217: 4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name

4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Blog

This episode is perfect for anyone who’s preparing and planning their first blog, as well as those thinking about starting a second blog.

Today I’m talking about what to consider when naming your blog and choosing a domain name for it. I’ll share four things to consider when choosing a domain name. You want one that:

  • helps you achieve your goals
  • will have a memorable impact on your visitors
  • helps you to build your brand
  • sends the right message to Google and the search engine bots. (Domain names have an impact on SEO.)

I’ll also talk about legal implications of choosing a domain name, because it’s important to stay within the law.

Links and Resources on 4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Blog:

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Hi there. My name is Darren Rowse. Welcome to Episode 217 of the Problogger Podcast. I’m the blogger behind problogger.com – a blog, a podcast that you’re listening to, event, job board, and a series of ebooks all designed to help you as a blogger to start a blog, to create great content to grow your audience, and to build some income from that blog. You can learn more about what we do at Problogger over at problogger.com.

Today’s episode is for those of you who are just starting out. It’s perfect for those of you who are considering starting a blog in the preparing, planning stage, or for those of you who want to start a second blog or even a second business of some kind, because we’re gonna talk about things to consider when you are naming your blog, or finding a domain name for your blog to be more specific. I said both of those things because they really are tied together. Ideally you want a domain name that is the same as the name of your blog, or at least tied to it.

In today’s episode, I wanna share with you four things to consider to find something that is going to suit your needs in terms of a domain. Something that’s gonna help you to achieve your goals in blogging, whatever those goals are. Something that’s gonna impact the people who come to your blog and be memorable, but also something that is gonna help to build your brand, to communicate something, a meaning, to those people.

Also, something that’s going to communicate something to Google and the bots, the machines, the little robots that come to your site as well and help to determine how your site will be ranked, because your domain name has an impact on SEO. Lastly, something that is gonna help you to stay within the law because there are some legal things that you need to know about choosing a domain as well.

If that is of interest to you, listen on. I’ve got today’s show notes with some further reading for you. This is actually based upon an article that we published on Problogger a year or so ago, I’ve updated it slightly but you can find the original article on today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/217. I almost forgot the podcast bit there, you would think after 200 episodes, I would’ve got it. It’s problogger.com/podcast/217 where you can find that further reading and a full transcript of what I’ve got for you today.

I wanna say right upfront, there’s a lot of different opinions on this. The main thing that I really wanna say is whilst I’m going to talk about some ideal scenarios today, I’ve made every mistake in the book. Everything I’m gonna teach you today, I’ve done the opposite at one point or another. I still had success with my blogs, I want you to keep that in the back of your mind. Choosing the right domain is going to help you with your blogging, it’s going to help you with your Search Engine Optimization and your branding and all of that type of stuff.

You can make mistakes in this and fix them, or you can make mistakes and still have success. I’m gonna tell you about some of the mistakes I’ve made towards the end of today’s podcast. I wanna put that right up front, particularly for those of you who are gonna listen to this and go, “He said the exact opposite of what I’ve already done.” I just wanna hammer that home, I have had wrong domains and I still have a blog that isn’t ideal in terms of its domain, but I still had some success with it. Choose the right domain and it is going to help you in your blogging.

I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I had chosen the right domain on some of my blogs from the start. Right from the beginning. Let’s just go back to basics for those of you who are a bit fuzzy on what is a domain and why you would want your own. Your domain name is, for Problogger it’s problogger.com. It’s that little bit that you type into Google’s Chrome browser or Safari, it’s where your blog can be found, it’s the address for your blog.

Having your own domain name is really desirable for bloggers for many reasons. This is something that a lot of bloggers when they first start out, they will start on a site like blogger or wordpress.com and they will use the domain name that is provided for them by those services because those services host your blog on their own service and they usually have some wordpress.com/yourblogsname. It’s on their domain name. That’s okay when you’re just starting out.

It’s desirable to get your own domain name at some point because it’s gonna help to build some credibility with your audience. When someone sees that you are on blogger.com/yourblogname, there’s a confusion that happens there because you are on blogger’s brand name and your blogger’s brand name or WordPress brand name is in your domain name as well as your own. That impacts your brand, it impacts the sense of professionalism around your blog that people get from you.

It also is more complicated to communicate if you have to tell everyone it’s blogger.com/yourname, that’s a lot to remember for people. It’s longer, it’s more complicated and it confuses the brand. Ideally, you want to have your own domain name. It also gives you some other added bonuses, it can help you with search engine optimization to have it on your own. It also helps in terms of having your own email address so you can have an email address darren@problogger.com, that’s my email address, if you wanna ever contact me.

That communicates a little bit more professionalism rather than having to rely upon a Gmail address which again can confuse your brand a little and it comes across with some people if you got a Gmail address rather than your domain address. That can come across maybe a little bit like it’s a bit of a hobby for you. There’s some added bonus in there in terms of having your own domain. They are some of the reasons that you would want your own domain if you’re wondering why you would want it.

Let’s move on to some of the factors to consider when choosing that domain. I’ve got four main things that I wanna talk about. I guess what I wanna say is there are billions of websites, I don’t exactly know how many domains are out there but there’s more than a billion websites I’m told out there. You want yours to stand out, and a big part of what you want to do in choosing a domain name is choose something that’s going to stand out, something that’s gonna be easily remembered.

That’s harder to do today than it was when I started out because a lot of the good domain names, a lot of the most common words that we would think of in domains are taken. But it’s still important to try and choose something that’s gonna be easy to remember and something that’s gonna accurately describe what it is that you do and that’s gonna help you to rank in Google. There are four main things that I wanna work through here. Some of these come down to personal taste, but try and keep these four things in mind as you are considering it.

The other thing I’d say, just before I get into these is don’t rush this process. Don’t rush the process. The mistakes I’ve made have largely come as a result of me rushing through it and not involving too many other people in the discussion. One of the things I would recommend that you do is to do this with other people. I actually find that I’ve made better decisions about domains and names of my blog when I bounce my ideas off other people.

Find someone who is not gonna shut down all of your ideas right at the front. They’re gonna be good at brainstorming with you, but also someone that does have a bit of a critical eye on this, and maybe two different people – one to brainstorm with them, one to be the judge or the critic with. Because bringing a bit of a critical eye is going to point out some of the mistakes that I’ve made basically.

Let’s get into these four things.

The first perspective that you wanna consider is the human perspective. I’m gonna talk about bots and robots and SEO and that type of thing. That’s important. But I think it’s much more important to consider the other person who’s gonna be on the other side of your content and the other side of your blog. This is the case for me with everything that I talk about with ProBlogger. It comes down to the content, the way you build community, the way you build readers. You always need to be considering the other person, the person on the other side of your content.

It’s not just about making money. It’s not just about getting lots of traffic. It’s about serving people because in my experience, if you serve people and if you’re considering the person on the other side of your content, all the other stuff tends to flow easier, more easily. The human perspective is the first thing that we wanna consider. Particularly what we wanna focus upon is making it easy for the other person. The person is gonna come and read your blog. You wanna make it as easy as possible. You don’t want barriers in the way of them coming to your blog.

When you’re thinking about your domain, you want something that is simple to read. Something that’s simple to say. Something that is simple to remember. If it’s hard for them to remember what it is because it’s complicated, it’s got lots of words or it’s cryptic in some way, that’s gonna be a barrier for them to coming back. They may come the first time because they find you being shared on Twitter but they’re never gonna come back again because they’re not gonna be able to remember that name.

It’s gotta be easy to remember. It’s gotta be easy to say because you want people to be able to spread it by word of mouth, and you wanna be able to say it simply as well. It’s gotta be something that’s simple to read. The words in your domain, if you’ve got more than one word, they need to be pretty obvious what those words are. You don’t want them to run into each other and have different interpretations of what those letters could mean. Often I’ve seen domain names and I thought, Does is say this or does it say that? because there are multiple ways of reading that in the content.

Make it easy.

One of the core values of marketing is to be memorable and to be simple. Simple is good. Short is good if you can. It’s getting harder to have short domains. I know all the four-letter domain names are gone now. You can probably buy them at a premium cost now, but they’ve all been taken as far as I know. It’s hard to find a four-letter one. There are probably some five- and six-letter ones around, but it’s gonna be hard to find one that has actual words in it. They’ll be a random jumble of our letter. Short is good, it’s not always easy to find something that’s super short.

If you are going to create something with a number of words, maybe two or three words at the most. Digital Photography School I think is a long domain and I’ve got hyphens in there as well which is a mistake that I’ll talk about later. Digital Photography School is relatively easy to remember, it’s a bit of a jumble to type in though, it’s quite long. One of the things I do wish with Digital Photography School, it’s bit of a jumble for me to even say it now, is that maybe it was a bit shorter. I think it’s good on the memorability front.

You’re never gonna find something that’s got all of the things that I’m talking about. You’re always gonna be compromising on some level. But short is good. No phonetic bits to confuse people’s ears, no unusual spelling ideally. If you can do that, I think you’re well on the way to creating a good domain. Short.

A note about hyphens. I have already talked about hyphens… may make your preferred domain easier to register because less people will be putting hyphens in. But it is tricky for people to remember, and it’s tricky for people to communicate and for you to communicate.

I know for a fact every time I say I’ve got a blog about blogging, it’s called Digital Photography School, I usually just say “Google it” because we do rank in Google for Digital Photography School. If someone wants the domain, it’s digital-photography-school.com. It’s quite long and it’s more complicated for me to say. I do hear people all the time saying “It’s digitalphotographyschool.com”, and I’ve seen people link to it in that way. I don’t own that domain. I couldn’t get it. People wanna charge me a fortune for it. It’s hard to communicate.

I particularly would say avoid hyphens if you can. It’s gonna make it hard to communicate and hard to remember.

Numbers are another one. I know a lot of people add a number to their ideal word. That could be one way to get your word in there, but it does bring confusion again. If I had problogger9.com for instance, is ‘nine’ the number nine, the numeral, or is it spelled out nine? That can cause confusion as well when you got numbers in there. Ideally what you would probably wanna do if you do wanna use a number is to register both.

If I had to do that, and I would never do it, problogger9.com and I would also register probloggernine.com and forward both to the one that I’m using. That would be the way to get around that, but again numbers can bring a little bit of confusion to that. Although if you can get both, maybe it would work. Making it easy for your reader is really important.

Making it readable is so important as well. Have a look at how your words run together. Are there any surprises in there that perhaps you haven’t thought of?

Sometimes people choose a domain and then someone else looks at it and says, “There’s another word in there that you probably don’t want in there.” For example if you had any probloggersexcited. Probloggersexcited, that might be a good domain name because you wanna talk to excited probloggers but if you think about it, there’s an ‘s’ and then the first two letters of excited are ‘ex’. You’ve got an s-e-x in there, that may not be ideal for you brand. People will look at that and they’ll only see one thing, and that’s bit of a recipe for disaster in terms of your brand. Be thinking about how those words might join together. Are there any other little hidden surprises in there?

Another thing I would say is you might wanna steer clear of slang, or any jargon or corporate speak. Different countries also have different vernacular. You wanna maybe run your domain name by someone from a different culture if you’re using a slang word, something that you understand but does everyone else understand what that means because you might end up with a domain that people are really confused by because you are using a word that means something different in a different part of the world.

The example that Aussies always use, we call flip-flops that you put on your feet, my American friends call them flip-flops, we call them thongs. That can cause a lot of confusion in America when you are talking about wearing thongs to the beach and I wear thongs every summer to the beach, that confuses people. I know that just brought a whole lot of imagery in some of your minds that you don’t want there. You wanna be thinking about Does this word mean the same thing in different parts of the world?, particularly if you wanna have a global brand.

The last thing with readability is make it pronounceable. You want people to be able to say it clearly. I had a domain twitip – t-w-i-t-i-p. It was gonna be Twitter tips. People just couldn’t pronounce that at all. I had all kinds of weird pronunciations, ‘twee tip’ and all kinds of things. It didn’t really communicate what it was about even though it was clever and it had a bit of Twitter and a bit of a tip in it, people just couldn’t pronounce it right. Even ProBlogger, people sometimes struggle with that and because it’s an unfamiliar word, it’s not a real word. I made that one up although that was good for a branding perspective. That’s what I wanna talk about next.

First perspective to consider is the humans on the other side of your domain. The second perspective is the brand. The first impression of your domain really counts. Your domain name is an incredible opportunity. You have an incredible opportunity to communicate something about what it is that you are doing. People want to know what is going on on your website in the shortest amount of time possible. Your domain name is one of the signals to them as to what you do.

If you have a domain name that communicates, “This is what this blog is about”, that’s gonna help to speed up that first impression. Digital Photography School I think immediately communicates to people that this place teaches photography. Sometimes it does communicate some other things as well. It communicate some things that we don’t do and that is one of the weaknesses of it. We get emails from people saying, “Where is your School? What kind of classrooms do you use?” They imagine a real school. That’s I guess another example of something that’s communicated by the domain that isn’t true. We have to work against that in our About page.

ProBlogger I think, even though it’s a made-up word, most people understand what that is. It’s gonna be something that’s gonna teach people to blog professionally or to be professional in their blogging. Your domain name is a real opportunity. Think about your domain name and how you can communicate what it is that you do.

Again, this is another thing to test with someone. Tell a friend who doesn’t know what you’re considering doing, what that domain name is. Ask them what they think a site with that domain name would do. It will be really fascinating to hear whether they get it or not. Do they come up with something that aligns with what it is that you want to do on that domain? Or do they come up with something completely different? Because that will be a signal that maybe your domain name isn’t as clear as you want it to be.

Another thing to consider for a brand perspective, but also again comes into the human element that I’ve already talked about, is the extension that you choose for your domain. An extension is the categories of internet domain, the most common one is .com, problogger.com. It represents the word commercial, that’s where the .com comes from, it’s the most common one that is used. Most businesses would prefer the .com domain because it’s highly recognizable as a symbol for having a business presence on the internet.

It’s also the most easy one to remember. What else I would recommend that you do choose a .com particularly if you’re going to have a global brand, if you are trying to reach people from around the world, there are other options there as well. There are some newer ones like .biz or .info or .me or .shop and the list could go on and on. You might wanna choose one of those if it does really relate to what you’re trying to do and if the .com is already gone and if you’re not gonna get yourself into legal trouble as well.

The other option is .com.au which is the local domain for Australia, it’s the local one. If you are trying to reach a local audience, that can be another way to go because again it will be familiar and memorable for people from that local audience. It’s also, from my experience, gonna help you to rank a little better in google.com.au, the local Google, from an SEO perspective. You might wanna consider some of those localized domains as well.

This is another mistake that I made, if you wanna put it that way. When I started, problogger.com was taken. Someone was squatting on problogger.com. They had the idea to set up, I think it was gonna be a hosting company and they never actually went with it. Once I approached them initially to buy it, they were interested in selling it that time. Because they weren’t using it, I thought legally I was able to use that word so I registered problogger.net. Once that worked, .net is relatively familiar to people, it was relatively easy for people to remember.

I did see a lot of people linking to that other domain. It wasn’t until years later that I bought problogger.com then things got so much easier in terms of that memorability and the building of the brand as well. I don’t know if people see .com a little bit more credible source as well, that impacts your brand.

The other thing that you wanna consider from a brand perspective and also from a legal perspective which we’ll talk about a little later is that you want uniqueness with your brand. You don’t want to have a brand name that is a copy of someone else’s, that will definitely get you into legal trouble if they registered it and you can run into some issues there. You also don’t want something too similar to someone else as well because it’s going to be confusing for your readers. If you choose something that’s already an established brand and you do something very similar to that, people could accuse you of copying them as well. Do some research on Google to see what different blogs and other businesses are already out there on similar domains to you.

Just because you can get the domain doesn’t mean it’s a good idea if you are choosing something that’s too similar. Google it, look on sites like bloglovin.com to find out who’s blogging under what names. Sometimes people actually have a blog called something on a different domain. They may not have registered the domain but they actually call their blog the exact same thing for some reason. Which is partly their fault – they should’ve registered the domain. Again, it could get you into trouble there, it could end up being a bit of a bun fight. Just make sure you’re not doing something too similar.

The other thing in terms of uniqueness is making sure your domain name is available on other social media sites as well. You want to check on Twitter and Facebook just to see who else is using that name and to register that as well. There’s a shortcut for this, I think it’s a site called KnowEm which is a good domain name in some ways – it’s k-n-o-w-e-m dot com, but it’s a bit of a cryptic domain name as well. Maybe an example of one that is cool on some levels, KnowEm, but it’s also hard to remember. As far as I know, that site will also help you to check whether different brands are available on social networking sites.

The human perspective was number one. The brand perspective is number two. The third perspective you wanna think about is SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Just about everyone is looking to rank really well on Google, and to help you to rank well in Google you can choose a domain name that is gonna help you to do that. Some people don’t really consider SEO at all and they end up with a clever, funny, cryptic domain name, and perhaps KnowEm is a good example of that. It’s a domain that is being chosen, I suspect more, for the uniqueness and for the branding side of things. It’s not gonna help that company to rank in Google from a keyword perspective. This is a choice that you need to make if you want to rank in Google. If you want your domain to help you to rank in Google, you want to be choosing a domain that does have some keywords in it that you want to rank for. The words in your domain can help with that.

Again, you don’t wanna put SEO first. You don’t wanna put it at the expense of the human and the brand because you could have a domain that’s got all your keywords in it but it might be really long and really hard to remember, really confusing for people. That’s probably not ideal unless you just want search traffic. You wanna get the balance right in this. But it is important to think about SEO, and what impact the words in your domain can have upon that SEO.

Digital Photography School was what I wanted to rank for as I began to think about what I wanted to rank for. I wanted Digital Photography in there, particularly I wanted to communicate there were a teaching site. Google is smart enough to know that school means teaching. It helped us with that. I also did a little bit of keyword research and found that the people were searching for the words photography school. I knew there were some search traffic to be gained from having that as well.

Think about the words that you wanna be found for. If you can incorporate them in, that can really help as well. Another SEO thing that you might wanna think about is just check whether the domain that you’re about to buy has previously been registered. Sometimes spammers buy out domain names or people who are doing dodgy things on the internet and then they abandon them later once they’ve used them up. That abandoned domain name may have been looked down upon by Google. they may have been banned by Google. They may have been penalized by Google and that may be still hanging onto that domain name.

You don’t wanna get a domain name that has been previously used in a bad way because Google is gonna look at that and go, “They’re back again.” Some of that may have an ongoing impact with you. You can buy domains that have been previously used. There may even be some benefits of doing that because they may have been used in a good way and there may be links coming in from other sites to that site. But if it’s been used in a bad way, that can have a bit of a negative thing.

Thinking about keywords, a good exercise to do is really just to get a piece of paper and to brainstorm the words that people might be typing into Google to find the site that you’re looking at. You want to be particularly paying attention on choosing for your domain name, the broadest, biggest keywords of your site. You don’t wanna get too nichey with the words. If you are going to write about digital photography, you ideally want digital photography in the words. If you’re talking about blogging, you want ‘blogging’ or ‘blogger’ or ‘blogs’ or that type of word in there.

You don’t wanna get too nichey, you don’t want to be bringing in all the keywords that you might ever possibly use because when you write a blog post, those words will start to appear in the extension that’s added to your domain name. If I write on Problogger a post about SEO, problogger.com/tips-seo will naturally come in there if I want it to. Those nichey words will be added to your domain name as you write blog post. You wanna think about the broad words that you wanna be found for. Don’t get too nichey there.

You certainly don’t want a domain name like Digital Photography School Portraits, Fashion and Travel. That’s just too long, it breaks all those other rules we’ve got. Google is also gonna think that you’re keyword stuffing as well. Think about the broad words if you can. Is your site about recipes? You probably want the word ‘recipe’ in there. Is the site about fashion? Words like ‘style’ or ‘fashion’ and some of those bigger words will work. You don’t wanna get too nichey with them.

The other thing I’d say is don’t get too caught up about the keywords, Google isn’t as fooled as much as it used to be from what I can see. There are factors that Google certainly looks at the words, but it’s not the be all and end all. It is harder and harder to get those keywords into domains these days because there are so many out there. If you can do it, that would be great. I think it’s probably more important to have brandability and thinking about human. You can always get those words into your URLs by writing about those topics in your blog posts.

The last perspective to think about is the legal perspective. I wanna state up front, I’m not a lawyer, this is not a legal advice, putting that right out there. You do wanna think about copyright and trademark and particularly be looking at what other people are using already and copying it as I’ve already talked about. It’s gonna cost you a lot of time and money and heartache if you’re sued for infringement later because you started trading as a company with the same name or too similar a name to someone else. Copyright is really important to think about.

Check and recheck other blogs, other sites, other company names before you register your domain. Don’t just rush and buy a domain and start blogging under that name. You wanna really be thinking about it. You can also check trademark business names in your local area. If you’re in the US, you can check out who owns what in terms of copyright at copyright.gov or uspto.gov. Patent trademark office might even be worth looking at if you’re in Australia. I’ve got some links for you in the show notes today as well. Just simply doing some Googling and looking on Bloglovin and Facebook and Twitter will give a sense for is there anyone using that very similar names to you. That will really help a lot.

Include that last one in thinking about the domain name, because I hate for you to register something that’s great for humans and branding and SEO only to find out that someone’s already done that and you’re gonna be sued. You don’t wanna do that.

One more thing that I’ll mention are a few tools that you might wanna check out to help you with the domain name registration process. One I mentioned earlier was KnowEm, which is a great little tool that you just pop in the name of your blogs, you put in ProGlogger, you hit the check it button and it will check with 500 social networks. Other places like the USPTO trademark database to check your brand, and to work out whether other people are using it already.

It would check sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, WordPress. It checks Flickr, Delicious. It’s gonna check a lot of different social networks including the main ones like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Medium as well, that’s one tool. The link to that is in today’s show notes.

Another one that I have used, and I’ve used this for years now, is Nameboy. It is a domain name generator. You put in the primary word that you wanna rank for, so you might put in ‘blogging’ if you are doing a blog about blogging and then a secondary word, so ‘pro’ or ‘professional’.

It basically spits out lots of different options and you can have a couple of different things, you can do ‘allow hyphens’ which we’ve talked about. No, that’s not been the best thing to do, or you can allow rhyming words as well. It will then spit out some words and it will tell you most importantly, this is really important if you are doing a lot of potential things. It will tell you which ones are available. It will give you some options for buying them as well. You pop in your words and it will come out with all the different variations.

I just typed in ProBlogger and I can see that problogger is taken, problogger.com is taken, problogger.net is taken, problogger.org is taken, problogger.info is taken, all the probloggers are taken but it comes out with other words, pro@home.info is available or bloggepro is available, which probably you wouldn’t want because it’s not that memorable. But it gives you some different options. It looks at different words that you might want to do, so prosomething is available if you wanted that.

Have a play with that. It is hard to find them these days ,but it’ll give you some options there. It also gives you the ones that are up for auction as well. It will give you an idea of what price you might need to pay for some of those. That was Nameboy and KnowEm.

The other one I would just say in terms of where to register, there are plenty of places you can register domains today. I’ve always done it through GoDaddy, I know some people love GoDaddy, some people don’t. It’s just where I do it and I keep all of mine, I’ve got a lot of domains that I bought over the years that I haven’t actually used, probably need to do a bit of a cleanse there. I like to just have them under one place, I don’t want to be buying domains in lots of different places. There are other options out there. You can find those links in today’s show notes.

The last thing I’ll say is what I’ve said is not hard and fast, apart from that legal one, I think that’s hard and fast. I’ve made some bad decisions in this, I have digital-photography- I can’t even say it because I’ve got hyphens in it. I’ve made a mistake but that site gets four million people a month to it. It’s done okay because the content is good and because I’ve worked harder building community and I’ve worked harder building the brand. Whilst it’s not a perfect domain, I’ve worked harder on other things.

It’s the other things that are really gonna be the key to your success, it’s not your domain name. It’s not going to be the single key, it’s one of the things that’s gonna help you. You may have made a mistake already, that’s okay as long as it’s not an illegal mistake. But do pay attention to it if can.

The other thing I’ll say is all the things I’ve talked about, you’re never gonna get something that’s perfect on all fronts. You do need to make some compromises there. Occasionally you might find something that’s great for humans, branding, SEO and legal. Most cases, you’re probably gonna find something that’s better for branding and not so great for SEO, or maybe it’s great for SEO but it’s not so good for the human. You gotta make some compromises around that. Personally if I was making choices today, I’d be thinking about the human and branding more so than SEO. I think SEO is great to think about if you can, but it can be worked on in terms of the blog post that you do and choosing keywords in your blog titles, that type of thing.

There’s more to your blog’s success or failure than the domain names, but make a wise choice as you do. Hopefully some of what I’ve talked about today is gonna help you in that regard.

Today’s show notes are over at problogger.com/podcast/217. You can find the links there for some of those legal things, those legal checks that you might wanna do. You’ll also find the original article that Stacey Roberts wrote that I based today’s podcast on.

Also, the thing I would say is if you are starting a blog or you’re thinking about starting a blog, we’ve got a resource coming out for you in the coming month. It’ll probably come out late December, early January actually. It’s gonna walk you through how to start a blog and it’s gonna be more than anything we’ve ever done before. It’s actually gonna walk you through in great detail.

What I’ve talked about today is actually gonna be part of that little course we’re putting together.

If you are thinking of starting a blog early next year for 2018, head to our show notes today and subscribe to our newsletter. We will notify you when that resource is ready late this year, early next year. I really look forward to launching that because it’s gonna be a resource, it’s gonna help a lot of people.

If you think you’re starting a blog, head over to the problogger.com/podcast/217 and subscribe. There’ll be an option there for you to subscribe to the newsletter, and we will let you know as soon as that course is ready to go. It’s free, free course, completely free.

I look forward to launching that, that’s bit of a teaser of what’s coming on Problogger. Hopefully this helps you. I’d love to hear any other things that you would add to the advice if you’ve already started a blog, you can head to the show notes and add a comment, give your own advice there, or you can do it over in the Problogger Community Facebook Group.

Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week in Episode 218 of the Problogger podcast. Have a great week.

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4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable

More Readable blog posts WordPress Formatting

This post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

You’ve finished your post, and you breathe a sigh of relief. After a quick edit you publish it to your blog, and wait for the comments, tweets, shares, or any sort of feedback.

But once again, you get nothing. There may as well be no-one reading it.

So what’s the problem? It could be that your writing isn’t as strong as it needs to be. But there’s also a very good chance the problem isn’t your writing.

It’s your formatting.

Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of different blog posts, and most of them were fairly well written. But some were really let down by poor post formatting: the post just didn’t look good.

If you’re not convinced that formatting matters, compare this screenshot…

… to this one.

These are two versions of my post Six Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment (and Get More Done). They both have exactly the same text. But I know which one I’d rather read.

Your readers are busy. They’re distracted. They want an easy, engaging read – not a daunting wall of text.

So what’s stopping you from getting the formatting right? Maybe one of these sounds like you:

  • You haven’t really thought about it before. You’re a writer, not a designer, and it never occurred to you to bother with formatting.
  • You’ve got a vague idea that formatting matters, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it. What if you make your post look worse rather than better?
  • You haven’t figured out how to use the formatting features built into WordPress.

I’m going to take you through four key formatting features you can use straight away to make your posts more readable. And don’t worry. I’m definitely a words person and even I can manage these.

I’ll also be showing you how easy it is to format text using the WordPress editor. Even if you’re not using WordPress, most blogging platforms have similar features.

(As you read this, you might want to have a draft post or old post ready for editing in a different tab so you can try out the different features.)

#1: Short Paragraphs

Plenty of white space helps make your post readable. White space is all the stuff around the words. If you have short paragraphs (or lists, which we’ll come to later), you’ll already have extra space where your words can breathe.

Adding extra paragraphs is super easy. Just position the cursor wherever you want a new paragraph and hit Enter:

There’s no absolute rule on how long is too long for a paragraph. But if it goes over four or five lines, you may want to consider splitting it.

Tip: If you’re used to more formal writing (perhaps academic or business writing), having short paragraphs may seem odd. If that’s the case, you might want to read How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed).

#2: Subheadings

I like to think of subheadings as signposts that help orient readers within my post. Almost any post can be broken up into subsections, and each one should have a clear (and hopefully enticing) subheading.

While it helps readers who are skimming for information, it’s also useful for readers who are reading your entire post. Subheadings prevent them from feeling lost or confused along the way.

I like to use Title Case (capitalizing all major words) for my subheadings, but you might prefer to capitalize only the first word of the subheading. Just make sure you’re consistent.

To create a subheading in WordPress:

  1. Type your subheading on its own line wherever you want it in your post.
  2. Click on the subheading and select “Header 2” from the “Paragraph” dropdown.

Before:

After:

Tip: When you’re planning your post, think about the subsections and potential subheadings you want to use. This will help you create a good structure right from the start.

#3: Bold Text

Bold text is a great way to call attention to a key point or important sentence. But it’s easy to overuse, and I suggest bolding only one or two sentences per subsection (depending how long your subsections are).

Some bloggers use coloured text instead of bold text. This can work if it fits with your branding, but it can also look a bit amateurish and distracting.

To create bold text in WordPress:

  1. Highlight the sentence you want to bold.
  2. Click on the “B” in the WordPress editor.

Tip: Try to avoid bolding only one or two words – it can make your text look choppy. I also tend to bold only the first sentence of a paragraph. Having a bold sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph can also look a bit odd.

#4: Lists, and Using Bullet Points

Sometimes it’s easiest to write a list as a regular sentence. For instance, I might write:

In this post, we’ll take a look at paragraphs, subheadings, bold text, and lists.

But if each item on your list is more than a word or two, it will be easier for readers to take in if you lay them out using bullet points.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Paragraphs – keeping them short
  • Subheadings – helping your reader navigate your post
  • Bold text – pulling out key points
  • Lists – using bullet points

To create a list in WordPress:

  1. Set out your text as a list, with each item on a different line:

  1. Highlight the entire list and click the “Unordered List” icon, which looks like this:

Tip: This method creates an unordered list with bullet points. If you want to number each item on your list, use the “Ordered List” icon (next to the “Unordered List” icon). A numbered list will automatically renumber your items as you add new ones – even if you add them to the middle of your list.

I’m sure you’ve already seen these formatting features in use, and have tried using some of them yourself. Hopefully you’ll feel a lot more confident about using them now to make your posts more readable.

Here’s a mini-challenge for you: look back at your three most recent posts, or perhaps your three most popular ones. Try using at least two of my suggestions to improve the formatting, and let us know how you got on.

The post 4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


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216: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog (and Why You Should)

How and Why You Should Create Style Guides for Your Blog

In today’s episode, I talk about style guides for blogs – why they’re important, and what elements you should include in yours.

Links and Resources for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog

Further Reading and Listening for How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog



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Hi there. Welcome to Episode 216 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com – a blog, podcast, event, job board, and a series of ebooks all designed to help you as a blogger to start a great blog, to grow your audience, and to build some profit around that blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

Now I’m just back from Dallas. I’ve had a few weeks off from the podcast and it’s been great to get some feedback from some of you that you missed the podcast over the last few weeks. I’m sorry for the break, but I hope you had a little bit of fun digging around in our archives.

As I’ve said, just back from Dallas and we had an amazing time in Dallas. I was at the FinCon Conference where I did the opening keynote and had an absolute ball. I think there was around 1800 financial bloggers, real estate bloggers there. Really great conference, very good community.

And before FinCon, of course, we ran the Success Incubator, a little event that we had as well. We had about 80 or so ProBlogger listeners and some attendees from the previous digital collab events and it was fantastic. We had this full day of training, we started about 8:30, 9:00 in the morning  and went through to about 9:30 at night. It was a big day and that was packed with teaching. We had Pat Flynn, Kim Garst, Andrea Vahl, we had Rachel Miller, Kelly Snyder, a variety of other bloggers as well.

The feedback we had on that day of teaching was fantastic. People loved how intense it was, the fact that we packed in so much information. That was great. And then we had half a day of masterminding the next day, which I always love – that opportunity to sit around the table with bloggers and online entrepreneurs and brainstorm.

You can still pick up virtual tickets for that event, if you go to problogger.com/success. I think they’re US$ 127 and that gets you the first day, that first full day of teaching. I think it’s about eight hours of teaching and you get the slides as well.

That price will go up. It’s not an early bird one because it’s now after the event, but it will go up in the coming days as well. You get some teachings there on live video creation from Kim Garst, Pat Fynn’s teaching on creating an editorial calendar, promotional calendar for your business, you get some training on Facebook advertising, using challenges to grow your blog, how to sell courses, Steve Chu did an amazing session which I picked up so much information on how he promotes his courses using webinars and Facebook advertising. It’s really practical teaching, and again you can check out the agenda there at problogger.com/success.

On to today’s episode. Today I want to talk about style guides – how to create them for your blog, and why you should create them for you blog as well. Style guides in my opinion are one way that you can really lift a good blog to a great blog by building more consistency across your content, across from one blog post to another.

You can grab today’s show notes with the full transcription of this episode at problogger.com/podcast/216.

Lastly, I should say on our events, stay tuned for news of future events both in Australia and hopefully in the US. We’ll hopefully have some news for you on that in the coming weeks and even months as we begin to plan 2018. Thanks for listening and let’s get onto today’s show.

Today we’re talking about style guides. I want to talk about why you need them, and also how to create one. I want to give you some practical things that you can include in your style guide for your blog.

Now, what is a style guide? Really, as I’ve talked to different bloggers, they mean different things to different people. Some people, a style guide is purely about the writing on your blog. It could be the writing style guide. Other bloggers include a lot more, they will include things like how to use graphics and how the blog should look in terms of colors and the brand. Really, I guess it could be whatever it is for you. But the main reason you want a style guide for your blog is to build consistency in your blog.

Most blogs, if you dig around in them, you begin to see inconsistencies, and this naturally happens. I look back on the early days of ProBlogger and I look at the first posts I wrote and they were all text, there was no images in them at all. That’s a big change that’s happened in blogging. I started blogging in 2002, 2004 for ProBlogger, of course things have changed. The style of my writing has probably matured in that time.

There’s going to be some inconsistencies through your archives, but bloggers run into trouble when one blog post that you write today is different in style and in how it looks to tomorrow’s blog post. That’s the kind of inconsistencies that many blogs have without even knowing it, and a style guide can really help a lot. Something that really can help your readers to feel like they’re reading a unified publication. If you open a magazine, the magazine is designed in way the reader feels even though there is different articles, that they belong next to each other. That’s the type of thing that you want to be doing in your blog post as well.

To state it most simply, a style guide is where you put into writing the guidelines for how you want your blog to be written and presented. And the reason you want to do it is to bring this consistency. This is the type of thing that you’ve probably already got without even knowing it. You’ve probably got a style guide in your mind. Most bloggers have one in their mind, and it’s just because most blogs start out being written by one person.

This is why many of us don’t actually feel like we need a style guide in the early days because we think that we’re consistent. We think that if I’m the only one writing this blog, then it’s going to be consistent from blog post to the next blog post.

But the reality is if you dig around in your archives, and I challenge you to do this, you’ll begin to spot inconsistencies. I think it’s really important to bed down the style that you want into writing, to actually bed it down because you’ll begin to see these inconsistencies in your own writing. Particularly if you want to add new writers into your blog, whether they’re just one-off guest posters of whether you want to bring on a regular writer, this is where a style guide really becomes even more useful as well.

The trouble I see with many blogs is you look through the archives and you can see these inconsistencies. The inconsistencies that you want to be looking for on your blog as you look through your archives are the voice of your writing. What style do you use? There’s a natural exploration of different voices that will happen on many blogs, but generally over time you want to become a bit more consistent with the voice that you use. Are you writing in the first person? Are you conversational when you’re writing? Are you writing for beginners, or are you writing for a more advanced audience? As I say, some variation in this is fine and is natural. But as your blog progresses, you’ll probably want to stick to one voice more and more.

Other areas of inconsistency, capitalization of words in headlines, for example, and I see this all the time. You see one blog post that all the main words are capitalized and then you look at the next blogpost and it’s just the first letter of the headline is capitalized and the rest of it is in lowercase. That may not really irk you, but I bet there are some of you readers who are wondering what’s going on there and they notice that type of thing even if you don’t.

Grammatical rules. For example, when I write ProBlogger, I capitalize P and B, ProBlogger. Even though I present it as one word. As long as that’s consistent, that’s fine. That becomes part of your brand. You might have those type of things as well. On Digital Photography School, we call that blog dPS, the D is generally lowercase and the P and the S are capitals and that becomes part of the brand. But we want to be consistent in that way. It sort of sets us apart I guess in some ways from other people who have used dPS and those other sites out there who do.

Another word that we use a lot both on ProBLogger and on Digital Photography School is ‘ebook’. Ebook is presented in all kinds of different ways on the web. Some people do a little lowercase e and then uppercase B and then present as one word. Other people hyphenate and have it lowercase. Other people just do it lowercase the whole word. Having consistency in that way is important. I see some bloggers who use that word ebook and they will capitalize it differently even within the one article. Again, it doesn’t really annoy me that much, but I know there would be other people who would be having conniptions about that.

Use of images and graphics is another one. This is something I know I’m guilty of from time to time – having consistency in the way you use images. If you put typeface on your words, words on your images, do you have consistency in the fonts you use, the colors that you use, the way you use headlines, the way you use lists and blockquotes, and the way you spell words as well. Do you use a US spelling, American spelling, or do you use a British spelling? This really comes into play when you’ve got more than one author as well.

All of these things can present inconsistencies. Whilst you might look at them all individually and just say they’re small things, they add up. And generally over time they can really become a big thing.

Most single author blogs, you’ll find that most of you will probably have a certain amount of consistency because you write the way you write. You will generally, from post to post, have some consistency. But even single author blogs do change over time. It really does come into play when you have more than one author on your blog.

For example, on Digital Photography School we have a lot of writers. We have about 40 writers, we publish 14 articles a week. There’s a lot of opportunity there for inconsistency because our writers come from across the world, even just on the spelling front. We’ve got writers who come from America, we’ve got writers who come from England, writers who come from Australia, and there’s different spelling of words. Then we’ve got readers who come from all of those places as well. To make a decision upfront that we are going to use the American spelling because that’s where most of our readers come from and most of our authors as well, brings some consistency to that.

Whilst it’s not going to suit all of our readers, at least our readers will see that we’re consistent in that. When you’ve got 14 posts a week from 14 different authors, there’s incredible potential for a very messy looking blog, in terms of the writing but also how things are presented. Style guides do become more important as you add more people into your blog but I think they’re still important even if you’re a single writer, single author blogger, because you’ll find naturally over time that you’ll change some of your style as well.

So how do you create this simple style guide for your blog? What should you include? How detailed should it be? As I mentioned earlier, it’s going to vary a lot from blog to blog. I know some bloggers for instance who have a style guide and they keep it purely to writing – how the writing on the blog should appear. Whilst other bloggers include more broader guidelines like what brand colors should be used.

Some people have two style guides for the two different things. I have a brand style guide and a writing style guide. I think it’s okay to merge those things a little bit together. And so what I want to present to you today is a simplified one.

I want to give you four or five different areas that you want to make some decisions about and create a little document. And I’m thinking here that you could create a document that’s maybe one to two pages long. You don’t need anything more detailed than that to start with. You will find though over time that you can evolve this document.

And I think it should be a living document because you will find over time that there will be more opportunity to add new things in, partly because you might start using different technologies or you might add in different types of content. You might add in some video over time, or there’ll be new opportunities to add in new authors who will bring up different things for you. This is a living document but what I want to give you are some things to include at the beginning of the creation of this.

Four or so things to include. The first one is a short description of your audience. I think who is reading your blog really should be the basis for most of the decisions you are making regarding content and what is in this style guide. Ideally, what you want to create is some kind of avatar or persona or reader profile for your blog. I talked about this in Episode 33 where I actually talked through how to create an avatar for your blog and we actually did an article on ProBlogger recently that gave you a template for creating an avatar for new blogs. I think that’s a useful exercise to do.

You may not want to include that full avatar in your writing style guide, but at least referring to it and including a sentence or two about who you are writing for, because ultimately that should be informing all the decisions that you make. Include a sentence or two about who is reading your blog, and maybe refer to the avatar if you’ve done that exercise. That’s point number one.

Number two is to, again, just in a few sentences, describe the voice that you want your content to be written in, or the tone. How do you want your content to sound or come across to your readers. Even if you just brainstorm a few words that would describe the type of content that you want to create. For example, do you want your content to be conversational? Or do you want it to be authoritative? or do you want it to be humorous? Do you want it to be sophisticated, educational, friendly, irreverent, comprehensive? These words will begin to help you and any other writers you may bring on to understand the tone that you want, the voice that you want in your content.

Over time, you’re probably going to say, “I want all of those types of content in my blog.” And that’s totally fine on a blog. But generally you’ll want to keep some consistency on it, and over time you’ll want more and more of your content to fit into a certain style. That’s going to help your readers to engage with you and to build a relationship with you, and to learn from you more as well.

So a few sentences there on your voice.

If you want to learn a little bit more about developing your voice, you might want to go back and listen to episode 166 of the ProBlogger podcast where I give you 15 types of voices that you can write in. But even just doing that brainstorm of a few words that will describe the voice that you want to write in can be useful as well. There’s no reason why you can’t change that later. This is a starting point for you.

Number one was to describe your audience. Number two is to describe the voice – the tone of your writing. Number three we want to get a little bit more into the nitty gritty of things and to talk about spelling and grammar, which I know some of you are squirming about and I’m one of those people. It doesn’t come naturally to me (I’m not a details person), but I think it’s important to address this.

Most larger publications, most media would adopt the spelling and grammatical guidelines of an external style guide. There actually are… whole style guides have been written. One very common one is the AP Stylebook. I’ll link to this in the show notes today. There’s another one called the Chicago Manual Of Style. Again, I’ll link to that today.

Both of these you can buy. I think the AP Stylebook for example is pretty affordable. I think it’s US$ 22.95 for the print edition, and I think there’s an online version of it as well which is about $ 25. It may be that you want to get that.

And basically, as you look through them, they’re very extensive outlines of all the rules of grammar and spelling that you might come across. Many media will just say we adopt the AP Stylebook or we adopt the Chicago Manual Of Style and they give all their writers access to these books so that if there’s ever a question of what they should be including or how they should be spelling a word or how they should be using grammar, they can just refer to that.

This may be overkill if you are just a single author blog. Or you may actually want to do that if that’s something for you. If it’s overkill for you, all you really need in this section is to address some of these types of things. Firstly, spelling. Do you adopt American or British spelling, and this will probably be determined by who you are and who you author and who your readers are as well. I’m an Australian, so if I was writing for an Australian readership, I’ll probably adopt the British spelling because that’s the way Aussies tend to go. But I have predominantly US readers and so I have adopted the American spelling, even though it doesn’t come naturally for me. It’s something that I do need to edit myself on.

Other things that you might want to include in the spelling and grammar section of your style guide are things around punctuation and capitalization. For example, the use of commas. I’m not going to go into the debates around the use of commas. This is perhaps a discussion for another day. There are people who get very fired up about commas and I don’t really want to get into that today. But as long as you’ve got a consistent use of commas, that’s important.

The use of capitalization in headlines. The use of exclamation marks. I know some bloggers hate exclamation marks and they don’t allow them on their blogs. You may choose to do something else. Anything around punctuation, capitalization should be included.

The use of numbers. Will you use numerals or will you spell them out? That may be something that you want to include in this section.

Particularly pay attention to any regularly used troublesome words. Words like ebook, for example, where there can be a lot of inconsistencies. If you’re using the word ebook or if you have a brand name like ProBlogger where you capitalize the P and the B, you want to include that type of thing in this section as well.

You might also want to include guidelines around the use of acronyms, particularly if you’re in a niche or a topic where acronyms are used a lot. How are you going to introduce an acronym in an article? For example, you may choose to explain the acronym when you first use it in an article. If it was AOL, I know it’s a bit of an old-fashioned one, the first time you use that acronym in the article you may want to have in brackets what that means and actually spell out the words, and then from then on just use the acronym.

These are the types of things that you can include into your spelling and grammar section of your style guide.

The fourth section that I’ll include you to think about is more about how you want your content to look, and some other factors as well. And this I’ve just kind of lumped into an other style guidelines section.

Let’s talk about images in your article. How many should your article have? For example, on ProBlogger we always want an image. On Digital Photography School we always want an image. That is part of our style guide – we have to have an image. And so anyone writing for us has to help us find that image. Should there be an image? How many images are okay? You might want to have a limit on how many images. It’s up to you.

How should those images be captioned? Do you want captions on every image? Only where the image requires a caption? And also how do you want to attribute the photographers of those images? Do you want to do that in the caption, or do you want to do it somewhere else in the article? These are the types of things that you might want to include into your style guide.

How big should the images be? How many pixels? How they should be aligned? Do you want them to be full width? Do you want them to be aligned left, to be aligned right? Where can people source them? You may even want to include which stock library you use, and give details there for people.

Also, the use of typeface in images. If you’re doing graphic overlays, what fonts should be used? What colors should be used? These are things that can really be mixed up a lot, and you can end up with a very messy looking blog because you’ve got lots of inconsistencies there. Do you want your logo to be included in those text overlays?

These are the type of things that will really have a big impact upon the visualization of your content and how people see your content, and what they feel about it as a result.

You might want to also include in there that you want very dark images or you want very light, washed out kind of images. Those types of stylistic considerations may come into play there as well.

Other things that you might want to include are around your headlines or titles. For example, how long do you want them to be? Do you have rules around the length of them? Some people do that for SEO considerations – they don’t want long headlines. Do you want headlines that are more keyword rich, more descriptive, or do you want more curiosity, clickbaity-type headlines? These are the types of things you might want to include.

The length of paragraphs might be something? Do you want short paragraphs. Are you okay with longer paragraphs? I know a couple of bloggers who actually have word limits or how many lines the paragraph should take up because they don’t want their paragraphs to be too long.

The use of lists. Do you require numbers or bullets, or are you okay with either?

The use of headings or subheadings. Which H tags should you use? This is really useful for anyone who’s coming onto your blog. Most people know how to use a H tag, but you may have some rules around what order they should be in or how many H2 tags or how many H3 tags you might want to have.

It’s getting a little bit technical here. But these are the types of questions that some of your authors will have over time.

You might want to include things around how to use bold or italics or underline or strikethrough. I personally don’t like strikethrough in my text on my blog. Underlining is something I don’t generally do. But bold and italics we allow for some emphasis. But within reason – we don’t want every third word being bold or in italics.

The use of block quotes. How to cite sources. Do you want to use quotes? Do you want to put all quotes in block quotes?

Also guidelines around linking as well. Do you want to have nofollow tags on your links, or only when they’re paid, sponsorship type things?

All of these questions it’s important to include in there so that as a writer is creating content, they can be having their questions answered without having to keep coming back to you all the time. It’s going to cut down the work that you have to do in editing the content, but also it’s going to speed up their writing process as well.

You might want to include word count limits if you want all articles to be over 500 words. Or maybe you want all articles to be over 2000 words. Again, it’s going to help to bring some consistency to your content.

Embeddable content. Do you allow people to embed content – YouTube videos or Vimeo videos or even social media? Do you require that type of thing? I know some bloggers that every post they have, they want to have some embeddable content. Again, all of these things can be factors for you.

You may look at this list that I’ve created (and you’ll be able to see it all in the show notes today) and you may say, “This is overkill. I don’t need to go into this detail”. But over time you probably will find that you will include most of these things, particularly if you’re adding new authors because you’ll find authors will bring their own style and some of it will clash with what you just assume everyone will want to do as well.

Other things that you might want to include in your style guide are things that you want your authors to do after they’ve written their post. For example, if you have a plugin like Yoast (the SEO plugin), if you’ve got that you’ll be familiar with some of the additional fields that are in the backend of your WordPress.

For example, you have the ability to write a particular title and description just for Facebook or just for Twitter. You may want to do that yourself, or you might want to ask your authors to do that as well. If there’s anything in there like click-to-tweet plugins, you might want to include those. Do you want the author to do that? In your style guide you might want to include a little checklist of other things that you want people to do as well.

You might also want to get your authors to find further reading from your archives and link to those. You might want to have some guidelines around choosing categories or tags, or anything else that you might want to do around SEO. Do you want them to use certain keywords in a certain number of times? And also some guidelines around author bios as well.

All of these are factors that you might want to include in your style guide. The thing I would say to you is if you’re listening to this and think this is just overkill, that’s okay. You can start with a very simple one. You might just want to have in yours your audience, who they are, the voice that you’ve got, the spelling that you use, and that may be enough for the early days and then you can begin to add in extra things as you think of them, as you come up with potential inconsistencies in your blog.

A really simple exercise that you might want to try is just to go back through your archives and dig back to this time last year if you’ve been blogging for a while, and look at some of the article’s that you’ve got in your archives and just look for those inconsistencies. Maybe randomly choose ten of your posts and look back through them.

Pay attention to the images, the way you’ve used images. Pay attention to headlines. Pay attention to the introductions or the conclusions of your articles. You’ll begin to see over time that things in your archives grate on you, things in your archives you’ll cringe at a little bit, And they will be signals to you that they’re things that you might want to put into your style guide that you don’t want people to do as they write for your blog.

Create this style guide and put it in a place which you can easily refer back to yourself and as you bring on authors. Build it into your orientation for new authors as well. On Digital Photography School, we’ve now got a fairly comprehensive style guide, but it also includes other things that we want our authors to know. We created almost like a guidebook that we give to any new author who comes on, and it answers things like style guides but also shows them how to submit posts to be edited, and how to log in and how to set up their author bio, these types of things as well. We’ve actually created a little orientation system that our editors are able to walk a new writer through.

You want your style guide to be easy to refer to, easy to edit. As I said it right upfront, you want it to be a living document.

Involve your writers. If you do have a team, involve them in the creation of the style guide as well, and make note of any question they ask you. As a new author that comes on, any question they ask you is probably a question that someone else is going to ask you later on. So include the answers in your style guide in that orientation book as well.

It does take a little bit of work to setup a style guide. But it’s the type of thing that is going to improve your content over time. It’s going to reduce the tension and the clashes that your readers have with your content as well over time. There are certain segments of your readership who will notice this type of thing, and if you can remove these little barriers for them engaging with your content, it’s going to have a massive impact over time. And it’s going to help you to come across as a much more professional publication as well.

So work hard on setting it up, and then I guess the other part of it is work hard on being consistent and actually adopting the style that you set down as well.

Thanks for listening, I’ve got today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/216, and I’ve also included today in the show notes some further reading and some further listening. I actually did a podcast with Beth Dunn a little while ago on how to write in a more human-like way, how to sound more human in your writing. We talked a little bit in that episode about style guides. Go and listen to that one as well.

Also, there’s three articles there that have been written by the team at Canva, another one by the team at Buffer, and another by the team at HubSpot which really do give you some really good ideas for how to create a style guide and some of them even have templates that you can fill in as well.

Check out the podcast show notes today at probloger.com/podcast/216 for that further reading, and for a summary of what I’ve talked about today.

Thanks so much for listening, I’d love to hear what you think about today’s episode. You can leave a comment on the show notes or check us out on Facebook, the ProBlogger Community Group and there’ll be a link there where you can share your comments on today’s episode as well if you’ve got any questions or other suggestions to add. Thanks for listening and I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 217 of the ProBlogger podcast.

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The post 216: How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog (and Why You Should) appeared first on ProBlogger.


ProBlogger

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Community Discussion: How Do You Survey Your Readers?

how-to-survey-your-readers.jpg

As the end of the year nears, you might be thinking about plans for your blogging in 2018.

One thing that will help inform that is a reader survey. On both ProBlogger and Digital Photography school I do an annual survey, usually around November.

As we plan our surveys, I thought I’d share some of the types of questions you can ask and give you a chance to share some of the survey techniques that have been successful for you too.

Types of questions you could ask:

  • Demographics: find out your readers’ gender, age, income, and interests. You can compare this with the analytics you get from Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.
  • Content: What types of content do your readers like? Practical, inspirational, case studies? What length of blog post do they prefer, and how often do they like reading?
  • Products: If you’re planning new products you can test out some ideas and price points in your survey.
  • Problems: Some of the most useful information you can find out is the kinds of problems your readers want solved – the keystone to creating engaging content.

Another area you may want to include is any questions that regular advertisers/sponsors may want to know, or information you can use to attract regular advertisers and sponsors.

A good example of this is finding out the intentions of your readers. If you have a travel blog, and know that 50% of your readers are planning international travel in the next three months, you can use that information to show the relevance of your blog to overseas destinations or maybe insurance providers.

Maybe you’re wondering about how to implement a survey. We use SurveyMonkey for our surveys, but you could also use Google Forms. Typeform is another survey tool we’ve checked out. The main thing is to use something that will let you ask succinct questions and get aggregated answers that can easily be viewed and analysed as data and graphs.

If you’ve got some tips on how you run readers surveys, please leave them in the comments below so we can create a more detailed post in the future.

Image Credit: Emily Morter

The post Community Discussion: How Do You Survey Your Readers? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


ProBlogger

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How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity

Boost productivityAs you know, most blogs have a contact page. It’s one of the first pages we create when we’re building a new blog. We want people to be able to shower us in praise, offer us lucrative advertising and book deals, and beg us to create wonderful products for them, right?

Okay, so that might be stretching things a little. But we do want people to be able to get in touch with us. Blogging is about connecting with people after all.

It’s easy to add a simple form to a contact page using a WordPress plugin such as Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms (my personal favourite). But what you might not realise is that a contact page can become a burden.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-basic-01.png

A simple contact form

In the early days of a new blog, a contact page might generate a handful of emails each week that you can read and respond to in no time at all.

But as our blogs grow, those emails can become difficult to handle. When my blog took off several years ago, I found myself spending so much time dealing with contact form emails that it began to have an impact on my blogging.

The biggest problems I noticed at the time were:

  • Readers sending me urgent questions I felt pressured to respond to immediately.
  • Readers sending me the same questions over and over, which forced me to choose between writing the same response over and over or not responding at all.
  • Not being able to distinguish between important and unimportant emails. I had to click through every contact email to see what they were about, then go back and process them in order of most to least important. Each email got handled twice.
  • Customers asking me to do things they could do themselves through my ecommerce system. For example, asking for another copy of the eBook files they’d lost, not realizing they could log in to the store at any time and download them.

Today I can handle my contact page requests in a single ten-minute block each morning. For the rest of the day only the highest priority emails come to my attention.

But you don’t need an overflowing inbox to take the steps I’m about to recommend. You can turn your contact form into an efficient productivity right from the start.

Setting Expectations

No matter how big your blog is, the first step is to remove the expectation that you’ll respond immediately. I live in a time zone (the east coast of Australia) where most of my contact form submissions happen while I’m asleep and are waiting for me in the morning.

On my contact form I have a simple message:

“Thanks for contacting me! I’m located on the east coast of Australia, GMT+10, and check my contact form submissions once per day, so please be patient and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

That message immediately lets people know I won’t respond straight away. If their problem is super urgent, they’ll ask somewhere else to get a faster answer. And that’s fine. But they won’t just stare at their inbox, getting angry because I’m ignoring them.

Darren takes it a step further on the ProBlogger contact page. He makes it clear that not all emails will get a response. He also makes it clear which emails he won’t respond to.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/problogger-contact-page-example.png

The ProBlogger contact page

By setting these expectations, Darren and his team can reduce the amount of email they receive, and give themselves more time to focus on the emails they do  handle.

Triaging Contact Emails

One of the first steps I took in dealing with my contact page emails was to set up an inbox rule that moved them all to a specific folder. That stopped them cluttering up my inbox, and meant I could process them in batches once or twice a day.

Unfortunately, having dozens of emails with a subject line of ‘New contact form submission’ wasn’t any more efficient.

Different emails have different priorities. An advertising request won’t have the same priority as a question from a reader. The challenge is to sort them by priority so you can deal with the important ones first – especially on those busy days when you can’t get to them all.

My solution was to add a drop-down list to my contact form that let the visitor choose a reason for contacting me. Here’s the list of ‘reasons for contact’ I’m using at Left Brain Blogging.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-reasons-01.png

Let visitors tell you why they’re contacting you

All of the WordPress plugins I mentioned earlier will let you create a drop-down list.

Another option is to use a “Subject” field for the visitor to tell you why they’re contacting you. But you may end up with too many generic subject lines (“I need help!”), which doesn’t help with your triage.

This simple change had an immediate impact on my efficiency. On busy days I could action the customer service requests first, and leave general questions for later in the day or even the following day. And while it could mean leaving an email unanswered, my next tip will help you avoid that problem.

Answer Questions Before They’re Asked

At some point you’ll run out of time to process every contact email you receive. The obvious solution is to reduce the email load. The fewer emails you receive, the fewer emails you’ll potentially ignore.

Any question you can answer before a person even submits the contact form is a win-win situation. They get a fast answer, and you save time not having to write an individual answer. But to do that, you need to apply several steps together.

The first step is to identify patterns in the requests you’re getting. By processing your emails in batches you’ll quickly recognize questions that get asked again and again..

The second step is to answer those questions right there on your contact page. By adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, you’ll be able to provide answers to them all. At Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn has built up an extensive FAQ on his contact page because he receives so many similar requests.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-pat-flynn-faq-01.png

Pat Flynn’s contact page FAQ

If a question needs a more detailed answer, take a few minutes to write a blog post and then link to it from your FAQ. The extra content on your blog could even help with search engine traffic.

If you’ve set up a “reason for contact” drop-down list in your form, you can use conditional logic to display different FAQs based on whatever reason the person selected. Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms both have this capability as a paid feature.

The final step is to add a note to your contact page encouraging visitors to search your site’s search function. They might not realize you already have blog posts that answer their questions. (You may also need to make your search box easier to find.)

Outsource

No matter how efficient you get at handling contact emails, there will come a day when you won’t want to deal with them yourself any more. You may decide your time is too valuable to be answering basic requests. Or you might just be sick of dealing with all those emails.

There’s no shame in this. Most blog-based businesses hit a natural ceiling at some point, unable to scale beyond what a single blogger can achieve each day.

At this point you’ll probably start look at outsourcing it to a staff member or virtual assistant. But unless you’re already doing what I’ve suggested in this post, your outsourcing could end up being messy and inefficient.

To give it the best chance of success, get your systems in place before you outsource. For example:

  • Set expectations about response times so you can hire someone to perform the job at a specific time of day. Having your VA process all contact emails at 7am means you’ll only have a few leftover exceptions to deal with you sit down at 8am.
  • Set up a “reason for contact” drop-down so you can route each request according to its subject line. If a customer has a support request for the product they purchased, route it to your customer service ticketing system for your team to handle. And have requests for information about your sponsored post rates routed directly to you so you can follow up on it personally.
  • Use FAQs to defer requests and reduce the amount of emails you receive. It will reduce the number of hours your VA or staff member spends handling those emails.

Where to Start

In this post I’ve given you tips and strategies for turning your contact page into a productive tool so you can run your blog and your business more efficiently.

But what’s the best way to implement them all? Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Add a note to your contact page that you’ll be processing your emails only once a day (to set expectations).
  2. Create an email rule that automatically moves all your contact emails to a folder, and then set time aside each day to batch process them. Start keeping notes on the requests that keep cropping up, along with those you’d rather not receive at all.
  3. Add a “reason for contact” list to your contact form so you can prioritize emails when you’re batch processing them.
  4. Start adding FAQs that answer the most common questions to reduce your email load.
  5. Review your “reason for contact” list and FAQs regularly to control the amount of email you’re receiving. Whenever it feels like you’re answering the same question again and again, add it to your FAQ.
  6. If you’ve made things as efficient as possible but you’re still handling too much email, look at outsourcing.

Hopefully these tips will help you save time and improve your productivity. But if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.

Do you have a contact page on your blog? How are you handling the enquiries? Any tips you’d like to share?

The post How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


ProBlogger

Posted in Blogging | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity

Boost productivityAs you know, most blogs have a contact page. It’s one of the first pages we create when we’re building a new blog. We want people to be able to shower us in praise, offer us lucrative advertising and book deals, and beg us to create wonderful products for them, right?

Okay, so that might be stretching things a little. But we do want people to be able to get in touch with us. Blogging is about connecting with people after all.

It’s easy to add a simple form to a contact page using a WordPress plugin such as Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms (my personal favourite). But what you might not realise is that a contact page can become a burden.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-basic-01.png

A simple contact form

In the early days of a new blog, a contact page might generate a handful of emails each week that you can read and respond to in no time at all.

But as our blogs grow, those emails can become difficult to handle. When my blog took off several years ago, I found myself spending so much time dealing with contact form emails that it began to have an impact on my blogging.

The biggest problems I noticed at the time were:

  • Readers sending me urgent questions I felt pressured to respond to immediately.
  • Readers sending me the same questions over and over, which forced me to choose between writing the same response over and over or not responding at all.
  • Not being able to distinguish between important and unimportant emails. I had to click through every contact email to see what they were about, then go back and process them in order of most to least important. Each email got handled twice.
  • Customers asking me to do things they could do themselves through my ecommerce system. For example, asking for another copy of the eBook files they’d lost, not realizing they could log in to the store at any time and download them.

Today I can handle my contact page requests in a single ten-minute block each morning. For the rest of the day only the highest priority emails come to my attention.

But you don’t need an overflowing inbox to take the steps I’m about to recommend. You can turn your contact form into an efficient productivity right from the start.

Setting Expectations

No matter how big your blog is, the first step is to remove the expectation that you’ll respond immediately. I live in a time zone (the east coast of Australia) where most of my contact form submissions happen while I’m asleep and are waiting for me in the morning.

On my contact form I have a simple message:

“Thanks for contacting me! I’m located on the east coast of Australia, GMT+10, and check my contact form submissions once per day, so please be patient and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

That message immediately lets people know I won’t respond straight away. If their problem is super urgent, they’ll ask somewhere else to get a faster answer. And that’s fine. But they won’t just stare at their inbox, getting angry because I’m ignoring them.

Darren takes it a step further on the ProBlogger contact page. He makes it clear that not all emails will get a response. He also makes it clear which emails he won’t respond to.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/problogger-contact-page-example.png

The ProBlogger contact page

By setting these expectations, Darren and his team can reduce the amount of email they receive, and give themselves more time to focus on the emails they do  handle.

Triaging Contact Emails

One of the first steps I took in dealing with my contact page emails was to set up an inbox rule that moved them all to a specific folder. That stopped them cluttering up my inbox, and meant I could process them in batches once or twice a day.

Unfortunately, having dozens of emails with a subject line of ‘New contact form submission’ wasn’t any more efficient.

Different emails have different priorities. An advertising request won’t have the same priority as a question from a reader. The challenge is to sort them by priority so you can deal with the important ones first – especially on those busy days when you can’t get to them all.

My solution was to add a drop-down list to my contact form that let the visitor choose a reason for contacting me. Here’s the list of ‘reasons for contact’ I’m using at Left Brain Blogging.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-reasons-01.png

Let visitors tell you why they’re contacting you

All of the WordPress plugins I mentioned earlier will let you create a drop-down list.

Another option is to use a “Subject” field for the visitor to tell you why they’re contacting you. But you may end up with too many generic subject lines (“I need help!”), which doesn’t help with your triage.

This simple change had an immediate impact on my efficiency. On busy days I could action the customer service requests first, and leave general questions for later in the day or even the following day. And while it could mean leaving an email unanswered, my next tip will help you avoid that problem.

Answer Questions Before They’re Asked

At some point you’ll run out of time to process every contact email you receive. The obvious solution is to reduce the email load. The fewer emails you receive, the fewer emails you’ll potentially ignore.

Any question you can answer before a person even submits the contact form is a win-win situation. They get a fast answer, and you save time not having to write an individual answer. But to do that, you need to apply several steps together.

The first step is to identify patterns in the requests you’re getting. By processing your emails in batches you’ll quickly recognize questions that get asked again and again..

The second step is to answer those questions right there on your contact page. By adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, you’ll be able to provide answers to them all. At Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn has built up an extensive FAQ on his contact page because he receives so many similar requests.

../../../Pictures/Websites/Left%20Brain%20Blogging/Contact%20forms/contact-form-pat-flynn-faq-01.png

Pat Flynn’s contact page FAQ

If a question needs a more detailed answer, take a few minutes to write a blog post and then link to it from your FAQ. The extra content on your blog could even help with search engine traffic.

If you’ve set up a “reason for contact” drop-down list in your form, you can use conditional logic to display different FAQs based on whatever reason the person selected. Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms both have this capability as a paid feature.

The final step is to add a note to your contact page encouraging visitors to search your site’s search function. They might not realize you already have blog posts that answer their questions. (You may also need to make your search box easier to find.)

Outsource

No matter how efficient you get at handling contact emails, there will come a day when you won’t want to deal with them yourself any more. You may decide your time is too valuable to be answering basic requests. Or you might just be sick of dealing with all those emails.

There’s no shame in this. Most blog-based businesses hit a natural ceiling at some point, unable to scale beyond what a single blogger can achieve each day.

At this point you’ll probably start look at outsourcing it to a staff member or virtual assistant. But unless you’re already doing what I’ve suggested in this post, your outsourcing could end up being messy and inefficient.

To give it the best chance of success, get your systems in place before you outsource. For example:

  • Set expectations about response times so you can hire someone to perform the job at a specific time of day. Having your VA process all contact emails at 7am means you’ll only have a few leftover exceptions to deal with you sit down at 8am.
  • Set up a “reason for contact” drop-down so you can route each request according to its subject line. If a customer has a support request for the product they purchased, route it to your customer service ticketing system for your team to handle. And have requests for information about your sponsored post rates routed directly to you so you can follow up on it personally.
  • Use FAQs to defer requests and reduce the amount of emails you receive. It will reduce the number of hours your VA or staff member spends handling those emails.

Where to Start

In this post I’ve given you tips and strategies for turning your contact page into a productive tool so you can run your blog and your business more efficiently.

But what’s the best way to implement them all? Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Add a note to your contact page that you’ll be processing your emails only once a day (to set expectations).
  2. Create an email rule that automatically moves all your contact emails to a folder, and then set time aside each day to batch process them. Start keeping notes on the requests that keep cropping up, along with those you’d rather not receive at all.
  3. Add a “reason for contact” list to your contact form so you can prioritize emails when you’re batch processing them.
  4. Start adding FAQs that answer the most common questions to reduce your email load.
  5. Review your “reason for contact” list and FAQs regularly to control the amount of email you’re receiving. Whenever it feels like you’re answering the same question again and again, add it to your FAQ.
  6. If you’ve made things as efficient as possible but you’re still handling too much email, look at outsourcing.

Hopefully these tips will help you save time and improve your productivity. But if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.

Do you have a contact page on your blog? How are you handling the enquiries? Any tips you’d like to share?

The post How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


ProBlogger

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Why You’re Not in the Content Business (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

Create Transformation

Originally posted as a Facebook update from FinCon in Dallas (video below)

In my opening keynote at FinCon last night I challenged the attendees to think about how their blog, podcast and video content could potentially be changing people’s lives.

You see, many of us see ourselves as being in the ‘content business’. But I think it’s better if we start seeing ourselves as being in the ‘transformation business’.

Great content leaves a mark on people. It moves them from one place to another.

The the creators of that content do it in various ways – teaching, giving information (such as news), entertaining, providing motivation, and giving their audience a sense that they’re not the only ones and providing hope for a better future.

We can all probably think of content that’s changed our lives in some way. For example, I can personally think of podcasts that inspired me to eat better and exercise, and probably added years to my life.

Some content creators see the change they’re bringing to their audience in flashing lights. It’s obvious, like the example I just gave. But some of us think the changes we bring are smaller, or even insignificant.

For example, at Digital Photography School we teach people how to move from being stuck in Auto Mode with their cameras, and help them get creative control and take better photos. It’s a transformation, but it’s not on the scale of adding years to someone’s life.

Or is it?

Here’s the thing. While giving someone creative control over their camera doesn’t feel that ‘big’, it can actually have a far bigger impact than you might imagine.

Since starting that blog I’ve had emails and conversations with readers who have told me that by bringing about that transformation in photography they’ve:

  • found new creative outlets that have helped their mental health
  • built new skills that have led to promotions at work
  • developed confidence and overcome fears
  • grown new income streams
  • learnt how to take images they can use in meaningful ways as gifts to family and friends, and to serve their community groups.

The point is, you never quite know what impact your content will have on people. But when you create content that brings about change, it can potentially have ripple effects beyond the changes you’re aiming to bring.

The other thing to consider is that sometimes you create changes in your readers on a scale you could never imagine.

ProBlogger, for example, is a blog all about helping bloggers start blogs and grow income from them. We attract a lot of bloggers at the beginning of their journey, and as a result hear a lot of great stories from them that reflect this stage of blogging.

It’s really satisfying to hear those stories from newer bloggers taking their early steps. What we don’t always hear are the stories of those who read ProBlogger in the early years of their journey and went on to do bigger things.

But just because we don’t hear the stories doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And the last few days here at FinCon and our Success Incubator event was testament to that fact as I bumped into some of these ProBlogger readers who went on to bigger things.

Without naming names, I met:

  • a person who credits an article I wrote on ProBlogger to saving her marriage, and helping her and her husband to build a business that earns several million dollars a month. (The article was nothing to do with marriage, by the way.)
  • another person who landed a job on our job board that led to a freelance writing career where he earns a seven-figure income each year.
  • yet another person who tells me that reading ProBlogger seven years ago, and later writing some guest posts for us, helped him build a business with a revenue at the mid-eight-figures level a year.
  • a person who found the first edition of the ProBlogger book in an airport bookstore back in 2008. She read it from cover to cover on a long-haul flight and started a blog the next day that helped her become a full-time author and speaker.

Each time I heard these stories I was taken aback, and even found myself getting emotional. Sometimes people take the content you create and the products and services you offer and run… or sprint with it. You may never know the end result, but you may have just played a part in changing someone’s life.

So stop seeing yourself as being in the ‘content business’, and start thinking about what you do as ‘transformation’.

When you do, you’ll find it has a number of impacts.

  1. What you do will become more meaningful, and be more motivated to do it.
  2. The content you create will be different. You’ll stop writing ‘about topics’, and start writing ‘for people’.
  3. It will probably also become more empathetic and passionate (something your readers will notice).
  4. Your audience will become more willing to engage with you (and each other).
  5. Your content will be easier to promote (as people are attracted to content that gives them a win or a benefit).
  6. You’ll find your blog easier to monetise (particularly if you create products and services that also bring about transformation).

So don’t just create content. Create a transformation!

(Un-mute to listen!)

Image Credit: Dan Gold

The post Why You’re Not in the Content Business (and Why That’s a Good Thing) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


ProBlogger

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5 Tips to Help You Consume Content More Productively

Consume content productivelyAs bloggers, we create a significant amount of content. But most of us consume a significant amount of it as well.

In an industry that uses strategies such as SEO, social media marketing and email marketing as key tools, we need to stay up to date with changes and trends so we can keep growing and developing. We also need to keep abreast of what’s happening in our niche to stay relevant.

Trouble is, with so much content out there we could easily spend our entire blogging work day consuming it. Sure we’re learning a lot, but we need to be mindful of how much time we’re spending and do it productively so it helps us grow our blogs.

Here are five tips to help you consume content more productively.

1. Focus

If you’ve been reading the productivity posts here on Problogger, then you’ll hopefully have set a goal for the year. If you have, you can use it to help target the type of content you read, watch and listen to. General knowledge is wonderful, and certainly has its place. But in terms of helping you with your blogging it’s far more productive to focus on content topics that will help you reach your blogging goal(s) for the year.

For example, if your goal is to increase newsletter subscribers then subscribing to podcasts and blogs that share content on this topic would be beneficial, as would reading books or listening to audiobooks that share list-building strategies.

It can be tempting to learn about every blogging issue to try and stay up to date. But this splits your attention, which means you can only go shallow on topics. You’re better off going deep and consuming content on fewer topics that will help you reach your goal than spreading your attention too thin.

2. Have the content come to you

You’ll always need to look for specific information. But if there are blogs, podcasts and vloggers you like to read, listen to and watch regularly, make sure you subscribe to them. That way the information comes to you, which you can then consume whenever it’s convenient.

There are plenty of great tools available to help you. Here are a few that work well for me.

feedly

feedly is a content aggregator that works on web browsers, as well as on iOS and Android devices through a free app. It lets you curate a news feed from a variety of online sources. You can add blogs, Youtube channels, and even Google keyword alerts that will gather the latest articles on your chosen topics from more than 5,000 of the world’s best news sources.

As you can see from the screenshot, it’s super easy to add new content.

YouTube Moz

To add a blog you like to read, simply click on the Add Content button and paste in the URL. You can also add your favourite YouTube video channels by pasting the URL into the space provided and clicking Follow.

With feedly you can scan through your preferred data sources without going to the actual source sites. This means you avoid all the distractions and ‘rabbit holes’ you can lose yourself in, helping you consume content more productively. It also means you can turn off things like Youtube notifications, as you’ll get the updates automatically in feedly.

Content aggregators such as feedly can also help you position yourself as a subject matter expert in a particular area. It can search the internet for your chosen keyword and retrieve articles from reputable news sources all over the world, rather than you having to do all the searching yourself. You can then either share these articles on your social media channel straight away, or use feedly’s Read Later function and mark content you want to save to share on your social media networks later.

Keyword alerts

Podcast apps

The podcast revolution continues, with so many amazing podcasts being published every day. Subscribing to podcasts in your niche, goal areas or areas of interest is an excellent way to manage incoming audio content.

If you use an Apple device you can use the native Podcast app. But with the changes they made to the app in iOS 11 I’m now looking at two other highly recommended podcast apps:

  • Overcast, an iOS-only app available as either a free version with ads or a paid version with no ads.
  • Pocket Casts, a paid app available on Android and iOS.

3. Take action notes

While it’s great to listen to podcasts and read blog posts and books on topics that will help you, unless you take action it’s not an effective use of your time. To ensure you put your new knowledge to use, or at least explore your thoughts and ideas on the content you consumed, take action notes.

Action notes are exactly what their name implies. After you’ve had a reading or listening session, write down the actions you’d like to take. They aren’t just general notes on things you heard or read, or quotes from the book. They’re specific action items you can take for your blog, based on the broad information you heard.

For example, if you’re focusing on increasing newsletter subscribers you may have found the Problogger podcast in your app and listened to Darren’s podcast on how to get more subscribers, follows and connections from your blog readers. With so much great information in this podcast you could easily write reams of notes. But Instead, try writing three actions you can take from what you’ve learned, such as:

  1. Create two more two opt-ins or lead magnets so they’ll be more relevant to readers, depending on the content they’ve been reading on the blog.
  2. Install a welcome mat, and track the impact on new subscribers.
  3. Write a series of blog posts, and encourage readers to subscribe so they get the latest posts in the series delivered to their inbox.

You can easily read and listen to huge amounts of information and not act on it. By keeping action notes in either your master planning document or a separate notebook, you can track and work through the action items you want to implement on your blog.

4. Share your thoughts

The best way to learn is to teach. Share your thoughts on what you’ve been reading, listening to or watching on your blog. Even if the information is different to your niche, you can build your own piece of content around it. You’ve been building a relationship with your audience, and they’ll be interested in your opinion and recommendations.

Gathering and sharing excellent content can be a great way to give value to your audience, and give purpose to the content you consume. Here are a few examples of bloggers sharing their thoughts on the content they’ve been consuming:

  • Meet Me at Mikes – Something to read: Pip regularly shares what she’s been listening to, watching or reading. In this post she shares a host of things she’s been reading – from blogs and books to menus and recipes. It’s an eclectic collection that wonderfully reflects the personality of her blog, and shares information with readers they may not have found on their own.
  • James Clear – Reading list: James is a prolific reader, and he writes super useful book summaries on his blog. James has collated his book reviews into a much-favourited and shared reading list, which breaks books into categories and top ten lists. In his full book reviews (like this one on Sapiens) he has three sections – the book in three sentences, the summary, and affiliate links to where you can buy the print, eBook and audiobook versions of the book. This reading list is a go-to reference guide for readers when they’re looking for a book to read.
  • Becoming Minimalist – Inspiring Simplicity. Weekend Reads: Joshua Becker writes a weekly post sharing content he’s either watched, listened to or read on his simplicity/minimalism niche. The format is the same each week – a short introduction, and then one or two sentences on each item he shares. These posts are incredibly useful to his readers who are exploring and learning more about minimalism, and are consistently shared widely on social media. When I last checked, the post I’ve linked to had been shared more than a thousand times.

5. Use boundaries to limit your consumption

It can be hard to stop reading, watching or listening to content that’s stimulating, amusing or informative. But there’s a tipping point to how much content we can consume. Setting up personal boundaries can help ensure we take a productive approach to our consumption.

Look for pockets of time in your day where existing boundaries force you to stop. I schedule social media and blog reading in the last 30 minutes of my work day, when I pick the kids up from school. You may not have a school pick up to do, but you might have a meeting you can do some reading before, or a regular appointment that can act as a boundary and stop you spending too much time consuming and not enough time creating.

How do you manage the way you consume content? Tell us about it in the comments.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

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9 Ways Influencer Outreach Can Help You and Your Blog

Influencer outreach

Here on ProBlogger, we have a lot of tips on influencer outreach – how to reach out to influencers and pitch to them. Here are just a few of the resources we have available:

But in this blog post I want to talk about why you should do it.

One big reason is the diminishing returns social media is providing. Many bloggers I know are struggling to get much traction on social media. It’s becoming a very noisy space, and the algorithms in place are squashing our organic reach.

If you don’t have the budget to pay for advertising (and many bloggers don’t), then social media can feel like shouting into an empty room.

Could influencer outreach be the solution for you?

Networking with influencers in your niche and building relationships with them can lead to any number of opportunities. Here are nine of them.

#1: Increased Traffic

The right influencer linking to your blog (or podcast, video or social media account) at the right time can send you a decent amount of traffic.

One straightforward way to get this benefit is through a guest post. I know that Jon Morrow, who runs the very successful Smart Blogger blog, got a huge surge in traffic when we published his post How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World back in 2011.

Receiving a link from an influential blog in your niche can also send a lot of traffic over time – for example, being featured in a “Top 10” or “Top 100” list of blogs.

#2: Raised Profile

An influencer’s credibility and authority can rub off on you, helping you build your brand. For instance, if they retweet one of your posts it’s a signal to their followers that your blog is reputable and worth reading.

It’s worth keeping in mind that influencers are very aware of how their own brand is affected by what they share and link to. If your blog has hardly any content or your posts are full of typos, they may well avoid promoting you.

#3: Great Testimonials and Social Proof

If an influencer says something nice about you – on their blog, in their email newsletter, or even in a Facebook post or tweet – you may be able to use their words on your own website.

A good example of a blogger using influencers’ words in this way is Jeff Goins. If you go to his website and scroll partway down his front page you’ll see this:

But before you put anyone’s words up on your site like this, make sure get their permission.

#4: Profitable Collaborations

When you build a solid relationship with an influencer, they could potentially become a collaborator or partner. Many influencers reach a certain level in their business where they’re actively looking for other people to work with to grow their business even more.

You might end up joining them on a freelance basis (where you’re paid a set amount for your work) or on a profit-sharing basis (where you and the influencer split the profits from a particular project).

In the past, I’ve seen my own relationships grow and develop into creating products alongside other people – including ebooks and ecourses. If you take a look at the ProBlogger ebooks, you’ll see I’ve partnered with other authors on some of them. Mark Hayward authored ProBlogger’s Guide to Blogging for Your Business, and Shane Tilley developed The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing.

#5: Getting Hired

While landing a job isn’t the most likely outcome of influencer outreach, it does happen. Some influencers will be looking to hire part-time or full-time staff, and it’s only natural for them to favour people they already know and like.

I’ve hired numerous people who initially got to know me through social media. They didn’t reach out to get a job – they were just being friendly or helpful. But out of that initial contact grew a relationship that eventually led to them getting hired.

#6: Getting an Introduction

Influencers tend to know one another, and we talk to each other too. If you get to know one or two key people in your industry, they may be able to open doors for you to meet and connect with other influencers. This in turn can lead to even more opportunities and introductions.

Again, be aware that influencers won’t want to risk their reputation by introducing their friends and colleagues to someone they don’t really know. You’ll need to invest some time into building a relationship before asking for an introduction.

#7: Improved SEO

Getting a link from an influencer can help with your SEO. Some bloggers think of this benefit first and ignore the rest, which is why I’ve put it some way down the list. While SEO is important, it’s not the only thing to think about. And contacting lots of influencers just to ask for a link will likely backfire.

But if you’ve built a relationship with an influencer, there’s no harm in sending them a link to one of your best blog posts that you think will interest them and their audience. They may well be happy to send a link your way. And links from trusted authority sites can help boost your site’s position in Google’s rankings.

#8: Increased Sales

A relationship with an influencer can potentially lead to them recommending your products or services. They may simply link to what you do, or become one of your affiliates.

Again, keep in mind that influencers won’t risk their reputation by promoting a product they’ve barely seen, or something that doesn’t seem high quality. So create the best product/service you can, and make sure you give them full access.

#9: Mentorship and Guidance

Finally, being on good terms with an influencer could potentially lead to a mentoring relationship. This isn’t something you should necessarily expect – many influencers are simply too busy – but it is a possibility. Even if they don’t have much time to spare, they might still be willing to provide occasional advice on a particular question or struggle.

Of course, one great way to get mentored by an influencer is to read all their content. Listen to their podcast, buy their books (if applicable), and really try to put what they teach into practice. Chances are if you questions about something that’s not covered or isn’t clear, they’ll almost certainly be  happy to cover them.

Some influencers even invite questions and use them as the basis for blog posts. Naomi Dunford is currently doing it on her IttyBiz blog, with posts such as Reader Question: How Do You Expand And Grow When You’re Too Busy?

As I said at the beginning, reaching out to influencers can lead to a lot of opportunities. I  realise that reaching out out to the big names in your niche may be daunting. They may be people you’ve admired for months, or even years.

But hopefully I’ve convinced you that influencer outreach is worth the effort. And who knows? One day you may become an influencer yourself, and get to do the same for someone else.

Are you reaching out to influencers? How are you doing it? Tell us about it in the comments. 

 

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

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How to Smash Your Blogging Goals in Just 5 Days

Smash Your Blogging Goals

This post is by ProBlogger expert Ellen Jackson of Potential Psychology

Have you ever uttered the phrase, ‘One day I’ll…’?

Of course you have. We all have.

One day I’ll schedule my social media

One day I’ll improve my web site

One day I’ll organise my images (a personal favourite)

One day I’ll start a podcast…

Next we say, ‘When…’

When I have more time

When I have more money

When inspiration hits

When I’ve developed my skills

When I feel more confident

When life is easier….

Here’s a thought: What if life is never easier? What if you never find more time, money or confidence?

What if tomorrow and the day after and the day after that are no different to today? How will you ever achieve your goals and get those ‘one day’ tasks done? What if ‘one day’ never comes?

Procrastination researchers have discovered that our tendency to put things off is a self-delusion designed to make us feel better about today.

‘We think that our future self will be better able to handle feelings of insecurity or frustration with the task,’ psychologist Dr Fuschia Sirois says. ‘That somehow we’ll develop these miraculous coping skills to deal with the emotions that we just can’t deal with right now.’

Oh dear.

The Quick Win Goal Challenge

Recently I challenged my audience to see if together we could make some progress on our ‘one day’ goals. Science tells us that public accountability can help motivate you to achieve your goals, so we teamed up and made a commitment to work together.

We each picked a ‘one day’ goal – something that had been on the to-do list for months or longer. Tasks we’d been avoiding – important but not urgent. Goals that languished in the backs of minds, niggling, without ever launching forth to a point of urgency.

Our aim?

To follow five simple, science-based steps over five days to make major progress on our ‘one day’ goals.

The goals were diverse:

‘Make a plan to buy my first home’

‘Digitise my client files’

‘Tidy my spare room’

‘Write my ebook’

‘Build my potential client base’

We were all filled with enthusiasm, posting images to Instagram each day to share our progress.

The results were gratifying.

“I am well on the way to finishing my ebook. I produced 65 pages of a 100-page book, created the template, designed the cover AND worked out a distribution plan. All in five days! Prior to this I had done… not much for two years.”

“I have officially ticked off everything I set out to do this week. Feeling chuffed.”

And the steps to get there?

Let me share the five science-based steps to making your ‘one day’ today.

Step 1: Know EXACTLY What You Want to Achieve by the End of the Five Days

‘Fix my web site’ is a goal too overwhelming to contemplate. What does ‘fixed’ look like? How will you know when it’s fixed? Will ‘fixing’ one piece break another one?

No wonder you never start.

When you pull a goal apart and specify exactly what you want to achieve, you do two things:

  1. You get clear on all the little tasks involved. This will help you estimate the time you need, and help you figure out where to start.
  2. You paint a picture of what success looks like. A clear, specific goal like ‘By Friday I will have updated the background image on my home page, created links in the menu to my new product pages and rewritten my About Me copy’ feels achievable. ‘Fix my web site’ feels like a task you want to avoid.

Step 2: Take Conscious Action

A clear, specific goal is necessary but not sufficient if you want to achieve your ‘one day’ project. You need to know where you’re going, but it’s action that will get you there.

Step two involves two tasks.

Task One: Write it down. Did you know you are 42% more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down? It’s not clear how or why this works, but the evidence confirms that it does.

Task Two: Work on your ‘Why?’ For many of us, motivation comes not just from what we’re trying to achieve, but why. Studies have shown that if we connect our goal to something larger and more important (‘I want to make money blogging so I can spend more time at home with my children’) we are less impulsive, less likely to give in to distractions, and more likely to plan and execute the required actions to reach our goals. When you’ve articulated your goal, spend some time thinking about why you want to achieve it. Who’s involved? How will they benefit? How will achieving this goal improve your life?

Step 3: Stop Looking for Motivation

Motivation: We’re all looking for it. Somewhere along the line someone convinced us that when we find our motivation, goal success will be effortless. We just have to find it, and then making client calls will be easy. We’ll sit at the laptop and schedule our social media. We won’t procrastinate or be distracted. We’ll just get stuff done. Simple.

But motivation isn’t  ‘thing.’ It can’t be found. Motivation, in simple psychological terms, is the desire to do something. You won’t find the desire to do something hiding anywhere. You have to create it.

Here’s a tip from the world’s leading researchers in goal-setting: Make your goal difficult.

Challenging but realistic goals – goals that stretch us but not quite to breaking point – activate motivation. They push us, encourage us and reward us when we achieve them. If a goal is too easy we don’t get the get up and go to… well, get up and go. If they’re too difficult we’re too overwhelmed to start. A stretching, challenging but achievable goal is like Baby Bear’s porridge – just right.

Step 4: Use my Favourite Productivity Tip

It’s called ‘The 15-minute rule’ and it rocks. I know because I use it all the time.

Here’s how it works:

If there’s a task on your list that you’re avoiding, commit 15 minutes to it today.

It could be:

  • 15 minutes of writing
  • 15 minutes of client calls
  • 15 minutes tidying your office
  • 15 minutes on that proposal you’ve been avoiding.

Why does it work? Because getting started is the hardest part of any task. The good news is that once you’ve started, you’re likely to push on beyond the 15 minutes you committed to. It’s called the Ovsiankina effect. Your brain doesn’t like starting a task and then stopping partway through. It will linger on your unfinished business, niggling at you until you get the job done. Get started and you’ll find the motivation to do more.

Step 5: Celebrate Every Step

What do you do when you finish a project or task? Do you tick it off the list and move straight on to the next one? Do you get on a roll, morphing into a task-completion machine? How long can you maintain momentum before you collapse on the lounge with the remote and Netflix?

A critical step in making progress towards difficult goals is celebrating the steps along the way. Yes, a big win feels great. But it’s the small wins – the incremental tasks you nail each day – that sustain your motivation and keep you happy and engaged for the long run.

Day five is all about reviewing your progress and celebrating your successes. Make a list of every little thing you’ve achieved on your ‘one day’ goal so far. Every little tiny thing. Give yourself a mental high five and put your feet up for a while. You’ve made a big start on a long-time goal. That deserves a reward. What’s more, you’re set up to rock on into next week.

Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology  is a workplace psychologist, consultant, writer and speaker. Her mission is to help others to live, learn and flourish. You can join her next free Quick Win Challenge to nail your ‘one day’ goal here.

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