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Top 10 Reasons to Stop Writing Top-10 Posts

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number-ten

number-ten Lists: Bloggers love them. Readers love them. Pinterest loves them. So why not write lists all the time, right? Well, not so fast. Before you go churning out one more top-10 list on your site, consider the following reasons why you shouldn’t:

1. They’re Overdone. Everybody writes top-10 posts. You can find top-10 posts about everything from Ask Men’s Top 10 Websites to Use in 2014 to the FedEx Blog’s 10 Best Posts in 2013. Why be like everybody else? When you join the top-10 crowd, you can get lost in the sea of similar content.

2. They’re Gimmicky. In an oversaturated blog world, top-10 posts can be rather lacking. They’re gimmicky. They’re link bait. They promise something valuable but often leave readers disappointed, feeling like you’re just trying to get them to click through your site.

3. They Come Across Phony. Why are your top 10 reasons your top 10 reasons? What’s the significance? Why are they the best? Most lists won’t say this, creating a phony significance that your readers will know isn’t real.

4. You Might Annoy Your Readers. Curated content is OK, but too much curated content can annoy your readers. So when you merely repackage past posts into “top 10s,” your readers could wind up feeling cheated — and cheated readers don’t stick around.

5. They Make You Seem Stale. Everybody knows lists are a go-to tool for writers stumped for ideas, so when you post a lot of lists, you tell your audience you’re out of things to say.

6. They Take Time. Despite how they may seem to readers, lists take time to create, even if you’re just sifting through blog archives to find which posts to use. If this time isn’t yielding results, it’s wasted — why not focus on drafting original content instead?

7. They Don’t Go In-Depth. By their very nature, top-10 lists tend to be quick, shallow articles that don’t explore a topic in depth.

8. Write 10 Posts Instead. That quick top-10 list could turn into 10 informative posts if you would break it apart and explore each point further. This not only generates more content for you, but it also gives more value to your audience.

9. You Run Out of Ideas and Fill Your List with Fluff. When you’re writing a “top 10,” you may feel pressure to come up with more ideas than you have — and those fluff ideas aren’t actually helpful to your readers. Top-10 lists put you into a box.

10. Care about What You’re Saying. Here’s one of the biggest reasons not to write a top-10 list: You don’t care about it. When you’re only writing a list to write a list, everybody will know it. So rather than writing about what you think you should write about, write about what you care about instead.

Your Thoughts
Do any of the above reasons ring true to you? Do you write top-10 lists? Do you read them? Why or why not?

10 Easy-to-Fix Content Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

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Content Mistakes

Over the past few years, content marketing has emerged as the answer to a lot of our online marketing challenges. And because it works, we all do it—but not all of us do it as successfully as we’d like.

Granted, there’s no fool proof marketing plan that guarantees success. The only guarantee we have is that we’ll make mistakes and hopefully, learn from them. Unfortunately, a lot of times we don’t even realize we’re doing something wrong…and that’s where the trouble starts.

Below are 10 easy-to-fix content marketing mistakes you may not even know you’re making.

1. Not Reusing Content Effectively

The beauty of content marketing is in its reusability. Just because you’ve written a blog post doesn’t mean its life expectancy is limited to that post alone.

Expand on the topic and write a short ebook, report or white paper on it. Turn it into a presentation, a podcast, or even a video. Better yet, invite an authority on the subject and interview them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Editor’s note: You can also do the reverse and take other content, like ebooks and presentations and turn them into blog posts. For example, every year, we turn the presentations at NMX into several blog posts, like this one we published based on Dino Dogan’s session at NMX 2013.

2. Using Jargon

Using industry jargon is a big fat “no” in content marketing and most of us know it. But we still end up using it in our content. We forget that our audience might not have the same understanding of the subject that we do.

Sure, we live, breathe and sleep our respective niches – but our readers don’t.

So go through your existing content and weed out any jargon used in your copy and replace them with layman terms.

3. Ignoring Your Current Audience in Favor of Attracting a New One

This phenomenon used to be a classic customer service mistake but it’s found in content marketing too now. A lot of times, content marketers are so focused on gaining new readers/followers/subscribers that they ignore the ones they already have.

Find a balance between the two but always give more importance to your existing audience. After all, retaining an audience is a lot easier than attracting a new one.

4. No Email Subscription Option

Is your content marketing strategy too focused on social media? Do you measure the success of your content in terms of social shares?

If yes, then it’s time to step back and think about email subscription. Social shares are fleeting. Once someone shares your content, they’re gone. There’s no way to contact them again or even find out who they were in some cases.

Email subscription on the other hand gives you the foot in the door you need to make a lasting impression.

HubSpot does this brilliantly. They have visually appealing call-to-actions for email sign ups after every post they publish.

5. No Incentive or Bribe to Encourage Sign Ups

Here’s the thing. Folks who sign up for newsletters don’t do it because of your stellar content. Well some do, but they’re very rare. Most of them sign up because they want to receive something in return. Something they can only get if they sign up for your newsletter.

Jon Morrow used his free report “52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet For Writing Posts That Go Viral” to get 13000 email subscribers for his new blog before he wrote the first post.

Crazy, right?

Your audience is more likely to do what you want if you give them an incentive. So make them an offer they can’t refuse.

For even more tips, check out this post on getting more email subscribers.

6. No Automation in Place

Even if marketers have their email subscription and incentive in place to capture leads, your subscribers will forget about you if you don’t follow up.

Even if they think the free report/ebook/ecourse etc. they received was brilliant, they won’t seek you out unless you do so first.

Email auto-responders are the best way to do that. They keep your audience engaged even when you don’t have the time to talk to them. It also saves you hours and hours of time you’d otherwise have spent coming up with content ideas.

Spend time creating an auto-responder series relevant to your subscribers and then watch as they become more and more engaged with your content.

7. No Guest Blogging

Content marketing isn’t worth the time, money and energy you invest in it if you don’t have authority. One of the fastest and most effective ways to build authority is by guest posting on reputable blogs.

Find popular and well respected blogs in your niche and reach out to them for guest blogging opportunities. Plenty of popular blogs accept guest posts and even have guidelines listed for them on their website.

Want more advice on guest blogging? Check out the following posts:

8. No Branding

Your online marketing efforts can’t be successful until you get your branding right. And having a great logo, professional web design, and stellar content is all well and good but that’s not the whole equation.

Your branding needs to be on every piece of online property you have your name on. That includes everything from the background and cover photos of your social media profiles to your email signature.

Here’s a tip not many people think of. If you’re investing in stock photos, get the right license and brand them as well. This way, when someone tweets, shares or pins your photo, folks will know at a glance who the content belongs to.

9. No Clear Call to Actions

The whole aim of producing, publishing and marketing content is to get people to take a specific action. Yet so often, we forget to include a call to action. We assume that since it’s a blog post, readers will comment. Or just because it says “free report”, folks will automatically sign up to download it.

If you want your readers to take action, you have to prompt them to do it. Figure out what action you want a particular piece of content to encourage and then spell it out.

10. Ignoring Smaller Tools and Tactics

Content marketing isn’t just about the big things like blog posts, newsletters, freebies and guest posts. It’s also about the small things you do to prolong the life of your content.

Don’t shy away from using different tools within your content that encourages sharing. Occasionally give away a freebie for the price of a tweet or a Facebook share. Include a “Click to Tweet” link in your blog posts, ebooks and other content to make it easy for people to share it.

Take a quote from your content and put it on an image to make it more share worthy. The Write Life does a great job of doing so in their posts. They then use those photos in their Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ updates.

What’s other easy-to-fix content marketing mistakes have you seen people make?

Image credit: Bigstock (altered)

6 Keys to Every Great Blog Post

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bigstock-Blog-10686950 Despite the uniqueness found in every blog post, there are certain commonalities that exist in every great blog post. Use this list and make sure your post has all six of these elements before sending it out to the world.

1. An Intriguing Title

Why are you reading this post? It’s probably because you wanted to learn about how to write a better blog post. My title was intriguing, attracted the right audience, and brought in readers like you.

Use different types of hooks to grip your readers. Some of the most captivating hooks include:

  • The Educational Hook: connects a concept with the mind.
  • The Topical Hook: connects a concept with the news.
  • The Fresh Spin Hook: connects a concept with a normally unrelated idea.
  • The Self-Interest Hook: connects a concept with the reader’s personal identity.
  • The True Story Hook: connects a concept with real-life stories.
  • The Curation Hook: connects a concept with a series of unrelated ideas.

Can you tell which hook I’m using in my title?

2. Examples

Blog posts are much more interesting and useful when the author uses examples. Some ideas of examples that you can use in your post include:

  • Pictures
  • Charts/Graphs
  • Screenshots
  • Videos
  • Article References
  • Statistics
  • Excerpts
  • Case Studies

These are all great ways to show (not tell), and it helps keep the post more interesting and sharable.

3. Breaks in the Content

Breaking up your content is a crucial part of a great blog post. While it doesn’t change your message, it can quickly determine whether or not readers will actually read through and share you blog post.

People don’t like to read. Instead, they scan blog posts, looking for the most important points before moving on.

The Nielson Norman Group found that only 16 percent of readers read web pages word-for-word. That means that most of you aren’t actually reading this. You simply read my subheadings and moved on.

Posts without breaks in the content are visually unappealing and hard to read. Here are a few tips on how you can break up your content:

  • Use subheadings.
  • Write short paragraphs.
  • Include bullet points or numbered lists.
  • Bold or italicize important points.
  • Add pictures.

Remember white space is an element of your blog post. Use it.

4. Proper Conventions

If I run across a post that’s packed full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, you can be sure that I’m never returning to that blog again no matter how qualified the author is to speak about the subject.

Realistically, though, I can easily let a few mistakes slide; mistakes are understandable. However, if an author’s not willing to edit and revise their content, it’s not worth my time to try putting the pieces together and guess what they’re trying to say.

On the other hand, a blog post that uses proper conventions sounds more professional and is easier and more enjoyable to read.

Bookmark a good grammar site and check any rule or wording that you are unsure about, or use a grammar checker if you don’t have a second set of eyes to scan your post before it goes live.

5. An Engaging Appeal

While I wouldn’t say that an engaging aspect is essential for a great blog post, it certainly helps peak readers’ interest and helps them get the most out of the piece.

You have to get your readers involved. For example, you might include an exercise to get your readers more engaged in the subject, or you could simply ask a question for them to answer in the comment section.

The Write Practice certainly has this down, and they have thousands of followers because of it. In each of their posts, they include a practice exercise and have readers share their results in the comment section.

6. A Unique Voice

A survey conducted by SmartBlogs.com found that 43.41 percent of respondents say a distinctive voice is the number one aspect a successful blog needs.

This means that readers love unique writers, someone who doesn’t copy another writer’s voice and can put their own personality to their work.

Your voice should not be forced, and it is yours alone. Not sure what your unique voice is yet? Use these 10 Steps for Finding Your Writing Voice which includes exercises like:

  • Describing yourself in three adjectives
  • Examining the types of writing you like to read
  • Listing your favorite cultural influences

Your unique voice will set you apart and give your audience a reason to follow you. So find a voice, stick with it, and add some creativity and uniqueness into your posts.

When reading blog posts, it’s clear when the post is great, but when we break it down like this, creating your own spectacular blog post becomes a bit easier. Do you include all six in your blog posts?

Image credit: Bigstock

3 Steps to Increase Blog Visitors, Mailing List Signups, and Product Sales

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3 Steps to Increase Blog Visitors, Mailing List Signups, and Product Sales

What’s the difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill? Same paper. Same ink. So why do we value one more than the other?

The copy.

Like dollar bills, the words you put on your blog or speak during your podcast will make all the difference as to how people value what you create.

Good copywriting is similar to baking a cake. You can have all the raw ingredients, and know what the end result should be, but if you don’t mix and bake everything in a specific order, the result isn’t nearly as good.

The following three copywriting tips, used in the correct order, will help you to get the results you’re looking for the next time you write a blog post. You’ll increase visitors, increase subscribers, and make more sales.

Step One – Know Your Market

Before you write a single word of sales copy, you absolutely need to understand who you’re selling to. You need to understand their needs, desires, and objections to anything you have to offer.

You want to build rapport, which is essential for any successful selling situation. You can do this by speaking to readers in the language they themselves use. Anything else is like using profanity in a church – you’ll show “you don’t belong here.”

Reading other blogs, browsing forums, and looking over product reviews in your niche/industry will give you a good feel what the people you’re trying to connect with want, what they don’t want, and how they communicate with each other. Even if you’ve been in your market for years, and even if you’re part of your own market, this is something you should do on a regular basis to make the most of your content creation.

Step Two – Kick The Door Down With a Great Title

When you’re ready to start writing, pay special attention to your title. It doesn’t matter how good the meat of your content is if nobody reads it. A great title says, “I’m here. Let’s talk!” It’s the big entrance you need to get your the full attention of your audience, so they they’ll read the rest of your message.

A great headline, like a great blog post title, is a promise to the reader that you’ll meet a need, fulfill a desire, or solve a problem.

Look to sales headlines for great examples of what a powerful title can be. These headlines, written by professional copywriters, wouldn’t be used if they didn’t get results.

Here is an example for a one-hour laundry service. A time-poor businessman needing clean clothes for an important meeting would highly respond to something like this:

We’ll Dryclean Your Suit Within One Hour – Or You Don’t Pay!

This is much better than a general slogan, such as:

Great Service for Over 15 Years

Nobody cares how long you’ve been in business – they only care that you’re able to solve their problems. When you let them know this is possible, they’ll read the read of your offer.

Like a businessman who needs clean clothes, the people who come to your blog are also looking for a solution to their problems. Do your blog post titles offer these solutions?

Below are five problem-solving blog post title formats that you can use to get started. Feel free to edit any of the examples listed so they’ll apply to what you’re doing.

1. The “How to” Title

  • How to Lose 10 Pounds in Only 7 Days
  • How to Make Money as a Professional Gambler
  • How to Lose Your Shirt in the Stock Market
  • How to Get a Date Tonight
  • How to Live on Only $2/day!

2. The “Fear” Title

  • Are You Making These 7 Mistakes?
  • Do You Have Any of These Symptoms?
  • What The President Isn’t Telling You About Gun Control
  • What Does Congress Know About Social Security That You Don’t?
  • 57% of Americans Have This Disease – Are You One of Them?

3. The “Simplify” Title

  • Lose 10 Pounds Guaranteed (Without Exercise!)
  • Get More Done in Less Time
  • A Clean House in Only 20 Minutes? Yes!
  • 3 Easy Steps to Get a Low-Interest Mortgage
  • 7 Healthy Meals Using Just 3 Ingredients

4. The “Solution” Title

  • Sleep Better With This Strange Trick…
  • My Kid Was Failing Math…Until This Came Along!
  • Tired of Riding The Bus? Get a New Car for Only $97/month!
  • If You Think Your Spouse is Cheating, I Can Help!
  • Finally! A Diet The Really Works!

5. The “Secret” Title

  • Insider Tricks to Beating the Stock Market – Guaranteed!
  • The Secret Doctors Don’t Want You to Know
  • The Diet Only Celebrities Know About…Until Now!
  • Right-Wing Secrets Every Democrat Should Know!
  • Liberal Secrets Every Patriot Should Know!

Step Three – Ask For What You Want!

When you write a blog post, keep in mind what you want readers to do. If you want them to sign up for your newsletter, ask for that. If you want them to follow you on Twitter, ask for that. If you want them to leave comments on the blog post, let them know! Every post needs a strong call to action.

Don’t assume that people visiting your blog or reading your blog posts will know want from them. Unless you specifically ask, they don’t. Be crystal clear about what you want from your readers. That is the only way they’ll know what you want.

Final Thoughts

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creating effective blog posts and titles for them. Simply look to the words your readers are already using to describe the problems (and solution to those problems) they are already asking about. Finish this process by asking for what you want them to do – sign up for your email newsletter, leave a comment, buy a product, etc.

Do you have a favorite blog post title that solves a problem or a call to action that worked extremely well? Please share it in the comments section.

Image credit: Bigstock

Should You Create Content for Beginners?

Author:

classroom

Sometimes, I forget that the whole world hasn’t been blogging for years like I have.

I know that sounds incredibly arrogant, but I think we all get wrapped up in our own worlds at times. We forget that others haven’t had the same experiences that we’ve had. And, we forget that others might not understand some of the things we take for granted.

Last week, I wrote a post about how to incorporate content for all education levels on your blog. But maybe “how can I please everyone?” isn’t the right question to ask. Instead, maybe we should be asking is “should I be trying to please everyone?”, which is a question that would normally get a resounding, “NO!” from me. When talking about niche, the advice I’ve heard time and time again is that it makes sense to focus. It’s advice that resonates with me, advice that I’ve seen work (and others have too). I’ve even written about choosing a great niche.

Focusing on one niche, however, means that you write about a single topic, rather than writing about kite-surfing and your kids and fashion and tech news and politics all on one blog, which rarely works. What I’m wondering, is should you focus on one education level?

In some niches, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. For example, on my food blog, education level isn’t a huge deal. Some beginners want to challenges themselves in the kitchen. And even the most experience chef can appreciate a quick and easy meal as long as it is tasty. But here on the NMX blog, there’s a bigger divide between the beginner and the pro. While I can create content for people at all experience levels, should I?

What about on your blog? Would you better serve a specific audience if you stop creating content for beginners? Or vice versa, if you stopped creating content for more advanced readers and instead focused just on beginners.

The Advantages of Reaching All Experience Levels

Here at the NMX blog, we do write for all experience levels, and there are several reasons we will be continuing to do this:

  • Reaching a Wide Customer Base: Our end game is to promote an event, where the target market is comprised of everyone from people who just started a blog yesterday to people who have been doing this for over a decade. So, our blog need to reflect this. Who is your target market?
  • Hooking the Newbies: Writing for all levels allows us to pull in people who are just getting started. They’ll find the beginner content helpful and know that they can grow with our blog by bookmarking the more advanced posts to read later.
  • Keeping People Interested: Speaking of growth, because we have content for all levels, people don’t outgrow our blog and move on to other blogs.
  • Enjoying Flexibility: Writing for all educational levels also allows us to have more flexibility to write about topics that inspire us. We also publish lots of guest posts from our speakers and community members, so covering a broad spectrum allows up to work more easily with people who are interested in contributing.
  • Teaching New Skills to “Experts”: It’s no secret that I don’t love the term “expert” – and while my disdain for this word comes mostly from people who call themselves experts when they’re not, I also don’t often use that term because in this new media world, everyone has something to learn. Someone who has been blogging for ten years might know NOTHING about Pinterest and learn something by one of my beginner posts on the topic.

I like that our blog and our conference has such a wide appeal, though it does pose a few challenges as I manage the schedule here on the NMX blog.

The Advantages of Creating Content for One Experience Level

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want to specialize by creating content for a specific experience level:

  • Defining Your Market: It’s easier to define exactly whom your blog is for when you specify an education level, and once you define your target market, you can more easily promote your content to those people.
  • Optimizing for Search Engines: If you’re creating content just for beginners (or pros), you can optimize your posts to be found by these people via search engines. That’s a bit harder to do when you’re creating content for a wider range of people.
  • Focusing: Sometimes, I feel scattered and unfocused when I’m creating content. When you’re blogging for a specific education level, it’s a little easier to stay organized.
  • Leading to Affiliate Products: Just because you only create content for one experience level doesn’t mean you can’t sell to everyone else. If a beginner lands on your advanced post, point them to a product perfect for beginners (or vice versa). You can make a lot of money with affiliate products if you’re smart about it!
  • Building a Community: Word spreads when your content is exactly what someone needs, so by specializing, you can often more easily build a community around your content. Even if people outgrow it, they’ll still promote you to others who could learn from your content.

So which choice is right for your blog? I think there’s a valid argument for both “for” and “against” in this case. It really depends on your specific goals and your niche.

Do you create content all experience levels on your blog? Or do you focus your content?

Blog Writing Tips: 5 Ways To Write Posts that Google (and Your Readers) Love

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3d person holding a megaphone forming the word blog. According to Jamie Stilgoe’s Guardian article, Google is on a mission to eradicate content farms and poor quality link building. Google is out with a machete to axe any web page with content that doesn’t measure up to the quality that was hitherto expected only from principal brands.

The content marketing scene has changed drastically through the years of the existence of the Internet. There was a time when nothing more than a cluster of words did well, but fortunately, it’s a new ball game altogether now. It isn’t just businesses and brands that are buckling under the mounting pressure; bloggers, individuals, and almost everyone else with written content on the web is feeling the heat.

While blogging – as an art, as a source of revenue for bloggers, and as a great medium for marketing and brand building for businesses – faces the brunt of Google’s policing, content marketing in all forms is set to change. It’s time to prepare for the future.

Here are five ways to make sure that your blog posts are left standing long after the bloodbath is over…

1. Choose Your Topic…Before You Start Writing

On the Internet, you do have space for rants, ravings, and ramblings. You can randomize your communication as much as you want. But this can’t be done when you are blogging professionally. As a blogger writing for yourself or for a business, random is out; focused is in.

Strong posts are not random, covering several scattered ideas. Create separate posts for each thought, instead. Stay focused as you are writing and even consider coming up with an outline first so you stay on topic.

2. Back Up Your Statements

When Paul Graham writes about startups, businesses, and anything to do with entrepreneurship, it tends to be a post that’s worth reading. When Warren Buffett talks on investing, you’ve absolutely got to bookmark the post. But that’s about Paul Graham and Warren Buffett, not everyone else, right?

For the rest of us, we have weapons called research and pointed justification. Present an opinion, but back it up with the words of an authority. Bring out a clear message, but tag it with observations others have made. State facts and then line up your thoughts based on them.

Write what you want to but pour credibility into your posts by using research, facts, expert opinions, and other references. Strong writing is adorned with specifics and evidence.

3. Be Passionate

Either you are passionate about your niche or you are not.

If you are writing with passion, it’ll show in your blog posts. Unfortunately, it’ll also show if you aren’t. One of the secrets of great commercial writing lies in the throws of passion and character. When you begin to write about something you feel strongly for, there’s no way your posts will begin to read like content-mill chaff.

Passion produces energy. Passion leads the way to clear, concise, opinionated, and strong articles – just the kind of fuel blogs need. Do yourself a favor and don’t blog if you aren’t passionate about your business, the niche you blog on, or the topics you write on.

We are talking about years of effort wasted. The Internet is not a dumping ground for useless bytes of information.

4. Write Confident Posts

Meek writing is weak writing. Blog posts with unsure and indirect “umms,” “perhaps,” “So, I’d like to conclude with,” are all signposts to your readers that they are on patchy roads without tarmac. They are reading looking at weak efforts that have no value to offer.

Strong writing is also often opinionated writing. It’s writing with facts and truth backing up every post, but it is also experience, knowledge, oddity, disposition, personality, and the uniqueness that’s “you” which shows through your writing.

5. Don’t Write if you have Nothing New to Offer

Mike McGrail pointed out in points out in Social Media Today that a blog is flexible, that it’s yours, and that it’s a perfect hub. I say it’s more than that—it’s a platform which enables you to provide value.

Every post you write should have a “takeaway” lesson. The value you offer to your readers is in the takeaways from a blog post: Was it pure information? Was it opinion? Was it insight into an in-depth topic? Was it entertainment?

Every piece of content must offer something. Your blog posts should inform, inspire, trigger a train of thoughts, engage with your readers, and point out a new angle to look at that old mousetrap.

Editor’s Note: The biggest lesson in this post, perhaps, is that if you write posts your readers love, Google will love them as well. If you want to survive every single Google update, win over your readers. You’ll always have the edge with SEO if you write posts that your readers want to share!

Want to learn more about writing posts that readers (and Google) love? Join us at NMX 2014 in Las Vegas to learn from some of the world’s leading content creators! Learn more here >

On Agony and Blogging: How to Start Writing and Stop Panicking

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bigstock-Crying-Girl-In-The-Office--9619043 I was in second grade when I wrote my first blog post.

Okay, back in 1992, blogging wasn’t exactly a “thing” yet. But I had just received a shiny Lisa Frank diary for Christmas, and the blank pages were killing me. I had to fill those pages, and I had to do it now, before the white sheets drove me crazy.

So that night, I wrote my first entry. Or, at least, I tried. But as I sat there with purple gel pen in hand, I didn’t know what to write. I had so much to say that I didn’t know how to start writing. I began to panic. How would I ever grow up to be a famous novelist if I couldn’t even write a diary entry? I can remember my cheeks streaked with tears that first night as I cried myself to sleep, my new diary still completely empty.

Eventually, I filled that diary and several others like it with my joys, frustrations, and deepest, darkest, childhood secrets. Reading them now is hilarious. I was an intense child. And they are clearly “blog post” style – I wrote to a reader, not to myself, with apologies when I didn’t have time to write for a few days.

To this day, though, what sticks out to me most about writing in my diary is that terribly agonizing feeling of having a world of word jumbled in my head and not knowing how to start. It is one of the most frustrating part of being a blogger.

The Power of a Good Opener

Online, you a reader’s attention for only a moment. They’re gone in the blink of an eye. The best blog posts, the ones that thousands of people stop to read, have one thing in common: their opening paragraphs are awesome. I mean truly awesome.

And they’re engineered to be that way. The Internet’s top bloggers don’t get lucky. They know that a strong opening that really grips the reader is going to keep the reader reading and, eventually, sharing. Without a great opener, it’s nearly impossible for a post to go viral.

But writing a good opening and writing your first sentence aren’t the same things. There’s no rule that says the first sentence you write has to be the first sentence of your post (and if that were a rule, I would recommend breaking it). That said, there’s power to the first thing you write, too.

The Power of a Good First Sentence

You know that moment you write something good. You just know it. The sentence sings.

And then, suddenly, the floodgates open. The words begin to flow, I get into a groove, and the rest of the post makes it out of my head. The first sentence I write isn’t always the first sentence of the post, and sometime I end up cutting that sentence in editing or moving it to a different post. Having a first, finished, good sentence, though, is powerful. It unlocks the block in your mind and gives you the confidence it takes to write the post.

That’s something lost of people never talk about: blogging takes confidence. Your words are going out there for hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of strangers to read. They matter. Writing words that matter is scary. When you don’t know how to start, panic sets in, because people are counting on you (even if they don’t know it) to improve their lives in some way.

How to Start Writing

So how do I do it? I’ve written thousands of blog posts (no, I’m not exaggerating), and many of them have started with me wanting to throw my computer out of the window. So what’s my secret?

I’m sorry to say that it’s nothing magical. The way I write so many posts, always jumping that hurdle of not knowing how to get started is this: I force myself to just start.

I do a little outline of all the topics I want to cover in the post, and then I start writing. If I don’t know what to write, I just write something. Even if it isn’t good. I don’t let myself delete that sentence and go back to a black screen. I write another sentence. And another. I write until I have at least one good paragraph, then I delete all the crap and re-read what is left. And then, I don’t feel so bad. Because I have something that doesn’t completely suck.

I have a start.

Even on my worst days, when the agony of not being able to put my words on paper feels like it is strangling me, I don’t let myself quit. Sometimes I get mad and slam my laptop closed a little harder than I probably should. I go for a walk, I get in the kitchen and cook something (that’s my zen place), I read a few chapters.

And then I make myself write again.

Don’t give up. Don’t let the panic drive you to tears like it did to me when I was a kid. Blogging is not easy. Let me say that again: Blogging is NOT easy. Sometimes you have to force yourself to keep going, even when you want to stubbornly quit. But once you get that first good sentence ready, it will get better. It always does. You just have the first hurdle to jump, then you’ll be running downhill from there.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Blog Post Schedule: When and How Often to Publish New Blog Posts

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calendar blog post schedule Editor’s Note: Guest Poster Bill Belew wrote briefly about this topic back in March. Check out his advice, as well as reading this different perspective from guest contributor Shanna Mallon.

Whether you’re a new blogger or an old veteran, one thing’s for sure: You’ve heard you should be blogging regularly. If you’re going to blog at all, everyone says, you have to blog on a schedule. But how often is often? What blogging pattern translates to regular? Likewise, do certain days of the week or certain times of the day bring in better results? How can you tell? When should you post?

To help answer these questions, here’s a look at blogging’s big “When?” question and what you need to know.

Basic Blogging Post Time Principles

Before we look at the possibilities for blogging frequency, we need to look at a few key principles that guide scheduling decisions. Understanding these facts makes it easier to decide how often to post.

  • Quality Trumps Quantity

No matter how often a blogger posts, one thing is certain: Quality trumps quantity. Readers care more about what you’re posting than when. If your content is empty filler content, readers won’t care if you post every day or multiple times a day: Your content doesn’t matter. If, on the other hand, your posts are legitimately valuable, readers are more likely to keep coming back, even if posts are infrequent.

  • New Content Invites New Views

The logic is the same as the logic behind daily newspapers—People like to read content that is new. So just like you wouldn’t buy the same issue of a magazine every week, your readers are less likely to come back to a blog that shows the same old content every day. When you post new content, you give new readers a reason to check it out.

  • Readers Like Consistency

Posting consistently—whether that’s every Tuesday morning, every day, or every hour—communicates an unspoken promise to your readers. They learn your schedule and come to expect new content will appear as usual. When you always post at the same time, you build trust with your audience.

Posting Every Week vs. Posting Every Day vs. Posting Many Times a Day

OK, assuming you’re creating quality content that actually benefits your readers and you want to do it regularly, what does that look like? Should you post every day? Every hour? Let’s take a look at the options.

  • Posting Every Week

Most experts agree that if you blog regularly, that means blogging at least once a week. There are exceptions, especially for celebrity bloggers or other bloggers with established reputations, but in general, once a week is the minimum. If you choose this routine, consider making your once-a-week post always on the same day—Mondays, for example. Over time, your readers will remember your posts always appear on Mondays and want to come back to your site accordingly.

  • Posting Every Day

Say you want to increase your content frequency to something more regular than weekly posts. Maybe you post every Monday and every Friday; maybe every other day; or, perhaps, you decide to post every day. Daily posting is pretty standard for large blogs, whether they’re run by individuals or groups. Keeping this schedule can be time-consuming, so if you decide to post daily, you may want to enlist other writers to help.

  • Posting Many Times a Day

The largest, most trend-focused blogs post many times a day. Like news outlets or television stations, they are constantly providing new content for readers to view. Running this sort of blog requires a significant investment of time and energy, so you surely want a team of writers, but it also offers many rewards. Constant content often attracts a larger following, higher traffic numbers, and more potential for advertising or lead generation.

Your Thoughts on Blog Post Schedules

How often do you post on your blog? Do you post on a specific schedule, or do you post when you feel like it? If you haven’t tried a schedule before, maybe it’s time to give it a shot—to build trust with readers, keep yourself accountable, and prime your site for growth.

6 Subheadings Strategies You Need to Know

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bigstock-Beautiful-woman-with-thoughtfu-29888243 One thing can kill your blog post faster than a boring topic and flat language: subheading mistakes.

Of course, the biggest mistake of all is not using subheadings. Readers need subheadings so they can quickly find what they are looking for. Subheadings and space breaks give them the scannability and simplicity they crave.

But when it comes to pleasing writers, it’s about more than just using subheadings. It’s using them well.

Provide the Most Important Information First and Last

Readers land on a page and make a split-second decision if they want to stay or not. So don’t hide all of your best information toward the bottom. Give readers a juicy piece of information right off the bat so they immediately feel satisfied and interested.

Sprinkle in other important points throughout the rest of the article, but remember to save something really good for the end. Ending strong will reward the reader for making it to the end. It also establishes trust with the reader, making them far more likely to read your content to the end the next time.

Editor’s note: A great way to ensure that your beginning and end are strong is to use the Bookend Blog-Writing Technique.

Avoid Puns Even If It’s Fun

Playful titles and play-on-words might work for other mediums (like books, movies, and essays), but when it comes to online content, it’s better to say exactly what you mean.

Being clear in your subheadings helps impatient readers find what they are looking for and also helps keyword-hungry search engines label the content. Avoid titling a subheading something you think will make your reader laugh, unless you can do so while being clear. Instead, deliver a useful subheading that will make your reader understand.

Refer Back to the Title

The title of this article is 6 Subheading Strategies You Need to Know, so each of the subheadings in this article are strategies. Make sure that whatever you offer in the title, you deliver in the body.

It would be confusing to readers if the subheadings in this article were “Subheadings Are Important” or “Why You Should Use Subheadings”, as those phrases don’t refer back to what the reader is looking for — a list of strategies.

Separate Similar Sized Sections

Use subheadings to separate sections into roughly the same size of text. Notice how I use a subheading to separate the text every two or three paragraphs.

Keeping information under subheadings to roughly the same size keeps the depth of the information evenly dispersed. It shows if you have elaborated too heavily on one topic and not enough on another.

It doesn’t have to be exact, but you get the point.

Don’t Be Vague: Use the Subheading to Tell Your Reader Something

Even if you are writing a blog post where the subheadings sound like they should be short and simple, find a way to add extra useful information to the subheading.

If you are writing The Best Apps for Watching your Weight, don’t only put the app name in the subheading: “Workout Trainer” and “MyNetDiary”. Add bonus information that tells the reader more: “Workout Trainer: For Planning Work Outs” and “MyNetDiary: For Counting Calories”.

Count Down and Number Steps

Add numbers to your subheadings when they add context to the information. This happens most frequently in count downs or steps of instructions.

Numbers next to an element in a countdown are useful because they represent the value of an item. For example, #2 in a subheading in the article Countdown of the Best Beaches tells the reader the beach is pretty great. Numbers in steps of instructions are helpful because it tells the reader which step of the process they are on.

Numbers are great in subheadings, but only if they add value. Don’t add them if they have no point or context.

When it comes to subheadings, it is all about making things easier on the reader. So help the reader by clearly and simply offering them the information that they want.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Creative Blogging with a Persona: An Artist, Journalist, and Reviewer Walk into a Blog…

Author:

We’re all guilty of going on auto-pilot with our blog once in a while: maybe we missed our deadline and need to whip up something quick, or we have to churn out a piece on a hot topic everyone else has done already, or worse yet, our eyes glaze over at the same old format on a blank screen. Such is the life of a blogger and time-crunched small business owner.

But what if you had someone else writing your posts occasionally? No, I’m not talking about a guest blogger, ghostwriter, or God forbid copying and pasting content from elsewhere…It’s You. Take on a new persona and “profession” for your next post. Who knows? By being creative, you could end up enjoying it, learn a new skill, and best of all, attract new readers and shares.

The Amazing Artiste

We hear over and over that visual web content—be it graphics, video, or presentations, is much more likely to be looked at, engaged with, and shared than its less sexy but equally important counterpart, text. Our brains are wired to pretty, shiny things. It’s no wonder Pinterest and Instagram have grown by leaps and bounds.

Graphic content also helps us digest information quicker: In fact, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than to plain text. And with all the choices on the Internet, our attention spans have shrunken to ADD proportions, so we are instantly attracted to snackable web moments. In other words, serve up imagery to tell your story quickly instead of relying on numerous keystrokes.

When it comes to visual storytelling, pretty much anything you can say with words will work with images. Find that challenging? For starters, you can keep it simple with brief commentary on an animated gif, a baffling series of Tweets from a major brand, one stark photo, or slideshow.

If you’re feeling more ambitious, go the data visualization route and combine data and graphic elements that blend well as an information shortcut. Create graphical representations of content with Infographics, the fastest growing way to display facts. There are many free resources to help. Or consider Mind Maps to explain big and small concepts alike.

More interested in videos to show your artisitc prowess? Photobucket, Vine, and Instagram Video are a few that can help. Or grab an existing video and write a few choice sentences about it. Some examples include: How a TED Talk inspires your work or makes a point about your industry, or an educational video for your readers. The only barrier is your  imagination. Either way you’ll be pulling double-duty delivering pre-packaged content that is already validated, while reinforcing your brand.

Reminder: Before you post content on your blog that is not yours, always check content usage guidelines.

The Rugged Reporter

Add instant color and flavor with interviews and quotes to your post by playing the enterprising journalist. Whether it’s a tech celebrity, industry luminary, or the chef at the hottest restaurant in town, get the words directly from the source to breathe new life into your blog. Also, the Q&A format of the interview is easily digestible and ready-made for readers to scan.

When interviewing someone “famous” or better known than yourself (which happens often), it can be intimidating. Believe it or not, though, by virtue of the fact that you have a blog, you’ll be granted instant credibility (even more so if you’re a published writer).

Truth be told, most people love to talk about themselves no matter who they are, and will happily promote their latest book, or whatever is most important to them at that time. For instance, in my post about bogus cosmetics claims, I located, researched, and interviewed the lead FDA attorney on a related and well-known case as an expert without any red tape (impressive for the government!). Or do a straight up interview. Posting a conversation with web-famous people also helps to build your SEO and traffic.

The Rogue Reviewer

Or take the opposite approach: Give your opinion, no holds barred. But let me clear about “reviewing.” We’re not talking about pay-for-play: I’m not advocating sponsored and/or paid reviews (unless they are clearly disclosed as such), but rather  expressing your opinion, and sharing your knowledge.

Do your homework before you try this style, and research the type of review you are doing. For instance, if you are doing a book review, take a look at popular review sites, or, if you’re doing a roundup on the latest phone apps, note the style and soak up some inspiration for what works (and what doesn’t) in that circle. Your readers will appreciate that you are doing the work for them, from product reviews to industry trends.

Be Everyone You Want to Be, Anytime

If you’re getting bored with your blog, chances are so is your audience. Why not shake things up for yourself and your readers?

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