I’m often baffled by bloggers who confess to having a complete lack of ideas to blog about when the possibilities for dozens upon dozens of posts are sitting there right in front of them. All that you need for a large number of posts is one idea that can be broken down into a lot of others and the knowledge of the art of writing in series.
Most people think of series in a very limited fashion: a detailed enumeration of a list, for example. The fact is that a series is merely any collection of posts with a common theme among them, and a well-executed series is one that provides a lot of post ideas right off the bat. Take this series, for example: it was borne out of simply making a list of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging and suddenly realizing that most of these ideas make for a good post by themselves. It wasn’t enumerated or anything; it was merely a random collection of ideas on a theme.
In fact, most successful blogs use series in some respect. This is because the benefits of writing in series are numerous: it provides a forum for a more detailed investigation of an issue than a single blog post really offers, it provides fodder for a number of blog posts, and the continuation of a series provides a lot of incentive for readers to continue tuning in.
Here are some tips for defining and executing series in your blog.
Start off with a list. If you have a “big” central idea, try making a list of the ideas within this idea that you’d like to cover. The thread between these sub-ideas is the core of a series and that list can be the starting point for a large number of posts. Even better: if you can find a pre-established list of ideas, someone has handed you a list to work with. For an example of the latter, see my rewrite of a list from Money Magazine.
Don’t post them all at once. Your readers can get overwhelmed if you post a lot of posts on a single topic. Don’t post all of the members of a series at once; instead, recognize this as a great opportunity to keep something in reserve.
When you finish a list, neaten it up. Make sure that members of a list link to an overall master post and also link directly to the “next” item in the series. This is difficult to do while you’re posting the series, but when you finish it, it’s well worth your time to add these options. Why? A reader from a search engine that is drawn into the article at all will be willing to follow links to more items in the series.
Have some consistency with the titles. Bloggers will be interested to know when you post a new item in the series, so be sure to include the name of the series in each post in the series. This also aids those terms (in the title of the series) to appear as terms related to your blog on search engines.
A series is not only a great way to continually provide ideas and posts for your blog even when you’re suffering from a creative drought, but it can also engage your audience and keep them coming back for more.
Building a Better Blog for 2007 is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Post Consistently, or back to the previous one, Use the Senses.