Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

image: Rock Garden, Chandigarh, India, Creative Commons

This is the second post in a series this month on sharpening your blogging habits. If you missed the first post you can catch it here:

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

I scrapbooked several years ago. When I first discovered scrapbooking, it was a fun, creative outlet. I learned dozens of ways to present a photograph. I always ended up with a story on the page (of course) as well as all the bells and whistles of pre-cut decorations, pop-up shapes, different colored markers, etc. Some awesome scrapbooks developed that we still have fun reminiscing with at holidays.

I liked scrapbooking, but after a while it didn’t seem as fun. It seemed more like work. The scrapbook supplies on the table moved to a shelf, then into a storage tub, then into a closet. That’s the pattern for many of the interests I’ve pursued. Sometimes it becomes hard to stay consistent with something, even if you like it.

Blog Habit #2: Blog On A Consistent Basis

If you are like me, I get very excited by the ‘shiny brand new’ of a project, but once it’s old news, I start to lose interest and if I don’t work at it, I lose the motivation I had for the project in the first place.  This phenomenon is very common in the blogosphere. People decide ‘I’m going to have a blog!’ then after the shiny new wears off, they don’t stick with it.

Some statistics bear this out: There are no specifics on the number of blogs started and then abandoned (sometimes called orphan blogs) but only 20.9% of all blogs that exist are currently active. 66% of all blogs have not been updated for two months since their last post. If we don’t want to become a statistic, we have to learn how to keep our motivation.

Each time you blog you program yourself to do it until it becomes a habit. The satisfaction of posting and getting feedback reinforces your blogging habit. You should blog on a consistent basis because you can only build a loyal readership if you show up.  Even if you have the most interesting and quality blog posts, if you don’t post consistently, you can’t gain a loyal following of readers.

What is consistent?

Although you’ll get lots of different advice for blogging frequency, the answer is the schedule that works for YOU. What everyone else is doing is not necessarily what will work for you. I used to post 5 times a week, but found it was too much of a commitment. I have a good groove with 3 days per week. For some 1 day per week is your ideal frequency. Whatever you choose, stick to it and aim for quality.

7 Keys To Blog Consistently

Key #1 Make a topic list

Check out my post Make Your Blog Ideas Stick for ways to gather ideas. If you have trouble thinking of topics to write about, revisit your audience definition. Piggyback off other blogs, meaning expand on an idea someone shared on their blog. Make sure you give a link to the original blog. As your teacher used to say ‘No looking over shoulders!’ Blatant plagiarism is a no-no. Heidi Cohen gives some more advice on getting blog topics:

Read 12 Suggestions To Overcome Blank Blog Post Syndrome

Key #2 Use a blog template

This single tip has revolutionized my blogging efficiency which means I’m more likely to have a positive outlook and continue blogging. Work out a structure for how you will write a blog post and use it each time you blog. It will help you stay on topic and be efficient with your writing time. I got this idea from a blog post by Michael Hyatt:

Read Anatomy of An Effective Blog Post

Key #3 Calculate your time commitment by keeping a blog timelog

Time how long it takes you to write a blog post which includes any research, gathering links and images as well as how long it takes to load it into your blog platform. Keep a log for about 3 posts and you can see the average amount of time it takes you to write a blog post. Then…

Key #4 Schedule your blog writing as a separate activity

Once you know about how much time it takes for you to write a quality blog post you can schedule separate time for it. If you are a writer, don’t dump it into your ‘writing’ time because you will have to choose which writing gets the priority. You will more than likely choose the writing that is your main focus or source of income. Your blog will become an afterthought. Give it its own appointment on your business schedule.

Read Roz Morris’ post How I Get Time To Blog As Well As Write

Key # 5 Set up a blog editorial calendar

If you are a ‘pantser’ or spur of the moment person you can always change it, but if you have a basic plan you can fall back on it when you aren’t in an inspired mood. I have a very simple blog editorial calendar. Check out these posts for more inspiration on blog editorial calendars:

Key# 6 Focus on the conversational aspect of blogging

Remember when you defined your audience? Think about that ‘ideal reader’. Your blog is a conversation. You share, your readers share. The person you are talking to is waiting to talk to you. Remembering this will help you push through on the days blogging may feel like drudgery.

Key# 7 Don’t make blogging an option

Don’t give yourself an out, as in ‘I’ll try to write a blog post if… all the universe aligns and a bright light draws me to my computer with an enlightening message for all mankind’. Yeah, not going to happen. Blogging is work for the most part and if you only showed up to work when you felt like it, you wouldn’t last too long on that job. At the same time don’t overdue it and feel chained to your blog. If life happens, it happens. Aim for balance.

Following these 7 keys can give consistency to your blog. When readers see you show up, it translates to a commitment to bringing fresh content, and they will show up as well. Combine that with quality posts and you have the recipe for building a successful blog.

Question: What is your biggest struggle with blogging consistently?

31 thoughts on “Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

  1. rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy

    Thanks for the mention, Kristin! That statistic on abandoned blogs is amazing – but just goes to show how many people start blogging and then can’t keep going. If you’re blogging as part of a strategy to build up an internet presence – as opposed to just doing it just to amuse yourself – you have to give it time. Maybe people give up if they don’t get the feedback but you have to go out and seek it. Great tips here to help people do that.

    Reply
    1. kristin nador Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Roz! I am meeting so many writer-bloggers who have a lot of excitement for blogging, but haven’t really thought about the details. You really do need a strategy if you are going to continue long term. Successful blogging is a mountain climb, full of peaks and valleys. Patience is a must.

      BTW, I read your book ‘Nail Your Novel’ and it was very helpful! Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Ken Steinhoff

    Kristin,

    I guess I break almost all of your rules / hints. I’m a retired newspaper photographer who has two blogs going: one on bicycle touring and one about coming of age in a small Midwestern town on the Mississippi river in the 60s.

    I started the second blog about two years ago and have posted 653 posts in that time – as close to daily as you can get and still keep sane. Those 653 posts have generated 5,827 comments, many longer than my original posts.

    How do I break your rules?

    I have no clue what I’m going to post the next day until I sit down around 10 p.m. Most of my posts go up at 1 or 2 in the morning. I may change topics two or three times before pulling the trigger.

    I generally start out with a file photo or contemporary image and let the picture drive the bus. Sometimes, I’ll do a little research, but I frequently find that I’m the guy who wrote the story that I’m pulling up from 40+ years ago.

    Other times, I’ll just riff and have some fun. This nothing story with mediocre pix garnered 26 comments.

    From time to time, I might try to look at anniversary dates: Kent State is one.

    That’s one of the things I liked about working for newspapers: you never knew what you were going to be doing from day to day or minute to minute. Plus, you had that deadline looming over you to focus your attention at the end.

    I was shuffled off to a management seminar once where we were supposed to learn how to become more efficient by planning and scheduling. “Tell me who I call to schedule the plane crash for Tuesday afternoon so it doesn’t conflict with the orphanage fire,” I asked the instructor, who was not amused.

    Reply
  3. kristin nador Post author

    Great comments, Ken! Thanks for stopping by. Your blogs are amazing, I love anything with a little history to it.

    I agree, you seem to be doing great without all the planning and templating and such. However, you have discovered a key that so many others struggle with, which is key # 7: Don’t make blogging an option. It’s something you have trained yourself to do every day, (or night :) ) and you are reaping the fruits of that with all the comment activity. Bravo!

    My dad went to SEMU back in the early 60′s. He and my mom moved back to St. Louis after I was born.

    Hope you’ll come back and visit. We could all learn a lot from you. :)

    Reply
    1. Ken Steinhoff

      You brought up an important point that I meant to make, but forgot. When I worked for The Athens Messenger, we had what we called The Picture Page. It was a 9×17 hole we photographers filled five days a week.

      My biggest moment of panic happened here. It turned out to be one of the most popular pages we ever ran.

      When I moved on to other papers, I tried to recreate the magic of the Athens Picture Page. The best deal I got was in Gastonia, N.C., where I was given space on Monday, Wednesday and Friday “if the space hasn’t been sold.”

      That was the kiss of death. Not knowing if you were going to have to produce content on a given day caused the pressure and the sharpness to fall off. After a few months, I told ‘em to kill the feature. If people didn’t know to look for it in a specific place every day, then it wasn’t going to work. You build readership with consistency.

      If I don’t post on a day – or if the email notifications of new content don’t go out – I hear from folks immediately wanting to know why I’m slacking off. My 90-year-old mother leads the pack.

      Speaking of comments, here’s a story that I really had to ride herd on to keep the comments from getting out of control. It’s your blog, so let folks know right away what your standards are. Your regular readers will appreciate it.

      Here’s a review I posted at the end of the year of the most notable stories. You can see that the topics are all over the place.

      Why did I do this story? (a) It was easy content. (2) It was a way to get people to go back for stories they may have missed. I try to put at least one link to an old story in every new one. You’ve got lots of evergreen content and lots of new readers (hopefully), so put them together.

      Reply
  4. Ken Steinhoff

    I guess it works better if I post a link to the review of top stories.

    One other tip: I spend almost as much time promoting as writing. As soon as I post a story, I run down a list of about 125 Facebook fan pages to see if a link on any of them would be appropriate. Write an interesting tease and let it fly. You’d be amazed at how much traffic that’ll generate. I shoot for a ratio of about two comments without links to each one with a link to keep from being perceived as a spammer.

    When I was actively writing my bike blog, I had a list of bookmarks titled “Bike Blogs Must Read.” I would read those first thing in the morning to see if anyone had posted comments that I could follow up on. By doing that, I was able to gain a world-wide following. (Australia was always either #2 or #3 after the U.S.)

    About six months ago, I started putting external links in Wikipedia for pages that had reference value:
    Barry Goldwater campaigns in Cairo, IL, in 1964
    Billy Graham speaks in Charlotte with Richard Nixon on the platform
    Cairo Illinois

    You can have the best blog in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if people don’t read it. Promotion is the key to getting your blog to reach critical mass where other people start promoting it for you.

    It takes about five minutes to create the link, but it brings in traffic forever.

    Reply
  5. kristin nador Post author

    Thanks for sharing all your wisdom with us, Ken.

    “You can have the best blog in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if people don’t read it. Promotion is the key to getting your blog to reach critical mass where other people start promoting it for you.”

    That is so true. And also the subject of next week’s post in this blog series. :)

    Reply
  6. Kate MacNicol

    Great post and links. I think my biggest struggle is the time it takes me to write a blog post. However, after reading this I’m think part of the problem is that the posts are too long. Most times I come in at 800-900 words. The other idea is setting a day aside for blogging and just responding and reciprocating during the remainder of the week. That might work well and not diffuse my focus by switching back and forth between my W.I.P. and my blog. Lots of food for thought here. Thanks! Can I ask what you do?

    Reply
    1. Ken Steinhoff

      Kate,

      You’ve got a nice, clean-looking blog.

      I average 796 words per post on my Cape Girardeau blog (plus one to 50 pictures) and 758 words on my bike blog, so you’re only slightly more verbose than I am..

      My former food editor colleague, chides me for writing too long. She averages 545 words per blog.

      My readers hang around for an average of 2:26. Her readers bail in 58 seconds. That means that either her folks can read faster than mine or that mine like to stick around. You have to experiment to find that sweet spot.

      I don’t agree with the idea of setting aside one day a week for responding and reciprocating. I spent the last 13 years at my newspaper as telecommunications manager. One of the first things I heard was, “People hate voice mail.” I countered with, “People don’t hate voice mail, they hate being ignored.”

      I set up the VM system to outdial pagers and cell phones as soon as a message hit the box. The response was astounding: customers and sources couldn’t believe they were getting called back minutes after leaving a message.

      Responding to comments quickly is essential. Folks like to feel that they and what they’ve written are important. Responding to them keeps them and the other readers coming back.

      I’ll frequently post photos and stories as mysteries, even if I know the answers. People love to fill in the blanks.

      Reply
  7. kristin nador Post author

    I use several ideas I’ve learned from others and incorporate them into my own hybrid plan: I’m always looking for blog topic ideas and write them down whenever they come to me (on my Post-Its or now in Evernote.) I try to stick to my blog editorial calendar, so that eliminates some posts I might think are interesting but won’t fit in the topics. I work hard to keep my blogs short, usually 500 – 600 words. Today’s post is the longest I’ve ever written. Having a template is a newer addition to my routine and has cut off a lot of time. I work on blog writing daily even though I don’t post daily so I can keep ahead of schedule, but there are many times I’ve puttered around or procrastinated until the last minute. I’ve cleaned out my Google Reader to only those active blogs that I’m learning from or getting inspiration and those are the only blogs I comment on.

    My struggles are mostly with going overboard on research and balancing my blog writing with my WIP. I really like blogging and I use it as an excuse to avoid my more intimidating WIP. Balancing out my writing focus is one of my main goals for 2012. Thanks for asking, Kate!

    Reply
    1. Kate MacNicol

      I hear you about going overboard with research and balancing blog writing with writing your WIP. I really want to find that balance too. Since I started blogging I feel as though I’ve shorted my WIP way too many days and I don’t like it.

      I like how you zoned in on your Google Reader. I think I’ll do some housecleaning too.

      I think it would help me to write my blog posts everyday instead of blocking out time two or three days a week. I appreciate all the great advice. Lots to think about and implement.

      Reply
  8. Jane Bussey

    Thank Kristin for such helpful ideas. I struggle to get my blog posts written and had no editorial calender at all. Thanks for the inspiration. I hope to eventually have a folder of usable blog information or topics so I am not in a time crunch.

    Reply
  9. kristin nador Post author

    Thanks for stopping by, Jane! Gathering a list of blog topics/information ahead of time will really help relieve the time crunch issue. I still procrastinate sometimes but most of the time going through my topic list gives me the inspiration to get it done. :)

    Reply
  10. Heather Jenkins

    Kristin,

    Your blogs always grab my attention and keep me reading until the end. You don’t have too many pictures, too much information, or non-essential sidebars/rants/diatribes.

    I have tried numerous times to keep up with a blog. Time was my enemy. And lack of planning. And lack of motivation. But your guidelines are simple and useful. Thank you for sharing your blogging wisdom. I just might crawl back over to mine…see if I can follow your advice and do this thing right. :)

    Reply
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  18. kristin nador Post author

    Reblogged this on kristin nador writes anywhere and commented:

    This has been one of the most popular posts here on kristin nador writes anywhere, probably because it’s a problem all bloggers face at one time or another: blogging consistently. If you’ve been having trouble with consistency in your blogging, I hope these tips inspire you to get back on track.

    Reply
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