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Overcoming Blogger’s Block

Writers Block (4)Odds are, blogging isn’t your day job – yet. And unless you’re independently wealthy, you won’t be quitting your day job any time soon. Blogging, for most of us, is either a personal journal, a creative outlet, a bully pulpit, or a dynamic, rich-media enhanced advertising platform for a non-blog-related business. Even for writers who blog, it can be hard to find topics, day in and day out, that are sure to interest readers. And nobody wants to be labeled “boring.”

So what can you do when you’re feeling uninspired? First, define your mission. I joke that my mission, with my personal blog, is to dominate the no-niche niche. How is it that the author of two children’s books ranks exceedingly well for the phrases “naegleria fowleri” and “brain munching amoeba”? It wasn’t because I set out to dominate the brain munching amoeba market, I can tell you that much! Let’s pretend, for a moment, that I am intent on promoting my children’s book, Trockle.

Second, figure out what the problem is. If a reader wanted to find a book just like Trockle, but didn’t know that Trockle existed, what might they be searching for? What problem does my product – my book – solve? I wrote Trockle because my son – aged five or six, maybe, at the time – was afraid of the monster he swore lurked under the bed. He wouldn’t sleep; he wouldn’t let me turn the lights off. So I figured if was going to lay awake in bed with the lights on, he could at least practice his reading skills. I went off to the other room and wrote a story about a little boy, just like my son – only the little monster under the bed was even more afraid of him. My son’s problem was “can’t sleep because there’s a monster under my bed.” Mine was, “how do I get my child to sleep when he thinks there’s a monster under the bed?”

Now, a search – the sort of thing that leads bloggers to care about “search engine optimization” and keyword ranking and all that other stuff – is basically a question. It’s often a really lazy question that doesn’t involve full sentences and doesn’t end with a question mark. Third grade teachers everywhere would cringe. So if a reader or a buyer wanted to solve this same problem – how do I help them find Trockle? What are the key words? How about fear, sleep, monsters, monster under the bed, help child sleep? That’s a good guess, but here’s where Google can help. Go to Google Insights – http://www.google.com/insights/search/ – and enter some of the key terms that came to your mind. Google Insights will give you an idea of what people are actually entering as search terms, if there are enough of them searching for a thing to display actual terms used. In this case, I entered “under the bed” and “monster + monsters” (+ meaning “or,” here, not “and”). What I learned was that there were almost no searches for “monster under the bed.” But there were plenty for “under my bed” and “monster under bed.”

That gives you your challenge: Write a post using those exact phrases. (We’re just playing at SEO, here – think of it as a writing prompt, not a marketing ploy, and have some fun with this.) It’s not too hard to work in “under my bed,” is it? But what about “monster under bed”? You just have to take those searches the way people enter them – and to a search engine, words like “the” or “a” or “an” are useless.  You could try a line of dialogue:

Stephen’s face was as white as a newly-bleached sheet. He pointed at the floor. “Monster. Under. Bed.”

Mom sighed and pulled out the Febreze. “No monster can withstand my monster repellant!” she cried, and sprayed half the can under Stephen’s bed. The stench of dirty gym socks succumbed instantly. The monster, according to Stephen, was still there.

And now, it was hungry.

See, search engines also don’t care about punctuation. So you can take a little creative license and turn that awkward search phrase into something reasonable and readable, and Google sees it as exactly the same thing.

Maybe you don’t know the first thing about “search engine optimization,” and maybe you do but don’t care. But unlike in Field of Dreams, you cannot simply build a blog and expect readers to come. (I know – some of my writer friends are probably thinking, “Oh, geez, first I have to promote the book with a blog, and now you’re telling me I have to promote the blog, too? When will I find time to write?”) The good news is, writing begets writing – and practice makes perfect. Before long, you won’t have blogger’s block anymore.


 

Final Showdown!

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at http://jahangiri.us/new.

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at http://jahangiri.us/new.

Comments

  1. Ahhh this happens just too much…blogger’s real nightmare :) Lovely post Holly ;)
    Sara recently posted..KupovinaMy Profile

  2. Yes, new topics can be tough to find sometimes. My best inspiration is by reading other stuff, preferably even totally different niches. This really works for me.
    Sylviane Nuccio recently posted..How To Use The Law Of Attraction To Receive What You WantMy Profile

  3. My main block is finding time for everything.
    VivianZabel recently posted..Looking at Christmas Through a Child’s EyesMy Profile

  4. THAT’S why I can’t sleep! I must be afraid of the monsters under MY bed! :D Okay… and of not finding great ideas for blog posts. Either way, now I know how to solve that problem :D Thanks for the great post, Holly!
    Grady Pruitt recently posted..Developing A Healthy Mindset For Weight LossMy Profile

    • Thank YOU, Grady! :D Trust me, those little under-the-bed monsters are just shy. They have a lot in common with lurkers – really nice, if you can ever get to know them. They’re just as afraid of us as we are of them.

      Glad you found something useful here! Thanks for being so supportive of us all through this contest, too – I hope you’ll stick around and keep reading, once that’s over.

  5. I didn’t see this post before I emailed you about “blocks” – I swear!

  6. It just boggles my mind that Google tracks all of this and can tell you what other people search for.

    K

  7. I have not the slightest interest in blogging. I’m not even interested in learning about blogging — but this article was fascinating.

    You really are a very good writer!

    K

  8. Another dead-on explanation of SEO.

    I’ve read your books and they certainly weren’t written with SEO in mind. Fun seems to be your goal in both writing and marketing Holly; as a new and reluctant blog coach I’m finding your coat-tails to be long and comfy:)

    Dave

  9. Hello Holly,

    As usual, an excellent and flawless article. You’re right when you say that some writers may know about SEO but don’t care. I know SEO but I don’t apply it to my blog. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll try to apply the principle to my blog.

    Take the word “FAFSA apply” it’s a genuine challenge to use it in a sentence. But if you’re the writer, I’m sure you would be able to.
    Jena Isle recently posted..Reducing Stress in the WorkplaceMy Profile

  10. Very nice, Holly! Chris Brogan might learn a thing or two. And you didn’t even charge us for it: ;-)
    Hadass recently posted..On FearMy Profile

  11. Holly, you know what? I bet you could take this lesson to an elementary school class and turn 30 kids into SEO acolytes. How in the heck did you get me to learn that so painlessly?

    I really did know a thing or two – stop words – and I LOVE how you translated that dry term into “You just have to take those searches the way people enter them …” Brilliant.

    Now, the important thing – for graduates, surely – is to write a keyword-rich description as well, since that’s what shows up in the SERPs. LOL Translate THAT! :)

    I think I have you beat on the niche-less market, though. As the following link will attest.

    Chemical Element Domain Names

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    P.S. I put the link there, because CommentLuv is hiding under the bed with Trockle

    • Mitch, that’s hilarious – I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has odd thoughts at odd times, and goes down Google’s rabbit hole to discover – well, things like this. Too funny.

      If “blog” is a gastrointestinal disorder, then SERP is its burp.

      Hmm… CommentLuv does seem to be acting a bit skittish. Thanks. I think it’s just slooooow.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..It’s Going to Be Another Wild Week!My Profile

      • You may seriously be onto something here. Your SERP burp sounds more gentle than a “Google Slap” LOL

        Would we all be doing this thang if the first people (Al Gore, Bennett Cerf and Ving Rhames) started keeping “blearrghs” shared via secure hurls and archived as dumps? (yuk!)

        Cheers,

        Mitch

        • ROFL!! That sounds about right – that really is how I picture the inner workings of the Internet, most days, Mitch. It’s not necessarily pretty, behind the scenes, but it mostly works. And when it doesn’t…there’s TUMS.

  12. Holly, you are tearing this thing up. It’s pretty cool!

    And I think you’re right, I don’t believe search engines care overmuch for punctuation.
    Dave Doolin recently posted..DragonBlogger Contest – Kindle Fire GiveawayMy Profile

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