15 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Website

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

This is a repost of an article originally published in early 2019, but the information is just as pertinent today. Enjoy!
Remember to check out this week’s writing prompt.

With apologies to the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, “Does your blog or website make you happy?” Does it excite you to read it or post to it? Or does it feel stale and uninspiring?

Maybe it’s time to declutter your website?

It can be easy to overlook your website or blog once it’s up and running. But like anything else, it can quickly turn boring. And if it’s boring to you, imagine how your readers feel about it. If you don’t feel excited about your own site, you’ll put in less effort to maintain it properly. Once you lose interest in it, your readers will too..

I’m always looking at ways to freshen up my website. I’ve tinkered with it here and there — with mixed results.  Here are a few ideas that can help give your blog a new lease on life.

1. Update your bio. When was the last time you reviewed your About Me page on your website? Does it still give readers a realistic view of who you are? If it’s a bit thin, add a few more details about your experience, either as a writer and blogger or as someone with specialized knowledge and expertise. Have you published any pertinent articles, taken an exotic vacation recently, or completed relevant education that would add to your credibility? Add that information to your bio.

Your professional development doesn’t stand still, so neither should your professional profile on your site. With every new life experience, education course, or job change, review and update your bio. In fact, I recommend reviewing your bio at least once or twice a year, just as you would your resume.

2. Update the Resources page. A helpful tool for your readers is a list of resources related to your blog topic. A separate page with resources can include links to other websites and blogs you follow, organizations you support, publications, and downloadable materials that may benefit your readers. Double check the links at least one or twice a year to make sure they are still active. If you don’t already have a resources page, consider adding one to your site. When you share resources on your site, it positions you as an expert just as if you had created those resources yourself.

3. Update site images. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you updated images on your website or blog? If you’ve had the same images since the day the site went live and that was more than three or four years ago, consider replacing with new photos. Either take your own photos (make sure they’re high quality) or use one of the free image sites like Pixabay or Flickr. Be sure to give credit to the source of any photo you use that isn’t your own.

4. Change the layout. If you’re bored with your site, maybe it’s the layout that needs updating. If you’ve used the same layout on your site since day one, consider changing it up. What I like about WordPress is the numerous themes they offer, and new ones are being added all the time. Maybe you still like the theme but use a slightly different layout, like two-column instead of one-column. Test out different themes and layouts to see which ones look best. You may find after testing them that you like what you have. That’s okay. At least you made an educated and informed decision.

5. Update your color scheme.
Maybe the color scheme has gotten stale, or it no longer appeals to your sense of artistic integrity. Maybe it comes across too somber when what you really want is something more cheerful, or conversely, maybe it comes across as juvenile or immature when you want your readers to see you as mature and professional. You want a color scheme to reflect your site’s topic and appeal to your readers at the same time. If your color scheme isn’t working for you, test out new combinations. A new color scheme can breathe new life into a tired-looking site.

6. Add video. Video has become the hot new trend in website content. Video has a sticky quality because it encourages visitors to linger longer on your site. Video is especially valuable for teaching purposes. Think demonstration of yoga poses, how to use carpentry tools, or cook a meal.

7. Interview experts. If you’re tired of writing the same types of stories or you run out of ideas, consider doing interviews. To start, stick with a few brief questions. Seek out people who have expertise in your selected topic. For example, if you write about outdoor adventures, consider interviewing a biking enthusiast who just completed a 100-mile trek, or the leader of an adventure travel group. Five easy questions can make an easy-to-write post into an interesting-to-read story.

8. Write a book or movie review. Read any good books lately? See any great films? Book and movie reviews are another way to add strong relevant content to your site. They’re also helpful for stirring up discussion and debate, which helps you engage with your readers.

9. Conduct surveys and post the results. Want to know what your readers think about a particular topic? Just ask them. Set up a survey on a site like Survey Monkey, then link to the survey from your blog or website. Once you compile the results, be sure to share them with your readers. For example, a movie fan website might do a survey about the Academy Award nominations. Surveys are a great way to generate more interactivity with your readers.

10. Invite guest posts. If you’re connected to other bloggers or experts, consider inviting them to write a guest post for your blog. This approach is especially helpful if you plan to be out of town for vacation and won’t have time to contribute articles to your blog. It’s also helpful if you simply run out of creative ideas. Having guest posts can expand your audience to include the guest blogger’s readers as well as your own.

11. Write how-to articles. We live in a continuous learning society, and readers are always looking for easier ways to get things done in an easy-to-read format. How-to articles are a great way to showcase your expertise, especially if you can clearly explain complex subjects.

12. Add downloadable materials. Consider posting freebie content, such as a podcast, a white paper or a chapter from an upcoming book you’ve written. These items can whet readers’ appetite for more material you create.

13. Include client testimonials. Do you work with clients? If they’re pleased with the results from your work, ask them for a testimonial that you can post to your website.

14. Add social media links. Invite readers to follow you on social media to keep the engagement going off site.

15. Share your portfolio.  Have you written for other blogs? Have you been published anywhere else? Or are you an artist with pieces you’d like to sell or show off to visitors? Set up a portfolio to showcase your work. Especially for writers and other creatives, this is a great way to show what you can do for potential clients or employers.

A site that looks and feels stale won’t inspire confidence in you or your readers. Any one or a combination of these ideas can make your site more interesting and reader-friendly.

Tips and Strategies for Guest Blogging

One of my personal goals at the start of 2021 was to write and publish guest posts on other sites. I figured it was one more way to share my expertise with others and show my writing talent. It also adds to my portfolio that I can show to potential clients. I’ve done enough research on the topic that I’m willing to share what I’ve learned so far.

In content marketing circles, guest blogging is the act of contributing content to another website or blog. A guest post often includes your byline, and the site editor might describe you as a “Contributor” or “guest author.” In addition to gaining a wider audience for your writing, there are numerous other advantages to guest blogging.

* It helps you promote your expertise on a given topic.
* It can help you grow your personal brand or your company’s brand if you work for someone else.
* It can help you expand your audience for your blog
* It can help drive referral traffic.
* It can help you build relationships with other bloggers and online publications, leading to business partnerships or job leads.
* It can help you increase members to your email subscription list

With so many benefits, it’s hard to believe that so many writers don’t take advantage of this outlet. However, it takes time to see your efforts pay off. You have to work at it, and you have to plan ahead what you want to write about and who you want to write for. Most important, you have to know your ‘why” – why do you want to be a guest blogger.

Set goals for your guest posting campaign

Many content marketing experts will tell you that a successful guest blogging campaign begins with a goal. What do you want to achieve with your guest post? Do you want to promote your expertise as a thought leader? Do you want to expand your audience for your blog or website? Do you want to build relationships with other bloggers or organizations?

Once you’ve determined your goal for guest posting, you can begin to brainstorm story ideas that will tie into your goals.

Brainstorm niche topics and article ideas

Say your goal is to be seen as an expert in career issues, but your blog is about office management and productivity based on your experience as an office manager. Maybe you’ve written a few career-related articles for your blog, but you’d like to share your expertise beyond your own audience. Start by making a list of career topics you’d like to write about. Make sure these topics aren’t already covered in your own blog, otherwise they may be rejected. Many sites want stories that you haven’t written and published anywhere else, including your own site. Once you compile your list of topic ideas, set them aside. These are the stories that you’ll pitch later.

Research potential sites

Once you have your list of story ideas, you’ll need to find a home for them. It helps if you are already following sites that you want to write for. If you haven’t done this already, start following them on social media or subscribe to their newsletter, if they have one. This way you can track what they are publishing.

You can also do a simple Google search.  Enter keywords such as “write for us,” “become a contributor,” and “guest articles.” See what comes up. Be prepared, however. There are numerous articles on the subject of finding guest blogging opportunities. Make sure to focus on your niche.

Once you’ve noted the site you want to pitch to, you’ll have more homework to do. Check out each of the sites on your list to see if your proposed topics have already been published – and if so, when. The editor might be more open to your pitch if the similar story on their site is older than a year or two.

Also note how often they post outside submissions. Do they post contributing articles once every few months or several each month? It’s up to you to decide if the site is worth pitching to.

Review editorial guidelines carefully.

Find the editorial guidelines on your targeted site and review them carefully. Many editors have specific instructions. Make sure you follow their submission guidelines or your pitch will be rejected.  

Some sites offer small compensation for your writing. Others offer non-monetary rewards, such as your bio and byline and links back to your own blog and social media accounts.

When your pitch is accepted….

If your story idea is accepted, congratulate yourself. It might be a good idea to have the article already written, or most of it. Based on the editor’s feedback, you might need to make some changes. Make sure your article is polished and well-researched. Remember that a new audience will be reading it and hopefully, becoming part of your own readership.

Make sure to promote the post and the publisher

Perhaps the most important step is to promote your guest post. Share it via all your social media channels and on your site. But don’t let the post-publishing promotion end there, writes Ann Gynn, editor of the Content Marketing Institute blog. You can develop a stronger relationship with the posting partner (the site that published your article) by taking additional steps. Monitor any comments that are posted and be sure to answer each of them, even those that are critical of your content. No need to engage in an online debate with your critic. A simple, “Thank you for reading,” or “Thank you for sharing your thoughts,” will suffice.

A month or so later, check in with the publisher. Share any success stories you had as a result of your guest post. Inquire about opportunities for subsequent posts. See if they’re willing to put you on a regular posting schedule.

Track the results

Content marketing experts suggest tracking results of your guest blogging campaign. There are tools you can use to help you do that. According to the Alexa blog, it’s helpful to track things like:

* Number of new website visitors
* Number of social shares
* Referral traffic
* Number of comments
* Number of new leads
* Number of brand mentions or links
And more…

Tracking these statistics helps you gain insight into which sites helped you achieve your goals and sites that didn’t perform as well. (Editor’s note: Alexa is a monitoring service that tracks that kind of information.)

Want more information?

This is just a cursory overview to get you thinking about the possibilities of guest blogging for your writing practice. There are plenty of resources available about guest blogging. To learn more, check out these articles:

Hubspot: Everything You Need to Know about Guest Blogging
Optin Monster: The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Guest Blogging Strategy in 2021
Neil Patel: Guide to Guest Blogging
Content Marketing Institute: A Step-by-Step Guide to Guest Blogging
Alexa: Guest Posting: A Step-by-Step by for Getting Started

Interested in having me write a guest post to your blog? Contact me at theregalwriter@gmail.com.

14 Ways to Repurpose Your Blog Content

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Check out this week’s writing prompt on my website!

If you think that posting to your blog is the end of your written piece, think again. You can extend a story’s shelf life and expand your audience by repurposing your content.

Repurposing is the process of adapting or re-using something in a different way and for a different reason. For example, in construction, you might repurpose wood from a torn down warehouse to create a front entrance door for your newly built home. Or for a crafts project, you might repurpose wrapping paper by putting it into a frame for artwork you can hang on the wall. You get the idea.

You can do the same with your writing. Each time you write something for your blog, you’re adding to your inventory of written pieces that you can tap into later to create an entirely new product. Repurposing content can help you in several ways:

* It can extend the shelf life of a written piece. What might be available to your audience for six months can have a shelf life of several years or longer.

* It can help you reach new audiences who may not be familiar with your writing. While one audience may prefer seeing your work on your blog, others may find you through a podcast outlet, social media, or on another site where you have a guest post.

* It showcases your writing in different formats, whether it’s visual, aural or in print.

So what types of formats work best for writers? That depends on what your writing goals are and the audience you want to reach. Not everyone wants to do a podcast or host a webinar. But it is something to think about as you expand your writing business.

Here are a few ways to repurpose your content:

  1. Revise and repost to your own blog. Some content gets outdated quickly. If an original post from three years ago has outdated information, consider updating it to include new data and repost to your site. It might be helpful to alert readers that the post was originally published previously but has been updated.
  2. Rewrite the content as a guest post. This can be tricky since most other sites want original content from their guest posters. So be sure to rewrite the whole thing. You can still include key points from previous posts, but rewriting something that you created can extend its life beyond your own readership.
  3. Publish a compilation. If many of your posts carry a similar theme, such as technology or e-mail marketing, compile the best ones for an e-book. Then you can repackage it and sell the collection on your website or on sites like Amazon.
  4. Produce an e-book. This is similar to number 3 above, but in this case, the essays don’t stand alone. You’re actually taking several of your posts and rewriting the material, then reorganizing it in a way that it reads like a non-fiction book.
  5. Create an infographic. Readers like having data at their fingertips, usually in a quick, easy-to-read format. If several posts have a similar theme and related data, you can compile the information into a colorful infographic.
  6. Share on social media as soundbites. Sites like Twitter and Instagram are great for posting snippets of information. You can take key points from your posts and repeat them on various social media sites, one key point or sound bite at a time.
  7. Share information via a podcast. Podcasts are more popular than ever, and the technology has gotten so advanced that it’s easy to create one. Whether you post the podcast to your website or make it downloadable through Google Play or Apple, you can easily expand your audience reach with content that was created elsewhere.
  8. Host a webinar. If you feel comfortable speaking in front of a camera, hosting a webinar might be right for you. Again, you’ll be able to pull content from various posts and presenting it in a live format, which can help you reach different audiences.
  9. Create a slide presentation. This goes hand in hand with any online classes or webinars you host.  A Power Point presentation can present content in small chunks to a new audience.
  10. Develop an online class. Similar to a webinar, an online class puts you and your specialized content in front of new, fresh audiences. Include a slide presentation and a handout, and you become a triple threat.
  11. Produce a workbook or handout. Whether in combination with a workshop or online class or presented as a standalone product, a workbook is a practical way to present your content.
  12. Create a white paper. According to Investopedia, a white paper is an informational document distributed by an organization, government agency or non-profit group to present a solution, product or service to influence readers’ decisions. Usually not more than six or eight pages in length, white papers are another way to present your content, especially if your goal is to have the public see you as n expert in your field.
  13. Distribute a monthly e-newsletter. As part of your newsletter, include an abbreviated version of the original post, so readers get a sample of your blog content.
  14. Create a visual library or portfolio. Last week, I provided tips on creating an online portfolio to showcase your writing. As visual representations of your work, a portfolio can succinctly showcase your best pieces. Add an appealing photo or image to go along with a short excerpt from your best pieces and display them on a separate page on your website.

As you can see, you can take your original content in different directions. Of course, there may be other ideas not listed here that better suit your purposes, or you may come up with a few of your own. You’re only limited by your imagination. But you can see how repurposing original content can extend the life of your writing beyond your own website.

Eight Content Ideas to Make Your Newsletter More Read-worthy

Be sure to check out this week’s writing prompt.

Newsletters are one of the best marketing tools you can use to reach clients and customers. Whether you’ve had a newsletter for your business for a while or you’re thinking about starting one, it’s helpful to share good, strong content can put you in front of readers and keep them informed and engaged.

But most business owners and bloggers know little about newsletters. What kind of content should they include? What will their readers want to know and read about? The answers will depend on what type of business you have. For example, a yoga studio might include tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, healthy recipes, profiles of instructors and studio news. It might be a good place to promote a special offer too.

Or perhaps you provide a dog walking service. Your newsletter might include news about new dog treats, pet grooming tips and a list of local veterinarians.

While I have yet to start a newsletter for my writing business, I’ve worked on several others for employers and clients. I also subscribe to several newsletters from writers and publishing professionals, including Kat Boogaard, Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman. Each of their newsletters are unique based on what information they want to share with their readers and what services they want to promote. Some are sent out weekly (Boogaard’s) and C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers while others are shared monthly.

Those are some of the issues you will have to ask yourself as you determine your newsletter content. How often do you want to send it out? What kind of information do you want to include?

One thing is clear. The best newsletters offer helpful advice and information to their readers. They put their readers’ interests first. Further, the least helpful ones focus too much on marketing themselves with little thought about their readers’ interests.

So what kind of information can you include in your newsletter? Here are a few ideas.

  • Start with a brief opening to welcome readers. Keep it brief, no more than three or four paragraphs. Make it timely, referring to current events or the latest news in your life such as a conference you attended, a holiday or family event. Keep it casual and conversational as if you are speaking to friends, (which of course you are).
  • Link to your own blog/website. If you post to your blog frequently, perhaps a few times a month, why not share links to the most recent stories? We used to do this at one of my employers since we posted to our company blog nearly every day. In the weekly e-newsletter, we shared the headlines to the latest stories and linked back to the blog. This is a great way to generate interest in your work and give people a reason to visit your site. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to promote your business or services. Don’t post every single link, but only the top three or four that your readers may find useful.
  • Link to the most interesting news stories and blog posts that you’ve read. No doubt you subscribe to numerous blogs and online magazines. What is the most interesting and memorable things you have read from these sources? Make a list, then link to those articles in your newsletter. Freelance writer Kat Boogaard shares her favorite stories in each weekly newsletter issue. It’s a great way to share industry news that readers may not have known about.
  • Conduct interviews. Is there someone in your sphere whose work you admire? Or perhaps they’ve done something remarkable, like finish a marathon or got their first book published. Reach out to them for a brief interview. I like the Q&A format because it’s easy to read. But keep it brief, no more than four or five questions. Keep in mind that readers don’t have a lot of time to read and will skim through the material. So keep your questions on point.
  • Consider sharing a guest post or article. If you don’t have time for a short feature for your newsletter, why not recruit a fellow writer or business owner to prepare something. I’ve seen this done on several newsletters I receive, which adds a new dimension to your offering. Plus it helps build rapport and support among fellow writers and business owners, especially if they have a product or service that would benefit your readers.
  • Include a book review or recommendations. Have you finished reading a book about a topic pertinent to your business? Why not write a short review and share it in the newsletter? An alternative is to list books about a common theme or topic that may interest readers. For example, find three or four book titles about time management and share links to Goodreads or Amazon for details. This is another way to provide valuable service to readers.
  • List upcoming conferences and workshops. Since so many conferences are being offered via Zoom or other online platform, more people can participate in them that couldn’t before. Your newsletter is a great vehicle for sharing links to upcoming conferences, workshops and events that may interest your readers.
  • Close with a positive message. Ending with a quote from a famous person can inspire readers  and motivate them to be their best. My daily news brief from my health care provider always concludes with a healthy recipe, three tips for a healthy lifestyle, and a quote that makes me feel positive about the future. You can do the same for your readers.

While there’s no guarantee that readers will share your newsletter with their friends, it’s nice when they do.

Remember the best newsletters focus on the readers’ interests, so avoid too much self-promotion which can turn off readers. A little promotion of a product or service is okay, but when it’s done with a relentless force, people may give up on you.

Another piece of advice: browse the newsletters that come into your in-box every week or every month. Notice what you like and what you don’t. Then make a list of components you’d like to include in your own newsletter.

Focus on providing tips, tricks, tools and resources that will make your readers’ lives better. Make sure you are consistent with your timing too. For example, if you decide to distribute your monthly newsletter on the fifth of the month, make sure you do it every month. Readers will begin to look for it in their in box.

Keep the newsletter brief. Most people don’t want to spend hours reading lengthy articles because they suffer from information overload as it is from all the material they already receive. You want your newsletter to stand out. It’s not how long the newsletter is, but the quality of the information you provide.

What about you? Do you have a newsletter for your hobby or business? How often do you distribute it? What kind of content do you include?

Fresh Start 2019: 11 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Website

With apologies to the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, “Does your blog or website make you happy?” Does it excite you to read it or post to it? Or does it feel stale and uninspiring?

Maybe it’s time to declutter your website?

It can be easy to overlook your website or blog once it’s up and running. But like anything else, it can quickly turn boring. And if it’s boring to you, imagine how your readers feel about it. If you don’t feel excited about your own site, you’ll put in less effort to make it so with good, relevant content.

Another fresh start to 2019 (I promise, this is the last one) is looking at ways to freshen up your website. Here are a few ideas that can help give your blog a new lease on life.

1. Update your bio. When was the last time you reviewed your About Me page on your website? Does it still give readers a realistic view of who you are? If it’s a bit thin, think about adding more details about your experience, either as a writer and blogger or as someone with specialized knowledge and expertise. Have you published any pertinent articles, taken an exotic vacation recently, or completed relevant education that would add to your credibility? Add that information to your bio. Your professional development doesn’t stand still, so neither should your professional profile on your site. With every new life experience, education course, or job change, review and update your bio. In fact, I recommend reviewing your bio at least once or twice a year, just as you would your resume.

2. Update the Resources page. A helpful tool for your readers is a list of resources related to your blog topic. A separate page with resources can include links to other websites and blogs, organizations you support, publications, and downloadable materials that may benefit your readers. Double check the links at least one or twice a year to make sure they are still active. If you don’t already have a resources page, consider adding one to your site. When you share resources on your site, it positions you as an expert just as if you had created those resources yourself.

3. Update site images. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you updated images on your website or blog. If you’ve had the same images since the day the site went live and that was more than three or four years ago, consider replacing with new photos. Either take your own photos (make sure they’re high quality) or use one of the free image sites like Pixabay or Flickr. Be sure to give credit to the source of any photo you use that isn’t your own.

4. Change the layout. If you’re bored with your site, maybe it’s the layout that needs updating. If you’ve used the same layout on your site since day one, consider changing it up. What I like about WordPress is the numerous themes they offer, and new ones are being added all the time. Maybe you still like the theme but use a slightly different layout, like two-column instead of one-column. Test out different themes and layouts to see which ones look best. You may find after testing them that you like what you have. That’s okay. At least you made an educated and informed decision.

5. Update your color scheme.
Maybe the color scheme has gotten stale, or it no longer appeals to your sense of artistic integrity. Maybe it comes across too somber when what you really want is something more cheerful, or conversely, maybe it comes across as juvenile or immature when you want your readers to see you as more mature and professional. You want a color scheme to reflect your site’s topic and appeal to your readers at the same time. If your color scheme isn’t working for you, test out new combinations. A new color scheme can breathe new life into a tired-looking site.

6. Add more video. Experts say video is key component to your website content. They have a sticky quality to them because they encourage visitors to linger longer on your site. Video is especially valuable for teaching purposes. Think demonstration of yoga poses, how to use carpentry tools, or cook a meal.

7. Interview experts. If you’re tired of writing the same types of stories or you run out of ideas, consider doing interviews. To start, stick with a few brief questions, like five questions. Seek out people who have expertise in your selected topic. For example, if you write about outdoor adventures, consider interviewing a biking enthusiast who just completed a 100-mile trek, or the leader of an adventure travel group. Five easy questions can make an easy-to-write post into an interesting-to-read story.

8. Write a book or movie review. Read any good books lately? See any great films? Book and movie reviews are another way to add strong relevant content to your site. They’re also helpful for stirring up discussion and debate.

9. Conduct surveys and post the results. Want to know what your readers think about a particular topic? Just ask them. Set up a survey on a site like Survey Monkey, then link to the survey from your blog or website. Once you compile the results, be sure to share them with your readers. For example, a movie fan website might do a survey about the Academy Award nominations. Surveys are a great way to generate more interactivity with your readers.

10. Invite guest posts. If you’re connected to other bloggers or experts, consider inviting them to write a guest post for your blog. This approach is especially helpful if you plan to be out of town for vacation and won’t have time to contribute articles to your blog. It’s also helpful if you simply run out of creative ideas. Having guest posts can expand your audience to include the guest blogger’s readers as well as your own.

11. Write how-to articles. We live in a continuous learning society, and readers are always looking for easier ways to get things done in an easy-to-read format. How-to articles are a great way to showcase your expertise, especially if you can clearly explain complex subjects.

A site that looks and feels stale won’t inspire confidence in you or your readers. Any one or combination of these ideas can make your site more interesting and reader-friendly.

 

Fresh Start 2019: Better Content Planning for Your Blog

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Photo courtesy of Hubspot

If your goal for the New Year is to launch a new blog or refresh the one you already have, an easy place to start is with content, namely story selection. It can be a challenge knowing what to write about as you stare at a blank page or computer screen.

If you’re constantly wracking your brain for story ideas, it could be that you haven’t planned your content ahead of time. Any successful blogger can tell you that having good content and posting frequently are keys to attracting and keeping readers. A content plan (what I sometimes refer to as an editorial plan) can help you develop your story ideas before you begin to write them and schedule them over the coming weeks and months. Having a content plan helps you sort through all your story ideas by theme and by month, while giving you some flexibility to add stories as news breaks that is worth following.

The blog planning tool I use is very simple and straightforward. It consists of three columns: the topic, keywords and date posted. (See image below for sample form.) You might be able to find similar planners online or adapt one for your own use. Make sure there are enough rows to write down your list of stories.

blog worksheet2

Here’s how the blog content planner works:

1. Begin brainstorming story ideas. Think of as many as you can related to your blog’s central theme and jot them down on a blank sheet of paper or your laptop. For example, if your blog is about budget-friendly travel tips, you might come up with stories such as using Groupon to plan tours and visit restaurants, cheaper alternatives to hotels, and cheap or free things to do at your destination.

If you struggle to think of story ideas, have a friend help you. Sometimes they may think of angles you had not considered. It might also be helpful to keep a file of news stories that may be worth covering on your blog.

2. Assign each story to a category.
As you complete your list of story idea, you may notice common themes developing. For example, you may notice six stories about tours and sightseeing trips and a few others related to overnight accommodations. In the space next to the story idea, write the theme or category. Most if not all of your stories will fall into one or two categories.

3. Jot down categorized stories on the planning worksheet. For every story categorized under tours and sightseeing, for example, write them down under the topic heading on your planner. In the line that says theme, fill in the blank with your category (Tours and sightseeing trips). Each category will have its own page, so you will want to have multiple copies of the planning worksheet. One sheet will be story ideas related to overnight accommodations, another for cheap eats on the road, and a third for tours and sightseeing, and so on.

You may only have five or six story ideas per category. That’s okay. You can add to the list as you think of more stories.

4. Determine which month your stories will be posted. For example, you might post a series of stories about springtime weekend getaways that would be ideally suited for posting in March or April, while stories about staycations might be a good choice for late fall or winter. My theme for January is “Fresh starts and new beginnings,” so my stories have that theme. February will have a different theme and my story selection will reflect this new theme.

blog worksheet3

5. Keep to a schedule.
As you post a story, enter the date in your blog planner. Most important, set a schedule of posting and stick to it. Write regularly and consistently. That way your readers will know when to expect to see updates to your blog. Consistency is key to driving readers to your site.

A blog planning worksheet can simplify your thought process and save you a lot of time down the road. Once you’ve done the brainstorming and assigned categories to each story, the hard work is over. Planning content around a monthly theme means you don’t have to scramble looking for ideas. It’s especially helpful when you’re pressed for time because you don’t have to think about what your next story will be. Just refer to your blog planner for your selection of stories. Then begin writing.