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The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers

Tim-Ferris-1The following guest post was submitted by Tim Ferriss author of The 4-Hour work Week and blogger at www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog. Read my interview with Tim.

1. Decide how you’re measuring success before writing a post—what’s your metric? Form follows function.

Is it Technorati rank? Then focus on crafting 1-2-sentence bolded sound bites in the text that encourage quoting. Quotes can be just as important as content. Alexa or other traffic rank? Focus on making the headline and how-to appeal to tech-oriented readers on Digg, Reddit, etc. Number of comments? Make the topic either controversial or universal and end with a question that asks for opinions (slightly more effective than asking for experiences).

2. Post less to be read more.

No matter how good your material is, too much of it can cause feed-overwhelm and unsubscribes. Based on input from close to a dozen top bloggers I’ve interviewed, it takes an average of three days for a new post to propagate well in the blogosphere. If you write too often, pushing down the previous post and its visibility, you decrease the reach of each post, run the risk of increasing unsubscribes, and create more work for yourself. Test posting 2-4 times per week—my preference is two—and don’t feel compelled to keep up with the frequency “you have to post three times before lunch” Joneses. Quality, not quantity, is what spreads.

3. Define the lead and close, then fill it in.

This is a habit I picked up from John McPhee, a master of writing structure and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Decide on your first or last sentence/question/scene, then fill in the rest. If you can’t decide on the lead, start with the close and work backwards.

A good formula for the lead, which I learned from a Wired writer, is: first sentence or paragraph is a question or situation involving a specific person, potentially including a quote; second paragraph is the “nutgraph,” where you explain the trend or topic of the post, perhaps including a statistic, then close the paragraph explaining what you’ll teach (the “nut”) the reader if they finish the post.

4. Think in lists, even if the post isn’t a list.

Separate brainstorming (idea generation) from synthesis (putting it all into a flowing post). I generally note down 10-15 potential points for a post between 10-10:30am with a double espresso, select 4-5 I like and put them in a tentative order from 10:30-10:45am, then I’ll let them marinate until 12am-4am, when I’ll drink yerba mate tea, craft a few examples to match the points, then start composing. It’s important to identify your ideal circadian schedule and pre-writing warm-up for consistent and reliable results.

5. The best posts are often right in front of you… or the ones you avoid.

Fear is the enemy of creativity. If a good serious post just isn’t coming, consider trying the obvious or ridiculous. Obvious to you is often revelatory for someone else, so don’t think a “Basic Confused Terms of Blogging” or similar return to basics would insult your readers. Failing a post on something you take for granted, go for lighthearted. Is this self-indulgent? So what if it is? It might just give your readers the respite from serious thinking they secretly crave. If not, it will at least give them an excuse to comment and get engaged. Two weeks ago at 3am, I was anxious because the words just wouldn’t flow for a ground-breaking post I wanted to finish. To relax, I took a 3-minute video of me doing a few pen tricks and uploaded it as a joke. What happened? It promptly hit the Digg frontpage the next morning and was viewed by more than 120,000 people within 24 hours. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t cater to readers who have no sense of humor. If blogging can’t be fun at least some of the time, it isn’t worth doing.


Timothy Ferriss is author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Businessweek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. His blog at www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog went from zero traffic to Alexa 9,600-10,400 and Technorati Top-2,000 in six months.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the writing tip about first and last sentences. Thinking abouy this, I can see hoe this could clean up my writing, and get my points across better.

    One thing that is tough is fighting the desire to fill all the white space – I don’t think this needs to be done and actually makes the experience better for the reader.

  2. Matt Robison says:

    Good tips. I’m glad Ferris decided to increase his 4 hour work week to 5 hours in order to write this.

    And everyone should read his book. The paradigm shift it encourages is priceless.

  3. John Wesley says:

    Nice article. I agree with all points, except possibly 2. Although there are benefits of posting less, I’ve found that posting more frequently (say 4-5x per week) brings people back to the site more frequently. Nearly all of the very high traffic blogs post numerous times a day. I guess it all depends on what you’re going for.

  4. Andy Merrett says:

    I’m not convinced posting less helps posts to propagate, in a world of RSS. You could always set your blogging software to ensure that posts you really want shown off stay at the top of your page for some time (a bit like Darren does here with the “featured post”)

    Of course, posting hundreds of times could aggravate subscribers, unless you’re a huge site with many writers, where people expect 20+ articles per day.

  5. John santic says:

    This is a great post, thanks….the information is helpful and takes the pressure off in an already busy life to feel I need to post often. I like the 4 times per week habit; it leaves room for good material to arise from within.

  6. For me, I’ve found that it’s best if I post 3 times or so a week. Then I allow time for the posts to spread and get attention, while still having plenty of fresh material.

    The best part about this though, is that it gives me more time to comment on other people’s blogs. I’ve found that’s a much better way to build up relationships and find readers than simply overwhelming people with information.

  7. Hi Tim.

    Good point about posting less to give ample time to the post to get the required exposure and prevent it from scrolling down. This also gives one time to focus on quality rather than quantity, for, voice is always better than noise.

  8. CatherineL says:

    Thanks for the tips Tim. I recently started posting twice a day, and although my traffic has increased, I seem to be getting fewer comments. So, I’ll take your advice and cut down to see what happens.

    By the way – how long did it take you to write “four hour work week” from start to submission?

  9. TravelingMel says:

    I love to hear someone say not to post too often! Especially for those of us who don’t blog for a living and maybe don’t have time to post everyday, let alone more than once a day.

    I also appreciate the journalistic aspect of crafting a lede and a nutgrapgh. Even though I write for a living, I don’t always follow the same structure on my blog as I would in a print piece. Might be a good idea to think that way from time to time.

  10. vrempire says:

    Thanks dude..this is the first time I hear somebody mentioning about less frequency of posting can also be a good things. I might try for 3 posting per week. A really-really quality one. 2 long and one short one.

  11. Klaudio says:

    Hi!

    Good tips, i like this post.

  12. I agree, too many people think posting more will get you there quicker. Search engine wise it will put more out there for people to find, but ultimatly thats it. I kind of recall Darren mentioning he was going to test slowing down with his posting a month or two ago. Not sure what happened to that plan ;)

    Now where is this pen trick at :-p

  13. Emma says:

    I like time saver #2. I think posting less would be a time saver, stress reliever, and enable longer quality posts. I’ve been trying to post everyday. I think it’s time to take it to the next level and post 2-4 times a week. Thanks

  14. Karen Zara says:

    I guess many bloggers will find #2 the most controversial item in your list. Some people seem to think that posting every single day is almost a religion — not doing it would be a sort of blasphemy, hence dooming your blog to damnation. :P

  15. Max Powers says:

    I never looked at the “less posts the better” angle. I just assumed if you have regular viewers that they want something new each day. Another great post to ponder.

  16. Jeff Quipp says:

    Excellent points Tim! I really enjoyed them, particularly to post a few segments specifically for quotation purposes.

  17. Melody says:

    I also wonder about the less posts. Maybe becuase my blog is more topical, I have found my traffic is dramatically increasing since I started posting every day. I guess writing about the new is different in nature than tech writing though

  18. Clangnuts says:

    I like the last tip best of all. Sometimes struggling for ideas is the worst tactic. It’s good to cut loose with something a little out of the ordinary.

    Post frequency is also a good tip, in my opinion. You can update 20 times a day, but it’ll still take at least 3 days before your post gets really noticed.

    Good article.

  19. Those are good tips, however I don’t think the best post is always short. I personally like a 3-7 part blog series. Thoughts?

  20. Jon says:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve been so worried that I’m not posting enough. I’ve noticed the trend of blog posts that are lists of things. Seems like everyone’s doing it.

    Also, I just finished reading 4HWW and it’s changed the way I think of things. Very good read.

  21. livvit says:

    We reduced postings from 7/week to 3/week + any guest posts and that definitely helped lower the workload and help us focus on great posts. Great article.

  22. Kathy says:

    I always worry that I need to post every day. But it’s sometimes hard to accomplish. Part of my anxiety is that some people ask me when I’ll have something new, which I guess is a good problem to have, even with my small readership. I feel pressure to post. I would rather post every other day. Still trying to find the right balance.

  23. Markus says:

    Sorry not post related:

    Is the database down? I always get this message. After some F5s I can see the ProBlogger.net Site. Curious.

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    Markus – we had a little hiccup with the server – should be OK now.

  25. Kelvin Kao says:

    Aha, looks like most of the discussion is about posting frequency.

    In my case, I post a video every week and interleave them with text posts. The videos take quite some efforts to produce, so I normally would like to leave them up until a few days later. Then I have my text posts, spaced out a few days between each other as well. So I post about three times a week. That happened to be the ideal schedule for me.

    Another good thing about it is, you don’t burn out as easily.

  26. No 3. Is a great one, and one I never thought off before. When I start I always kinda know the end.

    But stating it at the outset is sure, to help me arrive there quicker.

  27. PlasticPilot says:

    I won’t say that everything in this post is ok for me. Not to make me different, but because I just disagree…

    First of all, as a hobby blogger (may be the only one here ?), I can’t take so much time to work on my posts, I’ve got a job that is feeding me. May be I’m too naive or optimistic, but I trust my instinct, and do a lot of “guts writing”.

    I never could impose myself a rythm, because the niche I’m covering (aviation) is quite wide, and Î sometimes have to follow events. It makes me sad to say so, but my traffic increases each time a plane crashes, and it is important then to provide correct, moderated and possibly useful information. Such a post one week after the event is just pointless.

    Because of this mix of “instinct driven” and “event driven” blogging, I just can’t follow a particular pace. I’m balancing between 2 to may be 10 posts a week, in various categories.

    On top of that, my blog is quite new, so I need to quickly increase the contents to improve readers experience.

    PlasticPilot

    PS: I fully agree on the “do the post you’re afraid of” technique.

  28. Brando says:

    I Just made my first post, but I was planning on doing about 2 posts per week, it just seemed the right amount. I did have one question though, I was thinking about include weekly features such as an image of the week, ect.. Would such a feature hurt my other post by pushing them down. Are such features a bad Idea?

  29. firma says:

    Good tips. But stating it at the outset is sure, to help me arrive there quicker.

  30. Andrew says:

    Thanks Tim.

    You’ve set my mind at ease.

    I’m just starting out as a part time blogger. I am writing a long running story, with each individual post forming part of the story.

    I know that realistically, I’ll never be able to blog every day without compromising the quality of each post – particularly as a part time blogger.

    I’m relieved to hear you say that daily posting is not necessary. Two, three or four posts weekly sounds much more achieveable to me over the long term.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  31. >2. Post less to be read more.

    20 Sept: 5 posts
    19 Sept: 3
    18 Sept: 4
    17 Sept: 4
    16 Sept: 4

    Well, you get the idea. Not exactly following your own advice :)

  32. I agree with the section on first and last sentences. Not only is it good for the readers, but it is the way to SEO your blog posts and articles. The SE’s like the fact you ended with the same phrase you started with.

    Also, good to know about the frequency of posts. I have often wondered how many to do per day, or even per week. I was struggling to get 1 per day, so now I can relax a bit ;-)

  33. Sarah says:

    Hi Tim,

    Great to see you writing over here as well! :) it’s also nice to see you put your own work into action by doing a few guest posts for other sites! :)

    Sarah

  34. Ben Evert says:

    Love the 2 post a week idea since I have been doing it for the past year. Makes my life easier and generally the posts are of a better quality than when I was posting every day.

    Hits and readership has increased quite a bit since I have gone down to 2 posts. Maybe the average person can only handle 2 posts a week? Maybe we need a scientific study on internet readership to determine the optimal posts instead of people just giving their opinions.

    Thanks for the tips on improving my blogging.

  35. Shazzer says:

    I started blogging as a way to keep my family updated on my life after I moved abroad, so I got into the habit of only posting 2-4 times a week very early on. Now that my readership has expanded well beyond famiy members in the States, I do get a bit antsy when I go more than three days without doing some kind of update. But I figure that’s my problem, not my readers’!

  36. Tom Volkar says:

    As a new blogger who believes in natural business building I loved the inspiration of less is more. I’m blogging to increase the number of folks on the planet who are actively engaged in fuflilling work.

    If writing for my blog becomes too much of an obligation then I’m in violation of my own core values. I’m truly grateful for this post and for your reminder to have fun while doing it.

  37. Timothy,

    I especially liked point number 2. I feel that most bloggers that produce content have been geared to post 3 times daily or more…

    I have done it.

    But your lesson here makes 100% sense…let your posts develop a bit, so the exposure happens.

    Great job man.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  38. Jason says:

    Nice to hear from Mr Ferris again.

    Nice stuff.

    I think I know why I like Tim Ferris now. His focus is unbelievably inspiring.

  39. SpicePuppy says:

    As a reader of Tim’s blog, I have to say that his posts consistently draw many great comments. Since I feel the need to read all the comments and usually visit some of the commenters’ blogs as well, his posting frequency works well for me.

  40. I agree with most of your observations here even if I can not manage to always use them

  41. sangesh says:

    thank for this post. we really do not think of small things what we are actually missing. i will definitely work on it.

  42. Tim Ferriss says:

    Hello All!

    Thank you for the great comments and questions, and sorry for the delay. I was in Scotland for the Rugby World Cup!

    To answer a few questions:

    1) @ Jack @ The Tech Teapot: I don’t post multiple times per day, so I’m not entirely sure which numbers you’re referring to. My last post, for example, was last Thursday or Friday.

    2) A few asked about weekly features. I think “Image of the Week” and so forth is great. Just don’t get too frequent and varied, IMHO. Variety might be the spice of life, but if you have too many features, they stop to be special and start to be overwhelming.

    3) There is no perfect frequency for everyone. It depends on your personality, your audience, and your blog. The NY Times is daily, but The Economist is not. Is one wrong? Of course not. Different objectives, different advertising structure, etc. Test and go with what works for you.

    Thanks again for the great comments!

    Off to London…

    Tim

  43. Henry Meyer says:

    Tim,

    Hey, this is Henry Meyer from East Hampton. I read your book, trying to figure out how I could make that work in the field of education. I’m a social studies teacher in our old stomping grounds. Last time I talked to you, we were playing pool in EH. Hopefully we can catch up one of these days.

    Hank

  44. Jenny says:

    Post less to be read more.

    That’s exactly what I have been trying to do lately. :) And it seems to be working pretty well.

  45. Sonya says:

    Wonderful tips. I feel like I post too much so I think I’ll take your advice and tone it down a bit! Thanks for sharing!

  46. Gayla McCord says:

    I read 4-Hour Work Week and always try out suggested timesavers – find the extra time, but then fill it back up again with additional projects or jobs.

    I think I’m destined to stick with a 12-hour workday

  47. firmalar says:

    I guess many bloggers will find #2 the most controversial item in your list. Some people seem to think that posting every single day is almost a religion — not doing it would be a sort of blasphemy, hence dooming your blog to damnation. :)

  48. hekimboard says:

    I agree with most of your observations here even if I can not manage to always use them.

  49. fibercement says:

    Great job man.

  50. firmalar says:

    Good tips. But stating it at the outset is sure, to help me arrive there quicker.