The Top 5 Ways to Keep Your
Blog Content Fresh

Fresh Apple

I think there should be a notice that appears when installing WordPress or setting up your shiny new account with Blogger.

It would show up somewhere before you complete the final steps of setup, but before the long drawn out terms of use that nobody ever reads.

“WARNING.”

“Blogging is not easy. You may experience unexpected droughts of inspiration, difficultly maintaining a schedule, or succumb to the pressures of always needing fresh content.”

Understandably, awash with the desire to share their great ideas and unique perspective with the world, most people would ignore this little nougat of wisdom.

But maybe it would seep its way into the subconscious. Maybe, a few months later as they were staring at a blank page trying to come up with something witty or informative to write, it would come back to them.

Told you so.

One Blogger’s Confession

Several months ago, I started a blog called Pop Culture Tees.

I had been blogging off and on for years, both professionally and personally, but I had never stuck it out longer than a few months. Usually I grew sick of the site or discovered that I really didn’t have anything I wanted to tell the Internet. I chalked these attempts up to being experiments in the medium rather than real stabs at being a blogger.

But this time I was serious. I had a simple idea: find and highlight cool t-shirts and give aspiring t-shirt artists the inspiration and the knowledge they needed to be successful.

I figured that keeping this blog up-to-date would be easy. After all, I was picking a topic I was passionate about (I worked as the lead artist at a screen printing company for four years), and there is an endless supply of new shirts out there to talk about.

I was kept psyched for the first month by the excitement of having my newly designed blog live and getting some early attention for it’s design.

Diligently, I would do a little bit of research each day to find a t-shirt I wanted to highlight, prepare the post and publish it. I wrote the first article of was going to be multi-part series and planned to post each subsequent part over the course of the next weeks. I even came up with a list of special articles/interviews I wanted to do over the next few months.

Then, just when I began to start getting traffic, it started to happen.

One day, I was too busy to post. The next day, I was unmotivated and tired.

Suddenly, my daily posts trickled down to 3-4 a week. The second article of my series was languishing half-finished. There were one or two emails I hadn’t responded to. And then, finally, I logged onto the site one day and realized the last post I had made was dated over a week ago.

5 Ways to Fight The Blog Updating Blues

As any expert on web publishing will tell you, the single most important thing you have to do to build a new blog is to post regular content. I was failing miserably.

After that one week of silence I saw my traffic cut almost in half and while RSS subscriptions weren’t dropping yet, they weren’t increasing either.

I had a decision to make. I could let my site join the thousand of other abandoned blogs out there, or I could change how I was doing things to do a better job keeping things up to date.

I chose the later, and here’s what I’ve learned over the past few months:

1. Decide on a realistic posting frequency

For me this was every day, except weekends. Ironically, it’s easier for me to handle posting during work days because I was already in “work mode”. On the weekends, I just wanted to be able to kick back and not think about anything work related.

For you, it may be every other day or twice a week. Whatever you decide on, announce it to your readers on your blog.

Announcing it accomplishes two things.

One, you’re creating and managing your reader’s expectations of when new content will be posted.

Two, you’re making yourself accountable to your readership. It’s harder to blow off posting when you know there’s a bunch of people out there who are expecting to see something new on a given day.

2. Accept that there will be days when you don’t have time to update your blog, or you just won’t feel like it. Then prepare for it.

Most blogging systems have an option to schedule posts in advance. Take advantage of it.

Work with your natural cycles of productivity and write some extra posts when you’re in the mood. Schedule them to post automatically on the days you know you’re going to be busy, or just keep them “unpublished” for the days when you aren’t motivated to write something new.

Generally, I follow this rule of thumb to generate a weeks worth of posts ahead of time and schedule them out, one per day. Then I can forget about posting for a while.

You’d also be surprised how much content you can find and want to share once you’ve already fulfilled your “quota”. Many times I wind up upping my post output to 2-3 per day once the pressure to get something published is gone.

3. Always keep your eyes out for new content and have a way to capture it.

It’s easy to miss opportunities for new content if you’re not looking for them or if you’re not prepared to record and save them for when you’re ready.

You’d be surprised how many times I’ll be surfing another website or reading a blog (many times on totally unrelated topics) and find something relevant to my own site.

Get in the habit of having online and offline means to capture information that will be useful later to your site. I use the following tools:

  • Delicious with the Firefox add on for bookmarking things I find while surfing the net.
  • A text file with various notes, urls, and article ideas.
  • My iPhone camera for snapping shots of cool t-shirts I see around town.
  • A small notebook (I like Field Notes) to write ideas down when I’m not anywhere near a computer.

I also save time on researching posts by using a few different methods of getting relevant information delivered to me, instead of having to go look for it.

  • I subscribe to the RSS feeds of a half dozen industry sites/blogs via Google Reader, and star entries that I think will be useful.
  • Delicious allows you to select tags of your choosing, and then subscribe to the resulting RSS feed. I’ve set up a few separate RSS feeds for relevant phrases and added them to Google. I get some of my best content from what other people have bookmarked.
  • I’ve set up daily Google Alerts (one of the more obscure features of the Google empire) for relevant keywords and get them sent to my inbox. This is a fantastic source of actual news stories on any given topic.

4. Find something small that you can easily cover on a daily/weekly basis.

Every day on Pop Culture Tees I feature a different t-shirt. The post format is pretty simple: name of the design, picture, blurb about the shirt, price and a link to buy it. Doing the post doesn’t take much time at all, in fact, sometimes I’m lucky and people will send me shirts to review and I can skip the whole research part.

Find something to be your equivalent of the daily t-shirt.

Why? It’s a quick and easy way to build your archives, provides fresh daily content without a huge time investment, and fills the gaps between any larger features you might plan to write.

Need some ideas to get started?

  • If your blog covers art/design: every day, link to a different image that has inspired you for some reason. Include a short bio of the artist, a link to their website, and some examples of their work.
  • If your blog covers technology: find an interesting news story and write an opinion piece on it.
  • If your blog covers your life: post something funny/interesting/crazy that you overhear from friends or strangers.
  • If your blog covers music: recommend a new song each day and compare it to something people will have heard before.

5. Encourage readers to contact you.

One of the best things about blogging as a publishing medium is the ease in which people can respond to what you write. Writing becomes less a practice of lecturing and more an invitation to start a dialogue. And you never know where that dialogue could lead.

Include a contact form (never just your email address, unless you have some brilliant spam filters) someplace visible on your blog and encourage feedback, rants and submissions from your visitors. Also encourage users to post comments, and make sure you respond to them, especially in the beginning. Same goes for the emails.

I know, you’re wondering how user feedback will help you maintain your blog. There’s two simple reasons:

  • Readers are sometimes the best sources of new content; and
  • Knowing there’s a real live person behind a blog develops loyalty and relationships.

Thing is, they’re passionate enough about whatever you’re writing about to be reading your blog. Solicit their input and you may be surprised to find your readers linking you to relevant content, sharing experiences that you can write about, or just letting you know that the last article you wrote was awesome.

You’d be surprised how much that kind of response helps motivate you.

Beating the Blogging Blues for Good

At the beginning of this article, I said blogging wasn’t easy. And now that we’re at the end of the article… blogging still isn’t easy.

The suggestions here aren’t by any means a cure-all to the struggles that come from trying to produce content on a regular basis.

There are still days (though they are a lot fewer and farther between) when I don’t post, and I still have that half-written second article of my series still sitting my drafts folder.

But through a combination of preparation, structure, and the encouraging feedback of awesome readers, these guidelines have made blogging easier and a lot more fun for me.

I hope they do the same for you.

About the Author: Liz Fulghum has creative ADD. She’s worked at one time or another (and sometimes all at once) as a web designer, developer, illustrator and writer. Check out the t-shirt blog that inspired this article.

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Comments

  1. I just started so I’m not even close to the burnout phase yet. I do, however, know that it’s coming. In preparation, I’m gathering posts now. I’ve committed to a M-F schedule, so I’ll never feel obligated during the weekends. Right now, I have a half dozen posts in the bank. Hopefully, I can keep making deposits so that when those days when I don’t feel like posting occur, I can just rub a bit of polish on something that’s mostly finished, and keep my momentum.

    I didn’t know about pre-scheduling posts. I need to look into that. It sounds great.

  2. Thanks for the tips. I absolutely agree with you that it’s much easier to write frequently at the beginning of the life cycle of a new blog.

    The Google Reader functionality that you mentioned has helped me a lot, both in gathering news alerts and organizing them for future use.

    Just wondering how much of an effect you think daily posting has on Google rankings.

  3. Great post. Keeping my content fresh is one of my biggest challenges :-)

  4. Thanks for the useful tips; I too constantly struggle to keep my blog content fresh. Ironically I provide blog content to various clients on regular basis, sometimes everyday, but when it comes to writing for my own blog, the poor thing gets neglected. Maybe it’s the instant monitory gratification that I get by writing for others :-)

  5. Writer Dad – pre-scheduling posts is a LIFE SAVER. It lets me take mini-vacations from even looking or thinking about my site. Looks like you’re on WordPress too, so it’s an easy option to set up as you’re posting (over on the right)

    Sheryl – Google page rank is one of those sneaky things… it’s actually based on the number and quality of incoming links to your site. The more high quality (meaning high PR) sites that link to your site, the higher your page rank will be. There’s some other voodoo magic in there too, but Google doesn’t share all their tricks.

    So based on that, daily posting won’t have a direct impact on your PR, but quality (popular) posts and repeat visitors who may be inclined to link to your site will. And posting more gives you more chances of that happening.

  6. Thanks for the shout out for our Field Notes Brand memo books Liz. It’s appreciated. Readers of Copyblogger who want to give them a try can use the coupon code BLOGGED today (8/19/08) to save a buck on their first 3pack.

    Cheers from Chicago…

  7. “As any expert on web publishing will tell you, the single most important thing you have to do to build a new blog is to post regular content.”

    The real question to me, is what constitutes consistent? For me, that’s nothing more than posting at least once a week. 3 times ideally.

    As important as consistent posting is, there is no greater turn off to me than material that is hyper forced just so the schedule is maintained.

    My philosophy generally is, if you got something worthwhile to post, then post. If not, then do not. Whatever that turns out for you, is your blog.

    There are strategies to enhance ones posting, effort not being the least of them. But I do think there is a limit to it – and one should always watch out for forced posts. Myself included.

  8. Your post is really inspirational and interesting (like your blog too!) I’ve been blogging a few months and am so far finding it generally easier to blog now than at first, but I’m still not regular enough about it. I need to commit to a schedule soon. Thanks!

  9. Great tips! Something else I find especially useful is to show lots of Link Love. Linking to other blogs stimulates discussion and gives your blog increased vitality. There’s nothing worse than reading on a computer screen and not being able to link out to other sites that emphasize the points being made in the blog post.

  10. Liz

    Great article – it reminds me why I revamped my blog. Now I have an interview series going as well as involving others in the theme of my blog, meaning I have content for 3 posts a week. I just need to provide one from my own life and instead of struggling to figure out what to write about I have an abundance of blog topics and I get to choose from the best idea each week.

    This is especially good since I’m going to be traveling to Canada in October to visit family for 3 weeks and the last thing I want to do is be tied to my computer!

  11. One thing I will do is write multiple posts when they come to me during those excessively creative moments and then publish later. Of course, they can’t be sensitive to a particular date, but they can make up for some of the dry spells.

  12. There is a hype about post frequency. Most “rules” about a post frequency came from a early blogging days.

    Rules for teenager blog are obsolete when you have a business blog.

    If you have a business blog, do not worry about post frequency. As long as your posts are useful and insightful, readers will come.

    If you are interested in this topic, I even wrote an entire e-book – “The New Rules of Business Blogs”. You are welcome to check it out in my blog at http://www.PositioningStrategy.com.

  13. Nice work, Liz. Welcome to Copyblogger.

  14. @ Liz:

    The thing that struck me most about this post – I have sustained 2 blogs one for over 2 years and another for 1.5 and am launching a 3rd one soon – was this combination: your name ‘Fulghum’ and the ‘apple’. I have a poster titled ‘All I needed to know I learnt in Kindergarten’, which is a book by Robert Fulghum. The poster has as its centrepiece a big, shy, red apple! :-)

    Seeing oddball connections has made many a post possible on my ordinary life blog linked here.

    Thanks for a post whose content I will not forget in a hurry, partly due to experience and partly due to the apple!

  15. uh-uh, ‘shiny’ not ‘shy’ apple :-)

  16. Ditto – welcome Liz.

    Buck

  17. I think its great that Liz lets the content and product speak for itself. I don’t think designers have to be as wordy as they are–they are getting paid to do design.

    Also, I love the poll. The its clear via the poll that Liz and any other writers are concerned about her audience and the community.

  18. Scheduling has to be one of the greatest ways to make sure that you always have content. My brother and I also try to have a weeks worth of posts ahead of time. Having a partner (my brother in my case) makes it great to have someone to bounce ideas off of to keep topics going. If you can have someone to bounce ideas, brainstorm, and be accountable with it does make it easier to keep a blog going.

  19. I find it hard to write content in advance when I feel like a good article should have at least 10 hours put into it. I need to work on mixing things up with small posts in between. This is all great advice though.

    On a side-note I think it’s funny that Liz’s byline says she has “Creative ADD.” I just wrote a post not long ago about embracing Creative ADD:

    http://www.illuminatedmind.net/2008/07/29/how-to-be-more-creative/

  20. Good, helpful post; thanks. But . .. “nougat” of wisdom?

  21. I noticed in interesting effect in blogging – my personal blog where I just steam off what I want to say without caring too much who reads it is the runner, while the business blogs that I run with the purpose of building traffice has a much harder time to gain popularity – any idea why that is?

    And, Liz, here a site with many tees for you to write about:
    http://www.thaidye.com/item/t_shirts

  22. I’ve had bouts of blogger’s block on and off for a while now, and it’s become more common, but I think having something you can regularly post about is a good point, rather than having to come up with completely new concepts for original articles every time.

    For me, my blog is focussed on either me being a writer or politics, so I can usually find something on a news site to link to and offer my perspective on the issue. And more recently, I’ve started storing flash fiction pieces as drafts for when I’ve got nothing else.

  23. Blogging isn’t easy. I see people every day, full of hopes and motivation two months past, crashing out when they realize that DAMN! It’s a job!

    Yes. It can be – especially when blogging is part of your job.

    Know what you want to achieve from blogging before you begin. Know where you’re going. Know *why* you’re blogging and know what will realistically be the drawbacks of it.

    Everyone’s full of good ideas when starting off. It looks easy. The Olympics look easy too, mind you…

  24. nice. there are many ways for keeping a blog uptodate . you can do it by following other blogs via rss or by checking google news .

  25. Hi Liz,

    First I would like to thank you for putting up this post. Its really good and informative.

    I absolutely agree that initially its easy to keep writing probably may be due to the enthusiasm but its hard to sustain that over a long run. I myself had gone through it many times. As it says nothings comes easy so you need to put lot of efforts initially to bring the blog up to a level and probably after that you may not have to put that much.

    Blogging is all about keeping your readers interested and making them come to your blog again to read more.

  26. Yeah . . . what James said! I think people start out with thinking “I have a lot to write about,” and then find there’s a little more to it than that. They need information like this to help them learn how to blog and be efficient.

    One thing I do which I don’t see on many blogs is display the fact that my posting frequency is between 2-3 times per week in my sidebar (like you mention). Hopefully it helps people know what to expect from me.

  27. Liz,
    Great points that are sure to help. I am a firm believer in taking advantage of the scheduling feature in wordpress and blogger. That way when I am inspired I can get a little ahead which helps keep the posts regular for our readers. I think if they didn’t have that feature I would be in trouble.

  28. Great reminders! Any serious blogger would agree that blogging is not easy, as he or she is sacrificing a lot to make readers contented on his post. I must say that blogging about something you are really passionate about is a must. Never blog for money alone. Otherwise, you will quit earlier than you can imagine.

    For part time bloggers like me, scheduling a post and balancing the time between posting and promotion is very hard. I try to post at least 3 times a week and I think that it is sufficient enough to maintain my blogs and yes, there are days I cannot think of a good post but I do not rush myself.

    I am an avid fan of forums more than social sites and it is really helps me to think of my next posts, especially when I can answer their questions.

  29. Liz – Aren’t you the clever one! You’re an inspiration if you can create a post three times a day about t-shirts. I won’t be complaining about thinking of something new to say about real estate anytime soon :-) Thanks for the tips about Field Notes.

  30. Liz:
    I love this article…especially the “disclaimer” at the beginning…

    I have been working to optimize my blog these past few months, learning MORE than I really cared to know about when I started “journaling” my experiences as a writer. Now, with sites like yours and GREAT content, I am discovering what I am doing wrong as a blogger and what items to focus on more…

    Your tip about “Fighting the blog update blues” was right-on…. I have found that by alternating subject matter–all within the same category/topic–it has allowed me the willingness to keep writing.

    Thank you for your words of wisdom…

  31. This is just the tips I needed. Thanks Liz. My blog post have not been consistent in the past, but I am committed to more posts and better focused on my topic of grandparenting and technology. I especially like the tip for pre-scheduling posts.

  32. The disclaimer, where was that when wordpress was installing and I was ecstatic with how easy all this whole affair was going to be.

    Told you so… Indeed.

  33. nice post! i think that your tips are really useful and realistic.

  34. I use to make some scheduled posts at my blog, and now even more because the vacations make me too lazy :D

  35. When I first started my blog, I was ready and posting at full speed. As time progress, I noticed I was getting visitors but no comments, and slowly have decided to change my focus.

    The blog idea has not netted me anything but something for me do in my limited free time. I check my stats daily and I do have visitors but they dont feel compelled to post a comment.

  36. Once again, great information from a great blog.

    I started my venture (or adventure) in blogging about two months ago and this piece hit the nail on the head – “Isn’t this easy”. Though I don’t often struggle with topics to write on, the inspiration and time to actually keep things flowing can be a struggle, especially in the ever-busy summer months.

  37. What a gorgeous blog this is…!!! I suggest this being used as a rich, well presented source of learning to improve the art of blogging for anyone who thinks he/she need it.

  38. Nice blog post. I’m always on the search for new content and other relevent stuff so I can speard the love around.

  39. I’m newly off on my umpteenth blog and I’m already struggling. Thanks for the post. I’ve jotted down some ideas.

  40. Great ideas and great humor! I like humor mixed with an interesting post! (I should try that) Some days blogging is SO easy and some days – Not so easy. Always fun though. I just love it!

  41. I’m new and off to the races with blogging stuff,great tips and strategies on how to beat the blogging blues.Creating a blog post frequency is a good definitely a good idea,It will force me to keep my blog up to date.

  42. And then it dawned upon me that nobody likes my blog about Financial info, getting out of debt etc. The reason is because it is only rated 10 percent out of the topics that people like to talk about. So I better focus on my new site and business idea. Basically a way to help people save a ton of money on moving, packing and other home services. So now I plan to change my theme at blogsomebody too

  43. these are great tips, i’m at that point in my blogging where ideas are either difficult to expand on, or i absolutely am dry on ideas.

  44. Nice post but its still a challenge for me or more of like me to keep fresh your blog content, i try to be realistic and try to overcome this problem with your guide….Thanks

  45. Hello! Very good site! All is done neatly, beautifully

  46. Wonderful article. Updating everyday is remarkably time consuming.

  47. I have found that Starbucks and Makers Mark get the creative juices flowing after a drought of ideas.

  48. Great post. Keeping my content fresh is one of my biggest challenges

  49. John R Carlisle :

    Great article! Staying creative and fresh is not easy when blogging all the time. I hit a wall every few months but after Googling around a little but, have never had much trouble finding a muse online.

    John R Carlisle

  50. These are some great ideas. I too have started blogs in the past only to watch them whittle away over time. I start out so inspired but as the ideas fade, so does the blog. I agree that being passionate about blog is important. My latest adventure is just starting out and I am motivated to do it right this time!

  51. I have found that my frequency of blog posts is as irradic as Tiger’s personal life!

  52. Thanks for the tip. As many bloggers would face from time to time is your mention of the “drought.” As you mentioned, some of the best ways to get out of the drought is by reading and following up on some new news.

  53. One of the things that helps me is to make a plan each week of what I’ll post about, of course that takes a few minutes of researching for new content and capturing it as you mentioned, but I look at this as a business task, if I’m in business it’s my job, just as it would be working for someone else.

    Thanks Liz, btw – nice name :-)

  54. Liz – Great ideas as I am a blogger and I usually suffer from finding good fresh info. Its been a very long time since I read this blog and it looks like I have missed a bunch. but glad to have rediscovered it for sure. Thanks again for the info.

    Scott