This guest post is by Kraig Stewardson of IT Manager HQ.
My blog was failing.
My subscribers were nonexistent.
My posts were disjointed.
My writing was awful.
My confidence was shot.
Honestly, I felt like giving up. I knew that I needed to make a change. I knew that I couldn’t continue this way.
Sound familiar? That was me a little over month ago, before I took some drastic steps to turn things around.
How bad was it?
They say that most blogs are never even read, and mine fell into that category. I still remember the day when I got my first spam comment. I was elated. A bot found my blog—no one else did—but hey, a spam bot did! Then as the months went on, even the spammers lost interest.
I noticed that no one, not even my family, read my blog. But I still wrote. When life got busy, I didn’t post as regularly as I knew I needed to. Inspiration to keep going that used come from all sorts of places faded. The “this band is a 20-year overnight success” or “blogger writes for two years straight then finds an audience” stories that can only take you so far. I knew a change need to happen, so it was time to take a class and get schooled on what I should be doing.
Starting to turn it around
So I look at my blog, and how bad it looked. I read my blog—every cringe-worthy post. Great, now even I couldn’t stand reading my own blog. This was going to be a challenge, that was for sure.
I started with a few questions:
- Why did I create the blog in the first place? This blog is all of the things I wish I knew right before and within the first year of being an IT Manager. When I became an IT Manager, it was based on my abilities as an IT professional. No one taught me there is an art to managing highly skilled people.
- What makes my blog different, and why should anyone read it? In the IT Management space, there is very little information about how to lead and manage people. My competition with other IT Management blogs is mostly about new technologies and security threats.
- How am I going to market my blog? I struggled with this question. To gain an audience in a competitive field requires a plan. My plan is to write great content and to guest post where I can.
- After doing this for a little while, do I still want to? Yes. I have found there is something cathartic about writing to help people.
- Am I secretly afraid to succeed? Also, the answer here is yes. Even though I am very proud of this blog I have, I haven’t told absolutely everyone, yet. If I am not telling the people who know me, how can I tell the people who don’t?
For some reason, every few months, about ten courses open up to help you fix various aspects of your website. Courses on AdSense websites, affiliate marketing, gaining traffic, YouTube videos, writing posts, finding a better job—you name it, there is a course for it.
There are so many to choose from, and so many of them seem worthwhile. I am a practical person, so I wanted one that would help me in an aspect of my life that goes beyond websites.
As for the question, “Should I pay for a class or find a free class?”, I chose to take a paid class. There is a built-in accountability for having plunked down your hard earned money, and that doesn’t exist if the product is free. I knew in needing to grow in areas that I am not always comfortable with, I’d need that accountability.
The class I chose, was a shot in the arm to continue my blog. It came in the form of a new class, a writing course from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. It was time to confront my arch nemesis from high school: writing. This ended up being a great choice, since effective writing can be used beyond a blog post, in all aspects of your blogging, and your life.
What did I learn?
While things are still a struggle, they are much better. I am more efficient and effective in my writing. With a full-time job, a growing blog, and a one-month old baby at home, any area where I can be even slightly more efficient is very valuable.
Structuring a blog post for me used to be a four- to five-day event, which would take about an hour a day, and even so I struggled to eke out 500 words.
Before taking the class, my approach to posting looked like this:
- Day 1: Type blindly for ten to 15 minutes, not caring about spelling, grammar, or even if I wrote actual words.
- Day 2, 3, 4: Edit and try to turn my random key strokes into something that didn’t sound like I was drunk when I wrote it.
- Day 5: Re-read and publish post.
One of the greatest things Danny helped me realize is that I needed to outline my posts before I wrote them. Write it down; don’t dream it up on the commute to work, then try to remember it when you get home and can start typing. Think of the key points you want to make, organize them, and then fill in the blanks. This was a classic forehead-smacking moment for me.
After taking the class, my writing approach looks like this:
- Step 1: Come up with a title and theme for the post. A great title is the difference between thousands of readers to an article and only a handful. Here are two headlines for basically the same article “How companies learn your secrets” and “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father”. Which would you rather read?
- Step 2: Create outline (ten minutes, tops). The outline is the key to the whole post. What issue are you trying to solve, or what are you trying to get the reader to do? Create an abbreviated version of the outline:
- Set the scene and get their attention
- Detail the problem
- What is your solution?
- How do you implement it?
- Step 3: Fill in blanks in the outline by writing the article. Since you have an outline, and you had to think about what you wanted to say, this part is as simple as write what comes naturally to you.
- Step 4: Wait at least a half-day, then re-read, fix grammar, and publish. When you come back and re-read the stuff you wrote previously, you’ll likely realize that what you wrote doesn’t make as much sense as you initially thought. As a side benefit, you will catch grammar issues and typos.
The training program expanded on this and went into great detail as to how and why this is incredibly effective.
How much time did I spend on my first post using the new way? About 45 minutes total. Oh, and it was 1100 words long.
As the old cliché goes, nothing breeds success like success. As I see my posts getting better, the writing coming more easily, and my traffic increasing, my desire to post more has also returned with a vengeance. In the first week following the course, my list of post ideas has tripled and I now look forward to writing posts on my own blog.
- My writing has improved.
- My traffic has increased dramatically.
- I am starting to get some key guest posting opportunities.
- Most importantly, I feel energized to post more.
What areas of blogging have you been lacking in where some accountability and maybe a class will give you the extra boost to succeed? Share them with us in the comments.