02 March 2009

Blogging Tips : 7 Ways to Keep Fresh Content Flowing On Your Blog

This is the third post in a series on taking your blog to the next level.

bloggers-block.pngImage by …rachel…

“How do I keep posts flowing on my blog?”

This is a question that most bloggers face at one point or another - particularly bloggers who have been blogging for 6-12 months.

The reality is that there comes a point where most bloggers feel either uninspired, unmotivated, that they’ve got ‘bloggers block’ or that they’ve said everything that there is to say on their chosen topic. This is something that we’ve all felt at one time or another - so what does a blogger do about it?

The first thing that I want to encourage you with is that all is not lost. Every blogger has this challenge at one point or another (in fact most of us face it regularly) and it is possible to break through it. They key is to persist through the tough times - something that many bloggers do not do.

At this point it is important to sit down and work out how you will generate content going forward. There are a number of strategies that come to mind for doing so - all of these I’ve used at different points and I hope that some will give you inspiration and a way forward:

1. Mind Mapping

My favorite technique for coming up with new topics is using mind maps. I outline my mind mapping technique here but in short the technique is that you take one post idea (one from your archives perhaps) and then brainstorm ways that that topic can be expanded upon into numerous new topics. You then take some of those new ideas and think about ways that they too can be expanded upon into new posts. This technique can literally help you identify hundreds of new topics to write about.

Whether you use Mind mapping or some other kind of brainstorming technique the key is to set time aside to do it. I try to do this at the start of each week and find that if I do that the writing task for the week ahead is a lot smoother - sometimes just coming up with the ideas is as hard as the writing of posts.

2. Involve Readers

One of the resources that a blog who has an established readership has (remember we’re writing this series for these types of blogs) is that it has a knowledge based within it’s readership that can be drawn upon in a variety of creative ways to help create content for your blog. There are a lot of ways to do this - but here are a few:

  • Guest Posts - in every 100 or so readers there is bound to be 1 that has the knowledge, expertise, motivation and skill to contribute posts to your blog. The key is to identify them and give them the confidence to contribute a post to your blog. Pay particular attention to those leaving comments on your blog. You’ll find that some comments just go the extra mile and contain wisdom and depth that are not far off being the standard of actual blog posts. Also don’t be afraid to invite contributions by writing post asking for guest posts or having a page linked in your navigation inviting contributions.
  • Reader Questions - stuck for a topic to write about? Ask your readers to ask questions. A post inviting reader questions can draw out some great ideas to write about.
  • Community Written Posts - one of the things that I’m loving about Digital Photography School at the moment is that some of our best posts are actually ones that our readers provide the majority of the content and teaching for. My role is not to ‘write’ the content for these posts - but to ask a question and set some boundaries for a discussion - and then open it up for readers to add their suggestions. Examples: How do I take band promotional photos?, How Would You Photograph a Funeral? and How to Photograph Grandma?

3. Explore new ‘Voices’

One way to break out of a rut as a blogger is to experiment with new types and styles of posts. Sometimes doing so can unleash creativity and new ideas. So if the majority of your posts are ‘tips’ posts - try an opinion piece. If you always write ‘news’ type posts - why not try something with a bit of humor or controversy.

Further Reading: I’ve outlined 20 types of blog posts for bloggers battling bloggers block here to give you a little inspiration.

4. Update Previous Posts and Topics

Even after a few months of blogging you can hit a point where you feel like you’ve covered most topics in your niche. Many bloggers get to this point and simply give up the blog - however I’ve found that most posts that I’ve written in the past can be expanded upon, updated, improved or rewritten with fresh insight.

Also keep in mind that many of our old posts will only have been written by long term readers and your new readers will not have seen these posts.

Further Reading: The Why and How of Updating old Blog Posts.

5. Guest Posts

The decision to allow guest posters onto your blog has both good arguments for and against it - but it is certainly one way to keep the flow of content going on a blog when you’re a little low on inspiration or don’t have enough time on your hands to be writing content (see also Why Guest Bloggers are Great for a Blog).

Getting people to submit guest posts on a blog is not always achievable when a blog is very young and the blog has little profile - but once you gather a readership and build your reputation as a growing community it becomes easier to attract contributions from other bloggers and freelance writers looking to grow their own profile.

If you’re new to the idea of finding guest posters for a blog - start with your own readers (as described above - look in the comments section of your blog) and then also look at other blogs in your niche or even forums that are on a similar topic to your blog. I’ve also had some real success lately with finding guest posts for Digital Photography School from non bloggers, particularly pro photographers who are looking for a little extra exposure to their business sites.

Further Reading: How to Find a Guest Blogger for Your Blog

6. Hiring Writers

Another way to approach bringing others onto your blog as writers is to look at hiring a blogger (or team of bloggers) to help you create content for your blog. This has some cost associated with it - but can (if you do it right) increase the quality and frequency of posts as well as decreasing some of the admin of relying upon guest posts.

I’ve hired a small team of writers for DPS who I pay on a per post basis (as well as giving them exposure in the posts that they write) and have found this experience to be well worthwhile. For a start it has attracted a good caliber of writer to the blog, increased the knowledge base and expertise of the writing, added to the variety of topics we can cover and increased the frequency with which we can post.

When it comes to hiring writers - I’d advise starting with your current reader base - you might find that some of your regular readers would take on a regular writing job for a little financial reward. Another approach is to look at other bloggers on your topic or to even advertise on a job board like the ProBlogger Job board. I advertised for my team of writers almost 18 months ago and had so many great applicants that I couldn’t use them all and most of them still write weekly posts for me today.

Another quick tip on hiring writers - you can also hire them for short periods. As long as you’re up front about the length of the period that you’re hiring for I’ve found that bringing on a staff writer for a couple of months when you know you’re going to be away or have your attention on another project can be well worthwhile doing.

Further Reading: How to Advertise for a Blogger

7. Develop an editorial calendar

One technique that can help a blog grow beyond its infancy is to begin to think longer term about the content that you produce. I personally find that when I only think a day ahead about the content for my blog that it can be difficult to build momentum in the content that I’m writing. It’s also difficult to keep coming up with topics.

A way to help overcome this is to set aside time either on a weekly or even a monthly basis to map out the direction for your content in the period ahead.

This enables you to do some brainstorming/mindmapping (see point #1 above) and set the course for your blog. Doing this takes some discipline and can feel like a chore when you sit down to do it but the result is that it gives you a lot of freedom and can take the burden of having to come up with topics from your shoulders.

I find that the months I set out a plan for the content on my blogs are much better than the months that I do not. I usually find on these months that I end up writing a series of posts and that readers really respond well to the momentum that I build.

Another spin on the idea of an editorial calendar that I know some bloggers have a lot of success with is to set different ’styles’ of posts for each day of the week. For example:

  • Monday might be ‘tips’ day where you write a ‘how to’ or ‘tip’ related post
  • Tuesday might be ‘review’ day where you review a product related to your topic
  • Wednesday might be ‘news’ day where you summarize the latest news in your niche
  • Thursday might be ‘link’ day where you link up to another blog in your niche
  • Friday might be ‘opinion’ day where you express your opinion on a topic
  • Saturday might be ‘reader discussion’ day where you post a question or poll for readers to interact with
  • Sunday might be ‘from our archives’ day where you highlight an old post on your blog

The sky is the limit in terms of the types of posts that you write (look at the 20 types of blog posts list that I mention above for other types to consider) - the key is to find types of posts that are relevant to your topic and that readers respond well to. This might feel a little contrived or structured for some bloggers, but I find that many bloggers find it to be a freeing experience, particularly to get them through a tough period.

What Would You Add?

I have literally scratched the surface with this post on how to keep fresh content flowing on your blog. I’m certain that among the readership of ProBlogger that there are a lot more ideas - if you’ve got one, please add it to the comments below. Together we can break though this ‘bloggers block’!

Further Reading: Battling Bloggers Block - a compilation of a series of 25 strategies that are designed to help you get through bloggers block.

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