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Infographic – Steps To A Great Blog Post

Blogging whimsically feels natural. It feels genuine. It feels easy, creative, and fun.

But after you’ve spent a few days, weeks, or months churning out amazing, whimsical blog posts that don’t get any traffic, you might start to feel a little (a lot) discouraged.

Here’s the thing – you need your unique insights and creative spirit to come up with solid blog post ideas; that’s what will set your blog apart from the rest of the noise out there. But there’s no reason you can’t also learn from successful bloggers to ensure you are making the most of all the content you work so hard to create.

The next time you sit down to write a blog post, plan to take a little more time and follow these steps to make it a truly great one. For example, if you usually spend a few hours on a single blog post, this time plan to spend a few hours every day for a week on a single post and complete every one of these steps. You are very likely to see a difference when you follow these techniques – I know I have!

Blogging Infographic – Steps To A Great Blog Post

Content Marketing Infographic - Steps To A Great Blog Post | Alana Le | Content Marketing For The Rest Of Us

 

Follow These 11 Steps To A Great Blog Post

Tired of creating amazing blog posts that don’t seem to go anywhere after you hit “Publish”? Follow these 11 steps that the pros use to create great blog posts that get real engagement and build your brand. Read on for more detail into each step.

I’ve also added some really great resources for each of these crucial steps. You don’t have to read all of the links – there’s plenty of overlap – but if there is a step where your knowledge is a little shaky or it’s outside your comfort zone, definitely take a look at some of the links I’ve added. I’m a researcher (is that a personality type? It should be!) and these are the resources that have taught me a lot about blogging and I wanted to share them with anyone else who wants to learn.

1 – Find Great Topic Ideas

Search for your target keywords, see what posts are out there already and identify what they’re missing. Or, think of a strong stance that you need to take about what’s happening in your field. This is where you need to apply your own unique crazy creative insights and combine them with a realistic look at the content that is already available.

Think about it not as mimicking other content or restricting your creativity to the mainstream, but more as leveraging your creativity by focusing on sharing insights that will have the greatest possible impact. The important thing is to remember that a great blog post is usually not created in a vacuum – it’s aware of its larger context, but brings something new and better to the table. Do your research, see what kind of content already ranks well for your keywords or is being shared by influencers, and build on that.

More tips on doing keyword research:

Help for coming up with blog post topics:

2 – Define Your Ideal Target Audience

Before you even start writing, it’s a good idea to have a single reader in mind – that way your tone will be more natural and your content more useful than if you wrote for the thousands of people you’d love to attract to your blog. So get in detail if you can.

I sometimes like to fill out a profile for my target as though I were creating a fictional character, imagining things like their personality type, hobbies, etc. But not everyone loves getting into all the imaginary details like I do. 🙂 The important thing is to just be as specific as you can. For example, instead of targeting “anyone who needs help with office organization”, you could target “working moms in their 30s who need help getting organized”, or even better – “bloggers who write about home organization for working moms in their 30s”. With the last group, you would be targeting influencers looking for content to share with their followers, rather than a general audience (who may not share your blog post no matter how good it is).

Also, try to be very clear from the get-go on what value your target reader will get from your post. What are you going to offer in this post that they can’t find elsewhere? How will you improve their lives with this post or make things easier for them?

Here are some of my favorite guides on creating a target audience profile for your blog:

3 – Write A Solid Outline

Posts that are more emotionally meaningful tend to get more engagement on social media, while posts that go deep into a single subject tend to rank better in search engines. Either way, your post should be well-organized and broken into clear, logical sections, with several practical examples.

The best way to make sure this happens is to start with a logical outline and then fill it in later. Check out these resources for outlining a great blog post:

4 – Write + Rewrite Your Post

Flesh out your outline, then edit, rewrite, and edit some more. It’s better to take more time and write an excellent post than to churn out a substandard post every day or week. You’re not looking for perfection by any means, but there’s really no way to fake or substitute the kind of polish and quality that shows in a post that has received a ton of TLC. The Elements of Style is the classic handbook on good writing, but my favorite resource right now is this amazing compilation of writing tips from famous writers: Tips From The Masters (Gotham Writers).

5 – Add Relevant Links

Now go through your post and add in relevant links, being sure to make the anchor text (the underlined text for the link) long and descriptive. Your post should include some of the following types of links: outbound links to quality, authoritative sites for reference and examples; internal links to related content on your own site; and links to other relevant blogs/sites that might be good promotional partners for you. (You can contact these sites later to let them know they were featured in your post.)

More info on how a good relevant link strategy can improve your post:

6 – Create Accompanying Media & Call to Action (CTA)

Create a Pinterest-friendly featured image (longer than it is wide), plus any other images you’ll want for social media like quotes or images for Facebook etc. It’s also a really good idea to take a little extra time (okay, a LOT of extra time) and create a content upgrade like a downloadable worksheet, checklist, or ebook to go with your post. You can offer this in exchange for subscribing to your email list and allow readers to go deeper with your subject. Click here to get my tips on creating a good content upgrade without any special design software. Drawing a blank when it comes to making up a content upgrade and how to offer it? Here are some really good ideas for content upgrades plus tips on how to implement them:

7 – Run Through A Quick SEO Checklist

Here’s a quick SEO checklist I try to use before each post I publish:

  • Length – Your post length should be at least 1800 words. I know, that’s a lot. It’s okay if it’s not that long when you initially publish it, but take time to come back later on when you have time and add more content. And not just content for the sake of content – add better examples, more explanation, anecdotes, more helpful tips or links, etc.
  • Organization – Organization is crucial because if someone is in a hurry, they may only glance at your post for a few seconds to decide whether or not to read it. So to make it easier for a reader to know what your post contains in a single glance, be sure to include subheadings and lists to break up the content and organize it well; make the subheadings logical and descriptive; and make the paragraphs short and easy to skim.
  • Keywords – It’s also important that you incorporate your target keywords and variations on those keywords early in your post, in some of your link anchor text, in your post title and URL, in your meta description, and in the featured image title & alt tag.

Here are some other blog post SEO checklists that will take a little longer, but really help your post:

8 – Publish + Share

Publish! Nice job! Now share your new post on social media and/or with your email list. If applicable, include a special download to go with your post that is only available to your email list. In case you don’t normally send things to an email list, here are two good articles to check out:

9 – Find Promotional Opportunities (aka Link Building)

Find influencers who might share your post on their blog: people who have linked to similar posts, written about something tangentially related to yours, or whose readers might be very interested in your post. Backlinko has the most helpful post I’ve read on promotion (for steps 9 and 10) so be sure to read it here: Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days. If you have more time/interest, I also recommend his post on link building: Link Building: The Definitive Guide, which has a bunch of additional resources to check out.

10 – Promote Your Post

Send outreach emails to influencers and share the link to your post; explain why you thought they’d be interested and ask what they think of your post. Offer to write a guest post on the same topic for their blog. Again, check out the Backlinko post for more tips on this: Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days.

11 – Continually Improve

A truly great blog post is never complete, because the more feedback you get from readers & analytics, the better you can make it. One strategy I often use is to see what kinds of keywords are generating the most traffic for one of my existing pages, and then add more content around those keywords when I have time. I have seen this strategy significantly improve my search engine traffic for specific pages. And as you think more about your topic or learn from other sources, you can go back to add better examples, new stats & reference links, relevant new internal links, new content upgrades, and more. You can also submit your post to Google to be indexed again if you’ve changed it significantly, rather than waiting for Google to get around to crawling your site again.

Need Writing Prompts & Blog Post Outlines? Click Here To Download A Bundle of 5 Free Blog Post Templates

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Shareable Blog Post Ideas That Really Work

Lately it seems like all I hear about is the importance of high quality content that will naturally be shared and generate backlinks if it’s “good enough”. But as anyone who has tried content marketing knows, just writing great content and hoping for the best doesn’t always get real results. That’s because there’s a missing step that is probably equally important to writing good content: promoting it.

Ick. Promoting. No one likes that word! I’m sure we can all think of bad experiences from friends or pushy salespeople trying to promote things to you when you really weren’t interested.

But promoting your content – if it really is good content – doesn’t have to feel icky.

It can just be as simple as sending a message to someone who might be in a position to share your content and saying “Hey, I wrote this and thought you might find it interesting. What do you think?”.

If you’re willing to put in the work to promote your content on social media and in other ways, there’s another step you can take to make things a bit easier: focus on creating content that is highly shareable in the first place.

Here are three very effective ideas for creating highly shareable blog posts:

Improve the most popular posts already out there for your target keywords

This is so basic, but easy to overlook. Instead of just blogging about what is currently on your mind, search for your target keywords and see what blog posts rank the highest.

Evaluate those posts. How could they be better? Prettier graphics? More up-to-date? More statistics to bring the point home? Longer, more ideas, more options, more visuals? You get the idea.

Start by making what’s already out there even better, and that way you’ll know you are creating something that is more likely to be popular. Plus you can search for anyone who has linked to those popular posts using a tool like SEMrush and send them the link to your updated post. Brian Dean from Backlinko calls this the skyscraper technique and provides a ton of detail here.

Compile a list of statistics that convey current trends

Again, instead of focusing on what you want to write about today, start by looking at what other people are writing about in your industry. Do you see any trends that seem to be getting a lot of coverage by the most popular bloggers in your industry? Do your own research and write a post that compiles statistics and sources that support those trends. That way you’ve created a resource that other influencers will want to share (because it gives more support to what they’ve already been saying), rather than another competing trend piece. It’s also really helpful for readers to see all the latest statistics in one place.

Significantly improve and update your most popular old blog content

Take a look at your blog analytics. What blog posts are getting the most traffic (or have been in the past few months)?

Rather than write a new post, throw your energy into improving those posts that are already getting good traffic. Update your information, improve and expand your explanations, add length (if it’s helpful), and create a new downloadable resource to go along with your post so readers can get even more out of it.

Good content marketing takes time, so be patient!

If you start to attempt one of those ideas, you’ll probably realize very quickly that they will take a LOT of time to implement.

It’s true. Writing content that is going to really be worth sharing isn’t easy and it takes a ton of time. But rather than trying to churn out a new blog post every day or week, what if you spent 2-3 weeks just focused on making one really amazing blog post and promoting it well? That might actually do more for your marketing than keeping up your frequency at the expense of creating shareable content…

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21 Blog Post Writing Prompts Editable Word Doc

Earlier this year I launched my 21 Day Blogging Challenge, an email course where I emailed subscribers a new blog post writing prompt (and an example to go with it) every day for 3 straight weeks.

I took the challenge myself first and I loved it. It forced me to step outside my comfort zone, publish things that made me a little nervous, get more organized, get more creative, and just become a better blogger overall.

But not everyone has time to blog every day, including me. So I put all the writing prompts from my 21 Day Blogging Challenge and put them into an editable Word doc for you.

That way you can go through it and write down any topics that come to mind, draft some outlines, etc. and save it in the document for yourself. Whenever you have time to publish a post, your notes will be right there waiting for you.

Use this form to download your writing prompts:

Happy blogging!

PS. Curious about what kinds of prompts are included? Here are some of the posts I wrote during this challenge:

Why You Should Keep Blogging (Even If No One Is Reading)

Be A Better Writer With This Surprising Tip

5 Things My Husband’s Deployment Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

Why You Need To Be Ahead Of Schedule

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5 Minute Hacks For A Prettier Website

Do you sometimes find yourself wondering why everyone else’s website always seems prettier than yours?

That is a common refrain with my clients and entrepreneurs I know. I hear a lot of things like “my website just seems to lack…polish…” or “it doesn’t look right to me but I’m not sure why”.

First, can I just say something?

Pretty websites are great, but a little overrated.

Chances are the most beautiful websites you’ve seen belong to full time bloggers who are also designers. So it makes sense that they would have both the time and the talent to make something Internet-gorgeous.

But if you’re a small business owner, only two things really matter:

  1. Professional polish
  2. Great content

If your website contains compelling content displayed in a way that shows you are really professional and not messing around, you’re fine. 

Ok, pep talk over. 🙂

If you STILL want to find a way to attain the special polish that your favorite websites have, I’ve got some ideas for you.

Each of these “hacks” will only take you a few minutes but will improve – sometimes dramatically – the attractiveness of your website.

I came up with these tricks by reviewing all of my favorite blogs and websites, including those by full time designers, and realizing there was a certain pattern that they all had in common.

Here goes – 5 minutes hacks for a prettier website today:

Make your background white

This probably feels boring and bland. Plus I feel a little silly writing it because my website doesn’t have a white background (and personally I think it looks good as is, but I’m biased….).

But this is probably the number one easiest trick and the most commonly deployed by great websites out there.

Go to your theme’s settings and switch your background to white, and your site will instantly appear cleaner, less cluttered, and more professional.

Remember, the 90s are over and the days of consumers expecting a business to have a “fun” website are long gone.

Potential customers don’t want to (and won’t) be impressed with your quirky animations or your fake brick background. They just want to know who you are and why they should hire or buy from you. Or, as I have said a couple times in various blog posts, they want you to answer two questions: Can I trust you? and Do I respect you?

Forget about fancy and fun and quirky. Make your background simple and white and focus on creating great content that answers those two questions instead.

Increase blank space

Along those lines, having a website with more blank space, especially on the sides, will contribute to an overall cleaner, simpler, more attractive feeling.

Remember this: Clutter is bad. Simple is pretty. Clutter has actually been associated with higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels in women, so I’m not being too dramatic when I say that your potential customers really will not enjoy your clutter-happy, overly-informative-in-all-the-wrong-places website.

Besides, did you know that “negative space” (empty areas, also known as white space) is actually an important aspect of design?

Use a blog post image template

This is such an easy trick and it will make a huge difference in the polish and attractiveness of your website.

Uniformity in your blog post featured images will send the message that you are professional and together, and you will have confidence that every image looks great, without having to “design” something special for every post.

Create a simple, attractive blog post featured image template and use it for all of your future blog posts. Make sure that the template includes the same size and orientation for every image, the same font, font color, size, and location for overlayed text, and the same type of background, whether it’s a color block or image.

Related: Do These 6 Things Immediately After Setting Up Your WordPress Blog

Remove or condense menu buttons

So simple, so effective.

As the content on your website grows and you add more and more pages and blog categories, chances are your menu bar has gotten a little out of control.

Since the menu bar is pretty much the first thing someone sees upon opening your website, a sloppy, over-crowded menu bar will give your visitor a cluttered and unattractive first impression.

Fix this in five minutes (or more like two minutes) by removing any non-essential menu buttons.

“But they’re all essential!” I hear ya. Try this instead: group them into high level categories and collapse them into submenu buttons. For example, if you have “About Me” “My Story” “Contact Me” and “Testimonials”, why not group them all under a top level menu button called “About”? The content will still be easily accessible but the menu will look a lot cleaner to visitors.

Increase font size

I don’t know why small business websites always seem to use extra small font. I really don’t.

It’s like a big sign that says “DON’T READ THIS! IT’S NOT IMPORTANT!” covering up all of your blog posts and content.

Why?!

Simple, easy fix: Go to your theme settings and increase the body or paragraph font size. Just use trial and error until you find something that is easy to read and skim in a quick glance and doesn’t require your website visitor to squint, scowl, and get 3″ away from their monitor to read it.

While you’re at it, break up your long paragraphs into short, skimmable chunks. No more than 3-4 lines max per paragraph. It will make your website look much cleaner and easier to read, AND prettier too.

All of these hacks will only take a few minutes and can be done for free, without buying a new theme, hiring a developer, or any other fancy schmancy stuff.

But they will go a long way toward making your website attractive, polished, and easy to use. Win!

Are you a small business owner doing your own content marketing?

Take my intensive 6 day email course and create your own killer content marketing plan. This course will walk you through my own personal process for helping small business clients streamline their marketing, focusing on what’s really working and what will make the most impact within their target budget and time constraints.

Click here to learn more about the course or just enter your email below to enroll for free and get started:

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How To Get Out Of A Blogging Slump

The dreaded blogging slump.

It’s like writer’s block, but more humiliating – everyone who ever visits your blog can see exactly how long since you’ve published a post.

For me, the longer I go without posting during a blogging slump, the harder it is to start again.

When I haven’t posted in a while, I find it harder to come up with ideas for blog posts, and the first few paragraphs I write feel like pulling teeth.

A blogging slump is more than just annoying or embarrassing. Many newbie bloggers have told me that they eventually gave up on their blog because they hit a blogging slump and just never got out of it.

Scary! I don’t want this to happen to you! (Or me!)

I did some thinking and realized that I use a few tricks to force myself out of blogging slumps, and I wanted to share them with you.

Here are 4 quick ways to get yourself out of a blogging slump and get back in that saddle (plus a bonus idea):

Brainstorm post titles

Set a timer and write down as many madlibs style post titles as you can think of in 5 or 10 minutes. I write down things like “How To _____ Without Losing _____” or “How To Become A Better _____” or “# Ways To Improve Your _____”. Sometimes I scan blogs with lots of articles for inspiration too. The point isn’t to come up with a blog post concept that has never been seen in the history of the world. The point is to get yourself writing again, even if it’s with big _____ blank spaces in the middle of your sentences. This trick has pulled me out of many a blogging slump.

Hit publish quickly

It’s like taking off a bandaid. There is pretty much no doubt that your first post after a blogging slump witll be a little rough around the edges – a little awkward – not the prettiest, slickest thing in the world. So go ahead and shake of those perfectionist tendencies. Instead of trying to create the perfect blog post to make up for your weeks (or months) of silence, just write something (anything!) and hit publish as soon as it’s reasonably complete. You can always go back and change it later on.

Go old school and put away your laptop

Get out a notebook and pen, or a blank sheet of paper, or a post-it, or the back of a receipt in your purse. I’ve used all of these items and more to draft blog posts. Staring blearily at a bright, blank computer screen when you have writer’s block is neither fun nor productive. Close that laptop and pull out some paper, then start writing down whatever comes to mind, even if it’s crazy. Physically writing is good for your brain.

Make a list of advice

If you are really drawing a blank when it comes to blog post topics, here’s what I do: Imagine your best friend is about to do something related to your field of expertise. You’re sending an email with everything you want them to know so they don’t make a huge mistake or get taken advantage of. What advice would you give them? What do you want to be absolutely sure they understand? This approach – friend to friend writing, instead of business to customer writing – helps me overcome the artificial limitations of “marketing writing” and come up with more creative (and helpful) blog post ideas.

If you want to really say goodbye to that blogging slump, take my 21 Day Blogging Challenge. I’ll send you a blog post writing prompt every day for 3 straight weeks. I took the challenge and it was amazing – you should try it too!

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Do These 6 Things Immediately After Setting Up Your WordPress Blog

After you’ve gone through all the work of setting up a WordPress blog or website for the very first time, doesn’t it feel like you should just kick up your feet and relax?

Or maybe you feel like all that’s left to do is head to a coffee shop and start composing a flood of well-written, emotionally meaningful blog posts?

Well, both are true….but before you pat yourself on the back or go down the blogging rabbit hole, there are a few little things that you should do now. These steps may seem tedious, especially when you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and start blogging, but if you take care of them now, they’ll make your life easier later on down the line.

6 things to do as soon as you have set up your WordPress blog or website:

Set permalinks to post title

Go to Settings -> Permalinks and change it from the default at the top to one of the options with the post name in it. I use day and name for this blog and just post name for my other blog. Whatever you prefer – the important thing is that from now on all of your blog posts will automatically have your post title in the URL, which is much better for SEO purposes (and user experience purposes) than a mysterious “?p=123”.

Install Yoast SEO plugin

Go to Plugins -> Add new and search for Yoast SEO. Then click Install Now.

Once this plugin is installed, you’ll be able to easily control what search engines and social media sites display when your post shows up, either on a page of search results or when someone shares a link to the post on Facebook. This is important because sometimes the automatic first few sentences of your post aren’t very descriptive of the content.

Yoast also gives you the chance to check and see how your post does in terms of SEO for your target keyword. Just put your target keyword in the Focus keyword box and then look at the content analysis to see how you’re doing.

You can also use Yoast to change the default featured image if your post is shared on Facebook, which is a good idea if you ever plan on paying for a boosted post because boosted links that have images with too much text will not be approved by Facebook. Click here for more info on how this works and what I recommend you do.

By the way, there are other good SEO plugins; I just recommend Yoast because it’s what I use for myself and for clients.

Add a contact form and your contact info

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s pretty common to neglect this. First, create a page called Contact and add it to your menu so it shows up at the top of your website and is easy for visitors to find.

Then, add your basic contact info to that page, like your phone number or email address.

Finally, install a contact form plugin like Ninja Forms by going to Plugins -> Add new, then searching for Ninja Forms. Click Install Now, then go to Forms -> All forms. There should be a default contact form already created which will be a good place to start. Click the form and go to the Email & Actions tab, click Admin Email, and make sure the To field has an email address you check regularly. You don’t want to miss any messages!

Set up Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a good way to keep track of the traffic to your site and what people do when they visit your site. What page do they start on (called the landing page)? Where do they go from there? What pages are the most popular? How long does the average person spend on your site before moving on? All of these questions can be answered with Google Analytics, which means it’s a great way to figure out how you’re doing when it comes to engaging your readers and catching (and maintaining) their interest.

To set up Google Analytics, you need a gmail account, which you probably already have. If not, set one up. Then go here to set up your free Google Analytics account. Here’s a great tutorial on getting Google Analytics set up for your WordPress website.

Set up Google Webmaster Tools

Google Analytics doesn’t by itself tell you much about how searchers are finding your website. You can learn a bit by looking at the landing page – that tells you the page that showed up in their search results – but you won’t see much info on keywords they used.

To see how your site is doing in search results, and to request that Google index your site instead of waiting for indexing, you need to set up Google Webmaster Tools. This might seem a little complicated at first but here is a very good and easy tutorial to get it done, and it includes a plugin so you don’t have to use FTP – so don’t stress. 🙂

Create a featured image template

This simple step will make your life much easier and will instantly make your blog look more professional.

You can do this with literally any photo editing program, whether it’s Photoshop or a free web-based option like Canva.

Here are a few things that you should include in your template to make sure your featured images always have a consistent look and feel:

  • The image size / resolution
  • The font and font color you use for text overlay
  • The general level of brightness or even a color tint overlay to the image

If you come up with a template you like, you can simply paste in a new background image and change the text every time you need a new image and it will always look good and professional – with the minimal amount of work.

Now you’re on to creating content! Click here for my tips on coming up with a great content marketing plan yourself and click here to start my free 21 day blogging challenge – I’ll email you a new blog post topic every day for 3 weeks to help you get started.

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What Happened When I Blogged Every Day For 3 Straight Weeks

I have a friend who has posted on her personal blog every day for 9 straight years. She told me that not every post is very long, but getting into a daily routine had helped her post more and be more consistent.

When I first heard that she had posted every day for 9 years, I was floored. I know a business blog and a personal blog are different, but still – to me, posting every week was huge, and posting once a month was still pretty good. I took several months off completely at the end of my pregnancy and during the first few months of my daughter’s life, and I was pretty proud of myself when I started posting again at all.

But I just kept thinking about what she had said, that every post doesn’t need to be that long. I began to wonder if I was approaching blogging the wrong way.

I knew that long, well-written/organized posts are critical for SEO, but I also knew that not every post needs to be 2k+ words in order to make a difference. After all, many posts on my favorite blogs aren’t perfect, but I still read and enjoy them because they’re engaging and helpful for me.

I realized that I have been trying too hard to make every post perfect. Not every blog post needs to be the Mona Lisa of blog posts. In fact, what I really need to work on is pushing myself to write more, even if not every sentence is perfect. So I decided to give myself a 21 day blogging challenge: I would publish a post every single day for 3 straight weeks and see what happened.

Of course, I chose the worst possible time to do it: in December, right in the middle of the holidays. We had 3 different out of town trips planned, plus holiday parties, Christmas shopping, tree decorating, and more.

But I’m the kind of person who gets excited about something and wants to do it immediately, so on December 9th, I jumped right in with my first post: Why You Need An Email List.

And then, against all odds, in literally the busiest time of the whole year, I somehow managed to publish a blog post every single day for 21 days.

Here’s what happened when I blogged every day for 3 weeks:

I got better at blogging

Simple, but effective: the best way to get better at blogging is to blog more, and that’s exactly what happened.

My writing improved; my organization improved; I found it easier and easier to compose a well-organized and engaging blog post.

It still isn’t easy and it still feels like work to write each blog post. But it is definitely easier, and that has made a huge difference in my daily energy level and enjoyment of work.

I wrote things that made me nervous

When you’re committed to publishing a post every single day, you can’t censor yourself like you normally would. You have to get things out there quickly and honestly because there’s no time for agonizing over the perfect, most tactful way to say something, or wondering who you’ll offend, or trying to be authentic without revealing any vulnerability.

I just had to be real and write what I thought, and I won’t lie – that was scary.

But I think it was also good for me to realize that not every sentence in every post needs to be something I am 100% okay with. If I make a mistake, I’ll admit it and apologize. If I change my mind, I’ll explain my new way of thinking. If I’m embarrassed about admitting something that’s hard for me, hey, I’ll survive. In the end, letting go of perfectionism made me a better blogger, so it was worth it.

I had more creative ideas

Creativity is a funny thing. You’d think that you should use your new ideas carefully, because you don’t want to run out. But the reality is that the more you use your creativity, the more you have. It’s like a muscle that is strengthened every time you use it.

I started my 21 day blogging challenge by brainstorming a list of 30 or so topic ideas, but over the next three weeks I added more ideas frequently. And when it came to outlining the content for each topic – often the hardest part for me – as the weeks went by this process came easier and easier.

Before starting I had worried that I would use up all my blog post ideas. Now I have more ideas on my “to write” list than I did when I started.

I was more organized

Because I was pushing myself to do this blogging challenge during the holidays, I knew I wouldn’t be able to physically write and publish a post every single day. During my ski trip (with no internet for 3 days) or on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, while visiting family, etc. I could brainstorm ideas in my journal but I probably wouldn’t be able to get in front of a computer long enough to fully write and publish a blog post.

So I was forced to be a lot more organized than I’ve been about blogging in the past. I outlined 5 or 6 blog posts at once, then wrote 2 or 3 at a time and scheduled them to publish each day in advance. That’s how I kept up my blogging streak even while I was out of town or on holidays, and I realized that this approach made the whole thing a lot less stressful. In other words, I should have been doing this all along, regardless of whether holidays were coming up or not.

I loved my personal 21 day blogging challenge so much that I’m planning on rolling out a 21 day blogging challenge for my subscribers too. So stay tuned! [Edit: The 21 day challenge is now live – click here to sign up!]

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Why You Should Keep Blogging (Even If No One Is Reading)

There are few things more discouraging to a small business owner than dedicating all this time and energy to writing a great blog post for your company’s website and then checking a few weeks later and realizing not a single person has read that post.

Write a few posts like that and most people are ready to give up on blogging completely. What the point of writing something that literally no one besides you reads? Especially when, as a small business owner, you have a million other things that you also need to do.

But even if no one – NO ONE – is reading your blog posts, you need to keep on blogging.

Here’s the thing: if you quit now, one thing is for sure – no one ever will read your blog. But if you keep trying, eventually you really will get there.

Here are four really good reasons to keep working on your blog, even if no one is reading it yet:

SEO results take time

If you’re already working on a business blog, you’re probably doing it at least in part because you know that improving your search engine rankings will require you to regularly create a lot of fresh, high quality content that your target customers want to read – in other words, blog posts.

But when you’ve written a few weeks worth of blog posts and you’re still not seeing any change in your website traffic, or those posts are going completely unread, you can start to go a little crazy (understandably).

But the thing about SEO is it’s a long term play. Most SEO consulting firms will tell you it will take 4-6 months to start seeing results, and a truly large difference might take 12 months to actually see. So don’t make the mistake of giving up before you would even expect to see results anyway.

Hang in there, keep writing, and be patient. You’ll get there!

It’s the best way to improve your quality

The best way to get better at anything is to do more of it; the best way to get better at blogging is to blog more. But often times fear holds us back from blogging more.

Keep working on your blog and over time you will start to see that you are improving. The more you write, the easier your writing will flow; the more you brainstorm blog post ideas, the easier it will be to come up with new ideas.

Blogging might feel like pulling teeth at the beginning, and it probably will never reach the point where it doesn’t feel like work, but it will get easier and your quality will improve if you keep a it.

It’s the best way to grow your expertise

They say that you haven’t truly learned something until you’re able to teach it to others, and I think this is so true – and extra relevant to entrepreneurs. We business owners often tend to depend on our intuition / gut for a lot of things, and our expertise tends to be in things that come naturally to us.

I’m a marketing consultant because creativity, design, web development, and copy writing come very naturally to me. You might be a carpenter because woodworking comes naturally to you, or a real estate agent because sales comes naturally to you.

But writing a blog will force you to take that expertise to a whole new level. Try writing down an explanation of something that comes easily to you and you’ll see what I mean. The first time I wrote a tutorial about something I do all the time, it took hours. Since I had a beginner audience in mind, I kept thinking of new things I needed add that I never even think about myself, and I kept changing the phrasing to try and make it a little less jargon-y and a little more accessible to newbies. But the great thing is by the end of that tutorial post I actually felt much more confident in my own knowledge, and it had forced me to make sure that the way I was doing things really was the best way.

You’ll be able to use all that content for other things

This is a great side benefit to blogging that a lot of people don’t realize. There are many, many things you can do in marketing that aren’t blogging but do require a lot of content – ebooks, infographics, downloads, newsletters, email marketing, podcasts, videos, and more. Even if no one is reading your blog posts, you should keep writing because all that content will come in handy when you have a chance to do some more marketing. Turn a series of blog posts into chapters in a short ebook; read the content of your blog posts in a podcast or video series; put excerpts from your blog posts into a print newsletter or email blast to customers; the possibilities are endless.

The important thing is to push yourself to keep blogging – keep creating all that high quality content – because there’s no shortcut. You won’t suddenly wake up one day and have hundreds of 1,000+ word blog posts sitting around to use in your marketing. You’re going to have to bang them out one at a time, and now’s a good a time to start as any.

A quick caveat: be strategic

Keep writing even if no one is reading, BUT don’t just blindly keep writing whatever you want. Make sure you’re using a good content marketing strategy even as you continue to write more posts. That means you need to have a clear definition of your target audience and what you want to achieve with each post, and have a good idea of your own mission or message to your target customers. Here are some tips on creating a good content marketing strategy.

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Be A Better Writer With This Surprising Tip

When you read this headline, what came to mind?

Did you think I’d tell you to read more, or use better grammar, or avoid writing in the passive voice?

Well, you’re going to be disappointed (or elated) when I tell you that I recommend the opposite approach: instead of obsessing about perfect grammar and diction, just write the way you talk. 

That’s right – to be a better writer, especially in your small business marketing, simply write the way you would talk to someone.

In fact, I think this is where a lot of marketing copy goes wrong. Instead of writing like we are talking to someone in our target audience, we pack the marketing copy full of buzzwords, abstract visions and missions and things that basically mean nothing to to the reader.

To marketers and business owners, marketing often feels impersonal. We don’t know exactly who is going to read what we write so we’re just trying to get the information out there and persuade whoever happens to read it.

But to the reader, it always feels personal.

If you’re writing in a bit of a condescending tone, the consumer will naturally feel disrespected.

If your marketing is boring, the reader will assume you don’t care enough about their business to try.

If your content feels pushy and overly sales-y, the reader will feel manipulated – not a good feeling.

Instead of creating marketing content that no one wants to read – or that chases away your target customer – make this personal aspect of marketing work in your favor by writing as though you were speaking to a specific person.

Forget sounding intellectual or having perfect grammar (unless your target customers are really into grammar). In most cases, writing in a personal, conversational tone will be the best approach to creating something that really draws in and engages your target audience.

Here are some tips on becoming a better writer by writing the way you talk:

Create a realistic persona

This absolutely has to be your starting point. If you write as though you were talking to your college roommate but your target audience is married baby boomers in their late 60s, your “conversational tone” is going to fall very flat.

Start by clearly defining (on paper, somewhere you can always see it) your target customer. Come up with a demographic range – married? kids? age? education? income? location? vocation? etc.

Then create a persona – a description of an imaginary person who embodies your ideal customer. Give him or her a name, an age, and create a fictional background, family situation, and other details that come to mind. What is their personality like? Sarcastic or soft-spoken and sincere? Introvert or extrovert? What are their hobbies? Most importantly, why do they absolutely love your brand? What problem do you solve for them, and why do they love you way more than the alternatives?

This imaginary person is your target reader every single time you write.

Draw out your brand personality

Every business has a brand. These are the values or traits that are most important to the business, and they are represented in everything the business does. The question isn’t whether or not you have a brand. It’s this: are you strategically conveying your brand, or just doing whatever you want without considering how it is perceived? 

I say “draw out” your brand personality because this process requires you to sit down and think about the values that are most important to you.

Don’t create them out of thin air.

What really grinds your gears?

What is the reason you get up in the morning happy to come to work?

What inspires you to work hard for your customers?

Identify 3-4 important values for your brand and then translate them into personality traits. In other words, if your brand were a person, what would his or her personality be like? Would your brand be funny, smart, organized, a go-getter, relaxed, ironic, fashionable, quiet, pensive, bold? Come up with 3-4 personality traits that represent your brand well.

Now whenever you write, you are writing too your target persona (above), and make sure your voice contains elements of your brand personality traits too.

Write an outline

This probably feels counter to my advice to write the way you talk. So I should probably have put a caveat in the introduction, huh? Write the way you talk – BUT more organized, and with no typos.

You need an outline and a clear structure to your blog post or internet marketing content for two reasons:

  1. Search Engine Optimization – search engines use your post’s structure such as headings and subheadings to guess what your post is about. So if you want Google to get an accurate idea of your content and then serve it up to users, your content needs to be well-organized with clear headings.
  2. User experience – consumers today are dealing with total information saturation. Would you read 2,000 tiny words on a bright screen if you didn’t know what the post was actually about? No? Neither will your target customer. For someone to devote the time it takes to read your marketing copy, they need to know what they’ll be getting. That means your copy needs to be organized into short, skim-able paragraphs with descriptive (and engaging) headings and subheadings. Your target customer should be able to tell what your content will contain at a single glance.

Here’s a format I typically recommend if you’re looking for an outline (click here to get a downloadable Word format of this outline that you can edit on your own):

  1. Intro: what we’re all doing wrong; why it’s the wrong thing to do
  2. Content: what we should be doing instead, and why
    1. Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, etc.
  3. Closing: call to action (check out another post, leave a comment, subscribe, etc)

Then fill out your outline in a conversational tone

Write as though you had your target persona on the phone and you were relaying helpful, meaningful info that you really want them to be able to understand and use.

Don’t worry about intimidating them with your intellect. That’s rarely a good marketing tactic! Instead, be humble, conversational, and sincere, writing with a genuine intent to help your reader. You can’t go wrong there.

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Why Letting Go Will Make You A Better Blogger

We all know that to get better at anything, you need to do more of it.

To get better at running, you need to run.

To get stronger, you need to lift heavier things.

To be a better writer, you need to write more.

And to be a better blogger, you need to blog. A lot.

We all know this, but we drag our feet. We post once a week or month, then take a few weeks or months off, then throw together a halfhearted “where I’ve been” post. We know we need to blog more to be a better blogger, but we can’t seem to do it. Here’s what I think is going on:

Yes, we’re busy, and we don’t have much time (somehow we always have time to watch Netflix). But I think the real underlying issue is fear. We don’t hit “Publish” on a blog post unless we’re certain we have a really excellent blog post, and it’s because we’re afraid.

We’re afraid of not being perfect.

We’re afraid of offending or disagreeing with people who we want to like us.

We’re afraid of being wrong or making a mistake.

There’s a simple (but difficult) solution: let go.

Let go of the idea that you have to be perfect to be successful.

Acknowledge how ridiculous that is. Look up the website for any successful blogger or entrepreneur and you’ll probably spot 5 sloppy, unpolished things in a single glance. I’m not going to give you any links because that’s mean. But just do a quick look yourself, and you’ll see what I’m saying.

You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be good. Learn the difference and let go of your impossible standard. You’ll be able to write a whole lot more.

Let go of trying to please everyone.

That’s literally impossible. No matter what you say or do, someone will disagree. Just try to be respectful and understanding when you write about opposing points of view, and if they get offended anyway, that’s their problem, not yours. If you’re worried about trolls, disable comments. No one will blame you! (Except maybe trolls, and they won’t be able to tell you – ha!)

Let go of the hope that you’ll never have to admit you’ve made a mistake.

Acknowledge that this is ultimately pride, and pride will never be good for you. If you are willing to humble yourself and admit you are wrong and apologize, you will be freed up to take more risks with your blog because not every sentence is a stance you’d take to your grave.

It’s okay for this to be hard. It’s easier said than done.

But if you ultimately have to give up your business or your blog because you couldn’t let go of fear, that will really be a shame, won’t it?