TIME & SPACE

Great blog posts can give a real boost to your search engine rankings and real-life response. If only it were easier to sit down and crank out a long, interesting, entertaining post, right?

With as much writing as I do, here are some of the things I’ve found that can help you make the most of your blog.

Make a schedule and a list

How often do you want to update your blog? You might have a goal to create a new post every week, every couple of weeks, every month … whatever it is, it’s important to stick to it. Consistency matters.

I schedule all the regular writing projects I do on my to-do list. I plan to write this weekly ActiveRain blog post every Thursday. That means I usually do it Friday! And I schedule it to publish first thing every Monday morning.

If I waited until I remembered it was time to update, I’d be blogging a couple of times a month instead of every week.

One big speed bump to sitting down and cranking out a blog post is the realization, “What the heck am I going to write about NOW?” That’s why I keep a list of blog ideas. I get my best ideas when I’m stuck in traffic, washing the dishes or waiting in line at Walgreens. Do I remember any of them without writing them down? Forget about it!

Do some research

By “research,” I mean “Google your topic and see what others are saying about it.”

Of course, you don’t want to plagiarize other bloggers and websites. Still, just reading what others have written on your subject can help crystalize your opinion, or help you mentally organize what you want to say. I also find it motivating to read what others write, because I’m a competitive type and think I can do it better!

If you have trouble getting started, doing a little reading first can help you figure out how you want to get started on your topic, too.

Create an outline

You can create a very involved, organized outline if you choose to. Some people like to write that way.

Here’s what I do, because it keeps me organized and it’s easy to do: See all the subject headings in bold letters in this blog post? That’s what I started with. Those section headers are my outline. Those headers start as the major points I want to address: “This is important, so’s this, and this, and this and this.”

Then, I move them around so they’re in the order I want.

When you organize your thoughts this way, all of a sudden you’re not writing a 1,000-word blog post on one topic. You’re breaking it down into shorter sections with fewer words. That’s a much more manageable project!

Decide who your audience is

When we write, it’s so easy to write to entertain or impress ourselves.

What you write will have more power if you decide who needs to hear it and talk directly to them.

Every major media brand knows who their target audience is, and they talk to them over and over and over again. Your blog is part of your own personal media brand. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.

When you’re talking with one person in mind, you’re more likely to be talking one-to-one, instead of talking “at” them. It’s also easier to stay focused and on topic if you write with your target in mind. This works better if you imagine a typical member of your target audience, instead of a lot of different people. Even better, imagine their response to what you say, and that will help you craft your message!

Keep it simple

Imagine someone telling someone else about what you wrote. “It’s a blog post about . …” The shorter and punchier the answer, the more likely that people will read what you have to say.

The simpler and more accurate your language is, the more likely it is to help your search rankings. Flowery phrases aren’t your friend online!

Commit to the time, but take breaks

If you want to write something long that people will enjoy and learn from, it’s going to take some time.

So commit to the time. Put it on your calendar. Even if you’re good at writing, it’s still an activity that takes the time that it takes.

However, don’t torture yourself. Take one or two five-minute breaks every hour, but stick to your time limit. Get right back to work when you’re done!

Have an opinion

What’s your take on the issue you’re writing about? You’re not a journalist, laying out the facts as you know them, expressing no opinion. You’re an expert in your field, and you’re talking about something you know. You’ve learned from personal experience. Don’t leave yourself out.

I haven’t seen any data about this, but I’m convinced that you’re likely to get more readers paying attention to you if they either agree with you or disagree with you … moreso than if you just give ‘em the facts.

One extra benefit to adding something of yourself to your blog posts develops over time: Your personality starts to come out, post by post, making it easier for strangers to feel that they know you!

Know your keywords

Of course, blogging about just any topic won’t help your search ranking. You want to be talking about … and using … the terms that people use to search for someone like you.

Google has a keyword tool that I like to use, and you can find it here. You can make keyword analysis as simple or as complicated as you want. There are some search terms that apply to you that make you unique; there are others that put you in the crowd. There are some search terms that everyone seems to use, and there are others that should help but that no one seems to enter in the search box.

Here’s an educational overview of keyword research that’s pretty simple to understand and is only a few pages long.

Also, you might want to familiarize yourself with the concept of long-tail keywords. Short, popular keywords will take you only so far. For example, “Cleveland Ohio Realtor” will deliver a ton of results, and you won’t really know the passion level involved. A lot fewer people will be looking for “3 bedroom condo Beachwood schools low maintenance,” but the person who does probably has her checkbook out already!

Repeat your strongest topics

When we write once about something, we tend to put it on the back shelf of our mind when it’s time to think about new topics. However, I’ll bet there’s a short list of topics that you can write about over and over and over again. They’re that important; new people are always finding them; and the sheer quantity of your expertise comes through multiple times.

If you watch the news on TV, you can bet they’re not saying, “We talked about ISIS yesterday, we can’t talk about it again today.” That radio station or Pandora channel you listen to isn’t set to play your favorite songs once and then never again.

What are your “top stories” or “hit records”? Along with having a list of ideas to talk about, you might want to keep a list of topics you SHOULD talk about again. You know, to rank higher on Google and get more customers!

One other thought about that: I find it easier to write about the topics I know inside and out, rather than trying to address things I don’t know as well. I’ll bet that’s the same for you!

What Nike says

Just do it. Sit down, start writing, and edit what you wrote. Then you’re done until next time. And it feels good to be done!

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