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How to pick a blog post topic your readers will love

When I started The Middle-sized Garden (MSG for short) in December 2013, I promised to tell you what blog posts worked and what didn’t. Now that MSG is six months old, I have enough statistics to be able to tell.  Especially as it has been ranked 6th in the UK’s Top 10 Gardening Blogs by Cision UK. Your blog may be about food, office equipment, travel or books – but these tips will work across all blogs:

1) It’s all about you…

Over six months, ‘About’ is MSG’s most successful page. That’s probably because if someone enjoys a post about, say, tulips, they’ll want to know more about the blogger. Make sure that you have an ‘about’ page, and that it says what you want it to say. And (this is particularly aimed at men!)….please, please have a photograph of yourself. People connect with people, not logos. You need a photo of yourself (even if you insist on hiding behind a hat, a cat or your children) on all media and social media.

stone dog with scarf

Have a photo of yourself on your ‘about’ page – people do business with people, not with logos (or pets).

2) And it’s about the people you’re linked with….

MSG’s second most popular page is ‘Who’s In the Garden?’ At risk of repeating myself, people do business with people. If you’re promoting your company, add other members of staff or companies you work with to your blog. You don’t have to call it ‘links’ (boring). Useful Addresses is one option. I’ve introduced ‘My Network’ on this blog, because I am often asked for the names of web designers, photographers or other useful organisations, such as Kent Creative Live.

Neil Brown of Beam23

Neil Brown of Beam23 in Faversham designed both the Middle-Sized Garden and this website. I’m often being asked for names of web designers so he’s on the ‘My Network’ page.

3) Write posts about your readers’ needs, problems or aspirations

That means you have to know what your readers’ needs, problems or aspirations are. MSG readers are like me – we always have a bit more garden than we have time, money or help. So 70% of my top 10 posts are about saving time, money and effort in the garden. And of those three, effort is clearly the greatest issue: my two top posts were The Lazy Gardener’s Guide to Summer Colour and My Two Best No-effort Money-saving Tulips. That’s not because middle-sized gardeners are idle. We all want lovely gardens but we don’t have the time or the manpower that makes big professional gardens so gorgeous. And we can’t afford the £ per square foot that make those town courtyards so fab.

4) And never forget to think about what matters to them

One of my least successful posts was ‘Trees – The Biggest Mistake in The Garden’. In a middle-sized garden you don’t often plant trees or cut them down. You’ll probably plant tulips every year (or try to), but a tree is a big commitment and less likely to be of interest. Had my blog been called ‘Gardening in 100 Acres’ a post on trees would probably have been more popular. When choosing new posts, or angles for new posts, it would be wise for me to focus on the time-saving, money-saving or effort-saving aspects of gardening. I could have focussed this topic more tightly for my reader by posting about ‘Storm damage in middle-sized gardens.’

 

Trees falling

My post on trees fell rather flat….not as relevant to the middle-sized gardener as planting tulips is.

5) Specific headlines work

Other successful posts were titled: Top Spring Space-saving Planting Tips and How to Garden With Very Little Time Or Money. These titles are very clear about what you’re going to get. My vaguer title – ‘What I Wish I’d Known…’ – got 70% fewer page views than the Spring Planting Tips. Even I can’t remember what it’s about – not compelling at all! Social media sharing app Bufferapp track how many people click onto links posted via Buffer. They, too, say that specific headlines work.

Ballerina tulips

‘My two best no-effort, money-saving tulips’ was my second most successful post. The headline is very specific – you know what you’re getting.

5) Be careful about seasonal and perennial topics

You know: Christmas. Easter. Sumer hols.

They make great topics for blog posts, but everyone else is doing them too. My post on snowdrops was my least successful post. By the time, I’d posted, everyone was ‘sick of snowdrops.’ ( I can’t bear the thought of people being sick of snowdrops….) But my most successful post on The Lazy Gardener’s Guide to Summer Colour came out in Chelsea Flower Show week. I didn’t go to the show, so I didn’t mention Chelsea. I had been tempted to blog from the TV coverage, but I’m glad I didn’t now. The seasons do matter – don’t talk about swimsuits in December, but either try to do something very different or specifically targeted at your readers.  Or post early, but that can irritate people too. Maybe I won’t do snowdrops at all next year…but that would sad for me as a blogger.

My post on snowdrops didn't attract many readers - probably because I posted it once the snowdrops were actually out. By then, everybody else had posted about snowdrops and, as a 'topic', they were over. Sad!

My post on snowdrops didn’t attract many readers – probably because I posted it once the snowdrops were actually out. By then, everybody else had posted about snowdrops and, as a ‘topic’, they were over. Sad!

6) Check your stats but don’t obsess about them

You have got stats? A way of counting how many people visit your website, what they read and how long they stay? Google Analytics is the one most people use, and it’s free. If you’re on WordPress, then I find Jetpack Site Stats very useful.

But when you start blogging, it’s not easy to see how individual posts perform. Is your 6th post picking up more readers than your first just because you’ve been around longer, or is it a better post? Keep an eye on the figures, but don’t try analysing anything until you’ve been going for three to six months. But once you know which posts were most successful, don’t just copy them – always try new approaches. When I worked in magazines, we used instinct as much as market research. Often instinct was more successful. But research is also necessary sometimes.

If you’d like to find out more about blogging, do book one of my workshops in London or in Kent or contact me about booking a workshop in your own office or home. I also run workshops on writing content for websites, writing press releases and other writing.

Next post: How To Write a Successful Blog-post. To be published in two weeks. To make sure you get it, enter your email address in the box on the right hand side of this page.

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3 Comments

  1. What a useful page! I will promote this as a prime example of useful content, clearly written. Thank you!

    Comment by Griselda - June 19, 2014

  2. Very informative! I took notes. I loved the pictures too.

    Comment by Monica - June 25, 2014

  3. Thank you. It’s always difficult to find pictures for blogs about blogging, so I’m going to do some future posts on using things like Canva.com which help you create your own.

    Comment by Alexandra Campbell - July 16, 2014

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