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April 2013

30 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Landing Pages

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Landing Pages

A “landing page” is simply any page that promotes taking a certain action. As the name implies, this is where you want people to land when they click a certain link. You can also heavily optimize this page for search engines to try to get interested parties to land there. Sometimes, your landing page is a sales page, but more often, they promote downloading a free resource, signing up for a mailing list, etc. In other words, most landing pages are made with the goal of capturing leads.

Why have a landing page? Well, the hope is that anyone who comes to you landing page is extremely interested already. You aren’t trying to woo them with content marketing. Most landing pages do not have navigation or other links to get anywhere else on your site. The only thing for a person to do is take the action you want (like giving you their email address).

This week, I’ve compiled a collection of links giving you advice for creating a landing page. The most important piece of advice I can give you, however, is to TEST. Bloggers and marketers have lots of opinions on what works best, but you won’t know what works for your specific audience if you don’t systematically try new things and record the results.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

Cameron Chapman Beginner’s Guide to Landing Pages by Cameron Chapman 

Looking for a really great guide to landing pages? If you’re a beginner, look no farther than Cameron Chapman’s post for KISSmetrics. Cameron goes over everything you need to know about creating a landing page, from start to finish.

Do you have a clear goal? What are some common design mistakes? Is your copy optimized? You can leave all of this from Cameron’s post.

After reading this post, you can also read more from Cameron on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @cameron_chapman.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 3 Neuromarketing Considerations For Landing Page Optimization by Mona Elesseily (@webmona)
  2. 3 Reasons Why Landing Pages Are Important by George Passwater (@georgepasswater)
  3. 3 Ways to Create More Engaging Website Landing Pages by AJ Kumar (@ajkumar)
  4. 5 Tips for Landing Pages for Affiliates from Brian Massey by Kelly Clay (@kellyhclay)
  5. 7 Key Design Tips for High-Converting Landing Pages [+ Free Templates] by Anum Hussain (@anummedia)
  6. 7 Landing Page Tips to Boost Lead Conversions by Katrice Svanda (@katricesvanda)
  7. 7 Tips for Highly Effective Landing Pages by Subhash Chandra (@indiadesigners)
  8. 10 Expert Tips for Increasing Landing Page Conversions by Megan Leap (@MeganLeap)
  9. 11 Simple (But Critical) Tips for Creating Better Landing Pages by Pamela Vaughan (@pamelump)
  10. 13 Landing Page Tricks that Increase Conversion by Morgan Brown (@morganb)
  11. 84 Tips For A Killer Landing Page Design by Alhan Keser (@AlhanKeser)
  12. A “Formula” for Landing Page Optimisation by Dave Chaffey (@DaveChaffey)
  13. Creating Landing Pages That Convert by Adrian Drysdale
  14. Designing Landing Pages That Work by Karol K. (@carlosinho)
  15. Five Tips For Creating The Ultimate Landing Page by Greg Shuey (@shuey03)
  16. Four Expert Tips on Landing Page Design by Stacey Acevero (@sacevero)
  17. How to Craft Phenomenal SEO Landing Pages That Rank & Convert by Ken Lyons (@KenJLyons)
  18. How to Make a Landing Page That C.O.N.V.E.R.T.S. by Beth Morgan (@bethmorgan)
  19. How to Make Money With Facebook Landing Pages by Jim Belosic (@shortstackjim)
  20. Keep It Simple, Stupid – 6 Tips for Creating Clean & Simple PPC Landing Pages by Randi Lucius
  21. Landing Page Optimization Is Not a Strategy, CXO Is by Mark Simpson (@MarkJ_Simpson)
  22. Make a Big Impact on Your Landing Page with a Small Budget Video by Andrew Follett (@demoduckvideo)
  23. Simple Trick to Measure Social Media Efforts by Becky McCray (@BeckyMcCray)
  24. The Biggest Piece of Advice for Increasing Landing Page Conversions by Obaidul Haque (@obaidulhaque)
  25. The Landing Page Optimization Process [Infographic] by Oli Gardner (@oligardner)
  26. The Secrets of Selling Like a Skeazy, Slimy Used Car Salesman by Joanna Wiebe (@copyhackers)
  27. Top Problems with Landing Pages & How to Improve Your Conversion Rates by Ashley Zeckman (@azeckman)
  28. Why “Going Naked” Makes Sense for Landing Pages [Data] by Hubspot (@hubspot)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about landing pages? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Content Curation

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

How the “Clap Sisters” Online Burn Book Highlights the Problem with Anonymity Online

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Image of laptop with fire burning from being over-used

Editor’s note: I was shocked when I stumbled on a post about an anonymous group who started a site that is basically an online “burn book.” I reached out to Brittany to tell the story here on the NMX blog, and I’m so excited she agreed! Since then, the Twitter account for the group has been shut down. There’s been speculation of who was being this group and denial of involvement. If you haven’t heard about this group, take a gander at what Brittany has to say about it – and leave your comments about this blog drama at the end!

If you’re a blogger or even just a reader of blogs, you might have noticed that the whole dynamic of blogging has rapidly started to shift. These shifts have been especially noticeable within the last few weeks. It’s turning into a popularity contest, and we’re not talking page views here. Bloggers are bashing one another about silly things like what they’re hair looks like. We have full-on Twitter wars going on about subjects like copying each other’s ideas (it’s the Internet your ideas will probably be copied here and there, as they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.) What has really turned the blog world upside down are two e-mails that have been sent out this past week.

The first e-mail, from an anonymous group calling themselves “The Clap Sisters” the e-mail was announcing a new website launch for April 13th. This website is dedicated to being anonymous and leaking gossip about fellow bloggers. Their email promises,

“When our site is launched, you’ll have the opportunity to anonymously submit your dirty, juicy clap with us.”

It then goes on to a link to a Google document where you can submit your gossip about your fellow bloggers. An example they give of the gossip they’re looking for:

“Kennedy is a former coke addict that’s been to rehab 3 different times. She always plays up the good girl image, but my best friend was her live in nurse.”

As you can imagine, this started a major uproar in the blogging community. A second e-mail surfaced 2 days later. This new e-mail from a group called “Bloggers Anonymous” who state,

“There are those out there who would love to make each and every one of us feel like we’re nothing. But that is NOT what blogging is about! It is about building each other up, celebrating who we are, and sharing our story.”

That sounds fabulous, it does, but that’s not really what blogging is about either, is it? I think if you blogged just to get a pat on the back about something, you’re blogging for all the wrong reasons. Blogger Anonymous is now creating a countering anonymous site also debuting on April 13th, where you can submit anonymous entries to build a bloggers self-esteem up. Judging by the fact that their official Facebook page only has 23 likes (at the time of writing this post), I believe everyone else feels the same way about this site: It won’t work. It’s just going to backfire.

So, which of these new blogging sites is the one that we should support? Neither.

Both sites are anonymous, which is just altogether bad. When anyone posts on these sites, people are going to start feeling left out if they’re not mentioned. When bloggers start feeling the animosity of being left out they’re more likely to bash bloggers on the gossip site.

What we have to do is leave the anonymity behind completely. If you appreciate someone’s blog, tell them! You can even tell your readers. Ask your blog friends to guest post, tweet about that blog you like, or post a link on your Facebook wall. Just find a way to tell them that isn’t hidden behind smoke and mirrors. If you really have something bad to say about another blogger, maybe you can talk to them about it if it’s constructive criticism, and if you really have to say something bad about their color scheme or logo, vent to a friend over coffee. Ok, yes, talking behind someone’s back is bad, but it’s so much better than posting it on the internet where it can’t be deleted, where everyone will know, and where feelings will inevitably be crushed.

When we decide to start a blog we have to welcome criticism, we have to understand that not everyone will care about your posts, and that not everyone on the internet will play fair. Am I a little bummed that someone obnoxiously posted about one of my recipes being fattening, maybe. Did I let it ruin my day, heck no! Laugh it off, and just keep going with your day. For every crappy comment you may receive on a blog post, I’m sure you have at least 10 great compliments somewhere on your blog.

And for the record, that recipe was super fattening, just like all my recipes. I live in the state of cheese, beer, and all things deep fried. It happens.

Editor’s note: Here’s what some other tweeters have said about The Clap Sisters:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you get an invite to join either of these anonymous groups? What do you think of anonymity on the Internet? Leave a comment below!

Is an Army Blog Any Different? (Sponsored Post)

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Disclosure: The Army sponsored the Military Track at NMX 2013, and this post is part of their sponsorship package. We think what Captain He has to say about blogging while in the military is not only interesting, but can help give you a new perspective on your own blog, whether you’re in the military or not. -Editor

Captain He at NMX

I am in the Army, and I write a blog. To many people I have talked to, this means I write a blog about the Army. Following this logic, this means that I write a blog featuring pictures of soldiers in sandstorms in remote areas of Afghanistan with accompanying stories of intense missions to villages and the good work we are doing there, in contrast to the big media stories of the quicksand situation in the Middle East. When I say no, I’m not in the Infantry, they then think maybe I write one of those military wife blogs, full of tips of what to put in a care package to send to your husband overseas and what to wear to his coming home ceremony. Still not true; I may be an Army wife, but in a dual-military relationship that leaves both of us with our fair share of homecomings and goodbyes.

I don’t try to write an Army blog. I write a blog that just happens to occur in the context of me being in the Army. I do not write about Middle Eastern policy, because I am not a Middle Eastern policy wonk. I do write about the Army’s Cultural Support Teams and what a great idea they are, because I am a female and I am in the Army. I don’t write about secret missions in Afghanistan, because 1) that’s probably violating security, and 2) as a signal officer, I plan networks and make sure those Infantry guys have internet.

Old vs. New

The idea of old-style military blogging, or “milblogging,” was covered at the Milblog conference in DC last year.  A lot of the original milbloggers started to blog about the “real” story on the ground. When blogging became a more legitimate news source, and journalists at big papers started blogging in addition to filing their real news stories, the role of bloggers as story tellers started to diminish, and they became another news source in themselves.

I don’t think the original idea of the blog, telling someone’s story, is any different though. Maybe blogs are faster, shorter, more reactionary and less analytical, than a real news story, but it still tells a story. Today’s stories among milbloggers are a little different, but no less important.

My Idea of “New”

I don’t try to write news stories, I just try to tell the real Army story. Soldiers are not deployed every single day of their Army careers; they do spend time at home. In the almost four years that I’ve been in the Army, I’ve only been deployed to Iraq for about five months of that. The rest has been here in Georgia, training and planning and watching other units deploy.

Health and Fashion

Maybe my blog would better fit under the health or fashion categories of blogging. They do seem to be the top two topics for blogs right now.

Think about it, I work out every day with my unit. We run, we do calisthenics, I like to swim and bike and do triathlons and races on my weekends. Of course I write about it. I write about injuries I get, and how the Army tries to deal with that. I write about how stupid my hot pink shoes look with the Army PT uniforms that don’t even fit me.

That’s another thing I like to write about. While I watch my friends post their instagram #OOTD, I wear the same thing every single day. Want me to post that? I can do a cute face with minimal, natural looking makeup, picked specifically for its high-SPF content and the waterproofness/sweatproofness of the mascara, and show off my worn-in combat boots and small-short men’s uniform.

Or, on special occasions, I get to wear my dress blue uniform. Did you know that the first women’s uniforms, for Army nurses pre-WWII, were made on a men’s mannequin, and NO ONE NOTICED for almost 20 years? That’s how much the Army cared about providing their females with high quality uniforms. Some new prototypes of female-specific uniforms are being field-tested, not to mention female specific body armor (after only ten years of sending women to active combat zones), so maybe some changes will be coming eventually.

Just Telling Stories

So, there you have it. I blog to write about life and what I do, just to get my story out there. Even if I think my life is boring sometimes, it’s still different from anyone else’s in the world. Whenever I’m stuck, here are my go-to prompters that make me write:

What did I do different today? Maybe I did the same thing I do every day: went for a run, made some coffee, checked my email, made some slide presentations, answered some phone calls. What made it different, or special, or particularly awful?

What major events do I have to look forward to? In the Army, there is always something coming up: another deployment, a short trip for training somewhere, the possibility of a new assignment, or even just the chance to take leave following a grueling two week training exercise.

What inspires me? Sometimes getting up early to run in the middle of winter is hard, but I don’t have the option of staying in bed. What inspired me today to smile and push on? It might be thinking of my friends who can’t run anymore, or recently meeting someone who just said, “thank you for your service.” Sometimes it’s thinking about how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and that I don’t want to let down all the generations of Soldiers before me who gave it all. And sometimes it is knowing that Thursday is donut day, so I better get up and run.

Nothing seems too small to be a part of my story. Maybe it isn’t big news, or a big story, but it’s all mine, and I’m going to keep writing.

Using Mobile Video for Your Small Business

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As an increasing number of companies move online for most of their business activities, it becomes more important for customers to have a way to visualize who and what they’re working with. Mobile videos are a powerful tool for connecting with your customers and giving your business a personable face and real live voice. Used correctly, videos can help you grow your small business in big ways.

filming with ipad

Getting Started with Mobile Videos

You don’t need to invest in a lot of expensive equipment to make compelling, high-quality videos. While you can outsource this task, your video will seem more genuine and personal when it’s produced in-house. At the very least, make sure your own marketing department works closely with the production team so the finished product doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter piece put together by someone else.

While one video is good, a series of videos is even better. Continuously updating your mobile videos keeps customers coming back for more. Taking the time to learn how to make these videos yourself will make them easier to churn out regularly. As you’re developing your video concepts, look for ways to turn your ideas into a continuing series with new releases every week or month.

Identifying Your Message

Before you put your video together, you need to decide what the message is. At the end of the video, your customer needs to walk away with a clear idea of what to do next. Whether that message is “go visit our webpage” or “buy our blender and make a smoothie,” clarity is all-important. A great video with no call to action is a waste of resources.

Videos for Product Promotion

Product promotion is a popular strategy for mobile videos. Get creative about how you do this. Customer testimonials, live demonstrations on the street, and infomercials all carry out the goal of providing product promotion. If you’re selling a technology that buyers probably haven’t seen before, simply demonstrating it in a video will make them more likely to buy, since it will answer their lingering questions about the item. Seeing something in use or just viewing it in a person’s hand provides a better idea of the size and purpose than what you’ll get from a written product description.

Giving Your Company a Face

Companies that do most of their business online can use videos to give the business a live face. Take the cameras behind the scenes and show your customers the manufacturing process. Introduce your staff so the people on the other end of those emails finally have a face. Hearing a personable voice gives customers the sense that they know you. Seeing the office where your business takes place makes your company seem much more real and reliable.

livefyre interview

How-To Features

How-to videos are another popular area to explore. If your products have a variety of uses, use your videos to highlight these. A cookware company can offer weekly recipe videos featuring their products. A business that sells craft supplies might make videos featuring a quick how-to for popular crafts using their yarns, ribbons, and fabrics.

Engaging Your Customers

Length isn’t important when it comes to getting your viewers engaged with a mobile video. In fact, busy viewers have a better chance of getting through a short snippet. Consider quick and interesting ways to engage your customers and start a conversation. Show off your latest artisanal cheeses and ask viewers what summer recipe they’ll be using them in. Feature a snippet of your latest running shoes hitting the pavement and ask where your viewers are running this weekend.

Choosing Your Platform

Most people immediately think of YouTube when they think about mobile videos. Thanks to streamlined apps and fast connections, viewers can connect with your YouTube videos from their home computer, tablet, or smartphone.

YouTube isn’t the only player in mobile videos, though. Vine is a mobile app that allows users to post short videos directly to Twitter. These videos are just six seconds in length and loop continually. This is obviously better for engaging customers in a brief fashion. Vine is an exciting new way to connect visually with just a few seconds’ worth of effort.

When Videos Go Viral

A viral video is something you should always strive for, but it’s not something you can purposefully create. Simply saying that something is viral does not make it so. A viral video is something so engaging that viewers share it with friends and family. The exact definition of “viral” is unclear. Viral video guru Kevin Nalts defines a viral video as something that gets over 5 million views in a period of three to seven days. Try to create something shocking, hilarious, or over-the-top to snag that elusive viral fame.

all the screens

Putting it All Together

Once you’ve established the purpose and general idea of your mobile video, you’re ready to put it together. Longer videos are more engaging when they feature several different shots. If you have trouble speaking directly to the camera, enlist an assistant so you’re speaking to someone else and not the screen. Video editing software is easy to come by, so there’s no excuse for sending a completed video out without a little polishing and trimming. Finally, cut excess fat out of the finished product so it’s as concise and to-the-point as possible.

Sharing Your Mobile Video

Once you’ve created a great video, you need to share it. Post your video to your Facebook page, include it on your company’s website or feature it in the blog. Email engaging videos to customers in your newsletters. Promote your finished piece heavily to get the most out of your work.

Mobile videos are still extremely underused, but don’t count on this trend continuing. Jump in now and become one of the smart businesses that are ahead of the trend of using video for engaging promotion. As these video creators state over and over, stay passionate and keep creating!

Have you already found mobile videos helpful for your business? Make sure to leave a comment and let’s discuss.

12 Types of Blog Posts You Need to Stop Writing

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blog posts you need to stop writing

“Add more content!”

That seems to be the battle cry these days. Keeping your blog as updated as possible does make sense. Although some argue that quality matters less than quantity, while this is true, I can say without a doubt through my own experiences, that if you have more content, you’re going to get more traffic than if you have less content, as long as you maintain quality. At one of our past events, Chris Brogan mentioned seeing similar results – when he posts fewer times per week, his traffic goes down.

That of course doesn’t mean you should just be throwing crap up on your blog to try to hit a certain number of posts every week. I think most serious bloggers understand this. However, I still see a lot of bad posts in my Twitter stream every day. Remember, it only takes one bad post to make someone unsubscribe (or never subscribe in the first place).

You can’t please everyone, but I believe the following twelve types of post have no place on a good blog:

news

1. Rehashed News

You’re never going to compete with huge news sites unless you have millions of dollars to throw into your own media outlet. If all your post accomplishes is summarizing a story you saw on Google News or Reuters, you haven’t accomplished anything other than boring your readers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post news at all. In fact, posting news is a great idea for most bloggers. But when you do it, consider:

  • Picking up the phone to get a quote from an expert that can add something new to the story
  • Adding your own opinion or analysis to the story
  • Doing a round-up of what other people are saying about the story
  • Putting the story in a different context (i.e. finding a unique angle)
  • Coming up with a how-to related to the story
  • Looking at what people are saying about the story via social media and talking about their unique opinions

In other words, make your coverage of the story something different than what people are going to read from a huge news outlet. For example, when Pinterest announced the addition of “secret boards,” we didn’t just post about this new feature, which many were doing. We posted three ways to use secret boards, so our story was unique and helpful to readers.

If you’re dead-set on posting news stories that report just the facts, consider taking a new approach to your blog completely and really attacking one specific niche. For example, if you like entertainment news, maybe instead of posting all sorts of celebrity news, which sites like TMZ already do, you can post specifically about celebrity babies or a certain genre or music or celebrities who are buying homes. Nich-ifying can help you find an audience even if you’re not publishing unique stories.

interview

2. Posts with More Quotes than Original Content

I love a good quote, but if the entire story is just quoting another blogger or news story, you might as well be scraping their content. Yes, it might be completely valid to publish a small part of someone’s post with a link back to the rest, but that doesn’t make you a blogger. It makes you a content curator. Again, what can you add that makes the story special or adds another layer or helpfulness?

There are so many possibilities. You can “debate” the other blogger with a post of your own, build upon his/her ideas, or even do an interview with the blogger to delve deeper into the story. If all you want to do is share an excellent quote from a blog post you read, here are some better ways to do that:

  • Share the quote via Twitter with a link back to the source
  • Post the quote in a related forum with a link back to the source
  • Create an image using the quote a publish on Facebook or Twitter with a link back to the source
  • Share the quote as part of your email newsletter with a link back to the source

Your actual posts should be more than just republishing someone else’s words.

reader

3. Theory without Practicality

This one drives me nuts.

I love to read what you think about a certain topic, but what I love every more are practical tips. Don’t just tell me why. Tell me how. If all I can do is read your information, but I have no idea how to actually apply it to any part of my life, your post isn’t very beneficial to me.

I’m guilty of this one. I think we all have a tendency to get really passionate about our opinions. And while opinions are great, they rarely stand alone if there’s no practical counterpart. Sometimes, this is as simple as including a few links to post that are straight-forward how-tos. Your entire post doesn’t have to be about teaching someone how to do something.

The problem is that many bloggers publish these types of posts but never follow up. So, as a reader, I’m lost. Don’t write “10 Reasons Why You Should….” unless you follow up or link to how to actually do that task. You’ve convinced me! Now tell me what to do to get started.

PIC01595.JPG

4. Common Sense Posts

Worse than “theory” posts are common sense posts. I get it; we’re all beginners at some point. You can’t ignore your readers who are just learning about a topic for the first time. Only posting advanced-level stuff isn’t the right choice for most bloggers.

But even beginners have common sense.

For example, let’s say that your blog is about cooking and you want to publish “10 Things Every Kitchen Needs.” That sounds like a great post – but if your 10 items include a pot and a pan, I’m going to roll my eyes. Newbie cooks might not realize how helpful it can be to own a strainer or a food processor, but come on…they know that they need a pot and a pan.

Take things a step farther and be more useful. If you’re going to do something so 101-leve that it includes telling new home chefs to buy a pot and pan, at least tell them what kind to buy and why. What size is best? What material? What brand? Go a step beyond common sense, even with your beginner-level posts.

headline extra

5. Posts that don’t Deliver on Headline Promises

If I click on a post you share on Twitter and the content doesn’t deliver what the headline promised, I’m probably going to unfollow you. Your headline builds trust with the reader. If your content isn’t what they expect, you lose that trust, and it’s nearly impossible to get it back again once lost.

The biggest offender I see of this is the use of the term “secret.” If you’re going to give me “10 Secrets to Writing Better Blog Posts,” I better not show up to your post and see that secret number one is to optimize for search engines, secret number two is to use headers, secret number three is to include an image, etc. Those are not secrets. Those are 101-level tips. “Secrets” implies that the post is going to be advanced – that these are tips I’ve probably not come across before or am not already using.

Another offender is telling me something is “awesome” or “killer” or “ninja” or “rock star.” If you use any of those terms, you better deliver on that promise. It’s not that you have to stop using these words (and related words) to describe your content. Just understand that you’re setting the bar high, so there’s a bigger probability that people will be disappointed by the content if it doesn’t deliver.

beach

6. “Sorry I’ve Been Away” Posts

Sometimes, there are unforeseen circumstances that require us to be away from our blogs. When you’re ready to start up again, it’s really tempting to write a “Sorry for being gone” post to explain what you were doing.

To me, that’s a throw-away post. Unless what you were doing is super interesting, I don’t need to hear your excuses and explanations. I just want posts like you used to publish. Mention why you were gone at the beginning of your next post if you must, but just get back to your schedule instead of spending 500 words to tell me that you had the flu or were snagging some beach time.

love myself

7. Ego Strokers

A few months ago, I wrote a post about blogging success and whether your success stems from content that helps people or content that is simply what people want to hear. The latter is little more than ego-stroking. It really isn’t hard to get people to rally behind you when you say, “Hitler was bad.” This is also true with less extreme examples. If your audience is primarily working moms, it isn’t hard to get people to agree with an op-ed about the need for flexible scheduling for parents who work.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post something you’re super passionate about, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone – and to ask your audience to step out of theirs. If you are promoting a popular opinion, add your “something special” to the post, whether that means including some how-to tips, playing devil’s advocate, or quote an expert. What can you add to the story that makes it unique? (Am I started to sound like a broken record yet?)

scales

8. How *Blank* is like *Blank* Posts

When I first started blogging, I wrote a lot of this type of post. But you know what? They’re kind of dumb. Congratulations, you found a creative comparison between two things. Unless your post is meant to be funny (Think: “How Your Baby is like a Tiny Ninja”) or teaches you something interesting (Think: “How Soft Drinks are like Addictive Drugs”), the post is another throw away.

Even if you think your post is teaching something, ask yourself…”Is it really?” Remember, you want people to walk away with specific, practical tips not a bunch of random information that doesn’t really relate because you were stretching to find comparison points.

snarky

9. Snark

When you’re snarky on your blog, you’re really nothing more than an online, adult bully. Yes, it can make you popular, because some people thrive on drama, but will it make you respected? No way.

You can still be opinionated and even write in a “snarky” style. The key with snark is to talk about things that happen, not specific people or companies. Erika Napoletano is a great example of something who has a snarky writing style, but in a good way.

Of course, you can also still voice your opinion about someone or some company you don’t like, but when you do so, have a little class. Make points that you can back up instead of just snarking. You’re not going to do yourself any favors if you’re just flat-out mean.

And keep in mind that when you’re snarky, you lose business. Even if you see your traffic go up because people think you’re funny or are attracted to negative leadership, when all you do is snark about crap you don’t like, brands won’t want to work with you. Brands like bloggers who give honest, thoughtful, thorough opinions, not drama queens (and kings).

gossip

10. Rumors

When you post a rumor like it is news, it makes me question your dedication to the niche. It’s okay to comment on rumors, but I’ve seen several popular blogs run rumors as though they are confirmed stories.

This happens even more frequently when bloggers are republishing blog posts that are republished from other blog posts. It’s like a game of telephone. Along the way, rumors turn to facts, which can be confusing for the reader and unfair for all parties involved.

Take the time to find the original source of a story and confirm facts with a reputable site or expert. Hint: Wikipedia is not a reputable site.

Remember, gossip is as bad as rumors. Sometimes gossip is made up of rumors but other times, gossip is someone saying to you “I’m not supposed to know this, but I overheard…” If you can’t confirm it by printing the source, it is as good as a rumor. “Facts” are overheard out of context all the time.

shock

11. Sensationalist Stories

The media thrives on emotion. Facts are skewed so that someone’s agenda is supported in the most emotionally charged way possible.

Sensationalism can drive a ton of traffic, but it ultimately damages your credibility.

When you post facts on your blog, be aware of your own biases. It’s okay to post your opinion, but if you’re presenting supporting facts, make sure those facts are accurate. If there was a study done, how many people took part in the study, how were they chosen to participate, and when were the stats collected? A survey of 60 people in rural Texas asked about their opinion on gun laws will yield a much different result than a survey of 10,000 people from across the country on the same topic. A study on cancer patients’ diets done 50 years ago is going to give you different results than a study on the same topic done today.

In the end, make sure that the information you’re posting is the most up-to-date, unbiased information possible, not just the best information to support your personal viewpoints. That way, if you’re firing people up, it’s for the right reasons, not because you’re manipulating data to scare people.

peacock

12. Posts that aren’t Your Best Work

Finally, I’m using a picture of a peacock here, because I hope you are always proud to show off your work. If a post isn’t your best work, don’t hit that publish button. Simple as that.

All the time, I hear the advice that your work doesn’t need to be good, it needs to be “good enough.” There’s something to be said for analysis paralysis and being so caught up in the details that you never get the job done. However, if you write a post and feel “meh” about it, reconsider before you publish. How can I as the reader get excited if you as the writer don’t even care?

You should always strive for the best. Pretend this post you’re writing is going to be seen by Oprah. Imagine if you lost your job today and your last post was the post a new employer would be looking at to consider you for their open position. Get morbid and think about how the last post would represent you if you died tomorrow.

Take pride in the work you do, always. It only takes one bad post to make me hit the back button and be gone from your blog forever.

Your turn: What kind of posts do you wish people would stop writing?

Social Media vs Search Engines for Blog Traffic: Who Wins in Content Marketing?

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I have posted previously about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media that I am teaching at a university in Silicon Valley. We just wrapped up our 7th of 11 weeks. And I have some numbers regarding the social media versus search engine debate.

All 73 students started their websites out from zero. No domain. No hosting. No idea of the difference between tagline and ‘tag, you’re it’. No nothing.

Some of them have been posting very faithfully, using specifically the SEO guidelines I gave them for each post. Well, sorta kinda. As much as people, especially students, follow rules in general that is. We also have a great back linking strategy. And and and …

Question: What performs better? Sending people to sites via your social networks or just writing good stuff and letting the search engines do their thing?

Answer: The course is 45 days old. I took three screen shots from Google Analytics. The reader can compare Facebook referrals to Google organic traffic. (I know. I know. There are other social networks. There are also other search engines.)

Compare the following three 15-day time periods.

Feb 17 – Mar 3

MBA1

Click to see a larger version of this image.

The students worked their Facebook networks and in the end social network traffic outperformed organic search. It makes sense. The sites were still finding their feet and search was still finding them.

Mar 4 – Mar 18

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Facebook referrals remained constant, but search results more than doubled as well as outperformed social networking.

Mar 19 – Apr 2

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Click to see a larger version of this image.

Facebook referrals dropped a little but organic search continued to increase – another 13%.

At the risk of overwhelming you screenshots and numbers take a look:

Facebook traffic dropped 33% from 617 visits the last week of Mar/Apr compared to 415 the last week of Feb/Mar.

Organic traffic increased 58% from 697 visits the last week of Mar/Apr to 1100 the last week of Feb/Mar.

One more thing – organic traffic grew by itself. That is my students wrote something and turned off their computers, while with social networking, traffic requires the student to write something and do something else, login elsewhere and promote, interact, build, smooze.

I may be wrong, but after a time, the promotion of content elsewhere = on social networks, gets cumbersome, tiresome, and loses its effectiveness. However, with search traffic, as long as the content is meaningful, follows the rules of good SEO, will continue to grow.

Who wins in the social media vs search engine debate when it comes to content marketing?

Blogs win.

Unless, that is, you have a different experience that you would like to share in a comment below.

How to Create a Web Series with a Small Film Crew

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small film crew

So you want to create a web series, but your budget is too low to hire a full film crew? No problem. That’s the great thing about creating video content for the online space: you don’t need much money to get started! It’s okay if you have a very small film crew if you know a few tricks to making the most of the helping hands you have on set.

Here are a three tips to help you get started creating web series or videos with a small film crew:

Tip #1: Use tricky camera shots to make your crew seem bigger.

First, you can make your crew seem much larger by using some special camera shots. Vimeo created a really great tutorial on this topic that goes over how to film a swipe cut and how to film a split screen shot (as well as how to use your iPhone for audio). Check it out:

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”281″]http://vimeo.com/62365230[/vimeo]

Tip #2: Work with multi-talented people.

That diva actress friend of your who refuses to touch a camera and would rather spend time in her dressing room than helping on set is probably not someone you want as part of your crew. When you’re getting started, looking for people who can jump from role to role easily. Partner with a director who can also act. Hire the make-up artist who has experience with post-production work. The more people are willing and able to do, the fewer total people you need on your crew, at least at first.

Tip #3: Write scripts with your limitations in mind.

If you know you have a very small crew, cut out the scene you wrote where a crowd is chasing the main character. Having limitations stinks, but you’ll get there. Keep your scripts simple to start, and think about how you can change your initial vision to make it work even if you only have a two- or three-person crew. Get creative! It can be pretty fun to overcome challenges if you think outside of the box.

What tips do you have for creating awesome content for your web series, even if your crew is tiny?

30+ Killer Ways to Build Your Email List

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ways to build your email list Who doesn’t want a biggest email list? It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger, podcaster, web series/video producer, or business owner – having a bigger email list allows you to reach out to your target market on a one-on-one level.

This post is a compilation of every technique and tip I’ve come across or used to grow my own list. Of course, you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) use all of these tips. Pick and choose the ones that make sense for your needs. (And feel free to add more by leaving a comment below!)

1. Put a sign-up form on your sidebar. This seems like a no-brainer, but every day, I see lots of blogs and websites that have no way for someone to subscribe for content. DIY Themes lists the top of your sidebar as the first place you should have your sign-up form.

2. Put a sign-up form at the bottom of every blog post. Someone who readers a blog post all the way to the end is very engaged, so you need a call to action (CTA). Put a sign-up form there as your CTA and you’ll capture email addresses at a higher rate. Read more about compelling CTAs from Flyte New Media.

3. Put a sign-up form on popular pages. At the very least, put a form on your about and contact pages. (And learn about creating a better About Page here.)

4. Ask your current subscribers to tell their friends about your list. Give them easy options within your emails to forward and share your content.

5. Use QR codes for easy sign-ups at live events. They’re free to create and give people a very quick way to sign up with any smartphone.  Come QR code creation options include Kaywa and Microsoft Tag. You can put them on signage and promotional material like brochures. Make sure your booth is attractive!

6. Put a QR code on your business card. That way, you’re leading everyone you meet to your list.

7. Tell your social followers about your mailing list. Ask them to sign up if interested in receiving more content from you. You can even add a custom sign-up tab on your Facebook page.

8. Tease your content on social media. Tell people how great your latest email is – and give them a link to sign up if they want it.

9. Tell people how many subscribers you have. People like to be part of a large group. So, if you can show a number or say “Join 592 other people…” you’ll play into that heard mentality and get more sign-ups.

10. Try a pop up ad asking for an email address. Some people like them, some people hate them, but for most people, they do convert. The good news is that you don’t have to use a pop up ad that smacks someone in the face the moment someone gets to your site. Play with the settings to find a good solution if you’re going to use pop up ads. Not sure about pop-ups? You’re not alone. Check out The Great Pop-Up Debate.

11. Ask for subscriptions when people comment. Blog commenters are engaged and already giving you their name and email address. Here are some tips from SEOmoz about getting more comments.

12. Get customers to sign up. If you have a physical store, have a sign-up sheet by the cash register where people can give you their email address. If you have an online store, ask during the checkout process.

13. Print a link to your subscription form on your receipt. If your product is digital, you can include the subscription form directly instead of asking them to click a link.

14. Use testimonials. What are people saying about your emails? Show social proof to entice people to sign up. Check out Copyblogger’s tips for getting better testimonials.

15. Offer a free ebook. Make sure the ebook has an enticing title and a well-designed cover, and choose a topic that really grabs readers. Here’s how to write an ebook that people really want.

16. Offer an in-depth case study, report, or white paper. Give your readers something special that they can’t get anywhere else.

17. Run a contest. To enter, people have to be signed up for your email list. TopRank has some great tips on running an online contest.

18. Give people exclusive content. It can encourage people to sign up if they get something via email that they can’t get elsewhere.

19. Host a webinar. Either require people to be on your email list to attend or ask them to sign up afterward. Check out Hubspot’s post on how to host your first webinar.

20. Link to your sign-up form in your email signature. It goes out to everyone, so you should capitalize on the opportunity.

21. Speak at events. Put a link to your sign-up form on the last slide or, even better, create a resource page with all the notes to your presentation (including a sign-up form) and give it to your audience so they can just listen to you instead of trying to take notes. Want to speak at the next NMX? Start working on your proposal now!

22. Create a useful tool, app, theme, etc. for people to download. People love free gifts beyond the text documents that most people offer. If you typically sell this kind of downloadable, create a free version as well to help you collect email addresses. As a bonus, this helps you give people a sample of your product!

23. Offer a discount for email subscribers. This works best when you give a substantial discount or bonus freebie on orders that people really want.

24. Promote your email list at the end of guest posts. It’s typically more effective to have a specific CTA at the end of a guest post instead of just linking to the homepage of your blog. Check out Kristi Hines’ recent guest post on guest posting.

25. Ask people to sign up to your list at the end of videos. Videos are extremely engaging, and not only will you pull in new subscribers via YouTube, but you can also post the video on your blog (and hopefully other people will too). Our video category has some great posts to help you get started creating this kind of content.

26. Host an offline event (like a TweetUp). Afterward, email attendees to thank them for coming and invite everyone to sign up for your list. Here’s a post from Mashable about hosting a successful TweetUp (with many tips that can apply to other meet and greet type of events as well.

27. Play around with the language on your sign up form. Test what works best. What happens if you say “Please sign up…” versus “Please join us…”? What about if you call it an email list versus an email club?

28. Play around with sign-up form colors and dimensions. Sometimes a form that blends into your site works best. Other times, you need a bright, jarring color that stands out. KISSmetrics has some great examples of sign-up forms that work you can check out.

29. Make it as easy as possible for people to sign up. The more information you ask people to submit, the fewer people are going to fill out the form. People don’t like the work of a long sign-up form, and they may not understand why you need the information.

30. Partner with another blogger. Offer a giveaway, free product, or other special jointly to anyone who signs up for both of your email lists. Or, you can do a deal where you promote one another (i.e. you send an email to your list encouraging them to sign up for their list and vice versa). Want to work with a “big name”? Here are some tips for getting past the gatekeeper.

31. Partner with a group of bloggers. This works even better than partnering with just one blogger!

32. Promise future content. A great example is to write a blog post series or regular feature. At the end of every post in the series, ask people to sign up for reminders of more content.

I’ll continue to add to this list as I hear of more techniques for growing your email list. Got a suggestion? Leave it as a comment below!

How to Talk to Your Family about Being a Blogger

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becoming a blogger

Being a professional blogger isn’t an easy career path, but like with all choices in life, it’s a lot easier to make it when your family is standing behind you. Unfortunately, quitting your job to blog full time isn’t a decision most non-bloggers understand.

I first started freelance writing when I was still in college, but with graduation looming, I had to make a choice: Should I continue down the path of freelancing after graduation or  should I get a “real” job*? At the time, my freelancing experience included both general copywriting and blogging work, but when I made the decision to go full time, I started focusing on blogging, my true passion, and I started a few blogs of my own.

My family didn’t get it. My friends smiled and nodded. Even my boyfriend at the time was concerned that I wasn’t thinking clearly.

So today, I wanted to write a bit about how I turned things around to gain their support not just because they love me but also because they feel like I made the right decision to pursue a career in blogging and the new media world. If you’re considering quitting your job to blog or are in college and want to blog full time after you graduation, I hope some of these tips help you talk to your loved ones!

1. Put it into terms they can understand.

My grandparents still don’t know what a blog is. And that’s okay. Sometimes, in order to talk about your career goals with your family, you need to choose your words carefully so they understand. Many people still equate the word “blog” with “online diary.” While this can be the case for some people, most blogs out there are much more: they’re marketing tolls, they’re businesses, they’re money-makers. If it helps your family understand, talk about your website instead of your blog. The word website sound more professional to some people, because they’re used to the fact that big brands have websites. And if it helps loved ones think about your career more seriously, talk about being a writer or even content marketer instead of a blogger.

Over time, slowly transition into saying the words blog and blogger more and more. As an industry, we want people to start acknowledging that these are professional terms just like website and writer. But an important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t force people to suddenly think about things differently. You have to help them bridge that gap over time.

2. Talk about your back-up plan.

Blogging (or doing any freelance job really) is a risky venture. Often, our loved ones, especially parents, can be harsh about goals because they’re worried. No parent wants to think of their child struggling to pay bills. So, it can help to talk about your blogging goals in relation to deadlines, as well as to outline your back-up plan if your goals are not met. For example, when I talked to my friends about being a freelancer after college, I set the deadline of one year. If I wasn’t on a good financial footing by then, I’d quit blogging and look for a corporate job. I talked about the connections I had that could help me hunt for a job and mentioned the possibility of going back to school. Having this plan helped my loved ones feel more at ease with my decision.

3. Actually show them what you do and how that translates to money.

It’s hard to talk to people about your job as a blogger if they have no idea what a blogger does, other than post funny cat pictures on Facebook. Give them a “day in the life” tour of your career. Explain to them the basics of why social media helps your career. Teach them exactly how you make money. Going back to the “terms they understand” tip, I like to compare it to a magazine, because it’s easier for someone to understand how a magazine makes money through ads, partnerships, etc. and how it is important for a magazine to get subscribers, not just because it’s income but because more readers means bigger deals with brands.

4. Invite them to guest contribute to your blog.

Okay, this tip might not be for everyone, but if it’s possible, ask your loved ones to be a guest blogger. My sister and I got my mom involved with blogging on The PinterTest Kitchen. Before that, I once had my cousin contribute to a TV blog I ran, and I’ve often asked friends for opinions that I’ve then quoted (with permission) on my blog. When they take part, it’s easier for them to see how fun and addicting blogging can be.

5. Be happy and proud of your accomplishments.

The very best way to get your loved ones on board with your being a blogger is to allow them to see you happy. So don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments the same way your sister would announce a promotion or your best friend would announce a pay raise. Go out and celebrate when you reach a traffic goal. Throw a real-life launch party when you start a new blog. Share your success when you land a big sponsorship. When you’re happy, anyone worth being in your life will be happy for you too.

Your turn: what are your best tips for talking to your family and friends about becoming a blogger?

*For the record, I hate the term “real” job because it implies that working online is somehow not real or hard work.

Image credit: Bigstock

32 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Keyword Research for Bloggers

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Keyword Research for Bloggers

No matter what your blogging niche, you probably get at least some of your traffic from Google and other search engines. By doing a little keyword research and implementing some good SEO practices, you can pull in even more readers from search engines.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week

Onibalusi_Headshot The Definitive Guide to Keyword Research by Bamidele Onibalusi

This post on YoungPrePro is perfect if you’re just getting started with keyword research for your blog. Bamidele writes about why keywords matter, and how to get started with your research. After doing keyword research, I also recommend checking out his post, The Ultimate SEO Guide to Dominating The Search Engine Rankings, which will help you take optimization even farther so you can reach more and more readers via Google and other search engines.

After checking out this brilliant blogger, don’t forget to follow him on Twitter at @YoungPrePro.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Best Ways Bloggers Can Do Keyword Research by Nida Zaidi (@NidaXaidi)
  2. 5 Unexpected Keyword Research Sources by Sujan Patel (@sujanpatel)
  3. 7 Most Powerful Best Free Keyword Research Tools by Rakesh Kumar (@notebinary)
  4. 10 Free Keyword Tools for Your Blog Title Tag Research by John Saddington (@saddington)
  5. 16 Killer Keyword Research Resources For Total Niche Domination by Tommy Walker (@tommyismyname)
  6. A Beginners Guide to Keyword Research by Bill Germino (@BillGermino)
  7. An Introduction to Keyword Research Using Free Tools by Adam Whittles
  8. Blogging for SEO Part 1: Keyword Research by Claire Atwell (@claire_atwell)
  9. Headsmacking Tip #3: Run Your Blog Post Titles Through Keyword Research Before You Hit Publish by Rand Fishkin (@randfish)
  10. How to Do Basic Keyword Research by Marion Jacobson (@searchqueen)
  11. How to Do Keyword Research for a WordPress Site by Karol (@carlosinho)
  12. How To Do Keyword Research For Your Website, Find Hidden Keyword Gems by Maria Calanchini
  13. How to Do Keyword Research in 10 Minutes by Aviva Blumstein (@AvivaBlumstein)
  14. How to Do Keyword Research, On-Page SEO Your Blog Posts by Julian Wong (@julianhwong)
  15. How to Find the Keywords that Work for Your Content Marketing Goals by Beth Hayden (@bethjhayden)
  16. How to Improve Your Keyword Research with the Help of Google Trends by Amrit Hallan
  17. How to Research Keywords: Tips, Competition and Squirrels by Andy Crestodina (@crestodina)
  18. How To Use Keyword Research The RIGHT Way – Are You Doing It Wrong? by Andrew Wang
  19. How to Use Keyword Research to Supercharge Your Blogging Strategy by Frank Dickinson (@FrankDickinson)
  20. Importance of Conducting Keyword Research for Your Blog Posts by Chris Melfi
  21. Keyword Research for Web Writers and Content Producers by Brian Clark (@copyblogger)
  22. Keyword Research For Your Blog Content – Use People’s Problems For Your Market Research by Michaelangelo Flores (@mflores87)
  23. Keyword Research: How to Find Long Tail Keywords by Philip Alex (@philipalex08)
  24. Keyword Research is Critical to Your Success with Niche Sites by Sunil (@extramoneyblog)
  25. Keyword Research to Optimize Your Blog Posts by Matthew Allen (@matt76allen)
  26. Performing Keyword Research for Blog Posts by Blog Hands (@bloghandsseo)
  27. The Expert’s Guide to Keyword Research for SEO Copywriting by Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert)
  28. The Value of Keyword Research for Blogging by Chad Goulde
  29. Top 5 Keyword Research Tips by Charles Dovbish
  30. Using Google Keyword Research for SEO by Lisa (@wealthmission)
  31. What Metrics You Need to Understand For Keyword Research by Kyle

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about keyword research for bloggers? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Landing Pages

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

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