The What Where How of Research Before Starting Your Blog

I have a confession for you. Research might seem like the most boring thing you might get down to.

When you are looking to commit many hours, that you could otherwise spend on more joyous activities. The research you perform is key to determining the best way to roll the dice. Research is equally as important as planning.

If you go about research gently but progressively, you will find that it was a lot less intensive than you thought, and a lot more eye-opening.

The What Where How of Research Before Starting Your Blog

Dip your head in the books

Research is invaluable.

In essence you go away, collate informative data, and then arrange it logically into an action list. That’s what research is.

The information provided by Research provides you a direction, a steer, a path.

When you are thinking about getting your blog under way from scratch, or even from a long period of inactivity, you need some research.

This article follows step 1 of a series derived  from the “7 steps to starting a successful blog in January.”

Click here to get a taste of  the first step you should take (plan).

What Does Research Do?

There is no way to answer that concisely in a 20 word or less answer. Look at these points:

  • Informs you what your potential competitors are doing
  • Offers ideas on what you could try
  • Provides clues as to what really works and what really doesn’t*
  • Presents you an idea on how to layout your work
  • Identifies what language to use with your audience
  • Points to a profile of a typical member of your target audience
  • Alludes to gaps in the market
  • Outlines strategies you should avoid by cutting the corner on silly mistakes

*Blogger’s caveat: What works for one audience may not work for another, specifically yours.

If you didn’t already come to a conclusion on research, it is definitely an activity you should spend some time on. The more quality time you spend the better.

Research rocks. When you finally decide to start your project you will realise that you didn’t do enough of this and you will find that you had wished you had spent more time researching. Trust me.

What to Research?

Your Audience

This is difficult if you haven’t defined what your model audience member is. This article produced by my friend Ahmad Imran over at reasontouse.com, provides an idea as to the ideal group of target profiles Ahmad is aiming for, so a recommended read.

http://www.reasontouse.com/website/blog-audience-profiles/

Each blog’s audience is shaped by those who interact with the information, those who engage, those who get behind what you do. It takes time to encourage but you can shave a lot of that time by researching what triggers might work best for the kind of audience you are trying to attract. You might even have to change the idea of your perfect target audience because that individual might not be the kind of person you really want to attract.

 

What language works well?

Some audiences respond better to a certain type of conversation. If you start dropping the right phrases you will do better.

Blogging is textual, visual and can involve interactive elements. You will have to find the right mix.

Certain audiences respond when you use the right terminology.

One thing you can guarantee is that a conversational tone is the best way to get your audience member on board with what you are trying to convey.

 

How your audience absorbs the data?

Some audiences respond better to the addition of certain types of media. You can supplement and make your data easy to digest if you involve more graphical information. Certain charts will hit the sweet spot. Some infographics will do well.

This can vary greatly depending on the niche you plan to exploit.

As an example, if you run an extreme sports blog, your audience are going to respond well to pictures. It may be more prudent for you to include some galleries in your articles, rather than just one image.

 

Where does your audience hang out?

This helps you stop wasting time.

Fact; Social media is a time sink.

You will need to pinpoint the most effective method of finding your tribe as soon as possible because in the beginning of your blog, numbers will be minimal so you will need to find those individuals who make the effort to share your genius.

You are going to start at zero at some point and it is going to take you some time to generate traction.

 

Your Style

What makes you different?

Business-speak for this can be expressed as USP; your unique selling proposition. Every writer generates their own method of presentation which has a charm of its own. When in a crowded market you have to be a different voice.

Eventually you will generate products and services that may borrow from the dimension that you’ve charted in key depth. These unique elements are important visual representation of the kind of content that a visitor might expect.

All of the successful bloggers I have come across in my time blogging are there by having a key issue that they solve incredibly well. They are the master or mistress of that item, of that viewpoint, of that solution. Whilst the blogger might cover a wide range of items it is highly likely that they have one particular core specialty that marks them out.

What makes Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income different?

I mention Pat Flynn a lot, if you haven’t read my past articles. We aren’t in a ‘bromance’, he doesn’t part own my company. He is inspiring, you can’t deny it. He has evidence that he has become a successful entrepreneur, in major part to blogging and other associated activities. Pat shares a lot of useful information that I can take action from and apply.

Pat is a shining example to me, and I have no difficulty saying that. I only have difficulty emulating his success, but find it reassuring that he continues to succeed. Being British, we Brits often have problems accepting those more successful than ourselves, it is a British trait, we snub or throw dung at those who show us up. With Pat, I feel differently, he gives a lot of information away and if you pay enough attention you can learn a lot.

These are the key areas where Pat is different.

  • His podcast without doubt is the one key area that draws a lot of attention to his blog.
  • He is the foremost specialist on using podcasts in his marketing strategy.
  • Podcasts are his thing. So much so that he has sold a podcast product that has been self-developed specifically for his platform. That is no small undertaking, no small investment.
  • What makes Pat different is Pat. He uses his personality and his own unique story as his USP.

 

What makes you valuable?

This is a surprisingly important question when you weigh everything up. You might be led to believe that you don’t matter all that much in the beginning but you will be surprised to learn how market leaders can sometimes home in on your good works by chance.

The truth is that depending on the given field of what you are researching, you have to determine factual content you can run with that provides enough fuel to the reader.

It is the meat in the sandwich question. If you have no meat in the sandwich, you have just two slices of bread. If you are vegetarian, is there any filler there?

You need your reader to leave your site feeling satisfied.

Your research should therefore try to determine that one thing that makes you valuable to a passer by.

 

What identifies you?

You might ask how this is different to “what makes you different” and in many cases you would be right to think there is no difference.

However, identification goes a bit further into the visual.

In this regard we are looking at brand awareness.

How are you going to stand out against all of the vanilla that is already out there?

A generic blog is white, very much a “denim” site. If you want to do better you have to work on colours and signals. Thinking about a method of making your data unique and memorable is time well spent.

 

What infrastructure to use?

Infrastructure for your blog is something that will start with a foundation.

Theme is important as it is the window for your audience and the heart of your machine for world domination. If you are not using a self hosted blog, the theme is already likely to be a choice out of your hands, there might be some customisation but otherwise you are bound to that particular framework.

New bloggers need time to learn, buying an expensive premium theme might not be the best way to go. Your fledgling audience won’t mind a more basic entrance as you find your feet. You can then roll out the red carpet when you have the goods to match the experience.

Alongside merely the theme, you will need traffic sources. In order to supply those, you are going to determine what best social media sites you want to use. The tip here is that you don’t use them all.

In fact, the fewer social media sites you use in the beginning, the better. There is always a danger of spreading yourself too thin. Social Media does take a fair while to get to a head of steam and you’ll find if you relent even for a second, people will leave you in droves. Get one area right and the rest will follow, social media has to be managed as a continuous campaign.

 

Where to Research From?

It is important to spread yourself broadly but focus your research on quality. The sources of your research are important in forming your ideas.

Here are a few sources but you may find more:

Other blogs

You should try and determine the top 10 in your sphere and see what works for all of them.

There are patterns you will be able to determine. For example:

Everybody has a mailing list signup box in the top 10. This would indicate that having mailing list subscribers is a good idea.

5 out of 10 sites use an advert box before you even get started reading the blog content. This might inform you of how lucrative the niche might be, or how resistant the community is to blatant advertising. You might be able to determine what product you might be able to float later on.

The emphasis here is not on ‘parroting’ a site but more on making the smart moves that competitors show you could work. You may find later, that your personal mix of audience, don’t get on so well with the attributes you include which may mean you have to revert to a different strategy. At least you’ve looked into what those options might be.

Other sites

Sometimes sites other than blogs will be inspiration. There are many sites that don’t have a blog element attached.

You should be able to garner what images work best at the very least. You might also be able to ascertain titles and layouts that work well for a larger audience.

Familiarity and ease of use are important for establishing interaction.

Books

Bestselling books can often provide an idea of a hot topic. They don’t even have to be bestsellers (but obviously bestsellers are likely to give you a better steer on what is big).

Questions for Incumbents (those already doing what you want to do, and doing it well)

Why not talk to some bloggers if you get the chance, see what is actually hot and what’s not.

It never hurts.

The worst that someone can do is not respond or say no.

By rule of thumb if you ask 20 people the same question, at least 1 of them will respond. It may be good to impart a time imperative in your request to facilitate a quicker response.

If you get no responses but feel that with a small fee you can pay for some information, this might be a good way to go.

 

How to Research?

There’s no specific way to research. You don’t have to start from a perceived beginning.

The best first step is to start. As mentioned above, it doesn’t matter where you start.

Research has no magic formula. You could try and develop a rigid plan for research but you may miss critical observations that could advise or inform.

I recommend you develop your own method if you need to do this research often. You will find that if you later commit to the blog, you’ll need to reinvent as your blog moves forwards. Research will always return to the fore as an important process.

Curation for content is the most common task.

Curation for research will give you a taste for the kind of work you will have to perform when curating articles for your audience.

 

When to Stop Researching

There will be a natural point where you have exhausted all the questions you needed answering. You will come across a few unanswered questions but when you feel that there is a shape to the answers you can follow the next step.

Setting a time limit for research is important. If you set yourself a month and work hard at it you should have covered enough bases. When you feel you’ve done enough, stop.

 

What happens if I get to the end of my research and don’t want to continue?

You can consider this outcome a success. It might determine that the idea you are trying to chase is already too mainstream, already tapped out. There are a lot of topics that have been covered so heavily that you may stand no chance of standing out, and that to pour your heart out would be a chronic waste of your time.

A lot of bloggers start out in a broader topic but work their way into a niche that they feel comfortable with. A niche market is more effective. You aren’t trying to capture the entire world, you can actually do a heck of a lot with 350 raving fans, and not worry about the thousands that don’t buy in to what you are providing.

You may have to return back to the planning stage.

 

What Next?

Now that you have completed planning and research we will move to motivation. The next step is the most important step in the blog. The make it/break it step.

Step 3 Commitment.

I look forward to bringing you this step soon but please be patient as this is a much more involved post.

 

Call to Action:

Do you have questions or tips? Let me know either in the comments below or through headboy@blogprefect.com

A social share is always appreciated.

 

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

BlogPrefect.com switched from the mail systems provided by BlueHost to redirecting the MX records to FastMail. This was done primarily for visibility and consolidation purposes. I shall be taking you through a How To on redirecting your MX records to point to FastMail from BlueHost. This guide also includes the step to include the DKIM signing key.

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

This guide provides some assistance on setting up your MX record on BlueHost server end so that you can use FastMail to manage your email. The steps are fairly straightforward, you just have to wait some time when the MX records are updated.

  • Estimated time to change the code: 10 minutes.
  • Ease of coding: Easy to Moderate.
  • Time for the record changes to cascade through: Upto 24 hours.

Before getting started:

  • Make sure you have your domain username and password to hand.
  • Make sure you have your FastMail username and password to hand.

Notes and Disclaimer

Note 1: This change is considered “highly visible”. The exact words that FastMail uses. This means that you should schedule making this change when there is less activity. A good time is at night when you are receiving less email.

Note 2: The Subdomain I have that rests underneath BlogPrefect.com doesn’t have a subdomain MX Record setting like the one displayed in FastMail with the form of maindomain.subdomain.com. It appears as its own DNS record in the DNS zone editor on BlueHost, therefore it is considered its own domain for the purposes of email. This means you have to setup a new domain on FastMail.com and edit the MX records on the host.

Note 3: If you are hosted elsewhere (not BlueHost) these instructions can still work but please note that some of the settings such as “Host Record” may use a different character than @.

Note 4: For my own privacy and security I have redacted my host details and the DKIM signing key in the images displayed.

Disclaimer: I do not assume responsibility for any changes you make to your DNS record. If you are unsure of how to proceed I recommend you consult with a professional before continuing.

Disclaimer: FastMail is a paid email service and after a trial period will cost a fee.

Stage 1: FastMail Setup (The Easy Part)

1. Access “Settings” from the top left drop down.
2. Select “Domains” on the left hand side menu.
3. Click the “Add Domain” button.

Stage 1

Note that in this picture I already have my main Domain at BlueHost setup. Your version will be blank if you have not yet set up your domain.

 

4. Add your domain, e.g. example.com, you don’t need the www.

FastMail Settings 2

 

5. Press “Save” when complete.

Stage 1 Complete.

Stage 2: Make a Note of the FastMail DNS Required Settings

1. Press Edit on the Domain

p3

Note: you won’t get a unique DKIM signing key if you don’t save the Domain first. This is an auto generated alphanumeric long chain code that is hard to break.

2. Press “Show DNS settings”

This link can be easy to miss.

This link can be easy to miss.

3. Make a note of these settings, leave the window open so that you can copy and paste them later.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

Stage 2 Complete.

Stage 3: Edit/Add the DNS entries to the MX record in BlueHost

Note: You can do these out of order if you wish as long as you have amended 1 MX and 1 TXT entry and added 1 MX and 1 TXT entry.

1. Login to BlueHost
2. Go to Domains > Zone Editor

Domains > Zone Editor BlueHost

3. Select your domain from the drop down (if you have more than one). The page will expand to show you the DNS records.

Select Domain

4. Scroll down to MX (Mail Exchanger)

MX Records on BlueHost

5. Edit the first record by clicking edit. The default is set to Priority 0. You will be changing the priority to 10 and changing the points to field to FastMail’s SMTP mail engine.

Edit BlueHost

6. Enter the following, then press save.

After Edit Bhost

7. Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press add record. This will add the priority 20 element of the SMTP mail engine for FastMail.

Add P20 MX Bhost

8. Edit this TXT entry for SPF by scrolling down to TXT. SPF helps prevent spam.

Edit SPF Bhost

9. Paste in the “txt value” and press save. You will cut and paste this info from FastMail.

Edit SPF Bhost P2

10. For DKIM Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press “add record”. DKIM is another spam protection feature.

Note: The Host Record is mesmtp._domainkey, The txt value is the really long chain of alphanumeric code that begins “v=DKIM1; k=RSA; p=

DKIM Key

11. When complete you should see the following:

Records Complete

Stage 3 Complete.

Stage 4: Await Confirmation

Await your Confirmation, you will see when you go into Settings>Domains in FastMail that it has been approved. If you’ve made a hash of things you’ll have to check what you entered at BlueHost’s end.

FastMail Domain Active

You should receive this email from FastMail:-

FastMail DNS Confirmation Email

If you don’t receive this email, something went wrong. Propagation doesn’t take as long as 48 hours normally. Mine was ready in less than an hour.

If you did make a major mistake or in future want to leave FastMail, you can return the records back to the BlueHost default by pressing this button:

Reset Zone File

The default will direct all mail back to its original destination.

Stage 5: Setting Up Aliases

You will need to set up your aliases in order to send and receive as different personas of your domain. E.g. sales@example.com

I will show you how to setup 1 alias, then you just need to rinse and repeat.

1. Go to FastMail Settings > Aliases and Press “New Alias”.

Alias Screen - FastMail

2. Enter your new alias in the Email Box. Select the drop down to the right after the ‘@’ sign to select the correct domain if you have more than one. Press “Save” when you are done.

Add New Alias Screen - FastMail

3. The information will take 15 minutes to update so be patient. This 15 minutes will apply to each Alias.

15 minute wait. FastMail.

4. FastMail recommends that you add Abuse and Postmaster as two default aliases. This is so that spam issues can be mitigated. Other good suggestions include your  First Name, Sales, Support and Info.

5. Test your new email addresses by sending from another account. Make sure you can send and receive without errors.

Stage 5 Complete.

 

In Closing

I hope you found this guide useful. There is nowhere specifically written to take you through this process so I hope this has provided a sufficient short cut. If there are any refinements you think are needed or you hit a log-jam with your setup, let me know.

 

Sharing is Caring

Please share this with the world, not only to help your fellow man and woman but also because I asked nicely. You can use the sharing links to the left from SumoMe.

If you’d like to get in contact with me regarding this guide, you can leave a comment below, you can DM me on Twitter by following this link, or you can send an email to headboy [at] blogprefect.com.

Happy Emailing 🙂

 

Image Credits

  • FastMail Screenshots depict UI from FastMail.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The FastMail logo is copyright of FastMail.com.
  • BlueHost Screenshots depict UI from BlueHost.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The BlueHost logo is copyright of BlueHost.com.

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele

For my 200th article on BlogPrefect.com I wanted to cover some personal thoughts on Contact Pages, the specific question in the range of:

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele?

So why ask this question and why save it for my 200th article? It has a lot to do with the kinds of emails received on a regular basis through the contact page.

I’d always had this bleary-eyed feeling that my contact page would encourage people reading to get in contact because they wanted to interact further. They might want their say and they’d want to do it personally. The truth is, it’s never worked that way.

 

“I had a Dream”

Not quite as grand as Martin Luther King’s but on a blogging context, I had a dream that people would come to me for advice and a point in the right direction. That is what the contact form was for.

 

What I Received Instead

In the main I’ve received spam like I would on any other email account. The comical Nigerian, Chinese or Latin American mystical companies who would want to give me $10,000,000 to put in a bank account are just one of many spam emails I’d see on a regular basis. Since I switched over to FastMail to manage my MX records I’ve seen a massive reduction in that type of spam. Sweet relief!

typical-scam-email

Where people have used the contact page I have received Business Queries in the main and I’ll go onto explain my gripe with these.

 

Business Queries

Every month I receive 10 or so business queries that all follow a similar line. Those that pass the spam criteria normally originate from legitimate individuals but are very much a canvassing event. I have nothing against hustle so much, trying to make bank by door-stepping has been a process for centuries.

Here’s why it doesn’t work on me.

Cold emails are impersonal.

Essentially the process of writing in this way is cold calling and that will never have a great effect on me. I hate cold calling, it doesn’t work. It is that simple but it wouldn’t make a compelling article unless I divulge more on why.

 

Perception of Being Personal

An element of our social lives is being eroded due entirely to the use of technology. Whether you like it or not, you will engage in less person-to-person interaction now than you would have 10 years ago. Automation saves corporations money by reducing the amount of Humans needed in the process.

Everyone is aware that automation can be impersonal so there have been methods to try to personalise the experience.

Often you’ll find that in a mailing campaign that is targeted to a reader, you may wish to use the first name to address the person individually.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

You can waste so much time by doing things wrong. First impressions mean everything.

 

Common Tropes That Tick Me Off!

“And by the way, you are doing it wrong.”

I’ve seen this statement in a number of different guises. I’m not sure it is always wise to imply that “you suck”. You certainly won’t engender a business relationship easily this way. People don’t take criticism well. I ran an experimental feature a couple of years ago on Blog Prefect and felt the hostility that coincided with it.

Too much truth hurts from strangers.

 

“I’ve been looking at your site and I think you could…”

I could but do I want to. There are two forms of thought on why I didn’t implement something a certain way.

  1. I tried it and it doesn’t work for my audience.
  2. I don’t have the money to invest in the exact system that will yield the result.

Therefore most pitches will fail. In 3 years of operation I have not once engaged with an email unless I’ve had some kind of natural conversation with the source.

 

Doing it Right

If you wanted to try to impress me or get in my good books then you’d have to work with me. You would have to engage in a simpler exchange.

Trying to co-opt me cold through email isn’t the best route. Start out with something simpler like a message over Twitter or a comment on my latest blog post. Spend the time to build a rapport with me and then maybe you can present your intentions with a warmer attitude.

 

Don’t Appeal to My Greed

People are greedy in this capitalist present but that doesn’t mean that I would jump through hoops for greed. What is important to me is helping people in the best way that I can.

There are many systems and tools that I mention that are often free and provide me no kickback, affiliation or pat on the back. I present them because I’m of the opinion they work well. I, like many readers, like to know how I can get something for free or for the least taxing exchange possible.

At present I don’t have “customers”. I sell no products or services. Therefore eliciting additional customers where I have none is pointless.

 

Read My Blog, Don’t Assume

If you were pitching too me, you’d actually have to read my blog. It sounds dumb but you guys don’t. I have the stats to prove it.

90% of the “sales clunge” that I receive through my inbox makes no effort to show any true insight. Worst still you make an assumption on the purpose of the blog without understanding the direction.

 

I May Not Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

So if you’ve bothered to work on a rapport with me you’ll know that you have to be patient and be a friend in the mean time. The friend requirement sometimes means helping me out or just being a friendly voice.

Writing a pitch email straight up will have no positive effect. I’m not motivated to look at or agree on anything without knowing that I can trust you to some degree. Actions speak louder than words but on the internet most of your actions are words.

 

I’m Not Your “Low Hanging Fruit”

As dark as that sounds. You will have to work harder.

 

Screw the Form

Write me something that doesn’t look like you copied and pasted. Let me know that you aren’t just some VA, copywriter or random citizen that was employed by a slack-jawed suit wearer to bait me into action.

 

As For the Future of the Contact Page

I’ve considered taking it down for a number of reasons but for a number of reasons I want to keep it active. I am therefore torn.

Reasons to Take it Down

  • The removal will instantly reduce the amount of nuisance emails I receive. I have fully vetted and setup my contact form so that it reduces spam but there are still those who fall through the net on occasion. I could restrict more but at the price of alienating.
  • It doesn’t perform its primary purpose. I had intended that people with genuine queries could talk to me about content, problems with their blogs and other conversations related to blogging but this never happens.

Reasons to Leave it Up

  • It is important that if someone had a burning concern and didn’t want to whack my email in directly that they contact me some way.
  • The contact page is an important pre-requisite in a complete Blog and I want to let people know that I can be contacted. I want to declare that I take community seriously.

In summary I would be leaving the page up but I am thinking about re-tuning the purpose of those emails.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

 

Is My Approach Correct?

In performing research on other Contact forms I have noticed that they are set out in a very specific way. I would have to say that my contact page is lazy with a simple contact form and I need to do a bit more to direct activity here.

In a couple of weeks I hope to have bottomed out the changes to make this page a more useful entry point into conversation.

 

Other Sources on Contact Pages

In providing research on what is afoot I wanted to take a look at some of the high-ranking results on this issue. One that instantly stuck out was an article from BlogTyrant.

10 of the Best Contact Us Pages

Scrolling down to number 6 in the list on that article, Seth Godin‘s contact us page fits some way along the lines that I’d like to frame what the contact page is for.

Another useful search result was from katharine-writes.com

Does your Website Have… A (Useful) Contact Page?

It was interesting to read about whether you should or shouldn’t have the contact form and why throwing up just your email would encourage more people to contact you. My only concern there is that I’ve always tried to reduce the chances of spam by not leaving “mailto links” where bots can easily find them.

Another hugely useful article was written over at Barn2 Media by Katie

6 ways to stop Contact Form 7 spam on WordPress websites

I was unaware of honeypots and there were some other useful inclusions on the list of 6 that were an interesting read, and which I may look to include in my contact form.

 

In Closing

A contact page is something you need but you will always get individuals who will try to go for an easy win. I displayed in the image near the top of the page with the notion of a “driveby” in the subject line. It is very wasteful to cold call. Why not just do it right? It takes longer to cultivate but you are much more likely to hit pay dirt.

Being personal still rocks.

 

Care and Share

I will now ask for your aid in sharing my post. The bonus is that this is the 200th article by BlogPrefect over 3 years. I am happy to have reached this milestone in hopes that I’ve helped others through my observations.

I have changed my social media focus more towards Twitter in recent times because in terms of results I get more interaction with my audience than I would with Facebook or Google+. Therefore please feel free to share this on Twitter. You can also contact me there at twitter.com/blogprefect. I do of course accept shares wherever you’d like to push this content and all of the firm favourites can be found in the SumoMe share bar to the left of the screen (just look for the crown).

I am contactable through, funnily enough the contact page, via a DM on twitter, via this sites wonderful email address of headboy [at] blogprefect.com and through telepathic communication. Maybe not so much for the last one, it gives me a headache.

The comments are open so you are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I’ve written and point out any shortfalls or improvements that you think would be helpful to me or any other readers.

 

Image Credits:

Featured image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay, edited by moi..

Return to Blogging

This month BlogPrefect has focused on restarts. It is an activity that some bloggers will undertake during the length of their blogging career.

 

Return to Blogging

In this fine month of June I have covered a selection of restart topics, not necessarily in their logical order. You should tackle each as ordered below.

  1. 10 actions to restart your blog – This article provides 10 thought-provoking ways to promote activity on restarting.
  2. Blogging Momentum – This article details reasons behind why as a blogger you might falter and what you need to bear in mind and have ready when blogging.
  3. Spending the Right Time on Blogging – This article looks at the 60 minute challenge, a method I devised in 2014. This method helps keep overall writing time short but provide a readable article that helps fill a gap. A note is not to rely on this kind of article all the time but it helps to pad out and experiment with niche related ideas in a low time versus risk method.
  4. How to create a free guide – Guide creation is something that you can do to boost a number of areas of your blog, namely the mail subscription and by means of providing a giveaway to your audience. Giving helps establish a relationship. This article provides some insight in how to go about it.

 

The Penalty of Stepping Off the Gas

I’ve always known there was a penalty for inconsistency.

BlogPrefect’s traffic analysis for the past 6 months will be unveiled on the 4th July. In two of those months namely April and May, there were no articles written and as you might expect, overall site views and engagement tanked. Some of the figures resemble numbers seen back in the gloomier days of 2014 and BlogPrefect began its light in the sun mid-June of 2013.

The truth of blogging is that you have to continually push out content to hold station otherwise all the hard work you put in to grow is eroded.

I’ve managed to post consistently for the whole month and the green shoots of recovery have returned. Charting by the middle of the month of June it was clear to see that many of my measures had demolished the previous month’s tally.

 

How Do You Determine What’s a Normal Level of Operation?

It is difficult to determine what should be a normal level of operation when monthly totals can fluctuate.

What is more sensible to acknowledge is that all figures shouldn’t retreat more than 5 – 10% of the previous month because your site will be receding.

If you are losing more than 10% you could be hemorrhaging which is as unpleasant as it sounds.

 

Older Content Often Out Trumps New

Commonly older content has had more time to shine and dig its way into the search engine algorithms.

Something that might have done badly when you initially threw it out into the wilderness comes back again later with more ferocity because it is on topic again. This only happens if you had some minor pickup in the start.

Minor pickup? The article got some warmth in its inception. That is to say that a number of readers in the order of 10 or more viewed it.

I’ve always found it surprising over the 3 years of BlogPrefect.com to see what resurfaces again. I have written over 190 articles and some I’ve poured many hours into. Some of those articles have resurfaced but not the ones I had expected.

Don’t be disheartened if you have a shallow splash up front. It might come back again later but if not, just make sure you haven’t spent too long developing it.

 

Length of Time Spent Per Article/Post

You know how those teachers at school, when giving the class generalised feedback on how they did in the mock exam, would extol the virtue of working smarter rather than harder on their revision?

If you haven’t got that kind of memory, you would have at least heard of the saying “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

There is some truth to that.

As you can already guess by now, this article you are reading seeks to summarise the month’s activities and consolidate thoughts on a restart to a blog because it is something that BlogPrefect.com has had to go through.

In order to maintain the schedule and regain momentum, I had to create one article using an old method I had pioneered back in 2014. This method still works by the way.

The 60 minute challenge is an easy system to implement when you are running low on usable content and need to satisfy a more aggressive posting schedule to get yourself level again.

I wrote 10 or so 60 minute articles and found a number of them got some mild interest. Focusing yourself to write for 60 minutes helps the creative juices flow and teaches you a lesson on gathering information.

The only sticking point is that you need ideas to base around so it is down to the quality of your research.

 

Trending Culture Cynicism

Following popular trends are what you should do but is not always the best thing to do.

Why Headboy? Why?

The answer lies in a deep labyrinth of curiosity. Sparking audience imagination is valuable. If you only ever cover what somebody else has been writing, what can you claim is your own?

There is a lot of wheel reinvention for some bloggers to capture the same thin market. It is not always about who was first on the topic but how well they rocked it. I feel though, despite this, you can only flog a dead horse so far. Who scrolls to the tenth page of a Google results page?

Sometimes you have to step beyond what everyone else is talking about and cover a topic meaningful to you and your select audience. It may not be on point with everyone else but it doesn’t really matter as long as it is important to your audience.

 

Following Cycles is Better

Following Cycles is Better

Not motorcycles or bicycles but cyclical topics. These are the kind of topics you can dip your feet in for a time, leave, then return to later when you know and have researched more.

You can apply this to any type of blog, in any niche. Heard it here first.

There will always be one element of whatever you are tracking that will come up time after time.

As an example I have considered what a boat building hobbyist blog might cover repeatedly:

  • How to waterproof your new boat

It is something that everybody has to do when they finish their project before they take their new boat out on the water. It’s time consuming and there are some tips and tricks. Better methods might be brought to the market over time.

  • What tools to have in your toolkit

Subjective as it is, there has to be a base minimum set of tools that any boat builder needs from novice to veteran. As new flashy equipment is made over time, that toolkit can change.

  • How you can save money on your build

Everybody is money conscious so there are bound to be new ways to cut costs whilst maintaining quality. Methods of making those savings can change over time.

 

Remaining in Niche Topic

This will be critical to your success. Diverge and invite doom.

A certain Big Wig Blogger suggested that on a rare occasion you should cover a passion topic because it makes you easy to relate to. The problem is that until you have a tribal following with email subscribers bursting through every orifice, you should hold off on the personal passion angle.

If remaining in your topic boundary means that you have to postpone the launch you had planned for week X so that you can deliver on topic in week Y, you should postpone.

Big Wig Bloggers earn their personality/ego posts through having done enough in the early days to get enough willing participants to buy into their philosophy.

  • You don’t have those numbers yet. Be honest.
  • Your approach can only change when you are a true leader.

You can add some small sprinkles of your stories, your anecdotal evidence, and the analogies that were important to you when you were growing up.

It is just important not to wade too deep into self-indulgence. Self-indulgent posts were a topic I covered in detail, they are a type of post you should avoid writing unless you are on a free hobbyist platform such as blogger where everybody is self-indulgent.

 

Norms Are the Enemy

Not people called Norman. Not invading French.

“Normal is an inflexible concept in a diverse world.”

You should work to rules but try not to stick to routines that don’t return.

The only way you will know this is looking at your statistics.

  • Experiment
  • Try something new
  • Look for the gaps that other people have left

 

Robust Methods of Analysing Statistics

You have to spend time with purpose when looking at your stats otherwise you can spend hours chasing your tail.

Stat watching is a fun pastime. It is perhaps the most favourite element of my blogging work. I take great joy in analysing my data even if some might perceive my numbers to be awful. I have no shortage of passers-by, stuffing in cold calling emails through my contact page about how they can get me more traffic.

You can get carried away with over analysing data that in truth is completely uncontrollable. You are often at the mercy of your audience.

So if you have a transient audience

  • Your data will be erratic

You could liken your audience to simple passers-by at a remote gas station. You might see the odd few regulars but most people will be passing through and may never grace your door again.

If you have a loyal following

  • Your data will be predictable

You could liken your audience to a quiz night at the pub. The same old faces and occasionally some new ones will turn up for a fun evening and will come back repeatedly. The important aspect is community spirit.

 

Bounce Rate is Not Wise to Dwell on in Google Analytics

Blogs are traditionally high bounce compared to sites like Amazon because of why you are likely to arrive at a blog and what as a reader you are likely to need there.

With Amazon, you already have the intent to buy, or at least see what’s on offer. You arrived there organically (through typing in the address, following your bookmark or being prompted by an email). There are many items that could catch your eye so you are likely to visit many pages on your visit and the overall duration of your stay is likely to be high.

With your blog, how deep is someone likely to permeate? How long are they likely to hang around? It may only be 1 post that interests that reader, they get what they want then leave. Hence the high bounce rate.

Big Wig Bloggers are a great deal more effective at enticing passers-by to go deeper by pushing the right buttons and by having the depth of content that can fulfill enough solutions. The way they display their content is logical and they’ve spent time designing the user’s journey. It’s all about funneling you through to get to a certain goal.

If you have not been blogging long, or just don’t produce at frequency, it will take time to develop enough trapping or ensnaring content.

One thing is certainly true with bounce rate; the less you are doing, the higher it will be.

 

Motivational Encouragement

I wanted to conclude the article with more than a few words on motivation. Blogprefect.com had to take a hibernation for two months to allow me to perform well on my final project. Without that time I knew that I would not be able to provide quality in my final work. For me, the motivation was always with completing my degree. I’ve spent time, money and effort in furthering myself. The degree came first without compromise therefore BlogPrefect.com had to take the compromise.

Understandably, that’s not great for you the reader.

When you have written consistently for a period and build up all of your research, analysis and handling techniques — continuing to provide quality is easy. It is when you pause from the conventions you’ve built up that the task becomes harder.

  • Approaching a big article to return to your audience with, is daunting.
  • Producing a big article after months of consistent planning is easy.
  • Downing your tools is never good, especially with Blogging.

Before considering more than two weeks of non-blogging activity, consider what difficulty you might have getting started again. If you think of your blog as a nuclear power-plant then consider how long after decommissioning it will take to bring the plant out of “moth-balls” to an operational state. That time will always be longer than you think.

 

You Can’t Be “On The Pulse” All of the Time

You are going to have some posts that perform poorly regardless of the time you spend marketing them. The timing might be wrong, the topic might be wrong or how you chose to present the information might be wrong. If you don’t get the feedback, you won’t know. Regardless, it’s wrong.

Sometimes you just have to accept that your product was an NI or Needs Improvement event and move on. Failure teaches more than success.

You have to know when to surrender and fight a new battle.

Social media and other veins of marketing require you to be up to a level of reciprocity, activity and dependability before they yield warm numbers again. For all the time you waste trying to push something new on the block from a time in pause, you are wasting your overall effort on getting back on track. You should be producing consistent content instead.

  • Not all tactics work forever.
  • Novelties often wear off.
  • At some point you will need to explore new options again.

 

Maximising the Good Times

Maximising the Good Times

When you are on a roll you should do more than the satisfactory. Having ideas in the bank saves you when you have no ideas on the boil. Returning to a WordPress posts list in the dashboard to find you have no drafts waiting is a bad feeling. You’ll be left scrabbling to understand what direction you need to head.

There is a problem keeping drafts too long though. You should aim that all drafts shouldn’t sit for longer than a month. You should intend to use every piece you craft otherwise you waste time needlessly. If there is an exception to this it should be an Epic post. With an Epic post you have to know when to release it.

In terms of continuing, you should have some form of checklist that reminds you what the purpose of your blog is. Many Big Wig Bloggers have a mission statement buried away within their blog. It could be in their welcome, on their about page or somewhere near. Some Big Wig Bloggers keep pinboards or shoe boxes full of emails, letters and other signs that their audience love and have gained from what they are doing. Sometimes you need praise to keep you in the hunt, even old praise.

Critics

You always get people who knock. These are the people who cast dispersion on what you’ve done. The important thing to remember is that if readers make noise on what you are doing wrong, you are having some effect. You are getting noticed.

Participants on the Internet or the web are fairly polite. Rather than tell you what’s up they simply ignore you. It is the positive reinforcement trick. Do a good job, someone might give you a treat. Do that job wrong, expect to be ignored.

Occasionally you will get one person who is “brass necked” or courageous enough to tell you that you have a major failing and the argument they present is worth looking into, even if you don’t initially agree. You can be as magnanimous in defeat as you want and seal that hole but you better make sure you seal it good.

 

In Closing

  • Pull up your socks and get out there.
  • Make some noise.
  • Savour every blogging day.

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Image Credits

Featured Image via Pixabay by Suedelbien

Bike gears image via Pixabay by Stux

Cake image via Pixabay by Cbaquiran