So now you have a blog – but what goes in it?
The key to any successful blog is consistent, quality content. Look at all your favorite blogs – what draws you to them?
If it’s a food blog, it’s great recipes with great photographs, that is updated often. If it’s fashion blog you will talk about the latest trends, celebrity style and what you are wearing. Beauty? Amazing products, tutorials and tips. But the same is true of any blog: frequent, high quality posts attract visitors..
Umm, ok, how do you get that?
You are going to have to work at it. Chances are, you aren’t going to be very good at it at first. No one is.
Hell, I used to be a magazine editor. I wrote articles for a living, and produced and styled photo shoots. Guess what: I still sucked at this at first. I look at some of the pictures of my earlier posts and I’m a little embarrassed. But I keep getting better, and most importantly, I’m still learning and trying to improve. Every. Single. Day.
Now, only you can control how consistently you post, but the two keys to quality content are: Practice and Study.
Practice: The only way to get better is by practice. Start posting. Then post again, and then a few more times. After your first few posts, really look at your work. Don’t look at it as a proud blogger: “Come here! Look! I made this! Isn’t it wonderful!??!” Look at it the way someone who has never seen your blog before.
What do you like? More importantly, what don’t you like? Does the light in your photographs look off? Does the picture not do your recipe justice? Is there something off in your blog layout? If you can, fix or change whatever you did wrong the next time you post. And then keep doing that, over, and over. If it’s something you can’t fix (or can’t fix right now) accept that, and work on everything else you can. If you can’t quite put your finger on what’s off, look at posts and photographs from great bloggers. What about yours is different?
Constantly evaluating your work, and looking at what went wrong (and right) is the only way to learn how to create great content.
Study: Did practicing seem like a little bit of a downer? Don’t worry, this is a much more fun. Study everything. Study blogs that you love – their recipes, photographs, stories, layouts, color schemes. Everything. Are they successful blogs? If so, what are they doing differently than you?
This does not mean go and copy someone’s whole blog. But pay attention to what the great ones are doing. Does one have a really great color scheme? Is yours working as well as theirs? Do you love the layout of your favorite blog and realize yours is harder to navigate? Pay attention to the details!
Study any online courses that apply to you, especially if they are free (And there are a lot!) If the course costs money, evaluate its benefit to you. Is it expensive? Pricey, but lot’s of bang for the buck? Evaluate. For example: If it’s a really great photography course, and you know your photography skills are weak – invest early, and do it. The time you will save learning how to improve your pictures, and improve your content, is worth a little bit of money (if you can afford it.)
Planning: OK, this isn’t one of the two major keys – but it will help you.
When I was a magazine editor we always kept an editorial calendar. We worked on stories anywhere from 4 to 6 months ahead, and sometimes a full year for seasonal content. We also had an idea of what major topics would be for every issue for the year. So, when PR agencies would call and ask what we were working, we could give them a very clear idea.
So now you are probably thinking: Nice story, Jen. What’s the point?
This: A little bit of planning will help you a lot. Here’s why: (Another quick story, sorry!) When I first started my blog I worked happily for a few months, planning only a few days to a week ahead. Suddenly, it was a week before Thanksgiving and I was just starting to post holiday recipes. I was blindsided by the fact that other blogs had been planning for this for months, and already had a week, to two weeks worth of content up. Everyone was looking for Thanksgiving recipes, and I had zilch. My traffic slowed, which was a major bummer.
Should I have known better given my background? Yes. But you can be sure I didn’t make that mistake twice, and took what I knew about editorial planning and now always have my own calendar planned at least 2 months out. Do I change it? Of course. Sometimes I come up with a great recipe that’s perfect for right now!! so I adjust my calendar. That doesn’t mean you should wing the whole thing.
Now, if you feel a little stuck with the whole editorial calendar, Blog Clarity has an awesome course, Content Brew, on how to plan and maximize an editorial calendar for your blog and social media. This website has helped me immensely as I have worked to grow my own blog, and I can’t say enough good things. You should also check out their DIY Blog Critique which I still refer to, to evaluate how I can make my blog better.
Explore: If you have a food blog (um, and even if you don’t) you should be trying all different kinds of food, learning about new flavor pairings, or just exploring for better ways to make the things you love. If nothing else you should be avidly reading other food blogs and stalking Pinterest like no one’s business to try to learn. Unless you’re the next Jean George or Ferran Adria, your creativity needs a foundation. Into fashion or beauty? The same thing applies – try on new pieces and instagram pics, play around with your make-up and post a YouTube tutorial. You’ve got to explore, experiment and share!
One final thought: While every successful blog posts great content frequently, do not post so often that your content suffers. Remember: Quality over quantity. If that means that because of work, kids, life or whatever, you can only post 1 or 2 really great posts a week instead of 3 or 4 not so great ones? Go for less. Post poor quality frequently and may get you a temporary bump in traffic – but those people won’t be back. Put up really great posts and your numbers may be lower – but people will keep coming back and spread the word.
It may not be easy – there are still days when I’m not happy with blog – My picture didn’t come out as well as I tried to take it, I don’t like my header and want a logo, I look like an orange Oompa Loompa in my About Me picture – but every day I do what I can to fix and improve what I can.
My Mom always said: Just do your best. I say: Just blog your best, and they will come.