Is blogging a silver bullet or bitter pill? It is neither, in my opinion. Blogging can reap multiple benefits but it is certainly not a panacea. Having fantastic expectations from your blog is a sure formula for failure.
If you are reading this, you are either a blogger or are very eager to start blogging.
Well, the time is right, because we are all highly motivated and feeling positive at the beginning of a new year. Then the days pass, January ends, you realize it is too late to wish someone ‘Happy New Year’, and the drudgery sets in.
But you don’t want that!
If you want to achieve blogging success in 2015, you need an action plan. Actually, I need one too, being a very busy blogger (lest I forget)!
Here are some tips I put together to keep myself focused in 2015. You can call it a Blogging Success Playbook.
And I would like to share it with you – my dear readers!
Define Your Blogging Goal
How can you achieve success if you don’t know what you are working for? (You don’t). Defining a goal is imperative and should be the first step you take this year.
Are you trying to get more visitors, sell your product, build a fan base, or earn money?
You probably answered yes to most of those questions, and it is fine to have multiple goals. But you do need to prioritize them. Once you do that, you can spread them across quarters, and have a specific goal for every three months.
Create a Blogging Strategy
Once you define your blogging goals, you need a strategy to achieve them. If you have multiple goals, you need a strategy for each of them. And, if you write for multiple blogs like I do, you need to do this exercise for every blog!
Your blogging strategy could be writing about the most popular topics in your niche, writing about latest trends in your subject, or emulating top influencers.
For example, if you see ten top influencers talk about content marketing, you can do some hard research and write an epic post on what content marketing means.
We did such a post last year and it turned out to be one of our top posts of 2014.
Decide Blogging Frequency
Once you have your strategy, you will have a rough idea of how much content you need to create to meet a certain goal. Decide a frequency for your blog posts and try to stick to it.
It is not necessary to blog every day, but it is definitely advisable to blog at least once a week.
Create a Blogging Calendar
Come up with a bunch of topics that meet your blog strategy. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to find out some popular blog posts for a given keyword. Take a popular post and put your spin on it.
For example, let’s say you search on ‘vegetarian diet’. The top results are posts that say it will ‘lower blood pressure’, ‘beat diabetes’, ‘myths’, ‘increase longevity’, ‘let you lose weight’ etc.
As you can see, there are several different tracks you can take here. This leads to more than one topic –
- X Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
- Order a Vegetarian Diet – Your Body will Thank You
- X Things you Didn’t know About A Vegetarian Diet
- How a Small Diet Tweek Can Make you an Octogenarian
- Going Vegetarian? Think about these 10 Pitfalls
- How to Spoil Your Health with a vegetarian Diet
List at least 20% more topics than you want to publish. That is because not every topic will give you a viable post. Sometimes, you just get stuck on a point.
Order the posts in your calendar logically. A ‘basic’ post should come before an ‘advanced’ one.
This blogging calendar will be a one time activity and will save you ‘thinking time’ so you don’t have to stare at the screen and think about what to write. Been there, anyone?
Design a Blogging Theme
Plan on a theme so that you end up with cohesive content. There is a method to madness too, after all.
Seasonal themes are common, so are monthly themes. If you are blogging multiple times a week, you can devote a day for a particular post.
So Monday can be a book review, Wednesday can be WordPress theme or plugin review, and Friday can be a How-To post.
We did a weekly Social media News post in 2013, and it was highly successful with our readers.
Establish Quality Standards
You might think a blogger is like the ‘hippie’ of the virtual world. But the reality is something else.
Bloggers don’t just rant and swear all the time. Especially professional bloggers don’t.
You have invested time and money – a lot of it – not to mention your reputation in your blog. So you need to have a strict barometer about what kind of content you will put your name to.
Richard Bach once said ‘Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world — even if what is published is not true’.
Your written words might just live on in eternity. You won’t!
So be diligent in ensuring that your blog posts meet a certain standard.
Make a clear list of the features every blog post should have and shouldn’t have.
An example –
- Minimum word length – say 700 words
- Pictures – how many?
- Featured Image
- Proof Reading
- Profanity, yes or no
- Links to authority sites
- Call to Action
Make sure all your quality criteria is met before hitting Publish!
Choose Quality over Quantity
While it is tempting to blog often, always choose quality over quantity. There are many times when I have wanted to publish that post, but finally decided against it because it did not fit my quality standards.
Think in terms of ROI! Five well written posts will pay off more in the long run than 10 poor ones.
Sell More than You Produce
Blogger outreach is something I am poor at. But the experts are unanimous on this one.
Plan to spend more time on promoting your posts than creating them.
Some people even advocate promoting blog posts 80% of the time, and writing blog posts 20% of the time.
That’s one more variation of the Pareto principle for you.
You will have to strike your own balance, but definitely set time aside to reach out to fellow bloggers and influencers.
Comment On Other Blogs
Copyblogger may have closed comments on their blog posts, but it is still a great way to encourage discussion and sharing.
Comment on top ranking blogs and other blogs in your niche. Provide value by giving an honest opinion or adding something to the discussion. This will get you noticed and can provide multiple benefits in the form of back links, increased visibility, referral traffic and relationships.
Flexibility is one of your strongest weapons as a blogger. It is fine to have a blog strategy and a blogging calendar, but be prepared to set it all aside and write on something else.
Some things that can throw you off the best laid plans can be –
- Unexpected world events – great topic for news jacking
- Trending topics – something everyone is suddenly writing about
- Local Events – festivals, fairs, contests etc.
Expect change and train yourself to be dynamic.
Think Outside the Box
Blogging can get monotonous, just like every other profession. Anything you do routinely becomes a chore. So you gotta mix it up!
Thinking outside the box makes you stretch those grey cells and also keeps it interesting. Writing something radically different will also keep readers hooked and make them wonder what you will write about next.
Write a mystery with twists and turns rather than an old story with a predictable end.
So you always write list posts? Write your post in the form of an allegory.
Drop the ‘How To’ and write a ‘How not To’.
Adopt a sarcastic tone or use hyperbole.
There are many different writing devices you can use to tell the same thing in a different way.
Mark Time for Learning and Skills Enhancement
Every industry grows at a certain pace. There are new technological advances, theories, best practices etc. that come up all the time. There is a new social network every few months and new buzzwords.
You need to be current with the lingo and up to date as far as knowledge is concerned. How else can you continue to be an ‘expert’?
Set time aside to improve your skills. Go for some classes, get certified, or just do self study if that is your thing.
Your efforts will reflect in your work and will give you tangible or intangible benefits.
Manage Time Better
Time management is a big challenge for bloggers. Most of our work is done online, and our research is also off Google or some search engine.
Learn to separate the chaff from the real thing.
Some ways I want to make the most of my time is –
- Do one thing at a time
- Try to concentrate and increase span of attention
- Get rid of the hyperlink mania – stop clicking on every link and banner you see
- Keep only one window open
- Check email only once every few hours
I did a Personal Efficiency training at work a few years ago, and one of the main things they taught us was to stop opening every email in real time.
Every time you open an email, your attention wanders and you click on a couple of different things. And then you realize an hour went by! This happens to me a little too often.
Switch off email notifications or cell phones when you are working. Check email once every few hours, and designate a certain time for responding to emails.
Unless you are handling something urgent and time sensitive, this approach will result in much higher productivity.
Expect STUFF from others
Whatever your job, never forget there is a person at the other end.
Especially when you are a blogger, there is a person at the other end.
Bloggers have to face their share of negative behavior. There are some things that you should consider ‘business as usual’ when you blog.
Expect someone to copy your content (without giving you credit).
Expect disrespect when you say you blog full time.
Expect snubs from your peers in the form of barbs, trolls, and other malicious behavior.
Expect that someone will write better than you.
Expect that people will want your services for Free.
And so on….
At the end of the day, you have to take it all in stride and move on. Just accept that you cannot control others’ behavior.
Focus on bettering yourself and the results will show.
Learn From your Mistakes
In Agile terminology, we call these lessons learned or retrospectives.
Take the time to evaluate your performance every week or every month.
Be honest and try to drill down to where you went wrong.
Take corrective steps and try to do better in the future.
Mistakes happen. Be wise enough to recognize, accept and correct your mistakes.
Think, but Don’t Over Think
Look before you Leap, cautioned every one’s aunt or grandma. Since childhood, we are taught to think before we speak, and ponder every outcome of every action lest we behave rashly and invoke some disaster on ourselves.
Think carefully before taking important decisions, but once you have a plan, don’t over think every step.
Don’t over analyze.
Don’t over think.
Do the best you can within the allotted time. And that should be good enough.
We have something called the MVP in Information Technology called the Minimum Viable Product.
Once your blog post meets your quality criteria, it is good to go.
Spend more time promoting it, rather than thinking of more fancy words to express the same thing.
Simplify. And then Simplify More
Simplicity is underrated.
Being simple is hard. And being as simple as possible is the hardest.
No, I am not showing you an example of ‘Antithesis’.
Want to be a better blogger? Try to get your word across in the simplest and shortest way.
Flowery language, wit, sarcasm and other facets of language are wasted if your reader does not understand them.
This was one of my biggest challenges while writing my WordPress book. I had to explain technology in a way that a non-technical person understood it. And that took considerable effort.
And that finally brings us to the end.
If you have read everything till here, give yourself a pat on the back because this shows you are really committed to being a successful blogger in 2015.
Some of the things here like blog strategy and planning are something I do every year, and some things like blogger outreach are going to be fresh challenges.
Did you find this post useful? What are you already doing and what do you find challenging? Would you like to add anything to this list?
Please leave a comment and join the discussion. Here is wishing you stupendous blogging success in 2015!Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community