Today Leo Babauta from Zen Habits shares what he did in 2007 that improved his blog the most.
Improvement on Zen Habits has come in many small doses this year, but if I had to pick one thing it would be my transition to longer, less-frequent “feature” posts that go into more depth about a topic.
My readers have responded very well to these types of feature posts, and they seem to do pretty well in social media like Digg and delicious too.
The change actually came in a couple of steps: 1) I moved from shorter, more-frequent posts to longer ones; and 2) I more recently moved from a set schedule to a more relaxed schedule of posting when I feel like it.
The first move came when I realized that the shorter posts weren’t doing as well and weren’t as effective. Often the shorter posts (and these were early in the year) would link to another blog’s post and comment on it, but the feature posts are often much, much more useful and definitely have more depth. They seem to move my readers more, to serve them better in their lives, and in my opinion, if you can accomplish that with a post, you’ve found real success.
The second move came when I began to feel forced to write posts. I had been on a weekly schedule, where I wrote about a certain topic on each day of the week. I actually really liked the schedule, and so did my readers. But on some days, the posts felt forced, and I didn’t have much to talk about on that day’s topic. My readers began to feel that forcedness (forced-ocity?) too, so that was a clear sign that change was needed. Now, instead of doing 5 posts a week, I often do 4, and I write about whatever I feel like writing about. That’s really
transformed my writing, because it allows me to follow my passions, to write about my current interest, and the writing is the better for it.
What I’ve done might not work for every blogger, but it’s something I recommend at least trying. If you’re doing shorter posts, try writing some longer ones, exploring the topic more, linking to other resources, giving lists of tips, making the post truly useful. If you post frequently, consider cutting your schedule back a bit — it’ll give you more time to write great posts, and your readers will probably appreciate having fewer posts to read.
I think a blog needs a good mix of shorter posts and feature posts. Some blogs post articles that are way too long and leave me looking for the back button, while other are filled with short anecdotal posts that leave much to be desired.
Everything in moderation.
I think these are great tips, Leo. Since most blog posts are pretty short, writing longer posts will stand out just by virtue of being different, if nothing else. However, this has to be tested because depending on your audience, it could be seen as either a positive or a negative.
Posting when you feel like it makes a lot of sense for many bloggers. If posting slightly less frequently transforms forced posts into inspired posts, I think it’s well worth it. Then again, bloggers who break the news will need to stay on top of things, so it depends on your niche.
plain logic…. what interests me is that, do you, Darren or Leo or other probloggers, have backup posts ready to be published? so like on som day you have no time or no enthusiasm and simply copy and paste that post that you’ve prepared in advance?
p.s. at the time of this comment, it was almost 10 pm 26th dec. 2007… im a little confused about commenting on a post that had been published in the future… :)
Very interesting post, and exactly what I needed today. I’ve just started my blog not long ago about a company I just joined(uVme) and I feel like I have to post something everyday it seems. Actually, I want to post, but like you, feel forced to write about something. I was thinking about what you said, replace my short posts with a longer posts with links in it. This was a very helpful post indeed and I will definately be trying this out.
I really think this is good advice for any blogger, but I would replace the word ‘longer’ with ‘higher quality’. It is possible to put together a high quality post that gets traffic, links etc that isn’t long but the key is really giving value to your readers.
I find that it’s very easy to knock up an opinion post about something but it rarely gets very much traffic or does well in social media because it doesn’t provide anything special to the readers.
Your success may due to the fact that over time readers have learned the value of your posts. I test both approaches. I also think it is very important to relate length to the content you are writing. It may not be effective to write a short post on an accounting issue. In any event people are looking for answers and they should be provided in an immidiate manner to keep people coming back.
Don’t kick me too hard about anything I’ve said, I’m still learning.
What great advice, especially to those of us starting out. The temptation is to think that we should post daily whether or not we have something to say – but it’s great to see that putting thought and time into a post works well.
Great points Leo. I’ve found that posting perhaps three or four times a week (sometimes less), with longer posts is best for me as well. I’ve found lots of blog posts from other blogs that are either way too short and have no real substance, or they’re so long that I’m completely lost and can’t finish the entire thing. The real long ones are those I think work best splitting them up some and creating more of a series of posts, with each linking to the others.
Good advice. For the most part I’m proudest of my long posts that give a depth of information about a topic. But I think readers might appreciating mixing it up with some shorter, lighter posts too.
There seems to be common misconception that for a blog to be successful, you must post at least once a day. But the fact is that there are many successful blogs that less than that, such as one post a week
I’ll be honest and say I fell in to the ‘trap’ of posting once or more a day. Like you, Leo, I sometimes feel myself having to force a post. However, it’s certainly very hard to change a schedule once you and your readers are used to it.
Once you have a schedule, it’s not easy to adjust to a new one. If you’re thinking of changing schedule, my advice would be to do it as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to change.
Thanks 4 the N sight. I’ve been considering moving to a schedule, but prefer posting when I feel inspired.
Ifind that I also prefer longer more in depth post. Both writting them and reading them. I do like to be spontaneous from time to time. For example to use a shorter post to direct my readers to something I may have just discovered and likely won’t make a detailed post about myself.
I’ve had mixed results on this. I have Beer Nuts articles which are quick notes about stupid people and beer, and some serious feature articles which span several pages. The top articles come from each category, and I think both tend to work. The shorter articles allow me to keep the site updated frequently while I work on longer articles.
When I started blogging, I felt like I had to post something every single flapping day — and you’re right, even though its a personal blog about my own stuff, I was burning out. I felt like if my readers didn’t see something every day they’d take their inbound link and run away.
I post as regular as I feel like it now and most days it is daily. The feature article works great for money making blogs, but I wonder if I could expand my weekly same topic post more? Thanks!!
I tend to keep a post “featured” for one week. Two weeks if I think it provides exceptionally high value to my readers.
Does a blog get boring if you only have feature posts? I see some large blogs (no names…) that just focus on the best things in life but they seem to have lost my interest. Hey, i can’t complain about the good content but it’s now boring because although they haven’t exhausted the content, it just doesn’t sound as much exciting anymore…
What would people do to continue giving out good feature posts while keeping the blog with a good level of interest?
Hi. Thanks for this post. Like Leo, I tend to do a better job when I’m writing about something that I’m passionate about. I’m still new at this, so it’ll be interesting to see what style I develop over time.
When it starts to feel forced, I know it’s time to take a mini break. Not a long break of weeks, just a day or two where I completely remove blogging from the picture. I still read other peoples blogs, but I don’t even think of writing a new post during that time.
I always feel recharged when I come back and more creative even. That’s what works for me anyways.
“I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one” – Mark Twain
I agree with Caroline – replace ‘longer’ with ‘higher quality’ and you’ve hit the nail on the head.
How do you know that the changes you made are “working”?
I tend to do medium length post (between 300 and 600 words). I don’t really believe long articles are beneficial for you. Yes, they do tend to receive more comments and they also tend to do well in social media. But also think about the cons: You might get burnt out and also They take time to write. Of course, whether you burn out or not depends on your niche. But in my opinion, medium length posts are much better…
It’s a steady procedure to go with longer analytical posts from short ones. I’ve noticed that smaller ones tend to get me more comments faster, the longer ones have done well too.
I guess your readers need to get prepared for longer type of posts, this will make them used to reading you at a slower pace and paying more attention to your feed.
But once you do, you can get away with shorter ones ;-)
I just wrote a blog entry on not forcing yourself to write, and I think it makes blogging more laid back like you say. You can find it here: http://www.moneyandblog.com/2007/12/how-to-write-horrible-blog.html
I enjoy writing longer posts, really. It allows for more creativity, and original idea to manifest in your blog.
Very few people can get away with writing long posts when your area is humor. A select few can do it. I’m not one of those select few.
I often see reviews of humor blogs that take a beating for being too long, and worse yet is the criticism that it could be shorter, if only the author had the talent to be brief. Ouch.
Maybe it’s not so bad that my posts are short after all.
Since this month on any single day I post somewhere aroung 8-15 posts a day. And because of the nature of my blog there are often things going around that i can talk about. I do “feature” posts atleast 3 times a week. and this month alone I am hitting 110+ posts. Whch resulted in almost double me subscription base from last month.
I think the secret here is that in the early stage of your blog one should concentrate more on quatity (but should have atleast 2 features well researched posts a week). But after the blog has reached a stage where it can be considered “established” (ie 1000+ feed readers), one can slow down and concentrate on quality, which will eventually drive even more readers.
You can see a detailed comparison of my feed readers and post count froom last month here: http://www.blogperfume.com/feed-analysis/index.php?months=6&uri=http://feeds.feedburner.com/linuxhaxor/zvzl&pro=1
Yes. Longer, feature-like posts that really explore the subject from differing angles and reach a legitimate conclusion are usually better than short, quick posts that offer random, drive-by insights.
Plus, writing when you feel like it, when you actually have something to say–that’s when you should write. Don’t worry too much about setting some strict schedule and adhering to it regardless of your lack of material for that day.
Blogging is a different form of writing and publishing than say, newspaper stories on daily deadlines; you should recognize that in your writing approach and adjust accordingly.
Bottom line: blogging when you truly have something to say and are motivated to put the time and effort in to cull together other resources (links to other posts that amplify your own) and write out a compelling, in-depth exploration of an issue–that will probably enhance your writing and the benefit from blogging that both you and readers desire.
Great info Leo – sometimes I get bored reading shorter posts that are not long enough to be about them. Mind you, I have the opposite problem and often write posts that are far too long!
Nicely written and although I never thought about it it’s true, my posts that are more definitive and comprehensive are far more popular. Just the other day someone said to me “I think that the things you write about are so interesting but I can’t always get to the bottom of them”. He said “Maybe add more links” which really confused me because I always/regularly use links (even if they’re linked images which most people don’t get). But now that I read this, I realised that I’m trying to keep my posts shorter so people “want” to read them, but this is clearly not the case. Many thanks!
Also, if you ever read this, you may want to fix your paragraph break in the second last para…
Last few months I see exactly same dynamics. But… I can’t stop writing smaller posts, they don’t seem to be very important to readers, but they are important to me. Plus, they keep ME in the loop of updating blog more often.