November 2011

Take Frequent Breaks

"Set yourself a schedule to help make the time you do work more effective."

If you write for a living, you probably find yourself spending all too much time in front of the computer.  While this is obviously necessary, long, unbroken chunks of time spent sitting still can be very hard on your back, your arms and your concentration.  Taking frequent breaks will not only help keep your body in shape, but also help you maintain focus.  You may really notice benefits in those afternoon hours when the mind simply refuses to stay focused for any length of time.

Tracking Your Blog's Progress

Assuming that you are running a blog that you are trying to get well known and potentially make money off of, chances are that you are going to want to be checking out your statistics to see how you are doing.  There are a lot of statistics out there that you can follow and you can spend a lot of time looking into them. 

That said, here is what I do when it comes to stats.  Depending on how much work you are putting into your blog, you may want to do more or less.  I personally check mine once a month and I track them in a spreadsheet so I can see how I am doing.

Google Analytics – I have my blogs set up on Analytics so when the month ends, I will go to their site and check out the numbers there.  There is a lot of information there so it is important to determine what is important to know.  I like to know how many unique visits I have, how many are new, and where the traffic is coming from. 

Alexa – There are many sites that use your ranking in Alexa to determine if they want to advertise with you.  Again, I check this site monthly.

Webhost – If you are have purchased hosting, chances are there is a lot of information that is being tracked there.  I use HostGator and there is a lot of information on this site.  Again, I pick out those statistics that I feel are most important for me such as the amount of visits and the unique visitors.

Keep Your Blog Posts Short and Sweet

When planning out your blog posts, try to consider how you approach blog reading.  When you look at a blog post that scrolls on and on, do you dive in or move on?  Most readers don’t have the time to devote to one long blog post.  Many of us follow several blogs and do so on a short schedule.  When you are writing your blog posts, keep the short attention span of the average blog reader in mind.

What If I Have a Lot to Say?
When you just cannot fit everything you want to say about a topic into a small portion, try dividing it up into a small series.  This will give you more content on your blog, while giving your readers a break between huge chunks of information.  It will also encourage readers to come back to see what else you have to say on the subject.

What is a Good Length?
Your best bet is to experiment with the length of your blog posts, but as a general rule, shoot for somewhere between 250 and 500 words.  Don’t put too much emphasis on word count and worry about going over or under this; just aim for somewhere in the general vicinity.  You can get away with a longer post by skillfully weaving images, bullet points and headers into the text to help break the paragraphs up and make it easier for readers to digest.

Blogging is not a science, and you may find that your readers prefer lengthy posts over short ones.  Pay attention to what visitors to your blog have to say and try to find a length that suits them best.

Looking for Blog Inspiration

One of the hardest things to do when you are writing a blog is to always come up with new content to post.  But there are a few things that you can do help you stay on track.  You need to keep posting new content to keep your blog out there and in people’s eyes and to increase traffic.  Everyone has a different opinion on how often you need to post, but at a minimum, it should be once a week.

Just Write – Sometimes when I sit down to write a post, my fingers just keep on going and I end up with three or four posts before they slow down.  If this happens to you, go with it and let the fingers type.  Even if the posts don’t quite make sense or aren’t’ cohesive, keep writing and you can always play with it later.

Write Down Ideas – I keep a Word document where I write down ideas.  They may be just a topic idea, they might be more of a blog title, or it might just be a general topic like “shopping with kids” but I keep it jotted down.  Then when I am looking to write, I will visit this list and see if anything jumps out at me.  Usually something does.

Search – If I am really not feeling it, I will head to the search engines.  I will type in either the general topic of my blog, such as “how to blog” in the case of this blog and see what comes up.  I might see something in those titles that inspires me.  Sometimes I will put this information into my idea file for later or I might just start writing about it right there.

Getting Your Blog Found

When it comes to blogging, there are a lot of people who are getting into the world of blogging.  For this reason, it can be hard to get people to realize that you have a blog and it can take a lot of marketing on your part to get readers and subscribers.  But with the world being so digital these days, there are steps that you can take to get yourself known.

Social Media Accounts – If you do not have a Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn or an account at one of the many other sites that are out there, you need to set one up.  You can use this to promote your blog with links to your posts and to network with others to increase your readership.  The biggest thing with using these networks is that you do not just self promote; you need to interact with others and post helpful information.

Plugins – There are a lot of plugins out there that you can use on your blog.  Many of these have a way for those that come to your site can share your content with others.  One plugin is called “Sexy Bookmarks” and it links to many different social media sites.  A reader can click on the link of the network that they want to share your post on. 

Keywords – Another method for people to find your blog is through the search engines.  But in order to be successful, it is important that you target keywords that people are looking for.  Keyword research is a whole different topic all in itself and one that I will not get into here.  But it is not as simple as picking words such as “how to blog” as chances are a lot of people are targeting this set of words and you will likely get lost.

When it Comes to Blogging, Keep it Real

"Make every attempt to reach out and engage your readers with your topics."

Blogging is one area of writing on the web that you are supposed to let your personality shine through.  If you are transitioning from the stuffier world of third person writing and formal content, you may have trouble letting loose and being yourself on your blog, but that is the very thing that attracts blog readers.  They don’t subscribe to read boring, third person accounts – they want the real person behind the writing.

Whether you are a seasoned blogger or just getting started, take some time to consider what makes your favorite blogs work for you.  Take a look at the top blogs in your topic and see what makes them stand out.  Chances are, they have found a real way to connect with their readers; one that makes it clear they are a real person with their own unique insights into the topic.

The 100 Thing Challenge

How much of a consumerist are you?

I’m always moving out of one place or another and into someplace else. Every time I move, I’m always astonished by how much stuff I’ve accumulated. I have whole boxes of paper and mail, tons of stupid decorations, too many nails and knickknacks, a lot of donated kitchen supplies, the list could go on and on. But it’s funny how you don’t notice the way that you accumulate possessions when you’re actually living somewhere. We become kind of immune to it, but it’s hard to ignore when you’re leaving a place and have to pack it all away.