Whether you’re new to blogging or have been at it awhile and are looking for ways to bolster your efforts, there are some useful tips that can go a long way toward building a stronger blog.

Control Your Indexing With Robots.txt

Your site’s robots.txt is a small file that generally resides in the base directory. It tells search engines and other types of crawler bots what to look at and what not to index, which is useful for security and for better SEO. There may be certain pages of your site you’d rather not be indexed by search engines, which ensures users can only reach them from within the site.

In other cases, like with WordPress sites, there are administrative areas of the site that it’s better to exclude from indexing for security reasons. For example, you don’t want the public to be able to access your /wp-admin/ directory whether they could do anything with it or not.

You can find an excellent guide to WordPress robots.txt files at AskApache.com.

Exercise Good Backlinking Habits

Linking to other sites in articles you write is an important practice both for your own credibility and also for potential traffic. Giving credit to others establishes goodwill, and if you support a site continuously they may do the same in return.

Additionally, if that site has trackbacks enabled your backlink will show up in the comments area. That trackback will not only be a clearer indicator to that site owner and their visitors you’ve joined the conversation, but it also functions as a reference to your site (complete with the anchor text you used).

You can read more about avoiding common backlinking mistakes at Andy Beard’s blog.

Consider Your Site’s Readability

You don’t need to obsess over the font size, line height and width, etc., to begin sharing content. However, some themes or blogging platforms have some small or otherwise non-ideal fonts by default that could be costing you readers.

It’s a well-discussed point that web readers make up their minds in seconds if they are going to keep reading a page or not when they land there. An attractive site design can help, but the most important part of any blog is the content itself. A reader’s ability to engage with this content is the biggest factor in holding attention or being shared. Here are some specifics to consider:

  • Is your font easy to read? Fancier fonts might look cool in titles, but often make poor body fonts and can cause eye strain to read at any length.
  • Is the font size comfortable to read while sitting back in the chair without having to squint or lean forward?
  • Does your line height and width (the gap between lines and how wide each line is allowed to be before wrapping) allow for smooth line-to-line reading? This is the reason newspapers use narrow columns, as it’s easier for the eye to track back and forth from the end of one line and back to the beginning of the next without losing its place.
  • Are your paragraphs broken up well? It may be appropriate in literary writing for 5-7 sentence paragraphs, but on the web it’s better to stick to 2-3 sentences on average. This is because dense blocks of text are intimidating to look at, and can even trick the eye into thinking it’s longer or harder to read.

Read more about text and phrasing on a post I wrote a ways back.

Use Tracking and Analytics To Refine Your Focus

Rule one of any marketing strategy is to establish a way to test and measure. Which of your articles receive the most reads and shares? Does more of your site traffic come from search engines or from social networks and other blogs? How many of your email subscribers are opening your mail?

In order to create stronger, more relevant content you need to be able to answer these questions.

If subjects you expected to be big hits are getting very little traffic, it could be that you need to do a better job on your titles, methods of sharing, or SEO. It could also just mean that your audience isn’t interested in those topics. If it’s the latter, you either need to change up your audience or accept that that topic isn’t a good fit for your blog.

After you’ve blogged about a certain topic repeatedly, noting which of those posts perform better than the others can help you zero in on titles that are attractive to your readers. Analytics are a double edged sword, though. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers to the point that you’re basing your entire content strategy on the numbers as it will dull your content.

What tactics have helped improve your blog?