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Behind the Scenes – My Low Tech Editorial Schedule

How do you organise and plan your posts? Do you have an editorial calendar?

I like to keep things fairly informal but do use a spreadsheet to help me keep more organised than I used to. Here’s how it looks for dPS:

Editorial calendar

The left two columns are my blog posts. I publish two posts per day – one scheduled for the US audience in the morning and one for the afternoon. I’m usually scheduling these 2-3 days in advance (but up to a week or two in advance if I’m taking a trip).

The 5 columns on the right are my Facebook posts on the dPS Facebook Page which I plug in a day or two in advance also. The times at the top are Aussie time zone times but they tend to go up more during the US morning through to evening – every 4-5 hours.

The Facebook updates are a combination of:

  • New posts on the blog (2 per day)
  • Highlighting old posts in the archives (1-2 per day)
  • Discussion Questions (1 every day or two)
  • Links to hot threads in our forum area (1 per day)

Note: Much of what I do I posted about last week in my post on increasing Facebook Engagement by 200-300%.

I do move them around a bit depending upon what is happening on the blog on any given day. If something hot is happening on a post or forum I’ll push that into the schedule faster for example.

The green colour signifies that the posts are scheduled. If they are white they are just penciled in but not set to go live yet.

That’s how I roll – what about you? Do you schedule posts far in advance? Do you use a system or tool to help you do it?

When Not Completing Things Might Be Good For Your Blog

I’ve had a big mind-shift in my blogging, since I started 10 years ago… and I barely noticed that it happened.

I’ve gone from being someone who completed things to becoming someone who never quite completes things…. but in a good way.

incomplete
Let me explain.

When I first started blogging I set myself very specific, actionable tasks. Things like:

  • Each day I would try to complete a blog post.
  • When I did a redesign of my blog, I would set the goal to complete that redesign.
  • When I was asked to speak at an event, I would have the goal to complete the presentation.

I would complete the task I set myself… then move on to the next task.

It was very neat and I was able to measure my success on any given day by how many things I’d checked off my to-do list.

The problem was that I never really learned anything from what I did. I was always starting tasks from scratch rather than building upon what I’d already built.

Gradually – and it has taken 10 years – I’ve found myself seeing almost everything I do as part of a larger process of       discovery, and refinement.

While I still set myself deadlines to implement things, each time I ‘complete’ a task and set it live I’ve started to ask myself a series of questions that include:

  • What did I learn while doing it?
  • What impact did it have? How did others react to it?
  • What could I do differently next time?
  • What sparks of opportunity came out of that activity that I could extend upon?
  • What is the next step?

So now when I complete a blog post:

  • I’m asking myself whether the topic could be explored further
  • I’m watching to see whether someone asks a question that could provide a new adjoining topic to explore
  • I’m watching to see what traffic levels, comments, sharing on social media is like to learn whether that style of post could work again

When we set the new design of Digital Photography School live:

  • We immediately started watching how readers used different new features to see if they had traction
  • We monitored stats to see what impact the design had on things like page views, comments, sharing
  • We monitored feedback to see what impact it had upon readers usability but also how they ‘felt’ about the site
  • We immediately began to evolve the design based upon what we saw

Now when I give a presentation:

  • I actively seek feedback from organisers and audience members to learn how I could improve it next time
  • I always go back through the tweet stream to see what things were quoted most (it’s always something I didn’t plan to say) to see what resonated and to watch where people reacted against what I said
  • I always review a presentation to look for ways I could extend and refine it for future talks

Today, I still aim to complete things but on completion I find myself also looking at what I’ve done as the first step or a new beginning to build upon.

7 Ways to Stay Inspired and Avoid Bloggers Burn Out

burn outWhat do you do to avoid blogger burnout? How do you stay inspired?

Monique Frausto asked the above question on Twitter late last week and because it was a bit too big of a topic to tackle in 140 characters, I thought I’d jot a few random thoughts down here.

1. Know Your Limits and Set Realistic Goals

We all have a limited amount of time and energy to put into blogging regardless – whether we’re blogging while juggling full time work or our blog is our full time work.

The reality is we always want to do than we can fit into the time we have. So I think it is important to be realistic and know how much time we can actually put into blogging and adjust our goals and expectations accordingly.

For example, my wife – V – recently started blogging (please be gentle – she’s in her first month). While she’d love to dedicate more time to it one day, right now she’s juggling work, kids and a crazy blogger husband (and a lot more) and the time she has available to blog is limited.

As a result she’s starting out with a 3 post per week goal. I know she has ideas to generate 1-2 posts a day – I think starting out slower is going to help her to sustain it longer over the long haul and will hopefully keep blogger burn out at bay.

Keep in mind: while some argue that posting every single day is the only way to go – there are no rules. There are pros and cons of higher frequencies of posting. You’ve got to choose a frequency you can sustain.

2. Find your Groove with a Routine that Works for You

I find that blogging is more effortless (it is never completely effortless) when I am in a ‘groove’ and have a bit of a rhythm in place. It helps me know what to do, when.

I set aside different times of the day for different activities. For example – for me mornings is for writing, afternoons is for editing and scheduling posts and evenings is for admin and social media.

In the early days, I would do the same but not on a daily basis because I was working part time jobs and studying. I would set aside days for different activities instead. Monday mornings would be writing time and I’d try to write a few posts to use during the week, most nights I would moderate comments and read other blogs.

3. Identify the Sticking Points

Usually, when you get ‘stuck’ and burn out it centres around a specific issue. It might be a lack of ideas, inability to get into the writing groove, lack of inspiration to interact with other bloggers… (the list can go on).

When you’re stuck, try to narrow down on the area that’s holding you back. I wrote about this recently in a post about the bloggers block I’ve had over the years. In each case the issue was different and by identifying the exact problem I was able to dedicate time to fixing it.

4. Taking Breaks

When it comes out to burning out I think the key is to not only work out how you’ll blog, developing rhythms and systems to help you do that, it is also important to work out how you’ll ‘rest’ and have a break from blogging.

In my early years I became quite obsessed with blogging – to the point where I was always thinking about it or doing it. Even when I was doing other activities I was still thinking about posts, how to grow traffic and how to monetize.

Build time off into your daily and weekly rhythms. Time off to have a normal life. This sounds like a no brainer but it really is so important.

For me – I don’t blog on the weekends until Sunday night. I also set aside regular times for vacations with the family during which I try not to blog. These offline and times of rest keep me going.

5. Socialize

One of the challenges many bloggers face is that we easily get distracted by social media. You get onto Twitter to share a post and connect with your readers and you see an interesting link… and then you see another… and then someone starts a funny hashtag… and before you know it you’ve spent 4 hours Tweeting funny things on the #ThingsIdSayToBillClinton.

Social media is full of distractions but it can be used for good to help you get inspired…. if you use it the right way.

I semi-regularly participate in hashtag chats that relate to my niches and almost always get ideas to write about from them.

For example, #BlogChat chat happens once a week and I often come away with a golden nugget of an idea that I go away and write about.

Similarly, I love webinars (both running them and participating in other people’s) because I often get a moment of clarity or inspiration that sparks a whole new direction for my blogs.

I also participate in a couple of good Facebook groups that are for bloggers in my niches and find that they often give me great ideas.

The other place I go for socialisation is conferences and meetups. It isn’t a super regular thing for me but definitely good to punctuate the year with some real life interactions with people who get you as a blogger.

The key is to find social interactions that are actually focused enough to add value to what you do – rather than distract you!

6. Charge Your Day with Inspirational Moments

Most days I like to pepper my day with inspiration bombs. Usually for me this takes the form of listening to a TED talk or reading one of my favourite blogs.

It doesn’t even matter if the topic of the inspiration has nothing at all to do with my blogs. I find that just putting myself in a place to be inspired or to see something that evokes some kind of emotional reaction is often enough to fire me up enough to go and do something worthwhile on my own blogs.

7. Do Something that Matters

Probably the number one thing I’ve found that keeps me fresh and inspired with my blogging is to blog about things that matter – to me and to others.

When you’re doing something that you have a genuine interest in and passion for, you’ll find that 99% of the time you can keep momentum going. I’ve had 30 or so blogs over the years and the two that I run today are on topics that I just really like and gain a lot of personal satisfaction from.

The other part of this point is to create something that matters to others. When you’re making other people’s lives better you’ll find that you get a lot of energy and inspiration. I know that while there have been tough times in building up ProBlogger over the last 9 years, the comments or emails from readers letting me know that something I’ve done has had a tangible impact upon them have helped me through those tough times.

So put your time into creating something real, something that makes your life and others lives better, and you’ll find that feeds you constant energy to help you through the tough times.

DISCUSS: What Was Your Most Popular Post in the Last Month and Why Did It Succeed?

At our ProBlogger Training Event last Friday I had a great conversation with 3 attendees during a lunch break where we each shared a post on our blogs over the last month that gained more visitors and/or comments than normal.

We had to say what the post was about and why we think it ‘worked’.

The exercise was fascinating and revealed a few similarities between the posts. I enjoyed doing it so much that I thought it might make an interesting group discussion here on ProBlogger.

In comments below – please share a link to a post in the last month on your blog that got more visitors and/or comments than normal and tell us why you think it worked with your readership.

Once you’ve shared – have a look at the links others share and the comments that they leave. I suspect that by doing so we’ll all probably learn a thing or two about creating successful blog posts.

PS: Here’s my answer. The most popular post on ProBlogger over the last month was ‘Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog‘.

I think it worked partly because the title makes you want to know what the trap is… but also partly because the post is based upon a story and is on a topic that most bloggers can relate to.

Over to you!

3 Varieties of Bloggers Block I’ve Suffered From [And What I Did About Them]

Where do you get ‘stuck’ in your blog writing?

Today – in preparation for my opening keynote for next weeks ProBlogger Training Event – I was reflecting upon some of the obstacles I’ve faced in my blogging over the years.

One of the recurring obstacles that I’ve tackled at different times has been ‘bloggers block’.

Most bloggers face it – the inability to write!

As I pondered the different bouts of bloggers block that I’ve faced I realised that there are actually a number of different types of bloggers block – or rather there are different stages of the blog writing process that I’ve had periods of getting ‘stuck’.

3 Varieties of Bloggers Block I’ve Suffered From [And What I Did About Them]

Here’s 3 types of bloggers block that I’ve suffered (please add yours to the list in comments below):

1. An Ideas Impediment

Two years ago I hit a patch where I found blogging really tough because I kept getting stuck on coming up with ideas of what to write about.

Post topic ideas eluded me at every turn!

I guess I had gotten to a point in the life of my blogs where I’d covered hundreds… no thousands… of topics and was looking for something completely fresh and new to share.

Solution: what ended up snapping me out of this bout of bloggers block was sitting down with a friend to brainstorm together some topics to blog about.

I found that with his encouragement that we quickly came up with a heap of topics/titles for blog posts. Once I got those ideas they just kept on coming!

2. Hitting the Writing Wall

Earlier this year I had a patch where I had plenty of ideas for blogging but found it difficult to get into a regular rhythm of actually writing.

Looking back I think it was partly because I was so busy that I’d gotten out of the practice of writing and had fallen for the trap of doing my writing at the end of the day when I was tired rather than in my golden hours (for me I am at my creative best between 9-11am).

Solution: the solution this bout of bloggers block was again pretty simple. I changed the structure of my week around a little to make more time for blogging and put aside two blog post creation times in my week (Monday and Wednesday mornings) where I switched off Skype, Twitter, Email and my phone and just wrote!

I also decided to mix up some of the places that I blogged to give me a little fresh motivation. It took a few weeks to get back into the groove but the more I did it the better things got!

3. Completion Constipation

A a number of years back I had a serious problem of starting but not completing blog posts. I had a serious backlog of unfinished posts… but I couldn’t get them out!

I’m embarrassed to admit it but at its worst I had 93 half written posts uploaded as drafts here on ProBlogger.

Add to that were the notebooks full of blog post ideas and half written posts in text documents on my computers desktop and you can see I had a problem.

I would get so excited with my new ideas that I’d start writing but halfway through a post I’d either get distracted by another idea or lose interest in what I was writing!

Solution: the solution to this one was pretty logical. I decided to put aside time each week to work on posts that I’d not completed.

At the time I decided to dedicate evenings to this task as in most cases most of the creative work had already been done in the posts and it was just a matter of finishing things off, proof reading and polishing the posts up before scheduling them.

Have You Suffered from Bloggers Block?

Have you suffered from a bout of bloggers block? What variety was it? What did you do about it?

Building a Blog Brand, Posting Frequency and Choosing a Niche [Speed Q&A]

In our most recent webinar we had 700 questions submitted by attendees – many of which we simply didn’t have time to cover.

Here are 3 of those questions and some quick answers.

How to Build a Brand for Your Blog

“What is the most important rule of thumb for building a brand?” – David

I think the most critical thing you can do in building a brand around your blog is to give some time to considering what kind of brand you want to build.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos is famously quoted as saying that “a brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – the question I think we all should ask is:

What do we want people to say about our blog when we’re not in the room?

Identify what you want to be known for and you’ll be in a much better position to BE that – which is key to building your brand.

This clarity will inform the way that you write, the topics you cover, the social media personas you build etc – all of which contribute to your brand.

Some further reading on Branding Blogs:

Choosing a Niche: Profitability vs Personal Interest

“What is more important, finding a profitable niche or finding something you love writing about?” – Carley

Great question and one that I’m sure there are going to be many perspectives on!

I guess it really comes down to your goals as a blogger as to how you answer that question.

At one end of the spectrum – if you have no intention of making money blogging then obviously profitability of the niche does not come into it.

At the other end of the spectrum – if you are blogging with the sole intent of making money then you’ll want to give the profitability of the niche at least some consideration.

Most ProBlogger readers however start out with mixed emotions and so the answer is somewhere between the two.

I personally have had 30 blogs over the years – the two that have had most success and profit have been the two blogs that I started because I really wanted to talk about the topics (blogging and photography).

My genuine interest in the topic sustained me through the tough times and I like to think that my passion for the topics showed through in the way that I blogged – which I think is an attractive quality when you’re looking for new readers.

Interestingly – the blogs that I started purely because I thought they might be profitable didn’t last long. I couldn’t sustain writing about them every day and I think those who did find the blogs were probably bored by what I wrote.

So if I had to choose between ‘interest in the niche’ and ‘profitable niche’ – I’d probably choose ‘interest in the niche’ (having said that – you don’t have to choose between the two – you can aim somewhere in between).

Ideal Posting Frequency

What is an ideal number of post per week? – Marsha

This is another question that there are many perspectives on and you’ll need to weigh up a number of factors including how much time you have, what type and length of posts you’ll be publishing, your goals for blogging etc

It also comes down a little to experimenting to see what level of posting goes down well with your readers and how much you can sustain because posting frequency can have an impact upon both you and your readers in positive and negative ways.

Let me expand on that a little:

Impact Upon Your Readers:

  • too much posting can burn your readers out and leave your readers feeling overwhelmed.
  • too little posting can make it difficult to build momentum on your blog and won’t enable your readers to feel connected and engaged

Impact Upon You

  • too much posting can burn you out and have a detrimental impact upon the quality of your writing
  • too little posting can leave you feeling disengaged from your blog and readers – while regular posting can help you to build momentum

It’s a juggling act and you won’t really know what is right for you until you start.

As a guide – I generally recommend if you’re starting out with blogging that you start with 3-4 posts per week if you can sustain that. You can then adjust your strategy from there as you get into the swing of blogging.

Read more on posting frequency in this longer previous post on the topic.

What Fears Have You Overcome as a Blogger?

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Many times when I speak to new bloggers (or Pre-Bloggers) and ask them what might be holding them back from taking their blogs to the next level (or holding them back from starting blogging) the response I get is around ‘fear’.

  • What if nobody reads?
  • What if I can’t write well?
  • What if people laugh… or worse… what if they attack me?
  • What if I say something stupid that might come back to bite me later?

The last goes on and on.

When I started blogging my own fears resembled those that I listed above pretty closely and over the decade of blogging since I’ve added quite a few more to the list at different points as I faced new challenges and obstacles.

One of the sessions I’m planning for this years ProBlogger Event is going to be on smashing through your fears as a blogger and in preparing for it I asked last week for my followers on Twitter to share some of the fears that they’d had that they’ve had to overcome.

The response was pretty amazing so I thought it might be a good discussion to have here on ProBlogger.

What fears have you overcome as a blogger?

Or – if you still have them – what fears are you currently facing as a blogger.

I’d love to hear not only the fears you’ve faced in your blogging – but also if you have a moment I’d love to hear your story of how you’ve overcome them (or attempted to).

How To Stop Your WordPress Blog Getting Penalized For Duplicate Content

This is a guest contribution by Felipe Kurpiel, an internet marketer

I came across this topic by accident. One day I was monitoring my analytics data I noticed a big drop on my traffic stats and I didn’t understand why.

Actually, I had a hint because I was starting to interlink my posts. That gave me a clue that the problem was internal which I thought was a good thing. But that is not enough because then I had to analyze what Google is focusing on now.

If you have been involved with SEO at all you know that duplicate content is a bad thing. But how can you identify the duplicate content on your site?

Ok, let’s get started with that.

Identifying Internal Duplicate Content!

That is a little advanced because we are about the crawl our website the way Google does. That is the best way to analyze the source of any problems.

To do that I like to use a Free Tool called Screaming Frog SEO Spider. If you never used this tool it can be a little complicated but don’t let that scares you.

You just have to follow some steps. Actually you can analyze a lot of factors using this tool but for our example, we are just considering duplicate content.

First Step: Add your URL website into the software and let it run.

It can take a while depending on how big your website is, but after that we are ready to filter what we are looking for.

Screaming Frog tabs

Second: Go to the Page Titles tab and then filter by Duplicate

If you are lucky you will not have any result showing when you choose this filter. But unfortunately that was not my case and I saw dozens of results which were the proof that my website had internal duplicate content.

Third Step: It’s time to analyze what is generating the problem

You can do this on Screaming Frog or you can export the file to Microsoft Excel (or similar) in order to deeply analyze what you have to do to solve the issue.

In my case, the duplicate content was being generated by comments. Weird, isn’t?

That is what I thought and I also noticed that the pages with comments were being flagged by Google because they disappeared from search results.

When that happens, you have no turning back but fix the source of the problem.

Understanding Comments

Every comment on my website was generating a variable named “?replytocom”.

You don’t need to understand exactly what this variable does but put it simple; it is like each comment you have on your posts has the ability to create a copy of this particular post in your site. It can be considered as a pagination problem. And that is terrible because when Google crawl your website it can see that your site has the same content being repeated over and over again.

Do you think you are going to rank with that blog post? Not a change!

How to solve this problem

More important than to identify this issue is to create a clear solution to get rid of this pagination issue.

In order to deal with this variable there are two solutions. The first is really simple but not so effective and the second can be seen as complicated but it’s really the ultimate solution.

But let’s cover the easy solution first.

I run my blog on WordPress and one of the few essential plugins I use for SEO is WP SEO by Yoast. If you are using this plugin you just have to go to the plugin dashboard and then click on Permalinks. Once you do that just check the box to “Remove ?replytocom variables”.

Permalink Settings

This is really simple but sometimes you won’t get the results you are expecting, however, if you are having this kind of problem with comments you MUST check this option.

Second Option

After that you can run your website URL using Screaming Frog to see if the problem was solved. Unfortunately this can take a while but if after one day or two you are still noticing problems for duplicated content you have to try the second option.

Now we just have to access Google Webmaster Tools and select our website.

Then under Configuration we must go to URL Parameters.

We will see a list of parameters being crawled by Google in addition, here we have the chance to tell Google what to do when a parameter in particular is affecting our website. That is really cool.

For this replytocom problem I just have to click Edit and use the following settings.

Parameter replytocom

Click Save and you solved the problem!

Now if you tried the first option using the plugin, then you used Webmaster Tools to tell Google what to do with this parameter and after a few days you still see duplicate content, there is one more thing you can try!

Now I am talking about Robots.txt!

Don’t worry if you don’t have this file on your website, because you just have to create a txt file and upload it on the root of your domain. Nothing that complicated!

Once you have created this file you just have to add a command line in the file.

If your Robots.txt is blank, just add these commands there:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /wp-admin/

Disallow: /wp-includes/

Disallow: *?replytocom

If you already had this file, just add the final line: “Disallow: *?replytocom”

It will for sure take care of everything!

Final Thoughts and Monitoring

The best way to avoid this or similar problems is monitoring your data. So here are my three tips to keep your website Google friendly.

  • When working On-Page be careful with the settings you are using on Yoast WordPress SEO plugin. Don’t forget to review Titles & Metas tab and check the “no index, follow” option for every little thing that can be considered as duplicate content.

An example is the “Other” tab where you MUST check this “no index” option so your Author Archives will not be seen as duplicate content when Google crawls your site. Remember, you have to make your website good for users and for search engines.

  • At least twice a week, analyze your traffic on Google Analytics. Go to Traffic Sources tab then Search Engine Optimization and keep an eye on Impressions.

You should also use an additional tool to track your keywords rankings so you can see if your search engine positions remain intact or if some of them are facing some drops. When that happens you will know it’s time to take some action.

  • Every two weeks, use Screaming Frog to crawl your website. This can be really important to check if the changes you made on-site already had the impact you were expecting.

When it comes to duplicate content the most important tabs to monitor on Screaming Frog are Page Title and Meta Description. However, in order to have a website that can be considered Google friendly it’s vital to analyze the Response Codes as well and eliminate every Client Error (4xx) and Server Error (5xx) you identify when crawling it.

Felipe Kurpiel is an internet marketer passionate about SEO and affiliate marketing. On his blog there are great insights about how to rank your website, link building strategies and YouTube marketing. 

Optin Skin Plugin Review

In June, Darren shared 3 Ways to Get More Subscribers for Your Blog. In that post, he identified the area under the blog post as being one of the ‘hot zones’ for calls to subscribe.

This area is a solid location to place a call to action, but it can require some effort to style a subscribe form that fits with your theme. In this post, I will be reviewing a plugin that helps you easily create appealing opt-in forms and social share boxes to your blog.

It’s called Optin Skin (aff) and it’s pretty swanky.

I bought this product in 2011 and definitely believe that it’s worth the money. It was really easy to figure out and use. I have no statistics about whether or not it increased the size of my list as I stopped blogging shortly after I installed it. This review is primarily based on ease of use.

The features

Skin Design:

Creating a skin is simple. You simply click ‘Add New’ after hovering over the text for Optin Skin in the sidebar. This will take you to a page where you get to customize the design and skin placement.

You have the choice of about 18 skins, which may be limiting if you don’t like any of the existing options. Customizing the design elements – font, text, size – are easy. You may need to consult design palettes to find colours that complement your theme. The designs are split between being perfect for the sidebar and perfect for below a post.

There are four options for skin placement:

  • Below a post
  • Below the first paragraph
  • At the top of posts
  • Floated right of second paragraph

Once the skin is created, a widget with the skin will be available for sidebar use. You will also receive a shortcode to insert the skin. This makes it so easy for you to put the form (or forms) wherever you like.

You also have the option to redirect people to another page after they sign up, which is perfect for a thank you page.

Split Testing

Split testing is one of the features that really excited me. I’m not technical at all, so will often resort to the default opt in form. I don’t have the resources to get two forms designed to do testing and am not comfortable with the HTML.

This plugin makes split testing easy but you are limited to testing designs rather then locations. You have the options to split test a plugin in the sidebar, or within content, but the optin form has to be in the same area.

I recommend that you test this out. It is so much easier then other form of split testing and can give you lots of useful information.

Statistics

The interface allows you to easily visualize data about sign up, impressions and conversion rates. This is a really nice touch as it gives you more data points to base decisions on and means you don’t have to leave your blog.

Usability

It was pretty easy to figure out what to do – it was really user friendly. I’ve purchased a lot of products that are promoted as being easy to customize, but require a lot of HTML knowledge. The only HTML knowledge you really need is knowing where to put the shortcode if you choose custom positioning.

I really appreciated how easy it was to set up.

My recommendation:

I believe Optin Skin is great value for money. It has given me the incentive to actually test things with my mailing list rather then relying on “hope marketing”.

It removes a lot of the scary-factor that prevents people, like me, getting off their butt to implement new designs and split testing. I just don’t have the time or mental energy to add something else to my to-do list. This takes about half an hour to set up and then you can tweak as required based on the data.

Editorial Note: ProBlogger is an affiliate for this product but this review is a genuine recommendation by someone who uses the product.