How often should I post on my blog?
How long should my posts be?
Can I have other people write articles for me?
How far can I stray from my chosen topic?
How do I create incredible content that attracts hundreds of comments and shares? How do I keep people coming back to read everything I publish?
At some point, all bloggers have these and dozens of other questions about developing content. Maybe you’re struggling with some of them right now.
As we gear up for the launch of our new blog Expert Enough as part of the Million Dollar Blog Project, we’ve been thinking a lot about content strategy. I’m going to share our content strategy for the new blog later in this post, but first, here are 11 of my top tips for developing outstanding content for your blog:
- Experiment with content types, formats, lengths and more.
If I had to leave you with just one tip for creating outstanding blog content, it would be this: experiment broadly and often with all aspects of your content.
Especially in the beginning, you need to try a lot of different things to figure out what works for you and your audience. Every situation is different. The types of posts that go viral on one blog might go flat on yours. Something that seems simple might become a huge hit at your site. You never know.
There are lots of things to experiment with. Try really short posts, and really long ones. Try easy-to-read list type posts and try essay style posts. Try infographics and surveys and round-ups and ask-the-readers posts.
The point is, if your blog isn’t a huge success yet, don’t just stick with the same old boring content groove you started with. Play around until you get a reaction from your audience. When you find something that resonates, run with that theme and try other similar posts.
The more quickly and methodically you experiment, the sooner you’ll figure out what really works. Don’t waste time writing the same post over and over again expecting that one day you’ll be “discovered.” More than likely, you’ll just get bored yourself unless you try new things.
- Actively work to find your voice.
Figuring out who you are as a writer is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying discovery. But, it can take a lot of time and dedication to really find your voice.
Just like you need to experiment to figure out what content types work, you also need to experiment to find your voice. This has less to do with trying different content types, and more about trying different topic, different points of view and by playing with different roles and emotions.
Here’s some of my best advice about finding your voice from a post that led to major breakthroughs for me:
How do you convey your full personality through words? It’s not an easy thing. How do you show that you’re passionate, gutsy, funny, provocative, dynamic and vibrant like your friends know you to be? How do you let people know your full values, traits and even quirks through writing?
There are two areas that keep us (or me) from fully self-expressing ourselves:
The first is courage. It takes guts to do something you’ve never done before. Knowing that once you write something online it’ll be out there for good can make you question every word, every sentence, every blog post. And what if people don’t like your fully-self-expressed self? That could make a grown man cry. Or at least stop revealing himself.
The second is writing ability. I’m not talking about innate writing ability, something you can only be born with. I’m referring to a learned skill here. The skill of being able to write conversationally, drawing on all of your experiences and thoughts and feelings, and to get those across in a coherent way. I think you can learn that skill. Some people come to it naturally, and other people have to work at it. Like me.
Without the courage and skills, many of us end up with a half-assed persona online. Something that sounds stiff and formal in a way that we don’t sound in person. (Side note, this doesn’t just apply to writing, either. You can create personas that you use in real life in different situations, especially in business situations).
To muster that courage and gain those skills, you have to experiment. Try writing rants, try expressing parts of yourself you’ve never shared before, try being funny, try being serious, try acting like a leader.
Dig in and examine your favorite writers and try to figure out how they’re able to connect so easily with you.
Finding your voice is something every blogger should strive to do. Once you have, your writing will be more exciting and powerful forever.
- Pick one person and write for him.
One of the biggest problems I see with beginning and struggling bloggers is a lack of connection with the audience. It’s easy to write bland, robotic, anonymous posts. It’s much harder to write posts that make your audience feel something because you connected with them on an emotional and human level.
A trick that often works for me is to think of one person (usually a friend) and write as if I’m talking to him or her directly. This can help make your statements more conversational and relevant and help you avoid being vague or obtuse.
Give this a try for your next post and let me know if it leads to a breakthrough.
- You don’t have to create everything from scratch.
When blogging started, a lot of the value in blog posts was in discovering new content. Bloggers used to share other great content from around the web as a way to help their readers out.
Once social media came along, much of that sharing and linking moved to Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.
It’s too bad, because you can create some really great and useful content by pulling other sources together on your blog. By acting as a curator or facilitator, your readers will appreciate the time you spend helping them find great stuff they might not otherwise find.
The next time you feel stuck, as if you have nothing interesting to write, try creating a post that comments on other great content that already exists. Link out freely and you might also get the attention of other bloggers.
To learn how to curate content effectively, check out Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. Maria is a master of “combinatorial creativity” as she calls it. Watch how she pulls from 100s of sources, both online and off to create her unique and ingenious blog.
- Spend a LOT more time on headlines.
However much time you’re spending on headlines right now, you should probably double it.
Killer headlines are an imperative to getting your content noticed among the sea of other headlines being shared across social media. Your headlines mean the difference from a wildly popular post and one that goes unnoticed.
- You can get help if you want it.
If you’ve thought about getting help writing content for your blog, there’s good news. It’s actually pretty easy to get other people to write for your blog, for free. All you have to do is ask.
Bloggers like to write guest posts for other blogs because it means they’ll get exposure to a whole new audience. The bigger your audience, the easier it is to attract guest writers, but even if you’re just starting out, you can still ask people to guest post. Just aim for other bloggers who are starting out as well, and maybe offer to swap guest posts.
- All else being equal, posting more frequently is better.
The more often you post on your blog, the more chances you have to connect with your potential audience, and the more chances you have of writing a viral post.
Just make sure you’re balancing quality over quantity. If writing more often means you end up writing fluffy, irrelevant posts, you might want to dial back the frequency a bit. But if you’re able to crank out high quality stuff on a regular basis, try writing even more often and see if your audience grows faster.
- Follow proven formulas.
You can learn a lot by studying what has worked well for some of your other favorite bloggers. One technique I’ve used repeatedly is to borrow from the formulas that create viral posts elsewhere online.
Here’s an example: earlier this year I published 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Set Your Blog Up for Massive Success. That post quickly became one of the most popular posts ever here, and I wasn’t surprised one bit.
How did I know that post would be a big hit?
Simple. I copied a proven formula from one of my favorite blogs. Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt published a post the week earlier called 24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Can Change Your Financial Life Forever. It was his most popular post ever (which is saying a lot considering how popular Man Vs. Debt is).
I adapted his post formula to suit my own needs and hit publish. Hundreds of you retweeted it and liked it on Facebook, just like Baker’s readers did for his post.
Pretty cool, right?
Then, a smart listener heard Pat Flynn and me talking about the technique during the SPI podcast on traffic and engagement. He ended up with this as a result (read about the full details at the Smart Passive Income blog):
- Listen to your audience.
When your audience responds enthusiastically to one of your posts, a light bulb should go off. “Ah ha! They dug this post, I should do more of that!”
How can you tell if your audience likes what you’ve posted? Check the # of comments, shares, links, average time spent on the page, bounce rate and other statistics. If they’re much higher than average, you may have a winner on your hands.
To figure out what your audience likes, pay close attention to how they respond to everything you publish. Refer back to tip #1 above and make sure you experiment with lots of different kinds of content. This will make it much easier to identify what people like.
- Write about things you care deeply about.
Ah, the old “passion” cliché once again. You’ve heard it before:
People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing – Dale Carnegie
There’s a reason you hear so much about passion. When you really care about what you’re working on, the sentiment comes through. It makes your writing more powerful, more human, more connectable. Your words will be more likely to resonate with your readers. They’ll be more likely to share your stuff.
If you’ve been writing about things you’re indifferent about, try switching it up. Take on something you love to talk about. See for yourself if the results are different.
- Make your content readable.
It’s a shame when bloggers work so hard to create something brilliant, but then package it up in unreadable long paragraphs with no visual markers or interesting breaks.
Learn how to make your text more readable in this post I wrote called The Simple Technique That Will Make Everything You Write Online More Popular:
Here’s the thing. When you write in long monotonous paragraphs with no specific emphasis, you make your readers fall asleep.
They take one look at your 10-line-long paragraphs and head for the back button.
The problem is that those long paragraphs make your readers work too hard, so most of them don’t end up reading your text at all.
Readers on the web don’t read word-for-word, starting at the top, like you would a novel or news article. Readers on the web start by scanning new pages, looking for key points and headings.
By making your text scannable, you make it more likely someone who visits your page or receives your email will digest what you’ve written.
Next: Try At Least One of These Today
Each of these tips can be implemented easily for your very next blog post.
Give one or more of them a try today and let me know how they work for you. Seriously, I challenge you to try something new with your blog content for your very next post.
The Content Strategy for Expert Enough
Once we launch, we’ll have to develop some incredible content on a regular basis to build a blog popular enough to reach our million dollar goals.
Here’s the basic outline we’ll be following:
Posting schedule: 3x per week to begin with, 5x+ per week later on.
We’re working hard to build a really big, really fun and interesting new blog. Posting just a couple of times won’t do this topic justice. To pull this project off, I’m anticipating we’ll have to post much more frequently. That’s not to say you can’t succeed by posting less, but we have bigger goals for this project than the typical blog.
Contributors: I’ll be writing posts weekly for the new site and Caleb will also be writing. The two of us aren’t experts on everything though (yes, it’s true), and we’ll have trouble keeping up with a daily schedule unless we have help.
That’s why we plan to involve lots of different guest contributors. If you’re interested in writing something for the new site, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to talk to you about it. It should be a great opportunity for you to get some exposure from our (hopefully) big audience.
Content types: to keep things interesting for us and our audience, we plan to employ lots of different content types including: how-tos, expert interviews, in-depth guides, infographics, lists, link round-ups, running series, reader interaction posts: questions/polls/challenges, 30-day challenges, quizzes and more.
Topics: this is one of the most challenging aspects of our new blog. The main topic of “expertise” is potentially a little boring on it’s own. We’re going to try to spice it up and make this blog broadly appealing by talking about things like food & drinks, travel, tech, health & fitness, social commentary and more. We’ll also include lots of posts about expertise and becoming an expert, along with success and leadership type posts.
Curation of content: we don’t plan to create every piece of content from scratch. Instead, following blogs like Lifehacker, Boing Boing and Brain Pickings, we plan to include lots of links and commentary on other relevant content from around the web. Read tip #4 above for our explanation of why this is a good approach.
Social media: as I mentioned before, we’re already maintaining a Facebook and Twitter account for Expert Enough. We’ve started posting lots of links to other content we think our audience will appreciate over there, and we’re gaining followers and interacting with people.
We plan to continue using Facebook and Twitter actively to extend the Expert Enough community. We’ll use the social media outposts as places to interact and post extra things we don’t cover on the blog. We’ll be updating each of these actively, with 15+ daily Twitter updates and 2+ daily Facebook updates.
Of course, this is just our plan to start with. I’m sure things will change along the way as we experiment to see what people really respond to.
Now we’d love to hear from you. What is your favorite tip for creating outstanding blog content? Please share in the comments.
And if you’re following along with the Million Dollar Blog Project, please share any questions you have about your content strategy below. We’re happy to answer.
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