You’ve heard it repeatedly – if you don’t blog, you’re missing out on business. So, you blog!… Sort of? Let’s face it, blogging is hard. Do you have bloggers block? Do you forget that your blog exists for a day, a week, or a month? Are your images great but your text is lacking? It happens!
It can’t be this hard, right? Right! It’s not – with a little planning. Here are six tips and tools to help you make your blog better.
Create, and Follow, an Editorial Calendar
The Editorial Calendar is the secret weapon to every successful blogger. But don’t get overwhelmed! You can manage your Editorial Calendar just like any other business asset you manage. If you don’t use one now, the Editorial Calendar is your content roadmap. You plan your content and lay it out on a calendar so you know what you are posting and when.
For your blog, start by brainstorming topics you can post about and use that to determine frequency. What frequency can you support? Daily topic cycles work best for most blogs, but maybe that’s not what’s best for you. Identify your categories and begin to lay them out into your calendar.
The trickiest part to the Editorial Calendar isn’t planning, it’s sticking with it. Did you fall off your plan? That’s ok! Identify where the system broke and fix it. Did your calendar-type fail? Switch methods, like from electronic calendars to print. Was your frequency too aggressive? Lighten your plan and keep going.
Identify Your Voice
Your writing will speak volumes about your business. So, what does your writing sound like? Is your business elegant and sophisticated? Quirky and colorful? Is the voice of your business separate from your personal writing style? Your voice is the way you will speak to your clients and directly impact what clients seek your products.
Here’s a big tip-off on your voice – have you ever sworn in your blog? Are you sarcastic? The way you can express humor and anger in a blog strongly impact your voice. Is there a catch-phrase you use consistently, maybe unintentionally? Think about it! There is always time to redirect and change your voice – once you find it. Make sure your voice matches your business: your design, your graphics, and your products.
Create a Style Guide
Another secret tool of successful blogs is consistency. Deep, engrained, minutia and tiny-little-details consistency. Creating a Style Guide can help.
In your blog, do you follow AP Style, or Chicago? Do a dabble in a little of each? Did you say “omg” in a post for January, but “o.m.g.” in a post for February? While it seems small, consistency is key in setting apart the professionals in writing. Take notes on your text preferences and create a Style Guide. Use this as a reference as you write and edit your content. Your goal is to keep your style flawless across all platforms of your brand, and a Style Guide will make your life easier.
Content, Content, Content
At the end of the day, a blog contains content. For almost every business, content is king. You can coat your posts in SEO keywords, post galleries of your best images, and spend all of your money on marketing, but if your content isn’t interesting, no one will stay to read it. Now that you have your Editorial Calendar plan ready, start writing! Content can be how-to articles, stories, lists, recipes – just about anything! What are you an expert at? What anecdotes do you have to share with your clients? Think about what content means to you. As a photographer, the impulse may be to post galleries. For your blog, think more about what you would want to read. You don’t need to emulate your favorite blogs, but inspiration is always a good thing when writing. Your content brings, keeps, and repeats client visits on your blog. Take your expertise and your stories to drive your business.
Your calendar is set and you’ve written your pieces on schedule, in your voice and style, when it strikes – the impulse content! Maybe something relevant went viral and you want to get it up on the blog. Great! Write it up, edit, and post. It’s always a good thing to show your content as timely and relevant.
So what do you do with the post you had already prepared for the day? Do you post it anyways, and potentially flood the blog? Do you push back another scheduled post to accommodate it? Instead, think about converting pieces to Evergreen.
Evergreen content is a piece that always feels fresh. It is something that can be posted any time and not be out of place – like an evergreen tree. As another secret weapon, create a folder full of Evergreen content. Don’t worry, it’s easy! Once you are warmed up from writing frequently, you’ll be inspired to keep writing. Maybe you write something great that doesn’t fit in your plan right now. Maybe you have so many great images you can’t bring yourself to cull – you can split the entry and save half. There will come a day when you’re sick, tired, uninspired, on vacation, or just plain busy. Don’t feel guilty about it. Evergreen folder to the rescue! If you create spare content, you will always have something up your sleeve and ready to post.
Get Out Your Red Pen – Edit!
Once you start writing, you are well on your way. But wait, that blog post isn’t quite ready to be posted. You learned it in high school and it still applies here – you have to edit your writing. But with so many tools available, it isn’t too difficult.
A secret tool you can implement is what editors call allowing the piece to “get cold.” If you are following your Editorial Calendar, you should be writing your pieces at least 24 hours in advance of your post. While you should edit for spelling and grammar mistakes as you write, revisit the piece when you are done to find anything you should change. You are specifically looking for spelling, grammar, readability, and consistency in your style.
After your initial edits, you need to walk away from it for a full day. When you come back, the piece is cold. Your brain is able to process what you actually wrote and not what you think you intended to write. You may have seen writings where everything is spelled correctly but a word does not make sense, like “an” instead of “and.” Your cooled piece makes it easier to find these errors, as well as find clarity and re-write lines that may have felt a little clunky the day before.
And there you have it. So easy, right? It’s ok if these tips are challenging, your business is going to have challenges. Over the next six weeks, I’m going to break these down further and help you get a firm grasp on your blog, content strategy, and content management. Any questions so far? Post in the comments! But keep planning, writing and posting. You are well on your way to a better blog.
Erica Kolmin is a writer and editor in New York City. She earned a Master of Publishing: Print and Digital Media from New York University and has worked for Simon and Schuster, Random House, Penguin Books, and Scholastic. Erica has a young daughter and drinks entirely too much coffee.