The 5 Old Blogging Rules Killing Your Readership

April 23, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

No matter what you want to do, someone will force a rule book on you. It doesn’t matter that there are no rules, the experts will beat you with what they say you must do, you can’t do and what you can only do with permission. Trouble is, sometimes “expert” just means “old” and the advice they’re giving you is so outdated that only your mother would follow it. That’s how I feel about many of the old blogging tenants.

Back in the Web 1.0 days, there were strict commandments intended to guide new bloggers along. They were things the experts swore up and down that you HAD to do in order to see success. But blogging has grown up. We’ve evolved. Here are some of old blogging commandments that will actually hurt you if you follow them today.

Check and see which ones you’re still committing. And then stop.

Old Rule: Good Bloggers Post Every Day

The first rule of early blogging was that you had to do it every day (blogging, that is). By blogging every day it showed that you were serious about your craft. Daily postings meant more traffic, more loyalty and better audience training. You see, early bloggers looked at their audiences like most of us look at a puppy – something that needed to be housebroken.

And while constant posting was the bread and butter of early blogging, frequency is now futile (read.that.post) and actually results in reader fatigue. It also results in blogger fatigue by stripping away passion and turning bloggers into robots who never wander outside because they’re busy pandering to a 24/7 medium. It’s exhausting.

New Rule: Blog when you have something to say. If passion begets passion, then boring begets boring. If you’re blogging every day because of responsibility and not because you have something to say, you’re hurting yourself and your readers. In the post linked to above, Scott Stratten outlines a number of reasons that blogging every day can hurt your readership. Consider me atop the lunch table pumping my fist, loudly agreeing with him.

Old Rule: Good Bloggers Keep Posts Short

Because bloggers were posting daily, posts were shorter. We saw lots of quick observations, small link drops and brief mentions of things other people had said. When you’re under pressure to post, sometimes the act of posting becomes more important than the actual content you’re sharing. Instead of insight, opinion and commentary, we got copycat stories and blogging for blogging’s sake. It was riveting. Only not.

New Rule: Size doesn’t matter, the content does. Have you read Tamar Weinberg’s blog lately? Don’t be afraid to go long. Today’s audience requires thought leadership for attention. They read blogs both for entertainment and for education – and accomplishing both means using some words. The blogs we love are the ones that simplify complicated theories, that challenge us to think differently, and that leave us smarter than when we arrived. It’s okay to whip up short posts to send readers to other valuable information, but make sure you’re giving them a reason to trust YOU, as well. That’s how you develop thought leadership in today’s blogosphere – by being a moderator of information.

Oh, and make sure to add extra visuals to long posts. People love pictures.

Old Rule: Good Bloggers Don’t Link To Bad People

Though the blogosphere was built on openness, bloggers were still very careful with where they linked. You didn’t link to unknowns, to competitors or anyone you felt could “hurt” you. In the early days, you were who you linked to so bloggers held on to their links like Matt Cutts is holding on his pot-kettle Facebook privacy concerns. It stifled the conversation and created a boys club blogger hierarchy.

New Rule: Link and link often Today, bloggers are encouraged to link to everyone with clean links. If you’re too scared to link to a valuable piece of content written by a competitor, it’s a sign of insecurity with your company. It’s also a sign that you don’t play well with others and maybe people don’t want to be involved with your company. The increased socialness of the Web has encouraged bloggers to do their best to send people to the absolute best information, regardless of where it comes from. Today stingy linking is likely to do way more harm than good in the blogosphere. Free love, my friends.

Old Rule: Page Views = Success

Bloggers used to be obsessed with page views.  They hated RSS because all they wanted was to increase the traffic coming in to their blog. That was how we defined engagement, how we determined ad rates and it was the only thing that mattered. And when page views are all that matter, well, you start to get ‘interesting’ with the type of content you provide. Again, it becomes about providing nonstop content, instead of taking the time to produce content people actually cared about. Content that would get them talking about you and sharing you with their friends.

New Rule: Overlapping satellite communities = success. Today we realize there is far more to life than page views. It doesn’t matter how many people land on your blog if they’re leaving because they’re bored and are the wrong readers. Today success is built in engaging the right people – even if that means you’re engaging them somewhere other than on your blog. As I learned in my lurkers vs participants post, blog engagement doesn’t always mean someone on your blog leaving a comment. It can be sharing you on Facebook or LinkedIn, talking about you on Twitter, stumbling you, etc. It’s about making your island bigger by lining up small islands around it.

Old Rule: Good Bloggers Have All The Answers

Back when bloggers were posting every day, they were also conveniently expected to know everything. They not only had to pose a question, but they had to fully answer it and be correct about it. If you didn’t know the answer about a topic, you didn’t bring it up. And if someone on another blog, or in your own comments, challenged your belief than you were to beat them to death with a mallet. Or at least send them a really stern email or write an accusatory post with their name in the title.

New Rule: The Community Likes Imperfection. Today’s bloggers have learned you get a lot further when you accept that you don’t know everything and look for ways to solve problems together. Bloggers don’t have to have all the answers and readers actually prefer when they’re not perfect. Often by posing a question and letting the community guide the discussion, we learn more than by one blogger simply pontificating. Blogs have become a great source of discussion and where it’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Sometime we learn just by starting the conversation, even if we never come to a concrete resolution about it.

Above are some of the blogging rules I think have died. Which ones are you no longer following? What have you replaced them with?

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