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Sunday, September 21, 2014

10 Steps to Better Blog Posts

After over 4 years of blogging an average of 4 days a week (and a second blog to boot!), I've gotten into a groove with the process I go through when writing a blog post.  My method and hours have changed from the days when I blogged late-night after work from my couch, and now I blog pretty much exclusively from my bright home office while my son is in preschool.  I outlined my blogging process for you below and it breaks down to 10 steps that I generally follow every time I sit down to write a blog post.  This post is geared mainly towards my fellow "home" or "DIY" bloggers, but bloggers in other niches can certainly benefit from this process.


1. generate ideas 

As a blogger, having an ongoing list of blog topics and ideas is critical for keeping your blog going.  Readers like consistent content and want to see fresh ideas being shared regularly.  Keeping a "Master List" has been helpful for making me feel like my ideas are contained in one place and helping me "remember" ideas I'd otherwise forget. I tend to jot things down in several places and then add them to my Master List later.  I also use the "Notes" function on my iPhone for jotting down blog ideas on the go.  

Since I'm mainly a "home blogger" most of my blog ideas are generated right from my house.  I have an idea of things I want to do to improve the look or function of our house and that provides a lot of the content for my blog.  You can go from room to room in your home to brainstorm ideas for things you'd like to improve/decorate/organize.  Remember, this is just a "dream list" of ideas to help get you going, you don't have to execute them all immediately or ever. 

I'm constantly tearing out pages from magazines, browsing Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, and home sites to see what's new or catches my eye.  I often take screen shots with my phone to save an image for a future writing point.  

People love to see seasonal content as well, so if you have holiday ideas, those make great blog posts.




2.  select a project/gather supplies/shop 

From your list of ideas, you need to choose which one you will execute for your next blog post.    This often depends on time, effort, money, energy.  Many times, as a home or DIY blogger, you'll have multiple projects going at once in various stages of completion.   

Once you choose the next post idea, you need to figure out if you have all the supplies necessary to complete the post project.  For instance, let's say I decide to do a "Fall Mantel", I'd start with an idea for how I want the mantel to look and feel- thinking about the colors, patterns, and the mood I want to convey.  Then, I'll shop my home to pull the look together.  But, if I wanted to add a DIY wreath to the mix, I may need to shop for additional elements to create the look.  

If I need to purchase supplies for a post, I create a specific list of what I need (per project or post),  and I only shop once a week (or via Amazon) to save time.  Sometimes, you can get product from retailers/vendors by asking them for it in exchange for mentioning it on your blog and promoting it via social media.  This requires advance planning though, because they might not respond to you immediately or it takes several weeks for you to get the product.  


3. create 

Creating the project, decorating a space or scene of the blog post is the fun part!  Play, have fun and use your creative juices to pull something together that you're excited to share.  Add your personality and specific touch to the project to make it "yours."  And always leave your readers with something they can "take away" from your post; be it a tip, resource, a new way of seeing something, or just a good feeling.


4. photograph

If you are doing a DIY project, it's probably important to photograph the process the whole way through to give your readers a visual of how to imitate your efforts.  Much has been written about how to achieve the best photos possible, and I'm self-taught using all free tutorials I've found online and through playing with my camera and practicing a lot.  I use a Nikon D90- our Christmas family gift in 2010.  For a year, nearly all of my photos taken with that camera were terrible.  But, as I learned, my photography improved.

Try taking photos from different angles and shoot one subject for a significant amount of time, taking lots of pictures, adjusting your camera settings as needed.  Sometimes you get the best shot right away, but most of the time, it’s those last few that are really great.  I tend to get into a photographing groove after I’ve been at it for about 20 minutes.  Think about leaving “empty” space if you want to add graphics to your that don’t interfere with the picture.  Also, take photos that you don’t intend to post on your blog, just for practice and fun.  

5. select the best photos  

I have a Mac and store my photos in Aperature (the Mac equivalent of Photoshop).  After I'm done photographing and uploading my photos to Aperture (via my wireless Eye-fi card), I view each one and write down the photo numbers of the best ones, then narrow down to the best few to share on my blog.  How many photos you include in your posts is up to you, but I try not to include a million shots of the same thing.  Just enough to tell the story from different angles perhaps.

6. edit photos 

I begin editing my photos in Aperture, typically using curves to adjust the light and dark aspects of the picture, then adjust white balance and sharpen, if necessary.  I then use PicMonkey to resize (600px) and add my watermark.




You can see the difference in the two photos below: 

                SOOC (straight out of the camera)                                    After editing                                                              

I've got three windows open on my computer during this process: 1) Blogger - I drop the editing photos into the post after they are complete; 2) Aperture for choosing, editing and viewing the photos; and 3) PicMonkey for applying the final edits. 


7. draft the content 

Usually, I insert all the photos into the post in the order that best tells the story, then write the content around the photos.  I can then see where the "holes" are and may need to add more photos.  Regardless of whether you write the text or add the photos first, it's important to be authentic on your blog.  If a reader met you in person, the best compliment you could receive is, "you are just like I thought you'd be from reading your blog."  

8. create a pinnable graphic 

This step isn't mandatory, and I often don't include this step because I prefer to let the photo do the talking.  But, sometimes, a good graphic will help spread your post throughout Pinterest, generating more visits to your blog.   This "2014 Printable Calendars" collage graphic I made and published in January has been one of my most visited posts this year.  


I use PicMonkey to create graphics and made a few different options to show you what you could do with a single photos on a post like this:





As you can see, I used the same photo in the five graphic images, just changed the overlays, fonts, and text and the feel/message of the graphic is different with each one.  For more tutorials using PicMonkey, you can read my previous posts here, here and here.   Like photography, it's fun to play with graphic design elements too. 

9. final edit 

After you've written the entire post and are about to publish it, read through it again thoroughly for grammar, punctuation, spelling and flow.  If you're posting a tutorial, make sure it makes sense.  Anticipate the questions a reader may have and answer them for her/him in your post.

10.  respond to comments 

A good blogger not only reads their comments, but responds to them as well.  I've certainly been a "bad blogger" and I cringe when I look back at old posts where I've gotten several comments that I didn't respond to.  In my defense, most of my blogging was done while juggling a full-time job, baby and household, and I was doing good just to get the posts up.  But, the best blog posts often have additional commentary and conversations occurring in the comments.  If someone asks a question, it's likely other people have the same question, so it's important to answer in the comments section.  It's also just kind to acknowledge the people who took time out of their day to leave a comment- especially when most people read without commenting.  



There's a lot more detail I can cover under each point, so please let me know if you want more posts on the topic of blogging. Or you might like to read:


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49 comments:

  1. This is great! Thank you! I'm just about to start my first blog so yes- keep the post about blogging coming!

    ~ Jennifer Inspired

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  2. Great post, Thanks for suggestions, I will try to do some of them!!!

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  3. Wonderful post! I have a similar method to blogging, but it really helped me to see it written out like this. I also am inspired by what you can do in PicMonkey. I also use it, but haven't been using it to its fullest potential. Off to edit some photos!

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    1. So much you can do with PicMonkey- I still have lots to learn! You can google PicMonkey tutorials too for more info.

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  4. Great tips! I'm new at blogging and this is very helpful!

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  5. Great post, Megan! Loved reading your process, you're a great blogger and truly are just like your blog portrays! ;)

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Megan! I'm always curious of the process of other bloggers :)

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  7. Megan, this is awesome. There are excellent tips here! Pinned!

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  8. I love this post! I guess it's nice to see what others do and feel a sense of 'I'm doing it half right' and how to improve. I know some people who whack out 4 posts in an hour and there's me faffing in photoshop. I think it's so worth the extra effort to get good images and do some research. Love this post so much. Thanks for sharing x

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    1. 4 posts in an hour?? I'm happy to get one in a day! :) Thanks for your comment!

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  9. This is a really great post Megan. Very helpful. I have not "yet" stepped into having my own blog. I did venture into my Instagram account and think I can apply some of your advice and tools to that. I am feeling I am lacking in my IG account. Any tips are helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write this post and your blog Megan!

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    1. I like getting to see your Insta pics Allison. I'm glad I get to see into your world, even if you don't have a blog. You are such a sweet woman Allison!

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  10. Great post Megan. Two questions I have, 1) there are so many things I feel I could post about, but feel so many have already posted "their" version. I have been organizing for years, just did not have an outlet to share my tips with until now. And 2) we have lived in our home now for 22 years, at some point "projects" run out...there is only so many times one truly needs to redo a room, at some point redoing for the sake of a new post is NOT cost effective. How do you handle these types of things. While not a food blogger, I do post often our recipes as I know everyone needs to eat and this is something that is easily changed. And, I added my Reflections posts on Sundays...you will never run out of scriptures and quotes!!

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    1. There is only so much you can do in your home, and I have added fashion posts to vary up the content and so that I don't have to have all original photography/projects all the time. And I love graphic design, so I'm incorporating more fashion design boards - see Wednesday's post for an example. ;) I've always written about whatever is happening in my life- so that's projects, organization, fashion, and some family stuff. I never tire of food posts either! :)

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  11. These are great tips, thanks for sharing! Any more advice would definitely be appreciated.:)

    Sarah
    Sweet Spontaneity

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    1. Thanks for letting me know Sarah. I'll plan some future posts.

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  12. Such a great post. When I started, I was doing 5x a week but with a new baby, I quickly got burned out. Now, I try to blog 3x a week (M, W, and F) which is definitely more feasible for me since I'd rather do quality than quantity. Thanks for the tips Megan!
    Linh
    http://abeautifulrawr.com

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    1. It's so hard to do anything with a new baby- but it's still fun to have that blog to turn to for your "me" time. Less posts are better than just "filler" posts anyway. :)

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  13. I love these tips! I want to get back to blogging but start over in a new way. Any tips are appreciated!

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    1. Thanks Leigh- I'll keep it in mind for the future.

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  14. Such great tips! I should try out that photo editing you have.

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  15. Thanks Megan. I love posts like this. I have a small blog really to capture what I am doing at home for myself, friends, family, and neighbors who have asked about different projects I am doing and for when my mom is living at her California home during the winter.

    But I know others are viewing my pages so I want to be at my best, and I love the outside traffic. These tips are wonderful and help me think about how and what to write and what process to follow. I will definitely do a walk through tonight and jot down thoughts on possible projects and improvements in each room. Thanks again!

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    1. I'm glad that's helpful Jennifer! My grandma reads my blog from California too! :)

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  16. Are you not working anymore? When did that happen?? I would love a follow up post on coming up with topics. Most of what I write about are projects I do, but it's impossible to do enough projects to support multiple posts per week. I don't feel like I'm enough of an "expert" to write about home design and those types of things, so I have trouble coming up with things to write about.

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    1. Yep, home now and really enjoying it! It is impossible to complete a project for every post, but you don't have to be an expert to write about what you're passionate about. Sometimes you can just write about things you're considering for your home or use it like a journal for what you're doing in your life. But, I will say, it's better to have 2-3 good posts a week than 5 just so-so posts. Even one a week is fine if it's a quality post.

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  17. Thank you so much! I'm new to blogging world - just started reading blogs last year which triggered my passion for DIYs and started blogging 2-3 months ago. I don't know what I'm doing half the time, but thanks to experienced bloggers such as yourself, giving us (newbies) great tips. Aloha!

    Danielle
    www.hangloosewahine.com

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    1. Thank you Danielle! And best wishes on your new blog! :)

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  18. Loved seeing your process Megan! Very similar to mine except I use Photoshop to do my editing. I really need to go back and read your pic monkey tutorials because I need some help when it comes to creating "pinnable images." Thanks so much for sharing! Always love your blog. :)

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    1. Thanks Erin. I think photoshop is similar to Aperture, but I wish I was proficient in photoshop- I know there's so much more I could do graphic design-wise with PS.

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  19. I am so glad you posted this, as a new blogger organizing my thoughts, plans, and projects has been a difficult thing to navigate. It is especially helpful to hear it from the perspective of a home/DIY blogger.
    One topic I would love to hear a more in-depth conversation about is carrying out multiple projects. You mention you often have several in process at any given time - how to you delegate your time to each project? I'm just wondering if you have a system for making sure things are finished in a reasonable time frame. Thanks!!

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    1. That's a great question Cassie. Lots of juggling happening and sometimes you just have to focus on one until it gets done. I'll keep in mind to write about what it's like "behind the scenes" to have multiple projects happening at once. Thanks for letting me know you'd like to hear more.

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  20. I just discovered your blog after reading Shaeffer's Closets Confessions (your closet is amazing by the way! :)). I am a new blogger and these tips are really helpful! Thanks for sharing!

    Jill
    dousedinpink.blogspot.com

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    1. So happy to hear that Jill! Thanks for stopping by! Shaeffer's post had me cracking up!

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  21. I for one love when you right these types of posts. I am a blogger myself, so I am always looking to learn every last thing I can. I have been blogging for almost two years, and also have a full time job and three children, so I totally relate to the fact that I am busting it to just get the posts up and also to get the projects done to blog about. Don't get me wrong, it is my joy, it is also my dream to be a full time blogger. So thanks for writing posts like this, because I love them! Keep them coming!

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    1. Nicki, you have your hands full! How old are your kids? I've been blogging since my son was 4 months old so he's grown up with it. My husband took some getting used to it, but I think we know it's the norm now. Thanks for your comment. I'm drafting another blogging post now. :)

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  22. Thanks for the tutorial Megan!! I have been editing my photos in Photoshop but think it makes so much more sense to do it all in the one spot in Aperture! Thanks for the tips :)

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  23. This is my second read of this post. I'm just starting out and am finding your posts super helpful and easy to follow. And thanks for turning me on to Pic Monkey! Would love more posts about blogging!

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  24. Only just reading this post now (not sure how I missed it!), and soo glad I did! It's so nice to see how bloggers that inspire you work their magic. My blog is a little of everything but this process applies to all genres/niches.
    Just curious, if you have any recommendations for online photography courses or favourite photography blog posts?

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I read every one! I try to answer questions in the comment section since many readers are "no reply" and so everyone can benefit from the response- so please check back. :)

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