A Guide to writing good email…. and blog posts?

There’s a nice post over at blue flavor on how to write good email – an author’s guide which as someone who gets a lot of email I wish everyone would read. It’s got some great common sense tips.

I wonder if there are a few good tips for bloggers writing blog posts buried away within it also? Here’s a few that I’ve tweaked to see if they might apply:

On Brevity

“Short emails blog posts rule. When I get come across an email a blog post that’s several pages long, I have to make some decisions: do I have time to handle this now? Is it important enough to come back to? Can I pass it on to someone else? If I can’t say yes to any of these, I will probably never get back to read it.”

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Schedule Writing Times

200605161802One of the ways that I find helpful to get back into the momentum of writing a blog is to set aside specific times for writing.

I find it is very easy to get distracted by the many different elements of maintaining a blog, to the point where I find it hard to do the core element – writing posts. As a result setting aside time for writing has become increasingly important for me.

I do this by setting aside time each day (usually the same time each day) for writing but also setting aside longer times on a weekly basis (ie at present I’m experimenting with making Mondays ‘writing day’). I’ve also at times taken even longer periods of time to go away for the sole purpose of writing (ie for a weekend).

I find that setting this time aside away from email, away from IM and even away from being online altogether really lifts the quality and style of my writing.

Of course in the midst of the rest of my week I do write posts – but they tend to be more ‘newsy’ and ‘link posty’ in nature.

I guess ultimately this ‘tip’ is common sense. The things you are intentional about putting time aside for are the things which you have a good chance of doing. The same tip could be written in terms of ‘scheduling time for design’, ‘scheduling time for blog promotion’, ‘scheduling time for Ad optimization’ and many other basic blogging tasks – but ultimately it is a blog’s content that is at it’s core and I’d recommend putting aside time for it’s creation as one of the first things a blogger should do each day.

Using Posting Schedules to Maintain Momentum

200605161802Another strategy for planning ahead that many bloggers use is to create a postings schedule for themselves. This can happen on a range of levels (from informal to very structured) but is often a great way to give some level of structure and motivation for posting. Here’s a few quick ways that I’ve seen bloggers do this:

  • Numerical Goals – set a daily/weekly/montly posting level that you want to achieve.
  • Topical Goals – set yourself a number of topics that you want to cover over a period of time. These can be ‘general’ topics (ie you want to write 5 posts this week in a certain category on your blog) or can be quite specific (ie you want to write 1 post on XXX topic, another on YYY topic and another on ZZZ topic).
  • Post Style Goals – set yourself a type of post to write each day. Some bloggers have a weekly rhythm that they stick to (ie on Monday I’ll post an interview with someone, on Tuesday I’ll write a rant, on Wednesday I’ll do a review post, on Thursday I’ll do a link post style wrap up on the news for the week and on Friday I’ll write a tip post) For ideas on different types of blog posts – here’s 20.

Make your goals reasonable enough to be achievable as well as big enough to stretch you a little.

Using posting schedules works brilliantly for some people and gives them a wonderful framework for their blogging, but for others it can squash their passion for blogging. It’s worth experimenting with though and seeing if it fits with your personality.

I tend not to use posting schedules in day to day blogging but do find them very useful in those times when life threatens to get on top of me and I find maintaining momentum most difficult. In these times I attempt to set a goal for each and then on a piece of paper in front of me tick off each post as I write them.

Public Posting Schedules – some bloggers not only have personal or private posting schedules but have public ones and tell their readers what to expect on their blog. This makes the blogger accountable to their goals and can create a sense of anticipation among your readers but is also risky if you don’t meet the expectations that you create in your regular readers minds. I do this if I’m writing a series of posts and I know I’m going to follow through on my goals – but don’t like to set many more expectations that that as my own style of blogging is reasonably spontaneous.

Timing Your Blog Posts for Maximum Impact

TimingIn the last two days I’ve been fortunate enough to have Lifehacker link to two posts (here and here) on my Digital Photography School blog. The results have been two wonderful days of traffic with not only links from Lifehacker but quite a few secondary links from other sites that flow on from such a prominent link.

One of the things I’ve been reflecting upon about the two link ups was the difference in impact between their two posts. The first one sent some very nice traffic but was about half as prolific as the second one.

While there are perhaps a couple of factors at play – the main one was the timing of the two posts.

The first post went up on Lifehacker in the middle of the life hacker day (they tend to post most of their posts during the daytime in the US). It wasn’t the first post of the day but it wasn’t the last either. After they posted it there were numerous other posts that went up to other sites on that day. The post with my link in it remained at the top of the Lifehacker home page for no more than an hour.

The second post went up as the last post for the day. This meant it was the most recent (and therefor first) post on lifehacker for around 10 hours.

While these were probably not the most highly trafficked hours on Lifehacker (who I assume has more readers during the daytime in the US) the traffic that resulted in the extended period at the top of their home page was significantly higher than on the first day when there was a quick initial spike in traffic but then a tapering off.

So what’s the application of this little observation?

Ultimately unless I manage to find a way to bribe the team at Lifehacker to link to me every night as their last post timing the links that others give you is something that is based pretty heavily upon luck.

However while timing the links that others give might be out of a blogger’s control the timing of posts on your own blog are well within your control and perhaps it’s worth considering what posts are left to sit for longer periods of time. I’ve never really given much thought to this myself but have talked to a couple of bloggers today who have and who use a couple of strategies:

1. One blogger told me that if he’s going to post posts with affiliate links in them that he saves them for the last ones of the day to maximize the length of time that the links appear at the top of his blog.

2. Another blogger told me that she is trying to impress another blogger or catch their attention (with a link in her post) that she often attempts to time her posts to maximize the traffic that she sends. She does this by either posting the post in peak viewing time or by making it the last post for the day.

Of course many bloggers also consider timing their posts in other ways – I know of quite a few who make sure a post goes up every morning just as the east coast of the US is waking up to maximize their exposure for the day (this is something I do from time to time myself).

Do you consider the timing of your posts? What factors do you consider and what strategies do you employ?

Rambling Blogging

Aaron Wall writes a good post titled Rambling too Much = Bad Blogging.

I agree that rambling isn’t good blogging practice, but I wouldn’t say that all long posts are. To me it comes down to weighing up the individual factors that a blogger and their blog face and finding your own ideal post length.

Aaron sums his post up with this good (and concise) statement:

“If you are going to be longwinded make sure it is so focused, topically relevant and interesting that it becomes the industry standard for that topic. Elsewise you are best off writing quick posts.”

The Two Most Important Words in Blogging

Brian’s done it again with a great post at Copyblogger and has written about The Two Most Important Words in effective Blogging. You really should read it because it’s right on the money.

How to Sell Information Products

Wouldn’t you love to have your very own product to sell?

More and more bloggers are looking to diversify their income streams, rather than having all their eggs in the AdSense basket. Others are just now discovering blogging, and they recognize right away that it is an ideal platform for information sales business models.

For my very first guest article here at Problogger, I’d like to share a few tips about utilizing a blog to both create and sell information products. While it’s possible to sell information products created by others through affiliate programs, I’d like to encourage you to consider creating something yourself, as it puts you in the absolute best position in the online sales world.

The good news is, if you already have a blog, but no product, you’re on the right track. And if you have neither a blog nor an information product in development yet, you will definitely want to consider starting to blog first. I’ll explain why below.

So, without further ado, here are 7 tips for creating and selling information products with blogs:
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Writing Blog Post Headlines That Get Results

Copyblogger has a very useful post on Writing Headlines That Get Results that is well worth the read if you’re like most bloggers and spend a lot of time writing posts and then just slap a title on it.

‘According to some of the best copywriters of all time, you should spend half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline. So if you have a blog post that is really important to you or your business, one that you really want people to read, you should downright obsess over your post title….’

How to Write for Busy People

Ben at Inside Firefox has written a great little post on how to write for Busy People (and lets face – most of us fit the category).

I think the six points they make are great advice for bloggers also. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t break the ‘rules’ and still have a worthwhile blog – but they are worth keeping in mind.

  • Making important points up front
  • Clear taxonomy of headings, and lots of them
  • Writing clearly and succinctly
  • No long, unbroken paragraphs or tracts of text.
  • Preferring bulleted lists with clear points to paragraphs.
  • Use of emphasis in formatting to make important things clear

I particularly would echo Ben’s sixth point. I know that when I go to a blog and see long unbroken paragraphs that it’s a major turn off. I don’t mind reading long article but am much more likely to do so if I can see it’s well organized, not too overwhelming and if it gives me some hints at a glance as to what it’s about and what I’ll get out of it. First impressions count for a lot.

The only extra hint I’d add to Ben’s list is to think carefully about your main title. He’s mentioned headings which could include this – but I think if a title is designed well it can communicate a lot and be the thing that gets people reading or turns them away from your post.