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Showing posts with label Blogging tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogging tips. Show all posts

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Blogging Strategy Works Best? (#atozchallenge)




        Our thanks to guest poster and A to Z Challenge veteran Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin who blogs at  Stephenyhoughtlin.com and Mainstreetrockymount.com.   In this post Stepheny shares her April blogging strategy--some tips you might find helpful in your own blogging.  



Reflecting on the A to Z Blog Challenge


“It’s true, with bloggers or a box of chocolates,
you never know what you’re going to get.”
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin


Everyone comes to the blogging world in their own way with interests that are particular. The Challenge is like taking a class from a plethora of teachers who demonstrate what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. I know I’m a better blogger for this teaching. After four years of participation, I hope this reflection adds to the consideration of the matter.  


There is major agreement that it is important to start early with the research and writing, placing your posts in a queue before April 1. Visit as many blogs as possible, leaving a comment behind will improve your stats as people return the favor. If you didn’t get a lot of comments perhaps the process is too complicated to be worth the effort. When I find a new blog that has my name on it because of content and presentation, I feel rewarded for the time it takes to work through the participation list. I gladly hit the FOLLOW button when the stars align, but I have high standards in that decision. If it isn’t readable, or the site is difficult to navigate, I’m a step away from moving on. An edgy blog does not persuade me either. Clarity: background/font size are essential. I want an uncluttered presentation that does not take away from the point of the post...to be able to READ the information. Short posts work best not only during The Challenge, but all year long. People are too busy to take the time no matter how worthy the content.


The subject matter you pick for the challenge has ramifications. Remember, a visitor might find you on day one or later in the month. You have one shot to intrigue them. A long tale that makes no sense on day 12, or a subject that is heavy, worthy as it may be, isn't great for what I call a "26 day expiration date opportunity." I encourage careful consideration of this goal: posts which demonstrate your blog is easy to read, the writing is your best effort, and that your blog is worth someone's valuable time to return and follow. NEVER start a post with, I don’t know what I’m doing, but here goes. Ask yourself, have I picked a subject that is better published at another time? The time frame of the Challenge should influence these decisions.


Whatever theme I have followed during April, I want people to know that the blog will continue on with content you would expect a writer, gardener, addicted reader and book-alcoholic to write about. I ask them for their company in the coming year. After reading this reflection, do come and find me by the garden gate at Stephenyhoughtlin.com where I’ll be waiting, or visit my 2nd blog about the revitalization of a small southern historic downtown, Rocky Mount, NC. Let’s have sweet tea and talk about blogging.   

IMG_1068About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East available on Amazon. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: stephenyhoughtlin.com or Mainstreetrockymount.com






If you'd like to contribute a guest post to the A to Z Blog, please let us know. We are happy to consider any topics that might be of interest to the A to Z Blogging community. Contact emails can be found at "Contact" tab at top of the page or you can contact me at ArleeBird@gmail.com





Monday, July 4, 2016

Lessons from the Failure (#atozchallenge)

      And now for a bit of a confessional with some lessons for all from blogger Amita Gulia who can be found at Amita's Pen and Quotes.  Amita was also part of the 2016 Arlee's Ambassadors Team.  Don't feel too badly, Amita, at least you did some things right and most importantly you understand what some of your errors were.   Read on and enjoy...





Lessons from the Failure

         I first heard about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in May 2014 and was bit disappointed since I was late. I subscribed to the A to Z Blog and waited patiently for 2015. A to Z challenge 2015 was my first participation in the challenge and I was determined to survive it. I finalized on a theme and did some research. With some hiccups, I managed to complete the challenge and went on to write my reflections post. I was so proud of myself. Posting every day with relevant content on the blog made me feel bravura.

       My confidence touched no bounds as I managed to pull it off on two blogs simultaneously. Amita's Pen where I blog more often saw some great Indian women who made the road clear for future ladies in various professions. The other blog - Quotes, made me pen down at least one self-made sentence on Pregnancy. That section is very close to my heart and the words came directly from inside as I was expecting my second baby at that time.

       Then came 2016 and I was very confident of completing the challenge again. "If I can do it on two blogs at the same time while being eight months pregnant, nothing's going to stop me now", were my thoughts at the back of mind. I went a step further and went on to be on the team of Arlee Bird's A to Z Challenge Ambassadors. I had a great theme and finalized more great topics for each letter. April 2016 started and so did my challenge. After 10 days, I actually gave up. I knew I had failed it this time. I was sad. I felt embarrassed on not being able to contribute to Arlee's team - I volunteered myself for it and I was not doing anything. Honestly, I still feel bad more about being a non-active helper more than being a non-survivor.

I asked myself, "What went wrong?' 'Where did I lack?” My inner self shouted the following answers:

1. You did not Schedule the Posts

Plan, draft and schedule the posts. This is the top advice or tip anyone would get when it comes to any blogging challenge. And there I was an existing survivor and still ignoring this important advice. Mark it in bold letters:  If anyone want to survive the challenge with flying colors along with good content, scheduling the posts is a must.

2. You did not Seek Help

I have never had guest posts on my blog. May be this was the time to let the curtains up. I could have approached my friends and I am sure many of them would have helped even if I gave them the topics. But, I did not even try it. So next time, if you are having a hard time coming up with enough of your own original posts, try calling your friends - bloggers and non-bloggers both might be willing to lend a hand.

3. You were Over-Confident

Remember - success is never guaranteed. Just because I succeeded last time, does not mean I would continue to do so without more effort. Challenges often get tougher with each passing moment. Be prepared for them so they won't become insurmountable.

So, does that mean my failure was all my fault? Actually, I would not be so very harsh to myself. In my defense I had a very, very busy month at work. I was writing programming scripts at work all day long throughout the month of April and each day I when I took time to work on my blog posts, I got more behind at work. The official work pays me and needs to be completed at any cost. Thus, I forgive myself--just this time--for ignoring my dear blog. I would keep the learning in mind and definitely take up the challenge again in 2017.  Next year I hope to heed the lessons I learned in 2016 to make my life as a blogger far less stressful and uncomplicated.

PS - I hope I would still be chosen to assist on a team next time - Guilty me!  I'll do better next year!

        Thanks, Amita!   I'd be happy to give you another chance on my team.

         We're accepting guest post proposals for the A to Z Blog.   If you have something that you think might be of interest to the A to Z community of bloggers, contact us with your idea.   I'll be happy to work with you on a post for this site.






Monday, June 27, 2016

Some Good-Anytime Tips for Blogging (#atozchallenge)



       The following guest post comes to us from Sneha Sasikumar who blogs at Life As A Potpourri!!!  Currently she is working on a possible series to appear at the A to Z Blog over the upcoming months, but be sure to visit her site to learn more about her and read more of her fine work.   

 Key takeaways from the #AtoZChallenge:

1. Preparation is a must : 
Whether or not you have chosen a theme for your challenge, deciding it way before the challenge starts makes half the challenge easier. At least the 26 words or ideas that you would be using should be jotted down before heading into April.  This is something you can actually begin now for the 2017 Challenge.

2. Look and Feel of the Blog Posts:
If you have in mind to follow a particular style of font, images and other cosmetic customization for your posts prepare that well in advance. Also, consider drafting of all your posts with these basic things as a framework where all you would be left to do during or prior to the challenge is to post your content

3. Follow for a follow, comment for a comment:
The #AtoZChallenge is all about collaboration and networking. When so many people with so many topics have been registered for the challenge there is no point if you are just focused on your blog alone. Try to reply to all of the comments that have been posted on your blog (if not the same day, as soon as possible). Follow folks who have followed your blog, read their posts and leave them a comment as to what you liked about their posts. Mutual encouragement is very important during the challenge.   Who doesn’t like the appreciation of the hard work they put into their posts?

4. Stick to the deadline:
Ohh yeah, we are all so used to procrastinating things in life but having a deadline helps you to avoid this bad habit if you don’t already have your posts scheduled for the challenge way beforehand. There might be times when you’ll face the writer’s block, but don’t let this stop you from blogging. Just write even if it’s about how the writer’s block is not letting you come up with ideas but just do it.

5. Read Read and Read:
The knowledge base that is formed during each challenge is immense. One should spend more time in reading other blogs to gain knowledge in just 26 days and also do a lot of reading for your own topic if required.

Personally the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge has helped me in many ways: 


  • It helped me organize and plan my posts. 
  • It made me think how unique my next blog post could be and how much better than the previous one. 
  • Picking up a theme like #Emotions helped me understand each of these 26 emotions personally as I did research on them. 
  • The challenge helped me interact with so many old and new friends. <3 

I would also like to thank all the guest bloggers who took time from their blogging challenge to post on my blog and share their thought and views.



lifeasapotpourri
About Sneha

     A strong willed Sapiosexual / Cheerful person and a true Cancerian!!! I am a passionate dancer. I enjoy travelling, trying everything possible in life..I don't want to regret when I am about to kick the bucket. Besides cooking and writing, I enjoy all kinds of sports. Sadly none of these are my profession. I am a techie working with a product based firm and for the last six years have been in Bengaluru (aka Bangalore- which is the capital of India's southern Karnataka state).







       If you're interested in contributing to the A to Z Blog please email us at one of  the links on the Contact Page or shoot me a message at ArleeBird@gmail.com.   We are interested in articles about blogging or anything of general interest to the A to Z community.









Monday, April 4, 2016

Can I Do It? #atozchallenge

Can I Do It?

Yes you can!

You are capable, creative, and crafty.

You can conquer the A to Z Challenge.

You are in control.

Struggling to keep up with posting? Take an extra hour this week to get ahead.

Struggling with commenting? Again, set aside an extra hour to catch up.

Wondering if it will all be worth it? Yes, it will!

My very first Challenge in 2010, I signed up last minute. I had no idea what to post and scrambled every day to find something to fit the letter. By the end of that very first Challenge, I managed to post every day, my following had tripled, and I made some really good blogging buddies. It set me up for that fall when my first book came out, CassaStar.

So, whatever you are trying to accomplish with the Challenge, know this – you can do it. You can beat the Challenge!


Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, and his blog can be found HERE

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lessons from the LEGO Girl on Blogging from A to Z

K is for Knight | Courtney Pearson's Sketch Blog | Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2012
Your Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge experience can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Having a theme for the month can be helpful; yet, there is no rule that says you need to have one. So how can you get the most bang for your blogging buck while figuring out what to post every day in April and visiting hundreds of other blogs in the process? Do something that will grab your readers’ attention and get people talking about (and linking to) your blog posts.

Vancouver based artist Courtney Pearson used Legos to depict various subjects such as dancing and tributes to Sherlock Holmes, when she participated in the 2012 Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge. To date, her cute alphabet inspired displays are one of the most memorable blog posts in the history of the challenge. 

What makes Courtney’s theme so interesting is that she bucks the writing trend that packs the A-to-Z Challenge year after year. Most of her blog posts contain one-liners while others are no longer than a single paragraph. Although this former A-to-Z Challenge participant fell short of completing all 26 days of blogging, here are two useful lessons that can be gleaned from her efforts of showing more, writing less and adding a much appreciated touch of whimsy to our alphabet blogathon.

Making Arrangements Says it All

Use food, knickknacks or other items around the house to illustrate a theme related to a letter of the alphabet. For example, try creating a smiley face for the Letter S, using fruit, vegetables or cereal. You could also do a collage depicting what your ideal vacation looks like. New Years may have passed but there is still time to create a vision board for your bucket list, yearly resolutions or general life goals. The A-to-Z Challenge is a good opportunity to share the process of making a collage, showing readers how they can make one on their own using similar materials. This would be PERFECT for those of you who are into scrapbooking.

A Photo a Day Keeps the Writer’s Block at Bay

Take Wordless Wednesdays to another level by posting one image of a person, place or object representing a letter of the alphabet, every day in April. Of course, this means you have to take photos yourself (which is easy since the camera on your cell phone has probably already been taken for a spin many times over). If 26 photos sound daunting to you, consider using images as a backup for days when you don’t have the time or interest in writing yet another 500-word (give or take) blog post to keep up with the letter of the day.

These two lessons can help to make your Blogging from A to Z Challenge fun because they involve less work and more play. So, if at any point you find yourself short on words in April, take these lessons into consideration and you just might survive the A-to-Z Challenge.

What is YOUR plan to ace the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge this year?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers writes about magic, theaters and women in the U.S. Navy at The Madlab Post. Chat with her @MadlabPost on Twitter. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When You Don’t Know What to Blog About…

The internet can seem like a scary place for bloggers who are experiencing a bit of writer’s block. After all, you have followers who visit regularly to read the latest pondering on your topic of choice. Who knows what’s going to happen if they arrive and there’s nothing new on the horizon? Do you even really want to find that out? Here are a few ways to get through those periods when your creativity engine has halted and you don’t know what to blog about.

Post a picture because images are nice to look at. It’s an easy way to deliver one thousand words to your blog readers without having to write a single sentence.

Tell a story because people relate to each other through shared experiences and intrigue. You’ll probably get return visitors if it’s funny, empathy from readers if it’s sad or hate mail if it’s controversial enough to make someone uncomfortable.

Ask a question because you’ve been dying to know something. Maybe you want to know if it’s just you who does that unspeakable thing sometimes in the middle of the night. Maybe you’re curious to find out where other people stand on a particular subject. Maybe you want options to troubleshoot a problem you’re having. Or maybe…just maybe…you want to outsource the need for having to come up with blogging ideas on your own. Whatever the reason for asking is…just ask.

Link to someone else’s blog because he or she has already done the work and beat you to it. Ugh. Don’t those prolific bastards just make you sick?! Yeah. They’re blogging it up while you’re staring at the keyboard and a blank page on the computer screen. Don’t hate them. Congratulate these bloggers instead by telling your readers to go check out the good blog post they recently put up. It will make you look good to your blog visitors because you’re helping them find other cool blogs to read and it will also save you from having to put up your own post…at least for now.

Respond to a current event because everybody has an opinion about the latest stories being reported on by the media. Whether it’s Dunkin Donuts’ new Cronut, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” Ebola, Immigration, Olivia Pope’s outfits on the last episode of ABC’s “Scandal,” Martha Stewart’s recipe for pumpkin soup, there’s something in the news that you surely can comment on in 400-500 words or more. Do that.

Review a product, service or event because that new thingamajig you recently bought or ate or participated in has exceeded your expectations. That is, unless it fell short of what you thought you were getting into, for one reason or another. Either way, blog about whether you are happy with your purchase or experience. The information could possibly be very helpful to another person who is considering buying/reading/eating/using/doing the very thing you already bought/read/ate/used/did.

What do YOU do when you don’t know what to blog about?


A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers blogs at The Madlab Post and she is an official ambassador of the 2014 Couch Fest Films Festival. Connect with her @MadlabPost on Twitter.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Season of Blogging

Do you know what it's like to sometimes feel like there’s not enough time in the day to post new content? Those of us who have had blogs for longer than a year have likely become broken down at one time or another, for one reason or another, in the struggle to keep our blogs going. Once it starts, the wave of procrastination, doubt and lack of interest in blogging can make us believe that our world doesn’t have room for our blogs at the moment.

It’s like a blogging breakdown happens, especially when writer’s block has reared its ugly head….again. Yet, it’s rarely noticeable as dirty dishes are piled mountain high in the kitchen sink because all the time spent working for the man required overtime this week. Plus, laundry needs to be done, dinner must be served and little Jimmy has baseball tryouts this weekend. Then there’s that sudden feeling technology overload once the cell phone starts ringing, alarms go buzzing and social media notifications pop up on the little screen. Oh wait…“The Real Housewives of Orange County” is coming on tonight and, well, the mere thought of blogging just elicits one big sigh, or maybe even a sense of sheer panic. 

Updating ones blog used to be a fun activity but now it just seems sooo last season. If this sounds like you and if you ever find yourself neglecting your blog or letting it fall by the wayside because, hey, life happens after all, remember this…
There is no right season or special sauce that determines when the time is right to get back into the swing of blogging.

As bloggers, we have to constantly work at putting out fresh content, out of respect for our readers, the platforms that we’ve built and for ourselves. We must find a way to make blogging fun again. This can be done by approaching our blog in a way that is hassle free, given our schedule and interests.

Maybe time and life duties won’t allow you to write that epic blog post today but what’s stopping you from posting a photo and a simple caption? Or perhaps, a roundup style blog post containing links to other bloggers that may be of interest to your readers? Or, maybe list style posts describing all of the things/people/places keeping you from blogging like a rockstar?

Blogging is never out of season, so we must do what we can to make sure that our corner of the web is always trending.

What are YOUR blogging struggles that YOU would like to overcome?

Nicole Ayers is an A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host who operates The Madlab Post and chats on Twitter. Her short narrative drama film “ABYSS: THE GREATEST PROPOSAL EVER,” is available on DVD (Limited Sneak PreviewEdition) as she works further relief efforts for disaster survivors including U.S. Military Veterans. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Blog Better by the Day

Having fallen behind on blogging activities myself, coupled with several social media hiatuses, I know what technology burnout looks like and I understand that overwhelming anxiety of feeling like you'll never get up to speed...at least not as soon as you hoped. The solution to this recurring issue is designating each day of the week for one specific blogging activity or other online task. It is an effective way to get a handle on your internet presence so that it doesn't drive you bonkers. 

A fun way to get in the habit of sticking to an online routine that goes day by day is naming days of the week in a manner that coincides with the task -- Wordless Wednesdays style -- and then listing this schedule on your calendar, in a notebook or some other place where you'll have them handy:
  • Return-Commenting Monday
  • Blog Promotion Tuesday
  • Visiting/Reading Wednesday
  • Email Inbox cleaning Thursday
  • Blogging Friday
  • Social Media Saturday
  • Blog Planning Sunday

Using the above sample schedule, I've been able to complete more tasks with this method than when I try to squeeze several important online activities into one single day. My experiences with doing this has led me to realized that the days on our blogging calendars are not set in stone. Sometimes I miss a day (or two) and end up playing catch-up by either doubling up on the task of the day or moving the next scheduled tasks to a later day. Sometimes I even skip a day (or more) depending on how well my week is going. In any case, naming one day each for a different blogging activity makes it easier for me to not worry about having to be everywhere, all of the time.

Do YOU control the internet or does it control YOU?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Hostess Nicole Ayers writes about movies and the people that make them, at The Madlab Post. She also tweets @MadlabPost.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Two Rewarding Results of Writing in Response to Blogs You Visit

Did you know that writing responses on your blog is of the quickest ways to feature a blogger in one of your posts? 

There are many ways to use the topic of another blogger’s writings as a springboard for your own blog’s content. Consider posting content that elaborates on a comment that you left, if any, on his or her original post. You can also forego commenting altogether, and write a response on your blog, making sure to link the post that sparked this subject you’re covering.  

No matter how you approach this method of responding to blogs you visit, it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved because it comes in handy where marketing and content creation is concerned.

Writing in response to the blogs you visit helps to cure writer’s block. Reading someone else’s perspective on a topic, or learning about certain experiences he or she had, is likely all it takes to revive your creative juices when you find yourself coming up short of blogging ideas.

Writing in response to the blogs you visit fosters interaction between bloggers. There is a good chance that bloggers whose post you’re responding to will visit your blog if you leave a comment on what they originally wrote with the permalink to your reaction. This might even lead to a mention and link in their latest blog post, which is one of the easiest ways for you to gain new readers. In the same breadth, linking to their post in the body of the content you write also helps to send your visitors their way – helping both blogs to build a network within the blogging community.

Have YOU ever written a comment that ended up being as long as the average blog post?

Nicole Ayers hosts the 'Monday Movie Meme' while also writing about independent film directors and their work at The Madlab Post. When she’s not keeping up with Jack Bauer, she also tweets.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A to Z Tips – Making Friends and Building Relationships #atozchallenge

The first A to Z was a challenge to post the alphabet every day for a month with Sundays off for good behavior.

Yet by the end of April, it had become so much more.

It was becoming a part of a larger community. It was about connecting and making new friends. And it was keeping those friends long after the Challenge ended.

How do you make new friends through the Challenge?

Visit new blogs. Start with the one on the list after yours and move toward the end.

Comment on other blogs. Let them know you read and enjoyed what they posted. These small exchanges build friendships.

Follow new blogs. Following a blog shows commitment. If possible, do more than add the link to your Feedly or Bloglovin’. Follow in ways the blog owner can see, such as Google Friends Connect, Linky Followers, Google+, etc.

Make it easy for people to comment on your blog. Dump the word verification! (You can set to no anonymous comments or even blog owner approval if necessary.) Most people won’t bother to comment if they see word verification, especially during the Challenge. And be aware that if you’re using Google+ comments or are part of a network like Tumblr, you will get fewer comments.

Make it easy for people to follow your blog. Have the follow widgets up high so people can find them.

Return comments and follows. Nothing is more discouraging than a one-sided relationship. (Yes, it does get crazy during the Challenge, but do your best to visit those who visit you.)

Be open to blogs outside of your ‘genre.’ Variety is the spice of life and you’ll learn by exposing yourself to new things.

When the Challenge ends, you’ll discover you’ve really connected with some new bloggers. Continue to visit them and build friendships.

Some of my best blogger buddies have come from the past four Challenges. I hope you find some really great friends as well!


Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. He is the founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, February 14, 2014

How Important is #Collaboration in the #Blogging Community? #atozchallenge


Composers for Relief: An Album of Collaboration
Arlee Bird started the A to Z April Blogging Challenge to encourage a feeling of community amongst bloggers-- scores of bloggers have benefited through this challenge and will do so again this year. This was made possible through the collaboration of the co-hosts, (Lee, Alex, TinaJeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ Pam, and yours truly,of course.

Today, one of the members of #TeamDamyanti , +Samantha Geary Jones, is here with a post on collaboration, and how it resulted in an awesome project that might help lives come back to normal in the typhoon-ravaged areas of Philippines. Take it away, +Samantha!
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We all have hopes and dreams. Our hope is our strength. It’s what inspires us to be greater. What pushes us to venture beyond what we know and take a chance. A chance to inspire. A chance to be inspired. A chance to make a difference.

Imagine what we can accomplish, together.

When talents and dreams converge--that’s when the real magic begins.

And that’s exactly what happened in December of 2013. In the tragic wake of the worst natural disaster in Philippines history, over 30 compassionate composers and 28 amazing authors from across the globe, collaborated on a compassionate project to support the relief efforts in the most devastated areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

The charity event began with the Composers for Relief album--28 tracks embodying a sense of hope and triumph from the brilliant minds of film composers and musicians. Each track inspired an author’s tale, reflecting the soul of the notes with well woven words. These 29 stories transport you Beyond the Binding of the imagination in heart pounding sci fi, enchanting fantasy and gripping slices of realism.

Even now, the collaboration has captured the creative minds of film students at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia, whose GLOBAL VISUAL HARMONIES project, under the direction of Ray Kril, adds a stunning element of hope in the form of short films inspired by the album.
 
I can’t think of a better way to build a community--one that transcends crafts and continents, cultures and creeds. Consider collaborating with your fellow bloggers and friends, authors and artists, musicians and filmmakers. 

That’s what the A to Z challenge is all about, coming together as a blogging community. In this challenge bloggers from all fields are welcomed, and it can become a cauldron of collaborative creativity.

Let’s take it to the next level-- reach out to one another. Take a chance. YOU can make a difference--you need only try. It’s amazing what we can accomplish, together. 

Begin the journey today by visiting the other bloggers in the A to Z Challenge Sign-up list. Or take part in the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal. By the time the challenge starts, you would have made friends, and who knows, even thought of a project to do together-- which would enrich your life, and that of others.


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Beyond the Binding is available NOW on Amazon & Smashwords in all ebook formats . Cover designed by Jennifer Redstreake Geary


Composers for Relief is available NOW on ITunes, Amazon, CDBaby & Spotify
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 Have you taken part in a creative, collaborative project? Teamed with other bloggers to create something new, hosted a blogging event together? Has the A to Z challenge resulted in creative ideas of collaboration for you?


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Hyper Blog Like a Pro!

The best way to increase your chances for having a great Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge experience is by actively working specific areas of this blogathon to meet goals you have (whether formal or informal) for your blog in April. Even among bloggers who do not have solid long or short-term goals for blogging through the 26 letters of the alphabet; chances are that when you sign-up, you do so with a set of expectations or hopes for what you want to get out of your participation in the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge.

On Monday, Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out filled us in on the secret to this challenge – it’s about the letters, but it’s also about the numbers. 

"Hyper Blogging" is what he calls it; a kind of blogging on steroids that is necessary action for participants who aim to see any real significant increase in your number of subscribers, fans, friends, followers, visitors and comments – or whatever area you are seeking a boost in for your blog. As founder and ruler-of-them-all when it comes to the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge, Arlee has a great point when he emphasizes that you have to put in the work to see results.

I’ve participated in this challenge long enough to understand how its mere size can be enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned bloggers. Since we cannot be everywhere all of the time, while trying to visit nearly two thousand blogs in 26 days, it’s beneficial to use those A-to-Z goals, expectations and/or hopes as a foundation for your plan of attack on this April blogathon. Focus on activities that lead toward what you want and do less of the online stuff that doesn’t move in that same direction. Here are some ways that you can get your numbers up during the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge without returning to your blog empty-handed by the time May rolls around.

The Key to Playing the Numbers Game

Locate the objective that most matches what you want out of the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge and then focus on doing the activities listed for those particular goals during April. You don’t have to ignore all of the other activities altogether; just make sure to pay close attention to the actions that directly serve you, your blogging interests and your reasons for participating in the challenge.

Want more comments on your blog? Do these activities:
  • End your blog post with a question
  • Leave a comment on every blog that you visit. 
  • Blog about a controversial topic (Tread lightly here when swimming in controversial waters, and choose topics at your own risk.)
  • Reply to comments on your own blog.
  • Write a blog post comparing something such as baby names, products, people, services, situations, songs, movies, etc.
  • Reciprocate comments by visiting and commenting on the blogs of those who left a comment on your blog.
Want more people to visit your blog? Do these activities:
  • Visit additional blogs on Sundays when we have the day off from blogging in the A-to-Z Challenge, and then leave comments on these blogs.
  • Use the #atozchallenge hashtag on Twitter when mentioning your blog posts that are related to the challenge.
  • Add your blog URL below every comment you leave on other blogs. You do not need to know HTML to do this. Writing out the URL address (www.yourblog.com) will suffice.
  • Become a minion for one of the Co-Hosts. (It’s a lot of work in addition to what you already have in store as a challenge participant, but being a minion also comes with various perks such as having your blog featured on in A-to-Z Blog posts as well as on the blogs of Co-Hosts.)
  • Make your blog posts shareable by adding a “Share this” button or related social media links to your A-to-Z Challenge posts, allowing readers to share them on their blogs or among their social networks.
  • Link to other blogs that are participating in the challenge and/or feature another blogger in one of your blog posts. He or she will likely announce the news – either on his or her own blog or in their respective online social circles.
  • Swap guest posts with another blogger who is participating in the challenge. (For example, you can write a guest post for letter L or N on another blog and that blogger can give you a guest post for Letter M or O. This can be an effective way to increase readership outside of your own circle of visitors.)

Want more subscribers/followers/fans, etc. of your blog? Do these activities:
  • Place subscribe buttons and/or forms in your sidebar above the fold (near the top of the sidebar, positioned high enough that visitors do not have to scroll down the page to find it).
  • Add your social media handle (FB, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google + or whatever your pimping) to your signature at the end of your blog post or in your comments when visiting other blogs. (Don’t go crazy here, or else people will be quick to consider you a self-serving spammer. Pick a social profile...or two but I really wouldn’t recommend listing more than two...that is most important to you and use that one and that only. Notice I did not mention your blog URL. That’s because if you’re interested in followers, then it isn’t necessary for your blog URL to be listed in your comments because your blog address should already be prominently featured somewhere on your social media profile and easy for your social network to access. Duh!)
  • Make hybrid content for your blog posts, that can double as content for your social media websites and/or vice versa. (Meaning....If you are active on Instagram, write a blog post about one of the photos that you posted there, add the proper tags such as #Instagram, etc. and then share the blog post URL on FB or other social networks that you belong to. Grab a quotable section from one of your blog posts such as a short blurb that could stand on its own and Tweet it or Pin it or Tumblr it, all while making sure to add/embed a permalink back to your original blog post.)

Happy Blogging!

What are the reasons why YOU participate in the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge?

Do YOU get the results that you hope for when it’s all said and done?

Nicole Ayers at The Madlab Post

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A to Z Challenge Hacks – All Text, No Extras!

The next Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge is a few seasons away but it’s never too early to get a head start on mapping out your game plan for surviving this massive undertaking. 

As we close out the Summer and head into Fall, this is a good time to learn from our own previous A-to-Z Challenge experiences or those of other participants, to keep up with the alphabet and visiting new blogs without losing our minds in the process.

Since I was fundraising for my short film at the time and didn’t have internet access during most of April, my daily schedule was hectic. There were days when I found myself scrambling to get a blog post up by 11:59pm to avoid falling behind our 26-day blogging schedule. Here is one of a few tips and tricks that helped me stay on track as best as I could during the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge.

Text first, Pictures & Stuff later

I posted my blog posts without photos and then returned at a later time to edit/update the posts by adding photos. This is one of my A-to-Z Hacks that worked wonders for me by reducing the stress of not being able to have something new for those who were visiting my blog.

Putting text-only posts up on your blog is especially useful for procrastinators or those who just usually write their blog posts later in the evening due to jobs, screaming babies, whining spouses, ailing parents, church services, natural disasters, technical issues, NBC’s The “X-Factor” or “America’s Got Talent,” CBS’s “Big Brother,” HBO’s “Breaking Bad” or for whatever other reason.


Since I’ve written a lot of my A-to-Z Challenge posts at night, I would aim to get something up on my blog by 11:59pm for the current letter of the day. When the challenge reached Letter K, I did not have the time to write, edit, proofread, edit again and format my post earlier in the day, so I worked on it at night starting around 10:00pm and noticed that I was running out of time. 

So instead of worrying about the layout of photos that would support this post, I focused on getting the post to go live before midnight, so that I could remain up to date in the challenge. Afterward, (since I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon, anyway) I searched for the images that I wanted to accompany that post and then went back into my blog editor and added them sometime after midnight, within the next hour or so.

My Text first, Pictures, etc. later A-to-Z Hack worked so well that the same trick could be applied to posts written earlier in the daytime as well. If you are among the challenge participants who write your posts in the morning or during the early afternoon hours but still need to find photos to go with them, just split up those duties – publish the post that you have so far (which is the text) and then add the images and/or any links that you didn’t have handy the first time around, later in the evening when you get to them. See…this A to Z blogging trick is as easy as pie.

Have a joyous weekend, everybody!

- Nicole @MadlabPost

*More of my A to Z Hacks will be coming soon. Until then, let me know something…

When (morning/daytime/nighttime) did YOU usually write YOUR posts for the A to Z Challenge?


Do YOU have any A-to-Z Challenge survival tricks up YOUR sleeve that you’d like to share with me?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is Your Blog in Danger of Google’s Guest Post Shakedown?

Did you know blogs that publish guest posts could be penalized by Google? I didn't at least not before reading about this latest news regarding the practice, a few days ago. Yesterday, I also received an email containing tips from another blogger on how to play it safe when publishing content from guest bloggers.

The overall message from both of these posts is that our blog’s search engine rankings, traffic and general reputation could be affected if we publish content written by third-parties. Sounds scary, right? I don’t blame you if you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on. Just remember that this guest posting penalty thing isn't as simple as A-B-C; Pun intended for all you folks gearing up for the April Challenge!

Most, if not all concerns surrounding the matter stem from a video that Google released where it’s CEO explained why they frown upon guestblogs. Just like mainstream media, however, some bloggers who have brought attention to this news are sensationalizing the situation by yelling “penalty” first but ignoring the rest of what he said. If you are among the bloggers who did (or will) watch the video and listen – I mean, really pay attention to what is being explained, then there might not be much for you to worry about. Does this mean you’re safe from being hit by some type of sequel to the Panda and Penguin updates? Not at all – and this is where things get kinda risky for those of us in the blogging arena.


All of these practices are simple to implement – for me, at least. I do suspect, however, that it might take some time for a lot of bloggers to adjust their guest posting routines and develop a new – more Google-friendly practice in how they manage guests on their blogs. So, the news comes at a very inconvenient time. I considered outsourcing the posts for my blog via guests -- after shelving the theme that I initially wanted to use for this year’s A to Z challenge. I was going to invite 26 people to write a post for my blog and now I’m going to have to change that plan up a bit.

I’m also currently at the beginning of making what will be several, or more, guest appearances around the blogosphere; promoting my short film campaign, which runs all the way through March. How in the world am I going to swing this? I’ll tell you how – the same way you’re going to save your own blog from being shot down by search engines like there’s a hit out on you by Frank Costello (as played by Jack Nicholson) in “The Departed.”

Here’s how we’re going to make this happen through a summary of proper guest posting practices that I learned from blogs managed by Darren Rowse and Neil Patel.

  • “Guesting” Language Hurts Your Blog
Stop using language such as “guest post” and any derivatives of the title including “guest author,” “guest blogger,” etc.  on your blog. Do not address people as guest bloggers nor posts as such in your titles, within the body of the content itself or in any introductions or closings that you add to the post.

The Remedy: A good rule of thumb is to publish blog posts in a manner similar to magazines and newspapers. When was the last time you saw “guest writer” in an issue of Rolling Stone, VOGUE or Architectural Digest? There is a reason you didn't  so take heed of how these publications do things when it comes to featuring posts on your own blog.

  • Say No to Bios/Bylines Filled with Several Links
Author bios and/or bylines should not contain more than two links. In fact, links aren't even be necessary if you just create a page with short bios of all your contributors and then link to their blog or wherever else readers can find them.

The Remedy: Create an author page for each contributor and link their name to those pages, OR, link their name to their blog/website/social media page or whatever. That could count as one of the two maximum links, so they wouldn't even need to add more to their bio, OR, just stop allowing guests to send you bios containing a link to every single online site or social media profile they have online. Since I don’t have a staff of people and am short on time, I’d likely opt for the two latter solutions.

  • Don’t Pimp your Blog’s “Write for Me” Page in Exchange for Guests
Telling potential readers that they will receive link(s) when contributing to your blog is a violation of Google’s linking policy. Receiving a link back to a blog or social medial profile should not be the sole benefit of someone being featured on your website.

The Remedy: Change your “Write for Me/Us/this Blog” call for submissions to something less saturated. Again, this is a good time to check out what the Big Boys do and follow that model. Next, establish editorial guidelines that include a requirement for original content that was not previously published elsewhere.

If you wouldn't eat food that somebody else already chewed up and spit out, then why would you accept blog posts that were seen on another website? It’s what’s known as “duplicate content” by Google’s standards. By the way – secure the rights to these posts, while you’re at it. Doing so brings the extra satisfaction in knowing that a contributor won’t spin something they wrote for you today, into a post for another blogger, tomorrow.

  • Be Selective About Who You Feature on Your Blog
Don’t just accept posts from anyone and everyone who submits something to you – especially content that is already written. In fact, why are you even accepting open submissions in the first place? It’s much easier to review, accept and reject queries or proposals or cover letters or messages of intent than to have to read through entire blog posts.

I thought that most bloggers already knew this (…even I don’t write or submit guest posts blindly. I query FIRST and then wait for a response from the blogs that I’m interested in submitting a post to), but, I guess there are blogs out there who just put up an “open call” and take everything that comes their way.

The Remedy: Only accept posts from people who have a track record of writing great content on other blogs – and on their own website! Do a Google search for the name of your potential blog contributor; this search should not yield a bunch of spammy websites and spam links. If it does, then that’s a red flag and you may have a spammer trying to ride his or her spammy wave through some of your blog’s link juice. Also welcome contributors who are community builders and can add some discussion to your blog, by responding to comments on their post.

  • Restrict Access and Privileges
It is not necessary to give contributors author accounts to your blog, like handing out candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Maintain a filtering system that compliments your submission guidelines, by restricting the publishing privileges allowed on your blog to you only. Are there exceptions to this tip? Yes, of course there are exceptions. Does this mean that leaves more work for you in terms of formatting, scheduling and publishing posts on your own? Yes, but in many cases, that’s better than the alternative -- being penalized by Google. 

The bottom line is that unless they are a part of your main administrative team or a regular contributor who has established a good track record of posting on your website, everybody online shouldn't have the access and authority to publish anything they want on your blog. When contributors publish blog posts about weight loss or diet pills on your homeschooling and parenting blog – you know you have a problem!

Solutions to the Guest Post Dilemma in a nutshell: 

Stop telling people you have guests. Those who read your blog already know who is who, thanks to author bios, tags and/or bylines. Speaking of author bios, those of contributors on your blog should contain two links maximum – and they better not be spammy (diet pills, SEO marketers, Viagra, anyone?). The bio link concerns could be solved by designating a page on your blog for all of your contributors. Of course, this part (making a “contributors” page…which also takes a lot of time to setup and maintain) is optional – I’m surely not doing it unless I feel it’s useful. That day isn't coming any time soon.

Now that we’re all up to speed on the happenings of blog post authors, Google rankings and best blogging practices, I’m pleased to report that this long post is done.

~Nicole


*Photo by: atduskgreg