Posted on Sun 12 April 2015

Consistency

This article first appeared in an issue of The List, my short-lived premium newsletter for content marketers.

Autumn leaves

Think about the blogs you admire and respect; the blogs you subscribe to or visit often. What makes you keep coming back?

It's not the quality of the work, or the benefits you get from it. That would have you sitting around reading the archives for hours, but it wouldn't have you coming back for more all the time.

What makes you come back is consistent output.

For a blog to grab your attention and keep it, it needs to produce high-quality content regularly. This is your best bet to build up your audience and to stand out from the crowd.

Let's look at some examples:

The Buffer blog publishes four new posts every week. That means almost every weekday you can visit the Buffer blog to find something new.

The Help Scout blog has a new post every Wednesday. Eric Barker publishes new posts on his blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, every Sunday.

That perfect consistency means regular readers always know when they'll find something new to read on those blogs.

Even on social media, if you don't have something new to share consistently, people will forget about you. Consistency keeps you fresh in their minds, shows your commitment to keep producing new content, and it means that you're continually providing new benefits to your audience—new information, new stories, new insights or understanding.

If you're struggling with consistency, the first step is to create a schedule for your content output. Start with a schedule you can commit to, even on busy weeks. If you're not sure you can keep up with producing one piece of content every week, start with a bi-weekly schedule that you can stick to, and increase your output later.

My current publishing schedule looks like this (not including client work):

Tuesday:

  • publish weekly links post on Exist blog

Thursday (every second week):

  • publish another post on Exist blog
  • send out Exist blog newsletter

Sunday:

  • publish a post on my own blog
  • send out my latest writing newsletter

Once you've set your schedule, you need to focus on two important things: publishing on the days you've promised to, and building up a buffer for when you can't create something new. We all know things come up that throw us off-course sometimes, so prepare for this in advance. If your schedule is to publish once per week, save up any second or third pieces you have time to create during the week as "rainy day" pieces. Then, when you get sick or you're snowed under with work, you'll still be able to stick to your publishing schedule.

When you commit to a schedule for producing content, there are benefits for you and your audience. You're managing expectations for your audience, so they know what to expect. Just like looking at an example newsletter before handing over your email address, we like to know what to expect in advance. And when you deliver on the schedule you've set, you're delivering on a promise you made to each audience member.

And for you, you get the benefit of keeping yourself on track. A regular publishing schedule sets your own expectations for what you'll deliver and proves to yourself over and over that you do deliver on what you say you will. It keeps you from skipping a week here or there, or from letting other tasks take priority over creating content.

It also helps you to build up an archive of content. Few people talk about the benefits of having an archive but I've found it makes a big difference to my efficiency later on. When I cover the same broad topic from various angles, I inevitably reference my previous work. It helps me to jump back into that topic by reading what I've written in the past, helps me discover different points to cover in my new work that I might not have thought of, and gives me a starting point for my research, because I can go straight to the sources I used in previous work.

An archive of content also shows new audience members that you're consistent. When you visit the Exist blog and see that my latest weekly links post is #46, you realise I've stuck with this weekly schedule for almost a year. That proves that I deliver, and I stick to what I set out to do. It also gives new audience members a backlog to work through. If they're interested in what you've written, having a big archive full of your knowledge and research on those same topics gives them a reason to hang around and explore.

Few readers will subscribe to your blog on their first visit. It often takes many, many touches (a touch is when they come in contact with your brand: they visit your blog, see some of your content published elsewhere, a friend mentions your brand, they see your content shared on Facebook, etc.).

Every extra piece of content in your archives that a new audience member experiences on their first visit is chipping away at the number of touches left before they become a loyal subscriber.

Having a big archive of top-quality content that your audience can spend hours getting lost in sets you apart immediately. Blogs are so easy to give up on that the internet is littered with blogs that only lasted a few months. Or blogs with archives that are full of seemingly unconnected content, because they switched focus so many times.

When you have a big archive of content to offer and you're consistently providing new content, you'll be so far ahead of your competition just from doing that. So long as you started at raising the bar so your content is high-quality, add in consistency and you'll be very hard to beat.

So choose your schedule. Pick something you know you can hit regularly, and worry about increasing it later. Once you've chosen it, work on hitting that schedule regularly a few times. If it's once per week, spend a month working on it to make sure you've chosen the right frequency.

When you're happy with your chosen schedule, announce it. Commit to it publicly. Let your audience know what you're promising to deliver, and keep delivering on that promise consistently.


You might also like: Raising the bar

Image credit: Davide Ragusa

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