Coming up with blog post ideas is easy. There are 1000’s of blogs, webinars and free resources available that are dedicated to solving this perceived challenge.
Yet consistently publishing blog content remains a hurdle for most content marketers.
Why? Because ideas aren’t the problem.
I’ll confess, I thought ideas were the problem once myself. In fact I sat down to write this very post about how to come up with more blog post ideas. During my research of other posts on the topic, I realized very quickly that writing a post about coming up with blog ideas was not going to be unique.
That sparked some reflection on my part. What I realized is that coming up with blog ideas isn’t the hard part. Often I’ll plug headlines into my editorial calendar and be ready to go for months. Then, one-by-one I start to push back the deadline of each post. Because the problem isn’t coming up with the blog post ideas, it is following through with the writing process.
The gap between planning and execution is the real challenge we face.
Why do we face this challenge when creating consistent blog content?
Let’s have a look at the underlying reasons we continue to face this content creation challenge, and my advice for overcoming each of them.
1. We plan too much
Documenting a plan is an important step when launching a blog. It creates accountability, structure and guidance for what is to come. But we plan too much. Spending too much time on a ‘perfect’ plan is pointless. If there is one thing I have learnt from launching my own blog, shutting it down and launching a brand new one, is that plans are about as valuable as the paper they are written on.
It is human nature to want predictability, and that is what a plan is meant to give us. But predictability is unachievable in an ever-changing business environment. Those that continue to strive for perfection, planning every minor detail within an inch of their life will ultimately never execute.
Don’t obsess over the perfect plan. Execute early and fail. Then create something even better.
2. We set unrealistic expectations
How many times have you put loads of blog post ideas into your editorial calendar only to never actually publish them on the scheduled date? I know I have done it before. I get it. We all realise that lots of regular content is going to skyrocket our website traffic and explode our email growth. But it is a bad feeling when you have to constantly push back the publish date of each post because you haven’t found the time to write.
Under-commit and over deliver. As soon as I came to grips with the fact that posting 3 times a week was unreasonable, and set more achievable goals, my productivity shot through the roof. Set yourself challenging but achievable goals, not impossible ones. Of course being ‘consistent’ is essential when engaging a blog audience, but don’t confuse consistency with quantity.
If you’re battling with the age old challenge of quality or quantity, lean towards quality. Longer, more in-depth blog posts will get you more traction than a whole bunch of poorly written short ones.
3. We don’t have a system to write
Unlike the best bloggers who have a consistent and repeatable system to write posts, many of us wing it. We write to meet deadlines, and there is no structure to how we create each individual blog.
Create an unstoppable blogging system that works for you. I put together a blog post called the 11-step blog creation process. Just like any system you will need to make it your own and pivot over time.
Since writing that blog post I have adapted my system to suit my new daily routine and improved the process based on what I have learnt about blogging. But it is a great starting point if you are looking to create a repeatable blogging system.
If you want to find out how Buffer’s Kevan Lee writes so much epic content so quickly, he told the world on the Kapost blog last year. His insights will definitely help you create an unbeatable blogging system.
4. We don’t have any quality governance in place
The best blogs are meticulous about maintaining a certain standard. For blogs that are just one person, this standard is much easier to replicate. But for company blogs, or publications with multiple writers this is a much bigger challenge. Take a moment to think about the most successful blogs you read, and reflect on how similar the structure and style is for all of their posts regardless of the author.
If you have multiple authors on your blog, create a set of strict editorial guidelines for them to follow. And don’t accept submissions that fall short of this criteria. By setting a precedent like this you will develop a reputation for high standards as well as a sense of scarcity. Soon people will be desperate to make the cut!
Even as an individual blogger you may like to create a benchmark for yourself. I use the blog post checklist to keep all my posts at a similar standard. I designed this checklist so it would be helpful to any blogger across any platform, but if you are guest posting make sure you become familiar with your host’s style and expectations.
Have a look at the screenshot below of a typical HubSpot post written by Rachel Sprung. I have outlined the style and quality that remains consistent across all their blogs (You will also notice lots of white space, a great design touch!).
5. We haven’t created accountability
What is going to happen if you don’t meet your next blog deadline?
If you are a lone blogger, the consequences are essentially nothing except a few feelings of unmet expectations. If you are in a team, you might feel slightly more obligated to reach these deadlines, but the consequences are still not substantial. This is a major reason why we don’t create consistent blog content.
Make commitments that you can’t dodge. In my experience, every time I have enlisted accountability from someone I respect, the more likely I am to follow through with that commitment. Let me give you a couple of examples where you can create more accountability for your blog schedule;
- Engage a mentor or coach to hold you accountable. This works best if you are holding them accountable to their own goals as well.
- Create a common editorial calendar with your team. Make sure the calendar allows you to highlight who is responsible for each post.
- Submit a blog outline to a publication for a guest post. Once they give you the go ahead, you’ll be forced to take action.
- Interview an industry expert for your blog and commit to a publish date.
- Pre-plan a string of blog posts and tell your audience what they can expect to come next.
6. We write just-in-time
This is one I struggle with a lot myself. As soon as I write a blog I’m desperate to hit publish and get it in front of the world. But what this does is create a bad habit. If we are use to hitting publishing as soon as we finish a post every time, human nature will make us write content just-in-time for a deadline.
What if something out of the ordinary happens?
All of a sudden a client needs to speak to you on the phone, or you come down with the flu. Is it then ok to miss that blog deadline?
We might convince ourselves in the moment that it’s ok. But that is just an excuse. Writing content at the last minute creates a bad habit that can turn into a virtuous cycle of missing deadlines.
Backlog your blog content. Instead of writing content as you need it, write content for the next month. Use a common editorial calendar so people can add ideas in as they come up with them. Every time you are inspired to write, sit down and write as much as you can. The more the better. That way, the next time you feel a deadline approaching you won’t be struck down with desperation and anxiety. And if something else important comes up you will be able to prioritize the things that matter because your blog content will be ready to go.
7. We aren’t getting ‘results’ and don’t see the benefit
Does it feel like you’re committing a lot of time to blogging and not getting the conversions you were hoping for?
This is extremely common. And it is way easier to give up than it is to persist.
But the proof is in the pudding. Blogging is a proven business growth tactic if executed well. Even though it may feel like you are spinning the wheels and not making progress, a few small tweaks to your blog strategy could be all it takes.
Be very clear about what blogging means to your business. What is the direct link from each blog post to a desired business outcome?
Create a hierarchy to measure your blogging success;
- How many social shares or inbound links result in just one new person reading your blog?
- How many new blog readers does it take to get one new email subscriber?
- How many email clicks does it take to get one sale enquiry?
- How many sales enquiries does it take to land one new customer?
Of course there is no perfect science to creating this link, but once your team see tangible value in blogging they will be more likely to contribute.
A couple of bonus tips for creating consistent blog content;
- Promote more than you write. By focusing on the promotion process and getting recognition for your blog content you achieve better results. These results will drive motivation.
- Make ambitious employees the face of your brand. Encourage employees to build their personal profile with your blog as a platform.
In order to create a consistent stream of blog content we need to stop worrying about a long list of ideas. Instead we need to focus on bridging the gap between planning and execution. To bridge this gap we need to;
- Cut the planning phase in half. Throw the 40-page strategy in the trash and focus on execution
- Set realistic expectations and exceed them
- Create a repeatable blogging process
- Develop a set of editorial guidelines
- Scale up accountability
- Backlog blog content
- Draw a direct correlation between desired business outcomes and relevant blogging metrics
Are you struggling with creating a consistent stream of blog content? What tactics have worked for you?