The internet has evolved to a point where blogging has become both a thoroughly researched and thoroughly mainstream affair—everybody blogs. Even novice bloggers know that great content is the key to a successful site, but what exactly “great content” means can be tricky and evasive. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to The Content Question, but many bloggers use themed weekly features to draw in readers. The problem with these features, unfortunately, is that if they’re not used correctly they can actually be detrimental to an otherwise great blog. There are some important things to consider before you commit to a themed feature for your blog—so let’s look at the dos and don’ts of making this type of weekly series into a successful, long term relationship.
What Makes a Successful Weekly Feature?
You’ve probably seen a ton of blogs with features like “Saturday Cat Video Showdown” and “80s Wrestling Wednesday,” but how many of them are memorable? How many of these themed features engage you enough that you look forward to them every week? If a feature ropes you in, it’s because it’s consistent, it’s timely and the content is great. Let’s look at some examples.
- The pioneering comedy website Something Awful (which is not generally safe for work or safe for the faint of heart) used to have a feature I enjoyed called “Your Band Sucks.” I’m a musician and I enjoy SA’s brand of humor, so I tried to check out David Thorpe’s column whenever it was posted. The problem with being posted twice a month instead of weekly, however, was that the scheduling often made me forget about it. The column eventually gave way to “Garbage Day,” which was nearly as good and started out as an actual weekly feature. This was a huge plus, but it eventually fell into an irregular schedule and I forgot about it entirely.
- NPR’s All Songs Considered has a fantastic blog with one feature I consistently enjoy called “Drum Fill Friday.” These interactive posts feature an inventive game that allows the reader to match a drum fill with the song it comes from. I’m not a web designer or programmer, so I imagine a lot of work goes into each of these, but they still don’t come out in a timely fashion. I’m thrilled whenever I try out a new one, but I often forget that the feature even exists.
- As far as I’m concerned, SEOmoz does everything right with its “Whiteboard Friday” series. The content is great, it posts weekly and it posts regularly. “Whiteboard Friday” is simply a video series that explains a certain aspect of the SEO world using a whiteboard to illustrate each point. It’s concise, entertaining, educational and unique. I can also take comfort in the fact that it goes up every Friday without fail.
What can you Look Forward To?
So, you’ve decided that sites like SEOmoz have a good thing going and you want in on the action. Once you decide on a theme for your weekly feature, what is it exactly that you can look forward to with this content?
- At a base level, the theme you choose allows you to work within certain confines. This narrows your options of course, but it also gives you some great guidelines and starting points to think creatively and produce good content. A lot of great art and writing are born from constraints.
- A weekly themed post can help you pick up some readers that might not otherwise happen upon your site. If you run a retro TV blog and feature the aforementioned “80s Wrestling Wednesday,” you might gain an avid follower who loves reading about the exploits of The Million Dollar Man but couldn’t care less about your regular analysis of Silverhawks.
- If it’s a high quality feature, your readers will look forward to it all week. Sure, they’ll be enthusiastic about your other content as well, but a great weekly feature will bring the social media shares and comments rolling in.
- A themed series lets you experiment with something new and there’s a lot of room to let it evolve. You might even get enough ideas that your feature becomes something else entirely and necessitates a name change, but that’s okay—this is your groundbreaking content that reflects your personality.
- You can use the time table to your advantage. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can write four weekly features in a row and schedule them to post every Wednesday for the next month. Or you can give yourself some space to reflect on what didn’t work in your last post and use those six days to improve the next one.
What to Watch Out For
Writing a weekly feature isn’t all smooth sailing and easy page views. There are certain dangers you need to watch out for and certain things you need to know before plunging in. What are the potential pitfalls of weekly themed content?
- It can be a blessing, but the scheduling aspect of a weekly series can also be a huge burden. The quickest way to lose and alienate readers is to miss a post or two. Something they once looked forward to becomes a huge disappointment if it’s not there. It can be hard to keep the schedule if you’re not motivated, especially at first.
- If you don’t pick a theme that’s ripe with possibilities there’s a good chance you might run out of ideas. Even if you manage to come up with a limitless amount of ideas inside of a little box, they might get stale pretty quickly. Choose something that allows you to explore and innovate—it should never seem like a chore.
- Your weekly feature needs to stand out from the crowd. If a ton of other sites in your community regularly feature mongoose-related content, perhaps “Mongoose Movie Monday” won’t gain any new readers. Your content needs to ooze with your personality and unique ideas.
- The other side of that coin is that your weekly feature needs to stand out from your content. If you make a post about lasagna every day, “Spinach Lasagna Saturday” is not going to entice or excite your readers. Give them something to look forward to that differs from the rest of your content.
- Understand that a themed weekly series is not the same as a roundup. Aggregating good links for your readers is great, but this kind of feature needs to be unique content or at least be content that you have a unique perspective or take on. Comics Alliance’s “Best Art Ever” series, for example, transcends traditional roundups because it takes submissions from its readers. A roundup can be a good starting point, but a roundup is not a reliable weekly feature.
A themed weekly feature is just one good strategy in the battle for reader engagement and devoted blog followers. There’s no single, fix-all solution to producing an excellent blog, but if you have a series that’s consistently on time and full of content that’s both unique and fantastic, your readers will look forward to it all week. Simply put– If you’re motivated by the potential rewards it might provide and have a plan to combat the potential hazards it might present, a themed weekly series is a solid weapon in your Great Content arsenal.