Dear WordCount

Dear WordCount: How can I be more consistent about adding posts to my blog?

Calendar pages

Dear WordCount: I have a blog but find it hard to post on a regular basis. How can I come up with enough material to be consistent? Can I borrow material from other blogs? Do you have other suggestions? — J.

Dear J:

I hear you about wanting an easy way to add new material to a blog. Running a blog can be hard, especially if you do it on top of other work, or maintain multiple blogs on different subjects.

However, the solution definitely isn’t copying material from other bloggers. Even if they don’t display a copyright symbol or language on their site, it’s their work and you’re infringing if you take it without their permission.

There are plenty of other ways to come up with new content for your blog on a regular basis. Here are a few:

1. Put yourself on a schedule.

A while back I started programming content on my blog for certain days of the week to make it easier to come up with fresh material. Tuesdays I run guest posts, Thursdays I answer reader questions (like this one). Fridays I do a round up of good reads for writers. That leaves two days a week where I have to come up with totally fresh posts. Other posts I run on a regular basis:

  • A list of the top posts of the month (based on traffic), which always runs on the 1st of the next month
  • A post announcing the monthly Twitter chat for writers that I host
  • A transcript of the chat that I post a few hours after it’s over

Using those tactics, I’ve been able to post 4 or 5 days a week during most of the year – I post every day during May when I host the WordCount Blogathon. Some weeks if I’m really on my game I write 2 or 3 posts on a Sunday afternoon or first thing Monday and then I don’t have to do anything again until Thursday.

2. Use a calendar app.

To organize posts, I started using a WordPress editorial calendar app. The app looks like a traditional calendar, with days of the week that you can fill in with details of post that you plan to write that day, including the title, text, and the time you want it to be published. You can move posts from one date to another, which comes in handy when a news event happens or something else comes up that you want to blog about instead of what you had planned for a specific day. I use the calendar to map out posts weeks and even months ahead of time. It’s a great visual representation of what posts you have in the works. It’s also a good reminder of which dates you’ve got covered and which ones you still need to find posts for.

3. Figure out what you’re missing and write about it.

One way to come up with posts is to look at the categories your blog covers and figure out topics within those categories that you haven’t written about in a while. I’m also planning to write a couple ebooks based on my posts, so I look at the subjects I’ll write the books on and then figure out what I haven’t written about yet, and do posts on those subjects. I also look at blog stats to see the types of subjects get the most page views, and write more posts on those subjects.

4. Ask people to write guest posts.

One way that I’ve overcome the time crunch of blogging on top of a full-time freelance job is to use guest posts. Since my blog is about writing, I ask other writers to do guest posts. You’d be surprised how many writers have new books coming out, or are doing a writing class or something else they want to promote and they’re more than happy to write a guest post about it. I don’t feel at all guilty about asking them to provide me with content for free if it’s promoting their work. If you know bloggers who cover the same subject as you, you could even offer to exchange posts. Or write a post putting out a call for guest posters – maybe some of your readers will respond. If you’re going to use guest posts on a regular basis, create guest post guidelines  that you can send along with a request.

5. Rerun popular posts.

I’ve started re-running updated versions of WordCount’s most popular posts on a regular basis to cover myself on days when I know I’ll be on deadline or out of town. To figure out which posts to rerun, I read my blog stats to identify which posts get lots of page views on a regular basis. For example, I did a post about J.K. Rowling’s writing style a few years ago and it’s WordCount’s no. 1 most viewed post. Every time a new Harry Potter movie came out, views of that post spiked up. So I started re-running the post right before the next Harry Potter movie came out. Rowling’s new novel arrived out last week, so I reran the post on the day it debuted.

6. Curate or reblog.

While it’s not OK to rerun other bloggers’ work on your own blog, it is totally acceptable to write a post sharing your own thoughts about what they said, and include a portion of the original post along with the appropriate attribution and a link back where it came from. What constitutes “a portion” is a question that’s better left for attorneys who deal with fair use and other media law questions. But my personal rule of thumb is no more than a couple paragraphs, and I generally limit what I re-use to one or two.

Another way to create a post out of a list of posts that exist elsewhere. Some people call this “content curation,” or assembling links to news stories, photographs and other storytelling elements in a way that adds value to the original material. An example of content curation is this post that I wrote about the 2012 Online News Association conference, which consisted of links to what I considered to be some of the top trends in digital journalism today based on posts and tweets from journalists who attended the annual gathering. Read more on this subject here: The writer as content curator.

 What tricks do you use to post on a regular basis? Please share by leaving a comment.




3 responses to “Dear WordCount: How can I be more consistent about adding posts to my blog?”

  1. Daphne Gray-Grant

    When I launched my blog, last March, I was concerned I might have a hard time reaching my goal of posting five days a week. In fact, it’s been relatively easy.

    The three big secrets for me are:
    1) I have “categories” assigned to each day of the week. For example, every Wednesday I blog about my “word of the week.” Having a category makes coming up with ideas so much easier.

    2) I generate my ideas separately from my writing process. And I have a deadline for those ideas. Every Friday, I must have ID’d my topics for the next week.

    3) As soon as I have my idea, I create a blog entry for it and scribble a few notes. This means that when it comes time to write, I am not staring at a blank page. It looks as though I’ve already started. This makes writing much less intimidating!

    Even though I’ve been a professional writer for the last 30 years, the blank page still intimidates me. But at least I’ve been smart enough to develop a solution for it!!

    Hope this helps some other bloggers!

  2. Anyes - Far Away in the Sunshine

    Very timely idea for me Michelle as I still find myself struggling with regular posting on my blog