Problogger Event 2016: content creation

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 Permalink

In my ‘lessons from Problogger Training’ post the other day I mentioned that I stayed securely in my comfort zone and attended sessions I assumed to be of interest – predominantly about content creation and writing.

My favourite session by far was one by Emily Toxward – a Gold Coast-based blogger and journalist. I love her Have A Laugh On Me blog and was keen to meet her at the event. I’d also enrolled in a workshop focussed on copywriting, but found Em’s session to be far more useful, covering more than the other sessions I attended. 

Other speakers provided also provided some useful insights:  Colin Gray, best known as The Podcast Host talked about thinking of our blogs (or podcasts) in terms of ‘seasons’ or series (like TV) and suggested we develop several around one theme or topic, for example

 

Ed Dale from The Challenge talked about copywriting and the need to get inside people’s heads. Get them involved, he suggested, because involvement breeds commitment. Ed also talked a lot about the main aim of what it is we should be doing: solving others’ problems.

And the lovely Stacey Roberts (Vege Mama and managing editor of Problogger) whose session I didn’t attend, but have since caught up on, talked about the type of content we should be developing and – what particularly hit home for me was that – as well as writing content that inspires or informs readers – good content is that which both resonates and amuses visitors AND which we enjoy producing.

And then there was Emily. Obviously I won’t cover everything she had to say as you can buy a virtual ticket and access audio recordings and presentations from all of the presenters by clicking here:

Problogger Resources

Emily’s presentation about ‘blogging better’ was centred around several themes: inspiration and finding ideas; readability and content; streamlining and editing posts; finding our style and voice; and the nitty gritty: writing headlines and intros. But I’ll focus on just a few of those.

Inspiration or finding content

  • Use old popular blog posts and content: recycle / upcycle them – update them; write something new based on the comments received; or write related posts
  • Get inspiration from the news / online media and check what’s trending
  • Find inspiration from someone else, giving credit where it’s due of course
  • List posts are popular and those with odd numbers, more so (eg. 7 Ways to….)

Readability and structure

  • From the point of view of a reader, the ideal post is 300-500 words long
  • Introductory sentences should be only about 30 words
  • Use bullet points, numbering and images to break-up the text

Style and voice

  • Write consistently but not the same-ish (develop a voice and brand and stick to it; but mix up the type of post)
  • Be authentic and ensure our writing reflects who we are
  • On our own blogs, write the way we talk. Ensure we enjoy our own writing.

Headlines and lede sentences

  • Keep headlines to 70 characters (also for SEO purposes)
  • Don’t try to be too clever when it comes to the headline / name of the post as it needs to make sense to readers and reflect the content of the post
  • Lede (lead) sentences need to grab the reader’s attention: with a hook; by being newsy; being interesting; setting the scene; or being anecdotal (the latter being one I tend to use more often than I should and often too tangentially).

Emily also talked a little about pitching our writing elsewhere and gave us some pointers, but I’m not sharing those with you… cos that would be giving away ALL of her secrets.

I think I do okay in keeping my writing / posts pretty real as I’m fairly sure the ‘me’ you get here is the ‘me’ you get in person. But there are a few things I need to work on. I think my posts should be shorter, sweeter and less rambling. In fact I should be less verbose in general I suspect.

If you’re a blogger, is there anything here to inspire you? If you’re not a blogger… please remind me not to ramble quite so much!!! 

I’m IBOTTING and linking up with Kylie Purtell again today.

48 Comments
  • Jess
    October 4, 2016

    Great tips! I don’t think your posts are too long or verbose! You definitely come across as authentic! I love the idea of enjoying your writing rather than writing what you think you have to!

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      Jess, that struck me about Vege Mama’s presentation… there’s usually a lot of focus on blogs being ‘useful’ and solving problems. I guess mine usually solve one’s reading problem… but I liked that Stacey talked about writing just to amuse readers. AND for the blogger’s enjoyment.

  • writeofthemiddle
    October 4, 2016

    I would have loved to hear Em’s session. I don’t have a virtual ticket either. It’s good to have a figure on what the best amount of words for a blog post is – 300-500 – mainly because I am going to have a regular guest poster soon and it will be helpful to quote an appropriate word count to her. I know they shouldn’t be too long because no-one will read it! Interesting to hear about the best ways to structure a post too. 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      There’s usually some debate about the word length Min and Emily noted this in her presentation. Sometimes SEO gurus suggest longer is better (more authoritative) but she was speaking from a reader’s point of view and that of newspapers for eg.

  • nicolethebuilderswife
    October 4, 2016

    I loved Em’s session, full to bursting with helpful tips and tricks. Still trying to work through my notes, and get started on my action list. Now that school holidays are done, I can refocus.xx

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      I only started going through my notes a couple of days ago Nicole but want to listen to some of the other sessions on affiliate marketing and the like to think about my action items.

  • Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers
    October 4, 2016

    Fabulous, I wondered what tips she had offered as I love her blog so I knew she’d have some good ones up her sleeve and had heard about her session but no specifics. Thanks for the sum up! These tips are super helpful for me. I had no idea odd numbered lists were more popular! I’ll have to further look into that. Off to pin this post for future reference. #TeamIBOT

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      I wondered if it was cos odd lists seem more legitimate… “9 reasons to…” makes it sound as if they’re researched cos otherwise you’d just use 10.

  • deb dane
    October 4, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your takeaways from the session. Sounds good. My only bone of contention is that word count suggestion- maybe there was more discussion on it in the full session (I hope) but after 5 years of blogging I can swear to the fact that length cannot be nailed down to a clear guide. If you are writing copy to lends itself to short posts with punchy lists then that works, if you are going deeper on something or it is complicated there is no way substance can be achieved in 300 words. You can cover one point in that length or stay on the surface, share lots of images or have a tutorial etc. so my advice is use as many words as you need and not a single extra (so edit and remove superfluous writing and let the rest strand xx)

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      There was some discussion around the word length comment Deb and Emily stressed she was speaking from the ‘reader’ perspective – in terms of a reader’s attention span (sort of). We discussed breaking a long post up into several parts etc…

      I used to do book-related wrap-up posts on Styling You and Nikki’s guidelines were ‘up to 800 words’ and I almost always went up to 1000 because I was sharing a number of books and I just couldn’t cover it in less.

  • Alix Hill (@Alixsadventures)
    October 4, 2016

    Thanks for sharing, there are some great tips there!

  • Em @ Have A Laugh On Me
    October 4, 2016

    Deb I am so glad you got something out of my session. And it’s been interesting reading people’s comments. I knew the ‘size of post’ thing would be contentious, but from a business bloggers POV it’s what most people do. I only write between 300-500 for my clients. Personal bloggers obviously don’t always stick to this, and in the past I certainly haven’t either. Apparently this length is just optimal for SEO. But rules are made to be broken right? P.s I still haven’t had the courage to listen to my session yet……xx

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      I very much enjoyed it Em. I think you’ll be happy with your session…

  • Kylie Purtell
    October 4, 2016

    The only thing I was jealous about not getting to see/hear (besides from catching up with bloggy friends) at ProBlogger was Emily’s session. I wish I had $300 to buy a virtual ticket, but for that price I might as well just save another $300 and go to next year’s conference! In the meantime, I’ll continue to read people’s posts about the event because they are almost as good! Thank you for sharing about Emily’s session, some great points there for me to think over.

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      You’re very welcome Kylie. There was a lot of detail. For example… in terms of lede sentences Emily talked through each type and gave examples. She also gave us very practical examples of choosing a popular post and brainstorming 10 new related post ideas etc…

  • JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    October 4, 2016

    Oh but I love your rambling Deb! Great tips though.

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      Yes, it was a great session Jodi. I went to a workshop more focused on ‘writing’ later but got more out of Em’s. I think she knew exactly what her audience was after.

  • Sarah @sarahdipity
    October 4, 2016

    Sounds like a great session; some wonderful tips there! Thanks for sharing Deb (and Emily!)

    • Debbish
      October 4, 2016

      It def was Sarah and you’re very welcome.

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    October 4, 2016

    I would have loved to sat in on Emily’s session and indeed, loved to have been at PB full stop! I knew Em would have some top tips. As a blog without a niche, and not being very good at solving problems (mine or anyone else’s) I’m relieved that Stacey thinks good content is about amusing or resonating and stuff that we enjoy producing. I guess that means if we enjoy what we do, we’re half way there, right?! Thanks for the insight x

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      There was also a keynote session Sammie about NOT having a niche and that being okay… being a multipotentialite. 🙂

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    October 4, 2016

    I love Stacey’s voice and Emily’s voice. Both of them are funny and warm. I love yours too, Deb. You’re honest and colourful in your descriptions. I’ve bought quite a few books on your advice. In fact you are my go-to!

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      I’ve actually got a draft of that post you suggested re ‘recent releases you might have missed’ as well Michelle. I must publish that in the next week or two.

  • Robyna May
    October 4, 2016

    Love the “Ensure we enjoy our own writing” point. I guess if we don’t enjoy it when we are writing it, no-one is going to have fun reading it!

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      Yes… a lot of those who talk about blogging make it all about the reader. I agree that we should be thinking of our audience but I started blogging because I love writing – though it’s like I’m made to feel kinda selfish about that sometimes.

  • Ness
    October 4, 2016

    Would have been awesome to attend Em’s session. She’s excellent. Sound like every one had fun and learnt a lot at the conference.

    I’m definitely guilty of rambling in my posts! Guess that explains the crickets chirping lol

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      Ha, I feel the same. Particularly when I write something I think is funny or interesting…

  • Renee Wilson
    October 4, 2016

    Oh this is fantastic! Thanks very much. I didn’t go to Problogger unfortunately. I have heard such great things about Em’s session. Thanks for the insight.

  • Kooky Chic
    October 5, 2016

    Bugger, mine needs a much needed overhaul. Great tips, thanks.

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      Yeah, I thought the same thing. Eek!

  • Sandra Kelly
    October 5, 2016

    This is a great wrap of Em’s talk – thank you for sharing. I would have loved attending the conference just to hear Em speak. Consistency is my down fall. I need to work on that. Sounds like you took away many helpful things from ProBlogger. 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 5, 2016

      I did Sandra. And yes, consistency (in terms of posting) is something I need to work on. I ‘think’ my voice is pretty consistent. (Consistently sarcastic!)

  • Janet Camilleri
    October 5, 2016

    A great summary of Em’s talk. Once again, it was so fabulous to hang with your at PB this year!!!

  • Denyse Whelan
    October 6, 2016

    I recall hearing about word counts, how to grab readers’ attention, headlines, lists and so on at PB in 2011 and I ‘tried’ some methods I thought would work…I am not quite sure what I was actually wanting though so for me it became troublesome. So, when I let any kind of formula go, but sticking with some sensible ideas which stick..not too much in terms of content, space it out, photos etc I am writing in my voice and I am not looking for more than I have now, which is to connect with others…such as your good self!
    I have to say though I am finding content a bit of a challenge now that I have produced well over 650 posts. I do look at my drafts from years ago. I am deciding whether daily blogging is something I need to do in 2017 and will be looking at keeping my categories but maybe not blogging daily. Watch this space…LOL. Loved reading your thoughts and I saw that Em’s session was well-received.

    • Debbish
      October 7, 2016

      Ah yes… it can be a bit overwhelming to look at the stuff we possibly ‘should’ be doing. The interesting thing about this year was that – though some messages were consistent (like writing authentically in your own style) – much of the discussion was about doing whatever the hell you want, like not having a niche for example.

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    October 6, 2016

    I have just started listening to the sessions. I have heard so many good things about Em’s session and I can’t wait to listen. I might put her next on my list. Great round up. This year was so good!

    • Debbish
      October 7, 2016

      Oh yes, her session was great Karin. I hope to get to (listen to) some more sessions this weekend!

  • @ashleighsmeow
    October 8, 2016

    I need an overhaul and to really re-write and reuse some old posts… from when I had about six readers!

    • Debbish
      October 9, 2016

      Same!!! My first 2-3 years of blogging had NO readers as I kept it a secret. And I spent a lot of time on some of those early posts.

  • Jo
    October 9, 2016

    I re-use some writing posts on the new author page, other than that, tend not to so much- but there is good content there for when inspiration has left the building. I tend to ramble, & really should stick to a pre-determined word count.

    • Debbish
      October 9, 2016

      Yes, I could easily pick up some of my old posts and update and repost them!

  • kimbacaffeinate
    October 9, 2016

    I keep paper handy when visiting blogs, sometimes something as simple as an opinion on another review will spark a topic for discussion. Like for example changing a rating on a reread.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 13, 2016

    This is a great summary of Em’s session. I too had scheduled myself to be elsewhere … I was ten minutes into that other session and left to go and support Emily. Glad I did! Her session was great.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      Yes, as I said I did a workshop session on (kinda) a similar thing later that day and found Em’s far more helpful!

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