when should publish on your blog, including over publishing, and the consensus is “regularly scheduled programming” is much more appreciated than “hit and miss”.
Staying with friends recently while speaking at a conference, I discovered they were also addicted to the television show Boston Legal. I stayed long enough to watch the next episode with them, only to find out that some dancing or losing weight show had preempted the regularly scheduled broadcast. My friends were more furious and disappointed than I was.
The same applies to your blog content.
If I miss a Friday or Saturday of publishing my Weekly Digest on Friday or Saturday, I hear from my readers. While they don’t comment on the posts I publish, miss a week and I get complaints.
People depend upon your regularly scheduled blog posts. If you set a schedule, keep it. If you start an article series, finish it. If you have regularly scheduled posts like weekly reports, links, challenges, memes, or other repeated content, keep it on schedule as people have come to expect it. Just as you expect others to show up for their appointments, you better show up for your blog appointments.
Readers like looking forward to special things, so give them something to look forward to by working from an editorial calendar. Warn them a week or two in advance of what you have coming with little hints, and then keep your promises.
I tell all my clients that an editorial calendar for their blog is just as important as a calendar for their work and business life. It helps keep them on track and schedule.
Consistency in all things on your blog builds trust. Dependability. It builds respect. And it builds readership.
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.