The age of blogging galore is over. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have readers too. There was a time when the mere fact of having a blog would bring you an interested and sometimes avid audience. But now the field is too crowded and you really need to stand out if you want to talk to somebody else besides the guy who’s looking at you from the reflection of your monitor.
I’ve written more than 300 articles on this blog by now, and I feel I have only scratched the surface. In today’s article I’ll share some of my insights on how to write constant, quality and engaging content for your blog. Although I primarily blog about personal development, this post won’t be about this specific niche, you can use the advice for whatever blog you have, or intend to have.
Play With Your Words
This is by far the most important and useful tip for writing good content, at least for me. Although I have a constant pool of ideas, I like to write without constraint, to play with the sentences and see where I land. By playing with my words I understand writing in a free form, without being concerned about following the main idea of the post.
You may find yourself drifting really fast from the initial target and write about things that are surprising even for yourself. Or you realize that you’re not so keen about the initial idea and another, much appealing topic is rising. Go for it. Write as you don’t have a deadline or a structured approach. See where you land.
Apart from being a very good antidote to writer’s block, this free form writing approach is almost always a fantastic way of brainstorming new ideas. Every time I start writing an article, I don’t really know if it’s going to be a series, if it’s going to be about the initial topic, or if it will be 400 or 4000 words. But I do know for sure it will be something I would love to write about.
Keep An Incubator Of Ideas
If you’re serious about blogging, you’ll going to be serious about blogging. And by that I mean you’ll have to treat it as a full time occupation. The published articles on your blog will be only the visible part of an iceberg. Under the sea level lies your entire setup. One of the most important parts of this setup is what I call an incubator of ideas.
Your blog will be a reflection of yourself, regardless of the topic you write about. Ideas can come in the most unusual places and at the most unusual times. You have to develop a scaffold for capturing those ideas and keep them in a safe place. The capturing setup is beyond the scope of this article, as it implies a variety of approaches and devices, for now it’s important to know that you have to capture and keep all of your ideas.
I created such a blogging incubator setup using MacJournal and its ability to create smart journals based on a variety of keys (tags, post priority, post status, etc). Even more, I use a GTD paradigm, meaning I isolate the “Next Posts” in a separate journal, so I can always have a fresh focus on them. Feel free to read the entire tutorial.
Make Room For Other Opinions
One of the most forgotten things about blogging is its conversational nature. A blog is made of much more than your own insight. It’s made of your readers comments, the pingbacks, the blogogsphere reactions, and more. If you write in a very sharp way, keeping a rigid approach, chances are that your blog will not become mainstream soon. It may attract a small pool of faithful fans, if you are really good, but not more. In this case, I think you’re using blogging in a therapeutical way which is not inherently good or bad, it will just not become very popular.
Making room for other opinions will allow your readers to express their own insights, to create controversy, to allow freedom of speech and to receive new hints for future posts. I’m not talking only about keeping the comments form opened and answering to your readers as soon as you can, I’m talking about a whole specific approach in your writing.
Even when you’re giving advice or when you’re expressing a very personal point of view, allow yourself the freedom to be challenged on that. Most of the blogs I read on a regular basis have this approach: they present facts or ideas in an open way, giving me a chance to react, to enhance or to disagree openly. And you know what? I can’t wait to come back again to see what happened since my last visit.
Clearly State Your Expertise
No need to be shallow if you’re blogging. No need to brag either, of course. But there is a very important point you should be aware of: make your expertise very transparent. It will not only help your credibility, but it will give your readers a sense of comfort.
If you had a business for 10 years, be transparent on that. I had a business for 10 years, and that gave me the perspective and authority to write several series about how to create and maintain an online business.
But if you started something new, and have no idea about what you’re doing, be also transparent. One of the most read sections in my blog is about the raw food diet. I kept a raw food diet for more than 7 months (it ended once I got back from my trip to Japan) and blogging about it was a fantastic way to learn something new. I wasn’t an expert on that, and I clearly stated that.
Keep a closed list of topics. That will make your blog easily recognizable. Don’t go too far, don’t spread too much. If you have other interests, the best thing you can do is to create separated blogs for them. Consistency is the key in creating a credible blog brand. Two months ago I decided to migrate 2 of the categories of this blog, namely iPhone and astrology, into their own blogs: iPhoneCounty and AstrologyBits. I will write about iPhone and astrology here, of course, but only when there is a consistent overlap with the main topic of this blog, which is personal development.
Being consistent means also be your most attentive and agile reader. You have to constantly read your blog. Maybe this sounds strange, and it will be strange in the beginning, but once you crossed 50 or 100 articles, you’ll know what I mean.
When I had more than 200 articles, I decided it’s time to automate a little bit this task, and I created a mind map for my blog. I put each post into this mind map, and whenever I want to see my blog from a distance, to have an image of the content topics and their overall weight in the blog, I look at the mind map. There is a separate post about how to put your blog into a mind map (featuring a lot more than just keeping your posts in it), so feel free to read it.
Nobody will write content for your blog, you’ll have to do it. Of course, you can create a network of blogs, hire people to write and pay them. But in that case you’ll be an entrepreneur, not a blogger. A blogger blogs, period. So, practice your writing, do it often and do it again.
One of the key metrics of a blog is what I call posting speed. It’s basically how many articles you intend to write in a period of time (week or month). This posting speed has a very interesting effect on your writing: it will make it better. The more you write, the better will be at it. There is always a threshold here, you’ll have to experiment a little to see which posting speed is suitable for you. Last year I intended to write 90 articles in 90 days, and I failed miserably after only 17 articles.
But when I decided to have at least 15 articles by month (a practice I follow for about 8 months now) I also created a simple wordpress plugin in order to help me with it. It’s called wordpress blog audit plugin and you can download it from here (among other useful stuff to download). The plugin does a few simple things, one of them being the ability to show if you met or not your posting speed.
So, what are YOUR opinions about writing compelling content for your blog? What can you share about this topic? Do you find the advice useful? Do you have something to add? Would love to hear your insights in the comments.