How to Overcome Blogging Challenges
How to Overcome Blogging Challenges
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All bloggers face two challenges. One is offering captivating blog posts on a continuing basis, and the other is staying motivated. Experienced bloggers know you need to exert some psychological effort to keep on caring.
- First, I’ll discuss some of the common blogging mistakes and how to avoid them. Understand them, and correcting them, is an excellent way to demonstrate to your readers you genuinely care about them. You are a caring blogger when you are reader-centric.
- Second, I’ll offer some suggestions about how you can keep your motivation alive when it begins to slump. Believe me, it will slump — that’s human nature. It happens to us all. But you have a mind, and you can overcome the resistance that will appear at some point in the future.
Let’s look at these issues.
COMMON BLOGGING MISTAKES
Once you have the formula down, you’ll find yourself writing more often. You will likely gain an ever-increasing number of captivated readers. You have to keep on balance, however, and not kill the goose that lays golden eggs. Some bloggers — new and old — sometimes do this in three ways. Know them and avoid them.
Avoid Confusing Readers
When you know the topic well, you run the risk of confusing your readers. This happens in many ways for several reasons. First, you are so well-versed in your topic that you assume that all your readers are on the same level issue. You like to talk about the intricacies of your topic, and you assume that others know what you’re talking about.
Discover Reader Needs
This happens because bloggers don’t know the composition of their readership. Once you start getting a few hundred page views each day, it’s wise to put up a poll and ask questions about your readers. Are they men or women? What is their age group? How long have they had an interest in your topic? These and other related questions help you understand your audience better. Another simple way to discover that is to ask your readers what they would like you to write about.
Be careful about asking questions that may seem too personal. Everyone is concerned about privacy. You can collect information anonymously using an online tool like SurveyMonkey. They offer a free 10 questions/100 response basic poll, which is good enough to get started. There are others, but SurveyMonkey is familiar to many people who take polls, so you’re likely to get a higher number of responders.
Simplify Your Writing
The ultimate cure for reader confusion is to simplify your writing. For example, if you are going to go into depth about exercise, you cannot assume that all your readers will know about the different types of exercise they can do. Before you go into any depth at all, you need to define terms. If you’re going to talk about aerobic exercise, start by defining the word “aerobic” for them. If you’re going to talk about strength training, make sure that they understand at the very beginning how it is different from other types of exercise. This applies to all topics. Don’t confuse your readers. Provide clarity from the start and continue it throughout your post.
If you want to make sure your readers understand you, use a time-worn method:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you told them
That method never fails. You must recognize that in all cases, you are taking your readers from the known to the unknown. That means you must start where they are in their own thinking before you can take them to a new place of understanding. Don’t be guilty of confusing your readers by assuming they know more than they do.
Write for Others
I know I am taking a risk talking about this topic. After all, I have already said the thing that makes your blog posts unique is your personal expression, so it seems that talking about yourself is a good thing. It is, but balance is needed.
There was a time when a blog was more like a public diary. People wrote about their day-to-day experiences and the challenges they faced. Many of you may remember the “House” television program starring Hugh Laurie as the brilliant but antisocial Dr. Gregory House. In one episode, House was able to determine the cause of the rare the woman had by the contents of her overly personal blog. The blog itself caused a lot of plot tension. The woman was revealing secrets about her relationship with her boyfriend, and about the minutia of her life, and that caused problems.
For the most part, those kinds of blogs are dead. Thank goodness. Your readers are facing their own issues, and they are not interested in the details of your life. You are self-indulgent if you think the opposite is true.
You Are the Color Commentary, Not the Play-By-Play
You can achieve balance, however. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. There are usually at least two sportscasters in the booth at any kind of athletic event. One is called the “play-by-play” person, and the other is called the “color” person. The play-by-play person tells you what’s happening on the field. He tells you who hit the home run or who carried the ball the needed 10 yards to make the touchdown. After the facts are available to people, the color sportscaster will chime in and tell you about how the player’s 92-year-old grandmother was praying for her grandson to hit the home run or make the touchdown.
See the difference? Play-by-play is the content that people seek. Color is the embellishment that supports the content.
To get the balance you need to show you care about your readers, you have to avoid making yourself the content. You are not the content, you are the color. Once you share the content, you are free to share your own opinion, feelings, or experiences about the content.
Your blog is not primarily about you. It’s about a particular topic, and you always have to keep that in mind. You make your content unique when you filter it through your own understanding and life experiences, and that’s very desirable. But you never want to start off talking about your trials and tribulations. People have their own problems and they really don’t want to hear about yours.
The key here is to understand that context is everything. You want to guide and inspire your readers and it’s wonderful if you can occasionally use your own experiences to achieve that goal. You want your personality to brighten your blog posts. But your blog should not about your life. It’s about something else, and you use elements of your life to reinforce certain aspects of the content you have presented.
Get Inside the Mind of Your Reader
There are two major aspects to writing blog posts that will help you put people before technology. They are:
- Don’t assume people know more than they do
- Write for people, not for search technology
Each may become a barrier to the flowing form of communication I advocate, and you can use these techniques to avoid that.
“Put the cookies on the bottom shelf.” Have you heard that term before? It means that that you want to put your thoughts on a level where people can reach them. You demonstrate that you care for your readers, and respect them, when you communicate information with clarity. That is always a worthy goal.
The key is to take them from”the known” to “the unknown” in the context of THEIR understanding of the topic, not your own. It is always worthwhile to write a paragraph to orient readers. In fact, you may want to write a separate “explainer” blog post, and link to it when you go deeper in subsequent posts.
Focus on people, not the machine. The biggest one seems to be that as soon as bloggers learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), they change their whole focus to accommodate it. I discuss the details about SEO in Plan Step 5.
The problem for bloggers is that they get hung up on the technical aspects of SEO. They know they’ll get a tremendous amount of traffic if they appear high in search rankings, so they start using myriad tips and techniques to optimize their pages. Bloggers should be writing for people, not for search engine spiders.
Don’t make the mistake of writing to please a search engine spider. Write for people and once your article is completed and you have engagingly expressed yourself, go back in bolt-on some of the SEO requirements. You do need to educate the spiders, but you cannot afford to do it at the expense of your readers. Your readers must come first and the search engines must come second.
If your content is reader-centric, then they are likely to share your fascinating posts on social media. Solid writing is the thing that helps you leverage technology. Don’t set some artificial word count and then add fluff to your post to meet it whether or not you have anything meaningful to say. Intend to change a life in some small way with each post. It may not happen every time, but it’s a good target
Nothing will kill your blog faster than your loss of passion for your topic and your desire to share information about it. When you lose your passion, you run the risk of becoming a boring writer. What have I said about that? Our primary obligation to our readers is to be interesting.
HOW TO MAINTAIN MOTIVATION
The challenge every writer must overcome is inertia. The dictionary identifies the problem precisely. Inertia is, “A tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.”
Thinking about writing is not writing. Staring at a computer screen is not writing. As a writer, you must start tapping keys at some point. The words that appear may not say what you mean, but don’t let that worry you. Once you have words down, you can revise them. That is the redemptive aspect of writing. You can always change and improve what you have written.
I am a student of motivation. I also teach about it, and you may be interested in taking my online course, “Motivation Secrets for Writers.” Let me share a few tips about being a motivated blogger.
Don’t try to drink from an empty well
Many bloggers get discouraged because they don’t know what to write about next, or they think posts are becoming repetitive and boring. The best way to overcome that is to be voraciously curious about your own blog topic.
Read books, watch TV, listen to podcasts, view YouTube videos, and visit other blogs on your topic. Develop a plan to systematically consume media that triggers your creativity.
Fill your brain with interesting and exciting content, and you’ll be able to shake your head like a wet dog and blog post ideas will fly like water droplets.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
If you want to stay motivated, you must set realistic goals. If you set goals that are too high, then you’ll become discouraged and your motivation will crash. I like to think of goal-setting like a home thermostat. Don’t set it too high or too low. Experiment a little and find your comfort zone. The trick is, once you find that comfort zone, you must exercise self-discipline to stick to it. If you discover you can comfortably write two 1,250-word posts each week, and publish them on Tuesdays and Saturdays, then you must faithfully do that. That constancy is how you build a readership.
So, don’t set unrealistic goals in a fit of zeal. Pace yourself. Auto-schedule posts in advance as I describe in Plan Step 4 to make sure you keep faith with your readers. Occasionally, even realistic goals get disrupted by life events, so it’s good to avoid being under pressure to write to an impossible deadline or to disappoint readers.
Learn to take criticism graciously
If you are doing a good job writing posts, then you’re bound to get criticism. Negative criticism will sap your motivation. In most cases, you are stimulating people to think, and they may agree or disagree with you. Sadly, there are many negative people in the blog-o-sphere. In our times, people are outraged by the smallest thing. Some people want to control your every thought and police every word you write, and as bloggers, we must ignore these kinds of trolls.
Yes, I consider all criticism. I ask myself if it is helpful. If it is, I try to incorporate the point made into my thought processes. If I determine the person is just some kind of ideological ax to grind, or that they may be emotionally or mentally impaired, then I just ignore what they say. You simply cannot allow crazed people to influence you. In some cases, I have had to block trolls out to impose their opinions on others. You may need to do that as well, and it’s the right thing to do.
The best advice I ever heard about criticism is this: “Never accept criticism from someone that you would never go to for advice.” The old adage to “consider the source” is even more important in the Internet age.
Don’t let numbers discourage you
Nothing kills motivation like low numbers. Those numbers include both site visitors and income. To keep from being discouraged, especially in the beginning, you need to take the long view. With my experience, I know that page visits will leap launch and then will drop back before it starts to build slowly again. Then, within the first 6 to 8 months, a blog seems to reach a critical mass. The sharp ups-and-downs go away and the curve on the chart becomes gracefully upward.
The critical mass issue has always interested me. I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but I tend to think of it as the snowball effect. The snowball starts small at the top of a hill but gets larger and gains momentum as it rolls down and picks up more snow. I have learned that it is not something I can control (other than offering my best writing), so I tend to allow myself to enjoy the process. I never check daily page visit numbers. I am more interested in monthly and quarterly trends.
Don’t let numbers discourage you and kill your motivation. They are always up and down the beginning, and then they grow at a steady upward pace after that. You may need to correct some of the things you are doing to get a better result, but you should only make a decision about that after 6 to 9 months. Patience is required.
The numbers principle also applies to income. You will not become an overnight millionaire. Income is closely tied to page views. The more page views you get, the more money you are likely to make. Again, you want to look for trends over time and not seek immediate gratification.
If you notice your page views are skyrocketing, but your income is not increasing proportionately, then you need to make a course correction about the ads, affiliate offers, or products and services you are offering. You must correlate them to the interest of your readers.
Mix with other good folks like yourself
Nothing will spark your motivation like personally meeting other people like yourself.
They may be those who share an interest in the topic of your blog. For example, if you’re writing about gardening, go to a local or regional gardening show. If you’re writing about classic cars, attend a cruise night or go to a car show. Whenever the topic of your blog is, you’ll find like-minded people gather to share their interests. Join them. It’s great to discover what interests others and to make new friends. You’ll gain new motivation after meeting with a group of like-minded people. You’ll be reminded that you are not writing in a vacuum, but for real people who have real needs.
Instead of meeting with others who are interested in your topic, you may want to meet with other bloggers. No matter what the topic may be, bloggers share a sense of comradery, and you can gain skills, techniques, and friendships from bloggers you meet. There are numerous conferences you can attend. Since there are so many, and dates change, find a meeting that works for you by Googling “blogger conferences conventions.” You’ll get current results.
If you read the Plan Step 7 Bonus Content “The Business Side of Blogging,” you know that attending events and conferences expenses are tax-deductible in most cases.
Overcome these common blogging mistakes and keeping your eye on the prize. Minimizing common mistakes and maintaining motivation will help bloggers, like Superman, to become faster than a speeding train and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.