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March 24, 2006

10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on your Blog

Posted in: Writing Content

Now that we’ve talked about why a blogger might consider the use of a series of posts I’d like to turn my attention to the way in which I do it.

When it comes to the way I build a series of posts on a blog my workflow is a little different to Eric’s (although there are some real similarities also). Let me outline how it usually works for me (and it does vary from time to time).

1. Identify a topic - this is of course key when it comes to developing a successful series (as it is with single posts also). As I reflect upon most of the series of posts I’ve written here at enternetusers over the past year it’s interesting to see that in virtually every case the series has started in my mind as a single post. For example - one of my first ever blog series was one I wrote on AdSense for Bloggers. This 8 part series started (in my mind) as a medium sized post. As I started writing I soon realized that there was more that I could write than would comfortably fit in one post and so the series began.

The key of course is to make sure you choose a topic that is large enough to warrant multiple posts (you don’t want to write a series just for the sake of it) but manageable enough not to overwhelm you. Some topics are so large that they could almost be a blog in and of themselves.

The ideas from most of the series that I do generally do come from the themes that I see in the interactions that I have with my readers. Questions that they ask are usually key in triggering my thinking in this way.

2. Write a list - this second step will not surprise regular enternetusers readers as you know I love a good list and that lists (like in this very post) are pretty central to my blogging style. When I make the decision that a topic is big enough for a series I generally start with a bit of a brainstorming session and compile a list of the main points that I want to make.

These lists generally start out as bullet point lists of keywords and phrases written up either in a TextEdit document or even straight in an ecto draft. Once I’ve got a list of keywords I then go back and add a few descriptive sentences under each point to flesh them out a little. It’s amazing how many of these sentences make it into eventual posts. I find once I’m on a roll that a lot of it just flows and I can end up with a list of 10 or so ideas pretty quickly.

The list is rarely the final list that I end up going with (some don’t make it and others are added) but it does form the basis for my series with each point usually ending up as a post of it’s own.

3. Set Targets - at this point I generally set myself some goals for the series and try to establish boundaries for it. Looking at the list I can generally tell how many posts I’ll need to complete it which in turn helps me decide how long it will run for. I generally try to run them for a 1 week period (starting on a Monday and ending on a Friday) but have been known to run them over longer and shorter time frames. It’s good to know up front what you’re aiming for so I think about questions of how many posts, how many I’ll post per day, how long the series will run etc.

4. Set up Draft Posts - with these details settled I then take the list I’ve created and take whatever I’ve written for each post so far (often just a few keywords and a sentence or two) and copy and paste them into some draft posts on my blog. I give each one a draft title (often changed later) and just leave them each there as drafts for me to work on in the coming days.

5. Pick a Title - the name that you give your series can actually be a very important factor in it’s success and I would recommend that it be something you give serious consideration to. I guess in this decision I’m thinking about branding and how the series might be marketed. Picking the title for a series is pretty similar to the process of choosing one for individual posts and are often a combination of choosing something that is catchy as well as choosing something with some good keywords in it (for SEO purposes).

6. Announce the Series - up to this point all my work is in private but I put the pressure on myself now by announcing the series with an introductory post. This serves a number of purposes including letting your readers know what to expect (it creates some anticipation) but also making me accountable to finish what I’ve started. There’s nothing like telling your readers that you’ll be writing X number of posts on a topic to keep you motivated and accountable for the task.

7. Write an Introduction to the Series - The Introductory post is generally the same one that I do the announcement in. In it I try to do two main things. Firstly I outline where we’ll be headed over the coming days. This might even include announcing your actual topics (if you’re that organized) but could be more general also. Secondly (and more importantly) the focus of the introductory post is to help highlight the ‘need’ that the series will help to address.

I’m a firm believer that the most successful posts and series of posts that I’ve written have been popular because they meet some sort of need that people have.

8. Write a Post per Day - This is one of the main differences between my approach and Eric’s. He writes all of his posts in advance and sets them to go off over a future period of time. While this works for some it doesn’t quite fit with my own rhythm of blogging - I much prefer to tackle writing a post per day. This is for two main reasons - mainly to keep my posts fresh (I find that it’s not until my readers begin to interact with the series that the the series really takes off and I start to write my best stuff after reading their comments. Writing in advance doesn’t doesn’t give me the opportunity to build what I’m writing upon the wider community’s experience. The other reason is because I find writing multiple posts on the one topic in a short period of time is too much for me. I’m much better when I break things down. This is just my personal preference and helps me keep things more manageable.

9. Interlink your Posts - I see a lot of bloggers attempting to write blog posts as a series that don’t do this and think it’s a big mistake. While your current regular readers will be able to follow your post by logging on each day or reading it in RSS - future readers of your blog might not has as much luck as they often come in via a search engine to a middle post in the series and if you haven’t linked to the rest will have to go searching for it.

there are a number of ways of interlinking your series. Here are a few of them:

  • Central Page - in this case you have one page/post on your blog that you link to from each post in your series that lists links to each post in the series. For an examples of this check out my blogging for beginners series central page and the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog central page. Another variation of this is to make your introductory post the central page and as you write other posts add them to it.
  • Links at the beginning and/or end of posts - in this strategy each post in your series will link to other posts in the series. There are two ways of doing this. You can either just link to the post before and after the post in the series or you can link to all the posts in the series from each post (for example my AdSense for Blogging series and my Blogging for Change Series for two variations on this).
  • Combine all the posts on a central page to make a longer post - I’ve only done this a couple of times and it’s not my preferred method but another strategy is simply to write another longer compilation post at the end of the series that combines everything you’ve written before. Examples of when I’ve done this is on my Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers series as well as my declaring war on blogger apathy series.

10. Finish your series well - While it might sound obvious to ‘finish your series’ I think it’s important to do this well. Readers like closure (as do bloggers themselves) and it’s often good to finish a series with a short summary of what’s been written and/or some reflections on the process of writing the series itself. Especially helpful in a concluding post (or just a concluding paragraph in the last post) is the invitation for readers to add their own thoughts and points. On most occasions in my experience a series could have other posts added to it and so it’s a good thing to acknowledge this and invite others to continue it in comments (or on their own blog). In this way you not only get reader interaction but also develop a more well rounded coverage of the topic as your readers add their own expertise and experience.


Return to: 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on your Blog


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