Back when blogging was young and new, running naked through the fields on a bright spring day, we used to write posts called Friday Wrap-Ups, also known as Link Love or Friendly Fridays.
We didn’t have to come up with new ideas. We promoted our older content and helped readers find good posts they might’ve missed. We’d gather up the best articles other people wrote that week and link to them.
Guess what those people were doing?
That’s right – they linked to our posts right back.
The practice petered out when daily blogging fell to the wayside. If you didn’t feel like blogging on Friday, you didn’t have to. If you only wanted to post bi-weekly, you could. There was no reason to write “filler” posts like Friday Wrap-Ups.
Friday Wrap-Ups were a bit of a cop-out in terms of content, but they had benefits:
- Readers always knew what to expect on Fridays
- Bloggers always knew what they’d be writing about
- The round-up posts were an excuse to praise other bloggers and remind them of their peers
- The posts indicated time had passed. They gave a heads-up to readers that the week had ended, and they should tune in Monday for brand-new content.
The next smart move for bloggers would be to take the virtues of a Friday Wrap-Up and incorporate them into a new strategy: the series.
What’s a Series?
You’re already familiar with series in other formats. Newspapers run a series on a daily basis; on Tuesdays they run a humor column, on Wednesdays an op-ed about sports, and on Thursdays a human interest story by the same writer who always writes the human-interest stories.
TV and radio stations run series too. TV, obviously, runs each of its fictional and reality TV shows in a series format, updating most shows once a week at the same time. NPR runs new episodes of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me and RadioLab every Saturday.
Why a Series?
Almost all bloggers (myself included) get exhausted trying to come up with new ways to approach the same topic. We’re often trapped by our own brand; readers expect us to discuss certain topics in certain ways, and any deviation is frowned upon or causes confusion.
That’s understandable. Readers come to this blog for a certain type of content, and if they’re delivered something different, it disrupts their routine. They want to be able to rely on the blogs they subscribe to for consistency, and the content that starts to feel boring to you is comfortingly reliable for them.
With a series, you’re free to go outside your regular boundaries without disrupting your audience.
Some bloggers go way outside the boundaries. For example, one parenting blogger writes about sports on Saturdays. She does this for her readers who also happen to be sports fans like she is. Professional sports isn’t a subset of parenting, but there’s plenty of crossover in her audience to ensure interest in this weekend series.
For most bloggers, though, a series represents a much more obvious offshoot of their existing blog. Copyblogger has a series on Here’s How [This Writer] Writes. Their normal routine involves posts on content creation and online marketing, so interviews with well-known writers are tangential to their normal topics, but it’s definitely a different approach for them.
That’s the point. Creating a series means you can come at your blog’s topic in a different way. If you normally write about computer technology, you could start a series on how various tech companies got started. If you normally write about content, you could do a series of your experience trying the exercises in various how-to writing books.
What are the Advantages of a Series?
Series hit a sweet spot where you get to write about something new and exciting, but you always know what that new and exciting topic is. Your series might be interviewing business owners, and so every week, you know that you need to find a business owner and interview them. Routine gives your week some structure, taking out the guesswork of “What will I write about?”
The great part about a series is that while they’re reliable, there’s also an element of adventure and risk. Which business owners will you interview? What kind of businesses will they have? Where will you find them? What will you ask them? You know what you’ll write about, but every week becomes an adventure of discovery.
If you do it right, a series can become your trademark, the part of your blog that you’re best known for. Quite a few bloggers have used their series as the premise for a book or a syndicated series on other blogs and print publications. A series can become a great jumping-off point to introduce new readers and customers to your voice, expertise and content.
Series are white-hat link bait. If you choose your series topic well, you’ll organically boost your search engine traffic by naturally repeating key phrases and words every week. If you include interviewing, mentioning or profiling other experts, you’ll get links and social media mentions. People might even link to your entire series by title.
How to Introduce a Series to Your Readers
Disrupting status quo is always… well, disruptive. You might have readers who complain they don’t like this new type of post and wish you’d go back to the old format. You might have readers feeling confused about this new topic at first, until it becomes familiar to them.
That’s natural. Consistent content creators crave new ways to approach their blog; readers prefer steady reliability they can depend on.
One of the best techniques for launching a new series comes from a trick I learned in a parenting book. Parents and kids are like content creators and readers: Parents have to do what they need to do, while kids need routine and structure. Deviate from your usual routine, and your kids are likely to throw a fit.
The trick is simple: talk the kids through the transition between the old and the new. Talk about what’s about to change as often as possible – before anything actually changes. Ease your kids into the idea of a new routine and how great it’s going to be.
Do the same with your readers, and you’ll create a smooth series launch. You’ll be able to say, “Okay, remember that series I said I was going to start and how great it was going to be? Today is the day!”
Make sure to include a paragraph in italics at the beginning of your series posts for the first couple months, just to remind readers this is part of a series and what that series is about. After 5 or so posts, switch to a one-sentence explanation that this is part of a series, and that they can check out other posts in this series by following this link.
Always remind them that your series is a series. New readers will want to know, returning readers will need the explanation, and every single one of your readers is likely to browse through old posts in that series on a regular basis.
What series will you start? It’s the perfect way to deliver comforting familiarity to your readers – while spicing up your role as content creator.