5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU CREATE THE BEST CONTENT STRATEGY EVER (+ WHY YOU NEED ONE)

5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU CREATE THE BEST CONTENT STRATEGY EVER (+ WHY YOU NEED ONE)

A Branch of Holly has grown so much recently.

Over the past six months, readers of my blog have increased by 53%. That means an increase from 7,000 to 12,000 readers a month - thanks everyone!

This hasn’t happened out of the blue. Nope. I haven’t conducted a magic spell to try and boost my readership. But I have been working on creating something else. A content strategy. Content that you believe in. Content that you can relate to. Content that will take you one step further in building your online presence.

When I was off for two weeks during December, I took time to focus on developing a brand new content strategy. It involved two things in particular. One was cutting my publishing schedule down. Two was including more content that I was good at writing. Plenty of words, plenty of advice and plenty of actionable tips.

I also narrowed my focus down to just two umbrella categories (blogging and productivity). This meant I was concentrating on the kinds of topics that you wanted helped with the most.

Before this, I wrote about anything I felt like and what my competitors were writing about. It was only after doing some more research that I realised I needed to redirect my focus. Instead of thinking I knew what you wanted and needed, I had to be sure.

 

Since then? It’s been all about you. And it still is. Your tweets, comments, newsletter replies and questions form the foundation of every piece of content on A Branch of Holly. Even if you might not realise it.

The results? It’s been SO successful. Since implementing this content strategy, I’ve doubled my social media following and massively increased my engagement. (Not to mention being shortlisted to be a finalist in the UK Blog Awards).

It was a simple change, really. Instead of writing about MY interests and concerns, I started writing about YOURS.

And the best thing of all?

You can do exactly the same thing for your own blog. No matter what your niche is.

If you take a bit of time now to craft your content strategy, it will benefit you for the rest of your blogging career. So today, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that, including:

  • How to create a content strategy that gets readers excited about what you do

  • How to create one that gets people to share more of your content

  • How to create one that turns one-time users into regular readers and loyal subscribers

But first…

WHY DO YOU NEED A CONTENT STRATEGY?

I spent three years blogging without a content strategy. That’s a REALLY long time to publish content week after week without having any real clue of what you’re doing or who you’re targeting.

It effected my readership. I was stuck on the same lousy numbers for what felt like a lifetime and I couldn’t seem to generate any engagement at all. No newsletter replies, barely any social media conversations and hardly any mailing list sign-ups. Cringy, right?

My content strategy changed all that. Here’s what else it can do.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES: HOW I CREATED THE BLOGGING BREAKTHROUGH EBOOK

BEHIND-THE-SCENES: HOW I CREATED THE BLOGGING BREAKTHROUGH EBOOK

It all started 14 months ago.

It was coming up to Christmas 2015 and I’d managed to finally find my blog’s true purpose. I knew the direction I was going in and I was starting to attract more and more readers.

I was planning my content for the New Year and I really wanted to kick off 2016 with a bang. I’d seen two of my favourite people online (Regina and Jen) create free challenges and I thought this would be a great thing to do on ABOH.

I spent hours and hours prepping all the content and taking all the photos, letting loose so many things I had learnt over the past two years. I wanted to help everyone believe that they could grow and run a blog to be proud of.

It’s not like there wasn’t enough information out there already. It was just that I found there wasn’t the right information out there that I needed. How many other people might feel that way?

So I put the challenge out there, publishing content almost every day throughout the month of January. It was only after what felt like the hundredth comment saying, “it’d be great to have this all in one place”, that I thought about repurposing it into something that people could access in their own time and work through at their own pace.

Within a few weeks, I’d put together an eBook for the 28-day Blogging Breakthrough Challenge.

There was basically a chapter for each part of the challenge, complete with hidden extras that weren’t available on the blog.

I launched it as my free mailing list opt-in in February 2016 (despite having some mega late nights towards the end to make sure it was good to go!) People loved it more than I expected.

What they loved the most was the fact that I was sharing information from my own experiences and from what I had learnt. They were putting these simple steps into action and seeing results.

It felt SO good.

But, as is the nature of the online and blogging industry, over this past year or so I’ve been constantly learning. I’ve been testing out new strategies and I’ve managed to more than double my traffic, following and engagement.

So now, I feel like I owe it to my readers and the Blogging Breakthrough community to update the challenge, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. At first, I thought I would direct it specifically to beginner bloggers.

Then when I was planning out some of the content updates, I realised something.

All bloggers, no matter whether they’ve been at it for three months or three years, face problems with their online presence on more than one occasion.

I had bloggers who’d been running their blogs for a while sign up to my mailing list to get a copy of the free eBook. If I was to improve this content but then narrow down who I wanted to target, surely that would mean I would be letting a huge chunk of my readership down.

And I know I’ve got better information in me.

Something more valuable, something more actionable, something that would let people see success again and again. Something that could truly help all the bloggers out there go from being stuck to knowing they’re on the right path – just like me.

That’s what I want to do.

So Blogging Breakthrough 2.0 is in the process of being created. I can’t wait. For now though, I want to break my creative process down into easy chunks so you can see exactly how I went about creating my last eBook and what I’m going to take forward for this next one.

MY FAVOURITE TOOLS FOR BLOGGING — AMAZING APPS, ADD-ONS AND PROGRAMS

MY FAVOURITE TOOLS FOR BLOGGING — AMAZING APPS, ADD-ONS AND PROGRAMS

It’s so important to make sure you use the right tools for your blog and business.

Not only will they help you be more productive and efficient, but they’ll also make your processes so much more enjoyable.

When I started A Branch of Holly, I was young, naive and had no idea where this journey would take me. The first thing I invested in? A little book about blogging.

Over time, I began to see the ridiculous importance in taking action and creating more than consuming if I wanted my online presence to grow. Now, three and a half years later, I have some set go-to tools, apps and products that help me work smarter, save a load of time and make what I do even more fun. Great, right?

So today, I’m sharing the ultimate guide to all of my favourite must-have tools, from social media, to my website and many many more. In fact, there’s 17 in total 😉 Let’s go!

PRODUCTIVITY

#1 | Google Drive

 

I honestly don’t know what I'd do without this tool. It makes it so easy to add and manage files that you need access to – no cost needed! I use this tool to access all sorts of files, from documents where I write my blog posts to images and more.

This is just a screenshot of how I like to organise mine, but you can manage yours in whatever way you want.

I have a main folder for each year, then within that year I have folders for each month. So my editorial calendar for each month is created in a Google Doc and saved in a specific folder. That’s the same for all my images and blog posts too. Then, say I want to access something from my phone while I’m out about, I can, really easily! This tool is very functional and will make your life a whole lot easier.


#2 | Sumo

I’m really impressed with the functionality of Sumo. It offers a few cool things.

The first, is that it allows you to add social sharing buttons to your site and these are “sticky”, which means they follow you as you scroll down the page. You can also change the background colour of them to match your brand.

HOW TO BECOME THE MASTER OF YOUR BLOG SCHEDULE

HOW TO BECOME THE MASTER OF YOUR BLOG SCHEDULE

Spoiler alert – running a blog alongside a full-time job is no walk in the park.

But it’s actually something I’ve been doing since I first started blogging three and a half years ago. How I manage to stay so motivated, be productive and accomplish so much is probably the one question I’m asked the most. 

The simple answer? You need focus, determination and most importantly? You need to be organised.

So today, I thought I’d dig a little deeper and share some of my tips for how you can become the master of your blog schedule and create your best content yet.

#1 | TAKE IT SERIOUSLY

Many of my readers run their blogs as a hobby and that’s such a great thing to embrace. But if you’re just not getting your content out there and not seeing results, then maybe you need to take it a little more seriously.

When I changed my mindset like this, it completely transformed the overall purpose I have for my blog.

To keep your blog running regularly, you need to have some sort of structure behind it. This can be as in-depth or basic as you want, but it essentially means you need to be disciplined and set yourself some working hours.

There’s something I’ve carried with me throughout my career and blog so far and that’s to work on tasks in terms of time.

So instead of coming home from work and saying, right, in these two hours I need to get a blog post up and ready to schedule – you work with the time you actually have available.

If you only have half an hour to play with one day, you’re not realistically going to be able to write and format a blog post. Then when you don’t accomplish this, you’ll feel guilty. That’s what you DON’T want.

Instead, look at your time each week and decide how much of it you want to dedicate to your blog each day. If it’s only ten minutes on your lunch break, that’s OK! The point is that you’re organising it around you.

I have many different methods of keeping on top of things. There’s my editorial calendar which is stored in Google Drive, my blog post ideas list in Evernote and then I also have a planner and I want to start a bullet journal again. This works really well for me because I can update it multiple times throughout the day.

There’s a problem with to-do lists though and that emerges when you don’t manage them properly. You need to be able to prioritise and focus on one task at a time. “Sort next week’s post” is a huge task. Break it down into mini sections and it’ll be much easier to manage.

NO DESIGNER? NO PROBLEM. 6 TIPS FOR DIYING YOUR WEBSITE

NO DESIGNER? NO PROBLEM. 6 TIPS FOR DIYING YOUR WEBSITE

As someone who isn’t a designer, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to create the website you want. The truth is that not everyone can afford to have a designer do it all for them or pay for a fancy template - especially when you’re just starting out.

When I switched to Squarespace nearly two years ago and launched my new site, I was so nervous about how everything would look and hated that I wasn’t a designer. I didn’t want to spend money, but I was getting really frustrated.

So what’s a girl to do when you’rein this position and you're also not at the point where you can hire someone?

You learn how to do it yourself!

In fact, how I moved to Squarespace and designed my website is one of the MOST POPULAR questions I get from my community. So today, I wanted to share a few pointers with you to help you make your website look like a pro, even if you’re DIYing it.

#1 | CHOOSE YOUR COLOUR PALETTE AND STICK TO IT

The colours on your website set the tone for a reader. Each colour is associated with different emotions, so it’s important to make sure you’re using colours that reflect what your brand is all about. Consider your tone, purpose and the overall message you want to convey.

For instance, here are the connotations of the three main colours on my website:

  • White: light, innocence, purity
  • Grey: neutral, balanced, practical
  • Turquoise: wisdom, creativity, loyalty

If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, you need to work on your personal brand, and your colour palette really helps to create the image of your overall brand. Want to try something different? Use complementary colours or an alternative shade to an existing colour.

If you still don’t know where to begin (and trust me, I didn’t), Adobe’s Colour Wheel will become your new best friend. The most important thing is to pick colours that speak to your purpose and style.