social media how toBlogs are the most powerful marketing tool you can use to attract leads and new customers, as well as increase visibility in your marketplace.

But what makes one blog successful and another mediocre? The majority of “so-so” blogs lack one or more of four important elements…  In this article I will introduce the CODA system and how it can driven traffic and engagement with your readers.

Some bloggers may be writing well, posting relevant and valuable content on a regular basis, but they aren’t encouraging reader interaction. Or they might have built a blog whose purpose isn’t evident.

Some blogs are difficult to navigate, making it nearly impossible for readers to find important information. Some look good, but they don’t have frequent or relevant posts.

And, most important to the first-time visitor, many blogs lack critical design elements. They offer no way for busy readers to quickly size them up and decide whether the blog is worth reading.

This is where the CODA system comes in, to serve as a guide for bloggers to monitor four elements of their blog and keep it on track as a marketing tool that serves their business. CODA focuses on Content, Outreach, Design and Action.

C Is for Content

The first essential component to a successful blog is content. It is often said that “content is king” because it is the critical element that will make or break your blog.

Always write with your readers in mind. If your posts are not interesting to the people you’re writing for, then they’re not going to come back. They’re not going to subscribe. And they’re not going to buy your products or services. Your content is where you have the opportunity to really penetrate your niche market and dominate, to become the de facto authority.

When developing content, keep in mind the three E’s of content: Educate, Entertain and Engage. The two primary reasons people use the web are to find solutions to their problems and to be entertained (as seen in the phenomenal growth of online video).

The first E is Educate.  A great example of educational blogging is Dr. Eben Davis’ Back and Wrist Pain Blog. Dr. Davis uses his blog to teach prospective and current patients about how the body works, why they might need help, or how he can solve their problem.  Nearly every post is educational and recently he told me that about 50% of his new patients come as a result of reading his blog and that they are getting better results because they are better educated.

Dr. Davis Blog

Educate your readers so they know how you can solve their problems.

The second E is EntertainVideo inherently is more entertaining than text (unless you’re really good at writing humor, which is tricky). Use video to tell a story or to better express your personality.  Check out Gary Vaynerchuk and his blog. He posts videos five days a week and because he has a huge personality and is incredibly passionate about his subject, he rarely fails to entertain—as well as educate and engage—his audience, which is evidenced by dozens of comments on every post.

Gary Vee

Video is inherently entertaining and quickly engages the viewer.

The third E is Engage. How do you get people to actually connect with you and participate in the conversation?  One way to do that is to use polls. Some of the free polling sites are and  Create a one-question poll to encourage people to take the step and interact by answering your question.

Even simpler is asking for comments.  I often hear the complaint, “Nobody ever comments on my blog.”  My response is, “Do you ask for comments?  Do you tell readers how to comment?”  People need to be told what to do.  You might need to say at the end of your blog post, “Please let me know what you think about this.  Click on the comment link below.”

Keep in mind that when somebody actually interacts with something—they click a link, they post a comment, they take a poll—they stop being a passive reader. Now they’re actively engaged with you, and that can help bring them one step closer to becoming a client or a customer.

blog poll

Ask for engagement. A poll gives your readers the opportunity to tell you what they think.

Finally, with all your content, keep it conversational and thoughtful, and be authentic and personal.

I covered content in more detail in previous articles—7 Tips to Create Better Blog Posts and 13 Ideas to Inspire Your Blog Content. Now back to the next step in the CODA system.

O Is for Outreach

Part of being a successful blogger means you should leave your own blog and participate on others in the blogosphere. It means reading and commenting on other blogs related to your industry or audience, reaching out to other bloggers, and becoming more visible. This is how you get known; this is how you build relationships that can turn into joint venture projects and guest interview spots, and attract more traffic and prospects back to your site.

I covered Outreach in more detail in the article The Secret to Growing Your Blog Following.

Outreach is also about participating on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, among others, if that’s where your target audience hangs out.  Set up your profile. Make sure your avatar is consistent throughout so no matter where people find you, they recognize you.  Most important, make sure your blog content is syndicated via the RSS feed so your connections on social networking sites see your deeper content and can follow you back to your home base—your blog.

D Is for Design

Strong blog design involves a number of layout and usability factors. Design issues can greatly affect how readers experience your blog.

  • Is it easy to use and understand?
  • Does it build trust with readers?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Does it look good?

The aesthetic elements also help people feel confident about working with you.  They may like your content, but does it look professional? Does it represent you well?  Do you make it easy for readers to hire or buy something from you?

One of the things to keep in mind when you’re designing your blog is it must be well-branded and it should be memorable. Make sure when people land on your site, it doesn’t look like every other blog.  Just about every blogging platform has templates.  If you use a standard template, that’s OK, but take a few minutes and customize the look and feel by using your brand colors and logo, at minimum.

Adding a custom-designed banner on your blog will help set it apart as well. Make sure to include the name of your blog and a tagline.  Remember that every day someone new lands on your blog.  When they land on your blog, are they going to know what it’s about?  Are they going to know if it’s what they’re looking for?  Make sure you have a tagline that tells people what the blog is about—what they can expect to learn about your subject.

For more details and a video demo, please see my article on 7 Essential Design Elements for Great Business Blogs.

A Is for Action

Finally, ‘A’ is shorthand for call to action. That is, are you encouraging people to act? How do you get your readers to become customers, to click on links, and to sign up for classes, reports, and other offers?

Effective business blogging is results-oriented, which means persuading people to interact with you in some way. Calls to action are crucial. Depending on the goals of your blog and/or specific post, you may include calls to action for:

  • Posting comments
  • Asking for a retweet
  • Directing to download a freebie
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Taking a survey
  • Registering for a program
  • Checking out your new product or service

Being clear on the next step you want your readers to take will help them know what to do and help you get the results you want from your blogging efforts. You can see clear examples of calls to action on Rich Brooks’ flyte blog.

call to action

Tell your readers what you want them to do.

Putting it all Together for a Balanced Blog

If you’re going to invest time on your blog, you want that time to pay off. You want results.

Keep in mind that no matter which of the four elements (Content, Outreach, Design and Action) you like to focus on, a successful business blog—one that gets results for your business—requires all four to be addressed. A balanced blog that is built and maintained on the CODA system will contribute to getting more visitors, and more customers, for your business.

What would you add? Have you tried any of these techniques with success? What do you consider the most important element for a successful blog? Share your opinion in the comments box below! 😉

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  • Thanks for the really great tips on reader retention. The one tip I really need to work on is Action. I suppose I just expected that if my content was good enough user interaction would happen naturally but I am going to try directing readers to comment or retweet my content and see if these calls to action are a more effective way to solicit user interaction.

  • Fabulous information, as always, Denise! Love the emphasis on actually telling your blog readers what action you want them to take, as this is often overlooked but oh so important.

  • I like the point about how your content has to be entertaining. I’m thinking there are three ways to make your blog content entertaining, being funny, mixing it up with videos and images, and being bold and controversial. Probably the best way, which you point out, is to use video.

    Awesome stuff as usual!

  • Excellent breakdown of what a blog needs, Connie. Design is my pet peeve. Good design provides better support for your content and your call to action. There is nothing wrong with asking for help in the design area. Simple and clean is best for a beginner. It look professional without being complex. Keep up the great work, Connie. I look forward to reading your blogs!

  • This was quite a helpful article. I had not thought of doing polls and will give it a try!

  • Greg L

    Great comments for sure. I’d like to add P is for Pop-up. I was surprised to see a pop-up immediately upon landing on your blog (from a retweeted link) on how I should sign up for your newsletter. I don’t even know what your blog is about yet, haven’t read 1 word, and I get a pop up to subscribe. I thought we’re all supposed to be about allowing users to control how they receive info. You want readers to come to your blog out of choice because of the content. Not push a newsletter on them right? These are just my opinions but I think any pop-up that happens right when you land on a site is bad, very bad. I want to subscribe because I want it, not because I was asked and interrupted.

  • These are great tips, Denise. Thanks.

    In the area of design, you might also mention type: font, size, leading, kerning, and all that good stuff. There are some blogs where I have to hit CTRL+ a couple of times before I can start reading. I’m considering asking my marketing folks to change the type style on our site. How important do you think this is?

  • Hello Denise!
    In this post you point out four essential tips about how to have successful blog in a simple way (CODA– content, outreach, design and action).
    I like when things are presented in a simple manner. This helps us to focus on key elements in online interaction.

  • I like the three Es of Content. I always try to write my blog in a compelling way that’s fun to read as well as informative. Gary V’s WLTV is a great example of a fun, entertaining way of providing a lot of educational content. Plus he really interacts and engages with the viewers. Engagement dovetails right into Outreach, and getting out of your blog and connecting with different audiences. Good stuff, thanks.

  • Great tips. If we all were writers like you blogging would be easy. O is great. That’s what I’m doing.

  • I really enjoyed your post. I tried to click to some if the other info articles and couldn’t get through.
    Thanks for the great tips and ideas!
    Will cross post

  • Excellent Denise! The chiropractor blog does one thing that really bugs me (as a writer/editor). The positioning is all about “we,” “us,” “our equipment,” “what we’re doing,” etc. This is a common mistake I see when people/companies write blog posts and develop web content. You must have “you” orientation and connect with the pains/desires/dreams/fears/issues of the audience first. That’s the only way to get them caring about your particular solution.

    Also, the “D” section of CODA…I’ve written several times about how sites blow it with design and layout. Here’s just one post: with some simple clues. If you search my blog for “design” or “layout” you’ll find more info. Colin Wheildon is really the master of this subject. He did exhaustive research, and much of it translates to Web choices, too.

    Keep up the good work SME and Denise!

  • Hi Denise:

    I love your blog, but don’t like the pop-up. I put up with the pop-up, however, because I love your blog. Thanks for the information on the polls. I will be adding one to my blog also.

  • Great points all. That a good blog should entertain is often forgotten. Blogging is infotainment, not a white paper.

  • CoachJaneLee

    Hi Denise- This is awesome material. You just cracked the code for blogging success. Will implement the CODA system. Thank you for this blog resource article. See you in blog heaven.

  • laurademeo

    Hi Denise, this very timely as I am just about done setting up my blog! Thanks for introducing the CODA system. I will make your I follow your guidelines! Thanks again for sharing such great information. Laura

  • Great Tips! Thanks for sharing!

    Suzie Eads

  • This is terrific and thought provoking advice. My copy of Crush It is on it’s way! Blog….coming soon! Thanks,

  • Hmmmm, I will apply this to my own blog on Success. Thank you!

  • Thanks for a well-written article. I had a problem clicking through to all your links with the exception of flyte – that one worked!

  • Hi Denise,

    Great information and ideas. Thanks for sharing what you know.

    I’m posting a link to this posting on the Social Media for the Blogger group on LinkedIn. We’re a group of bloggers looking for ways to increase our blog traffic. Perhaps you would consider joining our group and sharing some additional tips and expertise?


  • Great info – I will for sure use the poll’s on my blog ( – it’s in Danish so I guess you won’t get much from visiting this.

    Looking forward to your next inspirational postings 😉


  • Guest

    I SO Loved this article! I am new to blogging and get so “into” what I’m writing that pretty soon it’s about 3 different things! I’ve read a lot of articles lately on how to improve my blog and this one by far is the most helpful! Thanks for helping me!

  • gloriarand

    Excellent advice for bloggers! I finally did my first video blog post this week, so I’m making strides there. But the call to action is one of my areas of weakness. Thanks for the suggestions on how to accomplish that!

  • Thanks Denise. Easy to understand and USABLE.

  • Great tips. Love easy to remember acronyms like CODA. You could even throw in the advertising mnemonic AIDA under C: Attention (crisp headlines, interesting pictures, shock and awe), Interest (build up interest, make an emotional connection), Desire (hard sell), and Action (call to action).

  • Thanks Denise, that is a very comprehensive outline of what works in a blog. I like that you mention to ask readers for comments. I would take it further though, instead of asking what people think, I would ask a direct question, like for example a blog post called “Tthere are 5 actions to make your blog work”. You then write the four you mentioned above and you ask your readers to fill in number 5. Most people have already an idea in their mind or will get one by reading your 4 points.

  • Sally

    Thanks for the tips, Denise. Very helpful! What’s your (or anyone else here’s) take about adding a blog to your business website that has the words “” or whatever in the URL? Does that make it look less professional or does it matter at all?

  • Greg – I appreciate your thoughts. This is more than a get our newsletter popup. It is actually an offer for a free twitter marketing tutorial. Marketing – YES. And I must say it has been instrumental in us adding more than 11,000 subscribers in only 4.5 months. You only see it once. But it was a calculated risk I took as a marketer. I know the strength of our content overrides the box. It’s a call I made, so I’ll take the blame. But this is a free pub and subscribers are important for us. – Mike

  • Thanks Betsy. I also addressed above why I use the popup if you want to look. The good news is you should only see it once. – Mike

  • jfscaramazza

    Excellente post! I can see clearly now how to build an intersting bizblog. Thanks!

  • Alcatraz

    Great article, thank you for sharing and making it so easy to follow. Question for anyone who has experience with starting a blog. I have been reading a lot about the SEO features in a blog, and as it relates to a startup small business, is there a blogging site of choice that is best? From my research, it looks like WordPress is the best for SEO. However, my clients want to use BLOGGER and their designer is specific to blogger. Does it make a difference? I thank you in advance. Great site, thank you!

  • Yes, I’d like to think that my content inspires content with overtly asking but I’ve found I get better results when I ask/tell and end a post with a question.

  • Thanks, Ellen. Yep, on the many, many blogs I’ve reviewed for clients, usually the missing pieces is a call to action…any action.

  • Though my name is not Connie 😉 thanks for your comment! I agree that clean and simple is the best way to go. It’s easy to clutter up a blog with too many widgets and plugins – I know I’m guilty on my own blogs. I’m constantly adding and subtracting and in the end always prefer the less is more approach.

  • I love doing simple 1 questions polls. They provide a lot of insight and inspiration for new content. Blog on!

  • Larry, while I think font, size, leading and kerning are important in print design as well as web design, I think most people simply go with the default setting in the template or theme they install. Certainly font size can be an issue when it comes to legibilty and you’ve got to know your audience. It’s also a tough call because as the publisher you don’t know what size monitor someone is reading on. It could be a 19″ like I’m on now, or a 10″ netbook or a smart phone. It’s tricky to design for all options. I’d being interested in some designers weighing in on this topic, because I am not a designer. Thanks for the question.

  • Thanks, Phil! While I agree in principle about the I/you in content, I know that what Dr. Davis is doing is working for him. Though maybe if he went to the “you” approach, he’d be getting even more new patients from his blog. Appreciate your input. Blog on!

  • Thanks for the heads up on the bad links. I’ve notified the editor to get them fixed. Blog on!

  • Congrats on starting your blog! Glad you got value from the article and have fun.

  • Congrats on doing a video blog post. They are very effective to add to the mix. Once I got over the notion that video had to be Hollywood perfect, then I started having fun with video.

  • Thanks! I like the AIDA subset of CODA. I may appropriate that 🙂

  • That’s a great point, Jeroen. That’s an excellent way to engage readers. Thanks for adding your tip. Blog on!

  • Great question. I recommend that you have your own domain. Whether the blog is a self-hosted wordpress blog or resides on a third party site like or, you can map a domain over the third party domain to brand your own business, blog and domain.

  • Denise, this is a great post. I really like the idea of asking people to engage. It seems that people want us to be authentic and appreciate our honesty.

  • I love the CODA concept Denise! 🙂 I really like the point of asking your readers to engage in some way. It’s amazing how many people really like it when they are given specific direction whether it’s to anwer a poll or leave a comment. The funny thing is that my particular industry tend to call me more instead of leaving comments. I’ll take that too but I just find it interesting how your target audience likes to respond in certain ways.

  • Goot tips, Denise! I started a blog not long ago and while I have posted regularly, I’m not getting the readership I want. I’m sure it takes time for people to trust your knowledge and start following you so I’m quite cool about it so far.

    The challenge I find is that in my area of expertise, I find there are already so many blogs on the same subject, and many of these competing blogs are very firmly established – and also very good. I often ask myself the question: what more can I add that hasn’t already been ‘beaten to death’?

    I feel I am following the CODA approach as you describe, but probably not doing it as well as many experts out there. I’m impressed by how you and other experts find and embed links to other informed sources, how do you do this? What’s a good approach to linking? Is it just a case of keeping tabs of other blogs and websites and linking to them or is there an application that can help you do this?

    Thanks for the post.

  • This was a fantastic, positive and helpful article. Thank you so very much for taking the time to lay out the realities. I am deeply grateful.

  • VirtuallyAssist

    Wonderful advice – clearly set out and easy to understand. Thanks for a fantastic post.

  • Thanks for the heads up! All the links are working now.

  • A great article that I find on Twitter – thanks, Denise!

  • deephadial

    hey…really an informative article to get the traffic to blog. Having a blog and getting traffic to it is one of the most important step for SEO. I am presently having a blog related to the SEO and would love to include such articles in my blog so that the users can have access to information that can turn out to be of prime importance, if they have the desire to enter the online business.

  • Great post Denise! I will be sure to share it 😉
    Keeping the content relevant is so important!
    Relevance and value!
    I get frustrated at times when I follow a link and there really isn’t any ‘meat’ there, or worse, it’s not relevant to the headline.
    I also find that its not always easy to find where to comment. If it’s not ‘right there’, how many people are going to hunt it down?
    I have also found that using Disqus has increased the number of comments as well.
    Again, thanks for a great post! 🙂

  • Great reminder to ask for what you want and to direct/guide people to do it.

  • jangelos

    I’m no expert yet I play one on TV. Ba da dum.

    Here’s a post I wrote recently that has brought in lots of traffic. If I had to choose ONE tip it would be to give, and then give, and then give some more. I found I have been able to inspire my readers by believing in them. Sometimes, you just need to hear you are doing a good job and you are on the right track. Which I think you are.

    Good luck.

  • it really is all about content. thats for sure. no matter what type of site you have. people respond to content…great article.

  • Guest

    Good stuff Denise! Your CODA model reminds me of another thing I try to keep in mind when adding content to my Social Media Marketing Blog. WIiFM = “What’s in it for Me”? With so much info out there, more often than not, when someone visits your site, my site or any site, I suspect they’re not just casually perusing blogs for the fun of it. Rather, they are looking for specific info or ideas to help them with something.

    I find that using videos works well for doing both: educating / conveying a idea or how to and helping impart a call to action. All the same, your CODA post was a good read. Cheers — Neil

  • Greg L

    Understandable, but coming from the perspective of me, a first time visitor to the blog. I saw the pop-up, briefly scanned it, but was more interested in reading the blog post so I opted out. Now I have no chance to opting in again since I’ll only see it once. Interesting.

  • Hey Greg,

    Actually we also have the same offer on the side bar of every page. All my best! – Mike

  • Great article and extremely valuable. Normally the social media articles I have read really don’t get to the substance you have provided in this blog. I will definitely need to work on the polling aspect. I do have a blog; but have never thought about the polling and the level of interactivity it brings.

  • Great information, as always Denise!! For my very new blog, I decided to end every post with a question relevant to the topic to make people comment. Do you think that is a good idea or will it get old?

  • Judy

    Thanks so much for this excellent information, which I’ll put to use in my next post. I’m new to blogging this year–appreciate your help.

  • carlatevault

    Great article! I appreciate the very specific points you’ve shared and the CODA concept; worthwhile reading.

  • Miho K

    Thank you for the great tips! I will make sure to follow the CODA system.

    But there is still one thing I am not sure of. When you outreach your prospective, do you think it would be a good idea to find your target’s blog that is talking about products/service that you are selling and leave them a comment as business or a company so they will come to your blog?

  • My goodness, you have given me so much to think about. This is excellent information. Thanks you! I am just wondering though, my blog is about health and wellness. How can I entertain my readers when I am talking about the immune system (as an example). The information is important, but I can’t think of how I would make it entertaining. Any suggestions?

  • Great article, Denise! I first learned your CODA technique last November when you taught my SMMU class. I learned so much from you there. You clearly had an affect on how I write my blogs and how I suggest to other they write theirs. This served as a great refresher! Thanks!

  • Denise, this is incredibly valuable info – thank you for sharing your expertise. We just redesigned our blog, and are now researching driving traffic that translates into reader and consumer loyalty. Hmm, we be me calling on your services.

  • Denise, this is full of information, easy to understand and even easier to put into action. Thank you for sharing!

  • Yes, content is king. Personally if I find a blog interesting or helpful, I will keep coming back.

  • I like to think that I have incorporated all of these in my blog. I’ll try to ask more pointed questions at the end of my posts. I also think that know-how has a lot to do with how successful your blog becomes. Many of us have all these aspects, but we lack the skill in promoting our sites.

  • Judith Atkinson

    Denise this is great information to help me identify weak areas on my blog. One of my weknesses is that I find wrting in a conversation style difficult.

    The other identifiable weakness is laack of entertainment value. I guess I must lighten up then sales will brighten up. Thanks.

  • hi! I really like the CODA idea also. I am an artist and change my banners often, do you think that wekens my brand and the look of my blog (it is just so fun to mix it up). Also-this may sound REALLY BASIC but I get so bummed when I cannot easily leave a comment on someone elses blog (I get worried that is happening to mine…) be sure and check your settings not to leave anyone out!

  • leilanihaywood

    I’ve offered candy for comments. That worked! I’ve learned from this article tho that I need to be more aggressive about posting comments on other bloggers that I follow. Thanks!

  • lindamickle

    Thanks, Denise, for a succinct, organized process for a new blogger like me can follow!

  • Thanks Denise, I’m going to give that “poll” technique a shot. I really appreciate all of the helpful info.

  • What a comprehensive piece of info!
    Also the way you have explained things is really superb.
    BTW..I recently discovered Social media examiner and i am really enjoying reading it. 🙂

  • If you’re taking the time to create quality content you should most certainly carve out the time to promote it! If you have a strong presence on the big social news sites like digg and reddit make sure to push it there, but don’t forget to take advantage of the countless niche social news sites, not to mention your network on social networking sites like facebook and linkedin or on twitter.

    I’ve personally found that whatever blog I’m promoting has a corresponding niche social site that does a lot of the viral legwork for me in getting my content out there. So look around and share the work with people who are interested in your content!

  • The most successful people have usually been story tellers. If you can tell a interesting story and you can keep your audience hanging on every word, then they will come back for more.

  • hercurich

    This post is good! Thank you very much

  • I’m new to blogging and found your information to be very helpful. I will bookmark this site.

  • mneeley

    These are great points! Love it!

  • The CODA system sounds really great and convincing. Design issues are very important for a blog and they can greatly influence the readers and improve likeliness. Thanks for the nice tips shared. Keep posting.

  • The CODA system gives business owners a way to focus their online activity and avoid the every-day distractions that come come from working online. Focused comments designed to educate, entertain and engage are a key means of branding. Increasingly, the call to action is necessary as our readers arrive distracted and over-stimulated by the endless messages and visuals they experience online. Simplicity and clarity are the essence of effectiveness.

  • Great advice.  I am going to put this to work on my blog, which  hope to finally get up this month.  Thanks for the jump-start! 

  • Pingback: 27 Must-Read Tips – 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog()

  • Thanks! denise for the CODA guides, it is very useful and helpful for us..

  • I’m going to be testing some of these techniques on my blog!

  • La’Resa B. (Gifted-mind Inspir

    Very helpful post. I love the CODA. Thanks for sharing!

  • montu

    Blog is good idea for providing message. Blanced blog is also well to express new things.

    Blog information