Blog Design by Blog Designers

Blog Design by Blog Designers You’ve been at this blogging thing for a while now. The initial surge of WOO HOO has worn off. You survived the inevitable downward part of the enthusiasm cycle that follows that first massive high. And you’re still keeping at it, maybe even with renewed passion and energy. Welcome, you’re now a middle aged blogger! Middle aged blogs are brand new. For the most part, this is uncharted territory. The middle aged blog has different needs than its younger counterparts. Middle age has brought new opportunities to be explored, and new challenges to be faced. Let’s look at some of those now. Challenges A changing audienceIt’s likely that when you started blogging, you knew why you were doing it, and who your target audience was. Since you’ve been chugging away though, I’m betting that your audience has changed. The blogosphere has gotten a whole lot bigger, and blogs have become a more accepted place for the non-blogging public to get their information. Competition in virtually every sector has exploded. How many other bloggers are now in the same niche you once had to yourself? Your own business or interests may have changed as well. Are you still writing about the same topics you did when your blog started? Maybe it’s time for you to sit down and redefine your target audience. Take out a pen and paper, or open up a new document, and write out your current blogging goals. Do it quickly, without pausing to think or edit your thoughts. Now, review your notes and ask yourself the following questions: Does your blog meet your goals in this new blogging environment? Do you need to shift your blog’s focus? Do you need to shift the audience you’re attracting to meet your new goals? Have you educated your audience to the point that you need to introduce more complex topics? Or do you need to go back to the start and educate a whole new bunch of folks? New CompetitionNew competition has very likely affected your blog, either for the better or the worse. Once upon a time, we had the commercial blog design niche nearly to ourselves. These days, there are a whole bunch of people playing in this niche, and many of them are very, very good. I come from the “competition is good” school of thought, so I welcome this, but it definitely has affected my own blogging. Dealing with this new competition may force you to make your own niche even more narrow. Or conversely, it may offer you an opportunity to look at your industry as a whole, and shift your focus from purely creating content to reporting on content. Let’s repeat the same exercise as above. On your pad, or in your doc, quickly write down how new competition has changed your blog. Again, review your notes, and ask the following questions: Has your niche become saturated? Where does your blog sit in your niche’s overall matrix? Are you the top dog? Middle of the pack? What new opportunities have opened up? Has your once narrow niche exploded due to new interest? Are there new sub-niches to be explored? Should your mix of reporting to new content change? Flatline traffic levels At first, you blogged to an empty room. There was no one there to read your posts. Eventually though, you built traffic in a nice growing curve. In likelihood, that curve has leveled off, and maybe even tilted down a bit. Human nature dictates that unless there’s a reason to do otherwise, we rest. That first traffic building exercise you went through when you were building up your blog was both exhilarating and a lot of work. I know from experience that a lot of middle aged bloggers have stopped doing external promotion. The nature of promoting your blog has changed a lot since the early days. It’s harder to get noticed, and the tools available have changed. Once again, jot down everything you’ve done to promote your blog in the past month. Review that list, and ask yourself: Are you active in the blogosphere? Are you “participating in the conversation”? Are you using any of the new social bookmarking services to promote your site? Can you make any new blogging alliances to help co-promote your site? Are there any offline opportunities to reach your niche that you can explore? Opportunities The middle aged blog may have lost some of its luster, but wow, does it ever have some hidden opportunities and gold mines. Most of these are unfortunately hidden from sight, buried deep in your blog’s archives. Here are a couple of ideas to help mine that gold Create a best-of list In a prominent location, list your best articles. This can be a subjective collection of what you think are your best posts, or it can be the posts with the most comments, the posts with the more views, or whatever you like. It need not be complicated, but it should be visible. This will help new readers get up to speed quickly, and will remind existing readers of your best work. CommentsSimilar to above, select a couple of really great comments, and use them as testimonials. Let your own readers speak about your expertise, wisdom, etc. Pepper these quotes liberally. They’ll help new readers get a sense that your content is valuable, and encourage interaction. Create an e-book Why not extend the medium, and create a value-add for your readers. Take your best posts, and use them to create a pdf e-book. Make it easy for readers to print out your wisdom, wit, and insight, and take it with them. This will also help build the sense of reciprocity your readers will feel towards you assuming of course that your e-book contains valuable content. You’ll also have something to promote. This can act as a keystone for a new traffic building exercise. RedesignYou can accomplish all of the above without redesigning your site. But mature blogs are prime candidates for redesign. There are a couple of reasons for this: Your needs are more defined than when you started There’s a gold mine of evergreen content in your archives waiting to be exploited Competition has upped the ante You’ve seen the benefits of blogging, and are ready to switch up your marketing plan to create a budget for a professional design This post is just barely scratching the surface of the challenges and opportunities facing the middle aged blog. I’ll be examining this a bit more detail in upcoming posts.

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