While preparing content for a blogging course, I recently asked this question on our Facebook page:
What is it that you find difficult in starting and maintaining a blog? Is it …
1. Bloggers Block – staring at a blank screen
2. Procrastination and fall out of habit of writing regularly
3. Lack of technical knowledge, difficulty uploading images etc
4. Disillusioned due to poor response to blogging efforts so far
5. Lack of time
In today’s post I’m going to provide some short tips on how to deal with each of these difficulties. It won’t be as thorough as a teaching course would be, but it might help some of you to overcome one or two stumbling blocks.
1. Bloggers Block
Bloggers or writers block is a common problem faced by many writers and bloggers. Here’s some tips to prevent it.
- Brainstorm – Create a list of possible topics for your blog by having a brainstorming session, ideally with colleagues, friends or work with an experienced blogger to create ideas.
- Getting Ideas – I find that reading other blog posts, newspaper articles, even checking out keywords on the google research tool can give me ideas for blog topics. I’m not suggesting you copy other posts or articles but you can often use them to springboard an extended idea from (citing your source of course). The idea for my last blog post came from a question I spotted on twitter.
- Storing Ideas – Always keep a list of your ideas somewhere – in your diary, a notebook, on evernote, other mindmaps, whatever works for you. I tend to create draft posts with the title and one or two lines describing what the blog post is about, then I always have a number of topics to choose from when I come to write a post. I often find too, that once I have written the basics for a post, more ideas will come to mind over the coming days.
- Rewards & Preventing Distractions – Switch off all distractions, shut down your other tabs except those you need to write the blog post. Put your phone on silent, ignore email and concentrate on that single task for a defined length of time. I often find it helps if I promise myself a reward for when the task is finished.
- Short Time Slots – The Pomodoro technique is seemingly becoming more and more popular. In a simplified form, you concentrate on each task for 25 minutes to enhance your focus and concentration. Many use the pomodoro technique now during the course of their working day.
- The Closed List – I learnt how to use the ‘closed list’ when participating in the Not Enough Hours with time management expert, Owen Fitzpatrick. Like many people, my to-do list seemed never-ending with lots of tasks to be completed. I now create a closed list or a to-do list for each day from my long to-do list and by becoming more realistic about how long tasks actually take, the closed to-do list can be achieved. If you have written that you will write your blog post between 10-11 on a Tuesday morning, it is much more likely that it will happen.
3. Lack of Technical Knowledge
Many people let a lack of technical knowledge prevent them starting up a blog, from an inability to upload photographs to wondering what on earth tags are.
- Learn – enrol on a course, be it offline or online, to learn how to blog effectively from a technical perspective and also to learn how to write appropriately for your blog.
- Swop – If you have knowledge in a particular area, for example, accounting or crafting, barter sharing your knowledge with someone who is a good blogger.
- Look it up – buy a book which shows you how to blog or google various questions such as ‘What are blog tags and categories‘ or ‘How to resize a photograph for your blog?’ and find the most relevant answer. Some answers can be much more complicated than they need to be though so I’d opt for one of the first two options first!
4. Disillusioned with Response
It does take time to build up a readership for a blog, particularly if you are blogging infrequently. I’m afraid that unless you are a celebrity, you can’t just create your own blog and expect people to flock to it, it takes good writing, time and the building of relationships to create a successful blog. These tips should improve the response your blog receives.
- Social Media Tools – update your facebook page and twitter account with an engaging update and a link to encourage people to read your post. Think of your blog/website as the core and all the social media platforms are designed to get people to that core.
- Engage with other bloggers – read other blog posts, comment on other blogs with engaging comments and chat with them on twitter.
- Set Goals – decide what you want to achieve with your blog. If you want to achieve a popular blog with lots of comments, then you need to comment on other blogs and ask for a response in calls to action. If your main goal is more sales, then a lack of comments may not concern you but you may need to revisit your calls to action.
5. Lack of Time
I’m often asked how long should a blog post be and how long should it take to write. Blog posts often take longer than you think they will so it helps to be realistic and allow for some extra time, especially in your early days of blogging.
- Be Realistic – Don’t aim to write a post four times a week or every day if you’re busy. Aiming to write one or two good posts per week will help you to sustain a good blog and ensure that your blog posts are quality ones.
- Be Organised- Set up a timetable. Include writing your blog posts into your diary, for example, 10-12 am on Tuesday mornings. If you finish writing it by 11, then treat yourself to reading other blog posts (engaging with them and helping to raise the profile of your own blog)
- Bank of Ideas – As pointed out above, if you have a list of topics to choose from, it makes starting a blog post so much more productive as well as allowing it to become a much quicker task. You don’t want to be wasting time staring at a blank screen.
6. Worried It Won’t Be Read
With some fears, you just have to take a deep breath and do it anyway. These 3 solutions will help to ensure your blog is read – by many, many people.
- Be Proud – Ask someone to read your draft or your newly published post and give you one suggestion for improvement. Ensure there aren’t any spelling or grammatical errors too so you can then talk about your blog post with pride. Remember it can take time to find your blogging voice so don’t expect to write a finely tuned article that is publication standard right away.
- Put Your Blog Out There – Ask a few friends to read it, to comment and to share it on their social media platforms. Go and read other blogs and write an engaging comment on their blog. Send an email to a couple of bloggers (in a similar field) to introduce yourself and your blog. Include a link to your blog in your email signature. Use your own social media platforms to drive traffic back to you blog, tweet a link to it, mention it on your facebook profile and page, put it on your Google + profile. Check out the ‘freshly pressed’ blogs on wordpress too. Join a blogging group that meet occasionally and other members will be bound to read it.
- Optimisation – Ensure your blog post is optimised by using the Google keyword research tool. Think of a creative and compelling headline to catch people’s interest and the readers will come.
7. Fears of Giving Away Too Much Knowledge
Blogs have become a way whereby business people can showcase their expertise and knowledge, yet many bloggers I meet are nervous of giving too much away. What if they give away everything they know and have nothing left to sell? As I say to clients, I write many blog posts about pinterest, for example, and yes, some people will come to my blog with a question and find the answer within a particular blog posts. Others may read all of my posts and go away. However, others will decide that they can’t possibly wade through them all and it would be easier to spend a morning with me coming up to speed on their social media knowledge. My blog posts on pinterest have demonstrated that I know what I am talking about.
- Demonstrate Your Expertise – Think of blogging as a vehicle for you to demonstrate your experience, expertise and knowledge. If you are selling a book, reading occasional chapters in blog posts convince me that the book is worth buying and as it is much more convenient to have all the information in a book form than individual blog posts, I’m likely to spend the money on the book. See our post on Carol Tallon’s Success with blogging for her book.
- Brand Awareness – Your blog will help considerably to extend your brand awareness. Hence, no matter what you are selling, if people have heard of you because of your blog, they are more likely to buy your product than someone else’s.
- People buy from People – People buy from those they like and trust. If you are proving yourself to be a credible, knowledgeable and trustworthy person, your blog will support your sales. Yes, some people may take your knowledge ‘for free’ but they may tell someone else about it, someone who will pay.
8. Finding Your Blogging Voice
It does take time to become comfortable in your writing and find your blogging voice. You may even find that your blogging voice changes from year to year. I’m sure that I would be surprised if I look back on some of my early blog posts (and I’d probably cringe a little too).
- Writing Style – Write in a style that suits the tone of your business. If you are selling cheeky T-shirts, your style needs to be tongue in cheek too. Write as naturally as you can – remember it isn’t for a review journal and you need to show the personality of the person writing the blog posts too.
- Don’t Complicate Things – Don’t write with complicated jargon in an attempt to impress. Not only may it be boring to read, you’ll find it hard to maintain too.
- Read It Aloud – Reading aloud has many advantages, not least helping you to find those spelling errors and typos. It can also help you to weed out any awkward phrases or unnecessary paragraphs.
9. Tendency to Tweak and Re-Tweak
- Be Tough – you have to stick to your other rules. Allow yourself a certain length of time to write a blog post and if you are extending that significantly, hit the publish button once you have proofread it for errors.
- Goals – remember your goal to write 2 blog posts a week? It isn’t going to happen if you are still retweaking Monday’s post on Thursday.
- Be Realistic – This blog post isn’t for an academic journal. Millions of posts are published every second and people will skim-read it on a screen rather than reading every single word. If you have spent a couple of hours on it, it should be good so take some faith and jump!
10. Appropriate Tone
- Revealing Personal Details – It is good to show some personality on a business blog, yet details of your personal life should have some relevance. For example, don’t include details of your fishing trip unless your blog post is related in some way to selling fishing equipment, methods of relaxation, work/life balance or you’re a Travel agent.
- Who are your readers? – Imagine your target audience and write to them in a similar tone to one you would use if speaking to them in a room.
- Be conversational – A blog is one of the social media platforms so it is sociable and with the comment facility, it allows for two-way conversation. Encourage interaction by being conversational.