Turning Japanese: Kaizen for Bloggers
Part 2 of a 4 Part Series
One of my mantras for the past five years as a growth hacker is to do more of what works, and less of what doesn't. In marketing, we run a series of small experiments to see what generates good results. We have three possible outcomes: winner, loser, and inconclusive. If something generates more activities, it's a winner, and we double or triple down -- for example, if a particular ad campaign generates more clicks, it's a winner. Sometimes a subtle tweak to a headline or call to action makes it a winner. And that brings me to today's $100,000 Japanese word: kaizen. Kaizen means "change for the better". We often hear about its critical use at Toyota, where the company revolutionized car manufacturing using a continuous improvement process. Kaizen seeks gradual, sustainable improvement. I highly recommend kaizen for bloggers as a way to build, iterate and grow faster.
Kaizen Tools for Bloggers
A shokunin [https://renegadeblogger.com/shokunin-for-bloggers] uses the best tools for the job. So to improve your blogging, it's wise to occasionally review your tools or add to your workbench to improve your quality and productivity. Consider some of these ideas...
I have used Evernote for years. It's an on-the-go, cross-device notepad for ideas and articles. I have three laptops, two iPads and a mobile phone -- so I may not have THE writing device in front of me when inspiration strikes. Since it's cloud-based, Evernote works everywhere.
Do you struggle with some of the technical aspects of writing? Grammarly may be your savior. The free version will help you with punctuation, spelling, and word choice. If you want even more help (with issues like clarity and voice), consider going premium. Note, it directly impacts your credibility if you have basic writing mistakes. With tools like this available, you have no excuse.
Do you check your metrics regularly? If so, check them again. See if you're missing any metrics that could help improve your search engine ranking or reader engagement (time on page!). Make a custom dashboard that gives you just what you want to know. If you don't have Google Analytics, you should fix that immediately!
If you're blogging in WordPress, hopefully you're also using Yoast. Yoast identifies factors that help pages rank in Google. If you're not using Yoast, consider going full kaizen with it. If you already are, see if you can tune your articles to get more "green" and less "yellow" or "red" indicators in Yoast.
Process Kaizen for Bloggers
The core goal of Kaizen is to improve processes. Tools like those listed are helpful, but only if used in the right context.
Work on Your Idea Backlog
Michael and I both keep a backlog of ideas. We'll have a random chat about Renegade Blogger, swapping life experiences, and he'll say "you should put that on the list" about something I say (e.g., my Japanese words). One fleeting thought provides four blog ideas. Keep a list, groom it regularly, and you'll be improving your process. Log ideas in Evernote, Google Docs or in a notebook.
Spend Quality Time Brainstorming
Innovation happens at the junction of two ideas. I love reading a wide range of books (not about SEO or web development) to fuel my creative thinking. I keep a backlog of ideas, with notes to drive writing when the time comes. Allocating time to brainstorm is quite helpful in feeding your blogging process.
Get Better at Writing
If you use Grammarly or a similar tool, your writing will get better, at least mechanically. Hopefully you'll see fewer mistakes as you learn what Grammarly points out. Another area to look at is the use of passive voice. I battled this one for a while, but my SEO tools kept saying "DON'T DO THAT", so after a while, I reduced it. Yes, it's a readability, and ultimately, a Google page rank factor.
Spend More Quality Time on Editing
I learned the value of succinct, clear writing in college in a class called "Technical Writing". You will rarely find me use, for example, the word VERY. If something is VERY good, perhaps a better word would be EXCELLENT. If something is VERY pretty, perhaps a better word would be GORGEOUS. Spend a few minutes reading or re-reading your posts. Read them out loud. Clean up ambiguity. Fix poor word choices. If it sounds bad reading it out loud, it sounds bad in someone else's head.
Content Kaizen for Bloggers
Start/Keep a Calendar
Does an editorial calendar suit your blog? It's not necessarily for everyone, but if you have seasonal content, it makes sense. Writing a travel blog? Writing about ski vacations in August isn't as helpful as say October or December. Food blogger? Holiday menus are seasonal, right? Mommy blogger? What's the difference in fall and summer to a family?
Improve your Blog Visually
Can you make your blog prettier? Add images? Make fonts more readable? Make the layout better? You eat with your eyes first, so if your blog looks lame, your audience will depart "the restaurant" quickly.
A blog post is organic. As you write over time, you can link material between posts. Maybe an old post points out a concept you wrote about later. Edit the old post, adding a link to the new one. It's easier to look back on history, but it's also smart to go back and look forward. Internal links improve your SEO, your overall continuity, and ultimately your reader's experience.
Sometimes you can update older content to give it new life. For example, if you included some statistics from 2018, perhaps you could update them in 2021. The numbers may not have changed much, or maybe they changed radically. Either way, you can refresh the content to make it more useful today.
Promote Your Best Content
Aha. Do more of what works, I said. Feed your winners. Push them to the limit. The more traffic you get, the more traffic you get. It's how page authority [https://www.renegadeblogger.com/post/building-authority-blogging] works. If 80% of your traffic comes from 20% of your posts, continue watering the 20% of the crop. "Best of 2020" means even more traffic for those posts in early 2021.
Turn Up the Amplifier
Are you promoting your content everywhere you can? Look for emerging social platforms or niche market websites. Double-check your email marketing plan to make sure you're getting all you can from that. Look for directories and aggregated blog opportunities. Amplify the reach of your content in every practical way.
Collect More Email Addresses
Drilling further into the idea of amplification, make sure you've maximized your email collection facilities. Position your opt-in forms in prominent places on your blog. Does an exit-intent popup form make sense? The list is golden, so seek more gold.
Add/Update Social Sharing Tools
More drilling into amplification, you want to ensure your audience can share for you. With a thousand choices in the WordPress plugin market, find the best one for you. Make sure it's fast & easy for a reader to hit share (and that it works well - I've seen many where the default settings REALLY suck). Your audience can amplify better than you as you grow!
Get to Know Your Audience Better
If you have regular readers and commenters, consider having a sidebar conversation or survey. Ask questions - what do you want to see more of? - to hone in on the right topics or issues. Not only will you glean insight, but you'll bond tighter with your best readers.
Let's call this kaizen technique an outsider. Making good connections in your industry, even if it's 'competitors', is a good thing. You may get a presentation slot or an invitation to guest blog or an opportunity to appear on a podcast. Writing gets you to the market, but personal connections can lead to the front of the room. As an introvert, this one sorta hurts, but it's also been effective throughout my career.
Is Kaizen for Bloggers Crazy?
"Do less better," said legendary designer Dieter Rams of Braun. To do that requires more work initially. Build up your tools and processes to see your effort decrease and your success increase. A good process is good, a better one better. Duh. Make incremental improvements for the win.
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