by Mark Hayes
December 4, 2014

When was the last time you tried to break a habit? Hard doesn’t begin to describe it, right. Let’s take smoking as an example:

Only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help.

So in a room full of smokers, only one person will have the willpower to quit. That’s 1 out of 25 for you number crunchers. Not a fun thought if you want to quit smoking, or any bad habit for that matter.

The good news is that good habits are likewise hard to break. Once you get started doing a good thing, you can keep it in autopilot for pretty much forever.

For businesses, one of the good habits you’ll need to build up is creating content consistently.

Consistently creating good content not only helps you rank well in Google, it also sets you up as thought leader in your industry. And both of these things leads to what we want most: more sales.

So how do you actually build up a good content creation habit? What tips and tricks are there to make it easier for you to have something new for people every time they visit your site?

Let’s break down the problem a bit. Content creation itself involves a few steps:

  1. Think up some content ideas.
  2. Plan out your content calendar.
  3. Start creating content!
  4. Adding finishing touches to your content.
  5. Promoting the content.

To make it easy, let’s go through each one in turn.

1. Think up some content ideas.

Ideas are a dime a dozen, right? But for some reason when I really need to be creative, I always seem to draw a blank. I’ve discovered that the trick is to always be open to ideas, wherever they might come: in the shower, on your way to a meeting, or during that 15 minutes after lunch. That’s why you need to keep a note-taking tool handy with you at all times like Evernote.

But often you need ideas right here and now. If you really need to think up of something, hotwire your brain with some inspiration.

How?

  • Look at your competitor’s blog, the top sites in your industry, and the blogs of those you admire. You’ll be able to connect the dots from there and come up with a few good topics soon enough.
  • Ask your customers what’s bugging them. Nowadays, customers go to companies that can solve their problems. Yes, that includes solving problems that your business actually doesn’t do. How do you do that? By blogging about the solution, of course!
  • Check your complaints. Not only will this satisfy disgruntled customers, it also makes your content creation job easier. One happy customer plus some great content looks like a win to me.
  • Explain your business. Sometimes the best content is the one closest to home. You might want to demystify some of the inner workings of your business, explain why you did X for your business when others did Y, or just clarify some of the processes you do.

Another thing: try thinking up of at least one new topic per day. Remember, we want to build a habit here so add a daily brainstorming reminder into your personal calendar. Don’t worry, sooner or later you will be scooping up ideas instead of prying them out of your brain.

2. Plan out your content.

Okay, fun time is over. Set your creativity aside for now and get down to being a manager. You’ll need to start building your content plan and adding it into an Editorial Calendar.

Don’t let the fancy journalism term scare you, it’s essentially just queueing up topics until you get a month’s worth of posts for your blog. You can use a content calendar tool like CoSchedule (great app, we use it for our own planning), or you can keep it simple and just list down your topics using Notepad or on paper. However you want to create your calendar, make sure that it’s easy for you to use and something you’ll want to look at everyday.

 

coschedule-editorial-calendar-screenshot

When planning, don’t just jot down your ideas. Include a few lines explaining the topic further so you don’t get lost when you start writing. For me, I attach an outline to each post since I prefer not worrying about the structure when I’m actually in my writing groove.

Also, you’ll want to schedule your first post to go live in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days. You want to launch with at least a week’s worth of articles first so that your blog continuously has something new regularly, versus you trying to beat a writing deadline every week.

3. Start creating content!

Let’s keep the goal is simple: write something daily. We keep it simple because actually sticking to it is hard. Since we want it to become a habit, let’s steal some of the better life hacks out there that worked for others.

Set aside time to write daily. Even if you don’t feel like it. Especially if you don’t feel like it. I know it’s hard but remember, you only need to write daily. You don’t need to finish a blog post everyday. You just need to write something, even if it’s just a draft or part two of yesterday’s post (which in itself is probably a few parts away from being done).

One way to keep your writing habit is getting a streak calendar. Here’s what it looks like:

strike-calendar

 

Everyday you write, you add an mark on the day’s date. By getting a streak of X’s, you’re creating a visual reminder of how much writing you’ve done already in the past. We’re risk-averse by nature and missing an X taps into that so we’re more likely to keep the streak going. To really make this work, put the calendar front and center on your desk and let the X’s stare you into writing submission.

As you can see above, streaks aren’t really my thing. What does work for me is a push alert reminding me to write. It can be as simple as adding an alarm on your phone or calendar together with a short inspiring message to write, like “Get off your fat ass and start writing!”

You can also reinforce your habit by pairing it with one of your routines, so it becomes part of that routine as well. I usually drink a cup of coffee in the morning, so I pair my writing habit with that. Yours could be anything from your after-lunch stretch to watching your favorite late show.

Get a buddy to remind you. If that doesn’t work, you can always count on your fellow humans to get you going. There’s something about not letting someone else down that drives us to stick to something. You can get a co-worker or close friend to do your nagging, or if you’re particularly stubborn, get your mother to do it.

Solicit feedback on your drafts. Maybe peer pressure is what you need. For each post, get feedback from everyone you can get a hold of. Sometimes the mere fact that someone actually took the time to read, criticize and tear down every word you wrote is enough to make you write again (and prove them wrong in the process).

4. Adding the finishing touches to your content.

We’re separating the work because it’s maniacally hard to edit and write at the same time. After you’ve written up the draft and successfully resisted the urge to delete it and start over, that’s when you do the editing.

This includes adding photos, formatting, linking to sources and other stuff. Okay, that actually sounds like a lot of work. But hey, you’ve already gone this far, why not go the extra mile to tweak the content to something worthy of sharing to your friends? And

Don’t worry if you can’t polish the entire batch of posts in one go. Like what I said earlier, as long as you do some of the work daily, you’ll be fine. Try editing one new post daily and maybe finishing it off in a day or two.

5. Promoting the content.

Congratulations, your blog is live! We’re not quite done yet, though. With everyone creating content online, your posts need an extra push to get found. Here are a few things you can do to reach your audience.

Join communities. A simple way to get readers is by joining a niche online community, like Inbound.org or a LinkedIn group, that will benefit from your blog and business. You’ll have to be a bit active in the group though, but once you’ve established yourself, it becomes easier to share posts there. But of course you’ll have to remember the biggest rules of communities: give more than you take.

Answer questions. One of the most rewarding ways to build an audience is helping others by answering their questions and sharing your knowledge. You can give a quick answer when someone posts on a Q&A site like Quora and link back to your blog posts for those who need to learn more. Your answers are public so anyone can read it but more than that, you get targeted traffic since the people reading your answers will likely have a problem you can solve.

Let others share for you. Some sites actually frown upon you sharing your content directly. You’ll want to get help from other folks to share your content for you. At the start, you can get friends to share for you but what you really want is to get influencers and authorities to side with you and promote your posts. But don’t just push your content to them, they need to find value in the content itself. So make your posts great and they will be more than willing to share it for you.

Write for other blogs with the same audience. Even blogs with a strong following need some content help once in a while. You can do some guest blogging for them by repurposing one of your posts for their audience. They get free quality content, you get to promote to their audience, and their readers learn something new. Everyone wins! Learn more through this ultimate guest blogging guide and use this to find where you can guest blog.

Again, as you might have expected, I’m looping back to our main goal of creating a habit. So set aside maybe an hour a day looking for opportunities to share your content and discovering ways to get readers to your site. Trust me, when you start this habit, you’ll wonder why you ever thought self-promotion was hard in the first place.

Beyond The Content Creation Habit: Next Steps

Okay, you’re already into the habit and now have a steady stream of new posts week in and week out. Now what’s next?

Gauge your success. After you’ve put some posts up, it’s time to measure if you’re doing well or not. I’m going to assume you’re already installed some way to gather stats, like using Jetpack if you are using WordPress or Google Analytics. If you haven’t, it’s pretty easy to install these on your site. Here’s a quick guide that’ll help you out.

 

jetpack-hompage

 

Once you’ve installed the stats measuring tools, you’ll only need to wait for the data to come in. Make sure you measure the right thing, though. Don’t get hung up on pageviews and visits. Focus instead on stats related to engagement, especially ones that point to turning visitors into customers. My favorite ones are number of clicks on my call-to-action buttons, number of new subscribers, and number of leads generated.

At the start, you might not get superstar numbers but don’t let that discourage you. Rather, try measuring your progress as a percentage increase over time. Usually a good way to start is to compute the change in the stat week on week. Did you get 2 new subscribers on week one and 3 on week two? If so, that’s a 50% increase right there! Aim to improve your percentage and you’ll sleep better at night.

Create bigger, better and badder things. I like that you never have a dull moment when making content. You might start out writing blog posts but if you ever get bored, there’s a thousand other exciting things you can create. Podcasts, webinars, interviews, the list goes on. When you try out new content, it also keeps things fresh for your audience and you always want them to stay interested in your blog.

Repurpose your content. So you need to branch out to other types of content, right? One thing that will make that easier is by repurposing old content. List posts can become slideshows. Data-heavy posts can be turned into infographics. You can even churn out an ebook if you’ve written enough relevant posts on a topic.

Automate what you can. In time, you’ll get good at what you do, thanks to your good content creation habits. But there are only so many minutes in a day and you have other things to do. So get software to help you with some of your tasks like scheduling social posts (Buffer), finding influencers in your industry (LittleBird) or creating graphics for your posts (Canva, Piktochart).

You can even take this a step further and automate using people. Even technology can get overwhelming so getting an assistant or a writer to help you with some of the content work will help you a lot. One key thing: make sure the person really knows how to do the work. The simplest way to do that is sending video instructions explaining what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Also, just keep an open line of communication, especially for virtual workers, so that you can quickly jump in if they need help.

TL;DR

  • Think up some content ideas.
  • Plan out your content calendar.
  • Start creating content!
  • Adding finishing touches to your content.
  • Promote your content.

 

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