When Journalism and Blogging Collide: 7 Reporters’ Tactics to Make You a Better Blogger

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

This is a guest contribution from journalist and blogger Christian Toto.

Journalism appears to be a dirty word in 2014. Some people blast reporters for their perceived biases. Others say journalists simply protect the status quo rather than speaking truth to power. Everyone else is is fed up by reporters paying more attention to a twerking Miley Cyrus than the deficit or health care.

None of this means journalism skills aren’t a great way to separate your blog from the competition. In fact, blogging with Cronkite-colored glasses can help your site gain both trust and readers.

Here are seven ways bloggers can rely on journalistic tenets to enhance their brand:

1. Be Transparent

When you make an argument, link to reputable sources to support your case. If you make a factual error, own up to it in a clear manner like a newspaper correction. Readers forgive mistakes, but they’re less willing to trust a blogger who traffics in stealth edits.

2. Flash Your Expertise

Once upon a time – before the Internet upended journalism in toto – media outlets hired reporters with specific skill sets to cover topics like business, health and entertainment. Now, general assignment reporters work overtime to replicate the expertise these areas demand. Chances are you bring plenty of knowledge to your niche. That’s why you’re blogging about it in the first place. Don’t be bashful … show it off.

3. Sexy Ledes, Compelling Headlines

Readers have very short attention spans, and your best chance at grabbing them comes down to the headline and opening sentence (the “lede”). Make that headline sizzle without forgetting essential keywords. Better still, craft a killer first sentence that makes readers eager to keep reading.

4. Less Is (Much) More

When in doubt … cut. Edit extraneous words from every post. Rely on short sentences to break up a paragraph’s rhythm. Pluck out adjectives that aren’t mandatory. Your writing will be more powerful and readers will appreciate that you aren’t wasting their time.

5. Step Away from the Laptop

Bloggers were once dismissed as pajamas-wearing amateurs. We’ve come a long way since then, but a good blogger must put on a tie or business skirt now and then. Journalists attend rallies, cover protests and interview people in their niche. Do as they do. Writing a political blog? Sit in on a meeting of the local GOP party or capture a day in the life of a rising Democrat star. Blog about cooking? Attend a chef’s class and spot the way he holds a knife when cutting vegetables. Your writing will come alive, and you’ll pick up valuable sources along the way.

6. Don’t Trust Your Biases

Sometimes we want a story to be true so badly our inner skeptic takes a coffee break. Consider how many people share those faux Daily Currant headlines on Facebook. If a story feels too good to believe, double check it. As the saying goes, if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

7. Unearth Those Buried Ledes

A great way to generate story ideas is to read newspaper articles and find the missing angles or juicy nuggets buried after the jump. News judgment is subjective, and even ace reporters give short shrift to vital information now and again. When they do … pounce.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, film critic and blogger. He offers tips and tactics to his fellow fathers at http://daddylibrium.com.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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When Journalism and Blogging Collide: 7 Reporters’ Tactics to Make You a Better Blogger


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9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts (That Every Blogger Can Use)

This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke of Zen Optimise.

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Have you ever glanced at a post the day after publishing it … only to notice a glaring error?

In an ideal world, you’d have a professional editor helping with your posts, making careful adjustments and double-checking things with you until your post is the polished masterpiece it deserves to be.

In the real world, chances are you’re on your own. If your post is going to be edited, it’s up to you to do it.

Whether you’re a highly experienced writer or a new blogger who’s very unconfident about their writing, spending some time editing (and doing it right) will result in dramatically better posts.

Here’s how:

9 Tips for Editing Your Own Blog Posts

#1: Plan Before You Write

One of the best editing tricks takes place before you even write your post.

By spending five to ten minutes creating a plan, you can save yourself hours of frustration trying to whip your post into shape later.

Your plan needn’t be complicated: a list of your subheadings is enough. My plan for this post began like this:

Introduction

1. Plan before you write

2. Avoid editing while writing (link Daniel’s post)

3. Don’t go straight from writing into editing

#2: Avoid Editing While Writing

Have you ever started a blog post, got a paragraph or two in, scrapped your introduction, started again… and then ended up bogged down mid-way?

A good plan will help a lot here, but you also need to get out of the habit of trying to perfect every sentence while you’re working on the first draft. It’s an inefficient and often frustrating way to work.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Daniel Scocco, who suggests you should never hit backspace when you’re writing – personally, I think it’s no big deal if you quickly correct a typo or occasionally restart a sentence. But at least 90% of the time, you should be making forward progress with your first draft, not going back and rewriting.

#3: Don’t Go Straight from Writing into Editing

If you’re in a hurry to get a post out, or simply in a blogging mood, you might finish drafting your post and immediately start editing.

While this is OK once in a while, it’s definitely better to allow your post to rest a bit before you start editing.

This has a couple of benefits:

You won’t be so close to the material, so you’ll see where you might want to add something in, take something out, or rearrange paragraphs. (You’ll also be more likely to spot all the good bits!)

You’ll hopefully come back feeling refreshed, so you’ll be in a better position to spot typos, grammatical errors, and other tiny but distracting mistakes.

How long should you stay away? If you can leave your post overnight, that’s perfect; otherwise, a lunch break or even a coffee break can be enough.

#4: Edit the Big Picture First

When you hear the word “editing,” you probably think about fixing spelling mistakes and debating over word choices. That’s definitely a big part of editing … but before you get into the details, you need to take a look at the big picture of your post.

Think of it this way: you don’t want to spend ages getting a paragraph just right, only to later realize it doesn’t belong in your post at all.

So spend at least a few minutes reading through your post and deciding whether you should:

Cut out information that might not be relevant (or that’s repetitive).

Add in information that readers may need in order to understand the post.

Move around paragraphs or subsections that aren’t currently in the best order.

At this stage, you’re focusing on paragraphs and perhaps sentences, rather than individual words.

#5: Cut Down Your Introduction

Most blog posts benefit from some cutting … and introductions are a great place to begin. 

The first few lines of your post need to hook the reader and encourage them to read on. If you spend several paragraphs explaining the inspiration behind the post, or if you start to repeat yourself, readers may well switch off and click away.

One handy trick here is to delete your first paragraph and see whether the post works without it. If not, just add it back in.

If you’re stuck, try How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros for some great tips.

#6: Add a Call to Action

If you included a call to action during your first draft, good for you! Missing calls to action are one of the biggest mistakes I see when I’m editing guest posts or training bloggers.

A call to action, in case you’ve not come across the term before, is a clear prompt to the reader to do something. It could be “click here to buy my ebook” or “tell us what you think in the comments” or “if you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook” … or almost anything else.

The best place for a call to action is right at the end of your post, because that’s the point at which readers will be deciding what to do next. If you’re not sure what to write or want to see how other bloggers do it, check out 6 Action-Inspiring Ways to End Your Blog Post (and 12 Examples).

#7: Don’t Let Spellcheck Do Your Proofreading

Although it’s definitely a good idea to run a spellcheck on your post, you shouldn’t trust spellcheck to catch everything.

When you proofread, look out for:

Inconsistencies in how you write a word or phrase (e.g. “e-book”, “eBook”, “e-Book” or “ebook” – pick one and stick with it throughout).

Missing punctuation marks – I sometimes find I’m missing the period at the end of a paragraph, and it’s also easy to forget to close your parentheses.

Missing words, especially small ones like “a”. Sometimes, these errors creep in when you edit a sentence and don’t change everything you should.

Spelling mistakes, especially with words that sound alike – e.g. “you’re” vs “your”.

One good trick you can use here is to read your post out loud. This forces you to slow down, and often means you’re more likely to notice mistakes. (Alternatively, you could print your post and read it on paper, with a red pen in hand.)

#8: Don’t Agonize Over Making it Perfect

One of the great things about blog posts is that you can edit them after publishing them. (Obviously that’s a fair bit harder if you print a set of business cards … or 500 copies of a book.) While it’s definitely important to have a well-written, polished post, if a typo remains, it’s not going to kill your chances of blogging success.

If you’re spending so much time editing and proofreading that you’re struggling to actually write enough for your blog, or if you’re losing your enthusiasm for blogging, cut back.

And don’t feel that you have to use every single tip on this list on every single post you write – though it’s definitely worth checking off each point if you’re editing something really important, like a guest post or a piece of flagship content.

#9: Preview Your Post and Check the Formatting

Get in the habit of previewing your posts – sometimes, a problem that’s not obvious in the text editor will stand out sharply in the preview. 

Even if there aren’t any problems, you may find yourself spotting typos, or simply seeing things that you decide to tweak to make your post more visually attractive. This could mean:

Adding in formatting … or taking some out if you’ve gone over the top with the bold text!

Editing the title or subheading to avoid one word wrapping onto the next line.

Changing a link so that it doesn’t wrap across two lines.

Putting in extra space, perhaps after a list (some blog themes tend to squish lists and the subsequent paragraph together).

Of course, all of this is very nit-picky – but if you do spot something that’s quick and easy to change, this is a good opportunity to make your post even better.

So, those are my nine best tips. Which ones(s) will you be putting into practice this week? And do you have a tenth to add? Let us know in the comments…

You can find Ali Luke over at Zen Optimise, where she blogs about content marketing, social media, and more. For help with planning and writing, as well as editing, take her free video training (45 minutes) on The Writing Process for Bloggers.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts (That Every Blogger Can Use)


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6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com

Abraham Lincoln Axe Quote 1

Many newbie (and sometimes even veteran) bloggers erroneously spend 95% of their time creating blog content and only 5% pondering titles. Unfortunately for these bloggers, most readers’ attention spans expire in seconds.

Unless you reel in your readers instantly, your well-crafted content goes largely unnoticed and going viral becomes impossible.

Set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes for choosing a magnetic title after crafting your post.

List three to five intriguing titles guaranteed to increase your CTR and page views. After carefully thinking through each option, select the one that inspires you like no other.  Ask your friends or followers for feedback.

Most importantly, test and learn from data you collect looking at engagement metrics, such as social sharing and page views.  Double down on best-performing headlines and keep testing new ways to engage your audience.

Garret Moon proposes re-writing your blog headlines at least three times to A/B test your headlines using Twitter and email marketing. If you are serious about blogging, invest as much resources and time as you can to headline testing and optimization.

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

At SearchDecoder blog we did an in depth headline analysis looking at the most popular posts of 2013. The data included over 30K visits and 6K social shares.

Most of the content featured in the study that made the top 10 lists was generated by NYU students participated in the Inbound Marketing Clinic and couple recent grads who work with me at Lowe Profero. The objective of this post is not to brag but rather share data insights with the blogging community to get feedback.

SearchDecoder Top 10 2

Top 10 Most Popular Posts on SearchDecoder Blog in 2013

Use Power Verbs

Use power verbs to goad readers into clicking on and sharing your content. Imagine yourself as a blogging commander, enticing to swift action with assertiveness. Start titles with actionable verbs like “Read,” “Download” or “Learn”.  Actionable verbs can be visualized and acted upon easily.

Keep things simple and never use a power verb in any spot other than the beginning of your title. Maximize the effectiveness of these action words.

The third most shared blog post on SearchDecoder, Optimize Your Click Through Rate on Google (Infographic) is a good example of using a power verb to drive action.

SearchDecoder Take Action 3

Employ Colorful Adjectives

Colorful adjectives effectively magnetize eager readers to your titles. Consider using colorful words to appeal to the imagination. If readers can see what you wish to convey, you will generate high CTR.

Pull out a thesaurus. Scour the manual to find descriptive, entertaining adjectives to lasso readers’ eyeballs. Test words like “awesome,” “unstoppable” and “unconventional” for engaging your reader’s visualizing faculty.

The number-one most shared, read and commented on blog post on SearchDecoder, 10 Unconventional Keyword Research Tools to Include in Your SEO Toolbox, generated over 7K views, nearly 700 social shares and over 30 comments. Moreover, it got picked up by the editors of Moz Top 10.

Interestingly, the two blog posts I’ve published using the word ‘unconventional’ in the title made it to the top 10 most shared blog posts on SearchDecoder.com.

10 unconventional keyword research tips 4

Arouse Curiosity

Reading questions piques your interest. Interested web visitors set the foundation for viral blog posts.  Readers rarely scan question-themed titles without clicking through because inquiring minds need to know.

Brian Clark notes on Copyblogger that sharing benefits via insider knowledge is a timeless approach to crafting magnetic titles.

Asking questions or exposing industry ‘secrets’ compels clickthroughs because few can resist mystery. Observe the masterful novelist. Supreme writers craft cliffhangers filled with mystery and intrigue. How could you put down these page turners when each chapter ends with either a question or some other secret yet to be revealed?

One of the top shared blog posts on my blog, The 10 Secrets of Effective Bootstrap Digital Marketing for Startups, leverages this tactic. If you want to successfully run a startup, getting enough credible information is critical.

Crafting this title for the accompanying deck on SlideShare goaded readers to click through and share it on Twitter at a stunning rate, appearing on SlideShare’s homepage as ‘Hot on Twitter’ and boosting its views to over 7K.

Build Lists (Always)

Building list-themed headers is a surefire approach to crafting magnetic titles. In fact, 9 out of the 10 best performing posts on my blog included a list in the headline.

Testing various numbers in list headlines (I tested between 7 and 30) on my blog didn’t indicate a clear winner (statistically), however the number 10 performed best.

Readers need gobs of information to satiate their curiosity. The average web cruiser craves thorough content. Sharing 11 tips or 8 steps to solve a particular problem draws readers in because they expect to find a practical answer to their specific questions.

Jeff Goins notes how using obscure numbers in titles like 19 or 37 can appeal to readers. Experiment with different single and double-digit numbers to see which titles result in the most clicks.

The highest number in the list headline I used was 30 and it performed surprisingly well (contrary to the less is more approach). The 30 Awesome Free SEO Tools for Small Businesses headline was the 8th most popular blog post on Searchdecoder in 2013.

Use the Magic Words

“Quick,” “Easy,” and “Simple” are the magic headline words guaranteed to boost clicks pronto. Do you want to know the quick, easy or simple way to solve a problem you have been trying to address? Of course you do.

Appeal to the Internet culture of today by using these magic words frequently. However, make sure that the solution is quick, easy or simple to keep your credibility intact. Promising a simple solution to a problem but following up with complex instructions can damage your online reputation.

Add “lessons” to your ‘magic word’ list. People read blogs to learn, and no matter how ‘easy’ your advice seems, it is always a good idea to anchor your findings in data, interviews or case studies. The #5 best performer on SearchDecoder, 7 Lessons for Effective B2B Content Marketing via the Maersk Line Case Study, drew in eager students quickly.

Pick Up the Paper

Always learn from the pros. Read a newspaper or scour online news sites to find appealing blog post title ideas and become a trusted curator of information for your community.

Follow the example of the 8 Internet Books You Should Read in 2014 post that performed exceptionally well for me during the slow Holiday period in December. Whatever you are blogging about; there are tons of relevant books and blogs you can curate.

Vintage Books 5

Mine the web or your local newsstand for creative, proven titles guaranteed to increase blog readership. Taking a cue from some of the best title writers on earth is a simple way to create a viral post.

Curating content proved to be the most low-effort, high-return activity on my blog. The 8 Content Marketing Statistics You Need to Know title was the second best performer on SearchDecoder.

Headlines are visual

It’s a social media world. If you want to increase the sharibility and CTR of your blog posts, include eye-catching images and visuals which get populated on your homepage and social media feed. Spend time choosing the best ‘featured image’ for every headline.

SearchDecoder blog posts 6

What didn’t work?

Using names of influencers in blog titles didn’t perform well for me. While the Q&As and interviews represent some of the best content on my blog, they underperformed in terms of traffic and engagement. Using Twitter handles and hashtags in the headlines didn’t perform well for me either.

What worked for your blog last year? I’d love to hear your best-performing blog post headline in the comments section.

Matthew Capala is an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines


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The Benefits of Making a Business Blog Available in Multiple Languages

Your company blog: while often neglected due to its perceived lack of purpose (and the commitment it requires), it is also a personal way to convey a message to a client base that isn’t possible with different forms of social media.

Far too many business owners forget that a comprehensive blogging strategy is essential for a company’s greater marketing plan: a company blog puts a face and personality to what appears to potential customers everywhere as a faceless entity offering a product or service. In short, it’s a cost-effective and simple way to connect to an audience and receive their feedback.

Breaking the Barriers

For businesses that have a presence in multiple countries, maintaining a blog that reaches different groups of people–who speak different languages–offers an intriguing challenge. Visiting a company’s website to find that their blog is in a different language is a turn-off. It creates a barrier between a customer and the business he is paying for a service. It’s impersonal and seems like the company isn’t making an effort to coalesce. A blog that is available in more than one language makes for a much more positive experience for the consumer; something many often pay more for, rather than dealing with an unknown, unfriendly commodity.

As the TheWebsiteCenter.com notes, customer trust and the website level of rectitude typically needs to be more significant when purchasing a service, as opposed to a product. A service implies an extended relationship, while purchasing a product usually ends when payment is accepted. A service, however, is an ongoing event, which requires constant communication to ensure the effectiveness of the relationship.

Connecting with the World

Connecting with the consumer is impossible with barriers. A potential customer will go elsewhere if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced by the business they are about to give their money to. For companies with a business in multiple countries, a multilingual blog is a way to connect with potential consumers, as well as showing them they are dedicated to providing a comfortable business experience. More eyes will be privy to a blog that is available in different languages. It enhances a business’s internet presence by ranking the blog higher in non-English search engines, in addition to English search engines.

Having a multilingual blog provides new avenues for interaction with consumers, meaning a company can improve their product or service to fit the wants and needs of potential customers. Interaction is good: it helps create a relationship between two parties. Interaction with customers that are feeling-out different businesses makes it more likely they will choose your company, plain and simple.

Nothing to Lose

The process of setting-up a multilingual blog certainly isn’t a huge undertaking, by any means. Set-up is easy to do, and duplicate content doesn’t count across languages. There are specific companies that specialize in content development, integrating translation capabilities into their services.

The alternatives include using a dedicated translation service, or even just hiring someone that is fluent in the desired language. Site maintenance and coding often prove to be obstacles to companies focused on providing a service a product, so having someone with great familiarity with HTML, in addition to the desired languages, is essential for providing a respectable, friendly blog.

The ultimate goal of offering a blog in multiple languages is to make it as interactive and friendly as possible. By catering to the needs of potential consumers, offering blogs in different languages reaches to a wider base than offering posts in English, exclusively.

Sloan McKinney enjoys sharing her knowledge on International Communications with readers. She contributes some of her writing to TollFreeNumberNow.com, and specializes in topics of business globalization and technology.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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The Benefits of Making a Business Blog Available in Multiple Languages


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My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

Over in the ProBlogger.com forum last week, I issued members with a challenge to complete this week on their blogs. The challenge was simple – to write a ‘top 5’ post on any topic they wanted.

This is my own contribution to the challenge!

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

I’ve been blogging 11 and a half years now, and while I pinch myself everyday at where blogging has taken me, that time has been littered with mistakes and failures along the way.

While we often talk about the good times here on ProBlogger, today I thought I’d share 5 mistakes I made (or to put a more positive spin on it… 5 lessons I learned the hard way).

1. Choosing Profit over Passion

My first blog was a personal blog and an extension of who I was. I only wrote about what I was interested in and profit was not on the radar as nobody made money blogging back then.

My second blog was an extension of my first, and a blog on a topic that I was interested in (cameras/photography) – but which also became profitable.

After I saw that my second blog started to make money I began to dream about ‘going pro’ as a blogger. One of the routes I saw I could take to achieve this dream was to start more blogs.

I thought if my camera/photography blog could make money, then I could replicate the model with other niches and topics. At the time, I took two approaches in researching what topics to create these new blogs on:

  1. Popular topics which could potentially attract a lot of traffic
  2. High-value topics – which I could earn good money on through AdSense (some niches of ads were paying higher rates than others)

I started 30 blogs in that next year, and each fit into one of the above categories.

For example in category one was a blog which I started with a friend on the Athens Olympic Games. We knew there’d be a heap of people searching for information on the topic (particularly people wanting the results of events), so we created a blog with hundreds of posts on every single event in the games. We had all these posts live and indexed by Google weeks before the games happened so that when each event happened and people typed in ‘event name gold medal’ or ‘event name results’, we’d come up.

As each event happened we added the results to the event.

Fitting into the second category (profitable high value topics) was a blog I started on ‘printers’. My research revealed at the time that some of the highest paying ads going around were for print cartridges. So I started a blog on the topic of printers. I reviewed printers and I posted about new ones on the market.

I had absolutely no interest in the topic of printers – and it showed in my content.

Both of the above blogs made money but neither were topics I was particularly passionate about (although the Olympics is something I have an interest in the content we were producing wasn’t that stimulating to create).

I got away with the Olympics one because it was a short-term project and it was quite a buzz to do on some levels, however the discovery I made about almost all of the other blogs I created in that period was that it was both mind-numbing and spirit-sucking work to sustain a blog on topics you had no interest in at all.

That year almost ended my blogging dreams because while I made enough money to call it a full time job – it left me very uninspired.

Luckily at this time I also started ProBlogger – a blog I’m passionate about – and later started Digital Photography School and found that it was a heap more enjoyable to create blogs that you actually enjoyed writing for. I abandoned the other blogs soon after and a weight was lifted from my shoulders!

2. Being Slow to….

I’m going to roll a number of regrets and mistakes into one here and put them all under the ‘being too slow’ banner.

I’m not a fast-paced person. It takes me a while to make decisions and to jump into new things. I watched everyone else jump into Twitter for six months before I did. The same happened with Facebook, the same with investing time into starting an email newsletter.

While I did jump on some thing pretty quickly (like blogging itself – which I started doing two hours after reading my first blog), I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d acted faster in some areas, particularly at adopting new technologies.

On the flip side of this though is that I feel like by being a little ‘slow’ I probably jumped in with more information and having watched what others were doing – which hopefully meant I started things ‘right’ from the start.

3. The Wrong Domains

I’ve made almost every mistake you can with domains. For starters I didn’t get my own domain when I began, later I got an Aussie domain for a blog with a global audience, then I got a .net domain instead of a .com, then I ran a whole heap of different topic blogs on the one domain and then I got a domain with hyphens! I wrote more about all these mistakes (and more here!)

4. Business Regrets

A number of years ago I started blogging network by the name of b5media with three other bloggers. While the experience was amazing on many levels and I learned SO much, I have many regrets about some aspects of the experience also.

I won’t rehash them all but if I could go into that business venture again I’d have spent more time at the beginning as a partnership working out goals, expectations, roles and thinking about the model. I’d probably have wanted to ‘meet’ my partners before starting the business too :-)

I’d also have avoided going down the path of giving up equity in the business in order to take on capital. My experience with venture capital was not overly positive. While it does enable you to grow and expand – it means less control. In my case it meant I ended up with nothing at all after several years of work. It works for some, but I’d avoid it in future.

I learned a lot from that business and bare no grudge to any of my partners in it, but wouldn’t do it the same way again!

5. Trying to Do it All Myself

It’s only really been the last three or so years that I’ve begun to develop a team of people to help me run my businesses.

The 3-4 years preceding bringing on team members almost killed me. I stretched myself way too thin and it impacted my health, relationships, and the business itself.

While expanding the team means changing my role (which brings challenges), it also has led to many new opportunities and a lot more enjoyment! The business has grown as a result and I hope has helped me provide a better experience for those whom I serve also.

What Are Your Biggest Blogging Mistakes?

There you have it – my biggest mistakes as a blogger (note: I didn’t say my ‘only’ mistakes). I’ve shown you mine… how about telling us some of yours?

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger


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24 Social Media Tools To Boost Your Marketing Performance #SMMW14

Ian Cleary SMMW14

It appears that Ian Cleary is the King of Social Media tools. With new social media marketing tools coming on the market just about every day, Ian is one of the people you can rely on to test them all – from free to paid.

We’re thrilled that he shared his knowledge of tools with us at Social Media Marketing World this year and now I’ll share them with you.

Tools to Target the Right People

As Ian says, don’t sell hot dogs at a vegetarian conference. You have to know your audience before you can market to them successfully. The social tools below will help you identify and engage with active fans, influencers, and industry relevant people to follow.

  • Tactics Cloud is a free tool that allows you to target Twitter followers and find relevant people on Twitter. The tool allows you to search for Twitter users by keyword, location and followers.
  • Lead Social is a paid social tool that measures your Facebook ROI. The tool actually assigns a monetary value to your posts and Facebook ads in order to determine much value you’re getting from your posts Facebook posts. The tool also highlights who’s interacting with your Facebook content the most.
  • Little Bird helps you find influential people in your target industry. Use this tool to identify influencers that you want to build relationships with. The tool also shows you relevant people who aren’t following you so that you can start engaging and building relationships them.
  • GroupHigh is a paid tool that allows you to search a massive database of bloggers using a very precise search functionality. Use GroupHigh to find blogger’s contact details and recent posts. You can even use this tool to track your outreach and engagement efforts with bloggers and thought leaders!

Tools to Get Better Results with your Content

Use the tools below to rate the success of your content and create viral and sharable content. Isn’t it time that you shook up your social content strategy?

  • Pikochart is a paid social tool that allows you to create visually appealing infographics for as little as $ 20. Infographics should be part of your content mix because they drive traffic, engagement, shares and embeds.
  • Topsy is a freemium tool that allows you to search for content is popular for a specific keyword or industry. Use Topsy to find popular content to share or use as inspiration for your content. If you want to find content that gets a lot of links, use Topsy.
  • Smo.KnowEm.com is a Moz application that allows you to find out if your website is optimized for sharing social media. You know how sometimes when you share a link on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ the image shows up wrong (if one shows up at all!) or perhaps the meta description is all wrong? KnowEm makes suggestions for what technical issues you need to fix or what schema you need to implement in order to optimize your site for social sharing.
  • Moz SEO Toolbar shows a web page’s domain authority and page authority in all of the major search engine’s. In fact, Moz will rank the domain and page authority of every page on your website.
  • SEMRush is a freemium tool that helps you discover what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Use this information to write strategic, keyword optimized blog content that will help you outrank your competitors.

Tools to Convert More Traffic

Once you get visitors on your website, your next task is to convert them. Ian’s confident that the tools below can help you increase conversions.

  • OptinMonster is a paid tool that allows you to create custom pop-up forms that only appear when people are leave your site. Use pop-up forms to recruit more email subscribers, increase conversion rates and encourage return visits to your website. Even if you’re wary of pop-up forms, OptinMonster is less annoying because it only pops up when visitors are leaving your site.
  • Viewbix is a paid social tool that allows you to embed clickable links and custom forms within your videos. Use your videos to increase traffic and and grow out your email list with viewbix.
  • LeadPages is a paid tool that allows you to download templates of landing pages that are proven to have high conversion rates. Unless you’re an expert landing page builder, don’t re-invent the wheel—save time and increase conversions by using a great landing page template.

Tools to Analyze and Improve Results

So your brand is socially active. Now what? Analyze and refine your content with the social tools below.

  • Post Acumen is a paid Facebook analytics tool. PostAcument provides information like the best time of day to post and which images are working and which are not. You can also compare your Facebook page against the Facebook pages of your competitors.
  • Steady Demand is one of the only Google+ analytics tools out there. This freemium tool allows you to audit your Google+ page to gauge the performance of you Google+ posts, optimize your posts for search engines and compare your Google+ page against those of your competitors.
  • Statigram is a freemium Instagram analytics tool. Use Statigram to track follower growth and engagement stats and discover the best times of day are to post photos. Statigram also offers a marketing package to help you run contests on Instagram.
  • SimplyMeasured is a freemium tool that allows you to generate detailed and colorful social media reports for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.
  • Brand24 is a paid tool that monitors mentions of your brand or keywords on Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs. Brand 24 is also includes sentiment analysis.

Quick Fire Round for Social Media Tools

These are just a few more of Ian’s favorite free social tools. Did I mention that they’re FREE?

  • Post planner is a free tool that sources viral images and content. Integrate viral images into your Facebook content and schedule your posts ahead of time with post planner.
  • Edit Flow is a free donation editorial calendar and WordPress blog workflow tool.
  • Agora Pulse is a freemium social tool that allows you to compare your Facebook page against those of your competitors and run free Facebook contests.
  • Canva is a free social tool that allows you to overlay text over your digital images.
  • PicMonkey is a free image editing tool that allows you to edit image, overlay text and create collages.
  • Pixler is like a free, easy to use version of Photoshop.
  • inPowered is a free social media tool that shows you popular content within your niche.

Social media marketing tools can save you time by helping you source great content, identify influencers and brand advocates and measure the success of your social media.

Does your company automate social processes with tools? Please share your all-time favorite social tools with us by commenting below!


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Creating Product Week: How to Create and Sell Products On Your Blog

Theme Week (1)Welcome our ‘Creating and Selling Products’ Week – a week of content here on ProBlogger completely dedicated to helping you to create and launch profitable products on your blog.

Over the past few months we’ve done a number of theme based weeks that take a more intense dive into topics relevant to bloggers. Most recently we’ve had Beginner Week, and Content Week, but this week we wanted to turn our attention to monetization – specifically through creating and selling products.

My Journey With Creating Products (and why this week is important)

While I’ve been blogging for just short of 12 years, my own journey with creating products to help monetize my blogs only goes back five years since launching the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog eBook and creating my first Portraits eBook on dPS.

Before that time I had collaborated with someone on a product but never monetized my blogs with one a product of my own.

Previous to these first experimentations with eBooks, the income generated from my blogs was almost all from advertising revenue (from ad networks like AdSense and also a few ad sales direct with brands) and affiliate revenue (like Amazon and a few smaller programs). I also did a little speaking, consulting and had written a hard cover book.

NewImage

In 2007 I was making a comfortable living from the above income streams but was a little worried about the economy and relying so heavily upon advertising income (which comprised more than 80% of what I was making).

I also had been watching the growth in popularity of eBooks and had for a year or so been dreaming of creating one myself.

My big issue was a severe lack of time. Between juggling two growing blogs and a growing family (we had just had our first child), I wasn’t sure how I’d ever write an eBook. I also had a long long list of other excuses to put it off.

I’d never written, designed, marketed a product of my own before… I didn’t have a shopping cart system… I didn’t know if my readers would buy…

In short – the dream of creating and selling an eBook of my own stayed in my head for two years until 2009. Ironically by that point I’d become even busier (we’d just had our second son and my blogs had continued to grow) but I knew if I didn’t bite the bullet and do it that I never would.

In 2009 I created my first eBooks – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (which I’ve since updated into it’s second edition). That eBook generated $ 80,772.01 in 2009.

Later in the year I created and launched my first Portrait eBook over at dPS. That eBook generated $ 87,088.21 in sales in 2009.

As I regularly say when speaking at conferences about this experience – on the launch of these eBooks I was obviously very excited but also couldn’t believe how I’d put off creating this new income stream on my blogs for two years!

While obviously these two eBooks were financially profitable that immediate monetary reward wasn’t the best part – what was most valuable to me was that it sparked a whole new side to my business.

Dps ebooks

Since 2009 I’ve published 17 eBooks and 1 Printables set on Digital Photography School, and 6 eBooks and kits here on ProBlogger.

While I still sell advertising and do some affiliate campaigns on Digital Photography School, eBook sales now make up over 50% of my business today. Since that time we’ve also added two other income streams – membership (for ProBlogger.com) and Events.

NewImage

I tell this story because many times I come across bloggers who are a little stuck in the mindset that the only way to generate an income from blogging is to sell advertising.

While it’s certainly possible to build profitable blogs through a variety of types of advertising and affiliate promotions, it’s not the only way.

There are a few other benefits of creating a product for your blog other than the obvious income stream that they provide.

For starters by using your blog to sell your own product rather than sending your readers to buy other people’s products (through advertising) you’re keeping your readers on your own site and within your own community.

Secondly when you create a quality product that your reader loves – you’re going to make a much bigger impact upon your reader. I’ve personally found that when I meet readers face to face at conferences that the ones who’ve bought and read my book or eBooks seem to feel a lot stronger connection with me. They often talk to me as if we’ve had a shared experience already.

Lastly – I find that when you’ve created a product of some kind that it seems to help in the authority that people seem to perceive you as having. I guess there’s something about having intentionally sat down to create something of note that people seem to admire. While having an eBook or course doesn’t mean you ARE an authority – it all goes to help build your profile.

Creating Product Week

This week on ProBlogger we want to walk you through a number of posts that will help you to work out:

    1. what you need to do before developing a product for your blog
    2. work out what kind of product might be best for your blog
    3. how to create your product
    4. how to launch your product

To walk us through this process I’ve asked one of my core team (and author of one of the ProBlogger eBooks) – Shayne Tilley – to lead us. He’s prepared four posts that will come in the following days that will tackle these topics.

I’m also going to chime in on each post to give my perspective and as always am keen to hear your perspective also, as I know many ProBlogger readers have created their own products too.

Have You Created a Product?

My story is just one of many many in the blogosphere. While I’ve majored on creating eBooks there are certainly many other directions to take (and much of this week will be relevant to them all). I’d love to hear your experiences.

Have you created some kind of product on your blog? What kind is it? How did it go? What did you learn?

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Creating Product Week: How to Create and Sell Products On Your Blog


@ProBlogger

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The Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

This is a post from ProBlogger.net Managing Editor Stacey Roberts

When I was studying journalism, it was pointed out to us very early on that our first drafts of anything were never going to be printed. They just weren’t. They were to be edited by professionals with no emotional ties to the content, and we were to accept the final product as it passed through their experienced hands.

If we were going to get precious about our words and our bylines, we were in the wrong profession.

As a result, I learned to detach from my writing. To write well, but also to see it from another’s perspective, and to be able to take edits and cuts with no offence. The subs weren’t trying to be cruel, they were doing their job by making my copy better.

When I began blogging, and had no editor or filter to pass through before I published my work, I still would read back over my work with a sharp eye to tidy it up a bit before launching it into cyberspace. What journalism taught me was to write cleanly, boldly, and in the least amount of words possible. I could no longer waffle, and I wasn’t precious about cutting my copy where I thought it might be extraneous.

But what about blogging?

The nature of blogging and journalism means you’re usually in a rush to get your content in the hands of readers while it is still relevant. We’re staying on top of trends and we’re riding the waves while we can. But for more evergreen content, or things that aren’t time-sensitive, then Stephen King’s editing method is one of the most useful things I’ve ever practised: the art of putting time and space between you and your words.

In his book On Writing, King describes the methods by which he creates fiction novels.  A manuscript should take a season to write, he says. Then he will put a physical copy of it in a drawer and forget about it for at least six weeks.

What does that do?

  • It puts just enough time between you and your writing to ensure you’ve become somewhat unfamiliar with the words and can read it with less bias.
  • It ensures you’re looking at the work with fresh eyes, not in the heat of the moment where your brain autocorrects the errors it reads so they fail to register.
  • You disassociate yourself somewhat from what you have written so it doesn’t hurt to cut it.
  • Your brain has had time to percolate on some of the ideas and thus can flesh them out more.
  • You can immediately see simpler and clearer ways to convey your message.
  • You can finally remember those things niggling at you in the back of your mind that you wanted to include but couldn’t quite put your finger on what they were.
  • You might have learned something new you could add.
  • You might decide you hate it all and start over again.
  • It means you have a deeper feel for what works and what might be received better by your readers.
  • You can publish knowing you’ve produced the best work you’re capable of.

Now, obviously there are small differences between a behemoth fiction manuscript and your blog post. You might not want to wait six weeks, and you don’t think it’s necessary to print it out. That’s not important. What is important is that you are distancing yourself from your work in order to come back to it with a more professional attitude.

Your blog might be personal, and your words an extension of yourself. It is ok to feel a bit of emotional attachment to them – this method only ensures you’re editing with a clear head as well as a full heart.

The takeaway:

Save your work and close your laptop. Forget about your writing as fully as you can, and put as much time as possible between you and it. Re-read your copy with an open mind and make quick notes about edits you’d like to make as you go. Then you can go back and change. Don’t be afraid – be bold and decisive. These are words to be molded, sentences to be crafted. Go with your gut and rearrange what you want until you feel it is right. Then hit publish.

Tell me – do you let your posts rest for a bit before going live? Or are you churn-and-publish kind of blogger?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found writing, making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

 

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

The Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy


@ProBlogger

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3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Take Your Blog On The Road

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Edwards.

If you’re a blogger, then there are many benefits that can be gained from getting out from behind the keyboard and attending real world events: from raising awareness, sourcing new talent, and increasing overall readership.

Of course, attending an event is an investment, particularly if you’re intending to travel and especially if you decide to present your blog via a stand – so you need to make it count.

road-trip.jpg


Question One: Is this event the right fit for my blog?

In recent years the number of blogging events has increased dramatically and events like the Problogger Training Day are getting bigger and better every year.

If you’re part of a blogging community then it’s very likely that you’ll discover a regular event being held to encourage the platform to meet. There are also publicised blogging events for all keyboard junkies, complete with networking and talks to help bloggers hone their skills.

Meeting with fellow bloggers may be immediately tempting but if your end goal is to increase readership within a relevant audience then you need to ensure that the audience is there in the first place. If you write about a particular niche subject, then attending a very broad event might not gain your blog the meaningful attention you’re hoping for.

There are many niche blogging groups that hold networking events or meet ups. If your aim is to look for relevant bloggers to work with then this is a lucrative field to find those within your topic of interest.

Relevant events don’t necessarily come from blogging platforms, depending on your niche. Blogs can promote themselves at real-world exhibits to increase readership. This could include beauty blogs at skin care conventions, business blogs at their local business exhibitions, and literature blogs at art festivals. By looking out for events that are relevant to your blog and will be attended by people who will be interested in your blog’s message, then you are more likely to gain a return on investment by attending that exhibition.

Question Two: Is my blog memorable and branded?

Does your blog have a brand? Do you utilise that brand throughout your promotional advertisements? Are you preparing a stand or stall that takes advantage of your unique identity?

Creating a brand from your blog can seem like a complicated task if you’ve never given it thought before but if you’ve taken time over the appearance of your blog then you’re likely to already have the beginnings of a style that you feel represents it.

Spend a few hours considering how you would introduce someone to your blog in two sentences or less. Each person you meet at this event might be seeing dozens of other people so consider what you can say or do to firmly affix your blog in their mind.

If you’re intending to have your own stand then think about what you can offer attendees so that they can fully understand what your blog is about. This might involve a tablet or laptop so they can physically look at your blog, perhaps a clearly visible web address and encouragement for people to give your blog a look on their smart phones (if you intend to do this then ensure your blog has an attractive mobile template). Promotional displays announcing your blog, URL and brand can also announce your blog on your behalf, attracting more interest.

Question Three: How do I know if it was worth all this effort?

Prepare for your networking event or convention attendance by coming up with a series of goals that you hope to work towards. These can be entirely unique to your blog but here are some general behaviours that you will most likely want to track:

  • People taking your business card
  • People signing up for your newsletter (if you have one)
  • People taking your flyers
  • Business cards that you receive from relevant parties

You can also assess these factors at the end of the day and over the coming weeks/ months:

  • New likes/followers on social media channels.
  • Increase in views on your blog.
  • New comments on your blog.
  • Increase in subscriptions/ member sign ups/ followers on your blog.

Your goals for attending an event may differ greatly from other blogs and it’s important that you properly assess and track what you hope to gain from attending. Though ensuring you achieve a return on investment is more complex via a blog than for someone selling a product, it is essential to measure the effectiveness of event marketing for your blog’s brand. Which of these ROI’s would make the biggest difference to your blog?

When you tie all these steps together you should end up with an event that is relevant to your blog, an idea for how to brand your blog effectively and a variety of ideas regarding how to track conversions and increases in traffic. Of course, this is only the first step.

Getting your blog out into the real world for the first time is just the beginning and even the most well-planned event is likely to have snags, problems and at least a dozen lessons that you’ll learn for next time. Improvements never have to end and you’ll soon find yourself a well-oiled event machine, always primed and ready with business cards and your elevator pitch.

These steps are a great guideline but every blog is different, so jump in with both feet and start planning. Which step will be most important to you and what has this post revealed about your blogs needs? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments below!

Kelly Edwards writes for Marler Haley and is passionate about promoting businesses however large or small, and offering her tips to succeed.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Take Your Blog On The Road


@ProBlogger

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What The Most Unexpected Gold Medal in History Can Teach Us About Successful Blogging

Image by Flickr user jungle_boy

Image by Flickr user jungle_boy

In 2002, Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury was lining up for the 1000m final at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Among his competitors for the gold medal were the some of the best in the world at their sport: multi-medallists and world champions. He, by his own admission, was the oldest and the slowest competitor – and while he was going to give it everything he had, he really didn’t expect to win.

A few minutes later, he found himself casually coasting to victory from 15m behind the pack as every single skater in front of him fell over just metres from the finish line. You can see the short video here.

The result was even more unbelievable given the exact same thing had happened in the semi-final, allowing Bradbury to get to the final he didn’t expect to earn a place in.

And what does this have to do with blogging?

Perseverance.

What do you do when you’re chugging along on your blog, seeing other people achieve success faster than you? You persevere. What do you do when you feel like giving up, like you’ll never win anyway? You persevere. Because you can’t predict the future and you don’t know what is going to happen. And when others are falling away or giving up when it all gets too hard – you are still there, blogging, and giving it your all.

Bradbury had worked his whole life to represent his country at four Olympic Games, he had suffered an horrific injury to his thigh, and even broken his neck in the quest to be the best. And he finally earned gold right at the very end when circumstances nobody could predict meant he finally had his chance.

It’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I give newbie bloggers who ask – persevere. I tell them that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting readers takes time. Feeling comfortable takes time. Building networks takes time. Gaining respect takes time.

Where others give up, you do not. You adjust your expectations, you adapt to your environment, you find what works for you, and you forge connections with other bloggers and your readers. You might go through phases with your blog where you’re motivated and excited one day, dejected and needing a break the next. You take a break and you regroup, but you do not give up.

You never know when someone before you will pave the way for your success. I’m not saying you should hope your blogging peers all fall over so you can snatch their golden dreams, but, you know, it’s OK to keep your mind open to unexpected possibilities! Blog from your heart, be useful, be there. You might just be the last man standing.

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

What The Most Unexpected Gold Medal in History Can Teach Us About Successful Blogging


@ProBlogger

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