I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday’s latest barn-burner – The Obstacle is the Way. Get yourself a copy and read it. I plan on reading it twice. Here’s why -
The premise of the book is that Obstacles should be accepted. In fact, obstacles are critical to defining who you are, what you want, and what you are made of. Your perception and reaction to Obstacles is what defines and creates success in your life. This is killer stuff.
(I’ll see if I can get Ryan on the Pushing Social Podcast - stay tuned.)
While reading, I kept thinking about the obstacles you face as a content creator and blogger. Taking a cue from the book, I began journaling how to face each obstacle and overcome it.
Here are 7 of the most common obstacles and what you can overcome them.
Obstacle #1 : No Time
Creating content takes time and it seems that we have less and less of it.
I’m on the podcasting bandwagon simply because it’s relatively easy to do. You can write a quick script with several bullet-points. Turn on a recorder, talk through your points and your done. Podcasting is simple to start and you can increase your investment in equipment as your confidence grows.
Inspiration usually comes when you least expect it. When it does strike, maximize your output by writing two or three posts at a time. Or you can write outlines of posts to get as many potential posts skeletons in draft mode as possible. I’ve written a month’s worth of posts in just a few days (usually during my annual fishing trip) this way.
Blogging purists may frown on having someone else write your posts but give me a moment. I suggest hiring a writer who can flesh out your post outlines or initial ideas. Let them take one pass at your idea and send you their draft. You can edit and finish it from there. This is a great way to skip the time-intensive part of the writing process.
Obstacle #2 : No Ideas
Content creation is a daily grind or labor of love. It would be easy if someone just handed you the ideas to write! But alas, we must come up with our own ideas…or do we? Hmm…
Interview the Experts:
Some clever bloggers have figured out that sending a quick 3-question email to subject matter influencers is an easy way to create a darn-good post. The Interview post comes with built-in promotion since the influencer is likely to promote the post to their audience.
All you need to do is: 1) find the influencer’s for your subject, 2) Find their “contact us” page, 3) Email them a short questionnaire with a simple pitch about the article, 4) Follow-up twice to remind them to send their answers along, 5) Add an introduction to the questions, 6) Tell the influencer when the post is live.
Do it. It works.
I’m drinking the Question and Answer kool-aid served up by my man Marcus Sheridan. Find questions that readers ask and answer them via blog posts. Nothing fancy. Just answer questions. Surprisingly, it works very well and Google seems to like these Q&A posts too.
Resources, Links, and Tools Curation:
Compile resource guides and top [Pick your number] posts. Yes, the 90 words-per-minute blogging crowd may hate these type of posts but readers absolutely love them. You can quickly create a list of related resources and a 1-2 sentence description for each. That’s it.
Check out Claire’s posts on Clairification for an example of how to do this. Claire is spooky good at curating the good stuff.
Obstacle #3 : Ugly Blog
Is your blog Coyote Ugly? Did your header hit every branch when it fell out of the ugly tree? Listen the first step to recovery is admitting that you have an ugly blog my friend. Here’s what you can do about it:
Invest in one premium theme:
Free theme’s look like they’re free. Do you want to know the dead giveaway?
About 1 – 2 million other blogs have the same theme!
Invest in a great looking theme that is easy to customize using point-and-click tutorials. My top pick is Studiopress, next would be WooThemes. These premium themes give your blog an excellent foundation that is professional and eye-catching. You can build from there.
Get These Three Things Right:
1) Header: Your header creates the mood for your blog. Put a great looking logo and an uncluttered navigation bar up there. That’s all my friend. Resist the urge to pack it with anything that spins, flashes, or blinks.
2) Color Scheme: Pick colors that naturally harmonize with one another. Use Color Scheme Designer to experiment with different options or browse through pre-made color schemes at Colour Lovers. Once you’ve picked a scheme, stick with it. Color Scheme discipline is a little thing that goes a long way toward presenting a professional looking blog.
3) Typography: Nothing screams “I’m an amateur” like slapping a handwriting font in the header of your blog or worse using monotype corsiva for the main font. Skilled graphic designers shy away from script fonts. You should too.
Instead find an attractive combination using a sans and sans-serif font. Spend some time on I Font You to get some great font combinations. Like color scheme, picking the right fonts communicates a sense of style with clean presentation.
Obstacle #4 : Teeny-Tiny Audience
Can your audience fit in your living room? A small audience does limit your options but there are many small-but-mighty niches on the web. The trick is to use your blog to maximize your audiences engagement. Here’s what I would do:
Organize an Alliance:
Be the first to organize a well moderated, interesting, and uber-helpful LinkedIn or Facebook group. Like Survivor, the first one to organize an effective alliance is usually the one who goes home with a million-bucks. A group is a great way to position yourself as a useful authority while keeping close tabs on your audience’s needs.
Fast, Cheap, and Good:
You can afford to have an outsider steal your audience. Build a relationship stronger than Krazy Glue with highly useful information given away for free or very low cost. These fast, cheap, and good “bribes” will position you as the resource in your niche. Also, frequent contact will keep you top of mind for when your audience needs to hire or recommend you.
Every niche shares an audience with another broader niche with a larger audience. For example, the Kettle Bells blogger can find their audience hanging out at nutrition and strength-training blogs. The coin collector blogger will find their audience participating in general collectibles and Ebay “how-to” blogs.
I call these broad but overlapping areas – Shoulder Niches. Consider writing cross-over content that could appeal to both your audience and some possible new readers in the shoulder niche. For example, I started jogging a month ago. Most of my time is spent reading beginner jogging blogs but today a “How To Train For A 10K” article caught my eye.
Obstacle #5 : Poor Audience
Is your audience broke? Although I believe that a poor audience is just an unconvinced audience, there are certain readers (i.e. the middle-school Minecraft crowd) that wouldn’t spend money even if they had it.
Use different currency:
I like the “Pay with a tweet” tools out there. This is a great way to get at least a few extra people looking at your message in exchange for giving something away. I use Social Locker for this. But there are other great plugins that make paying with a social share easy to do.
Let your readers know that your business relies on testimonials and feedback. In exchange for freebies, they MUST step up to the plate and offer their honest feedback. I suggest setting up your email to send out an automatic email to subscribers reminding them to send you feedback about your content, service or product.
Place advertising on your blog. Advertising is a tough-gig but doable if you have an audience that can’t or won’t purchase products and services. With advertising, you can focus on creating new content to attract readers knowing that you are making income from reader visits and ad clicks.
Obstacle #6 : Can’t Write
(One more time) Ghost Blogging:
Yep, Ghost Blogging is making another appearance because it’s the simplest answer to this obstacle. But before you go this route, make sure you have the budget to support this option. You will need at least 4 posts a month and each post could cost $50-$100. If you This is good investment if you understand how to turn readers into customers. However Ghost Blogging may be a costly alternative if your blog isn’t earning an income.
Pivot To Your Strength
Writing isn’t the only way to create content. Earlier I mentioned podcasting as a good alternative. You can also create video blog posts (vlogging). Many popular blogs rely on vlogging to attract new readers. Video blogs posts are particularly attractive since they can be published on your blog, YouTube, and Vimeo, and other video sharing sites, multiplying your video’s reach.
Obstacle #7 : No Traffic
Step on the Social Gas
Social media networks thrive on content. People who share good information get followers. These followers eventually visit the person’t blog. But you can’t set this process in motion by posting a few tweets a day.
Most people’s Twitter feed races past individual tweets in moments. So your 1-2 tweets a day are getting swallowed and pushed off a potential reader’s screen in seconds. Increasing your updating frequency is the only way to increase the likelihood your tweet will be seen.
You’ll have a similar challenge on Facebook. Since Facebook is restricting how many of your followers who actually see your updates, you’ll need to increase your updates to stay top of mind with your own Facebook friends!
I suggest scheduling 10-15 links to tweet every weekday. Boost your Facebook frequency to 3-5 a day. The increased frequency will keep you in front of your followers and give them multiple opportunities to visit your site.
Increase Posting Frequency
Google is looking for good content to index and serve to its users. Creating more posts will put more posts into Google’s index and perhaps get your posts on page 1 of important search terms.
This is the #1 reason why I post 4-5 times a week. With 20 posts a month, I have 5x the chance of attracting new Google searchers than a competitor struggling to get out 4 posts.
Maximize Your Current Traffic
Many bloggers start each day with zero readers. Their current post has to attract a completely new audience. That sucks and this will burn you out if you are in this situation. Instead, start aggressively asking readers to sign up for an offer plus blog updates.
These readers will form the core of your community, arriving each day to engage with your content. Remember that every reader counts and you can’t afford to let a person leave without seeing an offer to come back.
Keep Your Chin Up
It’s tough being a creator. You and I are knee-deep in the Content Economy where our creativity, resilience, and effectiveness are tested every day.
I know it’s not easy but the obstacles are blessings in disguise. They force you to be creative. They demand the best from you. That’s a good thing. Now. Suck it up and get back to work.