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The Anatomy of a Better Blog Post

The last couple of weeks have turned up some valuable blogging advice for those who are working to hone their craft and become better blog post writers.

Not everyone falls into this category—some bloggers are happy with the way they write. Others publish videos or sound files instead of text. And that’s fine.

But for the rest of us, I wanted to put together a little roundup of advice on each of the parts of a text-based blog post.

  1. 4 Post Headlines that are Guaranteed to Get Readers Excited
    This post by Greg Ciotti was published here at ProBlogger late last year. It has some great ideas to help you focus as your writing headlines, and produce really compelling titles.
  2. 10 Tips for Opening Your Next Blog Post
    I designed this post to help you overcome Opening Line Paralysis (OLP)—something I suffer from often!
  3. How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros
    In this post, Andrea Wren analyses possible introductions, providing a different perspective that I found valuable.
  4. How to Write a Great Paragraph
    Tackle the techniques of great paragraphs with James Chartrand. This post is a great one for any blogger who wants to keep readers glued to their posts.
  5. 5 Tips for Creating a Truly Valuable Tutorial
    Sharpen your skills in writing tutorials and how-tos with this straightforward ProBlogger guide.
  6. Finding Truth in Fiction
    Andrew Dubinksy’s post about the power of story, which was published on Jeff Goins’s blog, is guaranteed to help you bring life to the story you tell in your next post.
  7. How to Use Images in Your Blog Posts
    Karol K covers all the basics of using images to accompany your text content, so even if you’re not technical, this guide’s perfect.
  8. 8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read
    I found Robert Bruce’s Copyblogger article very interesting. I’ll be trying some of these tips myself—who wouldn’t? Great advice.
  9. Is Your Link Text Letting You Down?
    Here, Georgina explores a few different ways you can include links within your blog posts.
  10. 7 Powerful Ways to End Your Next Blog Post
    Of course, today we published Ali Luke’s advice for wrapping up a post—great ways to avoid having your post trail off into nothing.

Have you seen a great article on crafting quality blog posts recently? Help us build this list by adding it in the comments below.

7 Powerful Ways to End Your Next Blog Post

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

You know your title has to hook readers.

You know your first line needs to keep them reading.

The start of your blog post matters. But so does the end.

In fact, without a powerful end to your post, all the work that you put into the title and paragraph one is wasted. Because the end of your post is what keeps your readers coming back for more.

Here are seven powerful ways to end your post.

1. Sum up your key message

Sometimes, you need to hammer a point home. The final few lines of your post are a great opportunity to make sure that your key message gets across.

If you can, bring out a new point—or sum up in an engaging way. If you just rehash what you’ve already said, readers will wander off, bored.

Example:

To write 100 books (75,000 words per book) over the next 30 years, you need to be writing 1,000 words per day (writing five days a week, 50 weeks per year). At a brisk but comfortable pace, that’s an hour a day.

If you want to write 100 books in the next ten years, that’s 3,000 words a day.

Being prolific is closer to possible than you might have believed.
—David Masters, Writing Secrets of Prolific Authors, Write to Done

2. Encourage the reader to take action

Many blog posts are full of excellent advice, but how often does that advice actually get put into practice?

Readers love posts that are practical, and if you can persuade them to do something (and see the benefits) then they’ll be much more likely to return to your blog.

Example:

But in the meantime, here’s a tip you can use right away. You’ll have vastly better copy on your website in 20 minutes by following these two simple steps:

Go look at your web copy right now.

Take out every word that doesn’t contribute something new.

Come back here and tell us about the before-and-after. I bet you’ll have something to say!
—James Chartrand, Do You Have Useless Website Content?, Men with Pens

3. Ask the reader to share your post

If you want more tweets or Facebook shares, ask for them. Readers won’t always think of sharing your post, and they may not notice that you’ve got a “retweet” button waiting—unless you tell them.

You might also want to encourage readers to forward a post to friends: unless you’re writing for a predominantly techy audience, there’s a good chance that a lot of your subscribers are getting your feed by email.

Example:

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!
—Ali Luke, How to Have Confidence in Your Writing – and Yourself, Aliventures

4. Link to another useful resource

When readers finish one post, they’ll often be ready to read another on a similar topic. If you’ve written an inspirational piece, for instance, it’s a great idea to link to a practical guide that helps readers turn that inspiration into action.

You don’t need to link to blog posts, either. Pointing readers towards newspaper articles or books in your field isn’t just useful—it also helps demonstrate that you’re on top of what’s happening in your niche.

Example:

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these posts inspired by art:

  • Writing as an emerging sculpture: Inspiration from Michelangelo’s slaves
  • 15 ways modern art galleries can inspire writers

—Joanna Penn, 7 Lessons For Writers From Leonardo Da Vinci, The Creative Penn

5. Ask a question to encourage comments

Questions work well in titles and first lines—and they’re also a good way to end a post. Asking a question for readers to respond to (e.g. “do you any tips to add?”) is likely to increase the number of comments you get.

Don’t go over the top with questions, though: one or two are usually enough. You don’t want your readers to feel bombarded with a whole string of questions.

Example:

Did you find some great strategies of your own in the videos? What are the exciting ideas informing your own marketing—and how are you implementing them?

Let us know in the comments.

—Sonia Simone, 3 Content Marketing Ideas You Should Steal from Coca Cola, Copyblogger

6. Tell readers what’s coming next

If you want people to subscribe to your blog, or to keep visiting the site for updates, you need to let them know that you’ve got good stuff coming up.

At the end of your post, let readers know what’s coming tomorrow (or next week). You might simply drop a hint like “I’ve got something big to announce next week…” or you might tell them to stay tuned for a more advanced post on a similar topic to the one they’ve just read.

Example:

Next week I’ll post about moving larger WordPress sites. Those might not work with this method because your export XML file will be too large, and you might not be able to upload it via the WordPress import feature.
—Daniel Scocco, How to Move A Small WordPress Site Via the Import/Export Tool, DailyBlogTips

7. Promote your product or service

Even though you might have information about your book/ebook/ecourse/etc. in your sidebar, some readers won’t see that—they’ll either be reading in an RSS reader or they simply won’t notice.

The final line of your post is a great place to let readers know about your product (or to remind them that it exists). This works especially well if your post has been on a similar topic—for instance, if you’ve written about procrastination and you’ve got an ecourse on getting things done, there’s an obvious link between the two!

Example:

Also, check out our Blogging for Beginners Series for more blog tips and ProBlogger the Book for a comprehensive guide to improving your blog and deriving an income from it.
—Darren Rowse, 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog, ProBlogger

Which of these tips would work well on your next post? Leave a comment below to tell us what you’ll be trying out…

Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, and blogs for a number of large sites. If you’re struggling to keep up the motivation to write for your blog, check out her post on Six Common Writing Excuses (And How to Overcome Them).

Is Perfectionism Stalling Your Productivity?

We’ve all been there … You sit down to write a post. You get the opening line down, but half-way through the second sentence, you go back to tweak the first. A bit further on, you decide to chop up the paragraphs you’ve done so far and rearrange them … but on second thought, is that really the better option?

In two minds, you “finish” the post, then spend a half-hour writing and rewriting the “ideal” headline.

Finally, happy(ish!) your cursor hovers over the Publish button … but you just can’t press it. You decide to give it some time, and come back tomorrow, when you know you’ll end up rewriting the whole thing from scratch using the same “process.”

Meanwhile, your blog’s getting more dated by the minute. Your regular publishing schedule has gone out the window, and you’re miles behind on your blogging goals.

Perfectionism: the ultimate time drain?

Back in the days of print, things had to be perfect before they were published. There are certainly plenty of great reasons for making sure your content is as good as it can be before you publish it. Yet die-hard perfectionism holds many a blogger back from achieving their full potential.

I’ve seen it many times online—and discussed it with plenty of bloggers, from all walks of life and areas of the blogosphere, over the years.

In How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Your Blog, Jennifer Blanchard lists perfectionism as one of the main reasons why people procrastinate.

As someone who’s started more than 20 blogs in my time—and wound up quite a few too!—it’s safe to say I’ve got a pretty good handle on perfectionism now. Here’s how I managed to overcome it.

  • Realize that the web is flexible: The web isn’t print. You can very easily add to, update, and tweak a published post later, either based on feedback from readers or on additional information that’s come your way since you wrote the post.
  • Understand that your readers know you’re human: Your readers don’t know just know it—they respect it. Bloggers like Jon Morrow and Leo Babauta work closely with their readers, and are happy to show their human sides. And their readers are all the more loyal for it.
  • Recognize the value you can get from using reader feedback to improve your posts: Reader feedback can add depth and perspective to your posts, and boost their usability for other readers. But the process of working with readers on your posts—crowdsourcing the icing for your blog post “cake”—can also boost the sense of community, collaboration, and engagement around your blog.
  • Respect the importance of your publishing schedule: Your posting schedule isn’t just about content—it’s about meeting reader needs. Showing up—publishing great content—is square one for bloggers. That’s where blogging starts. No content, no blog. So by using your publishing schedule as a guide—and sticking to it—you respect your readers and you’re ticking the first box on the checklist for achieving your blogging goals.
  • Realize that an incomplete post will probably attract more comments: By “incomplete,” I’m not suggesting that you stop writing before you get to the end of the post and publish it as-is! But the Blog Tyrant makes the very good point that a post that exhausts its topic “leaves readers with nowhere to go.” You don’t need to cover off every aspect of the post’s topic in order for that post to be “good.” A post that doesn’t exhaust the topic may receive more comments—and shares if the conversation becomes particularly interesting or illuminating.

Of course, we all want our posts to be factually accurate and typo-free—that’s a given. But there are also considerable advantages to letting go and seeing where a less polished post might lead…

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How is it holding your blog back? And how have you overcome it (if you’ve managed to do that!)?

Frustrated by Blogger’s Block? Try this Exercise!

Feeling frustrated today about a lack of ideas to write about on your blog? If so, you’re not alone. Here’s another technique that I use to overcome it.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post here on ProBlogger that gave a tip for fighting blogger’s block. It asked you to identify a problem that you had three years ago and to write a post that solved that problem for your readers.

Another variation on that technique for overcoming blogger’s block is to write a post that taps into a “feeling” that your readers might typically have.

There are probably thousands of bloggers in your niche writing content to solve the problems of your readers, but I bet that in most niches, most of them don’t look after the feelings of their readers.

Acknowledge and work with those feelings, and you’ll be blogging with empathy—not only solving problems, but making emotional connections with your readers. You’ll also be connecting with different personality types than if you just write a dry how-to type post.

Which feelings should you concentrate on? While negative feelings might be the obvious choice I think there’s a case for writing about the whole gamut of feelings:

  • Feeling lost? Here’s a way forward.
  • Feeling paralyzed? Here’s how to get moving.
  • Feeling excited? Here’s how to capture that excitement and use it for good.
  • Feeling lonely? Here’s a place to connect with others.
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how to navigate that.
  • Feeling fearful? Here’s how to overcome your fear.

You’ll notice in the above examples I’ve taken each of the feelings and then written a how-to response, but there are other ways to tap into the feelings of your readers, too.

One great way to do it is to tell a story.

  • Feeling Lost? Here’s a time I felt that, and here’s what happened.

Another way to tap into feelings is to start a discussion.

  • What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with your work.

So sit down today and think about what kinds of feelings and emotions your readers might have.

You might get some hints in the comments section of your blog. You may also want to think about your own feelings and emotions (past and present) as they pertain to your topic.

Once you’ve identified a feeling, write a post that starts with that feeling. Acknowledge it up front, then write something that helps your readers to move forward from that place.

I’d love to see links below to the posts you write after doing this exercise! Please do share them.

The Gong Fu of Blogging

This guest post is by Michael de Waal-Montgomery of The Monty Mike Times.

The word Kung Fu comes from the Chinese word “Gong Fu,” which means “hard work.” Anyone who’s studied Kung Fu knows this name is well deserved. It’s tough going, no matter how good you get.

Blogging is also “gong fu” sometimes. On a good day, the writing can seem to flow effortlessly, perhaps feeling something more akin to Tai Chi, or “Tai Ji Quan” in the original Chinese.

On a bad day, blogging is exhausting. The thought alone of sitting down and staring at a blank page, a blinking cursor in a field of white snow, can be utterly depressing.

If you’re writing for pleasure, this is the last place you want to be. Why spend your own free time doing something you’re not enjoying? It’s a question worth asking.

Inspiration

The other question worth asking is why does blogging feel like such hard work today? The answer is usually because you’re uninspired. You feel you have nothing worth blogging about. You feel like you have nothing interesting to say.

What you deem uninteresting and what the world deems uninteresting are often not the same thing. For starters, you spend every day with yourself, locked up in your own head.

Because we are too close to our own situations, to our own lives and the events that unfold within them each day, it’s easy to make a judgement call that we are just boring people.

That’s not true.

No one else is living your life. No one else is seeing the world in quite the same way you are. No one else is thinking the same thoughts and no one else is taking away the same lessons from each experience.

If you are feeling that writing that blog post is a bit Gong Fu today, look for inspiration. If you think you have to climb a mountain to find it, you’re wrong. Inspiration can be found everywhere, in everything.

Look in your thoughts, and at your experiences. Consider the things that make you who you are, the places you’ve been, and the people you’ve met. The lessons you’ve learned living this life.

It is said that a man is what he thinks about all day. If you think about cars, blog about cars; if you spent the whole day feeling uninspired, blog about something that will inspire others instead.

Often looking for a topic to blog about is as easy as facing up to the very one you’re running away from. The one that you think will bore readers to death.

Limitation

There is very little new and original content in the world today. What’s new and original is the way you look at something old and tired. The angle you take, the spin you put on it. The piece of your character that you bring into it.

The possibilities are endless.

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. There are only four limbs in the body. Yet bloggers go on blogging and Kung Fu teachers go on teaching Kung Fu. So what’s the secret?

They know how to stay inspired, how to stay hungry. They know how to look at the ordinary and find the extraordinary. If you can’t learn to do this too, your blogging will always remain Gong Fu.

Time to buy some new spectacles, perhaps. Or take off your old ones. The whole world is right in front of you, like an oyster.

So start writing that latest blog post already!

Michael de Waal-Montgomery is a full-time journalism student and aspiring writer who enjoys blogging in his free time. You can read his rants over at The Monty Mike Times.

Writers Block? Try this Quick Tip

Recently on Twitter I was asked by a follower how to overcome an extreme case of writer’s block.

My answer was:

“Think about a problem you had three years ago and write a post that solves that problem.”

Writer's block

Image copyright JRB - Fotolia.com

The reason I find this technique helpful is:

  • It identifies a real need that someone will have—if you have had the problem others will have it too.
  • It identifies a topic that you have personally had, which makes your post more personal and empathetic.
  • It identifies a problem that you’ve overcome or at least have some wisdom on, so hopefully your post is constructive and helpful.

Try it today—identify a problem that you’ve had and then solve it with a post. Once you’ve done it, share a link to your post in comments below. I’d love to see the problems that you solved today!

Don’t Ever Write Without this Writer’s Warm-up

This guest post is by Karol K of Online Business Design blog.

What is a writer’s warm-up? I hear you ask.

I’m going to answer this question in a minute, but first let me get an initial “yes” from you.

Did you ever notice that your initial piece of writing on a given day is not the best you can do, and you’re actually aware of that? Is that a “yes”?

Of course, there can be many reasons for this, but the main one might be simpler than you think. First of all, just because you don’t like what you’ve written doesn’t mean you have a plumber’s writer’s block. Nor does it mean that apparently it’s not your most creative day, nor that the topic doesn’t seem particularly comfortable for you, nor anything else like this.

What if, maybe, you’ve just been writing without warming up first?

Why a warm-up is important

Writer's warm-ups

Image copyright Robert Kneschke - Fotolia.com

I’m sure you know the value (actually, necessity seems to be a better word here) of warming up when it comes to any kind of physical exercise or sport.

You can’t lift heavy weights without starting with very small dumbbells to get you going. And you can’t run a marathon without some prior stretching (and probably a lot of other stuff I know nothing about since I’ve never run a marathon).

Well, it’s not just sports. What was interesting to me when I first went to a vocal class was that it always started with a warm-up too. This lets your voice prepare for the upcoming effort. Staying on the mouth—related topics, warm-ups are also nothing unusual for competitive eating professionals. From what I know they start their “training” by eating a modest one kilo of grapes…

Why is it, then, that most bloggers start writing their posts without any kind of warm-up?

I see four reasons:

  • Up until today they didn’t know about such a thing.
  • They feel warmed-up enough.
  • They don’t see the value.
  • They don’t realize the risks.

Let’s tackle them all at once, starting with the last one.

The risks of not warming up before writing

We all know the risks of not warming up before sports. Lack of a warm-up is the fastest way to an injury or a serious muscle pain that could take away the whole joy of doing sports. On a professional level, lack of a warm-up significantly lowers the performance and can even lead to a career-ending injury.

What about blogging? Well, you’re not going to break any bones, so the risks are not that obvious, but they are still there.

For instance, the most common result of writing without a warm-up is the amount of time you’ll spend staring at a blank screen. Everybody knows that getting started is the most difficult part, and many people struggle to get the words rolling.

Even though you have your post’s topic well researched, and you know what message you want to convey, getting those ideas to a digital piece of paper can be hard.

Thankfully, this whole process can be sped up a lot if you just take care of some basic warm-ups.

You see, no matter the activity, warm-ups are all about getting started. A warm-up is always a set of the most basic, simple and easy movements possible for a given activity.

Therefore, due to its simplicity, no one ever has problems with getting the warm-up done. No one is ever stuck on the warm-up because, practically, that’s impossible.

At first it seems counterintuitive, but warming up actually saves you time. You do begin writing later, that’s true, but you are more likely to finish earlier and create a better post along the way.

To be honest with you, I had my share of can’t-get-started problems in my short blogging career. There were times when I was sitting in front of a blank screen for up to an hour. I felt I couldn’t start writing anything decent even though I had the topic researched.

For me, the cause was simple: writing the mysterious “quality content” is not easy, just like doing a 300-pound bench press is not easy. Even when you posses the necessary skills, both these challenges require some warming up.

How to do a writer’s warm-up

Okay, so what’s the most basic thing you can write, one that doesn’t require any preparation whatsoever, and is impossible to get stuck on?

Writing an essay on the meaning of life is one thing, but I’d advise something different—a personal journal.

It fits the description perfectly. Everyone can write about how their day was, or what they have in plan for the evening, or what they think about other people and situations, and so on. Just like everyone can talk about these things to a friend.

So, every day (or whenever you’re doing your writing), start your writing session by firing up your personal journal (Penzu, for example is a great online journal tool) and jotting down whatever is in your mind.

There are no rules to writing a journal. Whatever you do, you’ll be doing it well. Besides, a personal journal, like the name indicates, is a purely private thing, so no one will ever see it.

I, personally, always write at least one journal entry before starting to work on an article. It takes me five to ten minutes to put down 300-800 words (I wish I could write some decent posts at this rate).

After I have my entry done I immediately switch to writing a post. And since I already have the right mindset, I can usually start without any hesitation lasting longer than two minutes or so.

You know what? I guess the “writer’s training program” is straightforward after all: five minutes of warm-up with a proper writing session afterwards.

I’m only asking for one thing here—have a little faith and try this yourself. Everyone who I’ve ever given this advice to has agreed that it’s one of the most effective things you can do to improve your writing. And for me, it’s been a true game changer.

What do you think about this whole idea? Are you using a similar technique? Maybe you’ve been doing this sort of writer’s warm-up without even knowing it? Feel free to speak up in the comments.

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a grad student at the Silesian University of Technology. He hates to do traditional business but loves to train capoeira. Tune in to get his blogging advice and tips on starting an online business.

The Right-brain Thinker’s Guide to Beating Blogger’s Block

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

In his 2009 book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explained that the new world of business is a great place to be a right-brain thinker. Right-brain thinkers are the creators and the empathizers. If you’re a blogger, you are probably a right-brained thinker … and you probably deal with blogger’s block on occasion.

What is blogger’s block? It’s what happens to all bloggers as they try to crank out new, original posts day after day: they eventually run out of ideas. Ever struggle with that?

However, have you ever thought about using your very own creative quirks to generate blog post ideas? Following is a list of qualities that right-brain thinkers have and tips on how you can use these qualities to break those moments of blogger’s block and kick out some great blog posts.

Right-brain thinkers are impulsive

Some of the really great bloggers are those who are quick and impulsive when it comes to blogging. Think of Robert Scoble’s comment that if you aren’t at least apologizing once a month, then you are probably not doing anything interesting. He did it in a big way with Twitter. It’s good to catch hell on your blog every once in a while.

To overcome blogger’s block, just throw caution to the wind and see what happens. I know I probably ruffled some feathers when I wrote Why You Should Get Drunk – The ROI of Partying or You don’t have to be smart to be an entrepreneur.

But I stand by what I wrote and I think I provided a lot of people with some good ideas. All the comments I got and tweets suggest I did something right.

Right-brain thinkers question authority and rules

Another great idea for blog posts involves just challenging current rules or asking why certain rules exist.

For example, SEOs are always wondering and challenging why Google is doing certain things. Aaron Wall wrote a great post called Google Aggressively Enters Make Money Online Niche where he made a list of all the listings in the SERPs for a certain term and pointed out how Google products dominated the results. He’s challenging authority, and so should you.

Right-brain thinkers are unlikely to read instruction manual before trying

Ever just get tired of the same old thing? Ever feel like you don’t want to do things the traditional way? If so, that’s great!

Sometimes breaking blogger’s block involves just ignoring the best practices and creating something that breaks the mold. That’s exactly what Smashing Magazine did with The Death of the Boring Blog Post.

Listen, I give you permission to break all the rules. Just forget about the rules and just write! Keep in mind not all of your ideas may work. Be patient and don’t give up, because failure is a great way to improve your blogging skills.

Right-brain thinkers process multiple ideas simultaneously

Good right-brain thinkers can hold more than one idea in their head, even if the ideas are totally different and contradict one another. So, one of the best ways to get creative and break blogger’s block is to bring together two very different ideas.

Austin Kleon takes the idea of creativity and criminality to come up with a very original blog post called Steal Like an Artist. He combines images, drawings, and photos with commentary that leads you down his list of ten things he wishes he’d known about creativity when he started out.

Right-brain thinkers write things down or illustrate

Sometimes it just helps to get your ideas down on the screen. That’s usually what I do once I’ve gathered enough information about the topic I want to write about. And don’t forget: just write as quickly and carelessly as you can! Tell that editor in your head to “shut up,” and just write.

Another way to break writer’s block is to draw. Hugh MacLeod is the superstar in this area, but there are other great drawer/bloggers out there. Just take Organizational Chart of Major Corporations at Bonker’s World or Fake Grimlock’s Minimum Viable Personality drawing. These are two great examples of distilling an idea to its essence.

Right-brain thinkers are visual, focusing on images and patterns

When you’re looking for blog topics to write about, it helps to look for patterns in information. Perhaps you have an idea for a topic and you start to look at articles. Keep reading until some kind of pattern emerges. You might key into something that a handful of people keep saying. That could be your topic you explore.

Or you might spend some time looking at dozens of photos on Instagram, Flickr or deviantART. Any one of those places could trigger an idea for a post.

Right-brain thinkers intuitive, led by feelings

When blogging, do you tend to hide your feelings? In other words, do you try to remain objective and distant? If so, stop it! Bring out your feelings when you write. If something makes you angry, write about it. If something makes you laugh hysterically, write about it.  Besides, ranting is How to Get People to Remember Your Posts.

Right-brain thinkers see the whole first, then the details

If you tend to see how a particular blog post is going to look, like you know the headline and you probably how you are going to open it and close it, but you’re not sure what is going to go in the middle, that’s fine.

If you see the whole post first, it might help you to write an outline. A lot of the time I’ll have the headline and then I’ll work on all the subheadings. Then I’ll go through and start filling out the different sections.

What are the advantages of an outline? Here are three:

  • You won’t get lost: With an outline, you’ll have a road map for your blog post to help you stay on track.
  • You evaluate your idea early: With an outline, you can also see if you may have trouble putting your post together. An outline is like an early, simple version of your post.
  • You write with a sense of flow: Outlines help me get into my writing so I pick up momentum.

Sometimes I’ll run into a dead end as I’m writing a post. Instead of getting frustrated and banging my head, I’ll just start working on a different, easier section of the post.

Right-brain thinkers use free association

Using free association to come up with blog posts can be fun. All you do is just sit down and start thinking about something. Follow where each idea leads. Don’t stop writing until you are out of ideas or just tired.

Also, make sure you save all your ideas. Don’t throw anyway away because you’ll have a lot of ideas for future blogs posts in that one rambling, rough-draft session. Plus, look for the interesting insights or patterns you see in your writing. As Scott Myers says in Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work:

“What happens? In my experience, oftentimes I’ll hit on a nugget. Perhaps something related to the scene, perhaps not, maybe something later in the story, or an idea for something else entirely. Generally when that happens, I end my free association session. Other times, nothing seems to emerge, so I just stop.”

By the way, free association is a great way to break writer’s block.

Right-brain thinkers have no sense of time

When I say “no sense of time” I don’t mean you don’t know what time it is. What I mean is you enjoy what you do so much that you lose track of time. But you probably have to fight off the tendency to be distracted by phones, Facebook, and co-workers. Distractions can cause writer’s block.

Some bloggers I know will work on a 33-minute schedule. They’ll write focused for 33 minutes, get up, drink some coffee, check all their social media sites for about five minutes and then get back to work. It kills writer’s block and tends to be a very productive way to write.

Creative breaks for blogger’s block

Blogger’s block affects us all, whether we tend to be right- or left-brain thinkers. Hopefully the qualities of creative thinkers I described above will give you that spark you need to inspire you next time you are struggling to come up with a new blog post idea.

What things do you do to inspire you to write and break blogger’s block?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

7 Ways to Keep Fresh Content Flowing On Your Blog

This is the third post in a series on taking your blog to the next level.

bloggers-block.pngImage by …rachel…

“How do I keep posts flowing on my blog?”

This is a question that most bloggers face at one point or another – particularly bloggers who have been blogging for 6-12 months.

The reality is that there comes a point where most bloggers feel either uninspired, unmotivated, that they’ve got ‘bloggers block’ or that they’ve said everything that there is to say on their chosen topic. This is something that we’ve all felt at one time or another – so what does a blogger do about it?

The first thing that I want to encourage you with is that all is not lost. Every blogger has this challenge at one point or another (in fact most of us face it regularly) and it is possible to break through it. They key is to persist through the tough times – something that many bloggers do not do.

At this point it is important to sit down and work out how you will generate content going forward. There are a number of strategies that come to mind for doing so – all of these I’ve used at different points and I hope that some will give you inspiration and a way forward:

1. Mind Mapping

My favorite technique for coming up with new topics is using mind maps. I outline my mind mapping technique here but in short the technique is that you take one post idea (one from your archives perhaps) and then brainstorm ways that that topic can be expanded upon into numerous new topics. You then take some of those new ideas and think about ways that they too can be expanded upon into new posts. This technique can literally help you identify hundreds of new topics to write about.

Whether you use Mind mapping or some other kind of brainstorming technique the key is to set time aside to do it. I try to do this at the start of each week and find that if I do that the writing task for the week ahead is a lot smoother – sometimes just coming up with the ideas is as hard as the writing of posts.

2. Involve Readers

One of the resources that a blog who has an established readership has (remember we’re writing this series for these types of blogs) is that it has a knowledge based within it’s readership that can be drawn upon in a variety of creative ways to help create content for your blog. There are a lot of ways to do this – but here are a few:

  • Guest Posts – in every 100 or so readers there is bound to be 1 that has the knowledge, expertise, motivation and skill to contribute posts to your blog. The key is to identify them and give them the confidence to contribute a post to your blog. Pay particular attention to those leaving comments on your blog. You’ll find that some comments just go the extra mile and contain wisdom and depth that are not far off being the standard of actual blog posts. Also don’t be afraid to invite contributions by writing post asking for guest posts or having a page linked in your navigation inviting contributions.
  • Reader Questions - stuck for a topic to write about? Ask your readers to ask questions. A post inviting reader questions can draw out some great ideas to write about.
  • Community Written Posts – one of the things that I’m loving about Digital Photography School at the moment is that some of our best posts are actually ones that our readers provide the majority of the content and teaching for. My role is not to ‘write’ the content for these posts – but to ask a question and set some boundaries for a discussion – and then open it up for readers to add their suggestions. Examples: How do I take band promotional photos?, How Would You Photograph a Funeral? and How to Photograph Grandma?

3. Explore new ‘Voices’

One way to break out of a rut as a blogger is to experiment with new types and styles of posts. Sometimes doing so can unleash creativity and new ideas. So if the majority of your posts are ‘tips’ posts – try an opinion piece. If you always write ‘news’ type posts – why not try something with a bit of humor or controversy.

Further Reading: I’ve outlined 20 types of blog posts for bloggers battling bloggers block here to give you a little inspiration.

4. Update Previous Posts and Topics

Even after a few months of blogging you can hit a point where you feel like you’ve covered most topics in your niche. Many bloggers get to this point and simply give up the blog – however I’ve found that most posts that I’ve written in the past can be expanded upon, updated, improved or rewritten with fresh insight.

Also keep in mind that many of your old posts will only have been read by long term readers and your new readers will not have seen these posts.

Further Reading: The Why and How of Updating old Blog Posts.

5. Guest Posts

The decision to allow guest posters onto your blog has both good arguments for and against it – but it is certainly one way to keep the flow of content going on a blog when you’re a little low on inspiration or don’t have enough time on your hands to be writing content (see also Why Guest Bloggers are Great for a Blog).

Getting people to submit guest posts on a blog is not always achievable when a blog is very young and the blog has little profile – but once you gather a readership and build your reputation as a growing community it becomes easier to attract contributions from other bloggers and freelance writers looking to grow their own profile.

If you’re new to the idea of finding guest posters for a blog – start with your own readers (as described above – look in the comments section of your blog) and then also look at other blogs in your niche or even forums that are on a similar topic to your blog. I’ve also had some real success lately with finding guest posts for Digital Photography School from non bloggers, particularly pro photographers who are looking for a little extra exposure to their business sites.

Further Reading: How to Find a Guest Blogger for Your Blog

6. Hiring Writers

Another way to approach bringing others onto your blog as writers is to look at hiring a blogger (or team of bloggers) to help you create content for your blog. This has some cost associated with it – but can (if you do it right) increase the quality and frequency of posts as well as decreasing some of the admin of relying upon guest posts.

I’ve hired a small team of writers for DPS who I pay on a per post basis (as well as giving them exposure in the posts that they write) and have found this experience to be well worthwhile. For a start it has attracted a good caliber of writer to the blog, increased the knowledge base and expertise of the writing, added to the variety of topics we can cover and increased the frequency with which we can post.

When it comes to hiring writers – I’d advise starting with your current reader base – you might find that some of your regular readers would take on a regular writing job for a little financial reward. Another approach is to look at other bloggers on your topic or to even advertise on a job board like the ProBlogger Job board. I advertised for my team of writers almost 18 months ago and had so many great applicants that I couldn’t use them all and most of them still write weekly posts for me today.

Another quick tip on hiring writers – you can also hire them for short periods. As long as you’re up front about the length of the period that you’re hiring for I’ve found that bringing on a staff writer for a couple of months when you know you’re going to be away or have your attention on another project can be well worthwhile doing.

Further Reading: How to Advertise for a Blogger

7. Develop an editorial calendar

One technique that can help a blog grow beyond its infancy is to begin to think longer term about the content that you produce. I personally find that when I only think a day ahead about the content for my blog that it can be difficult to build momentum in the content that I’m writing. It’s also difficult to keep coming up with topics.

A way to help overcome this is to set aside time either on a weekly or even a monthly basis to map out the direction for your content in the period ahead.

This enables you to do some brainstorming/mindmapping (see point #1 above) and set the course for your blog. Doing this takes some discipline and can feel like a chore when you sit down to do it but the result is that it gives you a lot of freedom and can take the burden of having to come up with topics from your shoulders.

I find that the months I set out a plan for the content on my blogs are much better than the months that I do not. I usually find on these months that I end up writing a series of posts and that readers really respond well to the momentum that I build.

Another spin on the idea of an editorial calendar that I know some bloggers have a lot of success with is to set different ‘styles’ of posts for each day of the week. For example:

  • Monday might be ‘tips’ day where you write a ‘how to’ or ‘tip’ related post
  • Tuesday might be ‘review’ day where you review a product related to your topic
  • Wednesday might be ‘news’ day where you summarize the latest news in your niche
  • Thursday might be ‘link’ day where you link up to another blog in your niche
  • Friday might be ‘opinion’ day where you express your opinion on a topic
  • Saturday might be ‘reader discussion’ day where you post a question or poll for readers to interact with
  • Sunday might be ‘from our archives’ day where you highlight an old post on your blog

The sky is the limit in terms of the types of posts that you write (look at the 20 types of blog posts list that I mention above for other types to consider) – the key is to find types of posts that are relevant to your topic and that readers respond well to. This might feel a little contrived or structured for some bloggers, but I find that many bloggers find it to be a freeing experience, particularly to get them through a tough period.

What Would You Add?

I have literally scratched the surface with this post on how to keep fresh content flowing on your blog. I’m certain that among the readership of ProBlogger that there are a lot more ideas – if you’ve got one, please add it to the comments below. Together we can break though this ‘bloggers block’!

Further Reading: Battling Bloggers Block – a compilation of a series of 25 strategies that are designed to help you get through bloggers block.