I know. It's not even Christmas yet… so why would we be talking about what we're going to do next year?
Because we're planners, that's why. And even though we're eating all the cookies (holy smokes, get these things out of my house!) and buying all the things (this year, we know they're not going to return anything!) we know that 2016 is just around the corner.
Want to do something big? Good, you're in excellent company.
Make 2016 the year you double your email list, make friends with your internet friends, and many, many more. Here are 44 blogging resolutions for you to think about. Which will you choose?
1. Double Your Email List
If you have one subscriber, or 100, make this the year you double your subscriber list. Use SumoMe to help you do that. If you don't yet have an account with Aweber, do it now. It's free. They say the money's in the list, right? That means you can send offers (affiliates or otherwise) to your list. Plus, you can write things in your newsletter you're not interested in divulging online.
2. Make Friends With The People Inside Your Computer
You know the people who are commenting on your blog posts? They are, in fact, real people. Reach out to them. Tweet to them. Ask questions. Tell stories. Have fun! Some of my favorite people now are people I met through the internet (which isn't as weird as it was, say, in the 90s). They'll keep you motivated when you feel like you're blogging into a void.
3. Finish Your Media Kit
We talked about media kits before. But make sure you finish yours this year. Make it pretty, make it fun, make it something you're proud of. Then…
4. Make This The Year You Finally Approach Brands
Start reaching out to brands! Research companies that other bloggers are reviewing, then send them a pitch. Tell them what you're asking for, and more importantly, what they'll get after partnering with you. Tell them you have a media kit, and that you're happy to send it if they'd like to see it. Don't send it unsolicited, though. Because you know who sends unsolicited attachments? Viruses.
5. Uninstall Jetpack
This might be a tough pill to swallow, and I get it. Really I do. Jetpack is so satisfying, because you can look at your stats without leaving WordPress. But there's one teeny tiny little problem: Jetpack is a resource hog. It makes your website slow down. And, to top it all off, it's not even as accurate as Google Analytics! Google Analytics might be scary, but go ahead and check them out. If you need a bit of hand holding, read this resource.
6. Write at Least One Post that Might Go Viral
Do you know how to make a post go viral? Okay, maybe you don't know exactly but you do know the kinds of posts that get shared more than others, right? Of course you do, you're a savvy internetter. Think of the things you could discuss on your blog, that fit your niche, that might get picked up by bigger websites. Go controversial. Stay away from politics, unless you run a political blog. You do not know the political makeup of your readers, and you should not assume they are the same as yours. The idea of creating a viral post, or one that has the potential to go viral, is to open yourself up, and gain more readers. Be vulnerable. Tell it like it is. The story you've been afraid of telling? Tell it. Do a good job, write a big post, and make sure you're capturing email addresses of those who come by your place. Think you have a good one? Use this list to find ways to promote it.
7. Plan a Year's Worth of Content
Think of content like rocks. Plan one big rock every month, right now, and add it to your drafts. Work on those big rock posts first, then fill in with smaller rocks, gravel, and sand as the year goes on. If you plan, you have less stress. Planned time is productive time, right? So instead of seeing a two-hour chunk of unexpected downtime as terror (“Oh my goodness, I have so much to do and now I have this time, but I don't even know where to begin!”) you can use every minute of that to work ahead of schedule.
8. Commit to Taking One Day COMPLETELY Off Every Week
That's right, one day completely off. Here's a little story: in my twenties, I was in love with a man who observed the Sabbath, which meant that every Friday night, all electronics would be turned off, and they wouldn't be turned back on until Saturday night. I thought that would have made him less productive overall, but it actually had the opposite effect: he was more productive Sunday-Friday than most people, and because Saturday was “museum and nap” day, he got to do things he loved without feeling guilty about them. Now, years later, I take that lesson with me, and on one weekend day (okay, fine, it's usually both weekend days) I don't turn on my computer. I don't check email on my phone. I spend time being present with my husband, my sister, and my friends. I do fun things. Not because I deserve them, but because I need this down time. You do too. This is especially important if you work at a computer during the day, and have your blog as your hobby during early mornings, late nights, and weekends. Try it. You might be surprised at how wonderful it is.
9. Respond to Your Commenters
Back to the “make friends with the people in your computer” idea, respond to every comment you get. Even if you think the comment is shallow, respond. Acknowledge that someone took time out of their lives to click over to you, and write a comment. But, remember, your commenters are very rarely a representative sample of your readers. If you write about knitting, your readers are (hopefully) knitters themselves instead of other knitting bloggers. That doesn't mean you can't write about blogging sometimes, but it does mean that you should keep your topics closer to your niche.
10. Establish a Newsletter Schedule
Those email addresses. The ones you're capturing. The list that you're doubling. Yes, that one. Write to them! Once a month, twice a month, once a week? Whatever you think is appropriate. Remember, this audience is different than your website readers. They're more interested in your topic than someone who came to you via Pinterest. So, in your newsletter, you can certainly link to the most recent articles on your blog, but also give them something you're not giving away to everyone online. If you write about blogging for profit, maybe you can talk about how much money you're making in the newsletter if you're not comfortable doing that online. Definitely don't use the newsletter as just another way to deliver posts, but find interesting things to include.
11. Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome
Oh, goodness gracious. The internet is filled with shiny objects. I am perhaps one of the worst offenders. Shiny objects are distracting, and they tend to look better than whatever I'm doing right now. Mainly because all shiny objects turn into just plain work, so when you start on a project, then you start working hard with your head down, you start to hate the project you're on and you look for a new shiny object. You don't even have to look far, either, because there will always be people talking about the next greatest thing. But slow down. Write down the shiny object on your to-do list. In fact, make a whole list of them! Then…
12. Focus on Completing one Project Before Moving On to the Next
Complete the project in front of you. Are you writing an ebook? Finish it, sweetie. Get it edited, promote the heck out of it, and sell it. You wrote it for a reason, didn't you? And it's good, and provides your readers with valuable information. Mark it off your to-do list, then work on the very next project. See how many projects you can finish this year. If you think marking “take out the trash” off your to-do list was satisfying, just think of how satisfying it'll be to mark these big projects off your to-do list.
13. Clean out Your Widgets and Speed Up Your Site
Okay, you ripped the bandage off with Jetpack, and here I am telling you to go through and look at your other widgets. It's so easy to keep adding plugins, and WordPress doesn't ever warn you that there is an upward limit to how many you need. Past a certain point, these will hinder you instead of helping you.
14. Subscribe to Blogs Outside Your Niche
There are amazing writers out there, in just about every niche. Find some you connect with. Comment on their posts. Connect with them. Are you a food blogger? Reach out to a personal finance blogger. Do you write about crafts? Find out what they're saying in the simple living field. Use Facebook to find other blogs, or better yet, ask your readers what else they're reading! Do this once a year, and cull the blogs that you currently read but are no longer finding any value from. Reading different styles will keep you on your game.
15. Attend a Conference!
Find out where your niche goes, and go there too. I would say if you only have a small budget for your blog, to put it all on a conference where you can connect with people in real life. There are wonderful conferences, but typically the schedule is the least exciting part. Simply getting a few hundred of your peers in the same hotel is amazing and wonderful. You'll meet so many interesting people. You'll make connections with brands. You'll stand out in the crowd. You'll believe in yourself as a blogger. You'll come home with a renewed energy, because the very first time someone recognizes you from your website, you will feel like a celebrity.
16. Track Your Stats
Tracking your stats is an OUTSTANDING way to see where you're going. Is the chart angling up and to the right? Excellent! Exact numbers don't matter nearly as much as trends. You'll be glad you tracked, too, when you can't even recall your humble beginnings. Use this free blog stat tracker to get started.
17. Change Your Theme
Does your website need a facelift? Give it a new theme. But only do this once a year. More than that, and it's considered “futzing,” which is another shiny object, only it's worse than starting a new project because it feels like you're working on your blog. And in a purely technical sense, you are. But that's not enough. You have to be working on content. However, once this year, go ahead and give your website a makeover. This site uses a custom Genesis theme, but most of our sites use StudioPress themes right out of the box.
18. Write Longer Content
Do you know who loves long content? That's right, your boss and mine, Google. Writing long content is harder, but it pays off in the long run. Make sure you're writing for your readers as well as for your boss, though, and resist the temptation, however strong, to write a wall of text. Readers on the internet are mostly skimmers, who are looking for relevant places to read. They like pictures, too, which is why this post has 45 (!!!) in it. Write the ultimate guide to something, or a step-by-step process on something you know about. That way, you'll be seen as the expert you are.
19. Show Off More of Your Voice
You might be tempted to keep your voice out of your blog, or you might not even know how to add your voice. But this is crucial. Vital. Key. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of other blogs in your niche. The only thing that differentiates you? How you attack certain topics. Your take on the same topic. Trust me, I know. My main blog is in the personal finance world. Do you know how many articles there are on credit card debt? Or how to start a minimalist wardrobe? Eleventy. But mine keep getting read. Not because I had some sort of secret idea, like, “get out of credit card debt by stealing from your relatives!” (although that would probably be a title I'd click!) but because my readers are attracted to my voice. Your readers like your voice, too. They come back because they trust you. Add your voice to your blog. Tell more stories.
20. Make Money!
Make this the year you get your blog into the black. Add Adsense, start working with brands, and look for ways to add affiliate revenue to your repertoire. Stay tuned to this blog for a number of different ways you can start monetizing. Soon, you'll be teaching others how they can make money, too!
21. Get Ahead of the Calendar
There it is, 2015, in all its glory. How many blog posts are you going to write? Did you know you can write a 4th of July post in January? Or start your Christmas guide today? Blows the mind, doesn't it? Take a good long look at the calendar, and see where you'll have your planned posts and your newsletters. Draft them. Make it happen. If you're ahead, you're in charge. If you're behind, the calendar OWNS you. Don't let it own you.
22. Include a Pinnable Image in Every Post
Pinterest, if you haven't noticed, is huge. As in “could make up 50% or more of your traffic” huge. So make sure you have a pinnable image in each and every post of yours. Then make sure you put that on Pinterest. Make it 735 x 1100 pixels and add descriptive words. Install Social Warfare if you want a plugin where you can add all the different sized images at once.
23. Start a Blog!
This is for all you planners out there, with tons of content in your head, in Word, or on Google Drive. Go forth, ye, and start a blog! Here's a quick guide to getting started. The long and short of it is, the very best way to do this is to simply do it. Be brave. Tell the world you're writing online.
24. Track Your Income and Expenses
Set up a quick Google Spreadsheet, and start keeping track of expenses in one tab, and income in another. Your future self will thank you, and the IRS will find it handy. Remember, if you're in this for the money, your blog is not a hobby, it's an income source, even if you're not immediately profitable. You can write off things that you're using for your blog, but the key to that is (you guessed it!) keeping track.
25. Proofread Every Post …Twice!
Follow this writing formula:
- Write the post
- Add the images
- Review the post in WordPress
- Hit Preview
- Read it again
- When you're satisfied, schedule it, or if you're behind the calendar, publish it
- Read it once more, before you share it on social
Use this handy checklist to make sure you've included everything.
26. Revamp Your Contact Page
Did you set up your contact page when you first started your blog? Maybe it's time to take another look. Tell your readers why they should get in touch. Put your personality on that page, too! You'll be glad you did. I've had dinner and coffee with more people because they found me approachable in my contact page than I ever would have expected.
27. Research Post Ideas
A little research goes a long way toward making your blog posts hits instead of misses. What are you going to write about? Decide that before you start writing. Use Buzzsumo for your keyword research, and see the types of titles that get shared. Steal like an artist. Don't plagiarize, but if it's working for someone else, it'll work for you.
28. Fix Your Permalinks!
What does your URL look like on an individual blog post? If it's blog.com/month/date/year/title, it's time to change your permalinks. You want them to look as clean as possible, and if you're writing non-time-sensitive content (they call that “evergreen content” because evergreen trees don't have a season) you don't want the date in there. Humans will see something from 2013 and find it isn't relevant anymore. So, use a permalink migrator plugin, and change those permalinks!
29. Figure Out Your Main Topics
What do you write about, generally speaking? Take 100 posts (if you have that many!) and put them into categories. Then, make sure each and every post has a category, and get rid of “Uncategorized” — that way, when you change your permalinks, people will be able to understand where they are, simply by looking at the URL.
30. Find Your Top Posts and See if You Can Write More Like Those
Use Google Analytics to tell you which of your blog posts are the top ten most popular of all time. Where are your top hits? Can you write more like those? Make sure when you do, you're going back to those top posts and linking to the new post. Your top posts can help you bring new eyes to your newer, better, more helpful content.
31. Give Something New Away Every Three Months
There's nothing like a giveaway to boost your readership. Look around your house — do you have anything someone else might enjoy? Is it still in the package? The fun thing with giveaways is that the item doesn't have to be remotely related to your niche. Everyone likes iPads, right? But if your budget is smaller, give away a piece of art, or something you got for Christmas that you didn't love and won't use. Because you know what you will use? More readers. Have following you on various social media platforms be an entry point to the giveaway. Give more points to subscribing to your newsletter. Have fun with it! You can even partner with a brand to do a giveaway — win/win!
32. Collaborate With Another Blogger
The hardest part about blogging is how solitary it is. But it doesn't have to be. In fact, one of the best things you can do is get yourself an accountability partner. Someone who shares your goals. Someone who will push you when you're feeling low, and someone who won't let you slack even when you want to. In fact, work with a collaborator on a project. You can accomplish so much more with a partner than you can on your own. Trust me. It's important to find someone you feel comfortable with. This is not like group projects in high school, so don't feel like you should partner with someone when you'd end up doing all the work. No, find a true partner, then figure out how you're going to split your millions, then put your heads down and get to work.
33. Remove Barriers to Writing
Do you find yourself checking Facebook when you get stuck writing? Can't find the word, or the exact phrase you want to say, so you decide to do something else? Then, 45 minutes later, you come back to it, but you haven't done anything worthwhile since you looked at it, so you get frustrated. At that rate, it'll take you days to write 1000 words! Don't let it happen. Turn off your internet while you're writing. Pretend you're on an airplane and the wifi doesn't work. Click the little button in the upper right-hand corner of WordPress if you write directly there, and eliminate distractions. Your main job is to write. Everything else comes later.
34. Get Yourself a Very Nice Pen
Oh, this is silly, but I had to include it, because a dear friend gave me a Parker pen for my wedding (so I could have something beautiful to sign my wedding license with), and it's the best pen I've ever used, ever. I keep it in a very safe place, and I tell people who ask to borrow it that it's my favoritest pen ever, and yes, all of that is very silly, but it makes me feel like a writer. So, when I'm jotting notes, I'm channeling all of the writers who came before me, and it gives my words more weight. If you do this, please let me know if it changes your mentality in any way.
35. Fake it Til You Make it
Okay, so I need to tell you something. Nobody knows that you're new at this. Nobody. Until you tell them, they will assume you know what's what. You have a great-looking website, you're consistently publishing great content, and you're sharing on social. Only you (and your boss, Google) know how many people are looking at your stuff. So don't let it hold you back. People are going to find you, and see that you're a pro (hey, you even have a newsletter!), so act like one, until you become one.
36. Set Goals and Track Your Progress
What do you hope to achieve? Are your goals x number of page views this year? What about a dollar amount? How much do you want to earn this year? Write down those goals, and work backwards. If you want to have 100,000 people looking at your site, ask yourself how you're going to get there. Will you post more posts? Or will you post longer posts less frequently? How much promotion will you do? Same with money — if you have a dollar figure in mind, how are you going to get there? Will you create a product this year? Or will more of your money come from ad networks and affiliate relationships?
37. Use More of Your Own Pictures
Most of the time, the best posts are the ones that show more about you. How do you show more about you? By taking your own pictures, of course! That's the best way to stand out from the crowd. Otherwise, maybe your posts will look a whole lot like someone else's. You want to use your own pictures, not only when you're creating a recipe, or a DIY craft, or a home remodel, but when you're talking about many other things. Take pictures that you can use as your own stock image repository. Or take selfies with your dog. That'll be fun, too.
38. Add Curation to the List of Things You Do Well
Sometimes, you come across amazing content that is off your readers' radar (especially if you're looking for excellent writers outside your own niche). Curate those posts. Tell your readers why they resonated with you. Then, go a step further and reach out to the blogger. Tell them you loved their post about honeybees, and link to your curated post. It's a form of flattery that will help you make more friends, which is a common theme among all these resolutions.
39. Remember, Hardly Anyone Notices Mistakes
Perfect is the enemy of the good, my friends, and the beauty of the internet is that when we make mistakes, we don't have to go ask our local printer's guild to edit something. We can simply edit things ourselves. There is power in that. Great power. So go, publish the 90% finished piece, and hey! Ask for feedback! Incorporate feedback to make Version 2.0 even stronger.
40. Link to Other Bloggers
Create a blog roll. Write a post inspired by someone else's post. Make sure you link to the original. “I was reading Kathleen's 44 blogging resolutions, and here are the ten things I'm going to do this year,” is a great way to start (for example, of course). Google loves content that links to other content — it shows just how legit and awesome both pieces of content are — and so do bloggers.
41. Expand Your Services — There's Something You Know How to do Better Than Most
There's no such thing as job security anymore. You know this. That's why you're reading a blog about making money blogging, right? So think about what you do better than your friends. What do your friends ask you to come over and help with? What about your blog friends? Can you turn your mad Excel skills into an income stream? What about your content strategy ideas? You can freelance, too, but remember that freelancing is very similar to working in your day job, only with even less job security. You're better off making a name for yourself, and charging people to help create banner ads, set up websites, or increase Pinterest visits.
42. Work in a New Medium
Maybe this year will be the year you start working in video, or podcasting. If you're solely using your blog to write content, you're in good company, but you're missing out on other sources of followers, and income. Remember, making mistakes is part of the game, and those who are killing it made all their mistakes early on, which is why it looks like they don't make any. Try something new. Get out of your comfort zone.
43. Focus on New Social Media
I'm going to bet you don't know about various social media platforms as ways to increase your reach. Facebook used to be a great way to connect with your readers, but it isn't anymore. You can get mad about that, or you can start looking elsewhere. Use your newsletter. Create links on Twitter. Look into SlideShare and StumbleUpon. Stay on top of social media trends. Auto post to Google+, even if you don't understand it, because, as we've mentioned before… Google's the boss here.
44. Create More!
Keep creating content. Write those posts. Create a book. Draw pictures. Make banners. Don't stop creating when it gets hard, because just on the other side of the hard part is the part where other people look and see the shiny object. They'll think they can't get to where you got, because they'll think you have something they don't. And you do. You have what it takes to get this far. Keep creating. Make magic.
This is your year, if you want it.