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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

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 >

Julien Smith: “Your Environment is Everything”

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julien smith When I was in college, I was very interested in learning about nature versus nurture (i.e. the debate about what is more important: your innate abilities/genetics or your environment/experiences). It was the first time I had stepped outside of my secure, rural community to meet people from all over the world. It was uncomfortable and exciting at the same time.

Nature versus nurture was a topic brought up in my Psychology 101 class, and I began looking at my own life through more refined glasses. What I realized is that certain beliefs and personality traits that I thought were just “who I am” (nature), were more likely a result of the environment in which I was raised (nurture).

Writes Julien Smith, in a blog post on In Over Your Head,

Where you live is not trivial– at all. Your environment is everything for you. It shapes you. It’s made you who you are, from the people you spend time with to the very streets you are driving in and walking on every day.

This can be both good and bad. For example, I consider myself to have an extremely strong work ethic, and I attribute that to the fact that I grew up in a rural farming community where everyone had to work hard just to make ends meet. There, you won’t find a tolerance for laziness. But I also am extremely hard on myself when I  face any kind of failure, large or small, because where I grew up, failure in your career meant no food on the table.

So what does this have to do with content creation or your online business?

I believe, that the same way your physical environment can effect how you interact with the world and what level of success you achieve, so do our virtual environments. As Julien writes, where you live is not trivial, and because we “live” online these days, we need to broaden our horizons a bit to include your online presence in this idea.

Think about the people in your closest circle. Think about the websites you visit the most. Think about the online communities where you choose to interact, and the online communities where you consider yourself a member. Think about how your own content reflects the online environment where you live. Think about how you can step out of this cycle and build new relationships or simply just find refreshing places to hang out online, at least occasionally.

It’s about growth, and about ensuring that you surround yourself with an environment, both online and off, that is aligned with your personal and professional goals.

See Julien Live on the NMX Stage (And Download a Free Session Featuring Him!)

We’re happy to be welcoming Julien to the keynote stage at NMX 2014. If you missed our recent keynoter announcement, you can check it out in full here.

To go along with this announcement, we’re giving away past sessions featuring our keynoters, including Julien. Download these sessions now while they’re still available!

Blog Post Ideas: 5 Blog Topic Tips to Help You Create Unique Content

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blog topic tips Recently, I was asked an interesting question:

How do you consistently come up with blog post ideas and maintain a high quality?

I’ve written over 750 posts for this blog alone, not counting the post I’ve written for other clients and my own blogs. So how do I keep the blog ideas rolling? And more important, how do I ensure that I’m producing unique content, not just boring, unoriginal content you can find on any number of other blogs?

1. Blog Topics and Formulas

Wait…how can you come up with topic ideas that are unique and interesting if you use a formula? Believe it or not, you can! Instead of a traditional blog post formula, however, look to other forms of media for formulas that are super successful and adjust them to your needs. For example, I wrote about 10 Movie Plots That Can Help You Write Better Blog Posts. Look at formulas used by television shows, newsletters, magazines, speech writers, etc. They’re successful for a reason!

2. Getting Inspired

Sometimes, you just have to get the creative juices going a bit. If you’re feeling blocked, here are 12 Places to Find Inspiration for Your Next Blog Post.

3. One Post or Many Posts?

If you write a 1,000-word post that can be split into a two-parter, you’ve essentially done double the amount of work in the same amount of time. Not every post (even long posts) lend themselves to becoming two posts, but look at everything you write with a critical eye. Is your message getting watered down because you’re trying to cover too much at once?

You can even use your initial post idea as the jumping off point for a series.

4. Blog Topics at All Eduction Levels

When you brainstorm a list of blog topic ideas, you’re really brainstorming a double list, because you could write both a beginner-level and advanced-level post for each topic. This is also a great strategy to help you link internally more often.

5. Stay Organized and Passionate: The Blog Ideas Will Flow!

My biggest tip, at least if you’re someone who thrives on organization, is to keep a close handle on your editorial calendar and work schedule. For me, not keep regular working hours in the past led to an inability to come up with great ideas, in part because I lost my passion for the topic. So, even though I could sleep until noon if I want, I now work a semi-normal 9-5 schedule and really remain committed to the craft. My mind is more focused, so I’m able to come up with unique content ideas on a regular basis.

How do you come up with unique content ideas for your blog? Share with a comment!

Image Credit: Bigstock

Struggle to Juggle: Three Marketing Kickstarters To Do Right Now

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Multi-tasking Business Woman

National Small Business Week celebrates its 50th anniversary this June on a high note:  According to the Small Business Administration, half of Americans own or work for a small business. While this is a glowing testament to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, one of the biggest conundrums small businesses still continually face is marketing: knowing they need promotion to grow and thrive but often lacking the time, money, and people to do the work. “Of all the classes we offer during San Francisco Small Business Week, marketing courses are the most popular,” said Jane Gong, a City coordinator of the nation’s largest such event.

So what can small businesses do lickety-split to get started, brush up, or recommit to a marketing program? Here are some ways to start or reboot your  efforts: After that, it’s up to you to make it a habit.

#1 Ask, Don’t Tell (When it Comes to Social Networks)

News flash to small business owners: social media is no longer a “trend” or “sexy”– it’s a reality of an integrated marketing plan. “Small business owners need to stop complaining about having little or no understanding of social media and no time to learn it,” said Brian Moran said in an article interview. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If you don’t have the time to do something right, when are you going to find the time to do it over?” Gong said, “When people are starting a business, the questions we get asked most about are social media. They think they need to be on social networks to increase their returns, but if you’re a mom and pop corner store, they are not sure it makes sense.”

Kickstarter: Go where your customers social-ize: Though it seems intuitive to get your target audience’s input to help drive marketing decisions, many businesses don’t, not because of lack of desire, but preoccupation with five hundred other tasks at hand. In the end though, the time you spend upfront getting feedback will prevent wasted time later. Though Facebook appears to be the most popular social network for small businesses, get the raw data from your  customers and prospects: survey in-person, by email, or quickly and free online . They’ll appreciate that you want their insight and the input will help shape your plans.

Once you establish your social media direction, get educated for free online. Also, check out what your competition is doing and get inspiration from the  brands you admire. Start small by offering something of value to get fans and followers, such as a Facebook-only deal, a discount for Twitter followers, or showcase customer photos on Pinterest. But start something and do it consistently as you build and fine-tune your social media program.

#2 Give Your Blog Nine Lives (or At Least Five)

Chances are if you’re reading this article, you already have a blog or want to: as most bloggers will attest to, it’s one of the easiest and straightforward ways to promote your business. Did you also know there are at least five things you can do to transform a stale blog to fresh content? The best place to start is to check your stats (or tags and categories) and determine the best performing ones. If you don’t have a blog yet, come up with a popular industry topic and use that as a starting point.

Going through the stats exercise for my own blog, I found a piece from a year ago about J.C. Penney’s rebranding disaster was my third top-read post of all time. Upon further research I found out why: On a Google search of “JC Penny Branding Disaster”, my blog comes up fourth, below PRDaily and Forbes and above Huffington Post. Even though the position could change, I got great SEO by writing about a popular topic when the story was blowing up in the media. Now, to use it for my own purposes…

Kickstarter: Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose. Did someone say repurpose? For the J.C. Penney blog, potential ideas are: 1) Update blog to reflect the recent booting of its CEO and apology ad and republicize on all social networks; 2) Use as partial content for quick blog countdown “The Five Worst Branding Disasters of All Time”; 3) Turn blog into online story and publicize; 4) Reformat with some quick visuals and create Slideshare and blast out to social networks. 5) If I were feeling particularly ambitious, I could create a short video that tells the story of what happened (a search revealed just one interview.) People are hungry for online information in different ways to learn about big events, industry trends, and practical tips–you can be the expert, go-to source no matter which they choose.

#3 Putting the Cure in Curation: the Multi-tasker Extraordinaire

Content curation for your business can be  a great marketing Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a lot of work. There are services that  do the legwork for free, collecting relevant content in your industry, monitoring your competition, and  even prepping a targeted customer newsletter. “I use the analogy that people really are looking for water,” said Scott Scanlon, CEO of You Brand, Inc. in a content curation video.” …ultimately they don’t want to drink out of a fire-hose–they want a glass of water. If you can be there providing that glass of water on a consistent basis you’ll begin to garner their trust.” Bonus: Content curation services enable topic discovery for your blog, web site, or email marketing campaign–the possibilities are endless.

Kickstarter: Max out a free curation serviceScoop.it paper.liCurata, newcomer Swayy and other services specialize in online curation from thousands of online sources to slash time and effort. Take advantage  to get information compiled, organized, and leverage for your own purposes. If you use a curation service for customer newsletters, put your own brand stamp with commentary or tweaking a headline for your audience.

Too pressed for time to try any of these? Break down kickstarters into baby steps and do one part each week.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Creating Content for the Digital Family

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Raising a family today is very different compared to raising a family before the introduction of the Internet. I can remember going to restaurant as a child and feeling lucky if there was a place mat to color while waiting for my kid’s meal. Now, I see smartphones and tablets being passed to children to keep them occupied. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different.

In this interview, NMX speaker Amy Lupold Bair talks about the challenges of raising a digital family:

Want more from Amy? Check out her 2013 NMX presentation, “Community Building Lessons from a Professional Twitter Party Host.”

Because children are so in tune with the digital world, I think we as content creators need to consider the entire family. Does that mean that a toddler is going to read the same blogs as his parents? Probably not. But there are ways to create content for the digital family that I think too few bloggers are considering.

Understanding Your Audience

First, do you even know whether or not your readers have children? Understanding your audience at this level is important even if your content isn’t about children. Why? Two main reasons (though there are others):

  1. Kids dictate how much free time a person has.
  2. Your audience will make different buying decisions if they have children.

Understanding how much time and money people have is key to tailoring your content for these people.

Let’s first look at the time aspect. One of the most common questions new bloggers ask is, “How long should my posts be?” and one of the most common answers I hear is, “As long as they need to be.” I’ve probably even given people this advice myself. But logically, even if your content is awesome, some people might not have time to read it if you post 1000+ words daily.

A few months ago my father was in the hospital. The drive for me was about four and a half miles one-way from my home, so I was spending a lot of time on the road. I continued to work full time, plus I helped my mom out around the house and spent lots of time with my father. I don’t have kids, but I do have a family…and family time meant I had little time for blog reading. Even when I knew a post would be awesome based on the writer, I often skipped it because it just looked too long to read.

Are your giving parents options? If your readers have family obligations, does your blog have a podcast option for their commute? Do you offer some shorter post options they can read during naptime?

And second, money. Overall income doesn’t matter as much as disposable income matters. Two people might both make $75,000 per year, but if one person is single and the other person is supporting three kids, the likelihood that they’re going to purchase your $500 product changes drastically. Again, are you giving parents options? Do you have a payment plan? Or do you have less expensive products? Do you entice with sales from time to time? When your ebook is up against putting food on the table, hungry mouths are always going to win out.

Content for the Whole Family

Considering the needs of digital parents is just the start. I also recommend that you start looking at kids, especially teens, as potential readers of your content. Children are spending more and more time online and unless you’re creating content for an adult-only industry, you want to start grabbing these eyeballs now. These are people who grow up to be truly passionate about a specific topic.

When I was 15, the Internet was still pretty young, but I can remember reading websites about writing. I loved writing prompts, writing tips, and information about how to get published, and I gobbled it up. Another friend of mine spent all his time online look at car-related sites. Yes, before he even had a license. Yet another friend liked finding recipes online.

These teens don’t sound much different from the adults who read your website, right? And maybe they don’t have the ability to make purchases today, but in five years, when that 15-year-old is 20, they will have been reading your blog for five years, and they’ll be much more likely to pull out their wallet to support you.

So how can you catch the attention of teens?

  • Be where they are online. Most teens I know are on Facebook, but depending on the niche, forums might also be helpful.
  • Produce content for beginners or tell them were to go. If your blog is advanced-level, at least link to 101-level information so that teens (and anyone really) can understand concepts that are new to them.
  • Encourage your younger readers. Respond to their comments and help them as much as possible. Remember, you were once young too, so be understanding when someone asks a really off-the-wall question.

Depending on your topic, you might even want to volunteer with the Scouts or other community organizations to introduce them to your niche. If you’re a food blogger, have the local youth group over to your house to prepare a meal together. If you blog about sports, volunteer as a coach in your community. Blog about design? Teach a 101 class for kids at the local arts center. Be the person to introduce a new interest or hobby to a kid and they will remember that (as will their parents).

Not every blog has to directly create content for the whole family, from toddlers to senior citizens. But if you consider the role family has to plan in your readers’ lives and analyze how you can set kids on the right path, you might be able to grow your blog in entirely new directions.

The Unintentional Thought Leader: Seven Steps For Small Business Blogging

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When I launched Marketing Sparks three years ago, “thought leadership” was not a goal. Discuss issues I care about? Yes. Stoke my desire to write? Absolutely. Maybe even attract new business as a bonus? Of course.

Over time, though, I discovered that a certain style of writing could help position my small business blog as an authority and go-to expert. That said, I use the term “thought leadership” hesitantly and humbly—it tends to sound lofty—and there are no hard and fast rules defining it. When it comes to blogging, my definition revolves around having expertise on a topic, shedding light on issues, offering a point-of-view, and sharing innovative thinking…and doing this is easier than you might think.

Here are seven steps you can take to start your own thought leadership blog or tweak your current one to elevate your content from standard fare to superior must-read.

1. Write About Your Passion

It starts with a cliché we’ve all heard: “Write from the heart.” Nothing could be more true in a thought leadership blog. That doesn’t mean pontificating or talking down to your audience, it means sharing your interest and expertise and giving that information to your audience freely. In the process, your readers will feel smarter too. Spreading insights through a blog that excites and energizes you—the kind you can’t wait to share with the online world—is contagious, and your readers will ultimately share with their own networks.

2. Choose Your Audience and They Will Choose You

As Daniel Rasmus said, “Go vertical or go home.” Pick an area to cover and stick with it. Let’s face it, we can’t all be experts on everything, and frankly, generic information is pretty useless. Think of it as a marketing campaign: Who is your target audience? Who will care about your knowledge base? What can you offer them that they can’t get elsewhere? Once you start adding value to your audience’s professional or personal life, you will slowly be viewed as a trusted source and develop a loyal following.

3. Get A Hub With Spokes

Now that you found your audience, it’s time to stimulate, educate, and even entertain them with your expertise. The key is to write on a variety of topics from your knowledge base and cast the widest net possible. When I take on my “hub” of marketing, there are a lot of “spokes” in that wheel: I write about branding, advertising, social media, events, technology—the list goes on. I also sprinkle in a diverse range of blog styles so that unpredictability is the only thing my audience can count on. That means:

  • Opinion
  • Interviews
  • Breaking news
  • Guest blogs
  • Follow-up pieces
  • Evergreen/timeless topics (my PowerPoint alternatives blog post from two years ago still garners steady hits)

Click to tweet this quote!

4. Circle-Slash Vanilla Views 

Rehashing a trending hot topic—say, Apple’s court battle with Samsung—is more about content aggregation than delivering any meaningful insight to your readers. You might get a lot of Google hits, but are not illuminating anything new. Blogging as an authority means taking a stand and doing it authentically. One of the keys is not just to understand a topic fully, but to offer readers an alternative point of view or additional insight. In other words, content that makes your blog worth reading and stand out from the crowd. As Jessica Northey said at this year’s NMX in the  panel session How To Build Your Blog Community: Three Top Bloggers Share Their Secrets, “Tell the truth, make it matter, and never be boring.” Amen to that.

5. Do Your Homework

Having earned a living as a reporter early in my career, I’ve always had a nose for news, curiosity, and a desire to ask questions. And when my reputation is at stake, I take that very seriously—and your readers will too. They count on you to do the background and research for them. Make sure you are using the best and most current information before you hit “publish.” If an important data point is missing or there is sloppy attribution, your credibility suffers. Conversely, if you get corrections from readers, cop to it, update your blog, and even thank the person for pointing it out. We’re all mere mortals…even those gunnin’ to be a thought leader.

6. There is No “Self” In Promotion

Ever heard the old saying, “Let someone else say how great you are”? Don’t promote your business or anything that smacks of it in your blog. Readers will sniff it out and run the other way. With so many choices on the Internet to spend their precious time, readers come for new ideas and practices, not thinly-veiled or overt pitches.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t market the heck out of your blog on a regular basis: Promote it to your personal and business network, leverage your social media channels by sharing and starting conversations, and of course reciprocate with other bloggers in your field. Don’t forget to mention your blog to clients and prospects when a related topic comes up. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I have gained new clients from my blog posts. Not only do prospects get a shortcut to your knowledge and skill set, it builds instant confidence in you before you’re even hired.

7. Leadership Versus Readership

There are so many blog styles: newsy updates, opinion blogs, branded blogs, affiliate marketing blogs, mommy blogs, and on and on. Choosing to do a thought leadership blog is a quieter and narrower path—dare I say “quality over quantity.” It takes time to grow your audience and build credibility, so be patient.

For most small business owners, blogging is a “sideline” to the busy life of running a company and does not pay the bills. Yet if you stay the course on the slow but sure path, you will be rewarded handsomely in personal gratification, respect, and potentially new work.

How could your blog be changed by adding a thought leader slant? What benefits would you gain from doing so?

How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog (and why you should do it)

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Today is Christmas Eve and I find myself feeling like a kid again. This happens to me every year. My family started the tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve after my sister and I stopped believing in Santa simply because Christmas day is filled with the hustle and bustle of spending time with the extended family. So, starting the moment I wake up on December 24 until the moment we start exchanging gifts, I feel one thing: anticipation.

Anticipation is an extremely strong emotion. Children can’t contain themselves, but even as adults, anticipation can drive you crazy. Kids might blurt out “Are we there yet?” on a long car ride, but let’s be honest. All of us adults are thinking it too. Time seems to slow when you’re waiting for something to happen. Soon, you can’t think about anything else.

You can harness the power of anticipation on your blog, stirring up these feelings in your readers to make them constantly think about coming back to your blog. Think there’s nothing to anticipate on your blog? Think again! With a little creativity and planning you can have your readers waiting on the edge of their seats.

Teasing Your Content

The first and easiest way to create a sense of anticipation in your readers is to tease your content. Tell them what they can expect from you in the future and get them so excited to read whatever you will offer that they bookmark your site or subscribe via RSS. You can tease your content in several different ways:

  • In your blog posts themselves, hint at future related posts. (“If you liked this post about baking a chocolate cake, you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s post where I share my best frosting recipe!”)
  • Update social media while you’re preparing a post. (“I just finished an amazing interview with John Smith. You definitely don’t want to miss this one when I post it on my blog next week!”)
  • Tell your email list. (“Hope you liked this week’s posts about end-of-summer shoes. Next week on the blog, I’m talking all about fall fashion, which you definitely don’t want to miss.”)
  • Give us a sneak peak. (“I’m at a conference right now and will be writing a wrap-up post on the blog later this week. Here are some pictures in the meantime.”)

Make your “tease” as mouth-watering as possible. One way to do this is to leave out some vital information. For example, the night before we announced that Chris Hardwick was going to be keynoting at NMX 2013, staff members teased the announcement by inviting people to guess who it was, giving hints, and sharing how excited we were. No one announced who it was until our blog post went live the next morning, but people were anticipating our announcements so much that people were DMing and emailing me (and other NMXers, I’m sure) and asking for the inside scoop.

Creating a Series

Another way to make people anticipate your post is to write a series. Here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog, we’ve written a number of series on topics such as getting started with Pinterest and creating better blog pages. This creates anticipation in a less obvious, more educational way. You’re still teasing your content in a sense, since you’re telling people what they can expect in the future, but it’s less about hype and more about the actual content.

The key is to make sure that you’re creating content people really need starting on the first day. You need to “hook” people. You want anyone who reads that first post to get so much out of it that they have to come back to your blog to read the rest of it.

Great Content on a Reliable Schedule

Lastly, I know I’m not saying anything new here, but you need great content on your blog if you want people to anticipate your posts. This is true for podcasts and videos as well. If your content is just “meh,” people won’t get excited about reading them in the future.

We have an entire blogging track at NMX filled with speakers who will talk about creating better blog content, but here are a few tips to keep in mind right now:

  • Define your style and find your voice. Not everyone will like you, but it’s better to have a 100 raving fans and 100 haters than 200 people who are luke-warm and disconnected.
  • Make sure your posts are formatted to be easy to read. Use pictures, headers, bullet points, etc. to help make your content (especially long content) look less intimidating to readers.
  • Break the “rules” when it makes sense (but not because you’re lazy). People will give you tons of rules that you should follow, but the best bloggers out there make their own rules. Just make sure that you’re ignoring tips and techniques because it truly is what is best for your blog, not because you don’t feel like doing something.
  • Support what you say with links. If you’re arguing a point, link to research and statistics. If you’re reporting the news, link to what others are saying. If you’re teaching me how to do something, link to related posts and examples. Links make your posts more credible and helpful.
  • Put your own spin on topics. Just because everyone has written about a specific topic doesn’t mean you should avoid it, but what you definitely should avoid is posting the same thing others are posting, just reworded. Put your spin on the topic. Interview someone related to a news story to get some fresh quotes. Voice your opinion. Give different examples. Change up the content type and produce a video. Doing something different is harder than just rewording the same old stuff, but the reward is worth the work.

In order for people to anticipate your content, no matter how good it is, you need to blog consistently. I know some people disagree with this advice, but I truly believe that the best bloggers out there are those who are posting at least two to three times per week. If you post less often, people lose interest and forget about you. Blogging just to get your words out there? Blog as often as you like.

But if you truly want to build an audience, you need to be consistent.

Better yet, if you release content on a certain day (or days), you can build even more anticipation. A great example of this is Jenna Marbles, whose YouTube channel I love. She only adds one video per week, but you know it is coming every single Wednesday. Put out content regularly like that, and people will anticipate it.

So those are my tips. Now it’s your turn to sound off in the comments. How do you create anticipation on your own blog? Or what have you noticed other bloggers doing that really makes you anticipate their future content?

Image Credit: Bigstock

How to Turn ONE Piece of Content into an Online Marketing Marathon — Without Lifting a Finger!

Author:

What if you could create one piece of content, and then turn it into four completely separate pieces of fresh, original content to use all over the internet to help market and promote your online brand?

It’s doable. And way easier than most think, and it’s the topic that I’ll be covering at my presentation in Vegas this coming January, entitled “45 Things Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.”

In the meantime, and to get you thinking about the topic and what it can mean to you, as an online content creator, here’s a rundown on how it works. You’ll see a bit of a pattern developing, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.

Step 1

Sit down in front of a video camera, with a like-minded person that you know your audience will love to hear from. If you can’t be with them in person, then get them on Skype and record a split-screen chat between the two of you. We’re talking 20-minutes of content, that’s all that’s needed.

Step 2

Send that video to an AV virtual assistant to have it converted into an audio podcast. They’ll clean it up and splice together a cool sounding intro and outro, too – to make it sound super professional.

You can also have that VA cut up the original video file into 5-minute clips, creating four original videos that can be uploaded to YouTube and used for keyword marketing, individually!

Step 3

Send the audio file to a transcriptionist virtual assistant (known universally nowadays as a “VA”) and have them convert it into a Word document. They will then draft and schedule the written content into your blogging software, which can be used as blog post content.

Step 4

Send that Word document to a graphic designer virtual assistant and have them layout it all out into a snazzy looking eBook, or PDF guide of some sort, which you can then use as a giveaway – such as an opt-in offer – or just a freebie for your community – they’ll love you for it, telling all their friends to go visit your blog!

Step 5

Have that same graphic designer VA convert certain quotes from the conversation into images that you can use on your social media channels. They’ll brand the image with your logo, a cool photo and a URL for people to remember to check out later on.

BOOM!

Five different pieces of original, branded content created out of just 20-minutes of work. Did you see the pattern? Yep – you got it. Utilize the power of virtual staff to build your content creation empire.

This is Just the Tip of the Content Marketing Iceberg!

There are so many more things you can get virtual assistants to do for you as a professional content creator. Membership sites, squeeze pages, full-blown online courses, Kindle books – you name it.

They can’t, however, do any babysitting, or pick up your dry cleaning!

The list goes on and on and I’ll be going into a LOT more detail on everything at New Media Expo in January. I’ll even touch base on the different tools you can use to work with VAs to have them become super productive, and for you to get the biggest bang for your buck as a virtual boss.

See you in Vegas, baby!

5 Ways To Generate Content Topics

Author:

As I coach talent, people often ask me, “Where do I find good topics?” It’s often a struggle of new talent and veterans alike.

Creating an entertaining podcast show after show, week after week, is a challenge (and the tips below can apply to blogs and video episodes, too!). You need to find a topic that holds your interest. Your topic must also be attractive to your audience. Finally, you need to present it in a way that is engaging. Every topic, every time. Even the most seasoned talent run into a sort of writer’s block from time to time.

When you hit a wall and have no topic readily at hand, where do you turn? How do you get past the block to create engaging entertainment? Where does the next captivating topic originate?

There are five primary methods I teach my clients to get past the topic block. These five questions will help you find quality topics for your show. If you take a few minutes before each episode to brainstorm these questions, you will have plenty of material for your show.

The key to each of these questions is awareness. Be aware when events, comments and ideas throughout your day capture your attention. If you are interested in something, you can usually deliver it in a way that will be interesting to your audience.

Keep these questions in your mind as you go through your day. I would also suggest you keep a little notebook in your pocket to jot down ideas. You never know when the next interesting topic might pop up.

1. What daily happenings capture my attention?

Things are happening all around you everyday. You may find yourself wondering why things happen like they do. Something might spark a laugh. You might learn something new. All of these things can lead to great topics. Be aware.

Jot down people you meet, things you see and ideas you learn that capture your attention. It is possible to turn it all into great topics.

2. What has happened in my past that created vivid memories?

You have tremendous experience in your field. That is why you create your podcast in the first place. Put it to work.

What are the things in your past that generate clear memories? Remember, many listeners that are learning from you are staring at the very beginning. They are in the same place you were when you began years ago. Help them learn.

Even if your listeners already know the information, your podcast will serve as a refresher course. Be confident in your material. Deliver it with passion, and your listeners will love you.

3. What articles have caputure your attention?

Read many articles from a variety of industries. Your topic ideas won’t always come from information within your field. Simply look for statements within the article that pique your interest.

Read with a highlighter. Whenever you come across a word, phrase or sentence that captures your attention, highlight it. When you’re done with the article, scan the highlighted parts for the most interesting one or two. Use that word, phrase or sentence to begin brainstorming. You never know where it may lead.

Let’s say you read an article about the correlation between the location of churches and bars. As you highlight the article, you highlight a phrase where a local councilman wants to pass an ordinance to keep bars at least 500 yards from any church. Your podcast is about hockey. How do we make the link to a great topic?

When you begin brainstorming, your thoughts will lead in many directions. Within your freeform writing as you are considering new laws, you write, “People are always looking to change the rules of the game. Are more rules really good for the growth of the sport?”

Suddenly, you’ve gone from church and liquor to the rules of hockey. You now have a great topic. Topics can come from anywhere.

4. What conversations have you had today that were truly engaging?

If a conversation engaged both you and your counterpart, there is a good chance it will also engage your audience.

Conversations tend to wander in many directions. You might start discussing the news of the day. That may lead the discussion into a movie you want to see. Suddenly, you’re discussing classic leading men. Any part of the discussion might lead to a good topic. You simply need to be aware of the parts of the discussion that are most interesting.

5. What questions are people in your industry asking?

You can find questions on a daily basis even if you aren’t regularly talking to people. The internet is your friend. Search the discussion boards to find the questions.

Help those in your industry solve their problems. You don’t need to answer the question verbatim. Let the question lead you to great topics.

If you find a question interesting, but not completely engaging, rephrase it. Mold the question a bit until it becomes an entertaining topic. It doesn’t matter that the question is not exact. It only matters that it is compelling.

When your listeners e-mail questions to you, answer the question as it is stated and give credit to the individual that asked. If you feel the need to change the question to make it more engaging, briefly answer the original question, then move on to the rephrased version. Say something such as, “Yes, it is possible to do that. However, the more important question is ‘should you do that?’”.

Brainstorm your notes

Great topics can originate in many places. The topic might not jump out at first. However, you can brainstorm the topic until it becomes engaging.

If you get curious about something, there is a good chance your audience might be just as curious. Jot down things that strike your interest as they happen in daily life. Then, brainstorm a bit to really flush out the idea.

As you write, let your thoughts flow. Don’t critique.  Simply write.  Let the ideas flow to the paper.

You may start writing about your experience at a restaurant and by the end of your brainstorm wonder why we learn calculus. That’s ok. You simply want to find the most interesting topic related to your podcast. It doesn’t necessarily need to have any relationship to your original observation. Your topic only needs to be interesting.

Be aware of all that happens around you. That next great topic could come from anywhere. You’ll miss it unless you are looking.

Keep a notepad in your pocket. Write down everything that captures your imagination. Take ten minutes before your podcast to brainstorm your topic. You will get past the podcast topic block and create engaging entertainment with your content.

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