So, I got married over the holiday (beautiful sunset wedding on the beach). Between that AND the Christmas holiday AND the New Year's holiday, my productivity (such as editing and publishing posts for this ecommerce blog) took quite a hit. With consistency being so important in blogging, I sat down and thought through some of the things that could have kept this blog cranking through the holidays.
We know that the greatest chance for modern ecommerce marketers to compete with mega-long-tail ecommerce retailers like Amazon is to focus on the research phases and remarketing phases of the ecommerce buying cycle - of which blogging is the most critical strategy with the lowest barrier to entry. In "How To Sell Better Than Amazon", we cover in great depth how ecommerce companies that blog frequently and consistently get more traffic and sales. However, we also know that consistent and effective blogging is extremely hard (which is why it's so effective at separating modern ecommerce marketers from the plethora of fly-by-night ecommerce stores as well as the mega-long-tail ecommerce firms that can't create that kind of content for their massive product lines).
You know what else is hard for lots of people? Jogging. My team is really tired of me saying that "blogging is like jogging" - but I really like that metaphor for a number of reasons. First, for many people (like me) jogging doesn't come naturally - it's actually really miserable and unenjoyable (unlike my new wife who finds it therapeutic for some reason). Second, it requires basically the same frequency to be successful (while jogging once a week is better than never, you really need to jog like 3-5 times a week to see significant sustainable success). Third, consistency matters a great deal and taking too much time off can undo some of the work you've done. Readers build a habit of getting your emails and search engines value and heavily weight frequent, fresh, original content on your website.
But, of course, life happens - and sometimes it's very difficult to maintain the regular consistency that creates an awesome content experience for your subscribers. So here are some tips we've put together that might help you (and us) in the future!
1) Have a queue (that you can get to)
By far, the hardest part for most of us when it comes to writing (especially blogs which are individual writings and not part of a larger tome) is figuring out what you should write about. The keyword strategy can be fairly straightforward, but turning those keywords into blog article topics can be a challenge. If you're like us, the best ideas may come to you at random times (for some reason - right when I'm about to fall asleep I always have a surge of ideas).
So our team maintains a queue using Google Docs where we can all add ideas that are kept together in a central location. Also, for those of us on Android phones, we can make updates to the document whenever we want to. So when I'm at a cigar bar reading Harvard Business Review (or MAD Magazine - you know, whatever) and I get inspired to write an article, I can quickly add it to our queue so I don't forget it.
2) Have easily understood formal guidelines
Our editorial staff has years of experience, and has codified that into step-by-step, easily followed guidelines that help our bloggers (most of whom have full-time jobs outside of writing) easily and quickly turn their knowledge into a blog article that's well-formatted for the readers.
3) Schedule in advance
One of the most important keys to writing effectively is to write when you're most comfortable. Especially if you have time off coming soon, you'll want to build a buffer of content and schedule it in advance at your regular intervals.
4) Let someone else drive
You don't want everyone to have the magic blue button that pushes your content live and out to all of your subscribers. Not that you don't trust them, but - as a general rule - no one should edit their own writing (someone else edited this article before publishing). If you do have contributors to your blog that are experienced, you should make sure that when you take time off that someone else has the magic blue publish button. Otherwise, you may end up with a nice queue of content that no one can publish.
This is primarily where I failed this holiday season. I had lots of great blog authors scheduling content, but no one who could publish blogs. Even though you may have lots of options to control user roles, be sure you don't make them so restrictive that you impair your ability to maintain a great experience for your prospects and customers.
5) Allow guest contributors
Many of the best writers in the world are, in fact, not me (I know - shocked me too!). Some marketers are concerned with letting others blog for them because they're worried about staying on brand and on message - I wouldn't worry about that as much. If you can find guest contributors who are high quality writers who can create content that your audience will find compelling and interesting, consider it. Have specific guest blogging guidelines to avoid confusion, and be clear in the expectations you set.
Although content curation and syndication isn't the panacea that some people seem to think it is, it can be useful. If you find high quality content elsewhere on the internet that will add value for your subscribers, you can republish on your site (with the appropriate attributions). I'm not a huge fan of content curation because people tend to confuse it with content creation and think that they don't need to create content if they just syndicate the content of others, but it can work well in the mix and it's an easy patch for periods of time where you can't create content.
7) It's not the end of the world
The other reason that I like the "blogging is like jogging" metaphor is that the primary reason people fail at jogging and blogging are the same: They're too intimidated to just get started or they give up if they hit a rough patch. They think that if they can't do it with perfect form or consistency that they'll just postpone it until they can.
Don't do that.
It's much better to create whatever content you can today than it is to continue procrastinating until you have all the time and resources lined up perfectly (which will never happen). You're much more likely to achieve your fitness goals if you go out today and walk/run in a generally forward direction for a few hundred feet than if you sit on your couch until you're ready to do it perfectly.
Something I've noticed with the hundreds of companies I've consulted with around content creation is that the marketers and business owners who struggle the most with getting started creating content tend to be the really smart ones. Why? Because stupid people are filled with confidence while smart people are filled with doubt! Smart marketers know that there's a lot to learn and perfect in the art of creating value-added content for your prospects and customers - but it's much more important to do something now than it is to do it perfectly.
The etail therapy blog is back! We'll be putting out blogs again (starting with this one) and we hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions you'd like us to cover or you'd like to be a guest contributor (see tip #5), feel free to hit me up on Twitter or reach out to your favorite eCommerce eColumnist (Greg Wise, Ted Ammon, Morgan Jacobson, and Eric Phillips).
Originally published Jan 6, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023