Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blogging Skills Checklist: How Do You Measure Up?

blogging skills checklist

We often look at “external” metrics like email subscribers and traffic levels, but should we also occasionally look at our own blogging skills to see whether they are developing nicely?

This idea has been floating around in my brain for a while now, and so I decided to do a type of audit to see what skills I had and what skills I wanted.

In the end I decided to put together a basic blogging skills checklist that you can use as an audit or guidepost to see where your skills are and what you might want to develop. Hopefully it helps bloggers who aren’t sure what is the most important area to be working on.

Let’s take a look.

Blogging skills checklist: what’s your score out of 100?

Here are the practical things that I try to develop as a blogger.

Give yourself the full points if you know it well enough to charge a client for advice, half the points if you can apply it well but are still learning, and no points if the topic really confuses you.

The main things I think should be on the checklist:

1. Understand the principles of effective content creation (+20)

Content creation is the backbone of all online marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you run a blog or a physical company, it’s the content that you create that grows your audience, makes sales and gets you in front of new markets.

Sadly, many new bloggers don’t really understand what makes for good and effective content. And if you want to run a blog or grow a business you really have to figure out what works and why. Ultimately you want to make sure your content (long form articles, videos, podcasts, etc.) help to solve problems. It should help people.

Strategically speaking, good content creation comes down to having a deliberate strategy that achieves outcomes. Dedicate as much time as you can to researching and mastering this point because without effective content the rest becomes useless.

2. Grow traffic and convert it (+15)

The lifeblood of any successful blog is traffic. And not only do you need visitors, you need to be able to convert them once they arrive on your site. This process of converting visitors into subscribers or readers is absolutely vital and should be emphasized in your study.

A considerable portion of your time should be spent on understanding how to get more traffic, how to get more email subscribers and then how to test and setup your blog in a way that maximizes these conversions.

As Bibiano said recently:

There are a lot of successful people online who had been in more challenging situations than me but still managed to ship things. Then there are full-stack, talented individuals who AFAIK haven’t made anything substantial and sustainable for themselves or for others but seemed to have the knowledge and resources to do so.

There’s no point spending time writing that amazing content unless you’re getting the right readers and then converting them to an outcome.

3. Begin collaborations with other bloggers (+15)

Any success that I’ve had here on Blog Tyrant has been because of the influence, kindness and collaborations I’ve had with people like Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Glen Allsopp, etc. By making connections with these people I have been able to land guest posts, get endorsements and find a lot of new traffic that I otherwise might have missed.

From the very first day that you start a blog you should start making connections with people in your niche. This means mentioning them in the amazing content that you write, tweeting their content and getting on their radar. Over time these relationships become more genuine and you can really start to build something that is mutually beneficial.

4. Manage your work and rest time effectively (+10)

If you work for yourself there is a temptation to always be working. In fact, what I’ve found is that this means doing a lot of things really inefficiently all the time at the expense of your family, health and business itself.

I think Matt from Stack Digital said it well on my Inbound thread:

What doesn’t get you revenue? Reading Facebook. Redesigning your newish website. Setting up a social media profile on Periscope and using it to watch fireworks videos. Checking your Analytics for the 3rd time today. Checking Moz blog again. Seeing if anyone sent you a message on Slack. Taking 20 minutes to figure out how to re-enable desktop notifications. Setting up your email subscriptions.

It’s the same for everything. You want to lose weight? Eat less, move more. Do the work. You want to write a book? Write some words that will be in the book. You know what doesn’t write the book? Tweaking a sentence or two, doing research again and getting lost on a Youtube tangent about how to use Scrivener. Write the book.

But the next part to this is knowing when to stop. Taking time to sleep, have routines and be healthy. You can push yourself really hard for a little while but after a point it begins to be really unproductive. This also ties into something we talk about a lot here – outsourcing things to people who can do it better than you.

Here is what Sarah said:

The personal metric I value the most is understanding my limitations. There’s stuff I’m great at and stuff I suck at. You can waste so much time trying to get your weaknesses to a basic level when you could just acknowledge you’re lacking in that area and get some help. Ask a mate, hire a freelancer, user fiverr, whatever it takes.

You don’t have to do it all yourself. In fact, you most definitely shouldn’t do it all yourself. Make sure you prioritize this stuff because it will really help you focus and maintain some sense of blogging longevity.

5. Manage security protocols across all your assets (+10)

Security is becoming more and more of an issue as the internet gets older and more complicated. It represents a pretty big risk for our online businesses.

And while it can be frightening, you don’t need to be overly stressed about it if you have plans in place. I mean, if the US Government and massive websites like Sony can be compromised then what chance do we have? Just do you best. Here’s a list of some very basic tips I wrote a few years ago that everyone should be doing.

Some of the main things you need to consider are regular server backups, security plugins, complicated usernames and passwords, computer antivirus and malware protection, and never using public WiFi. If you’re not sure about this stuff the best thing to do is jump on support with your server support staff and ask them what is best for your particular setup.

5. Understand metrics and results (+5)

Are you getting the results you want? Do you know what content is leading to sales and signups? This is a really basic question but one that not a lot of bloggers can actually answer. It’s quite funny.

You don’t want to be checking your stats every five minutes but it is a good idea to know your basic blogging goals and then track whether or not they are happening for you.

At a minimum you want a service like Clicky Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and then something like AWeber where you can monitor how your emails are performing. Take a daily look at your stats like traffic, page views and bounce rate but then learn how to dive deeper into your content and see how to develop stuff that attracts backlinks, shares and then sign ups.

6. Know the basics of server admin (to communicate with support) (+5)

When you’re set up on your own blog host there’s a bit of a learning curve to go through. This can be a little overwhelming at the start but it is okay to take your time and learn it bit by bit.

Having an understanding of the difference between your server’s back end and WordPress’s back end, how plugins work, what a database is, how to use FTP, etc. can be really useful if you need to get work done or sort a problem out with your support staff. It makes the communication process much quicker.

For example, if you are having an issue with site speed you can look at throttling, your image sizes, the plugins you are using, the configuration of your caching, etc. and talk to support about what might be happening.

7. Adapt to modern SEO (+5)

Search Engine Optimization is always evolving and changing. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you can get caught up in it and really bugger your business. Focus on the wrong things and a change in their algorithm could be horrible.

This is why it is really important to have a basic understanding about how modern SEO works. I don’t think you need to spend thousands of hours figuring it all out (unless that’s your thing…) but I do think you need to have a fair idea about what Google is looking for in the short and long term.

Here’s a post I did a little while ago on blogging SEO basics that is still relevant. Try to get your head around back links and their value and then just focus on solving problems while building a memorable brand. That’s what Google wants.

8. Know where to find and manipulate graphics, photos and other media (+5)

A big part of blogging is finding and choosing good graphics to use in your posts, social media, adverts, products, etc. This might be a photo or it might be a video that you create with your iPhone.

The thing is, if you try to do all of this by yourself you’ll find that there isn’t a lot of time for actual blogging! It’s a good idea to have a system in place for all of this. Try and find a few people you can work with and make use of sites like Unsplash and Fiverr.

9. Use social media efficiently and sparingly (+5)

Social media should not take up a significant portion of your day unless you are running Facebook ads or some equivalent. Bloggers to often get caught up in the idea that social media is the answer for traffic and relationships – it’s not.

I would spend some time figuring out what platforms work best for you and then focus in on them strategically. Don’t ever spend time focusing on Tweets when you could be writing new content for you blog. This is a really important lesson to take away and while it’s not true for everyone, I have found it really helpful for my own business.

10. Troubleshoot problems effectively (+5)

When you run a blog it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong it’s just a matter of when.

What this means is that you need to be ready to troubleshoot problems without freaking out and getting yourself into even more trouble than before. So what do you do?

Your first point of call for most of your blogging problems is your host’s support staff. Open a ticket and get help. If that doesn’t work you need to look for help in different places depending on what’s gone wrong. If it’s WordPress problem then head on over to the WordPress Forums. If it’s a security problem then get in touch with Sucuri. Try to learn how to solve problems in a proactive and individual way, it’s hard but well worth the effort.

But is there something more important?

A few days ago I sent emails out to my friends and started a thread on Inbound about what skills they prioritize most.

This was highly interesting because, rather than give a practical tip, most successful entrepreneurs emphasized something to do with motivation, hard work or discipline.

Here are a few of my favorite answers on what should be included on any bloggers checklist:

Patience. – Pat Flynn.

Dedication. Blogging is all about learning and being consistent. Without dedication there is a good chance you will give up. – Neil Patel.

Consistency. This is where a lot of bloggers go wrong in their first year. They start with the greatest of intentions and then slowly, but surely fade off with their blogging consistency as the year progresses. That’s the WORST mistake you can make, as people need to hear from you consistently. Keep your foot on the gas, create valuable, highly engaging content and do it consistently. Oh, did I say be consistent yet!?? You get my drift! – Chris Ducker.

Determination and I mean that in every meaning of the word. Things can turn sour very quickly and if you’ve got a family then its incredibly easy to just throw in the towel and give up. There are dark, terrible, rancid days that bleed into weeks, followed by months. (perhaps even years)

You’re tested mentally, physically and to an extent spiritually. As you try to rationalize the crazy in your life, with equally as crazy theories, life continues to pound you into an unrecognizable, bloody pulp.

But, if you survive the savagery, then your luck will change. All of the minor victories that were lost in the noise of the daily battles, fit seamlessly together and as the smoke begins to drift, you’ll have a new appreciation for any high-points to follow. Yet, the most important thing of all is that you ‘truly’ discover who you are and what you’re made of. After all, how can you possibly know if determination is a part of your character, unless you’ve been pushed beyond the limits of your imagination? – Chris McCarron.

I tend to agree.

All of the technical stuff can only be possible if you take care of your focus and effort. For me, I really want to make my business grow so that I can donate more money to charity over my life. That is a goal that gives me a lot of determination and helps to keep me motivated. It’s important to find a goal that works for you.

How did you go with the checklist?

How did you score out of 100 with the checklist? Or if you didn’t do it, what other elements do you think I should have included on there? Do you think there is anything else that is super important that hasn’t been mentioned? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

© Zaniman |

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