This is a guest post from J.D. Roth. J.D. writes about smart personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. He has been blogging since 2001.
The summer doldrums — most bloggers fear them. It’s not just that traffic tends to be lower, but bloggers are people, too, and need to take vacations. Yet even when big-name bloggers take a break, their traffic falls. Imagine what things are like for mortals like us!
Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. In July, I spent three weeks traveling to London, Dublin, and New York. During that time, my blog didn’t lose traffic. In fact, it gained readers. Here’s how I did it.
Begin planning early
I often see bloggers post requests for guest entries just days before they leave town. This isn’t enough time. It’s not enough time for guest authors to write anything, and it’s not enough time for you to edit it. When preparing for a vacation, you don’t want to prepare days ahead, or even weeks. You want to plan months in advance. Because I knew that I was leaving on July 14th, I began planning for my absence in April.
To make things easier, I created a spreadsheet listing the slots that needed to be filled. I post either once or twice a day at Get Rich Slowly, so I had a two-column grid covering the days I would be gone.
As I accepted guest posts, I slotted them for a particular day. The schedule changed frequently, but modifications were easy because I was using a spreadsheet.
Adjust your schedule
Planning for a three-week absence takes work. Even when filling the space with guest posts, each entry must be edited, formatted, and scheduled. In the weeks leading up to your vacation, slow your daily production. If you post twice a day, but back to just once a day. Use the extra time to write pieces for your absence, or to edit the guest posts that you’ve received.
Plan beyond your return date
When I returned from my trip, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to write. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Instead of just planning three weeks of guest posts, I had planned four. I knew that I might be in a time crunch upon returning, so I made sure to have extra posts ready to go.
Here’s the meat of this strategy. In order to keep your readers interested, and in order to maintain traffic, you need to offer top-notch content. To do this, you need top-notch authors. It’s always smart to ask colleagues — bloggers in your same niche — if they’re willing to contribute. But better yet, ask people who seem out of your league. What do you have to lose? At worst, they’ll say “no”. At best, they’ll say “yes”, and you’ll have made them aware of your site.
I decided to ask for posts from big-name writers I admire, including Penelope Trunk, Malcolm Gladwell, and Liz Pulliam Weston. These folks aren’t small potatoes. Each is a published author who also writes a regular newspaper or magazine column. Because I knew these people were busy, I kept my e-mail brief. I introduced myself, described my site (emphasizing its subscriber numbers, which are its strength), and explained the situation. Most importantly, I pointed out that a guest post at Get Rich Slowly might introduce their work to a new audience.
Not everyone will be willing or able to lend a hand. But some will. Trunk and Weston both agreed to provide posts. And while Gladwell couldn’t do so, he did grant me permission to excerpt several pages from one of his books.
All because I had the courage to ask.
Once you’ve assembled your collection of guest posts, place them in an order that makes sense. You have a feel for the rhythm of your blog — attempt to duplicate it with the posts you’ve gathered. Some of the guest articles will be better than others. Don’t cluster the good stuff together. Instead, space things out, using the best articles as tent poles to hold up the weaker entries.
It’s a good idea to recruit a recruit a trusted colleague or a loyal reader to act as editor while you’re away. There may be long stretches during which you have no access to a computer. During my trip, it was comforting to know that there was somebody around to put out fires. (And there were fires! The very first post of my vacation stirred up a hornet’s nest.)
Enjoy your holiday
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not. And it’s worth it. If you start early, and work on the project a little at a time, you’ll find that it comes together with ease. Best of all, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your holiday because you’ll know you’ve left your readers with quality content.
When I left for vacation in mid-July, Get Rich Slowly was averaging 7,500 unique visitors a day. When I returned three weeks later, it was averaging 9,000 per day. (And my subscriber numbers had grown too!) All it took was a little elbow grease and the courage to ask for help.