Author: Ali Luke

Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts

Get more comments on your blog posts more often

Do you wish more readers would comment on your blog posts?

Some bloggers think commenting is dead. And while that’s not the whole picture, there may be some truth in it.

When I started blogging back in 2008, Twitter and Facebook were only just taking off. And if readers wanted to respond to a post, they’d normally leave a comment on the blog itself, rather than tweet or comment on a Facebook thread.

You might think that if you had more readers then you’d get more comments. But that isn’t necessarily true. Some of the big blogs I read only get one or two comments per post. And smaller ones can often get dozens.

The truth is, readers do still comment on blog posts. And there’s plenty you can do to encourage them to do so more often.

One very simple way is to deliberately invite comments by asking a question at the end of your post. But this isn’t your only option.

I’m going to go through five key ways to encourage more comments, and encourage readers to keep coming back and commenting. As you read through, think about which one you could put into practice this week.

#1: Comment on Other Bloggers’ Posts

How often do you leave comments on other blogs? If it’s rarely or never, it might be part of the reason you don’t get many comments on your own blog. Not because of karma, but because of reciprocity. If you leave someone a comment, they may want to repay the favour.

But for this to work you need to comment on the right sort of blogs. Commenting on big, well-known blogs may get some initial traffic to your new blog. But chances are it won’t bring the busy blog owner over to your blog to comment.

Instead, look for smaller blogs that are at a similar level to yours. Maybe they have few or no comments, or they’ve just been launched.

Where can you find blogs like that? A great place to look is in forums or groups aimed at bloggers, such as the ProBlogger Facebook group. Search for your own blogging topic and see if anyone’s mentioned that they blog about it too. If so, visit their blog and leave a comment on their most recent post. They may well leave a comment on your blog too.

You can also establish a relationship with a group of fellow bloggers, reading one another’s posts and (at least sometimes) commenting. It can be a good way to start discussions in the comment sections of all your blogs.

#2: Open Up Room for Discussion in The Way You Structure and/or Phrase Things

If your blog post comes across as the final word on a particular topic, it may put readers off commenting. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – sometimes you may want to write a long, definitive post, and you don’t really care how many comments you get. But if you do want to get more comments, it’s worth thinking about how you phrase things and even how you structure your post.

While an explicit “Leave a comment below…” call to action can be a great way to boost comments, you can also create ‘setups’ to get people commenting.

For instance, in your post you might use phrases such as:

  • “I’m sure I don’t have all the answers…”
  • “I’ll list ten of my best ideas. And I hope you’ll share yours in the comments.”

And then at the end of the post you could write something like, “As I said earlier, I’m sure I don’t have all the answers. I’d love to hear your opinions on this in the comments.”

With a list post, you might stop at an odd number (such as 9 or 19) so you can ask readers, “What would you suggest for #10 on this list? Let me know in the comments.”

#3: Respond to the Comments Readers Leave

If you don’t already reply to comments, make it a habit if you want to get more of them. Readers may not bother commenting again if they don’t receive a response. And if other readers think you don’t read the comments, they may not take the time to leave their thoughts either.

You might want to set aside 5–10 minutes each day to check for comments and reply.

While you don’t have to respond to every comment, you may want to do it until you’re getting more than a handful of comments per post. You don’t need to write long replies – sometimes just “Thanks” or “Great point, I hadn’t thought of that” is enough. As well as helping you build a relationship with your readers, replying to their comments instantly boosts your comments count.

#4: Use Readers’ Comments in Your Blog Posts

One brilliant way to encourage readers to comment is to use their comments as part of a future blog post.

There are several ways in which you can do this:

  • Write a blog post inspired by a reader’s question or suggestion. One of my posts, Seven Habits of Serious Writers, was directly suggested by a reader (whose contribution I acknowledged in the post). Not only was he happy I wrote the post he wanted, it also ended up being one of my most popular posts that year.
  • Quote a reader’s comment in a blog post. Maybe a reader has said something really insightful or something that sparked your train of thought. You could write a post that quotes their comment and expands on or responds to it.
  • Ask for comments you’ll use in a blog post. This works well if you’ve written a post that can easily be extended. For instance, if you’ve written, “Ten Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Parenting”, you might ask readers to leave one of the biggest lessons they learned in the comments, explaining that you’ll pick the best of these to quote in a follow-up post.

#5: Let Readers Subscribe to Comments

You might want to install a WordPress plugin (such as Subscribe to Comments Reloaded) or use a commenting system such as Disqus so readers can subscribe to comments.

This means if someone leaves a comment, they’ll be alerted to any further comments on the post. They’ll see you’ve replied to their comment, or that another reader has added to the discussion.

It’s easy for readers to comment and then forget about the discussion entirely. Letting them subscribe to comments means you’re much more likely to get follow-up comments from them.

Getting more comments isn’t just about getting more readers or using calls to action at the end of your posts. There’s plenty you can do – in your posts, in your comments section, and even on other people’s blogs – to encourage your readers to comment more often.

Which technique will you be trying out in your next post? Tell us about it by leaving a comment. And if you have any other great ideas, feel free to share those too.

Image credit: Mārtiņš Zemlickis

The post Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each)

Written by ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke

When you think of a blog, you probably think of the posts. You might go to the site to read the latest ones (often on the home page), or they might go straight to your inbox. And if you follow the blogger on social media, you may well see them posting links to their latest posts.

But posts aren’t the only type of content you need to create as a blogger.

Whatever blogging system you use, you’ll have two different ways to publish new content: as blog posts or as blog pages.

Understanding Posts and Pages

On a blog, articles (or news, stories, etc) are published as posts. These appear in reverse chronological order, with the newest posts at the top of the list or (in a grid layout) on the top left of the screen.

Blog posts normally have a timestamp showing when they were published. And readers who have subscribed for updates by RSS or email will get these new posts automatically.

But blog pages are a little different. They are what’s known as “static” content. That doesn’t mean they never change (you can always update a page),. But they won’t be superseded by new pages the way blog posts might.

For instance, you might have blog posts for “2015 roundup”, “2016 roundup” and “2017 roundup” all available in your archives. But would you have multiple pages for “contact details 2015”, “contact details 2016” and so on? Of course not. You’d just update your one Contact page.

Pages are used for content such as:

  • Information about you and your blog
  • A “start here” list of posts
  • Sales information about your products
  • Terms and conditions / privacy policy

Key pages are normally linked to in the top navigation.

Pages don’t have a timestamp, and don’t go out to readers through RSS/email. You can allow comments on pages, but most bloggers don’t as it rarely makes sense.

Using Posts and Pages Effectively

To get the most out of your blog, and to make it a great experience for your readers, you’ll want to make good use of the different attributes of posts and pages.

Here are some key ones to think about:

Posts

Categories: Posts must have a category. This helps organise your blog, especially if you use categories as a navigation option or let readers filter your  post archiveby category.

Make sure you set a category for each new post, or it’ll default to “uncategorized”. You can also rename this default category to something that would make sense for many of your posts. For example, if you write about parenting, your default category might be “kids” or “tips”.

Tags: You may want to use tags to help further organize your pages. They can be a good alternative to having loads of categories, and can help readers navigate your site. But don’t just duplicate your categories as tags. Yoast SEO has some good information on how to use categories and tags as effectively as possible for search engines.

Pages

Password protection: While you can password-protect a post, bloggers rarely use this option. Pages are more commonly password-protected, and can be a quick and easy way to provide some of your readers with exclusive content. For instance, my newsletter subscribers have access to a mini-library of ebooks on this password protected page.[a][b][c]

“Parent” pages: A page can be a “parent” to other pages. For example, you could have a general “Products” page, and pages for your three different products under it. When you set up the three product pages, you can select “Products” as their parent page.

Depending on your blogging platform and theme, “Products” may appear in your navigation menu with a drop-down showing the three products pages beneath. (You can also set this up manually, arranging the menu however you like, in Appearance → Menus in WordPress.)

The URLs for the pages will include the parent’s permalink (e.g. www.nameofblog.com/products/firstproduct).

Hopefully this has clarified the difference between posts and pages. If you’ve never created a page for your blog before, why not try one now? Log in to your blog’s dashboard and create a new page (it’ll be a very similar interface to creating a post). An “About” page is a great one to start with, and you can find some tips on crafting a great one here.

The post The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable

More Readable blog posts WordPress Formatting

This post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

You’ve finished your post, and you breathe a sigh of relief. After a quick edit you publish it to your blog, and wait for the comments, tweets, shares, or any sort of feedback.

But once again, you get nothing. There may as well be no-one reading it.

So what’s the problem? It could be that your writing isn’t as strong as it needs to be. But there’s also a very good chance the problem isn’t your writing.

It’s your formatting.

Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of different blog posts, and most of them were fairly well written. But some were really let down by poor post formatting: the post just didn’t look good.

If you’re not convinced that formatting matters, compare this screenshot…

… to this one.

These are two versions of my post Six Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment (and Get More Done). They both have exactly the same text. But I know which one I’d rather read.

Your readers are busy. They’re distracted. They want an easy, engaging read – not a daunting wall of text.

So what’s stopping you from getting the formatting right? Maybe one of these sounds like you:

  • You haven’t really thought about it before. You’re a writer, not a designer, and it never occurred to you to bother with formatting.
  • You’ve got a vague idea that formatting matters, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it. What if you make your post look worse rather than better?
  • You haven’t figured out how to use the formatting features built into WordPress.

I’m going to take you through four key formatting features you can use straight away to make your posts more readable. And don’t worry. I’m definitely a words person and even I can manage these.

I’ll also be showing you how easy it is to format text using the WordPress editor. Even if you’re not using WordPress, most blogging platforms have similar features.

(As you read this, you might want to have a draft post or old post ready for editing in a different tab so you can try out the different features.)

#1: Short Paragraphs

Plenty of white space helps make your post readable. White space is all the stuff around the words. If you have short paragraphs (or lists, which we’ll come to later), you’ll already have extra space where your words can breathe.

Adding extra paragraphs is super easy. Just position the cursor wherever you want a new paragraph and hit Enter:

There’s no absolute rule on how long is too long for a paragraph. But if it goes over four or five lines, you may want to consider splitting it.

Tip: If you’re used to more formal writing (perhaps academic or business writing), having short paragraphs may seem odd. If that’s the case, you might want to read How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed).

#2: Subheadings

I like to think of subheadings as signposts that help orient readers within my post. Almost any post can be broken up into subsections, and each one should have a clear (and hopefully enticing) subheading.

While it helps readers who are skimming for information, it’s also useful for readers who are reading your entire post. Subheadings prevent them from feeling lost or confused along the way.

I like to use Title Case (capitalizing all major words) for my subheadings, but you might prefer to capitalize only the first word of the subheading. Just make sure you’re consistent.

To create a subheading in WordPress:

  1. Type your subheading on its own line wherever you want it in your post.
  2. Click on the subheading and select “Header 2” from the “Paragraph” dropdown.

Before:

After:

Tip: When you’re planning your post, think about the subsections and potential subheadings you want to use. This will help you create a good structure right from the start.

#3: Bold Text

Bold text is a great way to call attention to a key point or important sentence. But it’s easy to overuse, and I suggest bolding only one or two sentences per subsection (depending how long your subsections are).

Some bloggers use coloured text instead of bold text. This can work if it fits with your branding, but it can also look a bit amateurish and distracting.

To create bold text in WordPress:

  1. Highlight the sentence you want to bold.
  2. Click on the “B” in the WordPress editor.

Tip: Try to avoid bolding only one or two words – it can make your text look choppy. I also tend to bold only the first sentence of a paragraph. Having a bold sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph can also look a bit odd.

#4: Lists, and Using Bullet Points

Sometimes it’s easiest to write a list as a regular sentence. For instance, I might write:

In this post, we’ll take a look at paragraphs, subheadings, bold text, and lists.

But if each item on your list is more than a word or two, it will be easier for readers to take in if you lay them out using bullet points.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Paragraphs – keeping them short
  • Subheadings – helping your reader navigate your post
  • Bold text – pulling out key points
  • Lists – using bullet points

To create a list in WordPress:

  1. Set out your text as a list, with each item on a different line:

  1. Highlight the entire list and click the “Unordered List” icon, which looks like this:

Tip: This method creates an unordered list with bullet points. If you want to number each item on your list, use the “Ordered List” icon (next to the “Unordered List” icon). A numbered list will automatically renumber your items as you add new ones – even if you add them to the middle of your list.

I’m sure you’ve already seen these formatting features in use, and have tried using some of them yourself. Hopefully you’ll feel a lot more confident about using them now to make your posts more readable.

Here’s a mini-challenge for you: look back at your three most recent posts, or perhaps your three most popular ones. Try using at least two of my suggestions to improve the formatting, and let us know how you got on.

The post 4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

make-blog-post-conversational.jpg

This post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

You’ve probably heard that your blog posts need to be “conversational”.

You may also have been told why: to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make your blog sound less like a lecture and more like a discussion.

That’s all true. But making your writing “conversational” can be tricky – especially if you come from a business or academic writing background.

If your blog posts tend to sound a little dry and stilted, here are three simple ways to change things.

#1: Talk Directly to Your Reader

Write your post as if you’re talking a specific reader. Picturing an actual person may help – someone you know in real life, or who comments on your blog. You could even imagine you’re emailing them, or writing a Facebook post or comment.

And use words like “I” and “you”, even though you were probably taught not to at school or work. When you’re blogging it’s totally fine to write from your personal experience, and to invite the reader to step into your post.

Here’s an example from Jim Stewart’s post 9 Tips for Recovering Your Google Rankings After a Site Hack. (I’ve highlighted each use of “you” and “your”.)

If your WordPress site has been hacked, fear not. By following these tips you can fortify your site and kick wannabe hackers to the kerb.

And provided you act quickly, your WordPress site’s SEO traffic—and even its reputation—can recover within 24 hours.

This is clear, direct writing that speaks to the reader’s problem. And it’s easy to read and engage with: it’s almost like having Jim on the phone, talking you through fixing things.

Note: As Jim does here, always try to use the singular “you” rather than the plural “you”. Yes, you hopefully have more than one reader. But each one will experience your blog posts individually. Avoid writing things like “some of you” unless you’re deliberately trying to create a sense of a group environment (perhaps in an ecourse).

#2: Use an Informal Writing Style

All writing exists somewhere on a spectrum from very formal to very informal. Here are some examples:

Very formal: Users are not permitted to distribute, modify, resell, or duplicate any of the materials contained herein.

Formal: Your refund guarantee applies for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase. To request a refund, complete the form below, ensuring you include your customer reference number.

Neutral: Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter list, you’ll get a confirmation email. Open it up, click the link, and you’ll be all set to get the weekly emails.

Informal: Hi Susan, could you send me the link to that ProBlogger thingy you mentioned earlier? Ta!

Very informal: C U 2morrow!!!

With your blogging, it’s generally good to aim for an informal (or at least a neutral) register, as if you were emailing a friend. This makes you seem warm and approachable.

Typically, you’ll be using:

  • Contractions (e.g. “you’ll” for “you will”)
  • Straightforward language (“get” rather than “receive” or “obtain”)
  • Chatty phrases (“you’ll be all set”)
  • Possibly slang, if it fits with your personal style (“thingy”, “ta!”)
  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Some “ungrammatical” features where appropriate (e.g. starting a sentence with “And”)

You might want to take a closer look at some of the blogs you read yourself. How do they create a sense of rapport through their language? How could you rewrite part of their post to make it more or less formal? What words or phrases would you change?

#3: Give the Reader Space to Respond

Conversations are two-way, and that means letting your readers have a say too. If you’ve decided to close comments on your blog, you may want to consider opening up a different avenue for readers to get involved, such as a Facebook page or group.

When you’re writing your post, don’t feel you need to have the last word on everything. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. It’s fine to say you’re still thinking about a particular subject, or that you’re still learning. This gives your readers the opportunity to chime in with their own expertise or experiences.

Often, you can simply ask readers to add to your post. For instance, if you’ve written “10 Great Ways to Have More Fun With Your Blogging”, ask readers to contribute their own ideas in the comments. Some people won’t feel confident about commenting unless explicitly invited to do so, ideally with a suggestion of what they could add (e.g. “What would you add to this list?” or “Have you tried any of these ideas?”)

On a slightly selfish note, if you’re not sure about the value of comments, remember it’s not just about your readers getting more out of your blog. Some of my best blog post ideas have come from a reader’s suggestion or question in a comment. And many other comments have prompted me to think in a more nuanced way about a particular topic.

There’s no one “right” way to blog, and some blogs will inevitably be more conversational than others. If you’d like to make your own posts a bit more conversational, though, look for opportunities to:

  • Use “you” and “I”. Talk directly to your reader, and share your own experiences where appropriate.
  • Make your language fairly informal. Don’t worry about everything being “correct” – just let your voice and style shine through.
  • Open up the conversation by inviting readers to comment, or encouraging them to pop over to your Facebook page (or join your Facebook group).

Have you tried making your blog more conversational? Or is it something you’re just getting started with? Either way, leave a comment below to share your experiences and tips.

Christin Hume

The post 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Plan Your Blog Post from Start to Finish

Plan your blog postsThis is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke

Do you plan your blog posts? Or do you dive straight into the writing?

A lot of bloggers barely plan their posts (if they plan them at all). They’re either too eager to get started, or feel rushed and see planning as a waste of time.

But taking just five minutes to plan your posts can make a huge difference to your blogging.

Here’s why.

Five Great Reasons to Plan Your Posts Before You Start Writing

#1: More Planning = Less Editing

By spending five minutes planning, you can often save yourself 15 or 30 minutes of editing. If it’s clear at the planning stage that a post isn’t quite going to work, you can easily change it before you start writing, which will save a lot of time and effort.

#2: A Good Plan Makes it Easier to Write

While some bloggers feel that planning kills their spontaneity, I find a plan liberating. It’s much easier to write when you’re not trying to keep everything in your head and constantly worrying you’ll forget the next three points you want to make.

#3: Well-Planned Posts are More Engaging for Your Readers

If your post wanders off the point and doesn’t deliver on what you promised in the headline or introduction, readers will understandably get fed up. They may not finish reading it. And they certainly won’t be eagerly subscribing to your blog for more.

#4: Planning Can Help You Come Up with More Ideas

The process of writing down your ideas and getting them into a structure can often spark off new ideas. Some may help you deepen the post you’re planning, while others may give you the seed for a whole new post. If you find it hard to come up with new post ideas, plan more.

#5: You May Have to Plan if You’re Working With an Editor

Chances are that at some point in your blogging career you’ll have to write a plan. If you pitch a guest post or a freelance piece, you’ll often be asked for an outline. If you’ve never planned your own posts, writing a plan for someone else to read may feel very daunting. So get some practice in now.

Before I run through how to create a plan for your next blog post, let’s take a quick look at what a plan might actually look like.

The Plan for One of My ProBlogger Posts

Initial idea: “Should You Stop Taking Comments on Your Blog?”

I’ve been blogging for so long my ideas often take the form of potential titles, as this one did. In the end the title became “Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?” (which is far more succinct), but it was good enough for the planning phase.

The Plan

This is the brief version of my plan for the post:

Introduction – why close comments?

Prominent bloggers who removed comments – Steve Pavlina, Seth Godin, Copyblogger (brought them back), Michael Hyatt (brought them back).

Carol Tice (Make a Living Writing) – always answered comments but clearly not sustainable.

Deciding what to do about comments

Close them or not? Link to Charlie Gilkey’s post

Other options:

– Anti-spam plugin

– Close comments on old posts

– Use Disqus / FB comments

Conclusion – comments are valuable but you don’t NEED to have them on your blog

Now this is a very bare-bones plan. This might be enough for some bloggers, but I tend to flesh out each section with a few more notes before I start writing. (I’ll be recommending it as part of your own planning system in a moment.)

You may also have noticed that my plan has “Introduction” at the start and “Conclusion” at the end. Every plan I write includes these sections, and making sure I have those in place helps to give my posts a solid structure.

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

At its most basic, a good blog post template looks like this:

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion

If you want, you can use that template for your posts. However, some bloggers like to go further and create a more detailed template to make their blogging easier. A great example is Michael Hyatt’s blog post template, which he details in Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post.

You may want to develop your own template, or even a template with variations for different types of post, to help you create plans quickly and easily.

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

Of course, this isn’t the only way to plan a blog post. But hopefully  it’s a useful starting point for you. Once you’ve tried it out, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your workflow.

Step #1: Write Down Your Topic or Idea

Write  down the idea/topic for your blog post. Turn it into a working title, which often helps pin down the format of the post. For  instance, “7 Ways to…” is clearly going to be a list post.

Step #2: Create a Mindmap

On paper, or using an app, create a mindmap for your post. Write your title (or a short version of it) in the centre of the page, then jot down your key points around it. You may find that you start coming up with more details – perhaps an idea relating to one of these points, or a link to include. Write those down too. If your mindmap starts getting unclear, circle or highlight your key points in a different colour.

Step #3: Type an Outline

Type your key points into an outline, with any sub-points or extra details beneath each point, as in this example (from my plan for the post you’re currently reading):

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

– Introduction, main body, conclusion
– Michael Hyatt’s template

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

– Write down your topic or idea
– Create a mindmap
– Type an outline

At the start of your outline, add “Introduction”. And at the end, add “Conclusion”. Even if you don’t include any further details, it will remind you to write those sections.

Write down the topic, and come up with a working title to help you pin down the format.

Step #4 (optional): Flesh Out Your Outline

For a very short post, or one where you know the material well, you may want to omit this step. But again, I believe that every minute you spend planning will save you several minutes of editing.

Go through your outline, and write a few notes for each key point. What will that section of your post cover? Are there any resources (yours or other people’s) that you want to mention and link to?

Now, it’s finally time to write. Hopefully you’ll find drafting your post easy, as you’ve got the whole structure laid out for you. And at a glance you can see where you’re up to and how far you’ve got to go, which can help you pace your post appropriately.

For your next blog post, challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes planning and see what a difference it makes. 

And feel free to share your plans with us in the comments.

The post How to Plan Your Blog Post from Start to Finish appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?

This is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke

When you started out blogging, you were probably thrilled when you got a comment. People were reading your posts, and cared enough to leave their own thoughts.

As time went by, you probably found some of the comments very useful. Maybe they sparked off an idea for a different post, or gave you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

But if you’ve been blogging for a long time, and your blog gets a lot of traffic, those comments may be starting to become less of a delight and more of a chore.

Responding to five comments on every post might take only ten minutes, so it’s no big deal. But responding to fifty could take you the best part of an hour.

If you write two posts a week, that’s two hours you’re spending on comments. You could have written another blog post in that time.

Even if you hire someone to respond on your behalf, you’re still paying for their time. And that money could probably be better spent getting help with something else.

So it’s no surprise that some people who run large blogs decide not to have comments at all.

This isn’t a new thing. Way back in 2005, Steve Pavlina closed comments on his self-development blog. In 2006, Seth Godin closed comments on his business blog.

In recent years, it’s become something of a trend. I’ve seen several blogs I read (avidly!) close their comments sections.

Copyblogger removed their comments in 2014, and then brought them back in 2016.

Michael Hyatt removed comments from his blog in 2015, and then brought them back a year later.

A few months ago one of my very favourite bloggers, Carol Tice from Make a Living Writing, decided to close comments on her blog. I’ve often glanced through the comments there, and I was always impressed by how often and how thoughtfully Carol responded. But I completely understand that it wasn’t sustainable.

What about your blog? Should you stop taking comments altogether? Or do you think blogs should have comments?

Deciding What to Do About Comments

When you launch a blog, chances are comments are enabled by default. It’s easy to run with them enabled, but there’s no rule that says blogs must have comments.

Here are a few things you might want to think about.

  • What value do you get from comments? Does your blog attract thoughtful, engaged readers who leave comments that spark off great ideas for you? Or are most of the comments spam or very short comments that don’t really add any value?
  • Are you happy with how much time you currently spend moderating / answering comments? You may well be. On my Aliventures blog I post only once a week, and rarely spend more than ten minutes a week answering comments. This is perfectly sustainable for me.
  • Would your readers prefer to interact with you in a different location (e.g. on your Facebook page)? Obviously there are pros and cons to doing this. But some blogs encourage readers to leave feedback on social media platforms instead of (or as well as) commenting on posts themselves.
  • Do you get worried or stressed over comments? Even if it doesn’t take you long to respond to comments, they can still cause a lot of anxiety – especially if you’re writing in a niche where readers tend to be snarky or critical.

There are no right or wrong answers here, and different bloggers will come to different conclusions about what to do. For a couple of useful perspectives, take a look at:

Blog Commenting Isn’t Dead – It’s Different, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

This is a thoughtful, detailed look at comments and whether or not we should disable them on blogs, along with an in-depth explanation about the “Campfire” (a thriving Facebook group Charlie runs for his readers) and the role it plays in encouraging conversations.

Do Comments Actually Increase Your Search Traffic? A Data-Driven Answer, Neil Patel, Quick Sprout

This post digs deep into whether comments benefit your blog in terms of search engine traffic, and concludes that they have a small impact. (Obviously, you might be looking for different benefits from comments.)

Of course, removing comments doesn’t have to be a decision you make once and stick to forever. Like Copyblogger and Michael Hyatt, you may want to experiment with removing comments for… say, a year. You can always re-enable them.

If you don’t want to switch off comments completely, but want to reduce how much time you spend dealing with them, you might want to think about:

#1: Installing a Robust Anti-Spam Plugin

Removing spam comments can take up a lot of time. (And if you don’t weed them out promptly, they make your site look bad). To save yourself a lot of effort, install a good anti-spam plugin such as Akismet. It  will remove almost all spam comments before you even see them.

#2: Closing Comments on Older Posts

There’s no rule that says you need to leave comments open forever. Many large blogs close comments on older posts after a set period of time (e.g. two weeks, one month, etc.) Readers can all join in the discussion when the post first goes live, but readers who stumble across it a year later won’t be able to comment. This can cut down on spam, and means you have a smaller number of conversations to keep track of at any given time.

You can change this under Settings –> Discussion in your WordPress dashboard. Look for the line that says “Automatically close comments on articles older than (X) days” and set (X) to whatever you want.

#3: Using Disqus or Facebook Comments (or Another Plugin)

While many bloggers are happy with WordPress’ built-in commenting functionality, others prefer to use a different system. Disqus and Facebook Comments are both popular, though there are other options as well.

For a look into the pros and cons of each, check out James Parson’s post Facebook vs Disqus vs WordPress Comments: Which to Use?

Ultimately, what you do about comments is entirely up to you.

Some bloggers have strong opinions, and feel that comments are a defining feature of a blog. But most people are fairly pragmatic about it, and agree that comments are valuable. They add to the discussion, can bring in interesting ideas / alternative perspectives, and create a greater sense of “buy in” for readers. They can even potentially help with search engine traffic by providing extra content.

But comments also come at a cost – your time and attention – and it’s up to you to decide whether they’re worth it.

Do you currently have comments enabled on your blog or not? Are you thinking about changing this? Let us know your thoughts below.

The post Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

5 Critical Elements You Need to Check Off for Every Blog Post

5 critical blog post elements

This post is by ProBlogger subject matter expert Ali Luke

Over the past few years, I’ve conducted a lot of blog reviews for fellow writers. It’s always great fun to read other people’s posts … especially when they’re on topics that are totally new to me!

Along the way, though, I’ve noticed that there are five critical elements that far too many bloggers miss out of their posts.

Could your posts be missing any of these too? They are:

1.       The Hook

2.       Subheadings

3.       Transitions

4.       Links

5.       The Conclusion

#1: The Hook

I’ve never seen a blog post that didn’t have an introduction. I’ve seen plenty of posts, though, that had over-long introductions without a hook: a compelling reason for the reader to keep going.

Here’s an example of a good hook, from Laney Galligan’s post 5 Ways You Can Use Facebook Groups to Benefit Your Blog:

That’s right, more than 1 billion people are using Facebook groups. That’s where the conversation and community is happening and it’s something you can easily create for your blog.

Laney makes the benefits clear (Facebook is where “the conversation and community is happening”) and also makes an implicit promise that this post will teach the reader how to “easily create [that] for your blog”.

The first few sentences of your post, too, need to convince the reader that your post is worth their time.

#2: Subheadings

Very short blog posts (say, under 400 words) don’t need subheadings. Anything longer, though, can normally benefit from being broken into sections.

If your post is missing subheadings, it’s easy for the reader to get lost midway.  When that happens, chances are, they’ll stop reading. Subheadings help because they act like signposts: they tell the reader where they are and what’s coming next.

For more help with subheadings, check out my podcast for ProBlogger, How to Use Subheadings to Add Structure to Your Blog Posts.

#3: Transitions

A transition is like a little bridge from one thought to another. Sometimes, you don’t need a transition at all (a subheading can essentially serve the same purpose). If your post feels disjointed or abrupt in places, though, you may need to add in a quick transition.

Often, a transition is helpful before any major new section of your post. They can also be used to introduce lists.

Here are some examples, from Nicole Avery’s post How to Reduce Your Time on Social Media to Increase Your Blogging Productivity – you might want to read the whole post to see how these work in context:

There are two different ways that I see social media impact bloggers’ productivity negatively.

 

How does this behaviour on social media impact their productivity? It impacts it in three key ways:

 

It doesn’t mean that you can’t be on social media, it just means you need to take a more planned and proactive approach to how you go about it. Here are two actions you can take to help you:

#4: Links

While it’s not absolutely essential for your post to contain links, it’s almost always a good idea to include at least one. Both internal links (to your own blog) and external links (to other websites) matter.

  • Links to past posts on your blog help readers dig in … and stick around.
  • Links to posts on other people’s blogs position you as someone helpful and knowledgeable.
  • Links to your products or services help you make more sales.
  •  Links to books on Amazon can bring in affiliate income – and also make you look helpful and well informed.

It’s often appropriate to include links throughout your post, usually to give more information about a particular point. If you quote someone or give an example, you should provide a link too.

Sometimes, you might not have many opportunities to link within a post (or you may not want to distract readers – e.g. in a how-to post): if that’s the case, you could include some “further reading” or “where next?” suggestions at the end.

#5: The Conclusion

Of all the missing elements, this is probably the one that seems to get left off the most! If you finish your post too suddenly, though, it not only seems weirdly abrupt to readers … it robs you of a great chance to direct their next actions.

There are several ways to tackle the conclusion: personally, I think it’s good to sum up briefly (if only in a sentence), and to give a “call to action”. You can find out more about those in the ProBlogger podcast episode How to Write a Post That Contains a Call to Action.

Here’s an example of a conclusion that encourages the reader to take action based on the content – this is from Colin Gray’s post How to Get Your First Podcast Sponsorship:

If you’re looking to dip your toe in the waters, but sponsoring your blog is a step too far, then try your podcast. Build a relationship there and who knows, it might lead to your blog, your video channel, your social media.

If that gives you the time and the space to spend time on the content you love, offering more and more value to your readers, then it’s worth an ad spot or two. Give it a shot!

When you’re busy writing a blog post, it can be difficult to think about everything you need to include … you’re probably hurrying just to get all your ideas down.

As you edit, though, use these five critical elements as a checklist: make sure you’ve included each one – or that you’ve got a very good reason not to!

Which of these five elements do you find yourself inadvertently missing out? How could you include it in your next post? Share your thoughts or tips with us in the comments!

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The post 5 Critical Elements You Need to Check Off for Every Blog Post appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Today ProBlogger Subject Matter Expert Ali Luke is guest posting about guest posting.

So, you’ve realised that guest posting has loads of benefits for you and your blog, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it.

Maybe you’re worried that you don’t have enough experience.

Perhaps you haven’t even got an active blog of your own right now.

That’s absolutely fine. Most host blogs just want someone who can write reasonably well.

(It’s also OK to guest post even if you don’t have your own blog: some authors do this to promote their books, for instance, and freelancers do it to promote their services.)

If you’re worried about whether your writing’s good enough, ask a blogger friend to help you edit your guest post: a second pair of eyes can be invaluable here.

Choosing a Blog to Target

Where should you post? It makes sense to aim for a well-known blog with a big audience, though if this is your very first guest post, you may not want to go straight for the top. (Some bloggers do, though – so if you’re feeling confident, try it!)

Great blogs to guest post for are:

#1: Blogs that you already read regularly. This is definitely the best place to begin: after all, you already know these blogs well, and you may have left comments or shared posts, meaning there’s a chance the host blogger is already familiar with you.

#2: Blogs that are new to you, but well-established in your niche. I’ve been blogging for 9 years and I still keep coming across great blogs I never knew about! Check out the blogs that big-name bloggers in your niche link to (either in posts, in their sidebar, or on social media).

I don’t recommend Googling “list of blogs to guest post for” and choosing a list with hundreds of blogs on it. Guest posting isn’t a numbers game: it’s much better to write one or two great posts for one or two great blogs.

How to Know if a Blog Takes Guest Posts

The first thing to look for is a page on the blog titled something like this:

  • Guest post guidelines
  • Submission guidelines
  • Write for us
  • Submit a post

(Check the navigation menu, the sidebar, the About page, and the Contact page for these. Or you can type into Google: guest post guidelines site:[URL of the blog] to find any page/post on that blog that mentions “guest post guidelines".)

If there aren’t any guidelines visible, look to see who’s writing for the blog. Are there any recent guest posts? Anything written by someone who isn’t the blog owner / editor might be a guest post … though if the same names keep coming up again and again, they’re probably freelance writers.

Once you’ve found a blog to target, it’s time to come up with your idea.

Coming Up with an Idea

If you generally find it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, you might want to check out the six months of blogging prompts (free).

When you’re pitching a guest post, your idea should be:

  • In the right niche. I know this sounds obvious, but there’s no point in sending a post about credit cards to a blog about parenting toddlers!
  • A good fit for the audience. Copyblogger and Helping Writers Become Authors are both excellent blogs with an interest in good writing … but Copyblogger is about copywriting and Helping Writers Become Authors is about fiction.
  • Not too similar to other recent posts on the blog. You might want to find a category on the blog that hasn’t had many posts recently, and come up with an idea to fit that category.
  • Appropropriate for the tone of the blog. Most blogs, for instance, won’t be keen to publish an angry, ranty, sweary post. (Of course, on some other blogs, that would work perfectly.)

I’d suggest coming up with two or three ideas for the blog: personally, I like to offer one main idea and a couple of alternatives.

Note: We’ll be going into more detail about guest post ideas next week and providing extra guidance on how to shape these not only to the blog itself but also to your own objectives.

Developing Your Idea into an Outline

Before you pitch, your main idea should be fleshed out with a brief outline or idea of what you’re going to cover. A list (with or without bullet points) is fine here. For instance, for this post, that list might look like:

Title: Finding Great Guest Posting Opportunities and Pitching the Perfect Post

This would cover:

  • Where to find blogs to post for (and what NOT to do)
  • How to come up with ideas that are a good fit for your target blog
  • A sample email for pitching your ideas
  • The importance of following guidelines

A quick list like this makes sure that the host blogger’s expectations line up with what you plan to deliver.

Occasionally, you may find that a host blogger likes your idea but wants you to cover different or additional points – it’s always easiest to get this clear up front, rather than to write a whole post only to end up making substantial changes.

Should You Write the Whole Post Before Pitching?

Some blogs like to have the pitch alone (title plus outline); others prefer to see a finished post. Check their guidelines to see what they specify.

There’s nothing stopping you, of course, from writing the whole post before you pitch (and just keeping it to yourself): if you’re feeling a bit anxious about doing justice to your pitch, this can help! You may, though, have to make changes based on the blog owner’s response to your pitch.

Writing a Pitch Email to the Blog’s Editor

This is where many would-be guest post writers get stuck! It can be really daunting to sit down and email a big-name blogger who you’d love to write for … what if you screw it up?

If it’s any comfort, that big-name blogger probably gets dozens of terrible pitches from SEO companies every single week.

To stand out from the crowd, just:

  • Present an on-target idea (you should have that already!)
  • Be clear and concise (don’t give detailed paragraphs about your backstory)
  • Use correct spelling and grammar (ask a friend to proofread for you)

You don’t need to have any special credentials … you just need to show that you can write decent English and that you won’t be horrible to work with.

In case you think I’m setting the bar too low here, this is a real email I received a couple of weeks ago, for my blog Aliventures (my tagline there is “master the art, craft and business of writing”):

Hey,

I am content writer specialized in Health & fitness niche, and I chanced upon aliventures.com. I must appreciate that the content of your website is par excellence and exceptionally useful.

I’ve been a blogger for about 10 years, with special interests in Health & fitness, Ayurvedic counselor, and Sexologist. Today I am a recognized expert in the subject, and over the years, have consistently contributed articles and blogs to top sexologist related sites.

I am looking forward to attaching myself as a guest blogger to your site by contributing an article to aliventures.com. I assure that the article will be highly informative and educative to your audience. While I am not looking at any monetary benefits, instead we could consider the possibility mentioning my site/resource just once within the article.

Do let me know if this sounds good and works for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

[name removed]

Content Writer & Editor

I’m sure you spotted some of the glaring problems with this pitch:

  • It’s clearly been sent to lots of different blogs. You can tell because it doesn’t address me by name and it has my URL instead of my blog’s name in the first paragraph (which means the writer likely has a long long list of blog URLs that they’re contacting).
  • The topics are completely irrelevant to my blog on writing. I have never posted anything on Aliventures about health and fitness (or sex)!
  • The writer doesn’t pitch an actual topic at all, but they assure me the article will be “highly informative and educative”. I’m not convinced.
  • It’s pretty clear their aim in guest posting is purely to get a link.

Trust me, you can do a million times better than this.

Sample Email to Use When Pitching a Guest Post

Here’s an email you can use for your pitches: just fill in the [bits in square brackets].

Subject: Guest post submission: [title of post]

Dear [blog owner],

Would you be interested in a guest post titled [title of post]? It would cover:

  • [Key point 1]
  • [Key point 2]
  • [Key point 3]

If that’s not a good fit, would either of these suit you?

  • [title of alternative post]
  • [title of alternative post 2]

I blog at [name of your blog] and I’ve also written for [any other blogs you’ve guest posted on, if applicable].

Many thanks for your time,

[your name]

If there are specific guidelines about how to submit, make sure you follow those: for instance, if you’re asked to include links to samples of your work, do that!

Tip: Some blogs have quite detailed guest posting guidelines, and I find it helps to print those out and go through them point by point so I don’t miss anything.

Following Up on Your Guest Post Pitch

If you don’t hear back (and there’s no Out of Office reply or similar), follow up after 2 weeks. Anything sooner looks a bit pushy – remember that big bloggers will get a LOT of requests, and if you press too soon, it’s easier for them to say “no” rather than take the time to review your post.

Don’t leave it forever to follow up, though: it’s embarrassing for a host blogger if they lose your email and only find it again two months later. (I’ve had this happen not only with guest post pitches but also a magazine article submission: trust me, it’s best for you and for the editor if you follow up politely rather than assume that they didn’t want it…!)

Here’s an email you can use when following up:

Sample Follow Up Email

Dear [name],

I just wanted to check if you received my guest post pitch on [date]? I’ve copied that email below just in case it went astray.

No problem if it’s not quite right for you, or if you need some time to think about it.

Thanks very much,

[your name]

(Make sure you do include the original pitch. Don’t expect the blogger to trawl through their inbox for it… and there’s always the possibility it ended up being eaten by a spam filter.)

Guest posting is one of the best ways to boost your blog’s traffic and to build your own profile within the blogging world. Pitching can be a little scary – but once you’ve done it a few times, it does get much easier!

Have you written any guest posts yet? If you’re nervous or if you’ve got questions about finding opportunities, coming up with ideas and pitching your post, just leave a comment below.

Guest Posting Series:

Next week, we’ll be covering writing the guest post itself: making sure you’ve got an idea that’ll work for your host blog and for you, using your bio wisely, including links, and even including visuals.

So far:

7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

The post Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How Do You Blog Consistently When You Have Very Little Time?

Blog with little time

From ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Do you ever feel like your blog is yet another responsibility on a very long list?

For the vast majority of bloggers, blogging has to fit in around an already full life. Perhaps you’re:

  • Building an online business, which you’re marketing by blogging … but the business takes up loads of time
  • Starting out as a freelancer writer, and building a client list through your blog and newsletter … but you need to focus most of your working hours on your paid writing
  • Raising a young family – with sleepless nights, hectic mornings, and tons of housework along the way
  • Working long hours at a busy day job … leaving you very little time or energy to write

Even if you have very little time, you can blog consistently. Here’s how:

Step #1: Remember That Consistent Blogging Doesn’t Mean Frequent Blogging

Perhaps, right now, you can’t realistically commit to publishing posts on a frequent basis.

That’s fine.

You don’t necessarily need to blog weekly (and you definitely don’t need to blog daily). I’ve never met a reader who unsubscribed because a blog didn’t publish quite as much great content as they’d have liked; I’ve met plenty who unsubscribed because they felt overwhelmed by the volume of content … or who left because the quality dropped.

I suggest blogging between once a month and once a week: decide on the frequency and do your best to stick with it.

If you can, write a post or two to keep back for times when you’re particularly busy. If you haven’t been posting for a while, delay starting back until you’ve built up a little stock of posts.

Step #2: Batch Together Your Blogging Tasks

When you’ve only got, say, an hour a week, you don’t want to waste your time struggling to come up with an idea.

I’ve been blogging for nine years now (on my own blogs and as a guest poster and freelancer), and over time, I’ve learned that it’s easiest to batch together different content creation tasks.

Batching can be a huge help with managing your energy as well as your time – take a look at Naomi Dunford’s great post How To Stay Amazingly Productive On Low Energy Days for examples of how different blogging activities might fit your “ebb” or “flow” times.

Here’s how I suggest you batch your tasks:

Ideas

Set aside 20 minutes. Come up with as many ideas as you can (try to get at least 10). They don’t have to be amazing ideas! Get lots down as quickly as possible and you’ll soon find that you move beyond the unworkable or boring ones.

If you’re stuck, try using the ProBlogger blogging prompts to spark off ideas: you can get a whole pack of them when you join the ProBlogger weekly newsletter (which is also a great source of blogging inspiration)!

Planning

Set aside another 20 minutes. Pick four ideas. Spend no more than five minutes very briefly planning for each one.

It helps to come up with a consistent structure (which I’ll get to later in this post). For a very basic structure, think:

  • Introduction
  • Several key points that all relate closely to your idea/ title
  • Conclusion

Outlining

You might be happy to write straight from your five minute plan (especially if your post is a short one). If you want, though, you can add an extra “outlining” stage into the batching process.

Go through your 5 minute plan and flesh out each key point. Add notes about:

  • What specific tips or ideas you want to share in each section.
  • Any links or examples you want to use.

I’d suggest spending 10 minutes per outline at this stage.

It’s absolutely fine to change things about your plan at this point, too – don’t feel that you have to stick 100% to what you’ve already written.

Drafting

Once you’ve got an outline, drafting your post is pretty straightforward! It’s just a matter of going through and writing out each section that you’ve planned. You won’t need to worry about where you’re going next, and you won’t find yourself going off on a long tangent.

You also don’t need to draft your post in a single session. You’re not trying to store it all in your head – your outline is down on paper already – so you can draft in short bursts (e.g. 10 – 20 minutes per day) if that suits your schedule better.

Rewriting

If you created a good outline before you drafted your post, you may well not need this stage! If you didn’t, you may have found that your first draft went off in an unexpected direction or that your initial idea needed some refining as you wrote.

If that’s the case, set your post aside for a day or two, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Then:

CUT: Cut out any sections that don’t really fit the post. Save them for a different piece.

REARRANGE: See whether any sections (or even paragraphs) would read more smoothly or logically if you reordered them.

ADD: Check whether there’s anything you need to add. This might be simply a link to another post or an explanation of something that new readers may not understand.

Editing

When you edit, you’re looking very closely at your post: at the sentence structures and word choices. (This is why you want to rewrite first, if your post needs a fair amount of work: there’s no point perfecting a sentence that you’re only going to end up cutting out altogether.)

You may find that it’s helpful to have a batch of 2 – 4 drafts ready that you can edit in sequence, with your critical “editing” hat on rather than your creative “writing” hat in place.

Formatting and Links

If you’ve not already done it when editing, go through your post one last time and make it look great.

Put in an image (or several images), Header 2 format for subheadings, bold text for key points, blockquote format for quotes, bullet points for lists, and so on.

Also look out for any opportunities to include a useful link – whether that’s to an old post on your blog or a post on someone else’s site.

Step #3: Use a Content Calendar

If you sometimes struggle to know what to post, or feel like your blog needs more variety or consistency, you need a content calendar or editorial calendar.

This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or complicated. I make a simple calendar in Evernote each month, with one blog post title and one newsletter piece listed for each week:

You can take this a step further and “theme” the different posts that you do. For instance, if you write one post a week, your standard calendar template might look like this:

  • Week 1 – “how to” post
  • Week 2 – re-run an old post (see tip #4)
  • Week 3 – inspiring, encouraging post
  • Week 4 – round-up post, linking to good posts elsewhere during the past month

Alternatively, you might make a calendar that rotates around different topics. For instance, if (like me) you blog about writing, you might have a calendar like this:

  • Week 1 – fiction-writing
  • Week 2 – freelancing
  • Week 3 – blogging
  • Week 4 – publishing

There are plenty of different ways to use and structure your calendar, and Darren covers lots of good suggestions in this podcast on creating an editorial calendar.

Step #4: Have a Consistent Post Template

All blog posts have a structure. At the very least, posts start with some sort of introduction – even if it’s just a sentence or two – then have a main body of content. Ideally, they should have a conclusion too.

Bloggers who produce a lot of content generally have at least one standard post structure to work from. Michael Hyatt has a very specific template that he uses for pretty much every post on his blog, for instance.

You might think that using a template will make your posts less interesting. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s easier for readers to engage when your post has a logical progressing (instead of being a meandering collection of points) – and it’s generally far easier for you to share your thoughts if you have a structure to contain them.

Step #5: Recycle Old Posts

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ll have an awful lot of posts that new readers won’t easily spot. Even if these are listed in your archives, they won’t necessarily be seen.

One very easy way to post regular content when you’re busy is to revive an old post. Simply choose one from your archives (I’d suggest going back to at least a year ago), and repost it.

Depending on your topic and how old your post is, you may want to:

  • Update the post with new information or facts, if those have become outdated.
  • Update the post with fresh examples and links – these can date quite quickly, so do check all existing links in particular to make sure they still work.
  • Change the formatting or layout of the post – perhaps you’ve altered your blog’s theme and the post no longer looks as good as it once did.
  • Include a note to state that the post was previously published. I like to do this to avoid confusing readers! I usually pop a line in italics at the top of the post, e.g.: This post was first published in 2012 and updated in 2017.

I’ve republished several of my favourite old posts, and so far, not a single reader has complained … and several have thanked me for publishing content that was just what they needed, right now! So even if you’re reluctant to republish content, give it a go and see what happens.

Of course, there’ll probably be a fair amount of old content that you decide not to republish. You could still save time by using it in other ways – ZenOptimise has a handy list of 12 different ways to do this.

Step #6: Look at Your Whole Weekly Schedule

If you’ve tried the above tips and you’re still struggling to find enough time for your blog, then you need to take a look at everything else going on in your life.

Chances are, there are a lot of things you can’t realistically change (e.g. the hours you spend at your day job, the hours your partner works, how long your baby naps) but there probably is at least a little bit of leeway. For instance:

  • Can you set aside one or two nights a week for an hour’s blogging, e.g. from 8pm – 9pm? You don’t have to work all evening every evening!
  • Can you get up 15 minutes early to blog in small increments? (Check out Tip #2 on batch producing posts, above.)
  • Could you reduce the time you spend on some household chores? For instance, could you batch cook a couple of nights a week so you don’t have to cook each night? Can you order groceries online so you don’t need to get out to the shops at the weekend?
  • If you live with a partner, can you arrange your joint schedule so that you both get a little more free time? For instance, perhaps you’ll take the kids out on Saturday afternoons and they will have the kids on Sunday afternoons: that way, you’ll have time to blog and your partner will have time for their hobbies.
  • If you don’t know where your time is going, keep a time log for a week to find out and write down everything you do. If you’re mostly at your computer, use RescueTime to track what you’re spending time on.

There may well not be any easy answers, and you may be frustrated that a lot of your schedule can’t be changed. Focus on what you can change and control, though.

Moving Forward, Step by Step

Blogging can feel a bit relentless at times: your blog needs fresh content week after week. Treat it as a marathon, not a sprint – don’t burn out.

Also (and I really struggle with this!), do try not to compare yourself to other bloggers. They may well be at a completely different stage of life from you (perhaps they don’t have a day job, or they don’t have kids, or they can afford to pay a team of assistants…). Instead of thinking about them, stay focused on what you can do to keep growing your blog – or, as Charlie Gilkey puts it, watch your own lane.

Ideally, you want to gradually move towards a position where you do have more time for your blog – so you might look at creating or growing some income streams, for instance, so you can afford to pay for some childcare or for a virtual assistant.

I know how tough (practically and emotionally) it can be to keep up with blogging when you don’t have much time to spare. Take it at your own pace, step by step. And while overall consistency is important, if you do feel overwhelmed, it’s fine to take an occasional week off!

How do you fit your blogging in around your busy life? Does one of the above tips already work well for you, or do you have something else to suggest? Share your ideas in the comments below!

The post How Do You Blog Consistently When You Have Very Little Time? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Ten Simple Ways to Improve Any Blog Post in Minutes

Ten Simple Ways to Improve Any Blog Post in Minutes | ProBlogger

Are your blog posts as good as you want them to be?

Perhaps you don’t seem to get many comments or shares. Or maybe your recent posts are great, but you feel like your older ones are lacking something.

You don’t need to rewrite each post from scratch to improve it. Often, a few small tweaks can make a dramatic difference.

Here are ten of my favorites to try out today:

1: Make the Title Stronger

Some bloggers have the knack of writing powerful titles; others struggle. If you find yourself going with the first title that comes to mind, it might need a bit of work.

Good titles grab attention and make a clear promise to the reader. Compare:

Write Better Blog Posts – not specific enough, doesn’t make it clear what the reader will gain from reading this post

Ten Ways to Improve Your Blog Posts – better, though still a little too generic

Ten Simple Ways to Improve Any Blog Post In Minutes – much more specific, makes a clear promise, appeals to readers who want quick and easy solutions rather than lots of theory or detail!

2: Shorten the Introduction

When you’re drafting a post, it’s easy to let the introduction drag on a bit too long, as you get into the swing of writing. That’s absolutely fine … but you don’t need to leave everything you’ve written in place!

Is your introduction gripping and engaging? Does each sentence draw the reader into your post, maybe by giving them a vivid picture of the problem they want to move away from – or a  promise of what’s about to come?

If your introduction seems to ramble a bit, cut it down. Readers rarely need to know exactly where the inspiration for a particular post came from, for instance.

3: Add More Images

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blog post that had too many images! A large image at the start is always a great way to draw the reader’s eye … but you can also use images along the way to break up the text and to add useful information (e.g. screenshots, book covers).

If you’re struggling to find good images to use, check out Where to Find Free Images Online for links to lots of great sites.

4: Create More White Space

“White space” is all the stuff around the words of your post. It might seem an odd thing to think about when you’re trying to improve the post itself – but white space makes it easier for readers to engage with your actual words.

You can add more white space by:

  • Writing in short paragraphs.
  • Using bullet-pointed lists (like this one!)
  • Including quotes (see #5)
  • Using subheadings (see #7)

If the text on your blog seems a little cramped or difficult to read in general, consider increasing the font size and/or the spacing between lines. You can do this by switching to a different WordPress theme, by adjusting your theme options (for some premium themes), or by editing your Style.css file.

5: Include a Quote

Quotes from other people can help support the points you’re making in your post. You might use a quote to kick-start your post, or you might include one part-way through.

Normally, quotes are set in “blockquote” formatting, which will often be indented on the left-hand side – creating extra white space.

For lots more on using quotes in your posts, check out The Why, How and When of Using Quotations on Your Blog.

6: Add Links to Other Posts

Have you written about a related topic in the past? Include a link – either part way through your post, where it’s relevant, or at the end of your post in a “Further Reading” or “Next Steps” section. This is a great way to draw people further into your blog – and it can be very handy if you want to cater for readers of different ability levels; you can link to basic information and definitions for beginners and/or to more advanced posts for experienced readers.

Of course, you can link to other people’s posts too: this provides just as much value to your reader and also helps you build relationships with other bloggers (who’ll almost certainly be delighted by the link)!

7: Use Subheadings as Signposts

Like it or not, most readers will not read every word of your carefully crafted post. They’ll scan through for the parts that are most relevant to them.

Subheadings are very helpful for these readers: they “signpost” what’s coming up. If you haven’t used subheadings, or if yours aren’t very clear, go through and make sure that each key section of your post begins with a subheading that explains, briefly, what you’re about to cover. (In this post, for instance, each item in the list begins with a subheading.)

8: Add a Conclusion

Is your post rounded off nicely … or does it just stop? Your conclusion is just as important as your introduction: it ends your post neatly, giving readers a sense of completion – and it also often prompts readers to take action.

If you’re not sure how to finish your post, you could:

  • Invite comments (“Do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment below!”)
  • Encourage readers to implement what you’ve written about. (“Try just one of these ideas this week…”)
  • Offer extra resources (“Click here to download my .pdf on…”)

9: Proofread Carefully

One very simple way to improve your posts is to proofread them – carefully. It’s so easy for typos to sneak in, and your spellchecker won’t necessarily catch all of these. If, like me, you tend to leave [notes to self] when you’re drafting, do make sure you’ve gone through and filled in any blanks!

If you’ve written a particularly important post (perhaps a guest piece for a large blog or a post that you’re going to be sending a lot of traffic to), then it might be worth asking another blogger to help proofread: sometimes, fresh eyes can spot mistakes that you missed.

10: Categorize it Correctly

This might seem like a small thing, but it can make quite a difference to readers: make sure you’ve categorized your post correctly. Definitely avoid using “uncategorized” as a catch-all default – this tends to look haphazard and unprofessional.

Not all blogs use categories as navigational tools, but if your does, it’s particularly important to check that you’ve put your post in a sensible category. That way, people interested in that particular aspect of your topic can easily find past posts that are relevant to them.

 

Improving your blog posts doesn’t have to mean spending hours rewriting them: a few little tweaks can really make them shine.

You don’t need to do all ten of these for every single post on your blog, of course. Instead, pick one or two that you’re going to try out this week (either when you work on a new post or when sprucing up an old one).

If you’ve got any quick blog post fixes to add to the list, too, drop a comment below!

The post Ten Simple Ways to Improve Any Blog Post in Minutes appeared first on ProBlogger.