AtoZChallenge Blogging Hacks

The Ultimate Guide to #AtoZChallenge – Tips and Tricks

Gosh! It’s that time of the year already! Ever since I began blogging in 2013, I have participated in every single A to Z Challenge. And sometimes with two blogs! When I say it has become a part of life, I truly am NOT exaggerating. The alarm bells go off in my head from the beginning of January as I worry about finding a ‘theme’ for participating in the challenge.

The brand new planner/calendar gets its first entry as I block the dates from the mid of March through April to early May. I am pretty sure that this is what most of the bloggers across the world do because trust me, the A to Z Blogging Challenge is an amazing experience!

Are you new to blogging? Confused as to what the hype is all about? Read on.

What is A to Z Challenge?

Founded by Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out and Captained by J Lenni Dorner at Blog of J Lenni Dorner , the A to Z Challenge is a blogging challenge in the month of April where you write blog posts every day except Sundays, making it a total of 26 posts – one for each letter of the English alphabet. The key to the challenge is that your blog post title should begin with the letter A on April 1st, letter B on April 2nd and so on; and you blog your way through the month, alphabetically.

~It’s their 10th Anniversary~

Do you need a ‘Theme’ for the A to Z Challenge?

Having a theme is not mandatory. However, I would vouch for having one because it makes the whole process a lot more easier and fun. You will be able to narrow down your ideas and the blog topics keep flowing.

For eg: My Theme for 2017 was My Vacay to Thailand – the fun I had, the many things I could tick off from my bucket list, the culture, the food, practical tips among many others. When I figured out I wanted to write about Thailand, all these topics came to my head and it was one of the most successful A to Z Challenge topics on this blog.

How to Choose a Theme for the A to Z Challenge

In my experience, A to Z Challenge becomes a bit daunting if you do not have a theme. You will be writing 26 posts in a month and coming up with new content every day is difficult. However, choosing a theme isn’t easy either. So, what do you do?

~The Theme Reveal is on March 18~

I’d say, identify topics based on your niche. If you are a travel blogger, write about travel. Book reviews and recommendations are a great option for book bloggers. Recipes from around the world or recipes with local ingredients are some theme ideas for food bloggers. If you aspire to be a published author, you can use this opportunity to write stories or poems and compile them to publish your novella or book. This will lead to adding more niche content to your blog and thereby tells the world the authority you’ve on your topic of choice. Helps build you brand, to say the least.

The other option is to choose topics that interest you. This is helpful if you don’t schedule posts beforehand and go about writing daily. While I’d advice not to (ever!) do that, sometimes life happens! Now, when you write on a theme that interests you can make this experience exhilarating than exhausting.

This is a lifestyle blog and I have written about (mostly!) everything under the sun. So, I loved coming up with some fun themes for this space over the years.

In 2014, I wrote about Recipes from Kerala Cuisine (this was a food blog back then)
2015 saw me writing about 26 hours before my wedding – A to Z Shakespearean Idioms.
In 2016, I wrote about My Life as an Army Wife. This is till date, my absolute favorite theme and had been loved by many. I was also a part of the co-host Pam Brown Margolis’s team, helping the official A to Z Challenge crew. I enrolled my Food Blog for sharing A to Z Chicken Recipes.
In 2017, I wrote about My Vacay in Thailand and A to Z Popular Indian Foods.
In 2018, I wrote All About Muffy, my then four-month-old Golden Retriever and on my food blog, I wrote about A to Z Army Party Recipes.

Now, if you closely look at the pattern, you would know these are things I absolutely can’t live without in life. That said, I think I know what I should write about this year.

Why Should You Participate in the A to Z Challenge

I can’t even begin to list down the advantages of participating in the A to Z Challenge. Because there are many.

  • For starters, you write every day for a month. This automatically makes you consistent and stick to a schedule. As they say, 21 days of doing something every day, form a habit!
  • Networking during the challenge implies daily reading too. And what are the benefits of that?
  • Increased page views, duh?!
  • A spike in your Alexa Rank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Social Media reach.
  • And the best part, you get to read a wide variety of bloggers. You gain new insights into their culture and interests.
  • You also make new friends who you will continue to read even after the challenge ends.

I have decided to join the A to Z Challenge. What should I do next?

Sign up on the A to Z Challenge page right away. You can also do a Theme Reveal post on March 18 too.

Add the A to Z Challenge badge on your sidebar and let the world know!

Tips and Tricks to Sail Smooth the A to Z Challenge

Here are few tips to sail smooth the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Please note that nothing is mandatory. These are some tried and tested tricks to make the best use of the challenge.

1. Find a Theme: As I mentioned before, it is always better to figure out a theme well in advance. It totally helps in the long run!

2. Plan your Posts: When I say plan, open your blog dashboard and create 26 blog posts. Title them from A to Z and keep them in drafts. Alternatively, if you’ve figured out your post titles, write that. Ah, you’ve just got started with the challenge.

3. Create Images: Whether you choose to use your own images or stock photos, gather them all in one place. Some of the best places you can find free stock images are Unsplash, Pixabay, Flicker, and StockSnap.

  • Create graphics for your blog posts right away using Image editing software like Canva or Picmonkey. Graphics for a blog post include the featured image, Pinterest image and/or Social Media specific images.

| READ: Five Photo Editing Tools for Bloggers

  • You can also choose to use the beautiful badges that are created by the official A to Z Challenge team.

4. Write and Schedule: Write short posts- of say, 300-600 words. Nobody has the time to read through your 1000+ word post every day because there are many blogs that one would want to drop by.

  • Get as many posts written ahead of time. This would help you sail smoothly during the duration of the challenge as there would be no additional burden of thinking of what to write on the D-day!
  • This will also give you time to think about keywords and SEO. Challenge or not! At the end of the day, it is vital for your blog growth and organic traffic.

5. Configure Social Media Share Buttons: While you wait for April 1st, make sure that your blog’s social media buttons are rightly configured. For eg: your twitter handle SHOULD be configured on your share button and on every plugin that you use on your blog for sharing. Most of the bloggers would share your content on their social media accounts. So make the best use of it.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

6. Publish and Promote: Configure your blog with automatic publishing to your social media accounts. Add hashtag #AtoZChallenge to your blog post title or Yoast Plugin SEO Title.

  • Once your post is published, do not hold back. Do your bit by promoting them on various social media platforms and dropping the links on daily threads hosted by blogging communities.

The best thing about A to Z Challenge is about Networking. If you promote your posts in the right way, there will be hundreds and thousands of readers who will drop by your blog daily, from all over the world.

Leave your links on the Daily/Weekly threads on the Facebook pages of A to Z Challenge and blogging communities like Write Tribe and Blog A Rhythm. You can also register with Blogchatter and follow the twitter hashtag #BlogchatterA2Z. As mentioned before, you can compile your posts to publish an ebook and Blogchatter gives you the opportunity to do that.

  • Tag @AprilA2Z on your posts daily on Twitter. This is the official A to Z Challenge team twitter handle.
Here’s how the schedule looks like!

7. Network: Now that you’ve promoted your posts by leaving your links on the daily thread, visit the blog posts that are linked to it.

  • Keep up with the comments that pour on your blog. At least, try doing it. I confess I wasn’t really successful in replying to all the comments. But I do make it a point to RECIPROCATE, visit the blogs, read and comment on their posts. It is a nice thing to do!
  • Commenting on a blog means that you acknowledge the blogger’s time and effort. Be kind. And don’t just say “Nice Post!’
  • Pro Tip: Leave a link to your blog while you comment. Either add it on the Name/URL field in the comment plugin or wait for the ‘CommentLuv’ plugin to load your latest post. Alternatively, you can create a signature to embed on your comment. But, it is considered as spam.
  • Save a copy of the A to Z Challenge MasterList of Participants once the signups are closed. You can save it to your Google Drive and then read blogs based on your preference and the category that you like.
  • Please DO NOT mass tag on your post at various social media channels. It’s a put-off!

8. Blog Design: Remove unwanted popups and chat window, at least for the month of April. Turn off additional security Captcha from your comments section, because believe me, nobody has the time to select four road signs while blog hoping. Make your blog easy to navigate with links to recent/previous posts.

9. Have Fun: Enjoy the whole process. Welcome the ‘attention’ because for sure you are going to get it. You’ll be amazed at the wide variety of blogs in the blogosphere. You’ll even love reading some of them, continue to read them after the challenge and make friends for life. This comes from the first-hand experience 🙂

| Find what bloggers have to say post A to Z Challenge

A to Z Challenge Ultimate guide with tips and tricks to choose a theme

That’s all for now, folks 🙂

If you need help with any of the points above, please feel free to ask 🙂

19 Comments

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