Building a Better Blog: Don’t Leave Them Hanging

We all get burnt out sometimes and want to take a break from our projects, no matter how much fun they are. As much as I enjoy The Simple Dollar, I do like to take long weekends in the country where my responsibilities are far behind me and it’s fine to just spend an entire day laying on the floor reading a book. Other times, I just get tired of the grind of writing so much content every night and I simply need a bit of a break from it. As intellectual human beings, we need to take breaks occasionally and let our minds stretch and relax.

The only problem with taking a break from blogging is that you’re leaving your readers behind when you go off on your merry break. Even if it’s just a few days off, your readers will notice that you’re gone, and if the break is much longer, they’ll stop paying attention to you and the growth you’ve worked so hard to build goes to waste. Even worse is the inevitable “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been too busy to care about you, the reader” post, which tells your readers that you’re not serious at all about blogging and also informs them that they don’t really value you as a reader – so why should you stick around?

There’s really only one way around this, and that’s to get a bit ahead on posting to your blog so that in the event of the need for you to take a break from it, your blog will go on existing just like it always has and your readership (and growth) will be there for you when you come back. Most blogging software allows you to write posts in advance of their publication date; take advantage of this feature so that your audience isn’t left behind.

If you’re already writing at full capacity, meaning that every time you write anything, you immediately publish it, you need to take a step back from this rate of posting and establish a more regular rate.

Let’s say you post an average of ten times a week, or one to two posts every day, whenever you have a good idea. Your audience then expects there to be something new each day on your site. But what happens if there’s a family emergency and you need to leave quickly? Suddenly, three days go by and your audience is left out in the cold … blog readers are fickle and some may have thrown in the towel already.

Instead, you should just post once a day, take those other posts, and set them to automatically publish in the future. Make sure that you have something that can be published for the next several days in the event you have to suddenly leave your blog. These extra posts are no longer a problem because you’re now writing below capacity; you’re writing about three “extra” posts a week, on average.

My technique is to have posts completely ready to be posted for the next few days at all times, so that if I’m called away in an emergency, The Simple Dollar will go along roughly as normal in my absence (maybe not as timely, but with good content). If I write something topical or something really interesting that I want to get posted as soon as possible, I just substitute it in for something that is due to be posted, and move that original post back a few days. This allows me to have timely posts, but also be covered in the event of a major crisis.

Here’s an action plan for getting started with posting in absentia:

Determine your rate of blogging. Take a look at how many things you’ve posted per day in the last month. This is the baseline your readers are currently expecting from you.

If you’re blogging at capacity, throttle down on this rate of blogging. You want to be in a situation where 30% or so of the posts you write during a healthy writing period are “extra,” meaning that they’re above and beyond what is actually posted during that period. So, determine what your rate of posting should be (likely 70% of your current posting rate) and slowly move your blog to this new rate. You should then be able to start generating posts that aren’t immediately published.

When you accumulate extra posts, set them to publish in advance according to your posting schedule, even if you’re planning on being around. That way, your blog is ready to go for the next short period in the event of an emergency. Remember that you can always insert topical posts into the queue and then move the replaced post to the end of the queue, which enables you to publish things that are topical or that excite you immediately.

A quick survey of your site statistics will show you that you have some number of loyal readers. Using this pre-writing technique, you can keep them loyal and reward them with some of your writings even if you’re not around; if your writing is building an audience, then even your temporary absence won’t slow down the growth.

Building a Better Blog 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, Don’t Be Insular, or back to the previous one, Define Your Own Success.

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