The following is a guest post by Alina Vrabie. Alina is a content creator at Sandglaz, where she writes about productivity, collaboration and work culture. She is always on the search for better lifehacks to simplify her and others’ lives. Her personal motto: “If it can be dreamed, it can be done.”
Blogging can be as stressful as it is rewarding. A great blogger offers readers great timely content and high quality writing. But sometimes you might find yourself having to sacrifice either the quality or speed of your blog posts.
You’re not alone.
The project management triangle applies very well to blogging: you’re always looking for the sweet spot between speed and quality content to provide great value to your readers. Bloggers need to be creative, but they also need to meet deadlines. Frankly, working under pressure can be quite the creativity killer.
Thankfully there are enough tools and techniques that can help you to write better content faster. Let’s explore some of the things that will make your blogger’s life easier.
Do you ever find yourself struggling to remember that brilliant idea you had two days ago while you were doing your groceries? I know I do! That’s why recording your brilliant ideas is so important. Capturing is how you will be able to generate more content ideas than you will ever be able to write.
Whether it’s through a voice recorder, a text editor, a task management tool, or a dog-eared notebook, write down each and every idea. Not all of them will make the cut (and some will need quite a lot of polishing before they make it), but it’s better to have too many ideas than none at all.
Research might just be the most time consuming part of writing a blog. The thing is, the more you research, the more there will be left to research. You need to set a realistic limit for yourself. Ask yourself how you need to find out in order to provide my readers with accurate and up-to-date information. Even better, outline what you need to know and then go seek those specific answers.
If you do most of your research on the internet, a good practice is to keep your tabs to a minimum. Get what you need from the page, record the information and the source in a text file, and then close the tab. I’ve personally found that compiling information this way makes it easier to process it all and write the outline.
Also, keep in mind that research is ongoing. It’s not about reading as much as you can about a topic in three hours and then regurgitating all that information back to your audience. Make research part of your lifestyle. Make it playful too, by including personal experiments in your research. This will also give your readers better content.
After you’re happy with your research, it’s time to move on to the outline. The outline is the skeleton of your blog post. If you don’t have a good outline, you simply can’t dress it up. Brian Clark from Copyblogger encourages bloggers to first write the headline before you start writing anything else. I think a good addition to this advice is to write the headers of each section of your post too. After all, what is the outline made of if not a collection of headers?
Divide And Conquer
Writing one thousand words can be intimidating, but not if you tackle manageable chunks at once. Focus on each header to write the different sections of your article. This will keep you focused on the writing and will help you to follow the old but useful ‘one idea per paragraph’ advice. This will also make it more readable for your readers.
This is something most bloggers don’t spend nearly enough time doing. In print, there are several people involved in the editing process. But when it comes to the web, it seems there is a general assumption that content is fleeting. A grammar mistake here, a typo there don’t really make a difference. Well, not so if you care about your reputation – whether you’re just building one or trying to maintain it.
You should really set time aside to edit before you push the ‘publish’ button. Edit for content, style and grammar. And don’t be afraid to move paragraphs around, add ideas or scrap them altogether if something seems off. Your readers will appreciate it.
Let Another Pair Of Eyes Go Over It
As a blogger, you’re probably flying solo. From when you come up with your idea to when you hit ‘publish’, you are the only person to see your content. Having another person look at your post before you publish it will avoid mistakes such as typos. At best, these can be mild embarrassments, and at worst they can make people disregard all the hard work that you’ve put in your research and writing.
If you’re on a tight deadline and can’t get anyone to read over your post, then publish it but still have someone read it soon after (and hopefully before your article goes viral). Most readers will not let you know you have misspelt a word.
When it comes to apps for blogging, you should really keep it simple. Too many apps will clutter your workflow and ultimately your thinking. Your writing will take a hit for this. You really need very little to blog: a text editor, a voice recorder and an SEO software that will help you optimize your content.
Text editors are basically your blank piece of paper. Even though your writing depends fully on you, the right text editor will allow you to focus on getting the words out and shape your ideas in a meaningful way.
If you need a distraction free text editor, Ommwriter might be the solution for you. It’s a thoughtfully designed environment that lets you shut down the world outside and focus on your words. It even stops desktop notifications while you’re in the application. The backgrounds and sounds have been carefully chosen by the designers to create the perfect environment that will make you more creative and less antsy. Ommwriter is available for Mac, Windows, and iPad.
If you use Markdown, then you might want to give Notebooks a try. It works on Mac, Windows, iPad, and iPhone. This app can save you lots of time, as it uses your regular keyboard shortcuts for applying the Markdown formatting (for example, ctrl+b for bold). What’s more, Notebooks syncs with Dropbox, so you’ll easily access your files across devices. It does have some glitches, but it does the job. Notebooks is still in public beta and it looks promising.
A Voice Recorder
As a blogger, a reliable voice recorder can become your best friend. A voice recorder will allow you to record notes for yourself instead of having to write them down. It is also useful when you do interviews. Again, you should keep it basic here. The iPhone comes with its own Voice memo app, and it doesn’t hurt that it got a nice makeover in iOS 7. For Android, Easy Voice Recorder does the job well. And if you’re already using Evernote, you can take voice notes within the app on both devices.
SEO And Content Optimization
Creating great content that people want to read is great, but it’s even better when your content is search engine friendly. When it comes to SEO and content optimization, it really depends how much you want to invest into it.
On the high price end of content optimization, we have Scribe. It’s really a great tool that has keyword research and link building built in. For each post, it gives you an SEO score for the post and for how the post fits on the site as a whole. You can use it as a web app, a WordPress plugin, or even in Microsoft Word. The great thing about Scribe is that it is evolving as search engines evolve, helping you write great content.
On the low price end (as in free), we have WordPress SEO – provided your blog is on WordPress. While it doesn’t offer everything that Scribe does, it is still a very powerful SEO tool that allows you to do almost everything you need.
As with anything, the more you blog, the more you will refine your practice. These tools and techniques are just a way to get started on becoming a more effective blogger.
What are some of your favourite tools and techniques that have made you a more effective blogger?
Photo credit: shadowkill via SXC.HU