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Blogging Tips from Pro Triathletes

This is a guest post by Mike CJ, co author of Beyond Blogging.

One of the businesses I consult with organizes triathlon events. Although my work is based around their blog and social media presence, I also enjoy getting stuck in as a general volunteer on the actual events.

The triathlon we run is called Ironman, and it consists of a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike ride and finished off with a 42.2km marathon. Our triathlon is renowned as the world’s toughest, as athletes have to endure our searing heat and a mountainous bike course.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know several world-class, professional competitors, and it was while talking to one of them that the similarity between what they do and what bloggers do dawned on me.

It’s the details that count

Steve was explaining to me that the difference between being a winner and an “also-ran” in triathlon is about improving a wide range of factors, bit by bit, over time.

He said the mistake most amateurs make is to focus on what he called “The big one”— the biggest challenge. In triathlons, that’s almost always the bike discipline, or the marathon. Amateurs tend to work hardest on those areas, believing that there is a lot to be gained from the two longest legs.

He told me that they’ll work and work on one area, and then lose all the time they’ve gained in those legs on other parts of the race.

As a pro, he told me the secret to his success was to focus on improving every single element of his race by a small amount every week. As well as the obvious key phases of the race, he also concentrates on small details:

  • the swim start, running into the sea and getting into a stroke fast
  • stripping his wetsuit off while running to the transition area
  • getting sun cream on quickly
  • leaving his bike shoes strapped to the pedals and doing them up while riding
  • changing his seat height for the final few miles to get his legs ready for the run
  • dismounting from the bike and racking it fast
  • putting his running shoes on while running
  • planning his fluid intake during the race.

These are just a few examples, but he told me that he seeks to improve the efficiency of each of those factors by several per cent every year. In real terms, he may make up only a few seconds on each, but when they’re all added together, he improves by minutes every single year.

How to blog like a pro triathlete

We bloggers love to focus on the big stuff—changing our themes, writing an epic series of posts, or perhaps creating a new ebook or course.

But actually, it’s all the little things that add up to improve our traffic, increase our conversion rate and really move our blogs forward over time. Lasting progress is achieved in many small ways:

  • revisiting old posts to add internal links and improve them
  • adding new follow-ups to keep our email lists engaged
  • testing placement of adverts or calls to action to improve response rates
  • taking the time to follow commenters back to their blogs
  • creating sneeze pages to help new readers find relevant stuff
  • adding links to relevant past posts when we write new ones.

None of these tasks are interesting, fun or sexy, but find me a successful blog and I’ll show you a blogger who does them. All the time.

Mike CJ is a full time blogger and writer who lives in the idyllic Canary Islands. He’s co author of Beyond Blogging and you can find out more about him at Mike’s Life.

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Comments

  1. Kate says:

    Yes, it’s the details that count. Done some sprint triathlons myself. For me to finish one of these, I must practice all three disciplines with regularity. I’m working through 31DBBB….baby step, baby steps. We’ll see how I look at the end of this race.
    Thanks for the tips!

  2. David says:

    So the whole point is to keep readers engaged and interact through comments and track backs to keep the website alive.

  3. This is so true. Concentrating on one aspect of anything massively whiles leaving the other aspects unattended too will definitely affect the over all performance of whatever that it is.

    However, a little bit of equally dispensed touches on all the aspects will fetch a significant increase. I am guilty of the former and will surely result to the latter…

  4. Gordie says:

    I think it’s good to continually making small improvements in all the little areas. However, some bloggers have the opposite problem and actually focus on always improving the small stuff and then don’t make time to develop a product to sell. Soon, they become discouraged and may even give up.

    I think it’s all about balance in the end between the small stuff and the long legs. Thanks, Mike.

  5. Ramona says:

    The Devil is in the details :D

    It’s true indeed, sometimes the smallest details count. Once you’re in the race, you need to know your areas of expertise and also what to improve. We’re millions in the blogosphere, the difference can be made even by small tweaks.

  6. I think that the details are important but you only start to look at them when you have a big readership. My readership has finally hit 25,000 and I’m thinking I bet take this a bit more seriously!…

    Great post…

    :]

  7. Ngozi Nwoke says:

    True! These little details make a lot of difference. I like #4 – “taking the time to follow commenters back to their blogs”
    It encourages the commenter and builds loyalty, especially if he is new to blogging.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow, I had no idea there were so many intricacies to the iron man. I guess I always figured it was just about sheer will, dedication, and practice.

    Thanks for putting together this analogy for us bloggers. It fits like a tee.

  9. Great advice, Mike CJ. Your focus on relationships really resonated with me. Your triathlete illustration about attending to the details was great.

    All the best,
    David

  10. Mike CJ says:

    @Steven – You’re right! And so is blogging…

    @David – Yes, but there’s so much more…..

    @Kate – I did the 31DBB early last year, and it really helped me to focus on the details

  11. Great reminders! Bloggers tend to fixate on things that really don’t matter instead of the basics that make all the difference. Kind of like a hostess who sets a big, beautiful table… then serves mac & cheese. From a box.

  12. Thanks for this. As a relatively new blogger, I was pretty much unaware of these details. Following bloggers back to their blogs – I feel like it would have taken me a while to figure that out myself :)

  13. I think it’s good to continually making small improvements in all the little areas. However, some bloggers have the opposite problem and actually focus on always improving the small stuff and then don’t make time to develop a product to sell. Soon, they become discouraged and may even give up.

    I think it’s all about balance in the end between the small stuff and the long legs. Thanks, Mike.

  14. El Edwards says:

    Great analogy Mike. What I found fascinating is the teeny tiny details your athletic friend focuses on. I didn’t know it was even possible to put your running shoes on when running! Logically you’d think it would make more sense to get them on first. Just shows how creative these pros can be to get where they are.

    Which led me to think this through a little more. The example you gave about unsexy but important things successful bloggers do is great. However, they include some fairly standard advice don’t they? Sure, I know the devil is in the doing (reading great advice is rubbish if we don’t do it isn’t it?!) but I can’t help but think that there may be some even more creative things that successful bloggers do that would be the blogging equivalent of doing up your running shoes whilst on the move.

    Thank Mike. You’ve got me thinking and even given me an idea for a blog post.

  15. Some nice tips also for advanced bloggers to keep their old post up to date..thanks

  16. Christophe says:

    I enjoyed a lot reading your post Mike but I am not sure if this applies to the vast majority of us, the amateurs.
    I ran my first IronMan last week-end and frankly I could not care less about all the details suggested by your pro triathlete friend, except the last one “planning his fluid intake during the race”, well it is not really a detail if you want to finish. These details are not important for amateurs who have already more than enough to deal with the “big ones”.
    I trust this is valid also for blogging, focus on quality and original content, target your audience, post regularly, syndicate your posts…these are some of the “big ones”.
    After that, it is another journey to get to the level of excellence you suggest both for bloggers and triathletes but it is always nice to hear how it can be done !

  17. Great tips. Especially revisiting old posts. So many of us bloggers are concentrating so much on what to write next, not realizing the importance of freshening up our old posts and old links!

  18. Angela says:

    excellent tips,your suggestion are always helpful,we all learned these good things because of you, you are great!