So, you’ve got your brand new nerdy blog all ready to go, but there’s just one problem… Where’s all the content?! When I asked Twitter what kinds of blogging tips they’d like to hear most, how to stay motivated and think of things to write about was by far the most common suggestion. That’s why, for part 2 of my Ultimate Guide to Blogging series, I’ll be sharing some of my top writing tips, as well as the nuts and bolts of how to make what you’ve written appealing to readers through images and catchy titles.
Maintaining a Schedule
No matter how often you write, it’s important to update relatively consistently. I say “relatively” because I don’t have any hard and fast rules about when or how often I post. My general rule of thumb is to post at least once a week, ideally three times a week if possible, but I think the most important thing is to find and maintain a schedule that works for you. You don’t want your readers to forget your blog exists, so trying for a minimum of one post every week is good when you’re first starting out. It’s very easy to start strong when you’re excited about your brand new blog, but instead of posting a ton of things at once, try spacing them out a little to maintain consistency. It’s fine to have a backlog of posts for when you don’t feel like writing, too!
If you like to plan ahead, an editorial calendar may help in creating and maintaining a schedule. Grab a pen and paper, print out a free monthly calendar, or jump into Google Calendar and try mapping out your posts for a month. Personally, I tend to fly more by the seat of my pants, so I usually plan just week by week. I like keep a more flexible long-term schedule and have a running list of post ideas and tackle what I can when I have time (though some things, such as reviews, will go to the top of the list as they come up). I don’t mind doing it that way, but you may prefer to plan out your month so you know exactly what you’ll be working on when.
What to Write About?
If you’re having difficulties coming up with things to write about, here are a few ideas for types of posts you can try:
- Reviews – Reviewing new things such as currently-airing anime, recently-released games, etc. is a great way to stay up-to-date, but you can also broaden your scope to include older things, as well. Shake things up by reviewing anime episode by episode, or do a product review of an item related to your blog’s theme.
- Lists – Lists can be controversial because they often are thrown together with very little effort, but a good list with some explanation about each number is sure to get people talking! You could make a list of favorites, round up a number of products, make a thematic list… The possibilities are endless! One of my most popular posts is 10 Japanese 3DS Games Worth Importing.
- Opinion Pieces – An opinion piece is a great way to put yourself out there in a big way, but there can be some negative side effects such as inflammatory comments depending on the type of content you choose to tackle. Unfortunately, nearly every strong opinion online will be met with some kind of opposition, but if you want to make your voice heard and let you’re readers know what you’re all about or how you stand on a current hot topic, an opinion piece might be the way to go.
- Editorials – An editorial can really be a whole lot of different things that don’t fit into the previous three categories, but if you want to do something different, try thinking of an angle you can take to develop a big meaty piece, like an introduction to the history of magical girl anime, an overview of your favorite video game composer, or an exploration of a specific character trope in otome games. These types of posts usually take a long time to put together, but they can be a great way to set yourself apart and establish yourself as an authority on a subject.
- News – Blogging about news is a tricky one, because I don’t really think it’s realistic to write about all the news as it happens, especially if it’s just you running your blog. My general stance on news posts is if it’s something especially exciting to me and I have something interesting to say about it, I’ll do a post. They can be relatively quick and easy to do, so if you’re looking for something to beef up your posting schedule, give a news post a shot!
- Guides/Tutorials – Guides and tutorials are great because they’re relatively straightforward to write (as long as you know how to do the thing you’re writing about!), and they can be referred back to time and time again. By far my most popular post on Chic Pixel for many years was my tutorial on how to make a Japanese iTunes account, which I completely revamped in 2015. Now the new version is my most-read post! I often talk about downloading Japanese apps, so whenever someone says, “I wish I could do that,” I say, “You can! I wrote a whole guide on how to do it, and it’s super easy!” and send them the link. Brainstorm some guide/tutorial ideas that would be relevant to your readers in your spare time!
The Power of Themed Posts
One great way to help make sure you always have something to write about is to come up with a number of series or themed posts. These may or may not be unique to your blog, so if you’re stumped trying to come up with your own theme, it’s totally okay to use some common ones! The “monthly favorites” theme is very common among bloggers, where you simply make a list of your favorite things from the previous month. If your blog is games focused, these could be your favorite games, if you write about anime, you could share your favorite anime you watched in the previous month, or even broaden to things like favorite related merchandise you purchased over the course of the past month. It’s very flexible!
You could also participate in a themed event another blog is running, such as Chic Pixel’s Community Game-Along! Participating in another blogger’s event is great because everyone loves getting linked to, and you can start some great connections in your blogging niche that way (more on this next week!).
Some examples of themed series on Chic Pixel are my Sunday Spotlights, where I highlight a blog I like (there’s that magic linking again), Swooning Over, where I fangirl over something adorable/awesome (usually merchandise), Japan Envy, which focuses on things exclusive to Japan, and the aforementioned Community Game-Along, a month-long themed gaming event that runs all year. Lauren over at Otaku Journalist has her weekly Otaku Links roundup, which is not only a reliable weekly post idea but, again, great for beefing up that blogging network (Bloggers love when others link to their posts! I know I do). Try thinking of a fun themed series that you can have as an option whenever you’re struggling to come up with what to post!
When You’re Just Over Writing
I assume you started a blog because you enjoy writing, but sometimes the words just aren’t coming. I’ll go into diversifying your content more next week, but since this ties into everything I’m talking about this week, I think it’s important to remember that your posts don’t always have to be words! Maybe you like to talk – well then, start a podcast! Or if unboxing a cool new anime figurines sounds more your speed, it’s super easy to start a YouTube channel and link to your videos within the body of a blog post. In my very un-scientific research it appears that videos are more popular with the under-20 crowd anyway, and throwing some videos in between written posts will give you the option to take a break from writing when you need it.
Also, remember that it is totally okay to step away. Though maintaining a schedule is helpful for gaining and retaining readers, what’s most important is that you enjoy what you’re doing. That’s why you started blogging, right? If you started a blog for the fame and fortune, first of all, good luck with that, but you’ll also need to treat it like a job, and that means working when you don’t feel like it. If you find blogging to be really draining and aren’t getting any enjoyment out of it, it may be time to sit down and think about why you blog, what you want to get out of it going forward, and reevaluate your game plan.
Pictures, Pictures, Pictures
Moving on from writing, I want to stress the importance of pictures. Whether it’s screenshots from a game or step-by-step assembly photos of your newest model kit, images are so important to your posts. How you use images is really up to you, but please, please don’t just post a wall of text without any accompanying images. Do you know how hard it was to come up with images to go with this blogging series? Very hard, but I firmly believe that without a few images, the majority of readers would see a wall of text, think “ugh, I’m not readin’ that,” and immediately hit the back button on their browser.
In addition to images that compliment your text, it can also be really helpful to have a header image that contains the title of your post. It not only looks nice, but can be used when you share your post on social media (way more on this next week!). While I didn’t have time to discuss branding in my Getting Started post, it can really do a lot for the cohesiveness of your blog to decide on one or two fonts and a couple colors that you use throughout your posts. I’m still getting the hang of this myself, but if you poke around in my review tag you’ll see that often I’ll use a similar style for my header images. Whether or not you decide to use a header, good images in the body of your post are a must!
This brings me to blog photography, which may not apply to everyone. In my case, I often take pictures of items I’ve purchased for reviews and other posts. When I first started out I knew nothing from photography aside from some tips on composition I learned in high school art class! But nothing’s worse than a blurry, dark photo in a post with awesome text, because people’s eyes will go right to that image and it will immediately color their perception of the rest of the post. Don’t worry if your photography skills aren’t the best yet – there are still some simple things you can do to instantly improve the quality of your photos:
- Use natural lighting. Don’t use flash. Ever!! Go around your house at different times of the day to find when and where you get the best light.
- A white sheet of paper makes a great backdrop. For crisp, professional photos, look no further than the humble white piece of paper. I use a piece of white poster board for a lot of my pictures, but if you don’t have one, a couple pieces of paper can make a good substitute. Layer them so you don’t get an color from the table/carpet beneath them showing through.
- It’s not your camera, but how you use it. Focusing on things like composition and lighting will do wonders for your photography, regardless of what kind of camera you have. If you have a smartphone, you probably have a pretty decent camera already! I wouldn’t shell out for a DSLR until you’ve played around with photography for a while and decide it’s something you want to get more serious about.
- Use editing software to tweak the brightness, contrast, and color balance of your photos. You don’t need crazy Photoshop skills to make your photos pop! If you don’t have a photo editing program, try Pixlr, free browser editing software that has many of the functions of Photoshop. If that looks too daunting, PicMonkey is extremely easy and straightforward to use. Try playing around with Exposure and Colors and see how it transforms your image!
What’s in a Name?
Your post is written and the images edited and formatted, so you’re all ready to publish, right? Unfortunately, there’s one final step that’s the bane of my existence: titling your piece. For a review, it’s pretty straightforward, but for other pieces you may have to spend some more time thinking of key words you want to include and how you can make them catchy to grab people’s attention.
People often complain about “clickbait-y” titles, but in my opinion what really matters is that you got someone to read on your post! Of course you shouldn’t be misleading, but “5 Reasons Final Fantasy VII is the Best Final Fantasy Game” is much more enticing than “My Favorite Final Fantasy Game.” Be sure to get the key word of the article in the title so it will show up in search results, too: if you’re talking about why Final Fantasy VII is your favorite Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy VII should definitely be in the title!
I haven’t really gotten into the wide world of SEO (search engine optimization), and to be completely honest I don’t understand it all myself, but it definitely helps to consider what search terms people might use to get to your post when writing and coming up with titles. It’s also important to think about what everyone else might be titling similar pieces: you don’t want to be one of 1,000 articles called “My Favorite Final Fantasy Game”!
It’s hard to come up with a good, catchy title, but it’s what people see first and can determine whether or not they even read your post to begin with. Don’t slack off on it!
I’m sure I could go on forever about the nuts of bolts of writing, preparing, and publishing posts, but that’s the fundamentals behind everything I do! While writing usually takes up the bulk of my time, I spend many additional hours that go into photographing and editing images. But once you’ve got your post out there, how do you get people to read it? Next week I’ll be covering everything from guest blogging to social media! In the meantime, hit me up with any questions you might have in the comments!