The Five Essential Elements of an Influential Blog
These Ten Tips Are All You Need to Be Successful as a Blogger
7 Tips to Creating Fictional Location Names
Mark Twain once wrote, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” We seem to within the age of advanced metrics, statistics, and quantification of nearly all aspects of life. Within the workplace it is likely that you may be evaluated based off an array of statistical categories and metrics. As an avid football fan, I noticed a great increase in the amount of time and column space that sports agencies such as ESPN and network sportscasters spend on discussing [mostly debating] who belongs in the “elite” quarterback conversation in the NFL. Needless to say, statistics have become part and parcel of our daily life over recent history—the same is true for blogging.
Dating back to my high school years I developed a strong interest in gathering various information and analyzing it. For a time, I seriously contemplated going to college to become a professional statistician. The analytical side of me naturally ogles and takes glee in the statistics that I have available through WordPress. Are we to be measured by our accomplishments or by the attitude that we put into our work? The world makes external successful paramount in determining our self-worth, however, is this a healthy way to live? More importantly is this approach to determining dignity of a person actually true? I hope to address these concerns in today’s post.
Depending on your worldview and upbringing it may be debatable as to whether the achievements that we accomplish through our career and hobbies act as the defining feature for a person’s self-worth. What I want to discuss today is that measuring your success as a blogger solely on statistics and viewership is not the entire picture. Below are five reasons to support this claim.
- Why are you writing?: This is the first question that you should constantly keep on the forefront of your mind when blogging. Are you writing to gain notoriety or as a means to improve yourself and others? Put another way is the purpose for blogging ultimately self-serving or for serving others? St. Thomas Aquinas once stated, “The things that we love tell us what we are.” I continually need to remind myself that I write to better myself and to help others find joy in this life—not to amass high stats!
2. Consistency is King: Although the world is a constantly changing reality, humans still hold a strong desire for stability. Possessing a consistency of character, will, and an even-keel of our emotions is a strong indicator for success. I struggle with keeping my emotions in check at times. What helps me during low points in my writing journey is to continue to focus the reason that I write–to help others find joy! I found this superb yet simple quote from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson helpful. He said, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”
What has continued to provide me assurance and sustained me through periods of writer’s block is to always remember to focus on consistently writing and not worry about the popularity of my articles. Consistency is preferred over flashy statistics or outlandish blog topics.
3. Quality over quantity: Following closely with the previous point, it is good to remind yourself that while it is important to write on a consistent basis focus on the caliber of your post instead of the number. When I stray away from this principal I generate haphazard articles that are sloppily put together. Although I am able to get an immediate satisfaction from publishing that day, when I reflect on previous blog posts I tend to have a regret about hitting the Publish button.
4. Self-worth not determined by external measurements: According to the Catholic Church, the dignity of all human persons is not measured through our social, political, and monetary accomplishments. We are born with an innate dignity. The Second Vatican II document Gadium Et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World] declared,
According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown.
But what is man? About himself he has expressed, and continues to express, many divergent and even contradictory opinions. In these he often exalts himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. The result is doubt and anxiety. The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that man’s true situation can be portrayed and his defects explained, while at the same time his dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged (#12).
The key phrase that jumped out to me is that when we place ourselves at the center of attention–the result is doubt and anxiety! Focusing on how popular you become as a blogger will have an initial rush of confidence and feelings of happiness, but these sensations will pass. Believe me, each time I hit a benchmark goal that I set for my writing career [i.e. landing a columnist opportunity, becoming a managing editor at an online magazine, and even an article published in a print magazine] I experience short term pleasure, but if I continue to judge my worth as a writer on these external accomplishments I soon fall into despair.
Pridefully, I fell into the trap believing that it is possible to achieve success all the time and when I hit periods of drought anxiety soon follows. Please do not falter in the same with that I struggle with frequently. Your self-worth as a writer is not to be determined by the amount of followers you have.
5. Writing as a Tool to Help Others not for Self-glory: Dovetailing from the last point and also circling around to reiterate the first reason, it is important to remind yourself that writing is supposed to be a tool to help others, not an avenue for self-glory. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho appropriately stated, “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” Use your platform on WordPress [or other sites if you reading this elsewhere] to promote your writing as a way to bridge the differences in the world and be an advocate for truth!
I initially wrote this article as a means to help temper my addiction to checking my WordPress app over twenty times a day—I thank my wife for confronting me about this issue. Over the course of writing this article, I realized that others may struggle with this similar obsession. I focused my efforts in trying to be as articulate as possible in assuring any of my readers that are also writers. Please do not despair if you experience a lull in your blogging hobby/career. Please feel free to share this article to any of your friends that may struggle with similar issues of self-doubt or those who have hit a thick wall of writer’s block! Thank you again for all of my followers, readers, and advocates that have supported me throughout my journey.
According to English writer G.K. Chesterton, “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” This statement rings true especially in relation to another great English author—Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis! No another writer, accept maybe J.R.R. Tolkien, has influenced me and provided me as much inspiration for my writing over the course of the past couple years as Lewis.
C.S. Lewis once declared, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” While that statement is true for all good books and excellent authors, his pithy saying certainly foreshadowed how all his writings would be received by his fans [and any literature enthusiast!] in the decades after his death. Below are five reasons why the premiere Christian apologist of the 20th century inspires me [and others] in the 21st century and beyond.
Up until a few years ago, I only knew C.S. Lewis through The Chronicles of Narnia series. His character of Aslan, the symbolic figure of the Holy Trinity is among the greatest fictional characters ever created. Both the power and gentle nature of Aslan makes him relatable and mysterious figure at the same time.
Along with creating the history, characters, and landscapes of a world accessed through a mere wardrobe, reading Lewis’ Space Trilogy truly proved to me his imaginative genius. His science fiction novels take readers on an interplanetary peregrination. Out of the Silent Planet depicts unfallen alien species unstained by Original Sin. Lewis’ creates a vivid experience that continually draws you into the mysterious rational alien and their eventually interaction with humans. The second novel Perelandra retells the traditional story of the Fall of humanity but occurring on the planet Venus. Lewis’ prompts interesting questions about man’s ability to evangelize beyond Earth—assuming extraterrestrial life exists!
Engaging Your Intellect
In addition to stirring the imagination of readers, C.S. Lewis also wrote with the ability to whet your intellectual pallet. His ability to write about deep theological truths with ease of understanding and depth is second to none. Even though I earned a master’s degree in Theology, I still learned a lot from Lewis’ introductory primer on Christianity—Mere Christianity. While the entire book is a gem, for conciseness’s sake I will only point out a couple key passages that made the human condition of sin easy to understand the relay:
“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
Gateway to Tolkien
The great friendship between C.S. Lewis and contemporary professor of literature J.R.R. Tolkien is legendary. Concerned about the state of literature both writers pledged to do something proactive instead of simply lamenting. During the 1930s, Lewis and Tolkien truly came to the scene with the former penning his Space Trilogy and the latter publishing the classic work The Hobbit.
Both men challenged each other to be a better writer and grow their writing abilities by exploring different genres. Below is a link which details Tolkien’s friendly challenge to Lewis to delve into the realm of science fiction!
Tolkien stated of his bond with Lewis, “Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual–a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher–and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.” I am indebted to C.S. Lewis for introducing me to the joy of reading Tolkien.
Lewis’ dexterous prose and subject matter enlighten my mind and infuse a youthfulness to my life like no another author—save possibly Tolkien himself! Tackling the age-old dilemma of evil in The Problem of Pain to enchantingly depicting eschatology in dream-like sequences in The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis provides a panoply of subject matter for theologians—lay and professional—to discuss and re-read many times over.
Schools through Suffering
St. Ignatius of Loyola spoke of the purpose of trials in this way, “If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” While C.S. Lewis did not formally convert to Catholicism he definitely endured suffering and helped lead countless to a deeper relationship with Christ. Suffering immensely from the death of his wife, Lewis channeled this pain and it bore the fruit of his work A Grief Observed.
The rawness of his prose struck me as both honest and real. Lewis lamented in A Grief Observed, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course, it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” I certain relate to this. From a cerebral level I certainly understand the promise of suffering Christ guarantees in John 15:20. Not until we encounter suffering do, we truly get tested. Only after the storm do we realize the lessons given.
C.S. Lewis declared, “We read to know we are not alone.” Through reading the masterful works of the great English writer I grown both as a Christian and as a writer. His ability to move my mind to ponder higher realities with simple examples allows me to understand the good, true, and beauty in the world much better.
American author Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Well, the untold story that welled up within me this past weekend as the great information and best practices I learned over the past several weeks of how to increase organic traffic to a blog. As a former teacher, and husband of a special education teacher, I have zeal for learning daily and sharing best practices with peers.
When I started The Simple Catholic blog back in 2015 I focused only on writing. That is normal for new bloggers. I mean should not writing be the PRIMARY aim of WRITING a blog! According to Bo Sanchez, “Education without execution is extinction.” In other words, you may have the greatest content, but without a strategy to deliver it to your audience your message does not travel! Some of my best written posts actually garnered little traffic. This does not mean that those posts are worse than the more popular posts. It simply meant I was still new in learning the process about blogging and outreach.
If I could start over my blog again I would incorporate these 3 simple SEO tactics to grow my traffic naturally. This post is especially written for new bloggers and even bloggers than desire more ways to market their content. Sharing of best practices helps out everyone!
Titles are Key
Naturally the first thing your readers will see on a post will be the title. From watching videos of prominent bloggers and following my favorite blogs I discovered that extra fancy titles do not always equal an increase in traffic. The most important thing for your title is to accurately describe the content of the blog. Click-baity titles grab a person’s attention, but that only leads to a one-time visit by that viewer. Oftentimes, I click on a post in Facebook with an intriguing title only to be quickly disappointed that the headline was very misleading. Accuracy always trumps flair!
A second simple strategy to incorporate into a title is the usage of numbers. In the case of the title for this post I included 3 (since I am discussing three best practices) and the current year (since this information is pertinent for your now). The benefit of including a number in your title is two-fold: readers catch the attention of numbers and oftentimes internet searchers like to search the top things, advice, or strategies for the current year. In fact Neil Patel in his article The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Powerful Headlines promotes the using of numbers as well (see the link for this resource in the related resource section at the end of this post).
Importance of Images
Another simple, yet effective SEO best practice is including images in your blog article. This is a tip I wish I learned years earlier. Going back to my earliest blog posts make me cringe. Words go on and go without any picture to break up the text. I will refer to SEO expert Neil Patel again on this matter. In fact, he was a leading voice in the best practices. Patel writes in 11 Best Practices for Including Images in Your Blog Posts,
You’re a writer, not a photographer.So why do you need to add photos to your blog posts when your words should be enough to entice your audience, engage visitors, and persuade people that your content is great?
Exactly! Bloggers write. Photographers shoot photos. Is not my word(s) enough? That was my mentality before opening myself up to the wisdom of people much wiser and smarter than me. Even now, I am improving, I am by far an expert, but I know enough to recognize best practices when I come across them. Since the inclusion of images in my blog posts, I have seen an increase in traffic.
One of the primary benefits Patel mentions about including images is that they allow text to be broken up in smaller chunks. Modern readers tend to skim texts. Long paragraphs with no images to break up the onslaught of the words is a huge turn-off for internet surfers. I came across a Facebook status that took me 15 seconds to scroll down! You heard me correctly. Fifteen seconds will no pictures. I did not bother reading that post as the sheer verbosity overwhelmed me.
Include images to break up the text. Make you post as easy to read for your readers. They will return the favor by returning to read your content!
Strength of Schedule
Along with creating an accurate headline and incorporating images in your posts, having a consistent blog schedule will improve your audience following. As a father of four children with a full-time job, publishing content daily is not realistic. However, what I have learned is that consist blog posting is more important that the number of articles you post weekly. It is far more important to continue to post the same amount each week versus posting 20 posts one week, going dormant for a week and then posting 10 more posts the next.
Why does having a publication schedule matter? Patel says, “If you want to continually grow your blog, you need to learn to blog on a consistent basis.” Whenever I discover a blog that interests me, I always look forward to new content! I get bummed out whenever a favorite blogger of mine goes dormant. The same will be true of your readers if you erratically post. Maybe you are single and have the time to write more often. Make a goal to post 3-4 times a week. Maybe you family or other obligations and 4 posts are not feasible. Shoot for only 1-2 posts a week. The key is achieving that frequency next week, and the week after than, and so on.
Remember that best practices will continue to evolve and so will your writing. Developing accurate titles with numbers, including images to break up long text blocks, and maintaining a consistent publication schedule will help improve your organic search results to your blog. I will continue to learn about SEO and writing strategies to improve The Simple Catholic blog. Any simple strategies I come across I will share. I hope you pass this information on to other nascent bloggers as well. Please feel free to post your best SEO practices in the comments section!
Your Blog is Your Personal Brand