Last year, I set a New Year’s resolution that ultimately became one of the most successful goals I’ve set and achieved in my life. Previously my blog suffered from sporadic, unfocused posts. This resulted in a smaller audience with no expectations and also led to my own blogging skills getting out of shape or “flabby.” I knew that setting a consistent schedule for myself was the best way to address both issues.
With the ball-dropping on 2011, I planned what I called a 52-Post Resolution. Simply put — I would post once a week, every week of the year. To keep it even more regimented and to build audience expectations, I settled on a consistent day and time, Mondays at 9:00 AM Central (after the first emails, to help focus the week ahead).
A year later I can happily report that I posted 52 times and then some, as I developed occassional casual posts later in the week I called “weekenders.” With the New Year upon us again, I thought I would take a moment and share my thoughts on why this was a successful resolution and also what blogging tools and practices I relied on to make this happen.
Why This Resolution Worked
The 52-Post Resolution worked because it had three core characteristics that goals ultimately need to be successful:
- Measurable — Blogging 52 times is much more prescriptive than just wanting to “blog more.” I had a number I was working toward. The weekly measurement also made it pretty hard to fall off the wagon as there was the blogging equivalent of a regular weigh-in.
- Attainable — Though it was an increase in output, this goal was more realistic from my baseline at that time, as opposed to suddenly trying to blog daily.
- Enjoyable — Bottom line, to me, blogging is fun. Enjoying what I was working to get better at made running toward this carrot a lot of fun once I hit my stride.
While these three strategic elements set the stage for success, there were also three tactical areas that kept this going day-to-day — tools, habits, and mantras.
- WordPress — It’s the most editor-friendly, feature-rich CMS out there today. I always tell clients and speaking groups if you can upload a Facebook profile photo and edit a Word doc then you can update a WordPress site.
- Editorial Calendar – WordPress is also great because of the community and the plugins. Probably the most valuable plugin is the Editorial Calendar. Remember how as bloggers we’re all publishers? This tool helps you think and plan your content like one.
- Evernote — This app basically gives you a legal pad that syncs across all devices from desktop to mobile to tablet. This is essential to capturing and shaping post ideas. Case in point — I started this post via Evernote on my iPhone and drafted further on my desktop before pasting it into WordPress for final edits. ‘Nuff said.
- iPhone 4s (voice command) — Kind of an odd addition to the list but the voice command on the iPhone 4s combined with Evernote makes for a formidable voice-to-blog drafting system. Sometimes you can’t type fast enough and need to ramble out loud. iPhone’s voice command helps by acting as your virtual assistant taking dictation.
- Google Keyword Tool — Yup, the same free tool you use to check out search-term volume for AdWords is also useful for selecting search-friendly headlines.
- Flickr — Early in the game I would purchase stock photos or (gulp!) even post without an image. A quick search through Flickr’s Creative Commons will always get you a compelling image to capture your readers’ attention at first glance. Stock.XCHNG is great, too.
- #Blogchat — Mack Collier hosts what has become the largest Twitter chat each Sunday at 8 PM Central using the hashtag #blogchat. This community offers a cacophony of best practices, honest advise, and support for bloggers at all levels.
- Deadlines & Schedules Help — Again, this is good for the measurement reasons noted above but it also helps build a strong, disciplined writing practice.
- Guest Posting Builds Muscle — While initially leery of guest posting elsewhere for fear of taking my focus off of my blog, I soon learned that more writing off-site led to better, stronger writing on-site as well (especially guesting for sites where I could repost the content later on my own blog like 12Most.com).
- Blogging Buddy — A blogging buddy functions like a “sponsor” to help you stay on the right path. It’s even better when you are from different business disciplines and can share in a non-competitive environment. For the record, my blogging buddy is Mike Gerholdt at ButtonClickAdmin.com.
- Andy Rooney Test — I’ve always mumbled to myself as I review the final draft of a post. After awhile I was reminded of a favorite copywriting tip: Read your copy aloud! It should sound engaging. I like to imagine a good blog post sounding like an Andy Rooney rant or an engaging CBS Sunday Morning commentary from Nancy Giles or Ben Stein. Reading aloud can also help you sand out any rough edges and find a more conversational tone.
- Create Engaging, Search-Driven Headlines — I’m not known well enough for cute headlines. It’s that simple. I knew I needed to channel some Google juice to get these posts additional exposure via search. The Keyword Tool (above) helps focus but you also need to combine old-school headline tactics to get attention from the git-go. These guidelines create a new, old fashioned headline formula.
- Categories Shape Content — While readers like easy buckets to put content into, developing consistent content categories also focuses your work and helps with idea generation. Throughout the year I added regular features like book reviews, interviews, and how-tos to flesh out my standard brand-driven fare.
- Content Snacks Are Good — As noted above, I’ve experimented with the occasional ‘weekender’ post. Though focused content is always best, you can build stronger connections with your audience by occasionally veering off topic. People like snacks. It also attracts new readers to your work.
- Just Push Publish — My high school art teacher constantly told me to “stop fiddling.” In blogging as in art, it can be hard to walk way from your canvass but as Seth Godin says in Poke the Box, editing it 10 more minutes doesn’t make it 10 times better. Artists ship.
- Guest Posting By Any Other Name — As a “MyName.com blog” I’d always struggled with how to utilize guest posts here and yet I was intrigued by the idea of occasional relief. I soon found that interviewing others was a good way to take some of that burden off while still providing engaging content in my voice.
- Blogging About Blogging — You may have already noticed that a few of my tips listed above link out to full posts on that topic. Think of your personal blogging practice as content that can help others while beefing up your editorial calendar. I’m continually fascinated by how much traffic these kind of posts get.
Did labeling this as a New Year’s resolution help? While you could easily create a blogging improvement program similar to this at any time, having the heightened stakes of the New Year helped motivate action and encouraged me to stick with it. Again, this was one of the most successful New Year’s resolutions in my life. That is a tough act to follow.
What’s Ahead in the New Year
In 2012 I certainly won’t regress. In refocusing my 52-Post Resolution for 2012, I felt myself geting sloppy, saying that I just wanted to “blog more.” For the sake of simplicity and specificity, I’ll be upping this goal to a 104-Post Resolution. I’ll continue posting Monday at 9:00 AM but will add a second post on Thursday as well to close out the work week. Doubling output could sound like a lot but, as noted, many times I was able to add a second weekly post this year. Plus I’ll be contributing content more regularly to the good folks at 12Most.com which I can also share with you here down the road as well.
What About You?
What’s a New Year’s resolution that you are making for 2012? Do you have specific plans and measurable outcomes in place to help ensure success? As always, feel free to leave a comment below for discussion.
Best wishes for the New Year ahead!