The 10 commandments of blogging: It's a new year. You have another year to achieve your business and blogging goals. There are many things you will need to do this year, but there are a few things you must do to get the most out of your blog. Let's call them commandments.
1. Thou shalt write every day.
Words are your hammer and nails. Know how to use them, and they will build your blog and business. The only way to master writing is to write a lot, so set aside time every day to write a few paragraphs. Over time you'll find your style and voice.
2. Thou shalt publish once a week.
I've neglected this commandment before and suffered. A blog is a living organism, and you must feed it with new content. A blog without fresh content will be ignored by readers and Google, drying up your traffic, leads and sales. Your traffic will increase as you post more frequently.
Be careful to balance frequency with quality. No one will return to a blog with shoddy content.
3. Thou shalt build an email list.
You must identify readers who want a deeper relationship with your content. These readers will become sharers, leads and sales. Even if you don't plan to sell anything to them, collect their email addresses. Your email list is your first and most important business asset.
4. Thou shalt track everything.
Install Google Analytics on your blog. Get comfortable with the reports and tools. Understand who sends you traffic and which posts attract the most subscribers, leads and sales. Without this data you'll take unnecessary risks, bet on the wrong content, and overlook valuable opportunities.
Tip: Google Analyticator is a WordPress plugin that makes it very easy to install Google Analytics.
5. Thou shalt sell something.
This is simple. You can't earn an income from your blog if you have an empty cupboard. If you sell a product, find ways to pre-sell it with helpful posts. If you offer a service or advice, use your blog to explain your approach and demonstrate your techniques. You are not in business until you have a product and customers. Work on your product now.
6. Thou shalt use social media wisely.
I've watched many blogs suffer and die because their owners spent more time tweeting than creating content, building lists, and selling products. Social media is the new town square; it's where you go to have meaningful conversations with like-minded people. But conversations aren't sales. Use your time wisely.
7. Thou shalt look great.
Your blog has to look great. There are thousands of great-looking professional themes out there that will give your blog an immediate makeover. You can buy most of the best themes for less than $100. Don't expect your visitors to invest in your blog if you won't.
8. Thou shalt ask for action.
It's hard to ask your readers to take action, but you must do it. You won't get subscribers, comments, retweets or clients until you learn how to ask. The secret to asking for action is to share/give valuable information first.
9. Thou shalt love SEO.
Google will likely be your most reliable long-term traffic source. It will index every post you publish, and potentially lead more readers to your blog. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an evolving collection of tactics to get top rankings in Google's search results. While SEO can be confusing at first, it can bring you tons of targeted visitors. Make learning SEO a goal and watch it pay dividends in 2013. This post will get you started.
10. Thou shalt remember your blog is only a marketing tool.
Some believe that social media and blogging are magical. Sprinkle a little blogging dust and you don't have to build a great product, market it, or hustle for customers. That's not true.
Your blog is a powerful tool, but just a tool. Learn how to use it to achieve your overall business goals.
Stanford Smith is the managing director at Pushing Social, where a version of this article originally appeared.