4 steps to breaking your blogging block
In this day and age, the reason most of us are producing content on the Internet is to attract readers to our website, our blog, our news site, our whatever with the intention of eventually converting them into customers. Now that readers have become savvy at separating the signal from the noise, it is important that you as a content creator give them relevant, consistent content in order to establish a relationship that keeps them engaged. But, what about those days, or weeks, when just that blinking cursor is enough to drive you to smash another keyboard against the wall? After one-too-many keyboard replacements, I've thrown today's productivity to the wind and instead created a really simple guide to take you from writer's block to published article in just four steps.
Step 1: brainstorm with analytics
First, determine what kind of topics your readers respond to. In order to figure this out, you'll want to use some kind of analytic device to see which of your posts have been clicked on the most over a certain amount of time. If I've said it once (which I have) I've said it a thousand times (not sorry) - you need to know where something starts in order to be able to measure its growth. Or decline.
Choose any tool you like. Some sharing platforms include in-house analytics, such as Facebook's Insights. Or you can use a sharing tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to post across all of your social media channels and monitor reactions.
Step 2: crank out some content
Ok, so you you've been collecting data and you know just what your ideal site visitor wants to read about. Now here's the hard part: writing it.
I personally like to skip the headline and get straight into creating content. I generally start by reading over all of my source material; making rough notes along the way that I eventually go back and string into sentences. Next I arrange these sentences into a logical story order before adding final touches - corrections, subtitles, imagery and the all-important SEO data.
If that isn't doing it for you, I also like the suggestion to write as if you're answering a question that I found in this blog post; which actually inspired this article in the first place. Framing "4 steps to breaking your blogging block" as "What steps would I take to break my writer's block?" can alter your perspective in a way that unblocks all that pent up creativity.
If there is an actual question that users commonly ask you, then this step is practically done for you! Just start typing in your natural conversational voice and don't stop for corrections until you've got it all on paper.
If the blank page itself is daunting, cut it out of the equation for now. The blog mentioned above also suggests answering your question out loud, recording it and then transcribing it before assembling it into a legible story. Though I don't personally use this method, I did use a voice recorder regularly during my reporting days and I can vouch for its ability to keep track of thoughts way faster than your hand can translate them from your brain.
Step 3: name the damn thing
Ok, so I might have lied before. Here's the really hard part: what are we going to call it?
There are lots of theories on how and what to name your posts. While I would again suggest monitoring to see what works best, here are a few key tips to get you on the right path.
According to this blog from Buffer, whom I tend to trust when it comes to social media analytics, there are a few simple tricks to making your headline more "clickable."
1. Appeal to your reader's innate desire to get better. Your headline should tell them they can become a better parent, get more website traffic, manage their time better or a similar message of the personal benefit they might achieve by clicking on your post.
- Use proven language cues. Buffer found that their most-clicked headlines shared four factors. They were "how to" posts, they used numbers somewhere in the headline, they used a form of "you" to refer to the reader and they used specific metrics such as "improve efficiency by 36 percent" instead of simply "improve efficiency." Just see my article title for an example.
- Follow a tried and true pattern. Sometimes readers just want to read a story with a headline they recognize and trust. While there are probably hundreds of formulas you could follow, here are just a few to get started:
"Here's our first look at _____"
"What I wish I had known about _____"
"_____ for beginners"
"Top 10 tips to _____"
...and so on.
4. This might go without saying, but it's pretty important to keep your readers in mind when constructing a good headline. If they don't really respond to posts with numbers in the headline, move on to another tactic. If 85 percent of your clicks come from Pinterest, make sure your headlines make use of the word "Pinterest" and related topics. If your readers are primarily millennial-aged females who are interested in tech, do some research and test what kinds of headlines they are clicking on on your website.
Step 4: release it into the wild
Alright! You've got a fully grown and named post on your hands! Ideally, you'll now want to take this process full circle by sharing it to your social media sites and monitoring your audience's reaction.
That wasn't so hard, now was it?
Hopefully these tips can help you overcome your creativity block, improve your posts' performance or at least distract you from that blank screen for a few minutes. I'd love to hear what tips worked for you or answer any questions you might have about my writing process. You can contact me at my personal Twitter or reach out to Integrity on Facebook or Twitter.
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