If you are new or relatively new to blogging, having to learn the ins and outs of how WordPress works, managing the blog itself, the technical aspects plus integrating social media and fielding the myriad emails that fly in all day and every day, you will appreciate how undeniably daunting it is. I learned in a short time to respect all the part-time bloggers who have full-time jobs. If you are one, honestly, I really admire you. How do you do it? I still feel like I am back at college reading for a degree. Having said all that it is one of the most exciting, challenging and invigorating projects I have ever undertaken.
When I set out on my blogging adventure I naively thought that I would just spend all my time writing quality blog content, which, of course, I love to do. That was because I didn’t understand the whole process and certainly didn’t consider that I would have to learn a whole new business model from the ground up. I don’t know why I thought that way but I did and now I know otherwise, it’s fine, and I am gradually putting it all together. Just like any other project I undertook in my business days.
It’s a bit like buying a car really. You need:
- to know how it works
- to know how to maintain it
- to know how to drive it and
- a road map to know where you are going.
If you don’t take these steps in order you may have a serious accident.
- How it works – Let us assume that most of us will be able to understand the basics of how blogging works in a relatively short period of time. Of course refinements will be made over time and we need to keep up with changes but we will have grasped the basics well enough to embark on the journey.
- Maintenance – Learning to maintain our blog is a continual process but with an awesome partner like WordPress it’s like having your own personal back office. So we should feel pretty confident of no major breakdowns. Mistakes will be made of course and are perfectly acceptable.
- Driving – Again, having such an inspiring driving instructor in WordPress we should certainly be able to pass the test first time and then move on to advanced driving reasonably quickly.
- The map & content – Then there is the road map (the heart of your blog) which must surely be the biggest stumbling block for most bloggers, particularly rookies. We have a rapacious audience out there with a voracious appetite for quality content. The competition is tough and there are many seasoned campaigners who are far more adept, than novice bloggers, at producing and presenting good material, soliciting and keeping an audience of loyal followers.
Tackling Step 4
Blogging is effectively writing in short form, enhanced by graphics or photographs. And a Blog is an on-line library of all your posts. So assuming that you are confident about steps 1, 2 and 3 how are you going to tackle the critical step 4 knowing that if you are going to be a serious blogger (business or pleasure) it isn’t going to stop until you drop off the perch? And if you don’t you will be dead in the water. I can’t tell you how to do it and I wouldn’t be so presumptuous. It’s your blog not mine. But I can share my thoughts and explain how I approached it and how I am managing my blog content.
The first thing I did was to ask myself a few searching questions like:
- Is this something I really want to do as a hobby and is it or could it become a passion or even a business?
- Am I happy to share my thoughts, views, experiences and knowledge with any one who cares to read?
- Will I benefit and learn from interacting with people I don’t even know exist?
- Am I prepared to put in the hard yards to make it a success?
- Do I have the time?
Satisfied that I could give a resounding YES to these questions without exception I then asked the ‘$64,000 question’. Do I possess, or will I be able to supply, enough quality content material continuously to satisfy myself and anyone who cares to follow my blog?
Although in my heart I wanted to say ‘Yes, of course I can; I have not lived a mundane, boring, hermit like life so I should already have enough material to draw on.’ But my head said, ‘Hang on a minute you need to be analytical about this, James, before you get carried away you need a master plan so you can write and keep on writing quality posts to make your blog evergreen.’
So this is what I did.
- LIST MY INTERESTS – I listed all the things that interest me and then culled that list so I was left with the things I would enjoy doing and writing about most. I did not want anything on that list that I would not get joy or satisfaction from communicating to others. I was surprised at how long the list was at the start and even how diverse after culling. From Human Rights, Miscarriages of Justice to Landscape Gardening, Art, Photography and Poetry. This has become my master high-level list from which everything flows. You could easily do it with a ‘mind map’ which is not a bad idea.
- HARVEST MATERIAL – Next, I began gathering, sorting and collating all the material I had collected over the years wherever it may be stored. Computer hard drive, hand written or typed archives, old photographs (pre-digital cameras), letters, documents, books and of course the largest repository, my head! There is more in there than there was in my Granny’s attic. This could be a big job!
- START A JOURNAL – Then I started a Journal in MS Excel where I note down every idea and thought as it happens (before I forget). I have created tabs such as; Blog ideas/subject, Countries lived in/visited, Memories, Jokes, Characters etc. This is growing rapidly into becoming my ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, a veritable treasure trove. There is a story in virtually everything we see or hear, if you look closely enough. There is beauty in the ordinary and we are only limited by our imagination or lack thereof. Your journal should be bursting at the seams very shortly.
- START DRAFTING POSTS – I want to be ahead of the game so I am disciplining myself, continually producing posts, storing them on my hard drive and then building them as drafts on my blog so I can modify and release them as I wish. I doubt that I will ever get too far ahead as I always have the urge to post as soon as I have written which I am now managing to resist. A pipeline of draft posts is great to have because like a fine wine they mature if left for a while to be fine tuned. Obviously if they relate to current issues you can’t do that. But by way of example I have edited this post 25 times since I wrote the first draft. That may be excessive for a seasoned ‘hack’ but for me it’s ok because I am learning to improve my skills everyday. My current target is to always have 5 to 10 post drafts ready for release which I am achieving but I must maintain. You could have a planned release programme or just rely on intuition as I am now.
- PERIODICALLY REVIEW OLD POSTS – As the saying goes ‘old soldiers never die’; and so I believe it is with content quality posts. A lot of time, thought and effort goes into producing good posts so I am not prepared to forget them in a hurry. Not all my posts will have the longevity I desire and they certainly won’t if I neglect them. A Blog is a library and all libraries contain books that have many editions. Just like those books some of my posts will benefit from a facelift like new pics, new information, better presentation or maybe even a complete re-write. There are new readers who will be visiting my library who have never read any of my posts. So the easier and more attractive I can make it for them the more they will enjoy and benefit.
- TAKE PHOTOS, MANIPULATE & CREATE ART – Photography is becoming an important part of my blog. Not the focal point as I am only an amateur, but as an embellishment and a medium to create pictures. I am disciplining myself to take photos regularly and am learning how to improve my skills. For me a gallery of photos presented in total isolation, even if they are brilliant, is not as interesting as a photo or picture created from a photo with a story. I want to know the story behind them combining Photo-Art and Blogging. I’m sure a pro would take me up on that but it’s my way for now. My thinking may change as my skills improve .
- WRITE GUEST POSTS – I hope that others will want to contribute to my blog, apart from re-blogging and I hope that some other bloggers will want me to write for them. In time, this is something I hope to develop and I already have one writing assignment (a monthly column in ‘The Displaced Nation’). Building a trusting community is very important to me which cannot be short-circuited.
- ASSESS TIME AND THE DESIRE – I have the time now but I believe I will run out of time long before I exhaust the supply of content. I have the desire now but I cannot predict the future. So for me Time is a bigger problem than Content.
- HAVE CONFIDENCE BUT BE A REALIST – Blogging successfully is not only about producing quality content but without it you are a non-starter. There are some articles out there which, in my opinion, put the ‘cart before the horse’ intimating that you can get thousands of visitors every month from day one. I will need a lot of convincing to believe that. I am quite happy to settle for a year of development in order to learn and build my blog on solid foundations with sustainable long life content.
I am not surprised at how much there is to learn and how rewarding it is. I have recently joined mycopyblogger which is a fantastic source of information and support for bloggers at any level. I am pleased I went through the process which helped me create my road map and which has given me the confidence to know that, barring unforeseen events, the World, which is my treasure trove, and I should be able to supply sufficient good quality content to my readers for a long time to come. Now I am confident I have something to offer I need to arrange, with a higher power, an addition to the 24 hours a day I have been allotted. I also have to master the art of attracting more followers without taking my ‘eye off the ball’. That’s another challenge!!
How about you? What ideas can you share for continually producing quality blog content to satisfying yourself and your readers?
Let’s discuss it in the comments.