I love finding fresh new blogs. Every few weeks I’ll veer away from my regular weekend blog reading and venture out into the unknown via WordPress.com’s homepage. I’ll check out the hand-picked Freshly Pressed posts and then wander into Topics (also known as the Global Tag Listing) in the hopes that I’ll come across a fantastic new blog.
New WordPress blogs are being created at an alarming rate:
- There are over 500,000 new posts and 400,000 new comments on WordPress blogs every day.
- 349 million people view over 2.5 billion pages a month
- As of today (March 28, 2012), there are 72,368,041 WordPress blogs (including wordpress.org sites).
(Check out more stats here, including a really cool map.)
There are a few common things that I notice about new blogs that if changed, would make a big difference in the amount of traffic they’re getting, as well as the usability of the site. I notice them mainly because I did these things too when I set up my first WordPress.com blog, and I learned the hard way that to stand out from the crowd (even a little bit) I’d need to change at least some of them.
Without further ado…
5 Easy Ways to Improve Your WordPress.com Blog Today:
1) Choose your tagline.
I come across many new blogs with the default WordPress tagline still up: “Just another WordPress.com Site.” Leaving the default tagline up on your blog makes it difficult for readers to find out what your blog is about.
Choosing a tagline isn’t easy. It needs to be short and snappy and let site visitors know a little something about you (or your blog) so they can decide if they want to stick around. Your blog tagline also contributes to improving search results for your blog, making it easier for people to find.
To change your tagline, go to Settings > General and edit the text in the second row down (“tagline”). Remember, you can always change it later! Learn more about how to create an effective tagline in this article about 45 Creative, Clever and Effective Taglines.
2) Add an ‘About’ or ‘Bio’ Page
Half of the excitement of discovering a new blog is discovering a new blogger. Even if you’ve chosen to blog anonymously, an ‘About’ page is a must-have page. Writing about yourself can be daunting, but you just need to crank out a few sentences to get yourself started. Why are you blogging? What are you blogging about? Who are you? Give your readers an idea of what they can expect from you (and why they might want to stick around to read it).
Here are a few tips on writing ‘About’ pages to get you started: How to Write Your “About Me” Page from Problogger and How to Write an About Page in 8 Simple Steps. Just like writing a tagline, creating an ‘About’ page can be daunting, but remember, it’s not set in stone: you can always change it!
3) Remove the WordPress Meta Widget
[Update: WordPress doesn’t do this anymore! High five.]
When you start a WordPress.com blog, WordPress automatically adds a widget called “Meta.” The Meta widget includes links to log in to WordPress, Site Admin, the RSS feed and WordPress.com. I often find this widget on newer blogs, and I can understand why: the widget makes it easy to log in and out of WordPress.com. But if you take a look at many more established blogs hosted in WordPress, you’ll notice that the Meta widget has been removed. It’s handy for the blogger, but not super-useful for your readers. You can always bookmark the WordPress.com home page and log in from there.
4) Give Readers an Easy Way to Follow Your Blog
There’s nothing more frustrating than stumbling upon a new blog that you like, only to find that there’s no way to follow the blog.
You’ve gone to all the work of creating a wonderful blog, make sure people can be reminded to come back and visit the next time you post by adding an email sign-up box as well as a link to your RSS feed.
Email Sign-Up: It’s really easy to set-up an email subscription option in WordPress.com thanks to their wonderful ‘Follow Blog’ widget. For details on how to set this up, visit this post.
RSS Feed: When you start a blog, WordPress.com starts two RSS feeds for you: one for your posts and one for the comments on your posts. An RSS feed is a stream of your posts (or comments) that can be loaded into feed readers. Some blog readers use RSS feeds to keep up-to-date with their favourite blogs without having to visit a ton of different websites.
To learn more about using your WordPress.com RSS feed, check out this article from the WordPress.com support forum.
For a really easy way to add your RSS feed to your blog, visit this post: RSS Links Widget.
And, if you’re using WordPress.org, this post will help you set up RSS.
5) Tag Your Posts
Your new blog is awesome: you want other people to be able to find it to see just how awesome it is. WordPress.com makes this really easy with tags.
You can (and should!) add tags to each of your WordPress.com posts. Tags are keywords that let readers (and WordPress.com, and search engines), know what your blog post is about. Tags will be displayed on your posts, and be used to categorize your posts in WordPress.com’s Global Tag Listing. Even more importantly perhaps, tags are indexed by search engines, so they can have a big impact on your blog traffic.
Tags can be single words or short strings of words. For example, for this post, I have added the following tags: WordPress.com, setting up WordPress.com, getting started WordPress.com, WordPress.com for Writers, writing, 5 Tips for New WordPress.com bloggers, what to do with a new WordPress.com blog.
When creating your tags, try to think of the words that someone might enter into a search engine to find your post. Also, check out the more popular tags in the Global Tag Listing and try adding a few relevant ones to your post to make sure your posts show up in the more popular categories. The bigger the tag’s font in the global listing, the more often that term is being used.
I usually add between 3 and 8 tags for each post; WordPress recommends between 5 and 10. Just be sure your tags are relevant so readers won’t be disappointed when they arrive at your site.
Each time you compose a post, look to the right-hand side of your screen for the box labelled “Tags” and add a few to make sure your future readers can find you!
If you’re using a non-Wordpress.com site, I wouldn’t recommend using tags. Search engines can sometimes mistake them as keywords, which don’t help your search rankings these days.
Are there any other blogging lessons that you learned the hard way? If you’re a more experienced blogger: do you agree with this advice? Have any to add?