Slogging and Blogging Through the Bad Times

blogging through the bad times

This is not the blog post I had intended for the first post of 2018. This is not a blog post I EVER intended to write. But in the spirit of keeping it real, of giving you behind-the-scenes access, and of hopefully inspiring you with this message, here it is.

2018 so far has not been the stellar opening to a new year that it could’ve been. It’s been bitter cold. So cold, in fact, that my trusty Volkswagon Rabbit refused to hop on New Year’s Day. Her battery had died over the weekend. Two short days of sitting out there in the driveway in the nasty cold had dissipated her will to go on. Thankfully, my neighbor had a battery charger that allowed me to revive her enough to get to the auto parts store in town. Then, more bad news. Just like health care for humans, health care for Rabbits has skyrocketed. Her new battery is going to cost over $200! I know where the first extra $200 is going this year. Oh, and I awoke New Year’s morning to find the ice and snow had pulled the rain gutter off the front of my house. Only half of it or so, leaving it dangling right in front of the double windows. It’s still there, as no one will come out in the bitter cold to fix it, even if I knew who to call.

Then came 2 January. It dawned bright and sunny. The Rabbit was back on her paws, umm tires, and things seemed to be looking up. Until 10am, when my son called “Hey Mom!” in THAT voice. You know, the one reserved for REALLY BAD STUFF. I entered the room to find him pointing at our Max the Cat. He was bleeding from his face. Apparently, cats can get dental abscesses that can just burst through the skin. The vet won’t even see him till next week, after it quits draining and heals a bit. Anyone who has ever tried to give medical attention to a squirming, squalling, growling, pissed off 12 pound tom cat knows how the rest of my day pretty much went.

Nothing, though, of the first two days of the year could prepare for or compare to the next day, 3 January. The day started rough, with a sick cat and little sleep, but then came the news in the afternoon that the dear sweet daughter of a dear sweet friend had suddenly died. She was a bold, beautiful, sassy teenager who had her own sense of fashion, style, and taking life by the horns. The world is a whole lot less sparkly and bright without Finn in it.

So, that brings us to today. Blog post day. My head hurts. My heart hurts. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to take a bath, read a book, eat some chocolate, or do all three at once. ANYTHING but sit down at the keyboard and pound out a blog post.

So why do it? Because I should. Because I need to. Because some semblance of normalcy is necessary. Because it’s good for me AND you. And because Finn. Her life motto was “Be yourself”.

I see so many blogs, so many businesses, suffer when the owners hit bad times. Hard times. There’s this mindset that ONLY the GOOD stuff can be written about. That ONLY wins to be celebrated can be public knowledge.  That to share the dark stuff, the sad stuff, the bad crap that happens somehow makes you a bad business person.

I call bull…t. Absolute bull…t. Business, whether B2B or B2C, is all conducted by and for humans. It’s all about people. It’s all helping other humans solve their problems. Which in my book means business is based on problems. We ALL have problems. And sometimes, like now, the problems seem daunting and seemingly have nothing to do with business, and everything to do with us as humans. And since humans run business, it has everything to do with that, too.

It’s time for the business world to get real. To stop being phony. To let the rest of us in your bad days, your tough times. Show us your slog through the muck Life throws at you. Why? So we can learn from your journey. So we can feel better about our own trips through the cesspits of Life and business and this we call being human.

As the Greek philosopher said, “No one is wise by choice.” We gain wisdom and strength by working through the bad times. We learn what we can do. We learn what we are CAPABLE of doing. And when we can learn that from others without having to go through something ourselves, we can become wiser and more capable still.

So let’s be real this year. Let’s be honest with ourselves and others. And let’s hope 2018 is one of peace, joy, and prosperity for all of us. And for being ourselves.

 

5 Quick and Easy Steps to Bad Blogging

via GIPHY

 

The web is full of “tips and tricks” posts on blogging and every other topic, and here at Bloomers, I feel that sometimes the best thing to do is to follow the crowd. (NOT often, mind you, as I march to the beat of my own bloomers, but there always comes a time when it seems appropriate…)

If you’ve ever read ANY of my content or talked with me online or off for any length of time about what I do here at Bloomers, you know I tend to ramble incessantly talk a great deal about content. Its importance. Its relevance. Its various forms. And incessantly invariably, that brings up blogging.

Put the two together and what have you got? A “tips and tricks” post ALL ABOUT BLOGGING. (Big surprise there, right?) I see a LOT of blogs in my roles as blogging coach, copywriter, and content marketer. I review them, write them, audit them. I see the good, the bad, and the “don’t meet it in a dark alley” ugly. Today, we’re gonna focus a bit on the latter of the three. It IS October, after all, and horror shows are “in”. Let’s count down the top 5 ways to be a back alley bad blogger, shall we?

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #5 – Blogging for no good reason

I know you might be sick of hearing this, but you should NEVER create ANY content without a really good reason for it. Create a content marketing plan, an editorial calendar, even just a list of blog goals on the back of the receipt from yesterday’s Starbucks. I don’t care how detailed or vague you make it, but you NEED to where you want to go with your blogging efforts before you ever start blogging.

It’s like taking a cross country trip without knowing which direction to begin with, turning off your GPS, and leaving the maps unread. You CAN get there from here, but who knows how long it will take you, or how many wrong turns you’ll be making along the way.

Purpose – Your road map to success

I often see bad bloggers just blogging away with no purpose, no direction, no goal (except perhaps to sell stuff) and then they wonder WHY their blog has no decent results. Just how important IS a plan, a strategy, a  REASON for blogging? Every minute, 70 new blogs are started on WordPress. Every minute. That’s a LOT of competition out there, a lot of noise to rise above. And yet, most surveys say that somewhere between 65 and 69 of those will be abandoned within 18 months – considered failures, or simply not worth the effort. The successes seem to all have one thing in common from the start – a distinctive purpose for being.

That purpose can be to communicate a singular message, to build a community, to create a place for resourceful information, or to simply entertain or uplift the reader. (The best do all of those things.) The thing is – that purpose is clear almost from the beginning, and the blogger behind the keyboard works to that end. Stop blogging just to put up a post. For the love of all that’s bloggish, spare us more of that. Find a reason. Pick a goal. Work toward achieving it.

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #4 – Creating ONLY one kind of content

You know those list posts I mentioned? Yeah, they’re everywhere. And on some blogs, that’s the only kind of post you’ll find. On others, it’s all “how to” content. I can understand recipes on a foodie blog, but I also enjoy OTHER topics like how to select produce or cheese or create the perfect dinner party menu.

Let’s touch for a moment on the fact that not every blog post needs to be, well, WRITTEN. Post a video, a link round-up, an infographic, a slide deck. (Some things that will be coming to Bloomers’s blog very soon.) Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean it HAS to be black text on white background, ya know? (Seriously stepping out of MY comfort zone. You can do it, too.)

A good blogger knows that there is more than 1 kind of blog post you can create. A good blogger knows that the reader LIKES variety in their blog posts. No magazine has the SAME type of articles in every issue. Not even your newspapers get that boring. Mix it up. Get creative. Your audience will love you for it.

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #3 – ONLY addressing ONE level of reader.

We all have our “ideal” reader – that target audience that needs to know what we have to offer, that finds our blog to be the “one source” for their information, inspiration, or entertainment. And every blogger should have THAT ideal reader identified, so that they can present the majority of their content to that person. However, gang, we all know that people come to us from all levels of experience.

There are the newbies who stumble upon us via a social share or SERP. There are those who are familiar with our topic and interested in what we have to say/teach. And then there are those who are our peers – knowing as much, perhaps even more, than we do. While MOST of our content should focus on ONE of those “levels” of experience, that doesn’t mean that we can’t create content for ALL of them.

An easy way to broaden your audience

How, you ask? Simple. Start with the basics – the “need to know to make any sense of this” info. That pretty much covers the novices. Then, add more. Go more in-depth. Get into the finer details. Introduce new concepts that build upon that base-level knowledge. If your ideal reader IS a newbie, then you don’t have to give them MUCH higher-level stuff, but sometimes knowing the “next step” can help direct your first ones. As for your peers, you can address them, too, with reviews, asking for their opinion in the comments or on social media, perhaps even requesting one or your more of them to guest post for you.

By addressing ALL levels of your readers, you create a friendly, open atmosphere. You are still the leader, but you invite conversation and interaction from all the members of your following. AND you create a blog with a bigger reader appeal and eventually, readership.

How to be a bad blogger Tactic #2 – NOT watching their language

I’m not talking dropping F-bombs every other word or suggesting censorship of ANY kind. If that’s your thing, go for it. We all gotta be true to ourselves, right? If that’s the image you want to project to your followers, that’s your right…

No, what I’m talking about is a couple of completely different aspects. The first is jargon, and the second is your readability score. And in some instances, the two can get intertwined.

Insider Jargon

Some guys just can’t help themselves when it comes to filling their blog posts with insider jargon. Granted, there is such a thing as industry-specific language, but if you are trying to reach new readers who may not have much insider knowledge, you’re screwed if you use too much of it without defining it first. I find this a lot on tech/SaaS and marketing blogs. They use their insider jargon non-stop and then wonder why their customers don’t read their blogs or respond to their posts’ CTAs.

In my experience, MOST of the people hiring or buying tech, SaaS, and marketing services and products typically AREN’T in the industry themselves. They are hiring you, buying YOUR stuff BECAUSE they aren’t techy, SaaS developers or marketers. You AREN’T addressing your peers in your posts. Stop creating content that only THEY could understand. Write for the common ordinary guy who just wants to hire you to develop his app or get him more leads. You’ll have much better success.

Readability scores

And then there’s that pesky readability score. I recently reviewed and audited a fellow marketer’s blog. His readability scores were well over Grade 12. He assured me he has good solid justification for this, but I don’t buy it. Study after study has shown that several things come into play when we read online:

  • the size of our screen
  • the activity in the background
  • our offline reading speed
  • our reason for reading

All data suggests that we read slower online than off. We read slower because we don’t simply track left to right on the screen (or right to left, if your language prefers). We are often distracted by other “activity” on the page. We are sometimes distracted by activity in OUR background – especially when reading on mobile in a public place. And we often read online material to LEARN something, which means we read slower so as to not miss anything important.

All of this adds up to the fact that lawyers, surgeons, engineers and even PhDs prefer a lower online readability level than they can comfortably read offline. The average well-educated individual can comfortably read at a high school level. Take that down a few levels to adjust for the online aspect of the reading material and you’re looking at levels in middle school. Yes, even college professors and folks with 8 years of college education prefer their online reading to be easily understood by your average 14 year old.

Now, take into account that YOUR business’s blog probably does NOT address folks with THAT level of education or reading comfort. Where are your readers’ reading levels? Closer to elementary school, perhaps? That’s why I and every other blogging coach will tell you to shoot for readability scores between Grade 5 and Grade 8. Easily read content GETS read, and if reading your content is vital to your blog’s success, you will want to do all you can to ensure it gets read. (There’s also some anecdotal evidence from as recent as July that posts with better readability scores are getting ranked higher by Google. Nothing hard and fast yet, but I’ll take a SERP boost any white hat way I can get it.)

How to be a bad blogger Tactic #1 – Like a loser on Saturday night, you’ve got no style

Ever read a half dozen blog posts or so and not really remember ANY of them? Or have one REALLY stand out? How about the business blogs that ALL sound alike? I’m not talking similar topics, but actual style, voice, tone? Like cookie cutters in the bakery, all churning out the same stuff, just using slightly different words.

If you follow many blogs, I’ll bet there’s a common factor among all of them. It’ll be something different from reader to reader, but there’ll be that ONE thing that most, if not all, of your favorite blogs have in common.

In a word, it’s called STYLE. Your favorite bloggers will have their own distinctive voices and their own way of using them. And if you look closely at your blog roll, you’ll most likely find that your faves have something similar in that voice and style. It’s what attracts you to them as a reader. It’s probably a part of your persona, too. You’ve found kindred spirits whom you can resonate with. And that makes them god bloggers to you, and for you.

Don’t be the boring guy at the party

Even business blogs for serious businesses can have some personality, a voice, of their own. I’ve written for lawyers and surgeons and financiers and created blogs without that stuffy boardroom, starched underwear feel to them. Together, we created interesting, likeable, personable blogs by allowing the blog to have its own personality. That doesn’t mean that you have to be “personal” on your blog.  It just means you can let the blog HAVE a voice, a style, a persona. You can shine through it without naming names of your pets, or children, or spouse, or without even mentioning ANY personal details. You just have to remember that real humans are reading your blog. And humans prefer to engage with folks with some style, some uniqueness. The guys who turn out to be boring only get invited to the party once. Boring blogs seldom attract repeat readers.

How to be a bad blogger BONUS Tactic – Inconsistency

(Yeah, I know…preaching to myself here, too.) Want to lose readers in a BIG hurry? Want to get frustrated with how long it’s taking your blog to grow? Ready to chuck it all in as not worth the effort? Blog inconsistently. Go weeks or even months (head hung in shame) without blogging. Get too busy or too important and turn your back in your readers.You’ll find they usually turn their backs on you, too.

Stats show that organic reach of ANY blog jumps dramatically after 50-55 posts are published. Stats show that even once-a-week bloggers develop loyal, BUYING audiences of readers. It’s not hard to see how bloggers go from 0 to 6 figures in a year or two. It just takes a consistent, even effort.

Plan to succeed

Just like you need a well-defined purpose and a well-defined reader to have blogging success, you also need some sort of editorial calendar. Some sort of plan of what to blog about and when to blog about it. It can be as complex or as simple as you need. (Mine’s a spreadsheet with over a dozen columns, but then I do this professionally.) Map out what you’re going to be blogging about for the next 60 to 90 days. Then, set aside the SAME time each week to get the job done. That time is SACRED on my calendar. NOTHING (now) interferes with or is scheduled in place of my blog writing time. IT’s too important to my success, both as a blogger and as a business, to allow for anything else. It should be for you, too.

What next?

Got a question about becoming a recovering bad blogger? Add it to the comments below or go to the Bloomers Facebook page. The world needs fewer bad bloggers, don’t you agree?