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How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Outtake - Nooo! [Overwhelmed]
This post is from ProBlogger Managing Editor Stacey Roberts.

Blogging is a voracious beast, and there is literally always something you could be doing to improve your traffic, find new readers, interact with other bloggers, and make some cash. The more you put in, the more you get out – but how do you cut through the (almost) infinite internet and create a manageable blog environment? Well, like anything, it takes trial and error. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is alive and well, but soon we all get to a point where it can all get too much to keep up with, and something’s gotta give.

These tips could work with anything that you find overwhelming, not just blogging. Just started a new job? Want to start your own business? Want to write the Great American Novel? Well, don’t panic – let’s get some perspective.

Break it down

Once you realise the magnitude of what you’re about to do, hyperventilation is only a moment away. Get back on top by sitting down for a minute and taking the task apart. Once you see it in sequence, it can be much easier to achieve. Yes you might need to blog, then tweet, then share on Facebook, then read six articles on blogging, then respond to comments, then find something to write for the next day, but it doesn’t all need to be done at once. Break it down and spread it out.

Don’t let your head run away with you

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Our brains conjure up worst-case scenarios, which in turn scares us and makes us think it’s not possible to succeed. Recognise when you’re about to board the Paranoia Train, and get some facts straight. You can survive (and thrive!) with just doing a little every day. Don’t just assume it’s too much and you won’t ever make it so you shouldn’t even try. Get out there and do what you can, for something is always better than nothing. Even one tweet can be useful.

Get some perspective

Often when you write down your tasks and responsibilities, you can see that they’re not so overwhelming. A list of things you need to do is a tangible thing to help you get your head around the job at hand. It’s common to then realise it’s not as crazy as you thought, and in fact is actually quite do-able. Identify the parts that aren’t important, or not viable at this time, and focus on the things you can actually do. An overview is incredibly useful when you’re liable to get carried away.

Find five things you can do right now

This helps make everything seem even more manageable, and gives you that perspective you need. Once you’ve got five easy things done, you feel much more productive, which inspires and motivates you to do more. Maybe it’s just one extra tweet, editing some photos, or even writing a couple of post intros. Each journey begins with a single step, as they say, and you’ve just taken five.

Set mini deadlines

Want to write brilliant posts, but don’t know where to start? Time is of the essence, and you’ve got none? Set yourself a deadline and get stuck in. It might be a post a day, it might be two posts in the next hour, but give yourself a time to have achieved at least one thing on your list. If there’s an even bigger deadline (guests post submission cut-off date or something), then set mini deadlines before then so you’re not frantically scribbling something at the last minute. Have your post ideas sorted by Monday, a rough draft by Wednesday, and a well-thought-out, well-written post and image by Friday. It might only take five minutes a day, and that’s infinitely more do-able.

Ask for help

You might need someone to watch the kids while you write. You might need someone to show you how to create good video content. You might even need to ask a blogging veteran to share a tip or two – don’t be afraid and think that your questions are silly, or that you should know this stuff by now. Or that blogging isn’t important. If you need help, reach out – you might even make a new friend in the process.

Spend some time getting acquainted

The first thing I do when asked to write for a publication is spend some time hanging out in the archives to see what’s been covered, where’s a knowledge gap I can plug, and what the vibe is. That can work for anything – if you’ve been asked to guest post, or if you want to see what is the trend in your blogging niche. What are people looking for? What can you provide that’s missing at the moment? What are other people Tweeting? What’s getting engagement on Facebook? Getting a feel for what you will be doing is essential for toning down panic and turning up productivity.

Just do it

Stop talking yourself out of it. Stop reading this! Go and kick some blogging goals.

But come back to ProBlogger when your’e done! What’s one thing you can do today to cross off your overwhelming to-do list?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

Today I want to suggest an exercise that has the potential to improve your blogging profoundly if you build it into your daily routine.

Look at another blog

Image by zev

Image by zev

OK – this may not sound that profound – most of us read other blogs every day but it doesn’t revolutionise what we do – but stick with me for a second while I explain HOW to do it in a way that could have a big impact.

Here’s what I do every day

I choose a blog and then spend 5-10 minutes reviewing it. My aim is not to ‘consume’ it as a reader…. but rather to review it with the view of learning about blogging.

What I’ve found is that my spending 5-10 minutes every day looking at another blog in this way that I learn so much! In fact I’ve learned so much over the last few months that last week in my team meetings I’ve introduced the idea of us doing this as a group – each week we’ll review a blog to see what we can learn.

The objective is not to do these reviews to copy what others are doing – but rather I find in looking at other blogs I often find inspiration and insight for my own blogs. The learnings cover a wide range of areas – from design, to product ideas, to content, to increasing engagement, to use of social media, to marketing etc.

Let me dive a little deeper into how I do it:

Choosing a Blog to Review

I review a blog every week day so over a year I’m potentially reviewing 260 blogs so I don’t have a single criteria for choosing which blog I’ll review.

When I started doing this a few months ago I started doing it mainly with photography blogs (those in my own niche) but I’ve since moved outside my niche too. While it is great to know what competitors in your niche are doing there’s a much to learn by going beyond it too.

Not only do I mix up the niche but I’m also trying to mix up the size of the blog. There’s a lot to learn from the biggest blogs who have lots of readers, staff, developers, professional designs etc – but you can learn a lot from medium and smaller blogs too.

Also I like to keep my eye open for those blogs that are up and coming – those that seem to burst onto the scene quickly – because these blogs are often doing something new or innovative.

Lastly I like to try to mix up the style of blogs. While I mainly focus upon creating ‘how to’ content blogs I also regularly review blogs that focus more upon ‘news’, ‘reviews’, ‘personal’, ‘opinion’, ‘entertainment’ etc.

So if you’re just starting to do daily reviews – do start with blogs in your niche – but mix it up too, and you’ll discover a lot that you can apply in your own blogging.

Tips on Conducting Your Review

I don’t have a set routine for reviewing the blogs that I look at, but there are a number of things that I tend to do.

I usually start by viewing the blog on my desktop computer which has a nice, wide, 27-inch display. However I also try to view the blog on my iPad and phone which is often quite illuminating from a design viewpoint.

I generally will start by reviewing the front page of the blog and pay particular attention to my first impression and feelings about the site (first impressions are often lasting ones), but will always dig around deeper into the site and review ‘posts’ (both recent and those in the archives) and also any ‘pages’ (about page, advertising page, contact page, etc).

Questions to Ask As You Review

There are a variety of areas that you can review when looking at another blog. I tend to break things down into the following areas and find myself asking questions like those that follow.

Note: I don’t ask all of these questions every time I do a review – but I hope by presenting them you’ll get a feel for what directions you can explore.

Content

  • what voice/s are they writing in?
  • what is their posting frequency?
  • how long are the posts that they write?
  • what type of posts are they majoring on (information, inspiration, engagement, news, opinion, etc)?
  • what style and medium of posts are they using (lists, imagery, video, podcasts, etc)?
  • what blend of original vs curated content are they using?
  • what topics/categories are they majoring on?
  • what type of headlines/titles formulas do they use?
  • do they use multiple authors/guest posters or a single writer?

Community

  • how do they engage readers?
  • what calls to action do they use and what is being responded to?
  • what type of posts get the most comments, shares, likes?
  • do they use tools like polls, surveys, quizzes or other engagement triggers?
  • what social media sites are they using and how they using them for engagement/community building?
  • do they have a newsletter – how do they incentivise signups? What type of content do they send?
  • how much do the writers of the blog engage in comments?
  • do they have a dedicated community area? (forum, membership etc)?
  • do they have ‘discussion’ posts or ‘assignments’ or ‘projects/challenges’ that give readers something to DO?

Finding Readers

  • where do they seem to be putting most of their energy in terms of generating readership (social, guest posting, media etc)?
  • which social media sites are they primarily using for outreach and what are they doing their?
  • what type of content seems to be being shared the most on their site?
  • how do they try to ‘hook’ new readers once they’ve arrived (newsletter, social, RSS etc)?
  • what type of reader is this blog attracting?
  • how does the blog rank on Alexa? What does Alexa say about sources of traffic, type of reader that the blog has?

Monetization

  • how are they monetizing?
  • if advertising, what advertisers are they working with directly?
  • are they using an ad network like AdSense?
  • how many ads are they showing per page?
  • where are they positioning ads on their pages?
  • what size ads do they offer advertisers?
  • do they have an advertiser page? Do they publish their rates, traffic or other interesting information on it? Do they have a media kit? What is their main selling point to advertisers?
  • if selling products – what type of products seem tot be selling the most?
  • what can you learn from the way they market their products?
  • what affiliate programs/products are they promoting?
  • do they offer premium paid content or community areas on their blog?
  • do they have a disclaimer/privacy page? What can you learn from it about how they monetize?

Design/Tech

  • what layout do they use?
  • what navigation/menu items do they have?
  • what first impressions does their design give? What is the first thing they seem to be calling people to DO when arriving?
  • have they used a designer or blog template for their blog?
  • how do they communicate what their blog is about (do they have a tag line)?
  • how are they using their front page? Is it a traditional blog format, portal or something else?
  • what do they have in their sidebar?
  • do they have a ‘hello bar’ at the top of their site? What are they using it for?
  • what do they put in ‘hot zones’ on the blog (above the fold), below posts, etc?
  • what type of blogging tool do they seem to use?
  • what can you observe about their approach to SEO?
  • what kind of commenting technology do they use?
  • what widgets and tools do they have that make the reader experience more interesting?
  • how do they use images in posts?
  • what’s their logo like?
  • what colours are they using in their design?
  • how do they highlight ‘social proof’ in their design?
  • do they have an app?
  • is their design responsive to mobile/tablets?
  • do they use any techniques to increase page views?

Email/Newsletter

  • do they have an email newsletter?
  • if so – how are they driving people to signup? Popups, forms, hello bar etc?
  • are they incentivising signups with something free?
  • signup for the newsletter and watch what kinds of emails they send. Is it an auto responder or more timely broadcasts?

Social Media

  • what social media accounts do they promote on their blog?
  • how are they promoting their social media accounts?
  • are there social media mediums that they are ignoring?
  • which type of social media seems most active/important to them?
  • where are they getting most engagement?
  • how often are they updating their accounts? what times of day seem to get most engagement?
  • what techniques are they using on social that seem to get most engagement and build community?
  • what techniques are they using on social to drive traffic?
  • what techniques are they using with social to monetize?
  • what feedback is this blog getting from readers on social? What are they known for (both positive and negative)?

Other Questions to Ponder

  • are there opportunities to network or partner with this blog/blogger?
  • do they accept guest posts – could you write with them?
  • do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate?
  • do you have a product that they could promote as an affiliate?
  • if they are in your niche – what ‘gaps’ in their content could you be filling in your own blog?
  • what are they doing poorly that might provide you with an opportunity to have a competitive advantage?
  • what are they doing well that you’re not doing to the best of your ability?

What would you add?

The above list is not something I systematically work through for every blog that I look at – rather it is the type of questions I find myself asking as I review a blog and might be useful as a starting point for you to work from.

I’m sure there are other areas you could dig into further and I’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.

Learn From The Actions of Others

Let me finish by coming back to the motivation for doing blog reviews like this.

What I’m NOT suggesting is that you review other blogs to simply steal other peoples ideas and replicate what they do.

What I AM suggesting is that you will learn a heap by looking at how others blog.

It might sounds odd coming from a guy writing a blog about blogging but I think you’ll actually learn as much – if not more – by doing the above exercise each day than by filling your RSS reader full of blog tips blogs. There’s only so much theory you need to hear – much more can be learned by watching people practice their craft.

A side note about Blogs about Blogging: The reality is that most ‘blog tips blogs’ are written by bloggers whose most successful blog is a ‘blog tips blog’. While this doesn’t discount them as people to listen to, it’s worth keeping in mind as you ponder their teaching and calls to purchase what they sell.

It also strikes me that the vast majority of successful bloggers going around are quietly going about building amazing blogs and not broadcasting their tips and learnings. Their focus is building their blogs – not teaching others how to blog. While it’d be great to get inside their heads the great thing is that almost everything they do is live on their blogs for all to see – hence the opportunity in spending time learning by watching what they do.

My Challenge to You

For the next week, review a blog every day. It need not include every question above – but put aside 10 or so minutes each day over the next week to look at another blog and see what you can learn.

I dare you! It could just be the most valuable 70 minutes of blogging learning you ever have!

If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear in comments below what you learn!

Passion – Do You Have It?


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The 3 Ingredients in Our Best Selling eBook Titles


Over the last few days in Facebook groups I participate in, I’ve seen a number of people ask for advice on coming up with titles for new eBooks, courses and books.

Below is a combination of a few pieces of advice I gave in response to the topic:

Coming up with titles for our eBooks on Digital Photography School is always something that takes our team considerable time and debate.

There’s no right way to to create a title and many factors come into play but there are generally three main ingredients that I try to include in titles of eBooks:

1. Clearly Communicate What the Book is About

This is pretty obvious, but it can be tempting at times to come up with a title that is a little more cryptic. I’ve found that the clearer you are about the topic, the better (this also helps with after-sale customer service – you’ll get a lot less complaints if people know exactly what they’re buying).

2. Include a Tangible Benefit

I didn’t always do this but have noticed that our best selling eBooks tend to have one. A good example of this is the ProBlogger eBook – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Do this, and you’ll get this – show the people who are pondering whether they will buy your product what they’ll get as a result of doing so. What’s in it for them?

Sometimes putting the benefit in the title is tricky, particularly if you’re looking to create a short title. In this case, we would usually create a sub-title that we prominently display.

For example, our landscape Photography eBook is ‘Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography‘. The benefit or result is (stunning landscape photography).

So as you’re creating your product, make a list of the needs/problems/challenges that your readers face that your product solves. You may come up with multiple benefits but choose the biggest one (one that readers have at the top of their minds and that the product solves), and use that in the title.

Keep the other benefits that you’ve brainstormed handy because they will be very useful when you’re writing your sales material for the eBook.

3. If Possible Say Something Aspirational that Touches Emotion

This is not something we always do, but particularly for our Photography eBooks, we know that as we’re talking about photography (which is an aspirational topic), that when we use words that evoke some kind of emotion that we generally get a better response from readers.

Note: there’s a fine line here between manipulation and hype, and doing this well.

The example of our ‘Living Landscapes’ eBook mentioned above is a good one. ‘Living Landscapes’ communicates something about what we’re trying to do with the eBook – i.e. help readers to bring the landscapes that they photography to life.

Also in the sub-title we use ‘Stunning Landscape Photography’ rather than just ‘Landscape Photography’. The addition of an adjective not only communicates our objective with the eBook to readers, but also gets them dreaming a little about the things that our eBook will help them to unlock.

You’ll also see if you dig into the sales copy on dPS eBooks, that many of our sales pages also use this more aspirational language in how we sell our products.

Another example of this is Transcending Travel: A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography which at the time we published it was our fastest selling eBook.

You can see in the title alone the same kind of formula. You can tell what it is about (Travel Photography), there’s a clear tangible benefit and words like ‘Transcending’ and ‘Captivating’ are aspirational.

Look at the sales page and again you can see that the copy starts by aiming to touch the ‘heart’ – getting readers to think about the feeling that we all know of getting home from a trip to find that the images we’ve taken don’t capture the true spirit of our time away.

Two Last Tips on Creating Great Titles for Products:

While the above three ingredients are things that we try to get into our eBook titles, it is important to re-emphasise that there is no right way to do this.

Our approach has worked for us with our readership, but I know others take different approaches (and I’d love to hear yours below).

The two last tips I’d give also come out of our experience:

1. Test and Watch How Your Readers Respond

Not all of our titles have worked, and there have been times when we’ve used titles that I had doubts about that worked surprisingly well!

The key is to experiment and see how your readers respond. There are a variety of ways of doing this including:

  • watching how readers respond to titles of blog posts – over time you’ll see some posts get read more than others and that certain words/topics/title formulas seem to resonate more than others
  • test how people respond to social media updates – tweet a link to a blog post you’ve written with two alternative titles for the link and see which works best
  • watching open rates of emails that you send your email subscribers – in the lead up to a product launch send an email to your list pointing them to a blog post on the topic and test different subject lines
  • As your readers which title they’d be most interested in reading – we’ve done this a couple of times on Facebook with readers, showing them two covers of eBooks and asking which they like more

2. Involve Others in the Process

I learned with my very first photography eBook how powerful it was to involve others in the coming up with titles and sales copy.

I was close to launching my first eBook with the simple title ‘Portrait Photography’ when I shot Brian Clark from CopyBlogger an email asking his advice. He came back with the title ‘The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography’.

The title was much stronger and the eBook sold very well.

While not everyone might have access to email one of the best blogging copywriters around (Brian is brilliant) even tossing a title around with friends, family, colleagues and other bloggers will help you to hone your title.

These days we spend days tossing around title ideas as a team before deciding upon one and I think doing so has helped a lot. You’ll also find that as you talk it through the marketing of the product will also become easier as you’ll get more clarity about the benefits of your product and how it will help readers.

Content Week: A bit of homework to inspire you – come and get involved!

Theme WeekAfter the week we’ve had immersing ourselves in the wild and wonderful world of sourcing blog content, there shouldn’t be any one of you who hasn’t come up with at least one idea for a post. But in order to blog better this year, I’m encouraging you to push even further – spend some time this week (why not right now?!) writing 25 blog post ideas to get started. You don’t need to use all 25, just find some space in your brain to dig them all out and get them all down in hard copy. Have even more than 25? Go for it! Really, it’s just an exercise to put everything we’ve learned this week into practice. If nothing else, you’ll have a handy list to refer to next time you’re struggling for ideas.

As always, let us know how you go in the comments – you’re bound to find a friend in the same boat as you!

Content Week: Let’s Chat! Where do you get your blog ideas from?

Theme WeekThis past week, we’ve been talking about all things content – where can we get it? What inspires us? What works with our audience? What are some out-of-the-box ideas that will set us apart from the regular blogging crowd? We spoke with Chantelle Ellem, of Fat Mum Slim, who encouraged us to write what we love, and Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster, who told us to take a topic and make it personal. We wrote a mega-list of places to go when we’re fresh out of ideas to inspire us again, and we heard from Darren on the topic.

Now it’s over to you – where do you find your ideas? Do you have any sure-fire sources of inspiration? What do you do when you’re hit hard with blogger’s block? We’ll also be chatting about this over on Darren’s Facebook page - we’d love to hear from you all.

Content Week: An Interview with Chantelle Ellem of Fat Mum Slim – Where Does She Find Post Ideas?

Theme WeekChantelleFAT MUM SLIM (1)

Chantelle Ellem is a blogging powerhouse – if you’ve not read her blog Fat Mum Slim, then you’ve probably seen her pop up in your social media feeds with her Instagram Photo A Day challenge.

Over her five years of blogging, she’s not only come up with almost two thousand post ideas, but she has also written for leading Australian parenting websites, magazines and blogs. If that wasn’t enough content for you, she also creates most of the Photo A Day prompts each month that sparks the creativity of social media photographers everywhere. She has also written an eBook packed to the brim of topics to get inspired – “Let’s Give Them Something to Blog About” will no doubt knock that blogger’s block right out of you.

Choosing blog post topics

But coming up with thousands of blog post topics can’t be easy, can it? Chantelle says when she’s super-stumped, there are a couple of go-to inspiration sources that never fail:

  • getting out and about (people and places are great for prompting ideas)

  • scrolling through StumbleUpon or Pinterest,

  • reading favourite magazines Frankie,  Fete, or Red,

  • digging back through post archives to remind herself of the topics she really enjoyed writing about.

While having a niche is usually a good idea, sometimes personal blogging is hard to categorize. Chantelle says that over time, her post topics have been refined into: photography, family, “living life inspired”, and food. She says these are the themes that inspire her the most, and therefore form the backbone of her blog.

What do readers want?

A blog is nothing without its readers, and it doesn’t take long for a blogger to realise that writing reader-friendly material is the key to keep them coming back. But how does one know what will work and what won’t? Well that’s just a matter of trial and error.

“It’s hit-and-miss sometimes,” Chantelle says.

“Something I think will really connect can fizzle, and others that I’ve spent very little time on and think will be a dud, soars. I think if people can’t connect, then it just doesn’t work”.

Over time it gets easier to know intuitively what readers might connect with, and to provide it in an authentic way. Chantelle says she knows that if she is moved while writing the piece, it is likely to strike a chord with the reader.

“If I cry over my keyboard, I think others will too,” she says.

“The heartfelt, moving posts are always the ones that people connect most to, and they’re usually about life experience or family. It always overwhelms me the number of comments, and social media feedback I get on posts like that.

“I once wrote a post about a man I sat next to on a plane, and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It’s still my favourite post, and the one most people remember on my blog.”

How she stays organized

But with all of these ideas, inspriations, chance encounters and motivating moments, how does Chantelle keep track of it all?

“I am a paper person, so I keep jot down post ideas onto Post-It notes and place them on my wall. I also have a big box that I add to when I’ve read a great article or jotted down lengthier notes so that I can delve in when I’m stumped for content ideas.

“I also have an editorial calendar that I try and plan a few months in advance. It’s not strict, because if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t but it gives me an idea of which direction I’m headed.”

After being asked daily how other bloggers can find ideas, an idea for the “Let’s Give Them Something to Blog About eBook was born.

Her advice to others

  • There are loads of things you can do; get out and about (go to a cafe, the beach, the shopping center)

  • Use images/video instead of traditional written content (I think it’s a great way to get inspired and find new content ideas. I’m a huge fan of photos, even bad ones, because they tell a story themselves. And short videos are great when done well, but they have to be short (I think under 2 minutes is key). I don’t think we should ever get stuck doing what we’ve always done. Trying new things is key to staying inspired.

  • Try something else new – buy a magazine you’ve never read before, or even just exercise.

  • Get a blank piece of paper, and vomit out your thoughts in a quick fashion onto the paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lame blog post idea, write it down… you never know what it might inspire.

You can find Chantelle at her blog Fat Mum Slim, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. She might be just the inspiration you’re looking for.

 

Content Week: How to Consistently Come up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog.

Theme WeekContent. Where to find it, how to get it, what’s going to resonate with our readers? They are questions most bloggers ask ourselves pretty regularly. Some of us have ideas coming out our ears with not enough hours in the day to turn them all into posts, and some of us have times where we’re scratching around the bottom of the barrel trying to come up with useful, interesting, engaging content on our blogs day after day, year after year.

This week we’re going to focus on all the ways you can be inspired to write great posts for your readers. Today we start with some ideas on generating content, and across the week, we will be chatting to bloggers who consistently come up with great ideas. We’ll have a bit of inspiration, and some discussion points to get you all thinking. There will also be a “homework” challenge at the end of the week to take you from all talk to total action. You’ll find all the links to this week’s content at the end of this post.

So content – where can we look for inspiration?

Other bloggers

If you’re a blogger, it’s likely you read other blogs. While there are millions out there, we tend to return to a handful that we know and love and always enjoy reading. Have a look at why that is – what keeps you coming back? And how can you write similarly for your own readers? Maybe it’s their tone, their sense of humour, the way they provide interesting information in an easy-to-read fashion. Could this work for you too? What are the topics that resonate with you? What are the topics that garner the most engagement? How can you put your own spin on something similar?

Social media

Social media is a one-stop shop for finding what people are talking about online. Search the Facebook and Twitter hashtags, watch the trending topics, and use them to inspire what you write about. Then you can promote your posts using the trends and hashtags while they’re still popular. Join LinkedIn groups if you haven’t already and see what are the hot topics being discussed. Scroll your Facebook newsfeed and see what jumps out at you – strike while the iron is hot!

Your own content

Every month, Darren does a “deep dive” into his analytics to see what posts did well and what might be useful to revisit. It can be a goldmine of content ideas, particularly as you know that your readers will already be interested in those topics because they have been before. What can you update, repackage, or build on?

The news/current affairs

You’re sure to have a reaction to some kind of news or current affairs issue – why not capitalise on that? It’s a issue already in the media, so there’s interest there. Post your take on the topic, your opinion, or where people might be able to find more information on your blog about the issue. There’s always something happening somewhere, and if it’s relevant to your audience, you can add to the conversation.

Ask your readers

Who best to ask for content inspiration than the people who will actually be reading it? What do they want to see more of? What are they interested in? What do they wish you would cover? You can ask in a blog post, on social media, host a Google Plus hangout, a Twitter chat, or even run a reader survey. Can you help answer their questions? Or maybe even run a series? Darren uses this technique with great effect, and a bonus is that it helps to increase community engagement around your blog.

Brainstorm

Grab a cup of coffee and find a nice place to sit. Bring a notepad and pen, or your laptop. Sit for five minutes and write down all the ideas that come into your mind. Don’t worry about editing them, or being clever, just write. You’re guaranteed to come up with a couple of gold nuggets that you can turn into posts.

Check your comment section

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was to “hang out in your comments section”. It was initially advice to help grow readership, but it is useful for so much more than that. What are the stories your readers share with you? What questions are they asking? What do their comments make you think of that you can then expand upon? Do they have a blog? What do they write about? Is that interesting to you, and can you be inspired by what they do?

Mine your idea lists

Sit down and go through all of the places you’ve written down ideas. Workshop what might be useful to you now, and get a few intros or ideas jotted down for a handful of the topics you want to explore.

Find other bloggers’ lists

You are not the first person to be stuck for content ideas – not by a long shot. Over the years, plenty of bloggers have found themselves in the same situation, written a bunch of ideas down, and shared them with the blogosphere. Google them, or see if your favourite bloggers have written similar lists and see if any of the topics resonate with you. You can get started with this list from The Blog Stylist, this one from Fat Mum Slim, or the one on this post Pip Lincolne wrote for JustB. If you’ve found others online, do please share them in the comment section.

Visit your favourite blogging resource site (like ProBlogger!) and search their archives

Chances are the blogging greats have touched on this topic before. They might have a list like the ones mentioned above, or general tips that will get you out of your slump and onto your keyboard. Content can be an elusive soul, and even the best of the best have still struggled with it from time to time. Learn from their lessons!

Your niche’s top Google searches

Head over to Google and check out what search terms people have been using and see if you can’t create a post based around some of the information you find. If you’ve got a food blog, maybe check out the top 10 most-searched-for recipes and put your own spin on them? You’re sure to come up with some inspiration for future posts (or even a series), and you have the value of it already being a hot topic.

What do YOU want to know?

Have you asked a question lately? Has there been something on your mind that you’ve Googled? Why not write that post yourself? Fill in knowledge gaps with what you want to know, and what you have found in your research. What do you think people want to know that isn’t being written about? Don’t wait for someone else to write it – do it yourself.

Think visual

Sometimes we have tunnel-vision when it comes to posts, and concentrate solely on the written word. Stretch your creative muscle with a short video or a slideshow. You might have a DIY or tutorial that will work a thousand times better in visual form than it would as a list of written steps, or something funny you want to share. Don’t forget to check out what’s cool on YouTube and maybe try to make your own version.

Get outside

Get right out into the land of the living and take your inspiration from your environment. What are people doing? What are stores selling? What are the interactions you see? What’s changed since you were a kid? What great food have you eaten lately? The topics from this kind of observation are literally endless.

Your journey

Look back over a journey you have taken and use that as inspiration. It could be a literal journey, like a trip you’ve taken, or a metaphorical journey, like your experiences blogging over the years. How far have you come? What’s changed? Compare yourself now to your teenage self. Compare the start of your business to now. Where do you want to go from here? What kind of journey will you be taking in the future? Everyone has a story.

Write a cornerstone post

Have a think about the kinds of topics on which you write, and see if you can come up with some “evergreen” content. What is always going to be useful to your readers, no matter the current trend? Can you do a mega-post where you pull together all the posts you’ve written and all the resources you can find on a genre or niche that your readers want? Much like Darren’s “Sneeze Pages“, you can send your audience down the rabbit hole of your blog’s current content, or you can write a post of brand new information that will always provide value for the people who read your blog. Brainstorm some topics to use as a pillar post on your site, and you shouldn’t be stuck for ideas.

Curate content

Check out the internet as it is today – what are other people doing that you really like? What are some sites or articles you want to share with your readers? Put them all together in one post for them to read. You might want to do something like “five articles I’ve loved lately” or “15 new ideas for your kitchen”. Not only have you been inspired, but you’ve given your readers interesting content while also linking to sites and blogs you like (which is great karma in blogland!).

Write a list post

These may be abundant on the World Wide Web, but they are for good reason – they work. People are time-poor and they want useful info in bite-size chunks that they can skim if need be. Fulfil a need of theirs by providing a list of useful things, or just entertain them with a list of things you like/don’t like and why. Write a list of memories you have, or 10 tech tips you’ve used recently. There are a multitude of topics to choose from, you just need to funnel them into a coherent (and numbered!) order.

Write a post containing affiliate links

This is a post that does double duty of providing you with content while also helping you to make a little money. As Darren says, “contextual promoting is king” (in his post “The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program” – it’s PACKED with useful info!), so even if you have sidebar advertising or a banner/widget somewhere, you’re still more likely to make conversions if you write a post and have affiliate links in it (appropriately disclosed, of course). These sorts of posts pop up around Christmastime as “gift guides” or what have you, but there’s no reason you can’t do one at other times during the year. What products have you found useful lately? What’s a wishlist you have? Have a look through your affiliate programs and see what you can come up with.

Interviews

Who is someone you really admire? They don’t have to be another blogger, just anyone you’d like to get to know a little more. If you find them interesting, chances are others will too. Work in finance, but always wanted to be a chef? Hunt one down and peek inside their brain a little. Or find a mentor or someone you look up to and ask them about their road to where they are and what kind of advice they can give. Ask your mother for advice. Interview a musician. Whatever captures your attention.

So now you have a thousand brilliant ideas running through your mind, right? You might find this post useful on capturing ideas and keeping notes.

You might also like this post if you want to consistently get creative about your content, and break through blogger’s block for good with this one.

I bet you’ve come up with at least one blog post idea from this list – care to share it? You might help someone else!

You can find the other posts in this week-long series here:

Where does power-blogger Fat Mum Slim find her ideas (and get her idea-packed eBook “Let’s Give Them Something to Blog About”)
How to deal with your blogging inner critic
Content Week Case Study: Carly Heitlinger of College Prepster
Where do you get your blog ideas?

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Writer and word-lover, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

4 Key Areas to Focus Your Time Upon to Grow Profitable Blogs [And How Much of Your Time to Spend On Them]

A regular question I’m asked by bloggers at different stages of their blogging is how much time they should allocate to different aspects of blogging.

Should you spend more time writing blog posts, promoting the posts, networking, responding to readers, working on social media etc?

Answer this question is tricky as there are numerous factors to consider including the topic of your blog, the type of content you’re creating, the type of audience you’re wanting to attract, your own passions and style as a blogger and the stage of your blog (i.e. if it is new or more established).

I’ll share some suggested splits of time that I think are good starting points for how to use your time below but before I do I want to share the four main areas that I have allocated time to over the last 11 and a half years of blogging.

I cannot imagine being able to grow my blogs to the point that they are at today without any one of these areas.

Priority One – Creating Content

Without a doubt this has always been my number-one priority.

In the lead-up to launching a new blog this is something that I would often put almost 100% of my time into (although you do need to put some time and resources into getting the blog designed and hosted). Once the blog is launched I decrease this to include some of the other activities below, but later on it would never dip below 40-50% of my time and effort.

Without great content on your blog (whether it be written, video, audio, imagery or something else) you’ll never really be able to grow your blog. While it takes time to create quality content I see this time as an investment that has a long term impact upon my blogs. For example the posts I wrote when I first launched dPS have continued to generate traffic and income for years to come.

My focus over the years has always been upon producing ‘how-to’ style content but of course there are other styles of blogs too (entertainment, opinion, news, personal, etc).

Learn more about Creating Great Blog Content: How to Write Great Blog Content

Three Other Key Priorities

While creating content for my blogs is #1 in my mind in terms of where I allocate my time and resources, there are three other areas that have been absolute priorities for me over the last decade or so.

All are essential to me but depending upon the life stage of my blogs each have grown and shrunk in terms of where I’d rank them in importance (I’ll explain more on this below). So I’ll share them in no particular order and give them equal weight:

Promoting Content

Having great content on your blog is great but unless you put effort into promoting that content it can often go unread. While later in the life cycle of a blog your readers can share your content for you in the early days it is largely up to you to grow your traffic – and this takes considerable work.

Once a blog is launched, this area becomes a fairly major focus for me.

For example when I launched Digital Photography School, I’d estimate that I spent about 40% of my time in the first few months promoting my content by engaging in forums, guest posting, networking with and pitching other bloggers, leaving comments on other blogs, engaging on social media and looking for mainstream media coverage.

I also spent a bit of time in this early phase thinking about optimising the site for search engines. I did more ‘on-page optimisation’ than building links – although some of the results of guest posting and networking of course did help with off page techniques too.

Learn More about Growing Traffic: How to Find Readers for Your Blog (recording of a 1.20 hour webinar in which I share everything I know on the topic).

Building Community

Once traffic begins to grow on my blog, I begin to switch some of my time away from promoting into building community and engagement.

It is all well and good to drive ‘traffic’, but I find that a blog really begins to come alive when you have a more loyal and engaged readership.

I know some bloggers are less worried about this than others but I personally find that it is much more satisfying to have readers that come back again and again than just people who come once and never return. I also find this makes monetizing easier too (see below).

In the very early days of a blog there may not be too many readers to build community with so you might not dedicate too much time to this, but as readers grow there will be opportunity to build engagement. Responding to comments, emailing readers, creating more discussion-related content, engaging on social media, etc all can help in this area.

Learn More about Building Community on blogs:

Monetization and Business Development

Not all bloggers want to monetize their blogs and so this area may not be a priority for all, but after a year of blogging I realised it was something I had a passion for and needed to be able to monetize in order to be able to sustain.

There are, of course, many ways to monetise a blog (and I won’t go into specifics here), but one thing I have learned over the years is that monetization is not a passive thing when it comes to blogging.

If you want your blog to be profitable, you need to build the foundations mentioned above (content, traffic and community) but you also need to be intentional about building a business model and creating income streams.

You might get lucky and find a lucrative opportunity lands in your lap, but for most full-time bloggers I know, monetization is a long and slow journey that takes work.

When starting a new blog I am generally thinking about monetisation from day one – however, when it comes to where I put my time, it is usually not until I’ve been blogging for a year or two that I put a lot of effort into this area.

So when I started Digital Photography School, I spend the first two years putting 95% of my time into content, traffic and community. While I did have a few low-level ads and did do a few lower-level affiliate promotions in those first two years, it wasn’t my main focus.

Instead, I worked those first two years on building up my archives of content and building up readership and engagement. With that foundation in place I was ready to start monetizing much more effectively firstly by doing some bigger affiliate promotions of other people’s photography eBooks, and then by creating my own.

In 2009 – three years after launching dPS – I launched our first eBook and wrote about how it generated $72,000 in sales in a week. While some people read that post and then wrote about how I made a stack of money overnight, it is important to realise that it only happened based upon the three years of foundations already built.

Learn More about Monetizing Blogs: Recording of ‘Monetizing Blogs’ Webinar (1.2 hours of everything I know on the topic).

A Word About Maintenance/Tech

The area that I’ve not addressed in the above four foundations of profitable blogs is anything about the tech side of things.

Of course blogs need to be hosted, designed, and have their blog platforms maintained. For me, this has always been something that I have outsourced in different ways (with friends initially, later on through contracting the services of others and more recently through developing a team).

So for me this has not been something I’ve allocated a great deal of ‘time’ to – but rather have allocated resources/money to.

Having said that – it is still really important and not to be ignored!

Life Stages of a Blog and How to Spend Your Time

You can already see above how the life stage of your blog helps to determine how much time to spend upon different activities.

While there are other factors at play also in general, here’s what I’d recommend as a starting point (and I’ll talk in percentages rather than hours as I know not everyone is full time and many have limited time to blog):

Pre Launch of a New Blog

  • 90% of your time on creating content
  • 10% of your time on design, SEO and other technical aspects of getting the blog ready to launch

Of course you’ll probably want to have thought about how you might like to monetize and be thinking about how to build engagement on your blog – but in terms of implementing these there’s not a lot to do in the prelaunch phase.

Launch of a New Blog – 0-3 Months

Depending how much content you have ready to publish from your pre-launch work, you’ll need to keep creating content in the launch phase. It is really important that you have regular and high-quality content going up on your blog.

But at the same time you should be putting considerable time into promoting your posts and blog.

  • 50% of your time on creating content
  • 40-45% of your time on promoting your blog
  • 5-10% of your time on building engagement with the few new readers that might come

Building Foundations

This phase will vary a little depending upon how fast your blog grows and the opportunities that arise but in general I would think you’d be allocating more time to engaging with readers as you get more traffic.

You’ll also want to start being more intentional about monetizing (or at least getting ready to monetize) your blog. This might mean starting to reach out to and network with advertisers, or starting to create a product to sell.

  • 50% of your time on creating content
  • 25-30% of your time on promoting your blog
  • 15-20% of your time on building community
  • 5-10% of your time on monetization

Maturity/Profit/Sustainability

It is hard to describe this stage, as blogs can look very different from one another in how they become profitable. Also at this point many bloggers begin to build teams or outsource different aspects of their blogging.

For example I now have a team of 5-6 people all working part time on my blogs, and also engage the services of 20 or so writers each month for dPS, so my own time is spent more on management and business development rather than upon the above activities.

Having said that, each of the people that work with me put their focus upon one or more of the above four areas and each is a key priority.