Blog Post

Step-by-Step: Creating Your Blogging System

If you’re a blogger, your most common problem is likely not knowing what to write. You open your word processor or editor to find a blank canvas staring back at you, which causes the same thing to happen to your mind — it goes blank. Week after week, you struggle to pull together coherent posts that are just this side of rambling, and in the back of your mind, you know that you’re not doing the best job of managing your blog to ensure that it helps you reach your goals.

The solution? Develop a system around your blogging efforts. Here are the steps I took to create a system for producing and managing content for my own site.

About a month ago, I was approaching yet another week of blank canvases, so I set out to find a way to be more intentional and focused with my content. The first thing that came to mind was an editorial calendar. Big magazines and newspapers have used them since the dawn of the publishing industry, so I was fairly confident the solution would work for me, but I didn’t want to just throw together a calendar in spreadsheet form and think that all my problems would go away. I really wanted to approach this as a big magazine would, so I started by thinking in terms of a single magazine issue and how an editor might produce and manage its content.

Step 1: Choose a Theme

If you think about a single magazine issue, there’s generally a theme to it, a common thread that ties together the articles within it, so that was my first step — develop a theme. I decided to have “focus months” on my site to guide the content for a given month. This would help me accomplish a couple of things.  First, it would make my content more intentional. It would center my efforts around keywords and information that was relevant to my target audience. Second, it would help me better anticipate the content I was going to create, which would allow me to line up guest experts and interviews that were relevant to the content. I was immediately able to come up with themes for the next six months.

Step 2: Choose Your Sub-Topics

Once I had a theme in mind, I was able to think about sub-topics within that theme that would deepen my coverage of the content that month. At first, I just listed out the possibilities for sub-topics without thinking too much about them, and created a list of ten or twelve ideas. As I created the list, I noted possible guest experts who might provide greater insight into the sub-topics than I could provide on my own.

Step 3: Establish Your Schedule and Content Needs

With my topic and sub-topics ready, I had to decide on the frequency I would publish. I settled on publishing one content piece per day (could be an article, an audio piece, etc.). I decided to interview guest experts within the sub-topics and then spread out the content over the course of the month. My plan would be to line up and interview guests the month before I intended to publish the content. That way, I would avoid last-minute scrambling to produce content and could instead focus on quality well in advance of publishing. This would also help when I got sick or took time off, since I would already have content on tap for the given week or month and could simply schedule it to be published (or, even better, hire someone else to do it for me).

I decided that the number of weeks there were in a given month would be the number of guest experts I would line up for that month (five weeks, five guest experts). And to make things simple, each guest expert would produce one week’s worth of content (five content pieces per guest).

My site has a mix of articles and audio, so I decided to do one-hour interviews with each guest (and then each interview would be divided into four shorter content pieces) and then have each guest contribute one article in addition to their interview. That made it really easy on my guests, since they only had to show up for a one-hour interview and create one article. Plus, that little bit of effort on their part would equate to weekly promotion for their businesses, since I would be spreading their content out over the course of the month.

The great thing for me was, instead of having twenty to twenty-five separate content pieces to create on my own in a given month, I would simply do four to five interviews (depending on the number of weeks that month) and knock out four content pieces in one hour. Of course, that meant a lot more planning on the front end, but then the actual content creation part would become very easy.

Step 4: Produce the Content

So, I knew how many guest experts I would have (the same as the number of weeks that month), and I knew how many content pieces I needed from each of guest (always five), so that let me know how many titles I had to create for the month. Say, for instance, the month’s theme was “balance.” I knew I needed five content pieces, so I created five generic titles.

  • Stress-Reduction Tips
  • Personal Renewal
  • Food and Mood
  • Balancing Home and Work Life
  • Disconnecting from Technology

Then I could create more interesting titles from the generic ones:

  • 60-Second Stress-Busting Techniques
  • The Importance of Personal Renewal
  • Is Food Affecting Your Mood?
  • Creative Ways to Balance Work and Home Life
  • Cut the Cord: How to Disconnect from the World

This part was surprisingly simple. While I normally could sit and ponder blog post titles for what seemed like hours, I was immediately able to think of several ideas when thinking about picking the brains of experts on a given topic.

Step 5: Create an Editorial Calendar

I had my theme, my sub-topics, and even the specific post titles for the content I wanted to create. All that was left to do was actually create the content, edit it, and publish it. That meant that I actually had to conduct the interviews and then lay out exactly when I was going to edit and publish the audio and articles contributed by the guests.

Tom’s Planner is actually a great tool for organizing an editorial calendar (as mentioned by Simon just the other day, you have until SUnday to sign up if you’d like to get a free premium account for a year).

The first step was getting the content and editing it. Within Tom’s Planner (see image below), I created a place for each contributor and all of the content he or she would be creating. Next to each content piece, I put when we would be recording it and when I would be editing the content.

The second step was then organizing and publishing all the edited content, so at the very top of Tom’s Planner, I created an “ALL” group and listed out the types of content I had available for publishing and then evenly distributed it across the month (see image). I knew I would have one article per person, four audio pieces per person, plus a few other pieces of content. The thing I didn’t know, at least until everything was edited, was where I would use the content, so for instance, lesser quality audio pieces (say, if the sound wasn’t as good as with other pieces) might be used on the “Conversations” section of my site instead of within my premium audio program.

As I would edit and publish, I would be able to move content up from the individual contributor sections.

This has been a really great system so far. I have all of my audio content recorded for September, and with the exception of a few articles, I’m all set on content for the month. Now, all that’s left is editing and publishing, which makes my job a lot easier.

Why a System? Why Not Just Blog?

If you’re running a business blog, there’s generally an underlying purpose behind it. Maybe you want more clients or to create a fan base for an upcoming book. Whatever the case, there’s a reason that you blog, and the content you create should help you reach your end goal. By being more intentional and focused with your content, you’ll achieve greater success in a much shorter period of time and make sure that your content is, in fact, serving the audience it’s intended to serve.

My favorite things about having a system?

  • Content has become so much easier to create
  • My efforts are more focused and are helping me reach my goals
  • I’m more intentional when it comes to guests, which means greater cross-promotion, back links, and visibility with new audiences.
  • I’m no longer staring at a blank screen wondering what I’m going to write.

So, what’s your system? How are you staying on track and organized when it comes to your blogging efforts?

Photo by Flickr user Gustty, licensed under CC 2.0.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution

2 Responses to “Step-by-Step: Creating Your Blogging System”

  1. It is tough to keep a content schedule to spec. I targeted 3-4 updates per week but life often gets in the way of a hobby blog.

    One suggestion that I use is that I have a dedicated blog only email account where I throw article links, ideas, photos etc so that when I hit writers’ block, I have a grab bag of topics on hand.