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Consider a Series. Seriously.

A guest post by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

In the recycled litany of advice on how to grow your blog – recycled because it’s all tried and true – there’s one effective strategy that gets too little airtime.

Perhaps that’s because it’s not for everybody.  Because it’s hard to pull off. 

That said, it almost always works.

Meanwhile, as a first line of more accessible strategy, we’re told to comment on the blogs of others.  We’re also advised to avoid overtly flogging our own agenda in the process. 

Dude, nice post!” won’t send folks to your site.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to dole out the atta-boys.  Just don’t expect to be rewarded with reciprocal traffic when you do.  If you comment – and this, too, is straight out of Blogging 101 – strive to add value to the online discussion, and in context to the previous paragraph.

We’re told to write killer headlines.  Snatch an edgy image from Flickr.  Never put three sentences of content into a single paragraph.  Pretend like you know Darren Rowse and Brian Clark personally. 

Which puts you in the company of thousands who lay claim to that because they’ve swapped an email or two.  They’re not two of the biggest and nicest people on the internet for nothin’.

And of course, we’re consistently told that content is king.  That this little strategy trumps everything else.  Always has, always will.

Which is precisely why the strategy I’m about to pitch works so well.

Like you, I’ve dipped my blogging toe into all of these rushing online waters, and with varying degrees of success, depending on how you define it. 

Growing a blog by the book is a bit like those sales pages that suggest you can earn five grand a month with Google ads, and then when you do everything they suggest after submitting your fifty bucks, you make about fifteen of them back over the next five months.

If you’re the exception to that generalization, then by all means, illuminate us.

But if you’re looking for something you can sink your strategic teeth into, an approach that solidly aligns with the content-is-king blogging mantra and actually results in an influx of enthusiastic new readers, then consider this:

Write a series

A sequence of posts that offer a sort of mini-symposium, an online workshop that builds upon its own content and momentum.

I’ve done it a handful of times, and each time it jacks my Feedburner number much more significantly than anything else I’ve tried.

I’m in the middle of one now, in fact, and my level of readership has gone up nearly 50 percent since it began five days ago  (that said, Darren Rowse I’m not, so this isn’t a world record).  And my subscriber base has gone up 10 percent after three months of complete flat-lining.

And – here’s the entrepreneurial payoff – I’m selling a bunch of ebooks in the process, at over twice the normal sales pace.

Claiming the Right to Write a Series

To write a successful series, you need to occupy a position of credibility within your chosen niche.  You need to have something to offer, to give away, and be able to demonstrate the chops to do so. 

Also, your series should be about something that can’t be adequately contained in a single blog post.

Sure, we can stuff anything into a single blog post if we try.  I’ve seen single blog posts on solving the problem of unhappy marriages, how to cure cancer and the ultimate answer to recovering from sex addiction, substance abuse and hair loss.

Yeah, like any of those can happen in 1000 words or less.

If you really want to cement your position as an authority on something, on anything, you need to go deeper than what readers normally encounter online.

You need to train them.

One reason this strategy can grow your readership is that it is, in essence, an event.  Which means it can be marketed as such ahead of time.

Beginning a week or two before you launch the series, start writing about it.  Define the problem or need your series will address, and the end result that will be there for those who come to the party.

Attach a tag, a notice, at the end of your otherwise unconnected posts reminding readers of the upcoming series.  Suggest they invite friends that share the same goals and concerns.

Getting the Reader Involved 

Ask for input to the series, allowing your readers to, in effect, take part in the approach and content.  Nothing makes readers love you more than the belief – based in truth – that you are writing precisely what they need to read, and that you understand both their goals and their challenges.

And then, write a killer series.  Write the hell of out.  Don’t just whip them off before bed in a stream-of-conscious psycho-babble of war stories.  Write your series as if you are preparing a masters thesis, but with a sense of style, humor and empathy.

Think of the posts as chapters in a book, with an introductory context up front, then a building series of content blocks that take the reader to the promised outcome.

Not only will they come once you build it, others will write about it on their sites – including requests for interviews and invites to guest post – creating a level of buzz you could never achieve otherwise.

Go deeper than you normally would

With a series you have the time and space to go there, and in doing so you’ll quickly differentiate yourself from other blogs in your niche.

When you write an effective series, you are actually taking blogging to another level.  What was conceived as experiential sharing and observation becomes a valuable gift to all who click on.

And speaking of chapters… I’ve turned three of my series into ebooks that are selling well, with a fourth right around the corner.  Just make sure you don’t simply slap together the eight parts of your series into an eight chapter ebook and call it original, your readers are too smart for that.  And, they deserve better.

You’ve already given it away.  You can’t sell it unless you add more value to it.

Use your posts as a foundation to build on, and expand them into a full and robust informational goldmine on the topic.  Include real life examples as a way to clarify your content. 

People who read your series will flock to it, even if they read it on your site as part of a series, and they’ll tell others.

And in the meantime, your blog and your brand will begin to grow.  Not only because of your content, but as a result of the credibility of your authoritative brand.

Larry Brooks is currently writing a series that deconstructs Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, Shutter Island – the book and the movie based on it – on Storyfix.com, an instructional site for novelists and screenwriters. 

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Comments

  1. I must be an odd egg as I don’t think I have ever come back another day to get the next step in the sequence for any series. I either go to other published posts that are linked or seach for the answer on another site. Guess the effectiveness of a series could vary by industry.

  2. Frank says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I am sure myself and several others who are new to blogging will greatly benefit from this info. Have you compared series duration vs subscribers. I am curious if readers resond to shorter or longer series. I guess it depends on the topic. Great Post. Thanks again.

  3. Murlu says:

    I love it!

    There’s nothing greater than story driven content because it allows us to glimpse into the mind of the writer. Why do you think novels work so well? It’s story driven.

    I mistakenly started a series on one of my blogs (weird, I know) because I started to break down individual sections of equipment. I had talked about the entire setup before which had pretty great reception but this series is blowing it out of the water by far.

    What makes a series so perfect is it creates a saga, a start and a finish but not contained in a single afternoon. It creates hype which brings readers back. It allows you to dive deep into a subject which would otherwise go unfulfilled with a single post.

    A series becomes the timeless content. Sure, your readers may all have their favorite single post but everyone is going to remember ‘that one series’ you’ve released. They’ll reference it, talk about it, stick with it and hold on to every word you write.

    No longer will you get the short quips of comments because your readers are involved. They’re the audience, they want more but you tease them, chapter by chapter.

    Good luck if you plan to write a series, it’s going to be hard work but it’s going to pay, you’re going to love it.

  4. Larry,

    Just as another way to ‘spin’ series articles, once the series is finished and I’ve moved on to the next opportunity, I’ll go rewrite the series into a single shorter version, then use it for article marketing.

    I did this recently with a particular 3 part series of posts, and within just a few days had more views of basically the same material, by an audience who might never have found the blog, than my original posts.

    Or as a flip to this idea, take a long blog post and ‘spin’ it into a series of articles for marketing.

    It’s all about leveraging time and content…

    Write On!

  5. Angie Meeker says:

    Once you’ve written your series, how do you keep it from falling into the basement of your site?

    There a WordPress plugin that’s great for displaying your series so that your new readers (and old ones!) can see and remember the great content you’re putting together. Here’s a post and a few videos I put together today to show how to organize your series like a pro on your WordPress site…

    http://mynameisangie.com/2010/05/organize-your-series-like-a-pro/

  6. Sanjay says:

    Writing blog posts in a series on certain topic needs very creative writing skills. But Larry, you have this skill and I am truly inspired by you as I have read your series of posts on “Shutter Island”.

  7. grey says:

    I think write series maybe is not the perfect way because you don’t theach everything and the people have to wait until next update, and i’m a guy that never remember what i have been reading yesterday

  8. Witto says:

    Thanks for the reassurance Larry.

    My blog is relatively new and I’m just getting going with a series there (3 parts published so far). It’s a mixture of mirth and business stuff. It’s comforting to hear you extol the virtues of a series. It re-affirms for me that I am on the right track.

    Murlu’s words (in an earlier comment) have a resonance as well: “a series becomes the timeless content”. This is what I’m aiming for with my current series ie that it will become a useful resource and that visitors will be more readily inclined to visit older posts.

  9. Marcie Hill says:

    This is right on time for me as I was considering a strategy to grow my blogs. I think I have good topics that will elicit great conversation; I just have to get started. I’m so excited because this is exactly what I needed right now in my writing life. Thank you.

  10. Leah MacVie says:

    From: @Leah — all of the traditional promotional vehicles work for series, of course. For the series I’m doing now, I sent a “press release” to other bloggers in my niche, and several have done a pingback on their site. This is what I love about blogging, it’s less competitive and more communal that other venues, and when something valuable shows up, most bloggers are eager to share it. Tweats are great, but target the influencers with a press release when you can.

    Thanks Larry for commenting back. I am going to try “press releasing” my next series in June, and I’ll see how that goes. I have never heard of doing these for a blog, just books and records- so this is a great idea! I have had a few pingbacks so far, which is great! I didn’t know I could leverage them to my advantage. Thanks again.

  11. Dave Higgs says:

    Hi Larry.

    Great post (atta-boy :)) .

    I have run a series (in fact I have one post to go) and a point I have learned now (thinking about the future) is a follow-up series on a series. Rather like a post-follow up.

    My series is about blogging for cash (within South Africa). Now before everyone brushes me off for blogging about blogging yadda yadda, the point I want to make is that information etc changes. So if you are going to do a series, be careful about the topic you select. For example the basic of blogging will remain rather constant, but reviews of companies and their products can change radically – even over a short period.

    Having an “out of date” series could detract from your credibility. Just s thought.

    D

  12. This is a great nudge for me! I’ve got a couple of these which have been developing in my head for sometime, I wasn’t really sure if there was any value in it though. I’ll start to think about them more seriously now and plan a few.

  13. It’s a fantastic way to blog.

    Not only does it offer more content for the writer him or herself to continuously post down the line, but there’s something about it that gives a rather intense boost of creativity for it.

    I’m currently in the process of milling forth a bare basics series on investing. Some time after that, I’ll mill out another series on more asset classes that are a touch less basic, but basic nonetheless (holy crap am I redundant!)

    Though I get pretty verbose about each post. But there’s something creative about it!

  14. Larry says:

    @Aury/Thunderdrake — couldn’t agree more. And well stated, thanks. It’s like anything new, it’s hard to describe or anticipate the experience in full until you’ve tried it. From a writing standpoint, a series is very liberating, with creativity being just one aspect of that liberation. And from a strategic standpoint… well, I covered that in my post.

    A win-win all the way around, for readers and the author alike.