5 tips for blogging challenges: A look back at Blog-a-Day Week

Last week was the annual Blog-a-Day Week at WVU Interactive Journalism. The rules are fundamentally simple: students must post on their blogs every day for one week. Beyond the simplicity, however, is quite a difficult task.

Blogging is not easy. It is often thought of something anyone with a computer can do, but it requires a great deal of commitment to write 4,000-5,000 words with proper links and images in a week.

Professional bloggers have this kind of workload (if not more) every week. Based on the 5,000-words-a-week estimate, a professional blogger writes the equivalent of an average-length novel (64,000 words) in 12.8 weeks. Thus, a blogger writing every day writes a little more than four novels in a year.

These books are a visual representation of how much content professional bloggers write in a year. Image uploaded from my iPhone.
The four books at the top of this stack are a visual representation of how much content professional bloggers write in a year. Image uploaded from my iPhone.

Despite the intense workload, I enjoyed Blog-a-Day week and learned some valuable information about blogging. Based on what I learned this week, I would offer five pieces of advice for anyone who wants to participate in a blogging challenge.

1. Work in advance. The hardest part of this week for me (and for many, I suspect) was thinking of a week’s worth of topics to cover. Take some time at the beginning to make a list of things to write about, and use it to write your first few posts. I wrote four of the seven posts the weekend before the challenge started, which helped take the heat off for the rest of the week. It allowed me to always be working on my posts ahead of when they needed to be posted, giving me sufficient time to edit and revise for publication.

2. Google it. And use Twitter. Search engines and Twitter are the best ways to find things to write about. Of my seven posts this week, I found two by Googling phrases related to my blog focus (the NYC Opera and Humble Bundle posts) and three through Twitter accounts I follow (the two Candy Crush Saga posts and the Dredd sequel one). Brainstorming alone only gave me two topics, so Google and Twitter were essential to my blogging challenge.

3. Write about things you’re familiar with as often as you can. I thought writing the posts might get easier as the week progressed, but what I found instead was that the topics that were easiest to write about were those on which I was already knowledgeable. The Soundsupply and Key & Peele posts did not take me too much time to write because, for the most part, I knew what I was going to write about before I started them. The NYC Opera and Humble Bundle posts took the longest because I was not familiar with the histories of those organizations.

4. Keep track of your data. It’s easy to ignore the data your blogging platform provides, especially during a hectic blogging challenge week, but data provides insight into which topics are attracting the most views. The posts on Key & Peele, Candy Crush Saga and real-world branding and Humble Bundle drew the most individual viewers and highest numbers of views, so those would likely be subjects I should revisit in the future. The Humble Bundle is especially noteworthy, as it got those views on a Sunday, and weekends are usually less popular for reading blogs and other online posts. It appears, then, that readers are particularly interested in that topic.

WordPress provides free data for your blog, such as the number of views per day, as seen on this calendar for my Blog-a-Day Week. Image from my WordPress page.
WordPress provides free data for your blog, such as the number of views per day, as seen on this calendar for my Blog-a-Day Week. Image from my WordPress page.

5. Turn one idea into multiple posts. This point means two things to me. First, it means you can get two or more posts out of one subject. In reading about Candy Crush Saga, I found articles talking about branding and Facebook connection, so I could tell there was more than one post in that amount of material. Posts that form a series are helpful because they allow you to delve deeply into a subject without having to overload your blogging process with research.

Second, the idea means you can get multiple posts out of one theme. Think about your previous posts when searching for new topics, and you’ll notice overarching themes between seemingly unrelated topics. I’ve written about DRM-free platforms four times, and two of them were during Blog-a-Day Week. When I wrote about that topic once, it gave me the idea to search for other platforms using similar business models and the issues surrounding these models. Letting your previous posts inform your new ones will help you think of new ideas and create a rich web of connections throughout your blog.

These are just some tips for people doing blogging challenges. What bits of advice would you add to the list?

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