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How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?

I recently had the opportunity to sit with a small group of Pre-Bloggers – people about to start their first blogs.

One of the questions I was about how much content should be written before launching a new blog.

My answer came in two parts:

  1. The Ideal Scenario
  2. What I actually have done

The reality is that what I ‘preach’ isn’t always what I ‘do’ – so let me tell you about both!

Note: we give a lot of teaching and some great exercises on this topic in ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

The Ideal Scenario

OK – here’s what I’d do if I was creating a strategy to launch a new blog. Following this strategy would leave you with around a month of content and content ideas ready to go!

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

1. Have At Least 3-5 Posts Already Published

My ideal scenario for launching a new blog is to have at least a few posts already live on the blog.

The benefit of this approach is that when you launch the blog, people arrive and see more posts than just your ‘I started a blog’ post!

These early posts should cover a range of topics within your niche and give your first readers a taste of what is to come in terms of topics, a sense of who you are and an idea about the voice that you’re writing in.

2. Have 5-10 Posts Ready to Publish in Drafts

When launching a new blog, it’s also GREAT to have a few blog posts written and saved as drafts.

The reason for this is that often, when launching a blog, you can easily get distracted by other aspects of the launch. Design tweaks, getting a server set up right, promoting the blog, setting up social media accounts etc.

While you might have a lot of this done before launch, there’s a good chance something will go wrong (it’s Murphy’s Law). If you have at least a few blog posts already written and ready to go, you’ve got a great backup.

Having posts in reserve also takes a bit of pressure off and won’t leave you with that stressed ‘what am I going to write about today’ feeling!

3. Have 20 Blog Post Ideas Brainstormed

One of the hardest parts of creating regular blog posts – particularly in the early days – is coming up with ideas of topics to write about.

As a result I highly recommend doing some brainstorming before you launch, when the pressure is off. Put aside time to come up with as many blog post ideas as possible by what ever means suits you.

I personally like to use Mind Mapping to come up with blog post ideas (I’ve written about mind mapping here and here).

Keep your post ideas handy and add to them regularly, and you’ll find you are never stuck for something to write about!

What I’ve Actually Done

OK – so the ideal theory I’ve outlined above is all good and well – but the reality is that I don’t know a whole heap of bloggers who have always stuck to their launch strategy, including myself.

My own experience is that often, when starting a new blog, excitement and adrenaline kicks in. When you’re passionate about your new project, it’s easy to be more impulsive!

Here’s the brief launch story of my two main blogs:

ProBlogger – I launched ProBlogger in September 2004 after writing about blogging tips and making money blogging on my personal blog, in a category dedicated to the topic.

When I launched ProBlogger.net, I brought all of those posts that I’d previously written so when I launched there was already 60+ posts live.

I remember doing some brainstorming of post titles but I didn’t have any posts saved as drafts. Instead, I was so excited about starting ProBlogger that I published 40 posts in the first 10 or so days!

In hindsight – that was too many. I was naive, but I was so excited!

Digital Photography School – when I launched dPS back in April 2006, I set out with a year and a half of extra experience and so I decided to take things slower.

The dPS blog was something of an experiment and I didn’t know if it was going to be much more than a hobby. But I decided to create more content before launching and went through the brainstorming exercise, with mind maps that I linked to above.

I had 20 or so post ideas mapped out and even wrote a couple of posts that I’d published before launching – but didn’t have too many posts written as drafts on launch.

My plan at launch was to only post 3 posts per week while I got going but again I got a little excited and in the first week I published 6 posts and from then on it was pretty much daily!

Can you see a theme here? I tend to get very excited with new projects and holding back and being measured isn’t always easy for me!

How About You?

I’d love to hear about your blog launching strategies? Do you publish many posts before launching or have posts ready to go? Any other tips for new bloggers?

And if you are looking to launch a new blog – check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for more tips and exercises to help you get your blog launched with the right foundations!

Blog This! Sometimes Going Back to Basics Leads to the Best Posts

Today, I’m preparing some slides for a keynote I’m doing tomorrow. I included this diagram – something that Chris Garrett came up with years ago as a way to show new bloggers what they should blog about.

blog-this.png

The idea – obviously – is to find the connecting point between what YOU know (lessons you’ve learned, problems you’ve overcome, experiences that you’ve had etc) and what your readers (or potential readers) want (or need) to know.

The intersecting point is GOLD!

The problem with this diagram is when I show it to people they sometimes respond saying, ‘I don’t know anything‘!

I understand this feeling. However, I would encourage anyone thinking that to think again. In many cases, you simply overlook what you know because you think it is too basic to share!

As I was preparing for my keynote, I was reminded of a post that I wrote on dPS back in 2007 that illustrates this pretty well.

The post was How to Hold a Digital Camera.

This post came about when I was looking through submitted reader photos to select some to critique in our forum. Many of  the photos I was looking at were blurry and I realised that a common mistake was ‘camera shake’ (or the camera moving while the shot was being taken).

One of the most common and obvious reasons for camera shake is that the photographer is not holding their camera still.

There was an obvious need among some of our readers to learn how to hold their camera to keep it still while shooting.

I knew the theory of how to do this after being taught it in a school photography class but I remember thinking it was simply too basic to write a blog post about.

But I wrote the post anyway.

I hesitated for several days before publishing it, second guessing myself the whole time. I envisaged being laughed down.

The post was a hit. It got a lot of traffic early on, quite a few comments (in which many suggestions were made of other techniques) and it has been shared many hundreds of times around the web on social media.

Today, as I prepared for my keynote, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see how many times the post has been viewed since 2007.

The answer surprised me…

The post has had over 560,000 unique views!

Over half a million people have viewed that post over the last 6 years and still gets an average of 150 visitors per day to it (mainly search traffic).

Sometimes even the most basic advice – things you take for granted – is the advice your readers really need to hear.

Will Your Content Marketing Last The Distance?

This is a guest contribution by Ruchi Pardal of ResultFirst.

Some people believe that content marketing means multichannel, and seemingly mechanical, publishing of anything, anywhere. Their goal is to gain links and rank well (of course, momentarily) using thin content, spinned content, keyword-rich content or unnecessary press releases. That’s the kind of content marketing that brings very short lived benefits (if any). True content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s Content Marketing?

Content marketing creates valuable, sharable content published on multiple channels to attract readers and hopefully customers. Content marketing builds a community. Content marketing gains exposure. And, of course, content marketing markets your brand. But true content marketing taps into people’s desires and grabs their attention by wowing them. Bewitching them. Making them learn something they didn’t already know or were seeking. It hooks them in not just once, but time and time again.

Your Content Marketing Weapons

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Guest posts
  • Podcasts
  • Comics
  • Video content
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Open discussions
  • And counting…

Questions for Long Distance Content Marketing

Content marketing, if used smartly, can help you gain things you never even knew you could get your hands on. Kissmetrics skyrocketed its traffic and got 3500+ unique domain links using by creating 47 infographics. In fact, it’s one of the greatest examples of content marketing done right. Even Mashable believes that.

So, here are the questions you should (and must) ask yourself if you want your content marketing to work for you in the long term:

Is there any meaning to the content I’m creating? Content marketing with an ambiguous objective is the worst of them all. So, first off, think about what you want to achieve and how that impacts your different audiences. Then track back to how content marketing can bridge the gap. Choose the right content marketing weapons for your audience and your objectives and before jumping in feet first, work out how your content can stand out.

Is it relevant to what my audience wants? Anything that gives your audience, or their network, real value is relevant. Instead of wasting time thinking about how to convert them as a subscriber, think what they need to learn and what they’d love to learn.

Is it mostly about myself, my company, my team? That’s okay – but only sometimes and it’s important that content that’s just about you, with no value to your audience, is in the minority

Does it add any value to or challenge traditional wisdom? Nobody loves rehashed content but yes, if you can give an old topic a new angle or your take then it can feel like a brand new idea.

Does it sound robot-generated? Try to make your content interactive as hell. If it sounds robot-generated, it’s drab, irritating and repelling, your readers won’t read beyond the first paragraph.

Will my audience link to it and share it socially? One of the qualities of content marketing that lasts the distance is its ability to resonate with large audiences and that means making it sharable! Sharable content also helps you in your SEO efforts, too.

Am I just adding to the sea of crap content that’s already on the Web? Please don’t! It’s our Web and it’s up to us whether we make it all the more exciting or filled with full, lifeless, boring content

Have I chosen the right channel for publishing my content? The right channel leads to the right audience so it’s quite an important decision. If you’ve been doing content marketing just to get links, well, that won’t help you now. Google values not just hard-earned but relevant links from trusted sites. Moreover, this I-want-that-link behaviour is disturbing and somewhere undermines what we put into getting one. Time to get over this, right?

Last and the most important: Is my content marketing based on a content strategy? Solid content marketing needs a solid content strategy, one that must answer how you’ll take care of creating, marketing and governing content over time.

A footnote about SEO

“If your content is the best thing since sliced bread, you’re going to rank well. We are focused on what searchers are engaging and how we can deliver them better results.” Bing’s Duane Forrester

“Don’t think about link building, think about compelling content and marketing.” Google’s Matt Cutts

If you still think that SEO is all about rankings and traffic, don’t do content marketing for SEO, at all. However, if you understand that content marketing is about creating and sharing value that helps you build great communities, well the SEO benefits will come as a result.

In summary, I’d reiterate that you can’t win the marathon and gain loyal followers with short sprints of content. You need a content strategy and consistent effort.

So, how do you make sure that your content marketing lasts the distance? What is your favorite content marketing weapon and why? Shout out below.

Ruchi Pardal is Director of ResultFirst, a firm that works on pay-for-performance model, helping businesses get found across search engines and give an optimal experience to their audience. She’s been into digital marketing for well over 10 years. When she’s not busy with her work, Ruchi loves to spend every moment with her awesome family.

The Walking Dead Guide to Writing a Killer Blog Opening

This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, SEO copywriter behind The Copy Detective.

A sheriff’s car rolls up to an intersection, where several cars are burnt out and overturned. The occupant, a police officer, gets out, slowly walks to the back of the car and pulls out a gas can while cautiously looking around.

He walks. He walks past more cars, all clearly abandoned. We watch him peek in to one car to see a decomposing body. He looks sad but not surprised.

He hears a shuffling noise nearby and is instantly alert. It’s a girl. A young girl shuffling away from him (and us). He calls to her. Eventually she turns, revealing a decomposing face dripping with blood. She stares then begins to walk towards him, building speed as she goes.

The danger is clear and our policeman quickly shifts into position, his gun raised. He fires BANG! and we see the little girl fall back onto an impressive blood spatter.

The screen goes black and opening credits begin.

I’ve just described the first 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the TV series, ‘The Walking Dead’. Before the credits had finished, I was hooked. Three series in, I’m still hooked.

That’s the power of a good opening. It can make you stop whatever else you’re doing and sit, in a state of rapt attention. It can bring you back week after week.

How often are you doing two to three other things while reading a blog post? You might be watching TV, listening to the radio, on social media, cooking dinner, talking to your partner …multi-tasking with media is more common today and if you want to get someone’s attention you need to do it from the get-go.

It starts with a great blog title

When readers are looking for the next blog post to read they generally start by scanning a bunch of blog titles (or headlines). It might be titles in their blog reader of choice, or email subject lines from blogs they subscribe to.

As Darren once said, Titles change the destiny of your posts. Those few words at the beginning of your blog post can be the difference between the post being read and spread like a virus through the web like a wildfire and it languishing in your archives, barely noticed.”

It’s important to write a blog title that gets your blog opened. There are plenty of great Problogger posts about writing titles, starting with this one.

Assuming you make it past the first hurdle, your blog post is opened and the first few paragraphs are read… if you’re lucky. It might be just the first few sentences. All the while your reader is inching their cursor closer to the back button and the next blog.

Every sentence is ‘Last Chance Saloon’

Every word matters and each sentence that’s read brings you closer to a new subscriber.

There are lots of different ways to open a blog post but here are some ways to write a killer opening. The kind of blog introductions that let dinner burn while they’re read.

Zombie opener #1: Intrigue the reader

‘The Walking Dead’ set the scene. There were no rolling credits explaining that a virus has swept the earth and only a small percentage of the population remained un-zombified.

No. It did set a dramatic scene that made you question what you expected. The mystery unfolded until the big picture was revealed. In this case that big picture was a little zombie.

Tip: Don’t take too long about setting the scene. You don’t want your reader to get bored or impatient as they figure out when your blog’s going to get relevant.

Zombie opener #2: Make it personal

As our policeman cautiously tiptoes through a trail of devastation, it’s clear he is alone. We instinctively know that this will be his story. The way the series opens lets us share that story in an intimate way. We feel his caution, his shock and his sadness. We instantly wonder how we would react, which puts us in the story.

The opening of your blog post can draw in your readers in the same way.

You see, every blog reader wants understanding. They want to know that someone else feels the way they do. The best way to get a reader hooked is acknowledge a challenge they’re facing. The more secret the challenge, the better.

Tip: Repeat people’s thoughts back to them so your reader feels like you understand them. Weave your personal story into the shared challenge you are solving so you’re talking with your readers, not at them.

Zombie opener #3: Startle your reader

Reading blogs online can draw most readers into a bit of a stupor. The opening few scenes of ‘The Walking Dead’ are quiet. They’re suspenseful and a little bit weird. But then…. BANG! A little zombie girl gets shot down!

If the opening few lines of your blog can jolt your readers out of a stupor, well, you’ve got their attention.

Tip: Try using one-word openings. Or one-sentence paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and break a few old-school writing rules.

Remember that the first paragraph or two of your blog is competing with other blog posts, the TV, the radio, the children and dinner. The faster you can get your reader hooked, the more likely it is they will keep on reading. If the rest of your blog post is as good as the opening, they’ll read all the way to the bottom and hit Subscribe.

So, how far into a blog do you decide it’s worth reading?

Belinda is a professional copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting and make sure you’re the first to hear about her next copywriting master class.

Stop. Don’t post that post! 7 questions to ask before you hit publish

This is a guest contribution by Kate Toon, an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter.

You have a blog post.

Who cares whether you wrote it yourself or paid someone to create it? It’s the right length.

You’ve shoe-horned your chosen keyword phrase ‘Pink llama-wool pyjamas’ into it five times. You’ve downloaded a cool image and even managed to code it into WordPress.

It’s time to press upload, right? Wrong.

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself these seven critical questions.

Does your blog post target your audience?

Have you written a generic ‘appeals to everyone’ (read ‘no one’) vanilla article? Or are you targeting a particular niche? Try to get inside the mind of your audience, then read your blog post again. Does it address a particular need or concern? Or is it all blah yawn blah?

Is the blog post credible?

An especially important question to ask if the blog post has been written by a third party. Even more so if you used a $5-a-post copy shop. Very few writers will care about your business as much as you do, or write with true passion about your subject matter. True heart in writing shines through.

So be sure not only that the facts are checked but also that the blog rings true and doesn’t sound like marketing fluff.

Is the blog post unique?

This sounds impossible, right? With so many articles being posted in your niche, how can you write something unique? But even the most well-trodden ground can be given new life. Your tone of voice. Your viewpoint. Your inside knowledge can add a certain something to your blog.

It’s very important to write with a strong voice if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Is the blog post useful? (Or at least entertaining?)

A great place to start with useful content is by addressing the customer enquiries and questions you’ve received. Each one is potential post. But when these are all covered it’s important to keep your finger on your audience’s collective pulse. What are the market trends? What’s in the news? What are they talking about on Twitter?

If all else fails, at least try to be entertaining, interesting and funny. 

Is the blog post easy to understand?

Now I could direct you to some snazzy readability tool, but how about we just use common sense? Check your writing for:

  • Long rambling sentences.
  • Long complicated words.
  • Poorly phrased sentences.

Pay extra attention to those first 100 words. If a reader can’t get through those as easily as a knife through warm butter, your post is in trouble.

Would you share this blog post?

If the blog didn’t have your name on it, would you forward it to a friend? What would you say in the email that accompanied it?  ‘Check out this awesome history of llama wool production in Peru’?

If you wouldn’t share it, why would others?

Does the post address a your goals?

All the other points have been about your readers and rightly so. But this one is all about you. Why are you posting the article? Is it just to add some fresh content? To give you a boost for a certain keyword? To cover off a reader enquiry? To launch a new product or idea? To attract a new audience? To give your opinion on a news event? Or all of the above?

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging. Be clear what your blogging objectives are.

If you can’t answer each question with a confident ‘YES’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This might seem like tough love, but it can just take one crappy post to put a potential customer off your blog.

When it comes to blogging, ask yourself the tough questions and don’t settle for second best.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and CremeEgg-lover based in Sydney, Australia.

5 Keys to Writing Excellent Blog Posts

Today in a radio interview I was asked to give 4-5 quick tips on how to write great blog posts.

Quick isn’t my forte when giving tips (I have a lot to say) and I can think of many more than 5 tips for writing great blog posts – but here’s a brief overview of the things I mentioned:

1. Be Useful

When I start writing a blog post, I always identify how useful the post will be to my readers.

Will it solve a problem? Will it make people think? Will it start a conversation? Will it entertain? Will it make readers feel like they’re not alone? Will it teach them something?

Unless a blog post is useful on some level I don’t think it’s worth publishing.

More on Useful Blogging: Usefuless: Principles of Successful Blogging #3.

2. Write Conversationally

This one partly comes down to my own style, so it may not be for everyone, but I find my most effective blog posts are written as if I’m sharing the topic with a friend.

As a result, my posts are fairly informal and written with a lot of ‘I’ and ‘You’ language.

For me, this is partly because I find it a lot easier and more natural to write in this tone of voice – but I also find it connects with readers in a pretty powerful way.

Read more on conversational blog writing at 23 Top Tips to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

3. Write Great Headlines

I think about my headline before, during and after writing and it often will change numerous times before I settle on the final version.

Headlines, or blog titles, are often the deciding factor on whether someone reads a post or not – so they have a lot of impact.

Read more about writing headlines at – How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog (with 8 great tips) and Titles that Work on ProBlogger – And Why.

4. Build Anticipation and Momentum

Having somebody read one of my blog posts is something I value very highly – it is a real honour – however I have a higher goal.

I want them to read more posts – both immediately and in the future.

As a result, I’ve discovered that if you write blog posts that build momentum in some way you’re much more likely to keep readers hanging around.

One simple way to do build momentum is to link back to old posts you’ve already written, both during and at the end of a blog post. You can see an example of this a few paragraphs above when I gave you links to read more on writing great headlines.

Linking back to old blog posts drives readers into your archives which makes them more likely to engage and become loyal readers.

I’ve found that writing in a way that builds ‘anticipation’ in your readers is particularly powerful. If you can get your readers to look forward to posts you’re yet to write, you give them a reason to subscribe and connect with you in the future.

I wrote a series on building anticipation that I highly recommend you check out.

The key is to look beyond the blog post you’re writing and draw your readers (particularly new ones) into the story (both past and future) of your blog.

If you can get them to see that your blog is much more than the post they’re reading, you might just find you have a reader that engages with you for years to come.

One more bonus link: How to Keep Momentum Going By Building on Previous Posts.

5. Build Engagement

The last thing I mentioned in the interview was to try to build some level of engagement into the blog posts that you write.

This can start with writing in a conversational style (see above) but it goes a lot further. The benefit of getting your readers to engage with you and your content is that they’re much more likely to stick around and become a regular reader.

It also builds social proof, making your blog more useful and relevant to a wider audience.

I won’t go on a great deal about building community because it has only been a couple of weeks since I wrote this mega-series on the topic:

How Would You Answer the Question?

If you had to give 4-5 tips on writing great blog posts – what would you say?

Looking forward to your responses in comments below.

7 Simple Steps to Writing Great ‘How To’ Content on Your Blog

Yesterday I announced our ‘How To…’ group writing project and issued readers of ProBlogger with the challenge to go away and write a ‘How to‘ post for their blog.

On Twitter a number of people told me that they were having a little trouble with writing a ‘how to…’ post because it wasn’t their normal style of writing on their blog so I thought I’d jot down a few tips for writing ‘how to…’ content (something I’ve been creating for 10 years now on my blogs).

How to Write ‘How to’ Content on your Blog

What follows is how I personally tackle writing ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content. By no means is it the only way to do it – if you do it another way, please tell us about how you approach it in comments below – I’d love to learn from you!

1. Start with a Problem

Perhaps the best advice I can give on writing effective ‘how to’ posts on a blog is to put some time aside to identifying the problems that your readers have because the most effective how to posts are written about actual challenges that your readers might face.

As I’ve already written 11 tips on how to identify reader problems I won’t rehash them all here again – read this post!

2. Break it Down

With a problem or challenge that you want to solve for readers identified now is the time to break down the process for solving that issue.

With a problem in mind I generally take a little time before I start writing to come up with a list of steps to overcome the problem. I personally do this usually but jotting down some bullet points in a notepad (retro of me I know) or in a text document on my computer).

If the problem I’m writing about is more complex I also occasionally will break down the process for solving it using a MindMap (I use MindNode either on my iPad or computer).

I find by identifying what I want to write about before I start writing that I’m much more effective in writing the post because I know where I’m headed!

I also find having this helpful because as I’m actually writing I will often have other ideas for the post (or for followup posts) on the fly and I jot these down on the list so I don’t lose them.

3. Writing Tips

With bullet points jotted down and an idea of how the post is going to shape up I then begin writing. I usually start with a title and an intro (however they rarely end up as I write them at first as I usually go back to it at the end and make it fit what I’ve actually written).

With a basic intro in place I then take each bullet point and begin to expand them.

As I write I begin to get into the flow for the post and make a decision on what style of post it’ll be.

For example with this post I’m writing now I decided as I was writing my previous points that I would break the post up in to sections because I had enough to write on each point that I’d probably be writing several paragraphs for each one.

Alternately if as I started writing I found I only had a sentence to write on each post I probably would have written the post more as a short ‘list’ post with lots of short sharp points.

Or if what I had to write leant itself more to an ‘essay’ style post I’d have written in that form.

I know some people probably determine what style of post to write before they write – but for me I find that evolves after I’ve begun to write!

The writing takes time for me – I will usually have a go at writing the whole post in a sitting but will often then go back to it later and add more, edit some parts and rewrite others.

4. Give the Post a Critical Review

With the bulk of the post written I then give it a read through with a ‘critical eye’.

I don’t want to publish a post on my blogs that isn’t useful on some level to readers – posts just for the sake of posting don’t cut it with me so I read through what I’ve written with a critical question at the forefront of my mind – the question is ‘SO WHAT?’

I got this idea of Chris Garrett who shared at an early ProBlogger Event that he asked himself the question constantly as he wrote to ensure that his posts actually had a point and mattered.

Other questions to ask at this point might include:

  • What’s the Point of this post?
  • What impact will this post have my reader?
  • Will this actually solve my readers problem?
  • What questions will my readers still be asking at the end of this post?
  • Have I clearly communicated what I’m trying to say?

I find that in asking these kinds of questions of what I’ve written that I’m often driven to rework the post to make it more useful.

5. Add Depth

The post is hopefully shaping up at this point and is getting close to publishing but there’s an opportunity at this point to add more depth and really blow your readers away but making it KILLER CONTENT!

Here are a few ways to take a good post and make it great by adding depth to it!

  1. Give Examples – if you’ve got a practical example of what you’re teaching – give it! It’ll take your post out of ‘theory’ land and show readers that your post is practical!
  2. Add Illustrations/Charts/Screenshots/Videos – if there is some visual way to illustrate what you’re teaching you’ll significantly increase the effectiveness of the post by adding them. It’ll also give your post a visual point of interest that grabs their attention draws them into the content.
  3. Add Your Opinion – theory comes alive when you inject a little opinion into your post. It shows that you not only know ‘how’ to do what you’re talking about but that you ‘feel’ something about the subject matter too! Opinion is also great at drawing readers into commenting on your post.
  4. Suggest Further/Related Reading – adding links into your posts gives readers the option to read more. You can do this by adding links into the body of the post when you mention points you or someone else has written about or perhaps create a ‘further reading’ section at the bottom of the post.
  5. Add Quotes – if you can find someone else having said something on your topic – add it in – it’ll add another perspective to what you’re writing.
  6. Interview Someone – can’t find a quote that someone has said on your topic? Ask someone for a comment/quote to add! Send a few people a question or two on your topic and add in their responses. It takes a little effort but can add a lot to a post!
  7. Tell a Story – often ‘how to’ posts can be a little dull if they’re technical or theoretical – so adding in a short personal story or anecdote (a relevant one) can personalise the post.
  8. Add a FAQ Section – during your ‘critical review’ attempt to identify what questions your readers might be asking at the end of reading your post. Add a FAQ section to answer these questions (you might add to this if readers ask more questions in comments)!

Adding depth to a post takes time and effort – but it really can lift a good post to make it great!

6. Format Your Post

My style of writing is one where I tend to be thinking a little about formatting the post as I’m writing. I generally write posts adding in the html heading tags, bolding main points, adding lists as I write – however before publishing I will often give the post a bit of a review to make sure it looks right.

At this point I’ll often find an image or two to give visual interest, add or edit headings and think about how to make the post more easily scannable.

7. Tightening Up the Top and Tail

First and Last impressions count for so much!

Your title needs to grab attention and draw people to read your first line. Your first line is almost as important and needs to draw people to read your next line.

I think about my title and intro before I start writing, while I’m writing and then after I’ve written the post. It is crucial and worth giving time to.

A good introduction should give readers an understanding of what they’ll learn by reading on – however I also think it’s important to give readers a ‘reason’ for them to read on. Personalising the need and helping readers to see why overcoming it is going to give them much more of a reason to actually read what you’re writing.

Further Reading: check out these 8 tips for crafting great blog titles. and check out this post which gives you 11 techniques for writing your opening lines.

Also important is thinking about how you end your post.

With ‘how to’ content one effective way to end a post is to think about calling your readers to some kind of ‘action’.

If you’ve just taught them to do something your post will be SO much more effective if your reader actually implements the things that they’ve just learnt – so call them to DO it.

Giving readers homework or some kind of challenge or practical assignment is going to really do your readers a big favour – which in turn will make them more grateful for the post (and your blog). Encourage them to do something with what they’ve learnt!

Write Your ‘How To’ Post

OK – the time has come to write your ‘how to’ blog post. The only way to improve writing this type of content is to practice it again and again so get to it!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed – I suggest choosing a small problem to solve. ‘How to’ posts need not be 5000 word tutorials – they could be as simple as a list of 10 steps – each one a simple sentence!

Once you’ve written your ‘How to’ post please share a link to it in yesterdays Group Writing Project so we can see it!

Group Writing Project: Write a ‘How To…’ Post

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.

Years ago here on ProBlogger we used to run ‘group writing project’ where I’d nominate a style of posts and then all readers would go away and write a new post in that style to practice their blogging… and then would come back here and leave us a link to the post.

The Project had a few benefits:

  1. first and foremost it gave us all a chance to practice a certain style of writing
  2. secondly it was an opportunity for bloggers to show off what they could do
  3. bloggers reported seeing more traffic arrive on their blog
  4. bloggers reported making great new connections with other bloggers

So… it’s time for another group writing project!

This week we’re going to do one of the most popular ones from the past – the theme is ‘HOW TO…‘.

Yes – your challenge is to write and then come back and share a link to a ‘How to…’ post. Update: I’ve since published a 7 step guide to writing How to content on a blog.

Please note – for this project to be of any real benefit to you as a ‘writing’ project it is about writing a new post – not just sharing a link to an old ‘How to’ post that you’ve already written.

Feel free to write a ‘how to’ post on anything that is relevant to your niche.

Prize

To give you a little added incentive to participate I’m going to put up a little prize for one participant who submits a NEW post (sorry but you’re ineligible if it is an older post).

One person who writes a new post and who shares a link to it in comments below before Friday 22nd March at midnight (US Eastern time) will be randomly drawn to win the full library of 6 ProBlogger eBooks (worth $250 if you bought them all separately).

Here’s How To Participate

Here’s how to participate and put yourself in the running for the prize (please note – one entry per person – not per blog and please only submit NEW posts).

1. Write a ‘how to’ post

  • Be as creative as you’d like – take it in any direction you want – it can be on any topic (keep it clean and ‘family friendly please), it can be any length, it can be serious, funny, it can be a list post, a rant, an essay, a pictorial or video post… etc
  • Give your post a good title. Once all the posts are listed it’ll only be your title that sets it apart from others. It doesn’t have to have the words ‘how to’ in the title – but if can if you wish.
  • Feel free to write your post in your own first language – I’ve previously included a number of non-english posts and am excited by the prospect of making this a multi-lingual project.
  • Please consider putting a link back to this post on your post so that your readers know you’re participating. You don’t have to do this – but it’d be appreciated to help grow the project.

2. Let us Know about your post

  • Once you’ve posted your How To post let us know about it by leaving a comment below. Please make sure you include your name, your post title and the URL to your How to post.
  • Comments must be received by midnight on Friday 22nd March to be included in the prize draw.

3. Surf Surf Surf

  • This is where the project has potential to get pretty cool. Surf the submissions received in the comments. Leave comments, make connections with other ProBlogger readers and enjoy reading what others have to say. By surfing each others links you’ll hopefully find some cool new blogs but also make some new connections (which may well lead to people visiting your blog too!

4. Link, Tweet, Share

  • There is no formal ‘judging’ of the ‘how to posts’ received as this is not a competition. Instead – I encourage you to surf through the links left in the comments below and not only comment but share those with your own network that you like the most. Link to them on your blog (you might even like to write a ‘top 5′ post), Tweet out some links to the ones you like or share them on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc. Share a little love and you might find it comes back at you!
  • Probably the best part of the last group project was the amount of inter-linking I see happening between participating bloggers as a result of their posts. It’s obvious that people found new blogs through it and that the benefits of participating was way beyond getting a link here on ProBlogger me but flowed on to a lot of new connections and links between other bloggers.

5. Prizes

  • Over the weekend after this ends I’ll randomly draw a winner and announce them on the blog. Depending how many submissions we receive I may even try to compile them all into a list (although last time we had ALOT so that may be beyond me).

I can’t wait to see how this week’s project goes – your time to start writing starts…. now! Have fun!

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.

How to Get More Content for Your Blog

This is a guest post by Kristi Hines.

One of the biggest challenges that bloggers face – whether they are blogging for themselves or their business – is creating enough content. Most people can’t just write a blog post in 15 minutes. Creating quality content takes a major investment of time and resources. If you’re struggling to create enough content, then here are some great ways to get additional content for your blog.

Supplement with Content Curation

If your challenge when it comes to content creation is coming up with original blog topics, then one way to fill up your editorial calendar is by adding curated content.  Curated content is simply compiling and organizing content from other sources into one post. The Ultimate Resource Guide to Guest Blogging and Blogger Outreach is an example – it is simply a list of networks and posts from other sites on how to have successful guest blogging and blog outreach campaigns.

Note that these kinds of posts are not time savers – you still have to find the best pieces of content to curate, organize everything logically, give each piece a description, and compile it all together. But it can be a lifesaver when you’re having trouble coming up with new ideas while giving your audience some awesome content to chew on.

Tips for Great Curation Pieces

  • Don’t only use curation pieces. It might give the impression that you have nothing original to say. For example, if you have five new posts a week, you could consider one curation post per week. If you have one new post a week, you could consider one curation post per month.
  • Think about curation topics that could include one or more of your own posts. In the above-mentioned example, I included a post from the KISSmetrics blog on how to do guest blogging. This can help you highlight your own content as well as others.
  • Use Google Reader to subscribe to your favorite sources. Google Reader has a great search function, so if you wanted to curate resources on a particular subject, you can use the search to find posts from every blog you are subscribed to via RSS.

I’ve found that content curation comes in handy in a couple of ways. For my blog, it gives me a weekly roundup post to rely upon with no inspiration needed. Even blogs like HubSpot and Social Media Examiner have their own version of weekly curated content. And for the blogs I regularly contribute to, it was easy to find content related to their niche to group together in a large lists like 45 Posts on A/B, Multivariate, and Usability Testing and smaller lists like 8 Useful Recruitment Infographics.

Repurpose Content

Another way to create content for your blog that doesn’t include coming up with all new post ideas is by repurposing your pre-existing content. This simply means that you refresh, reorganize, and recreate content that has worked for you in the past. You can also take content in one format (such as video) and repurpose it into another format (such as a slideshow).

Tips for Repurposing Old Content

  • Find your most popular blog posts that are over a year old. You can do this by sorting your WordPress posts by going to All Posts and sorting them by the number of comments. You can also use your Google Analytics and look under Content > Site Content > All Pages. This will show you your top content based on number of views.
  • Break overview posts into several detailed posts. For example, I could take this post and create five individual posts that include in-depth details about content curation, repurposing content, attracting guest bloggers, hiring freelance writers, and connecting with businesses for content.
  • Turn a series of detailed posts into an overview post. As opposed to the above tactic, if you have a series of detailed posts on one theme, you could create an overview posts that summarizes each and links back to the detailed posts. This way, you have a new piece of content and you get a chance to highlight your previous work.

Tips for Repurposing Other Formats of Content

  • Transcribe your videos. If you are creating video content (vlogging, video interviews, video testimonials, video tutorials, etc.), then you can easily turn your videos into blog content by embedding the video into a blog post followed by a transcription of what is said throughout the video.
  • Transcribe your podcasts. Similar to video content, if you are a podcaster, you can transcribe your podcasts in a blog post.
  • Add commentary to infographics. This one you can with your own infographics or infographics made by others. Infographics usually include a lot of information that you may – or may not – agree with. Embed the infographic into a blog post (giving credit where credit is due) and then add your commentary above or below the infographic. Talk about the points you agree with, the points you don’t, and add some additional information that may not have been included. You can see an example of this in my post on Top 25 Hosting Companies that includes an infographic plus additional details.
  • Summarize presentations. If you speak at conferences or simply create presentations for Slideshare, you can embed those presentations into a blog post and further explain the bullet points and slides.

One of my goals for 2013 is to produce more eBooks, but I find it hard to commit to any piece of writing longer than a blog post, especially now that I’m a new mom. So I’m looking at repurposing as the answer by staring my next eBook as a series of blog posts. So far I have 40+ post drafts ready to be written. Once they are done, they will be repackaged nicely into an eBook.

Attract Guest Bloggers

If you don’t have time at all to create yourself, you can look towards outside resources to create content for you. The first (and free) resource for blog content is guest bloggers. Guest bloggers will provide content in exchange for exposure with your audience – they usually just want an author bio that includes a backlink to their website.

Tips for Attracting Guest Bloggers

  • Create a page on your blog with guest blogging guidelines. Title the page “Write for Us: Guest Blogging Guidelines” or similar – this includes keyword phrases that guest bloggers typically search when looking for guest blogging opportunities. Be specific about exactly what you want when it comes to content submissions so you can get the content you want and have a quick response when you receive low quality submissions.
  • Link to your guest blogging guidelines often. Link to it in your blog’s navigation bar or sidebar. Also include a quick link at the end of posts that your blog is open to guest post submissions. If you’re publishing guest posts, include a link at the top where you say, “This is a guest post by…”
  • Share your guest blogging guidelines on social media. If you have a good-sized audience that happens to include bloggers, sharing your guest blogging guidelines page on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can help you get more guest bloggers.

Tips for Working with Guest Bloggers

  • Be sure to quality check incoming guest posts.  Some guest bloggers are marketers in disguise, and there are bad marketers out there that will submit poor quality content or content that has been published elsewhere. Read the post thoroughly and do a quick Google search for a sentence or two to make sure it is unique content.
  • Make sure you stand by the information presented in the guest post. If you are adamantly against something, you don’t want to publish content by someone else that is for it. If facts are presented without reference, make sure they are true. The last thing you want is to have to defend guest content yourself. This also includes checking the website that the guest author is linking to – make sure it is something you wouldn’t mind your audience visiting.
  • Encourage the guest author to participate in the community. Specifically, encourage them to revisit the post and answer comments. This way you are getting content and community management all in one.

Last year, when I was fully focused on client work, I depended on guest bloggers to keep my blog afloat. And that they did – I had regularly scheduled guest posts two to three times a week. Although I am changing up my blog strategy this year (similar to the ProBlogger evolution), I was grateful to have such great content on my site from many talented authors.

Get Completed Articles

If you want to bypass interacting with writers for content, your next best bet is to look for networks that offer ready to go content. Networks like MyBlogGuest and GuestBlogIt allow you to connect with guest bloggers as well as browse through completed articles that you can publish on your blog.

If you don’t have time to browse through lots of articles, networks like PostJoint let you choose topics and then sends you a daily email when new content is available for you to browse. The email includes the content titles and the first sentence so you can preview them right in your inbox.

Tips for Getting Great Content

  • Quality check. Just like you would do with guest blog posts, you need to quality check articles you are getting from any network for value, accuracy, and whether the content has been published elsewhere. Just because most networks require writers to submit unique content does not mean that they all follow the rules.
  • Visit the websites listed in the author bios. While some article submissions are by bloggers looking for more exposure, others are from businesses looking to market their website. Be sure to check out their links to make sure they are websites you would be OK with your audience visiting.
  • Be prepared to answer comments. Since you are getting whole articles, you won’t be getting the author who wrote them to participate in your community. Hence you will need to be prepared to answer your comments and discuss any points in the articles you post.

If your blog isn’t quite at the stage of attracting guest bloggers, then this might be a good route to go. I also found it useful to grab pre-written, unique content for my blog on the days where my scheduled guest blogger missed their submission deadline. This ensured that my blog didn’t go silent on a day people expected a new post.

Hire Freelance Writers

If you have some money to invest in your blog and are not having luck with guest bloggers, then you can always hire one or more freelance writers. The advantage to freelance writers is that you have more control over what they write and can insist upon edits when necessary.

Tips for Finding Freelancer Writers

  • Invest in quality writers. Depending on your niche, you probably won’t be able to hire $5 article writers. When it comes to quality content, you really do get what you pay for.
  • Look for freelance writers who write for similar blogs. Run a Google search for site:domain.com “freelance writer” where domain.com is a blog that contains content similar to what you need for your blog. This will help you find experienced freelance writers in your niche and give you a chance to see how well their work is received. This will ensure you have writers who understand blogging etiquette and community participation, something you may not get out of the average article writer.
  • Contact prolific guest bloggers. Use a similar searches such as site:domain.com “guest blogger” or site:domain.com “guest post by” to find guest bloggers in your niche who may be looking to earn extra income through freelance blogging.

Tips for Working with Freelancer Writers

  • Be specific about your needs. Unlike guest bloggers, you can be really specific with what you need from your freelance writer since you are paying for their services. Suggest topics, give editorial guidelines, and let them know what you expect from start to finish.
  • Set a schedule. If you want a steady supply of content, you need to set a regular schedule for content delivery. Otherwise, you may contact your writer for a post you need ASAP to find they are already committed to other projects.
  • Pay on time. Just like happy employees produce quality work, happy freelancers are going to do the same. The best way to keep your freelancer writers happy is to pay them on time, otherwise they will spend the time they could be using to create content for your blog to play bill collector.

Though I’ve never hired a freelance writer for my blog, many blog owners and businesses have hired me to create content for them. It works out great because then they can focus on monetization and revenue generating tasks while ensuring their blog is kept up-to-date with quality content.

On to you…

Have you used any of these strategies to get content for your blog? Please share your experiences plus additional tactics for increasing your blog content in the comments!

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and professional blogger who writes about blog marketing strategy at Kikolani. She has also contributed to well-known online marketing blogs including Social Media Examiner, KISSmetrics, Unbounce, and Search Engine Journal. Follow her on Twitter or Google+.