This is a guest post that Matt had written for me in early May but I was not in the right state of mind to post. At the time Matt was running a project to help bloggers and had asked what he could do for them.
Hi, my name is "Lord" Matt – some of you might know me from the oddly named "The Fantastic Site of Lord Matt" or any number of other blogs that I maintain. Pearl has challenged me to write about time and productivity and how I manage all those blogs. The fact that I am doing so will give my wife quite a good chuckle when I tell her. While I do manage to keep a lot of blogs afloat some of my other work can occasionally suffer a little – even I could be more efficient. What I am going to do, then, is break down my practices and comment on how strong or weak I think they are with examples.
My back story
My first blogs where experiments on blogspot that I long ago abandoned but they proved to be a great learning tool but useless blogs. For example I discovered that without some form of networking location (facebook, MyBlogLog, Stumble Upon, etc.) you can easily spend the entire day drifting around blogs on the same platform as yourself wondering why there were rarely any suitable ones worth even commenting on. I would spend two days a week not coding and just using the blogger bar to jump to the next blog. Most blogs were inane, empty or just outright odd. I had a readership of about 5 and frankly no advert clicks, no affiliate conversions (I was just getting into that area back then) and rarely any comments.
The first success I had was a blog whose whole existence was to say nice things about other blogs. It did very well and I was still running it 4 or 5 years ago. Then my daughter was born. It is all well and good blogging all day when all you want to do is learn to blog, write code and work on a novel while your partner is at work. With a little one and a partner at home and the endless hours dried up. As did the blog. A while later I purchased the lordmatt.co.uk domain name (looking back I should have grabbed the dot com because "lord matt" is now a big brand for me and the guy with the dot come even has the same first and last name as me).
I had originally thought of getting "kingmatt" or "godmatt" which fitted the running joke better but I was talked down by friends and wife. (Just as well realy). At first this blog was directionless – if you go back to the beginning you will find that the posts were poor quality, patchy, uneven, and fully of spelling errors. They also draw no-hits-at-all, ever. I learned what I was doing quite quickly and soon started to draw a readership and I also made some mistakes (never get involved in some-one else’s argument, for example). Mistakes are expensive and set you back in terms of readers and general traction. That’s the back story now for the hints and tips.
Launching a blog
Over time I seem to have developed a working technique that relied more on my daily habits than on any system. That all changed when I launched Thanet Star which was aimed at my locality within Kent, UK (it’s near London). I suddenly had to put all my theory into organised practice. I posted something every day for the first few months and although I did not run the smoothest blog launch the blog has gradually picked up readership and local links. The truth of the mater is that I "cheated".
I always do – and here is how I "cheat". It is a method that I am still developing but one that has worked well everytime since I started using it. I write down one way or another exactly (or approximately) what I want to do and then start designing a theme that will do what I have specified. Along with that I compose an introductory post outlining what I intend to do, an about me and a few other house keeping articles (like "what is a feed"). Next I create any pages that I will need. On my chosen bloging platform (NucleusCMS) these are called "Custom Skins" and can carry any of the "skinvars" (mark up for skins). So I can show listings for secondary blogs (nucleusCMS supports multiple blogs and authors from the outset) or anything special from a plugin that might produce a lot of output. Then I customise templates.
On my favourite blog platform (NucleusCMS) templates are the, well, template for posts. I could go into details on it but this post is going to be long enough as it is. Prior to the launch of the Thanet Star I wrote about 12 good quality posts and saved them in text files on my laptop. Then when I had a theme that I was happy met the needs that I had specified earlier I start posting with the house keeping posts. I back-date the "About this blog", "about me" and so forth so that they appear to have been published in the weeks before I started.
Then I post each of my articles one for the day and then future posted so that the next three weeks are covered if I get no further. Future posted items do not publish until the time is reached. I then sit back and pay attention to any blogs that have suffered a lack of posts recently. I will do a round of each blog and check comments, remove spam and then try to think of something to say. Sometimes I have a long list of things I want to talk about but sometimes I am at a loss.
I try to make sure that no blog goes more than seven days without a post. Ideally they should go no more than three days and to increase subscription they should post every day. This does not always happen – for example
What I do when I have no idea what to do
When I have no idea what to blog I use my next "cheat". I use firefox and use the links bar to the max. It’s full of folders with short names (to make room for more). Each niche I write for or think I might like to write for has a folder. Into that go all the best links that I find as I surf and generally read things on-line. On that topic I have another "cheat" where I try to make sure there is some cross over between my niches. Often this is the "geeky perspective" sometimes (like on Thanet Star) this is subtle but other times (like on my diet and fitness blogit is dead obvious).
Now my links that I have been compiling allow me to do one of a few things. The big link dump "What is Matt bookmarking" requires that the exported HTML be decrufted to remove the extra mark-up that Firefox uses. However, this is not so very interesting for readers (although the site owners love it) and should only be done every few months and then only if you intend to change your bookmarks regularly.
The second easy "cheat" post is "n Links About x" where n is the number and x is the specific topic. For example I might consider writing "5 essential links for php coders" for my main geeky blog or "8 political links around Thanet" for Thanet Star. This gives me a get out of jail free for the next seven days while I find my muse again. There is a third easy "cheat". I have a news (feeds) folder and I keep lots of live bookmarks (headlines from feed) on each topic I want to blog about. Some mornings I don’t feel up to blogging so I read other blogs. So long as I do this three times a week I usually don’t miss much of interest. When stuck, sometimes, I simply find a topic that two or three blogs in the same niche are talking about and I write about it too linking to them and quoting them.
All I need are enough words to not have the post dominated by quotes. 50:50 is fine but 80:20 in favour of my own words is better. Due to the sometimes crossover between blogs there is often grounds for creating a short post pointing readers to a post on another blog. This is, of course, "cheating" but it is also good for cross pollination of the blogs. You can add value by talking about the post on your other blog but adding a new spin or viewpoint suited to the blog where you will put the post. If all that fails I check the industry news and Google alerts for keywords I have been watching.
Sometimes this gives me a story that my niche is not very aware of and I can break the news. "Intro, quote (with link), comment and conclusion" – that’s the pattern here. Quick and easy but enough content and comment to make it my own and draw comments. Using a linklet I can open a pop-up with my highlighted text already in a blockquote and the link in place (a bit like a poor man’s Stumble Upon window) and I can write the post without leaving the news source. My final "cheat" is to think up a hard question and ask it in a small post. In Green Moral I actually made a feature of this – I list the questions in the right hand sidebar. So that is how I cope when an emergency need for a post arises but how do I keep going day-to-day?
Day to day blogging tricks
Okay so what is the average day for me like? There is no average day and what exactly I get to do depends on a large number of factors. Most commonly this is what happens. I get up – this happens between 6am (rare) and 7am (more common) and have a cup of tea (typical Bitish person me).
Normally I will flip open the laptop and browse other blogs, check comments and stumbles and read the news. (Sometimes I do something I left hanging or work on an idea I had during the night.) Almost always this will lead to me writing a post before 9am. Sometimes more than one post. Some of these will be of the "cheat" type, short sweat and to the point.
Other times they will be a little more epic. In any 14 day period I will write at least one huge and and in depth post (such as this one). To write such big posts I take the topic and start at the top of the page and keep talking until I feel I have it covered. In my head there is a short list of things that need to be said.
If I cover these then I am done and I move on to a conclusion. Sometimes the epic post will be all I do all day. I will usually follow it up be being active on social networks. Twitter, Facebook and Stumble Upon are where you will find me most of the time if you find me at all. Although if the topic is geeky enough there are forums that I also use. I hope you found this interesting if so check back soon because there is a part two! Untill then do you have some "cheats" to share?