How I Write This Week In SEO

Hey, where are the links?

My apologies for a linkless roundup post, but it’s only yesterday that I’m back to working after a vacation around the Thanksgiving holiday. That didn’t leave much time to put the usual post together this week. I’ve also decided to change the frequency of these posts, which I’ll get to in a bit.

David left a comment on the last This Week In SEO post

You do a great job on this every week as long as I’ve been reading. How about sharing the process that you use to create This Week In SEO?

I’ve been meaning to talk about the process behind the post so with a little prodding from David and not enough time to write the actual post this week I thought it would be a good time talk about the process I go through writing the post as well as share how the whole thing came to be.

The History Behind This Week In SEO

Believe it or not when I set out to write the first This Week In SEO post 9+ months ago I was motivated by laziness. During that time I was having trouble coming up with ideas for posts. I’d seen others writing weekly link love posts and thought it would be an easy way to not have to come up with a new idea each Friday.

However, from the beginning I wanted my link posts to be a little more than what I was seeing elsewhere. Something more than just a list of random links. The first This Week In SEO wasn’t much more than a similar list of links with a little more organization than was common, but even in that first post the general form of the series was taking shape.

The second post in the the series really formed how I wanted to write these posts. That week, as luck would have it, a story developed involving Shoemoney and MyBlogLog. To present the story all I had to do was list the links in the right order, but the idea of presenting a story with the links stuck.

The goal since that second post has been to organize the links in a way that would have them tell a story related in some way to building and marketing a website.

My Process For Writing Each Post

The process that goes into creating the posts isn’t all that complex. It starts, as you would expect, with reading a lot of blogs and collecting the links I want to include. I end up collecting many more links than end up in the post. Some I later decide not to use at all and others end up at either my profile or my StumbleUpon profile or both.

When I began I think I was subscribed to about 30 blogs and now I’m well over 100. I always try to follow the links in posts back to their original source, which has led me to discover quite a few blogs that have been added to my reader.

As I’m collecting links I don’t spend a lot of time deciding what will or won’t make it into the post at the end of the week. I do naturally make some judgments about the posts I read, but I know I’m only gathering the links at this point and will make the final decision when I’m actually writing the post.

On Friday after I’ve collected the links I begin to organize them. Some of the organization happens during collection as the general categories remain mostly constant, but on Fridays I organize the links within each category. What I’m usually looking for is some kind of theme to tie a few links together. Sometimes the theme is obvious and sometimes I have to find a theme in seemingly unrelated posts. The goal is to tell a story with each group of links.

There are some very good posts that never find their way here simply because I can’t think of a good way to connect them to the other posts I’ve collected. Some that I think are truly special I’ll include anyway, even devoting a paragraph to the single post. Most though will end up at one of the social bookmarking sites.

Once the organization is set I write the paragraphs leading into the link list. The trick is connecting the posts through the common theme I’m trying to get across. The paragraphs are designed to connect the links through the theme and to present a teaser that ideally entices you to click on the link. When it makes sense I’ll add a link to one of my older posts as well.

After I’ve worked my way through each category I write the intro and closing paragraphs and begin the process of editing. Editing starts by clicking on each and every link to make sure they work. Then it’s a quick read to hopefully find any and all typos and rewrite any clunky sentences.

The Time It Takes To Write This Week In SEO

You can probably guess the whole process is rather time consuming. The post itself takes about five hours to write, though some have taken a little more time and some a little less. I generally organize and write a couple of categories, take a short break, and then organize and write the next couple of categories.

Most of the time is spent in reading and gathering links. In the beginning I was spending an hour to an hour and a half a day reading, but as the number of feeds in my reader has increased so has the time it takes to get through them all. Because I need to grab the URL for the post I need to visit the sites, which further adds to the time.

The last few weeks the time I spend reading has grown to over three hours a day, which quite honestly is more time than I really want to spend daily reading blog posts.

I do try my hand at multi-tasking so while reading I’m also stumbling and sphinning. I stay logged into MyBlogLog to spread my avatar and help promote my brand. I leave comments as a I read and generate ideas for blog posts beyond the roundup. Still the reading takes more time than I would like.

One question I imagine people have is whether or not I read every post I link to. Yes and no. I’d be lying if I said I read every word of every post, but I do read most everything I’ve linked to.

I can tell you right now that next week Google will update a number of products. Much of the time I don’t really need to know all the details so I don’t necessarily read the full post or need to in order to decide whether to link to it. In other cases a particular post might not be of interest to me, but I think it might be of interest to you so I link to the post. An example might be stories about Twitter. For a long time it held little interest for me, but I felt enough people would want to read about the site. In recent weeks I have become more interested in Twitter and so do read posts about it.

But for the majority of the posts that make it into This Week In SEO I do read the entire post and for those I don’t read in full I do skim in order to decide whether to include the link here.

Changes Ahead For The Series

The first change I plan on making is to retitle the post to This Month In SEO, which should tell you the second change I’m planning. The time it takes to write the posts has simply grown to a point where writing the post weekly isn’t viable. I really can’t justify the time when I have so many other projects I want to get to that site idle waiting for me to find the time to work on them.

Unless you can offer me a compelling reason to keep the weekly schedule This Week in SEO will become This Month in SEO. Look for the next post sometime between Christmas and New Year’s.

My gut tells me that the post will work better as a monthly. Most of the comments I get about the post are from people impressed by the sheer size of it and how I manage to put it together consistently, but I don’t think enough of you are clicking the links. I suspect that people click a couple and then after a day or two know there will be more links coming and wait for the next post.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t expect anyone to click on all the links, but I think a monthly format will allow everyone more time to actually visit the posts they’re interested in reading.

The longer time frame should also allow for stories to better develop instead of me having to force a story here or there. It’s easier to see the importance and interest in a story as it develops over time and the longer time frame provides more flexibility for what topics to cover.

Another change I’ve been working in since starting is to link to lesser known blogs. At first I was linking mostly to the most popular blogs, but chances are you already read them and don’t need me pointing them out to you each week. I’d prefer to link to blogs you may not read regularly. I’ll still link to the A-Listers since in most cases there’s a reason why they’re A-Listers. They write great posts. But I’m hoping the extra time will allow me to find some blogs you and I both may not be familiar with.

At first the monthly post will look very much like the weekly post, but I expect it will evolve in time, hopefully into something better as I get a better feel for what I can and can’t do over the longer time frame.

Odds are I’ve left out some of the details you may be interested in knowing so feel free to ask questions in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer. Also please comment on what you have and haven’t liked about This Week In SEO to help me improve the series and make it something more useful for you.

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  1. Too bad you can’t continue the weekly roundups, but I don’t blame you, that’s quite a commitment of time.

    You realize of course that reading the entire post and all of the linked articles would probably take a couple of hours? The great thing about it is that it’s an overview with a high signal to noise ratio that you can use to catch up on whatever looks interesting without wading through all the echo – not necessarily to read everything that it links to.

    Anyway, I’m sure that the monthly roundup will be just as good.

  2. A great series, and a great run, Steven.

    I’m going to miss the weekly roundups, but if making the change gives you a chance to work on other projects that you want to get involved with, then it’s a good change.

    I like the idea of you linking to lesser known blogs. I think that’s a terrific idea. :)

    I have liked how you tie together ideas and concepts in the series, and join together different themes. I subscribe via RSS to a lot of the blogs that you link to in the weekly posts, so I’ve seen many of the posts that you link to. It’s really the commentary that you add, and the grouping of posts that I find a lot of value in. And the occasional post that you’ve uncovered that I might not have seen.

  3. @David – I guess I never really expected anyone to click on all the links. I know I wouldn’t. There are just too many of them. I think I end up with about 75+ each week. It might take you longer to read all the links than it takes me to write the post.

    The time consuming part for me is finding all the signal in the noise. I’ve been trying to come up with a better way to get through my feeds every week without success.

    @Bill – I think you were the first person to visit after the first post and I was thinking about your reaction when I was writing this post. I have been trying since the beginning to move away from the same dozen or so blogs and will hopefully continue to do the same. It is one of the reasons my reading time keeps increasing, though.

    However, if I’m hearing you right, you like these posts less for the specific links and more for the commentary around the links. As long as I can maintain a good signal to noise ration it’s probably not all that important which links are included.

    You’ve both given me a few things to muse over. I’m not sure how I can keep up with the weekly schedule without reducing the time I spend reading feeds, but I’m beginning to think I might not have to read so slavishly to be able to write this post. I’ll likely take stick with my plan to make this post a monthly for December, though I’ll think more about whether or not I can bring it back on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule.

  4. Steven, I’ll miss the weekly posts. You saving yourself some time is going to cost me some of mine. More than once I’ve been researching a particular subject and “This Week in SEO” comes out with five great links that are precisely what I’m looking for.

    BTW, what do you have on landing page optimization?

  5. Sounds like a good plan. I know that the “This Week in SEO” posts were becoming time consuming. This way you can still give your readers the benefit of the post, and have more time to do other things. Sounds like a win-win situation.

    I have to confess, those posts were probably the ones I read least often anyway. I guess I’m more a one topic at a time sort of girl.

  6. @Stephen – Sorry I have to cost you some time. I wish I could maintain these posts weekly, but for the moment I just can’t. Thanks for the compliment. If I can get back to a weekly schedule I will.

    I usually have a few links on landing page optimization in the design section if you want to look back a few posts. Otherwise check out Robertea’s posts at Copywriting Maven.

    @Kristine – They definitely have become time consuming. Sadly a little too time consuming. I’m thinking one a month can still be valuable and be something I can keep up with. I know these aren’t your favorite posts so it’s all good for you.

  7. But what’s the SECOND change?? Come on, don’t leave us hanging like that…!

    It’s okay; those were the least interesting posts you made. They’re important, and it’s nice to have them summarized and categorized … but there’s only so much time and brainpower I can devote to seo when I don’t do it as a living. Most of your other posts are more accessible; they use familiar metaphors to draw the reader uncharted waters. They’re not at all overwhelming, which This Week can be at tmies.

  8. Forrest the first change was the post title, which implied the second change of the new monthly schedule.

    People seem to be split on whether or not they like these roundup posts. You can see it in the comments here and the division holds true for people who have mentioned it to me through emails. I’m beginning to understand why based on some of the comments above.

    I think some who see these posts only as a series of links think “ho hum, another post with links.” In that case I can see where the number of links is overwhelming. Some are seeing the post. Others see the links as a time saver in that I’ve filtered out some of the noise and made their weekly reading a little easier.

    Some like Bill are less interested in the links themselves and more interested in the writing around the links. I’ve always tried to make the writing around the links interesting, but hadn’t considered it might be a reason someone would like the post.

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