Have you ever spent hours crafting a beautiful blog post, and then hit publish with bated breath only to hear crickets in response?
Or have you thrown together a short, haphazard post just to meet your blog publishing schedule, and then gotten zero engagement from it?
Me too. In fact, I’ve experienced both scenarios, more times than I care to count.
Then I realized something:
As long as I continued to spend a majority of my time writing blog posts, I would never be able to spend the necessary time I needed to do good research or to promote those posts.
I would continue to swing back and forth between long, multi-hour blog posts and short, semi-worthless posts, generating very little traffic for either, until I solved the most problematic bottleneck in my workday:
But first, let me back up and give you a bit of context on what has been going on lately:
In 2016, I expanded my consulting business significantly, including adding several great blog ghostwriting clients and growing my email list by almost 1800%.
I also launched a new business with a friend called The Six Box, a service which provides “reverse” care packages to military spouses holding down the fort at home while their service member is deployed.
And…drumroll please…I also finished the first draft of my first novel – and half of my second novel!
It’s safe to say that my workload has gone through the roof this year, on top of being a stay-at-home mom with a very high maintenance active toddler.
And I survived this year with one simple change: by solving that old writing speed bottleneck that has been plaguing me for years.
How did I do it?
It all started this summer, when I began to think about writing fiction and decided to investigate how the world’s most prolific writers do their thing, and then did my best to replicate their success.
In September and October, I wrote over 50,000 words each month; as of November 17th, I’ve already written 33,000 words in November and am still going strong every day.
I’ve increased my writing speed by around 5x from before, which means I’m able to significantly increase my output without increasing the amount of time I spend working.
(By the way, 50k words per month not sound like much compared to many prolific full time bloggers out there. But remember – I don’t blog full time! I mainly work early in the morning, late at night, and during nap time. And actual blog writing is only a small part of my overall work load each week.)
All of the things I learned from authors like Chris Fox in his book 5,000 Words per Hour and Rachel Aaron in her book 2k to 10k were geared toward fiction writers (BTW, I highly recommend both books!). But as a blog ghostwriter, I saw an immediate connection between their advice for fiction authors and the blog writing I was doing for work, so I adapted their advice for writing blog posts. And it has been EPIC.
I’m sharing everything I’ve done to make that happen with you in this new series.
I knew I had to put together this series because this experience has been too amazing to keep to myself.
Many of you are already running killer blogs and social media accounts, or you have launched your own business and are trying to figure out how to get the word out while still trying to run your day to day operations – and often while wrangling kiddos at home too.
I think these techniques will help take some of the stress off your plate – and let you focus on the things that truly matter to you.
No, you don’t have to work anywhere near full time, or even 5 to 6 hours a day like I do, to use the techniques I’m going to share in this series.
In fact, using them could potentially decrease the amount of time you spend blogging, freeing you up to work less and do other things instead.
After all, the less time you spend writing a blog post, the more time you can spend promoting it on social media, or unplugging and hanging out with your family, or simply going out and doing things worth blogging about!
So I’m kicking off this series with “Part 1: Research Like a Procrastinator”. (Yes, you read that right – just go with me…)
In this post, you’re going to learn:
- How to think like a procrastinator in the best possible way
- How to use the critical research phase to create a blog post to rule all blog posts
- How to use social media sites as search engines
- Oh, AND you can download the spreadsheet I personally use to track all my blog research. Get it here.
Let’s do this!
How I Research Like a Procrastinator to Write Faster Blog Posts
Step 1: Start by putting it off
In the past, I typically began to work on a post the same day that I finished it. I would pick a topic, write down some ideas, and draft a post.
But these days, before I sit down to write, it’s not uncommon for me to have spent days, weeks, or even months mentally composing a blog post.
Procrastination has been linked with greater creativity, and if you think about it – as long as you don’t let procrastination rule your life – it makes perfect sense: when you give yourself more time to reflect on a topic, argument, or problem, you’re more likely to come up with solid reasoning or a creative solution.
I start by writing down an idea, then doing a quick search to see what comes up for that topic.
Over the next few weeks, when I have some free time, I’ll read a few articles on the topic and reflect on them as I read. I don’t take many notes in this phase. I just use the time to read and think.
You would be amazed at how beneficial this step can be – and how easily we dismiss it or skip over it. After all, you can’t write “thinking” down as a task on your day planner or snap a photo of it for Instagram.
To anyone else, it will just look like you’re lost in thought – at best – or engaging in some irresponsible daydreaming. Shouldn’t you be working?
But unique, helpful, creative, problem-solving insights don’t come from regurgitating trendy industry content or throwing together a few things off the top of your head.
Quality content takes deep thinking, and deep thinking is becoming a lost art. Sad for all of us!
The first step to increasing your writing speed and solving this bottleneck is to think first before you write.
Get your argument – and counter-arguments – settled in your mind.
Imagine examples of where you’ve seen this argument play out in the real world.
Have a mental conversation with someone where you persuade them of the truth in your blog post.
Only then can you sit down to write with both speed and quality.
Start now: Grab a notebook and write down a list of blog post topics you’d like to work on in the next month or two. Leave space by each topic for additional notes to add as they come to you. The next time you’re working out, washing dishes, putting away laundry, or zoning out after a long day, instead of letting your mind wander, think about one of those blog post ideas instead. Trust me, this WORKS!
Step 2: Use search engines to identify gaps
Writing quickly won’t get you anywhere unless the blog posts you produce help you accomplish your goals.
So the next step in fixing your writing speed bottleneck is to point your speed in the right direction by doing research – the smart way.
Here’s what I mean:
If you’re going to write a blog post with the specific purpose of driving traffic to your site or increasing engagement, keep this simple [and slightly painful] truth in mind:
To beat out competing posts for your keywords, your post needs to ultimately be BETTER than the competition.
You don’t have to create the Mona Lisa of blog posts, but it does need to be pretty awesome.
So during your research phase, whenever you have a free second – you could do this while waiting in the doctor’s office or nursing your baby! – google your target keywords on your phone and scan through the existing blog posts to find out what other people are saying.
Then figure out what they’re not saying, and how you can improve their posts.
For example, if they tend to water down a complex subject, you can show its complexity and shades of grey.
Or if they all seem to be targeting one certain type of person, you can focus on a different, neglected yet high-need segment.
A quick caveat: this does NOT mean copying other bloggers’ work, and it doesn’t mean there’s no room for your own unique, eccentric blog post ideas. It just means you write with an awareness of where your post fits in to the bigger picture.
If you have a creative idea that turns out to be just like all the other creative ideas out here, it won’t be very easy to promote your post.
But what if you take your creative idea and combine it with data-driven support or analytical muscle? To beat the competition, you need an unfair advantage – so take the time to come up with something that your peers haven’t even attempted yet.
This might mean that not all your blog post ideas will pan out, because you don’t have any unique and valuable way to set them apart from what’s already out there. That’s fine – just take a deep breath and try again. It’s worth the work, as well as the extra time it takes.
Here’s an example of how I took this approach when researching before starting this series:
First, I started by making a list of my topic keywords:
- How to write faster blog posts
- Fast blog posts
- Write fast blog posts
Then I searched for those phrases and evaluated the content that came up on the first page of search results.
I took notes on the posts that came up and what I felt they were missing. The big takeaway was that lots of people talked about the basics like following a template or formula, outlining first, and writing sloppy first drafts.
But very few people touched on research at all (which is one of the biggest time sucks for me) and almost no one mentioned my #1 biggest writing speed hack. This single hack is responsible for a good portion of my writing speed improvements, and yet only ONE of the first page posts made even a passing reference to it. I’ll be revealing this hack in Part 3 of this series, and oh man, it is a game changer…
This research step was critical in the formation of this blog post series because I realized that a subject fiction authors are basically obsessed with – writing speed – is barely on the radar for a lot of entrepreneurs and bloggers.
This was a huge gap that – as a blog ghostwriter, marketing consultant, AND a newbie fiction writer – I was uniquely well-placed to fix.
I have no doubt that YOU are perfectly placed to fix some of the gaps in your niche too.
Start now: Download the Excel spreadsheet I use to track this part of my research and use it to evaluate your competition.
If you’re short on time, just look for a free moment today and spend 5 minutes googling your target keywords to see what comes up. Later on you can use my spreadsheet to write down a few ideas on how you can improve on the content already out there.
Step 3: Use social media sites as search engines
This is crucial, especially if your search results from the previous step are turning up a lot of posts written in 2014 or earlier.
They may be great posts, but our world changes so quickly! You need to know what up and coming bloggers are saying about your topic right now, so that you can see how your post fits in to the bigger picture TODAY, not a few years ago.
I start by searching Pinterest for my target keywords to see what blog posts come up. If I find a blogger I like who writes about my topic, I’ll then go through their most recent posts to see what else they are currently saying on the issue.
This is an important step because when you promote your post on social media or by networking with other bloggers and entrepreneurs, you’ll need to know how what you’re saying fits into the larger world of what other influencers in your niche are saying.
For example, if you find a wonderful blogger in your niche who has written about X, don’t write your post solely about X. Write about X + Y, tackling the topic in a new way that adds new value. They’ll be more likely to share your post with their followers if your post complements their insights AND adds new value, rather than replicating them or competing with them.
If Pinterest isn’t turning up anything fresh, I also use Instagram hashtags to search for bloggers in my niche.
You can also use Facebook and Twitter like search engines. The goal is to find out what posts are being shared and engaged with today, and then figure out how you can write something new and valuable that complements them.
Start now: Create a Pinterest board for collecting blog posts related to your topic, and save the first few posts you find in a Pinterest search for your target keywords.
That’s all for Part 1! Click here to read Part 2 – Make an OCD Outline. Subscribe to my email list to make sure you don’t miss any future posts!