Over the last few years it seems as if "automation" has got itself a rather bad name. Too many tools have appeared on the market that will help you to automatically bookmark your blog posts, build low-quality links or help you spam Facebook groups.
It's the easy way out, that's for sure. But automated tools rarely get the required results. Quite the reverse; as we all try to stay afloat among all the automated junk content, links and comments many serious bloggers are trying to keep a safe distance from this murky world.
However I'm here to say that I believe automation has been unfairly accused. With the right tools, used in the right way, there are all sorts of blog-related tasks that we can automate to not only save time - but sometimes even do a better job than if we were to manually attempt to do them. In fact, I'd argue that when you apply the right automation tools to your blogging business you'll be able to spend more time on the things that really matter; and as a result grow your blog faster than ever before.
Coming up with new ideas for content that will appeal to your readers has always been a hotly contested topic. Some people base their content around some hardcore keyword research while others like to consult tools like BuzzSumo or SocialCrawlytics to see what's performing well socially for their competitors.
However there are problems with both these strategies. Firstly both these strategies, while useful up to a point, omit what your visitors themselves are looking for in favor other strategies. Remember that each blog will have a different audience and assuming your audience is identical to that of another site may be a risky strategy.
Secondly using social shares as an indicator, while not without value, can easily be skewed for a variety of reasons. For example it might be that a particularly well-connected blogger tweeted or shared the content on Facebook leading to lots of "ripples" as their followers shared it too.
Alternatively it may have been that the content originator spent additional time or money promoting that particular article on social media. Lastly, let's not forget that as a site grows, so typically does it's number of social media followers. As a result, articles published more recently in a site's history are likely to experience more shares than their earlier work by default.
However there are two simple ways you can automate a lot of this process of coming up with ideas for blog posts.
The first of these is to monitor the searches carried out on your site. If you're using Wordpress the free Search Meter plugin will monitor the use of your search feature and keep tracks on the results.
When your site starts to gain a reasonable number of daily visitors you'll be able to log in and see the actual topics searched for by people actually interacting with your site - and the most popular searches are rich ideas for content creation.
Secondly, when you collect a new email subscriber (you are collecting emails aren't you?) rather than sending them to a plain, boring old "thank you for subscribing" page you can instead send them to a contact form that asks them what their biggest question is right now. It's the simplest solution under the sun; let your subscribers tell you want they want to learn - then answer their prayers by creating that exact piece of content!
Backing up your blog is an essential part of maintaining your online presence. On more than one occasion I've activated a new plugin only for every post I've ever written on that blog to vanish without trace. I've also had more than one site get hacked over the years and it's always nice to have a recent copy of your site on hand so you can quickly repair any damage.
There are all sorts of different backup companies each with their own weaknesses, strengths and price points. Some are designed specifically to just back up Wordpress while others will back up your whole computer and, using free plugins, will also securely store a copy of your blog.
No answer will be perfect for everyone but there are a number of tools around like this one which will help you to compare the various options available and find one that's right for your business.
Incase you've never heard of IFTTT, it's a free piece of software that interfaces one online service with another. The software works with all manner of online services so the sky really is the limit here for automation but let me tell you two ways in which I personally use it to automate my blogging tasks.
In many ways Feedly is one of my blogging power tools. By subscribing to high quality blogs in my niche I'm able to leave rapport-building comments on other related blogs. However more than this it gives me a never-ending supply of content to curate. Depending on the blog post I may link to it in one of my roundup posts, add it to Buffer to share on Twitter or I may add it to one of my Pinterest boards.
That is a lot that may happen to a blog post I find if I feel it offers value. However all these tasks that help to offer value to my readers and social media followers can be automated pretty easily with IFTTT.
What I have done it set up a variety of "tags" in Feedly. When I find a post that I want to curate or share in some way I can simply "tag" it and it'll be added to my Evernote account for later reference. And depending on which tag I use the post is either added to my next roundup post or a list of content to pin, Tweet or share on Facebook.
All I do is then go through my "notes" once every week or so, with their neatly arranged list of pre-screened content, and queue them up to go out using Buffer for Twitter and Facebook or Viraltag for Pinterest.
How do you make sure that your visitors see your most valuable content? There are a variety of methods including adding a "top posts" widget to your blog sidebar. However setting up a range of automated messages as an autoresponder sequence that goes out to new email subscribers may be an even more powerful way to automate the process.
Just think of it; dig into your analytics to find the posts on your site that are the most popular (those which readers spend the longest on and/or that get the most comments) and create a series of emails that point new subscribers to these posts over a period of time.
In doing so a single new visitor who signs up for your email list may repeatedly visit your blog over an extended period of time, multiplying your traffic (and earning potential) considerably. Additionally, this "repeated exposure" also helps to promote your brand in the eyes of your subscribers while offering up exceptional value in the process.
How do you automate your blogging? What are your favorite time-saving tools? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below...
About the author
Richard Adams is a lifelong blogger and content marketer, currently building a niche blog from scratch. You can follow his progress at www.TechToucan.com.