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The One Percent Cat - i should blog

  • When should you write?
  • How often?
  • How long should your blog posts be?
  • Should you have a schedule?

I get asked these questions and similar every week, between emails, Q&A calls/webinars, and clients.

Content is becoming super important. We used to talk about if content was king or not. Now, I see a shift.

The content creator is now king.

(click to tweet)

Keeping the crown is getting tougher than ever, though.

The problem is, people get caught up in thinking they don’t have time, are not good enough, not creative enough. People who have a lot to share are giving up out of frustration, feeling like they are just not cut out for this whole content business.

And that’s not true in almost all cases.

Business as usual is not helping. The old dogma is causing frustration. There are a few challenges here.

  1. First, while there are standard answers that have grown around the blogging world, that doesn’t mean those answers are right for you.
  2. Next, it could be that giving yourself a bit of flexibility means you are more likely to succeed, and too rigid an approach causes you to be less productive.
  3. Finally, it’s really not about the writing, but about what the writing does that counts.

Let’s start with a discussion of the options …

The benefits of more content, more often

It’s fair to say, if you can, then producing more content has certain advantages.

Each piece of content is potentially another soldier in your promotion army. More content, in general, means more traffic, links, engagement, opt-ins, and so on.

Posting more articles, more often, also sends strong signals to your audience and also search engines that you are still around. When you don’t hear from someone for a while, you forget or wonder if they are still relevant. I know I have had questions about if I am still blogging here or not!

Writing schedule

In some niches the expectation will be that not only do you have something new daily, but maybe multiple times per day. I am thinking niches such as tech and gadgets.

If you write about breaking news then you need to get your content out immediately, because the early bird catches the worm. If, though, you write editorial, how-to, or anything not on a super strict timescale, then take a pause. The second mouse gets the cheese.

So does this mean you should write on a schedule? Perhaps starting with weekly?

Not necessarily, but we will get to that in a moment. There can be a significant audience benefit if they can start to anticipate new content on a regular basis, however.

The benefit of fewer articles

If you have to write less often then you can spend more of your time on those few articles to get them just right.

  • You can spend more time researching.
  • You can polish and edit more.
  • You can source better graphics and links.
  • You can repurpose your content into different media.
  • You can spend more time promoting your article.

What about content length? If you write less often then you can write longer articles, right?

It’s difficult for me to tell folks to write short articles because I tend to write quite long.

In fact, in this article, I made an effort to write less than I ordinarily do, but it still ended up over 1,000 words.

There is no right or wrong answer about content length. Write as much as it takes, and then stop!

Usually an article will benefit from editing. Trimming down will aid consumption, especially in these distracted times. Attention spans are stretched, but that does not mean you can not write in-depth articles. They just have to capture attention and be worth it.

Which brings us to the main point.

Don’t judge content on length or frequency!

when to write a blog postThe most important question is not “when” or “how much”, but “what”.

Only write when you have something to share (click to tweet).

If you have to force your writing, because you haven’t written enough, or you have a schedule to keep, then your writing will suffer.

It’s more important that you have impact than a tick in a box.

Agree? If you write for people and not page views or search traffic then you should at least consider it.

So how do you write with impact?

Writing for impact rather than page views

Writing for impact is an art rather than a science, but there are certain things that you need to do:

  1. Write with a goal – what is the outcome you intend to create? If your writing does not have a purpose then it is difficult for you to know if you have succeeded or not. Can you guess the intention behind my previous article about cold-feet? There were a few goals with that one.
  2. Mine the emotion – if you want to get people to think a certain way or do a certain thing then you need to move them. Inspire, motivate, tell emotional stories, reveal your inner truths and vulnerabilities. Share your challenges and struggles.
  3. WIIFM – most of human interaction has an element of “What’s In It For Me?”. If the reader doesn’t grasp what’s in it for them right away, well, then you have failed.
  4. Consumption – I am not super strict on grammar (as you can probably tell), but I do attempt to edit. Editing for brevity is great, but also edit  to make things crystal clear and remove any road-blocks to consumption. If your audience doesn’t consume your message all the way through then they won’t take action on it, and they won’t spread it. Make it skimmable, engaging, and easy to get through. Take a look how I formatted this article, can you understand why?
  5. It’s not what you mean, it’s what they understand – Closely related to the last point. I know for a fact there will be people who read this article and will take away a message I never intended. It always happens. Sometimes people take what you say out of context intentionally. Sometimes people hallucinate whole phrases you never wrote. People will second-guess your intentions. You can’t help that, but you can work on your message to get it across as well as you can. It’s your responsibility to communicate with as few chances of distortions as possible.
  6. Get agreement – If you want to persuade then you need to be on the page. Get agreement early and often. Build up to your main point with sound arguments. Don’t just bludgeon people with ideas or facts. Can you see where I asked questions in this post?
  7. Link back – Linking to your older articles gives them new life and also gives strong hints to search engines. If you do nothing else, make sure you always link back to your older gems from your archives.
  8. Link out – Not only will linking out help your audience, but it is great for search engines too. It might get you noticed by other bloggers if you are lucky.
  9. Images – You must have noticed with Facebook and Pinterest that people LOVE images. I like to use my own photographs because they add some unique personality to my pages, but you don’t have to be an artist or photographer, as the images on today’s article prove!
  10. Call to action – Go back to your goal. Tell people what you want them to do, what’s in it for them, and what to do next. Make it easy to share. Make headlines and URLs work in social media.

Best of both?

Now you know why so many sites like Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, and so on are multi-author blogs. It’s difficult to sustain quantity, schedule and quality on your own. For the solo operator, you will probably have to make a choice.

What you have to keep in mind if you go the team route is the audience still needs you to captain your ship. Don’t lose your voice by creating a crowd.

Bottom Line

What do you remember from this article? What would you take away?

If I have done my job correctly then you ought to remember that it is the impact you have that counts, not how much you write and not how often.

There is a good reason why my list has continued to grow despite not writing for weeks!

That said, you have to take into account …

  • Niche expectations
  • The kind of content you are creating
  • Your intentions behind the content
  • What you are capable of

I write in order to gather a smaller audience of people who grow to want to hear what I have to say, not for page views, ad clicks, or to break news. It’s better for me to write a few more impactful articles than try to write four times a day, even if I had time and energy for that.

You need to look rationally at what you can produce, and what you are likely to be able to produce in future, and keep the quality and impact of your content top of mind, as well as things like traffic and search results. If you can post four top-quality articles per day and keep that consistency, then go for it. I know I tried before and nearly burned out.

What do you think? Feel free to disagree or share your thoughts in the comments ….

 

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Comments

  1. Great post. I agree with everything you said. This post has come at the right time. It has answered all the questions I had.

  2. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for putting this in to words so clear and so succinct. I’ve been considering just such a change in my blogging style, slowing down for quality over speeding up for quantity. That works for me because I’m a solo blogger. But people of all blogging types have much to take for this as well.

    Great work,

    Matt

  3. I’m learning how to reuse content. A hit blog post becomes part of my autoresponder, then expanded into a webinar. It gets tweeted today, and weeks later, when I need something to tweet.

  4. Well said! Too often we really do spend more time worrying about what’s the perfectly “right” thing to do rather than find out what we ourselves are comfortable with.

    “Only write when you have something to share” –couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Chris :)

  5. This is a great article for bloggers. I agree quality of content is important more important than quantity of content, especially when your aim is to be resourceful to your audience. I have a blog that I have had for a couple of years now, another that I created later last year, one that I am currently working on and another that I hope to start soon. While I want the page views, I don’t want to try to post something for the sake of posting just because I haven’t written in a while. I really haven’t posted in my oldest blog except for posts about projects that I worked on on on other sites last year because I didn’t have the time previously or the energy when I did get the time, especially since I usually spend lots of time preparing a post before publishing it. However, I hope to get back into it soon along with the others. Your article reassures me that it’s better to focus on writing something I feel good about instead of something that I write just because it’s been a while.

    Thanks!

  6. Hello Chris great post my friend i’m focusing more these days on my audience and what they need. Build a strong relationship with my readers means more to me because they are my primary reason I do what I do. thank you so much for sharing

  7. Great article, Chris. I wrote something similar on my howtoblogabook.com blog recently, although I did still encourage writing often and consistently and writing shorter rather than longer. All that said, I did say write what needs to be said–the length the post needs to be for the subject at hand. And in the end, we can only commit to posting as often as we can, right?

    I needed to hear this about now…with all I have going on. I gave up one day on one of my blogs, but it’s been taken over by my guest blogger. So, the blog isn’t losing a day; I am.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the post.

  8. Well, well…Honestly, I learned more from the structure of your article than from the article itself. From that point of view, I think I should print it, frame it and follow it. It is easy to scan for those that do not read the whole thing, and then still grasp the idea. It has bottom line called “Bottom Line”, numbered points, etc. As far as your recommendations, they are great but I feel much more needs to be done to become a successful blogger. I read articles by authority bloggers like yourself and they all tell the truth in their own way. But there is no universal solution no matter how many articles are written. Try, change, try again, repeat.

  9. Hi Chris and thanks for a great post.
    One of downsides of polishing your content is that you can unwittingly edit out the emotion. I often write my first draft from the heart, but when I go back to polish it I become a little less brave and end up removing some of the more personal details. My posts probably end up being better written, but have slightly less impact.
    cheers

  10. Chris; You the man!
    Cheers
    D

  11. Thanks for this post Chris. I’ll have to bookmark it for future reference. Blogging consistently has been my Achilles’s heel. However, a content writer who emphasizes the importance of fresh content should lead by example, no? :)

  12. Hi Chris. This is an excellent post. Really thoughtul and well written. With blogging, as with everything else in life, sometimes it’s really helpful to take a step back and focus on the basics to make sure you’re on the right track and rekindle your enthusiasm, and this post did the trick. I downloaded the One Percent Cat image as my wallpaper as a constant reminder :)

  13. Continuous writing is also important…

  14. Hi Chris,
    I always come back to your site needing answers and I am never disappointed. This time too, I got some of my most burning questions or rather dilemmas that I had from the very beginning of my blogging career. Thanks to you, now I can improve my blog and grow as a writer too.

  15. Your post made a lot of sense. Know matter how much I try to remember to include my reader I end up focusing on the copy part of it. I try to wirte for seo and that can get in the way for me. I try not to re-hash old data on the internet and foucs on solving the problem … at least I start out with those intentions. Now I just follow one format and that seems to be helping. Keep producting great content.
    Kim D. Murray

  16. You know, I have never really had problems with the long articles as long as they were well-segmented so people could always skip down to the exact information they wanted. I agree that longer and better-researched articles are better from an overall strategy standpoint. I may experiment with including more artifacts in my articles from now on. Maybe some pictures would liven things up for awhile.

  17. I’ve been blogging for around two and a half years. About six months ago I cut my posts back from three a week to two. Funny thing, my readership went UP after doing that. I believe it’s because I invested the time to create better content. I write about personal growth and when I started out I remember the one constant complaint I read about blogs in this niche was that the articles usually glossed over a topic and left the reader with little to take away. I still think of that today everytime I write an article – so my articles average 1,000 words and the twice a week posting schedule seems to work well with my readers.

  18. Great article. I’ve been blogging off and on for quite a while and what I’ve learned is that the amount of content is not the problem, but the quality of the content. Some people, including myself in the beginning of my online career, was writing for the search engines. I was creating articles with the right amount of words, tags, bolded phrases, anchor text, etc., You get the point and it to me was very hard to come up with something that flowed nicely. Since then I’ve decided that I was no longer going to write for the search engines, but for the actual reader. When I did that, writing has gotten easier for me, because I write from my heart to the heart of the reader rather than for King Google.