1. You Focused on Technology, Not On Audience
This misunderstanding impacts all of your other efforts and generally can be summed up by the oft-heard line, pick your variation: “We spent a huge amount of time (and money) building this amazing blog/website/portal, but no one comes to it.”
Web technologies—the ability to build a website or launch a blog or create a video series—are, first and foremost, just exactly that: technologies. They are a means to an end, not the end itself … and when you couple that with one of the longest lingering misunderstandings of the Web Age (“If you build it, they will come…”), so begins your trouble.
Websites and blogs have greatly lowered the cost and effort of publishing, but that does not make you a publisher...
Websites and blogs have greatly lowered the cost and effort of publishing, but that does not make you a publisher (someone who identifies, cultivates, engages, and grows an audience of readers). Moreover, technology does not simply help audience magically appear. You have to work at that. You have to go out and meet your readers wherever they gather. Such things are not measured by traffic to your website, but rather the total impact of your content, your published knowledge, in all the places you seed it.
Signs that you have fallen into this trap: you spent more time thinking about important but tactical details (domain name, branding, “look and feel,” whether your blog should be standalone or part of the firm’s website, etc) and not enough time first answering the vital, strategic questions: Why are we doing this? Who are we trying to reach? How can we reach them? What concerns these people (and how can I help with those concerns)? etc.
2. You’re Adding to the Noise, Not the Signal
As I’ve written before, one symptom of this problem is that your titles say what busy people will see if they choose to stop what they are doing and click through to your content; but they don’t address why they should stop what they’re doing and click through.
You don’t have much real estate, nor time, to earn and keep reader attention...
Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. (That per Eric Schmidt, five years ago when he was Google’s CEO—and one can only imagine what the numbers look like today.) The point: your readers are inundated by information—entertaining, useful, necessary, gratuitous —from all quarters, all day, every day. You don’t have much real estate, nor time, to earn and keep their attention. This requires paying attention to the details. AKA:
Titles, titles, titles.
3. You Think It's About You
Another signal v. noise issue and put another way: you thought they’d read you because you are you. Those days are over, even with your clients. Today, professionals who take the time to understand who they are trying to reach—who profile timely reader concerns and needs—and then write in response to what they’ve learned … they are the people who are being read.
Your firm's brand earns you much less traffic to your own web properties than it ever did...
Your firm's brand earns you much less traffic to your own web properties than it ever did, especially when you are competing with nimble, responsive writers who have taken the time to measure reader appetite and respond to it, head on, in ways that leave no room for misunderstanding. Close to home this means, among other things: crafting clear why titles … and not just writing about the law, writing about how the law impacts the people you are trying to serve.
It’s not about you. It’s about the people you are writing for (and how you can help them sort through their issues). The more you shift your focus in this direction, the more you will be read, shared and read again.
4. You’re Too Late
Your update about that significant change to the Affordable Care Act and how it impacts companies of more than 100 employees? Really well done. Good title, great takeaways, a focus on actionable next steps.
Problem is: the person you wrote it for read everything you had so say, in one form or another, two weeks ago, when others wrote about the issue first. Next time, you’re on the B list as a go-to source; you’re saying what everyone already knows.
Yes, you are extraordinarily busy, and no one faults you for that. It means, then, that your analysis should shift. No longer focus only on summarizing the news we already know. Introduce an original perspective or more long term, evergreen angle that adds your voice to the pile of useful.
5. You Don’t Measure Or Repeat Your Successes
Don’t write what you hope interests people. Write what you know interests people.
Your most popular past content is one of the best measures of reader interest and you should use it as such. In other words, monitor and make use of your analytics. (And per #1, that’s not just a matter of looking at traffic—a fairly useless measure by itself. Really, it’s about building a picture of reader interest and acting on it.)
In this noisy landscape (see #2), one post on a topic is seldom enough. To sustain the readers you have earned, revisit your most popular articles and offer the next angle.
And, in fact, this brings us full circle. A blogger without a strategy is like a chef with a shiny new frying pan without ingredients nor diners to create a meal. But, if you’re writing and measuring as you go, identifying what appeals to your readers, you are now on to something. Let’s say all of your most popular content is, again and again, about something specific. Virtual currency, startup issues, Healthcare Reform, the Internet of Things, Hiring & Firing matters… and so on. Now you know what strikes a chord. You are starting to understand your readers and have the beginning of a content strategy… time to look to technology to act upon it. A decidedly better approach than the one that got you here to begin with: "We need a blog!"
- the first question you should ask when starting a blog (or any content initiative): why?
- the second question you should ask when starting a blog (or any content initiative): who?
- the last question you should ask: how?
- take the work to where people gather; don’t wait for them to come to you. Most won’t.
- titles, titles, titles.
- don’t write about the law, write about how the law impacts the people you are trying to reach.
- respond to timely news in a timely fashion.
- if you don’t have the time, inject original analysis and fresh takeaways into your writing, and offer the long term view that outlasts the immediate recap.
- repeat your successes.
- stop measuring traffic to your site; start measuring impact of your thought leadership.