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10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on your Blog

Now that we’ve talked about why a blogger might consider the use of a series of posts I’d like to turn my attention to the way in which I do it.

When it comes to the way I build a series of posts on a blog my workflow is a little different to Eric’s (although there are some real similarities also). Let me outline how it usually works for me (and it does vary from time to time).

1. Identify a topic - this is of course key when it comes to developing a successful series (as it is with single posts also). As I reflect upon most of the series of posts I’ve written here at ProBlogger over the past year it’s interesting to see that in virtually every case the series has started in my mind as a single post. For example – one of my first ever blog series was one I wrote on AdSense for Bloggers. This 8 part series started (in my mind) as a medium sized post. As I started writing I soon realized that there was more that I could write than would comfortably fit in one post and so the series began.

The key of course is to make sure you choose a topic that is large enough to warrant multiple posts (you don’t want to write a series just for the sake of it) but manageable enough not to overwhelm you. Some topics are so large that they could almost be a blog in and of themselves.

The ideas from most of the series that I do generally do come from the themes that I see in the interactions that I have with my readers. Questions that they ask are usually key in triggering my thinking in this way.

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How to Write a Blog Series

MindBlog has a good post on Writing a Series of Blog posts which outlines the process that Eric goes through when putting together a series of posts over at his blog.

The method of stringing related posts together in a series has been a central part of ProBlogger over the past year (I always seem to have one on the go) so Eric’s post got me thinking about my own workflow in writing them.

As a result I thought it’d make a good series to write how I do it!

Don’t worry – it’s just going to be a 2 part series. In this post I’ll talk a little about WHY writing series of posts from time to time can be helpful and in the next (and last) post in this mini-series I’ll outline my 10 step process for writing a successful series.

Writing a series of posts is an excellent strategy for bloggers for a number of reasons.

  • Instead of ending up with one longer post on your blog on a topic you end up with multiple highly targeted posts which is good for your blog’s Search Engine presence
  • Series of posts can often help bloggers to go deeper and examine a wide topic in a more comprehensive way
  • They help build momentum on a blog over time in terms of your writing flow – I also find that they are good for helping me keep my motivation to write up on my blogs
  • They encourage repeat readers (people come back each day for more)
  • If you put them together smartly they are interlinked which is good for building page views per reader, creating stickiness and ranking well in Search Engines

A Word of Warning – I do suspect that some bloggers take the idea of the blog series too far in a couple of ways.
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How Often Should a Blogger Post?

Seth writes a good post on what he calls The noisy tragedy of the blog commons. He observes the high posting frequency of the top blogs going around and writes:

Just like the marketers of Oreo (now in 19 flavors of cookies) we’re dealing with clutter by making more clutter. RSS fatigue is already setting in. While multiple posts get you more traffic, they also make it easy to lose loyal readers.

I think posting frequency is a question that bloggers need to consider very carefully on a number of fronts. Here are some of the factors to consider:

1. Writer Burnout – Every year I do a 24 hour blogathon to raise money for a charity (this year’s will be soon – so get your paypal account stocked up with cash ;-) ). While I enjoy the process a lot I also find that it generally leaves me quite burnt out – both physically, as you’d expect, as well as in my ability to write. This is an extreme example but is what happens if you overload your blog for a sustained period with loads of posts (unless you have a team of bloggers to help you – as do many of the larger blogs). The constant drive for high quality and relevant content is something that takes it’s toll on a blogger. Post too often and the quality of your writing could suffer.

2. Reader Burnout – I’ve noticed that on some of my blogs that a high number of posts in too short a period can also leaving readers burnt out. This is only the case with loyal readers who either come to your blog via a bookmark each day or who follow you via RSS. I know from personal experience of reading blogs that if my news aggregator shows that there are over 20 unread posts on a blog that I’m less likely to read each post in full (unless it’s one of those blogs that I’m a massive fan of). If a blog consistently posts at too high a rate I’ve even been known to unsubscribe from it simply because I can’t keep up.

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Is Submitting Free Articles a Good Strategy for Blog Growth

Yaro has been doing an experiment to see whether writing article to submit to ‘free articles’ directories is a worthwhile way to build your blog (a strategy that quite a few bloggers use) His post is at The Verdict: Is Article Marketing Worth Your Time? The results don’t seem conclusive but I’m sure others would have experiences to add to Yaro’s so head over and have your say.

Generating Ideas for your Blog

Liz has a nice post on being an Idea Magnet today that I’m sure many will enjoy.

As she writes – one of the most difficult parts of blogging for many is coming up with ideas that are fresh and engaging. I know after three years of blogging I have days when I get up and wonder if there is anything else to cover! To this point I’ve not run out of ideas (although have had lean patches which I think are a normal part of the the blogging cycle).

If you’re stretched for ideas at present read Liz’s post – and if you’re still out of inspiration you might also find my battling bloggers block series of some help.

One Dimensional Blogging

I’ve been watching a number of blogs recently that seem to have become a little obsessed with one of two things – Memes and attempting to get to the top of social bookmarking site’s like digg.com and del.icio.us.

Now I’ve got nothing against a good meme from time to time and have been known to write posts that have done well with social bookmarking sites – but I wonder if perhaps if every every second or third post you write has this type of focus whether a blog can end up looking a little one dimensional.

You see as I reflect tonight upon the niche topics that I’m covering on different blogs I realize that to cover them comprehensively generally means a need for a variety of types of posts. For example on a gadget site a blogger could just write reviews and have a half decent blog, but if they added in a ‘how to’ or ‘tip’ post every now and again they’d add a second dimension and if they wrote a post every now and again that gave the latest news in the industry they’d add a third dimension. Add in some ‘rumor posts’, ‘rants’ and a post or two that are questions for readers to discuss and you could end up with quite a dynamic blog (see this post for 20 different types of posts).

Of course you don’t want to use every type of post all the time as it’s important to establish some consistency in your voice and style – but I do find myself getting a little bored with some blogs that just seem a little too one dimensional.

Am I the only one?

An Introduction to Using Images on Blogs


The following post was submitted by Duncan Riley from the Blog Herald, Weblog Empire and b5media. I asked Duncan to explore the topic of using Images on Blogs. I think you’ll agree that his article below is a very comprehensive exploration of the topic which I hope you will find helpful .

Any good blogger will tell you that images and imagery are vitally important in the development and rise of any good blog, but they are often also quite often the most frustrating, annoying and time consuming aspect of any blogs life as well. None the less its important that you know about them

Types of Images

For ease of use I’ll categorize images on your blog into two categories: design imagery and content imagery. Naturally design imagery incorporates any images you may wish to use in the design of your blog, be that in the header, sidebar or footer. Comment imagery is photos and images you post as part of, or exclusively as a post to your blog. It’s important to understand the differences between the two because although we will be covering a lot of common ground in dealing with both types of images, there are also some separate consideration as well.

Toolbox

Some new blogging tools (such as Performancing for Firefox) allow you to drag and drop images you see on websites and other blogs into your posts, however they serve this image from the source, and that’s generally considered very poor form by most bloggers. You are going to need to be able to save, copy and edit any images you want to use. To do this I would recommend that you consider using Image Manipulation software to give you the freedom to do as you please to your images.

Free vs Paid

Personally I use Adobe Photoshop for all my image editing needs, however, particularly when you are starting out, it would be not dissimilar to learning to drive on a brand new Ferrari. Photoshop is the industry standard image manipulation tool in professional business and is available on Mac and PC, but it’s not a cheap option. Personally I don’t use the latest version of Photoshop because I’m happy with the slightly older version I use as it does everything I could ever want it to (and a whole lot more). You can pick up older versions Photoshop at places like eBay second hand if you can’t afford to buy an new copy off the shelf.

Other commercial programs that are available include Corel Draw and Paint Shop Pro.

If you don’t want to spend money on image editing software though I’d highly recommend downloading The Gimp, which is available for PC, Mac and Linux. It’s a fully fledged Open Source (free) image software package that many claim is as powerful as Photoshop.

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More on Writing Content for your Blog


Much more could be written about writing effective blog posts – but rather than keep this series going for a month or two I’ll break my ‘granular post’ advice and make a few brief miscellaneous comments on writing content to help fill out the topic (with links for most to places I’ve written more on the topics):

  • Interactive Blogging – While occasionally I come across a blogger that doesn’t want too much interaction with their readers I get a lot of questions from bloggers asking how to get MORE interaction – particularly around how to have a more interactive comments section. While a major impact upon comments is the number of visitors you have on your blog there are definitely strategies for getting more comments (also check out this post on The Secret to Interactive Blogging). The main tip I’d give on this is to be interactive with the readers you have. Start with what you’ve got and build from there rather than complaining about what you don’t yet have.

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Scannable Content


Make Posts Scannable – One of lessons that I would advise all bloggers to get their minds about is that in addition to fact that the average web user doesn’t usually stay long on a web pagethey also don’t read much of it As a result, scannable content is a userful strategy to use in your blogging.

One study found that only 16% of people read word for word when they are online and another found that the average person only comprehends about 60% of what they read.

Rather than read word for word – web users ‘Scan’ pages for information – looking for key words, phrases and visual cues.

Here are a few tips and techniques you can use for working with your scanning readers and not against them:

  • Lists – This will be no surprise to ProBlogger readers – I’m pretty big on lists and my stats show me its my posts with bullet point lists in them that get linked to ALOT more than similar length posts written in of an essay style. Read more on lists in posts at this list on why lists are good.
  • Formatting – Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points. Don’t go overboard as you run the risk of frustrating your reader. Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
  • Headings and Sub Headings – Using headings midway through posts helps with post structure (and many believe with SEO if you use <h> tags) but they also are great for drawing your readers eyes down the page and helping them find the parts of your article that will interest them most..
  • Pictures – clever use of pictures in your posts can grab attention, emphasize points and draw people down into your post. I’ve played around with pictures pretty extensively on a couple of my blogs and find they add a real air of professionalism and interest to posts – there’s nothing worse than long chunks of text on a page – break it up!
  • Borders/Blockquotes – boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
  • Space – don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen – rather create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed and again tend to draw readers eyes to what is inside such space.
  • Short Paragraphs – Web users tend to get lost in large blocks of text – break it into smaller bites and you’ll stick with it for longer.
  • Don’t Bury your Points – Make your main points as clear as you can. One technique to ensure this is to get your main point across in the first few sentences rather than burying it in your conclusion.