Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Never too early to plan for the #AtoZchallenge !

The A to Z Challenge has been done and dusted for almost two months now-- time we started planning the next one!
Here are a few tips from Calli Duncan, a travel blogger, and 2014 A to Z Challenge participant:
The 2014 A to Z Challenge was an incredible success for Have Blog Will Travel. We now have 26 awesome British Columbia travel-themed posts in our article arsenal and have managed to connect with a great group of bloggers, forged some new relationships, and increased our readership. 
Having never attempted a blogging challenge of any type before, we wanted to use this opportunity to share a few tricks that we will be relying on for future challenges.
Format of A to Z Challenge Posts
Jumping into the challenge we knew our regular approach to blogging wouldn’t work. Therefore we decided to keep our challenge posts under 500 words, broken into three or four short paragraphs. This ensured we would be able to write a new post each day, and that readers wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
We also decided to include just one photo at the top of each post. This cut down on time sourcing photos and made each post visually similar. Clicking through our A to Z Challenge posts it’s clear they are part of a set - they look congruent yet can also stand on their own.
A Touch of Professionalism
To really elevate your posts and make a harmonious set of challenge posts, a little extra effort goes a long way. For us this meant editing our cover photos to create a unified look and include some essential information. Like the cover of a book, these images help direct people to our posts through social media channels and give our homepage a consistent look.
For the editing we turned to PicMonkey - a free, web-based editing tool and carried the same font through all challenge photos. The final look feels professional without taking itself too seriously.
Selecting a Theme
Wanting to stand out from other travel bloggers participating in the challenge, we opted to forgo the generic “travel” theme for something more closely related to the direction we are taking our blog. Therefore the theme Beautiful BC from A to Z was born, with all 26 challenge posts relating to British Columbia, Canada.
A specific theme lets visitors know what to expect and increases the chance of return visits during the challenge. When choosing a theme keep in mind that it needs to be broad enough to provide topics for all 26 letters of the alphabet, yet narrow enough that your final product is unique. 
Calli Duncan has spent the better half of 9 months traveling through Europe and is one of two faces behind the always honest and sometimes humorous Have Blog Will Travel. For more, connect with Calli on Facebook or Twitter.


Fil said...

Great tips there ... you've made me want to visit BC ... I love the idea of formatting the pictures to look similar.
Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

Suzanne said...

I was very organised - this time last year I already knew my theme and all the posts had that unilateral look. So far since this one, not a clue! lol!
Suzanne @ Suzannes-Tribe

Michelle Wallace said...

I agree! It's NEVER TOO EARLY to plan for the A to Z challenge.
So now I need to start thinking about my 2015 theme...

Anonymous said...

Great tips!

Anonymous said...

I have a name for my 2015 theme. That's not enough, though, is it? I need to find 26 relevant titles and posts!

TaMara Sloan said...

I've already planned my theme for 2015, and I've started researching for the actual posts. I can't wait!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've participated for five years now and no way I'd do it without a theme. Although everything else you did blows my efforts out of the water. I used a lot of photos, a ton of links, and much research to put mine together.

cheerfuloptimistic said...

I've got two blogs to enter in A to Z. There's one I don't really want to do a theme for, but I've got an idea for the other that involves music. So I'm starting to plan for April.

Sonnia J. Kemmer said...

I became busy in the early part of 2014 and failed to join the A-Z Blog Challenge. I'm definitely joining next year!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Callie and Travis .. I love the way you've made the extra effort and gone the extra mile for the blog - fun to see .. I'll be back to read .. having visited some of those places on my one visit across to BC - I'll be by to relive that experience ...

Yes - I've always had a theme and settled on a similar theme each year ..

Thanks for posting this .. good to see - cheers Hilary

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

I've probably had my themes a little too loose for your specifications. Not sure what direction I will take on next year. - Barbara
Life & Faith in Caneyhead