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Building Blogs is Like Building Muscles

“Building blogs is like building muscles—in order for them to grow you need to use them.”

I tweeted the above statement a few weeks back and it got so much traction I decided to create this video on the topic.

The idea for the video came out of the a Skype chat session I had with five readers who all worked through the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook together. Their feedback was that they felt like they’d all signed up to the gym together and had just had a month of intense training. In each case, their blogs had grown (both in terms of content and traffic), and they’d come to the realization that daily blogging exercise was what had led to the results.

Transcription of Building Blogs is like Building Muscles

Hi. It’s Darren from ProBlogger here. Today I want to talk about a principle of blogging that I think most people understand but many bloggers I come across don’t actually do anything with that knowledge. And that is this: a blog is like a muscle, it only grows when you use it.

Most of us understand that to have a successful blog you need to actually blog. You need to actually create content. You need to do the activities of a blogger in the same way that if I want to grow my biceps I need to actually pick up something heavy and I need to exercise those biceps. If I’m just passive with them they won’t grow at all.

So most of us understand that, but most of us also just let our blogs happen when we feel like blogging. Most bloggers I interact with? You ask them, you know, “what is your blog posting schedule like?” and they kind of look at you a little bit blankly. “Well it’s kind of like when I sit down at my computer and I think maybe I should come up with something to write about”. It’s very impulsive, and it’s not very strategic.

Now, using this exercise metaphor, I’m actually someone who doesn’t exercise very well on an impulsive basis. I actually need to be a little bit strategic about it.

The times in my life where I’ve been the most fit and most healthy are the times in my life where I’ve actually put a plan in place to become fit and healthy. They’re the times in my life where I’ve enrolled in a program of some type to exercise. They’re the times in my life where I’ve enrolled in a gym and talked to a fitness instructor and got them to devise me a plan of the type of exercises that I need to do. They’re the times in my life where I’ve talked to a dietician who’s helped to put together a plan of foods that I should be eating at certain times of the day. They’re the times where I’ve been intentional, and have actually done something and put something in place to help me to be fit and healthy are the times that I’ve actually been fit and healthy.

And the same is true with my blogs. I remember in the early days understanding this principle for the first time, and noticing that the more I posted, the more readers would come to my blog. The more I posted, the more people would leave comments on my blog. The more I would interact with my readers, the more they would interact with me. The more you use your blog, the more successful it becomes. And so when I began to notice this, I started to put some plans in place to help me to blog.

I remember the first time, about three months into my first blog, I developed an editorial calendar. I didn’t call it that at the time—I had no idea what an editorial calendar was—but I got a spreadsheet out, and I put down the different days of the week, and the different activities that I would do on my blog. At that point I was posting on a daily basis, but I began to think, “Well, on Mondays I could ask a question. On Tuesdays I could do a “how to” type post. On Wednesdays I could link to another blog and bounce off something that they’d written and link back to them.”

And so I began to think about different types of posts for different days of the week as a strategy to get my blogging regular, and to be a little bit more strategic about it in some ways. In many ways it was kind of like an exercise plan for your body, but it was an exercise plan for my blog.

Over the years I guess that editorial calendar has developed, and has changed at different times depending on the different stage that my blogs are at. There are other activities as well—it’s not just the content that you write that you need to be a bit strategic about. It can also be about promoting your blog. So you may add in to your schedule, “In Tuesdays, I will visit five other blogs in my niche and I will watch what they’re doing. I will email their authors. I might leave comments on their posts.” Those type of activities can be things that you can be a bit strategic about as well.

Another area that you can be strategic about is around building community on your blog. So you may say, “On Thursdays, I’m going to email three of my readers and just say ‘Hi, I appreciate you reading, is there anything I can do for you?’” You can interact with your readers in the comments of your blog—that type of activity can be scheduled in. You can be a bit strategic about it.

Similarly you could add in activities around doing search engine optimization if you want to grow your readers through Google, or you could schedule in things about monetization, you know—looking at how your ads are placed on your blog, and doing some optimization of that on a regular basis as well.

None of these things just happen any more than muscles growing without exercising them, so be a little bit strategic about it. Now you may have the incentive and the initiative to be able to do that for yourself, or you may need to do one of two other things.

You might get a program like ProBlogger’s 31 Days To Build a Better Blog or ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging. The reason I actually created those ebooks was to get people doing daily activities that would get them in the rhythm of blogging. So you may choose to use a program like that, or you may devise your own, or use someone else’s.

And the other thing I’d say is: don’t do it alone. One of the things I know about health and my body and being fit as a person, is that I’m much more likely to exercise if I’m somehow doing it with another person. Whether that be a fitness instructor, or whether that be a friend who I go for a run with, or a friend who I might play a game of tennis with. When we are social in what we do with our bodies, for many of us it’s easier, and the same I think is true with blogging.

When you join with someone else to work through a program like 31 Days To Build A Better Blog, or some sort of other program that you devise to take your blog to the next level, you’re more likely to actually put that into practice. There’s that sense of accountability. It’s a little bit more fun, and you can help each other and resource each other through that as well. So I’d encourage you to think about not only being strategic about your blogging and putting a plan in place for it, but to also think about how you can do that with someone else. How you can build some accountability and cooperation with another blogger to build your blog.

So I guess I’d encourage you with that advice again: a blog is like a muscle. You need to use it to grow it. And for most of us, that means actually being a little bit strategic and putting some sort of a system or a rhythm or a routine in place to help us to go to the next level. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it to chance. If you want your blog to be successful, if you want it to achieve certain goals, you need to put some systems and rhythms in place to take you to those places.

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. Interesting article…

    I suppose a well thought out blog strategy is no different to an SEO campaign. The ability to understand what your customers need to see and focusing on your end goals. Like an SEO campaign its painfully slow to start with, but as search engines see your content then life becomes easier.

  2. Archan Mehta says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for your contribution here. Your points are well-taken: I appreciate your ideas about blogging.

    However, please bear in mind that one size does not fit all. Some bloggers do just fine even without a strategy in place. There is also something to be said about inspiration and spur of the moment blogging.

    You can’t reduce work to an editorial calendar, not always. Some of the brightest ideas can come to a person when he or she is not at the computer and not sitting on a chair located near a desk.

    Especially for writers, the subconscious mind plays a huge role in coming up with different ideas. And you can come up with brilliant ideas while singing in the shower or enjoying an ice-cream cone or riding on a horse or playing with children. The muse does not stick to any schedule; she prefers to play.

    Discipline works for a lot of people, but there is something to be said for the “divine madness” of creative types. Otherwise, we would never have eureka moments or a-ha experiences and the world would be a truly boring place. Divine inspiration can strike even when you are not working and are on a vacation.

    Cheers.