Running a blog isn’t easy – whether it’s a solo hobby or full-time job with team members.
If you want to stand out in the large crowd of bloggers and boost your following, you must stay ahead of the game and work to create a formidable brand.
This means tons of planning, high quality content, good design, reader engagement, attention-grabbing headlines, and consistent delivery.
It reminds me of my time working in the magazine business.
A great deal of work goes into running a major publication, but there are steps you can mimic to turn your blog into a repeat stop for your readers.
1. Plan ahead with an editorial calendar.
Craft a content calendar and stick with it. Be it month-to-month or yearly, an editorial plan will help you stay accountable to the work and makes publishing more predictable for your audience.
You easily can set a rotation of topics, schedule timely pieces, plan for in-depth material, and prevent repetition.
This allows you to create overarching themes and easily step back to look at the big picture – similar to magazine editors in their regular editorial meetings.
You also can easily track your best posts here to see what topics resonate with your audience.
2. Be consistent in design and branding.
One of the distinguishing features of a magazine is its overall design. The branding scheme seeps well into the pages of the magazine and is consistent from the publication to its website and social assets.
Take a look at your blog’s main page to see if it has the same effect. Can featured content easily catch the eye of the reader? Is the design and color palette consistent as you scroll the page, move from tab to tab, or click over to your social media pages?
If you’re struggling to find a design that works, try creating a mood board or implementing a free or paid template. Be sure to use striking, quality imagery to enhance the reader experience, too.
3. Adopt a set writing style.
Consistency in style, tone, grammar, and punctuation is essential to giving your audience a quality experience – especially if you have a team of writers.
When done successfully, it’s virtually unnoticeable to the reader who’s able to smoothly navigate your posts. When tone and format run amok, it can make for a bumpy experience that could drive readers away.
When you force yourself to define and hone your style, you’re working toward a more cohesive design for your blog. But, your guide doesn’t have to be as complex as a magazine’s.
You can quickly define post format, headline and image requirements, and other grammar (like no passive verbs) or punctuation tips (and no exclamation points) and be well on your way.
4. Research before you write.
A well-researched article can go a long way with readers. They also can make for incredibly fascinating reads.
Magazine writers spend a lot of time digging deep in order to present a quality piece that will be highly valuable to the reader. Blog content doesn’t need to be this formal, but do your due diligence.
It’s a good practice to substantiate claims, stats, and sourced quotes with links to credible resources. It’s also beneficial to research other blogs and industry trends (like SEO) to ensure your approach is fresh.
5. Keep it regular.
Regular columns or features are common in the publishing world and can be the linchpin of a good blogging routine.
These set features work best when scheduled for around the same time every week, month, quarter, or year. It creates a structure that helps keep you moving, especially when feeling uninspired or overwhelmed.
It also can help you attract a loyal following by setting expectations for your readers who may want to return for the next update in the series.
6. Implement a formal editing process.
Several editors typically will look at a single piece of writing for a magazine. This is easy to put into action and can majorly prevent error if your blog has multiple team members.
If you’re rolling solo, you still can put into play a formal process. Edit your own work a couple times, and utilize these best practices. Give it a read-through after you finish writing and go back at a later time – when your mind is fresh – to give it another glance.
You also could enlist a trusted friend with a knack for the red pen.
7. Seek understanding of your audience.
Understanding your audience should be a top concern as you develop your blog.
Before digital, print magazines and newspapers used to rely on reader letters (and themselves) when deciding about topics and stories to cover. Now, there’s a number of different online tools that provide depth and accuracy around audience engagement.
But make sure you aren’t obsessing over a single metric. It can be dangerous to your blog’s bigger picture.
8. Aim for more subscribers.
Subscribers are part of the lifeblood to print magazines and to digital publications. There’s huge power in subscription models for bloggers, too.
Newsletters and email delivery of your posts can help drive traffic to your blog, by putting the content directly in front of the reader.
To encourage subscribers, add a subscription sidebar to your homepage, a call to action in your individual posts (like below), or try adding a subscriber pop-up to your site.
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Anna Jasinski is former senior manager of audience relations at PR Newswire. She’s also a former magazine journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski.