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30 Days to a Better Blog: Perfect Your Voice

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Perfect Your Voice

Because a website is pretty two-dimensional, your writing needs to jump off the page and engage your audience. Your voice is what makes your blog unique. It’s what differentiates you from the masses. It’s what keeps people coming back again and again.

If you haven’t yet perfected your voice, this is the month to do it. I already wrote an article on five tips for finding your voice. Start there to figure out exactly the voice you want to portray. Then you need to perfect the voice you’ve established.

  • You’ve chosen your voice. But is it really you? I’m a firm believer that your voice needs to be pretty authentic. If someone meets you in person, will they be shocked to find that you’re nothing like your blog persona? That’s not a good thing! Stay authentic … but make it
  • You … only better. If you think you’re a little flat or stale, feel free to up the voice a little. As long as you keep it consistent you can add more sarcasm, humor, personality, etc.
  • Ask someone to define your blogging style. Is that the voice you’re going for? If not, figure out what’s going wrong.
  • Try a video blog. I find that my vlog style tends toward a mix of snark and wit. Maybe even more than my blog voice. If I can translate that to my blogging, I’d be golden!
  • Stay consistent. The best way to perfect your voice is to stick with it and stay consistent. Have a favorite catch phrase? Use it often. Want to sign off your posts with a quote or saying? Do it every time.

How do you perfect your voice? Share in the comments below.

Image Source: SXC

30 Days to a Better Blog: Make an Editorial Calendar

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Make an Editorial Calendar

Frequently used by journalists, an editorial calendar is a great way to plan out your content for an extended period of time. This is a great tool for motivation and organization – and it helps you fill in any content gaps in your blog. Here are some simple steps to making an editorial calendar for your blog:

  • Determine how you want to document your calendar. This could be a spreadsheet, document, Google calendar, physical calendar, or even a WordPress plugin!
  • Brainstorm content ideas and decide how you want to distribute them. Do you want to rotate through various topics, focus on a topic each week, or even create a weekly column (i.e. Thankful Thursday)? Once you decide, try to stay consistent so your audience (and future sponsors) know what to expect.
  • Consider holiday and topical posts to include.
  • Move things around if they don’t fit! This is why it helps to use an online tool at first.
  • Don’t be afraid to add additional content on top of your editorial calendar posts. Depending on your blog topic, timely information may need to be included. You can slot in a generic spot for news-focused posts, or add them in on top of your planned content.

Once you’ve established your editorial calendar for the next 30 days, keep it up! Spend time each week making edits and brainstorming further. By developing your content ideas earlier, you can begin to reach out to potential sponsors and affiliates for your posts!

Here are some other great resource for ideas on making an editorial calendar:

Have you created an editorial calendar? Tell us what you include below!

Image Source: SXC

30 Days to a Better Blog: Break Up the Text Monotony

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Break Up the Text Monotony

Yesterday we talked about adding images and video to your blog for visual interest … and today we’re going to talk more about breaking up the text monotony by using your font tags.

Lets face it: Nobody wants to read blocks of text.

Blocks of text remind us of text books. Blocks of text are boring. As a blogger you can spice up the page by adding a variety of font tags. And I’m not talking about turning your entire post blue. You want to use strategic tags, and the key is to be consistent, so readers of your blog know what to expect.

Here are a variety of ways to use font tags:

  • <h1> Use heading tags for your section headlines. This helps your reader identify the different sections of your post – and helps SEO too!
  • <b> Use bold for keywords/key phrases. Not only should you interlink these, but bolding them helps draw the eye to the most important part of your sentence/paragraph.
  • <i> Italicize quotes and titles. I typically italicize quotes from people and any book, periodical, or movie titles.
  • Add color strategically. I rarely use color, but I see many bloggers use color effectively to really bring attention to specific words on the page.

Image Source: SXC

What is a Blog Meme and Why Should I Join One?

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I’m a huge fan of blog outreach and meeting other bloggers in my industry topic – which is why I participate in Blog Memes. But many people don’t even know what a blog meme is, or how to join or start one of their own.

What is a Meme?
A meme (in this sense) is defined as an idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve. On a blog it usually exists as a question, or list of questions, that you answer on your blog – linking back to the original Meme post and adding to the list. The memes that I do on my personal blog (which is book and writing oriented) are weekly. We have Monday “In Your Mailbox”, Tuesday Teaser, Waiting on Wednesday, etc. Memes can be daily, weekly, monthly, or even the occasional one-off quiz – depending on the topic.

Why Join a Blog Meme?

Memes can provide you with an immediate editorial calendar and topic to write about! If you’re ever in a creative slump, just search out a meme to join. Just keep it relative to your blog content.

And memes also give you link-backs. The creator gets several link backs, but if you participate you also fall into the chain – allowing others to link back to you and also from the original meme itself.

Where Do I Find a Meme?
You can find a variety of blog memes at The Daily Meme – or Google your industry with the word “meme” to see what topic specific memes appear.

Why Start a Meme?
If you have an idea for a meme theme that doesn’t exist, go ahead and start it yourself! The worst that can happen is nobody participates. The best that can happen is you get links from a variety of places and start a creative topic.

To start a meme – first post your question(s) and any rules. Some memes ask you to answer the questions and then select five other bloggers to continue moving it forward. You can implement rules, add a badge, or think of other ways to make your meme unique. After you’ve begun the post on your blog, reach out to other bloggers who might be interested in the topic! Sit back, and watch it go viral.

Image Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA-MSFC)

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 12 Writers Writing

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Today, as part of the 12 Days of Blogging 2010, I wanted to showcase people who can help you with one of the essential blogging skills: writing. This is a topic near to my heart, since I was a freelance writer before I even knew what blogging was! There are some awesome bloggers out there who talk about nothing but writing; there are also bloggers out there who talk about writing as part of the whole blogging profession. Let’s look at some of my personal favorite posts about blog writing from 2010; don’t forget to leave a link in the comments if you’ve talked about this topic as well!

Yes, links are highly encouraged in this series – please share so your knowledge can help us all! Just make sure they’re relevant to the topic!

1. Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write by Ali Luke at Aliventures

It wouldn’t be a post about writing without mentioning Ali Luke and her blog, Aliventures. Her entire blog is awesome if you’re interested in learning to be a better writer, and I highly recommend check out her ebook, The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing, which can also help you with the writing aspect. In “Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write,” Ali writes:

Some bloggers don’t really write. They just type.

I’m sure there’s been times when I’ve been guilty of the latter. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing posts as “content” – something to tap out fast in order to increase a bunch of statistics. More page hits. More comments. More readers.

But you know that bloggers who carry on like that won’t succeed. The blogs that you love aren’t the ones which churn out half-arsed content – they’re the ones where the words grab you and don’t let you go.

Ali’s full post talks about the two worlds of writing and blogging and how they should come together to create a more powerful platform for yourself in either world. Check out Aliventures for more awesome posts and follow Ali on twitter @aliventures.

2. How To Write A Blog Post (or how I do it) by Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media

I’m a fan of this post because it’s pretty much everything you need to know to write on your blog successfully, step by step. Of course, we all have different methods for blog writing, but this is a good place to start if you’re feeling stuck. From Lisa’s post:

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my time writing blog posts. I write them for us, for outside industry sites and for clients. Luckily, blogging is something that I really enjoy and, because I do it so much, I’ve been able to create a pretty effective process for getting the words out and the posts up. When I was fishing for blog topics on Twitter last week, a few people suggested I perhaps write about how I go about writing posts and share any best practices I’ve found for making it easier.

The full post is available on Outspoken Media, where Lisa blogs with Rhea Drysdale about search engine optimization and marketing. You can also follow her on Twitter @lisabarone.

3. The Power of Confident Writing by Brian Clark at Copyblogger

Copywriter is perhaps the best-known source of information about blogging and writing, and one of my favorite posts from founder Brian Clark was about being confident as a writer. He also links to a great Copyblogger post on tips for confident writing by Steve Errey from The Confidence Guy. I love the tale of the restaurant in this post, along with what we can learn from it as writers. From the post:

I’m not talking about arrogance. Arrogance is an indication of fear, not assurance.

Too many people, however, approach copywriting from a defensive mindset. You’re already back on your heels from the start, instead of proudly sharing your excellence with the people who can benefit most from it.

Copyblogger is a site you should be reading if you aren’t already. They have guest posts from some of the most intelligent bloggers across the Internet and a stable of regular bloggers who are pretty smart cookies themselves. Follow Brian on Twitter @copyblogger.

4. How to Slash your Writing Time in Half by Mary Jaksch at Write to Done

Writer to Done is a blog that has tons of tips for writers, including an entire section for blogging. Really, though, many of the articles there can help bloggers as much as they can help article writers. Since most bloggers are super busy, I wanted to highlight “How to Slash your Writing Time in Half,”  a recent Writer to Done article that can help you save time when penning posts. Here’s an excerpt:

As a blogger, I need to write a lot of articles. Fast. Not only do I need a flow of good ideas, I also need time to turn the initial ideas into useful blog posts. It’s sometimes a struggle.

Do you want to write faster – without losing quality?

The post goes on to give you 10 tips for writing posts quickly. In the upcoming weeks, Mary will also be posting her annual list of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers on Write for Done, so that’s definitely something you should check back to read. You can also follow @WritetoDone on Twitter!

5.  How to Write Great Copy using Storytelling Techniques by James Chartrand at Men with Pens

Storytelling is a technique I use often in my own blog writing, and while I’ve read tons of resources on this topic, James’ article isn’t about why you should include stories in your writing, but rather how to do it effectively. Not every blogger uses storytelling to its maximum potential; this post will get you back on track. James writes:

Because they’re so powerful, stories are very useful for copywriters. Good stories can move people to action. They can encourage sympathy and instigate donations. They can cause an uprising or a revolution. They can provoke a response or influence readers. They can sell.

Storytelling works.

Except, of course, when it doesn’t.

Head to Men with Pens to read the rest of this post, along with more tips for writers, bloggers, and freelance business owners. You can follow James on Twitter @MenwithPens.

6. 5 Tips for Writing an About Page that Connects with Your Reader by Judy Dunn at Cats Eye Writer

Hands down, one of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers make is not having a clearly marked and well-written About page. Having this place to talk about yourself is important because when someone new comes to your site, they want to know who you are and why the heck they should ever come back. A poor About page could actually cause you to lose readers! Judy Dunn has tons of awesome blogging tip articles at Cats Eye Writer, but because About pages are so important, this is the one I wanted to highlight for you all. From the post:

For every expert opinion on how to write the ‘perfect’ about page, you’ll find an equal and opposite one.

“Keep a professional focus,” says the expert of stuffiness. “You need to separate business from  personal.”

“It’s all about credibility. Your degrees and post-graduate work count the most,” says the guru of self-importance.

“Be ‘authentic’ and talk about some mistakes you’ve made,” says Mr. Warm and Fuzzy.

All of these people are wrong.

Because there are no about page rules—except for one.

Want that one rule?You’re going to have to check out Cats Eye Writer – and don’t forget to also follow Judy on Twitter @CatsEyeWriter.

7. 3 Things Probloggers Should Do Before Hitting The Publishing Button by Darnell Clayton at BloggingPro

Does this article have three simple tips? Yes. Do we do them every time we write a post? Nope. Darnell Clayton’s post at BloggingPro is an excellent reminder of how we can ensure that every post is of a high quality. Your readers deserve it, after all! From the post:

In an age where everyone wants to be first, many bloggers are sacrificing elegance for speed in a vain attempt to break the news before their rivals get a chance to analyze the story.While bloggers should always attempt to break a story (as doing so can result in a massive amount of traffic), bloggers should also try to make sure their post is presentable to the world, lest they hear rebukes from their readers in the comment section.

BloggingPro is a site that I’ve really grown to enjoy over the past year. If you’re looking for blogging work, they have a job board that I’ve personally found extremely useful. You can also follow BloggingPro on Twitter @blpro.

8. 4 Types of Blog Posts That (Almost) Anyone Can Write by Laura Spencer at Writing Thoughts

Laura Spencer has a wealth of information for writers at Writing Thoughts, and one that she posted recently for bloggers is “4 Types of Blog Posts That (Almost) Anyone Can Write.” If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, this is a great post for finding some ideas for your next post. Laura writes:

Over the past few years, I’ve blogged professionally at five different blogs (not including the one you’re reading, which I own). During that same period, I’ve literally written hundreds of blog posts.

As a professional blogger, I know that thinking of topics to write about can sometimes be a struggle. That’s why today I’ve decided to list four types of blog posts that nearly anyone can write.

If you want to learn her four tips, you gotta head to Writing Thoughts. Oh, and pro tip? Keep your eyes peeled for Laura! She also works at Freelance Folder and Everything PR, and has guest posts across the web. You can catch her on Twitter @TXWriter.

9. 8 Online tools to help improve your writing at 10,000 Words at Media Bistro

I’m a sucker for cool shtuff that makes my job easier. If you’re a writer in any capacity (blogger or otherwise), this post has some unique tools you can use to help you find the writer words, imporve your typing skills, an more. From the post:

The internet is full of writers, both good and bad. Thankfully, if you find yourself leaning toward the latter category or you just want to beef up your scribing skills, there are plenty of free online tools and resources for improving your writing

Check out 10,000 Words for more posts about the intersection of journalism and technology, and don’t forget to follow @10000Words on Twitter.

10. Developing Good Grammar Habits by Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward

While writing forward doesn’t have tons of writing tips specifically for bloggers, this post by Melissa is one that most of us need – myself included. I’m admittedly the worst self-editor in the word, but even awesome editing skills won’t save you if your grammar sucks from the start. Writes Melissa:

Good grammar is an essential component of good writing. Grammatically clean texts are easier to read, easier to get published, and in many cases, a firm understanding of grammar can make the writing process easier.But for many writers, grammar is secondary. They’re in it for the creative journey – these writers are focused on telling a story, making a statement, or sharing ideas. Grammar is just a necessary nuisance.

Too many writers avoid truly learning grammar because they prefer to focus on the creative aspects of their writing.

Her tips for grammar are ones that I’m going to attempt to apply in my own life, and i hope you will too. You don’t have to be grammatically perfect to be a good blogger, but it certainly helps keep readers on  your site. Check out Writing Forward for the rest of this post, and follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissaDonovan.

11. Why You Must Write Your Boogie Man Post by Stanford Smith at Pushing Social

I’ve been lurking on Stan’s blog for a few months now, and I love his writing style. Pushing Social isn’t just another boring new media blog. Those are a dime a dozen; Pushing Social is not. In addition to awesome posts like “Why You Must Write Your Boogie Man Post,” Stan recently announced his new Spectacular Posts Bootcamp, a video series where he’ll share some of his top tips. From his Boogie Man post:

My 3 year old swears a monster lives in his bottom dresser drawer.  The monster is a smart son-of-a-gun, he only hides there when I leave the room.  But…If I read “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” right before bed, he won’t come out. (smart kid)

The dresser monster is my boy’s boogie man.

The funny thing is that we never really outgrow the “boogie man” do we?

To learn what a Boogie Man post is and rise to Stan’s challenge of writing yours, head to Pushing Social. You can also follow Stan on Twitter @pushingsocial.

12. Developing Compelling & Engaging Content by Nicholas Cardot at Site Sketch 101

Site Sketch 101 is a blog that combines advice about content, design, and influence into something…well…spectacular. At BlogWorld’s keynote, Scott Stratten talked about how he’ll pull over the car to read a new post by Jay Baer. This is my car-pulling-over blog. Nicholas’ posts are never half-assed. Never. I can think of no better way to end this list. (Have I gushed enough?) “Developing Compelling & Engaging Content” is just one of the many awesome posts about writing content for your blog. Nicholas writes:

In the world of blogging and web development, one adage has risen above all others, “Content is King.” We understand that websites are a combination of design elements, usability, navigation, load speed, interactivity and content. More importantly, we understand that content is the king that rises above all others.

With compelling content, a weak performance in these other areas of your website will be overlooked. With weak content, even the most beautiful and easy to use websites will ultimately fail to achieve any notable level of success.

Check out Site Sketch 101 – you won’t be disappointed. You can also follow Nicholas on Twitter @nicholas_cardot.

Now that you’ve checking out my 12 Writers Writing, please join the list by leaving a comment below with a link to any post you’ve written about blog post writing. Come on – when do people actually ask you to spam them with you comments? :-p You can also leave links to other great bloggers who have written about this topic. Don’t forget to add a little teaser information to entice readers to click, and if you leave a link in the comments, do us all a favor and retweet/share this post so that we can spread around the holiday love!

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

The Importance of Evergreen Topics and Blog Posts

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An evergreen topic is named after the evergreen tree – which never changes its color. Like the tree, the evergreen topic never changes … never goes out of style … never loses its timeliness. Why? Because it’s not timely. It’s not a breaking news article, it’s not related to the hottest fads or celebrity or fashion. An evergreen topic should be just as relevant a year from now (or even five years from now) as it is today.

Evergreen topics are important for bloggers (in any niche or industry) for a variety of reasons:

  • SEO SEO SEO
    An evergreen topic will land high on the list of any search engine because its more apt to have linkbacks than any latest news posted.

  • They’re Always in Style
    You can add an evergreen blog post whenever you want, because it’s not breaking news. For entertainment and celebrity blogs, this is a great way to take a break from constantly scouring your RSS feed. And believe me, you can find ways of incorporating evergreen posts into these blogs!

  • They Are Sustainable
    Your traffic may not initially be high for an evergreen blog post, but it will continue to grow and grow. You’ll find that any affiliate links or ads on this page (if applicable to the topic) will generate more and more revenue as new readers continue to hit your blog.

  • They Establish You as an Authority
    An evergreen blog post helps you to establish yourself as an authority in that topic. If a new reader stumbles on this post and finds it informative, she is more apt to click through to more pages, forward the link to a friend, or bookmark it to read again later.

  • They Can be Recycled
    Evergreen topics are great for recycling. You can add to them, enhance them, expand on them – just make sure not to change the URL!

Do you write evergreen blog posts? What’s your highest traffic topic?

Season Your Content With Your Voice

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… by Mike Dobranski

If blogging were to have a Golden Rule, I think it would be that “Content Is King.”  When it comes down to it, we can all write, but the people with the interesting content said in the voice that genuinely touches the audience will ultimately be the most successful.  Blogging is all about good touches.

When our palette is narrowed down to our palates with Food Blogging, new and original material is often times tough to come up with after a while.  For those of us that blog about restaurants, how many different ways can we talk about too much salt on the New York Strip, or for those that blog about cooking, really…how many friggin’ variations of a cupcake are there?

Many times it’s all about the angle and the light.  What angle are you going to approach the over-salted New York Strip?  Is it part of a review of the restaurant?  Is it enough to stand alone as a spotlight on the dish?  Do you want to put it as part of a list of the saltiest things you ate in 2010? Do you want to talk about the abused piece of meat on a “Versus List” such as; Steak vs. Salt Lick, Steak vs. Rim of a Margarita Glass, Steak vs. Dead Sea, etc.?  How many different approaches can you take with a common problem you’ll see over and over and over again?

However, all these different approaches don’t mean squat if they aren’t in your own voice.  The worst thing a blogger can do is try to fit them self in someone else’s mold.  Write the way you talk, not the way someone else talks.  If you think the glaze for those homemade donuts you’re blogging about looks like smegma, then say so.  If the mere thought of smegma makes you want to take a boiling hot shower and say ten Hail Mary’s, then don’t do that.  Write in your own voice.  Your followers will find you.  So will the haters…but tell the haters to kiss your ass (in your own words, of course!). Remember, for every single vocal critic out there, there’s usually a couple hundred reading silently, nodding their head in agreement with you.

Engage your audience with quality, original content.  Make them see things in a way they never saw them before…that’s when the magic happens.   Above all else, say what you need to say in your own voice.  If people wanted to read about that cupcake the way someone, perhaps, more “established” would have said it, then they can always log on to their site.  Say it like you mean it.

Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. He is the founder and writer for http://TastingLasVegas.com, a blog and podcast dedicated to news and reviews of the Las Vegas restaurant scene. You can join Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

How “Best Of” Posts Can Help Your Blog

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Right now, a lot of people are starting on year-end opinion pieces to talk about some of the best (worst) things going on in their industry. Some, like Mashable, look for community feedback to give awards to companies or products from 2010. Others are doing posts about their best posts over the past year. Still others are posting round-ups about the best post they’ve read from other blogs over the year.

No matter which format you choose, creating some “best of 2010” posts can help increase your readership and build your brand. Let’s talk about how:

Authority Building

Someone who create a post talking about the best of something immediately position themselves as an authority on the subject. It says, “I’ve been following this industry extremely closely for at least a year.” It also tells the reader that you consider yourself to be expert enough on the topic that you can make judgment calls about what is “best” from 2010. Even if you open this to your readers for voting, you become an authority.

Relationship Creation

When you highlight others in your “best of” posts, you have an immediate link with them, allow you to create a relationship where their perhaps wasn’t in the past. You can email the person, DM them on Twitter, etc. to tell them that they’re on your “best of” list, or you can rely on your community to let them know if you have a big enough readership. Either way, people feel honored to be mentioned on others’ lists, so you could use this is the start of a strong relationship with other bloggers.

Debate

Ranking lists of any kind always cause a bit of a stir. The point of a “best of” list is to include the best, not to create a comprehensive list of everything that happened over the past year. Because some people, blogs, posts, events, etc. won’t be included, that opens things up for debate. Whenever you call something “best,” you’re giving a strong opinion, so be prepared for your readers to leave comments disagreeing with you!

Navigation for New Readers

“Best of” posts that link to your past content create awesome sneeze pages for new readers. It can be intimidating to start reading a blog, since you may feel like you’re swimming through the archives with no direction. A “best of” post gives new readers a place to start. “Ah, this is where I should start.”

Google Juice

People love to link to “best of” posts, promote these posts on social networking/bookmarking sites, and search for these posts via Google. If you create awesome content and are a little conscious of your keywords in the title and first paragraph, these posts can be awesome Google Juice. In other words, they can help increase your pagerank and boost your site’s search engine optimization. You shouldn’t write “best of” posts just to pull in search engine traffic, but it’s definitely awesome side effect.

Have you created a year-end “best of” post yet? If so, link to it in the comments!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Your Story (@shanleyknox)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: creating a strategy for your blog

As bloggers, we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves. We want to connect with a community through telling our story. We want to learn new things to make our blogs successful. We want to share. It isn’t a malicious thing, but many bloggers, myself included, can be pretty egotistical, at least some of the time.

@shanleyknox: remembering that ur telling a story, but just right amount of personal so it stays focused on the story, not YOU.

This week, while talking about blog strategy, @shanleyknox made a really great point. Connecting with readers through telling your story is awesome…but don’t lose the lesson in talking about yourself.

Point in case: earlier this week, I gave you all a snippet of my childhood when writing a post called The Blog Sneetches. I rewrote that post four or five times before getting to the point where I felt comfortable posting it. Each one was missing something, but I couldn’t place my finger on that crucial missing element.

Finally, I figured it out. I was spending 75% of the post reminiscing about something from my childhood and only 25% of the post actually relating to the reader.

Now, sometimes, a long story can be a good thing, but if you spend most of your post talking about a personal story, you better have a really strong point at the end. When you do tell a story in your post, I recommend scrutinizing every single sentence. Is it necessary in making your overall point or are you just having fun talking about yourself? If it’s the former, edit it out. As @shanleyknox points out, you want to focus on the story, not on yourself.

If you can do that, your readers will get to know you as a blogger, but you also won’t drive off people by being too self-serving. It’s a fine line to walk and I certainly don’t always get it right!

I’d like to invite you all to share a post as a link in the comments before where you told a story about yourself to make a point to your readers, but in an edited way that was all about the reader’s needs, not about just liking to talk about yourself. If you don’t have a post like that on your blog, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to write one, and then come back here to share it with us all!

Zoom Out and Get Some Perspective On Your Blog

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When you’ve got your nose to the screen and your fingers on the keyboard, it’s hard to pause and take in the bigger picture. After all, you’ve got a blog post to write today, a bunch of comments to reply to, and Twitter and Facebook to check.

You might have great daily – or weekly – routines for your blog. Perhaps you manage to get a post out every single weekday, or you’re really quick to answer comments, or you always get back to emails straight away.

But are you missing the bigger picture?

It’s easy to do – especially if, like me, you love blogging for its speed. You can take a thought through to published post in an hour or two, and get feedback straight away – which is fun, rewarding, and perhaps a teensy bit addictive.

Today, instead of racing on with the next blog post, how about taking a step back to look at five big questions ? These are the “W”s that let you see the bigger picture of your blog.

#1: Why Are You Blogging?

This can be a tough one to answer – but it’s crucially important.

There are dozens of potential reasons why you might be blogging. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

  • Just for fun – as a hobby
  • To improve your writing
  • To build up an audience for your products (physical or digital)
  • As a journaling or reflective activity
  • To create a website which will make money through advertising or affiliate sales
  • To build your profile in a particular field (perhaps aiming to get a job)
  • To attract clients who’ll pay for your services

Before you write your next post, be honest with yourself about why you blog. If you’re seriously intending to turn your blog into a business, you’ll be taking a very different approach from someone who just enjoys blogging as an outlet.

#2: Where Do You Want to Be in Six Months?

Whatever your reasons for blogging, you’re probably keen to progress in some way. When looking at the big picture, you might not want to think five years ahead (who knows what’ll have happened to the blogosphere by then?) – but six months is a good length of time.

In six months, you could:

  • Write and release an ebook
  • Substantially increase the subscribers on your blog
  • Build an email list
  • Start making a serious income from your blog

…and lots more.

In order to get there, though, you need to know what you’re aiming at ahead of time. Obvious enough, I know, but how often do you sit down and check that your current posts are taking you towards your eventual goals?

#3: What Products or Services Could You Launch?

Although this isn’t the route that every blogger takes, it seems to be how most successful ones make money. Unless your site gets huge amounts of traffic, advertising and affiliate sales probably won’t give you a full-time income.

Selling your own products or services, though, could net you plenty of money without an especially big audience. If you’re a coach, for instance, you might only need ten clients. If you sell ebooks, you might only need to sell to a hundred people each month in order to make a living.

Give yourself a few minutes to brainstorm possible products or services that you could provide:

  • Could you write an ebook or record an audio program that covers the same topics as your blog, in more depth?
  • What services could you provide? Lots of bloggers work as freelancers, or as consultants.
  • If your blog isn’t on an easily-saleable topic, how could you start tweaking it to bring it around into a slightly different area?

#4: When Will You Post Next?

Do you have great intentions about posting three times a week – only to find that yet another month has gone by with only two posts?

Do you find yourself staring at the screen every weekend, wanting to write a post but completely lacking inspiration?

It’s easy to get stuck, especially when you’ve been blogging for a while – it feels like you’ve said everything that you want to say. And it’s easy to fall out of good habits and let days and weeks slide by without a post.

A great way to fix this is by using a post calendar. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a notebook document with a list of dates and post topics might well be enough. A post calendar lets you:

  • Plan series of posts
  • Mix up different styles (perhaps a “how to” post one day and a “FAQ” post the next)
  • Set yourself specific dates for posting – no excuses!
  • Work out topics and post titles ahead of time, so you know what you’ll be writing

#5: Who Else is Blogging in Your Space?

Seeing the big picture doesn’t just mean keeping your eyes on your own blog. How often do you look for new blogs in your niche?

I know I fall into bad habits here – I’ll have a few favourite blogs that I follow avidly, and I often forget to check out new voices (or older blogs that I just haven’t discovered yet). But whenever I take the time to make new connections, it’s always valuable.

By finding and befriending other bloggers in your niche, you can:

  • Get opportunities to guest post, and attract new readers
  • Share ideas – and even partner up (I run a joint blog with fellow freelance writer Thursday Bram)
  • Produce a product together – using your combined expertise and audiences to create and launch something much bigger than either of you could manage alone
  • Help promote one another’s content on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon or other sites

Getting off your own blog can often spark new ideas. You might want to look at the ways that other bloggers in your area are making money, or at the sorts of posts that they write. Is there anything you could be inspired by, or take further?

Skip writing one post this week, or leave your comments unanswered for a day. Take a step back, and look at the big picture of your blog. How’s it shaping up?

Ali Luke co-authored The Creativity Toolbox along with Thursday Bram. The Toolbox includes a full guide on getting the big picture and the detailed view of any project – as well as two other great guides, and seven interviews with fantastic creative practitioners and coaches.

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