Contact me at: heatherericksonauthor@gmail.com

Books by Heather Erickson

A-Z Challenge Improved My Blog


A to Z Challenge

On March 29th, I saw a post about the A-Z Challenge in my Facebook feed. At the time, I was publishing one post once a week. My website was in serious need of resuscitation. Could I do it? Blog every day for a month (except for Sundays)? How would I come up with a topic for every letter? My blogging habits were terrible and I already had a lot on my to-do list. Should I even attempt the A-Z Challenge?

For a list of links to my A-Z Challenge posts, go HERE.

How I began

Facing CancerThe first thing I had to do was choose a theme. I was already late posting the theme reveal. I decided to press on. The obvious choice for a theme was cancer, since I wrote about it on a regular basis, already.

Next, I made a tentative schedule, matching post topics to the letter of each day. I had originally planned on having some posts be more in depth, and some be short pieces or reflection. I thought that would make the whole project more do-able. Even with that in mind, it felt very overwhelming. So, I swept all my other writing projects aside for the month. There was no way I could do it all. For the month of April, the A-Z Challenge would be my main writing focus.

On the days that I didn’t have other appointments, I wrote more than one post (sometimes three) in order to get ahead. This helped a lot on days when my schedule was too full to blog. I got very good at utilizing the scheduling feature on WordPress.

A couple of my posts were put together using material from my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, Most of the posts were created from scratch.

More than Writing

Because my topic was a technical one, I had to do a lot of research to make sure I was getting all the facts right. It seemed like most of my A-Z Challenge posts were close to 1,000 words. That was a lot of writing, considering many of the topics were tough ones. Cancer isn’t the most fun thing to write about.

The hardest part, though, was making sure I had good SEO practices in place. If you are unfamiliar with SEO, it stands for search engine optimization. I use the Yoast plugin to help me gauge how I’m doing with things like keyword placement, readability, meta descriptions, appropriate images, etc. Still, when something is off, it can take a while to get it right. Doing that without sacrificing good writing can be a challenge at times.

Along with posting, as part of the A-Z Challenge, you visit blogs of other bloggers taking the challenge. This was one of the more interesting parts of the A-Z Challenge. There were a few hundred other bloggers participating (more in the beginning than at the end). I found some great blogs (like this one) that I really loved, including getting to read more from some of my old favorites (like this one). Along with visiting other blogs, I got visits to my site by other participants.

For a list of links to my A-Z Challenge posts, go HERE.

Some Benefits

There were other benefits, aside from the bump in traffic to my site. My writing habits became more disciplined. By the end of the month, I had become a fairly, well-oiled machine. I learned to cut time wasters and gain efficiency. I got better at writing to SEO rather than trying to fix what I had written afterward.

My site, itself improved. One of the first things that happened was the extra traffic began notifying me of a problem with my comment feature. The captcha was preventing readers from leaving their comments. This had been a problem for several months, but I had put off fixing it. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I went through every plugin until I found the culprit. It feels so good, now, to be able to read the comments of my readers.

Your Turn

If you are a blogger and you’ve ever participated in the A-Z Challenge, I highly suggest giving it a try next year. It takes place every April and costs nothing but discipline and hard work. The rewards are great. I look forward to seeing your blog in the challenge, next year!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. My husband, Dan has battled stage IV lung cancer since 2012. I help cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, despite their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com.

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Have any Question or Comment?

2 comments on “A-Z Challenge Improved My Blog

Thanks for the shout out! All the behind the scenes blogging stuff makes me crazy too – glad you figured out which plugin was causing you problems. I’m glad you did the A-Z challenge – I’ve learned a lot from your posts. Blessings to you and your family.

It was such a great experience, Nancy. I’m so glad to have found your blog, and to be able to see what other bloggers are up to. Bless you!

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