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How Lying Can Vastly Improve Your Blog


lying on your blog

Allison Boyer (that’s me) is a liar.

Lest I be accused of sensationalizing a title for a post that doesn’t live up to the hype, I want clarify something right now. This post is not going to be able how to trick or mislead your readers. So before you start thinking I’m a major scumbag, please understand that I’m only a huge, stinkin’ liar, but to one person: myself.

And this post is going to teach you how I lie to myself and why it has helped me vastly improve my posts.

It all started with a challenge to myself.

After NMX 2013, I heard someone mention that they didn’t think the conference had enough advanced content. This is something I believe to be untrue, but as I perused our blog, I realized that I had recently been writing a lot of beginner-level content. It made me think to myself, “I don’t want our advanced attendees or potential attendees to have to hunt for relevant content. I want them to read this blog and know that we’re dedicated to providing education at all levels.”

And so, I started to think about what I could do to “up” my game. I wanted to challenge myself to grow as a blogger and attract more advanced learners. After all, I have been blogging for over a decade and professionally since 2006, so there’s no reason I can’t teach to a “beyond-the-101-level” crowd.

First, I thought that it would help to imagine an A-list blogger reading my post. After all, this is the type of reader I was hoping to attract. But that wasn’t really enough, because it’s about more than the education. It’s also about the delivery. So then, I thought:

“What if I completely lie to myself and write a blog post as though it’s part of a portfolio I’m sending to my favorite advanced-level blogger to get a job.”

This idea came to be on a whim. I had just been speaking to a friend the day before about the fact that I hadn’t updated my writing portfolio in a long time because I wasn’t looking for a job. I remembered thinking how much work it was to choose and prepare pieces for this portfolio because you want to put your very best foot forward. Nothing seems good enough.

I might as well have been a cartoon character with a light bulb popping on above my head. Ding! How would it improve my writing to lie to myself about the posts I was writing was for my portfolio, which I’d be presenting to an A-lister in my field.

Self-deception Research

I started looking into the idea of lying to myself to improve my writing, and I actually found that research shows this kind of lying, officially called “self-deception” by scientists, can be beneficial. In an article by Sue Shellenbarger at the Wall Street Journal, experts note that this kind of lying has enormous advantages – in small doses. Says Robert Trivers, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Folly of Fools,”

“Believing we are more talented or intelligent than we really are can help us influence and win over others. An executive who talks himself into believing he is a great public speaker may not only feel better as he performs, but increase how much he fools people, by having a confident style that persuades them that he’s good.”

Most of us lie to ourselves on some level, and research by Zoe Chance from Harvard Business School suggests that we don’t even realize it.

Certainly self-deception can lead to more destructive behavior. We want something to be true, so we tell ourselves it is true, even when the facts say otherwise. Doing this can leave to giving ourselves permission to do terrible things. For example, someone might justify picking a male candidate over a female candidate, but when self-deceptive excuses are wiped away, the truth is that there was a gender bias.

Or maybe the male candidate actually was the better choice. Self-deception is tricky because it is so often unconscious.

The major theme I saw in most articles and studies about self-deception is that while their are benefits, lying to yourself can spiral out of control. So definitely proceed with caution. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’re not lying to yourself! Lie-ception!

The Experiment

The problem with self-deception in my experiement is the inherent consciousness that I was lying to myself. Writing a blog post like someone is going to read it as part of a portfolio is very different than writing a blog post you know someone is going to read as part of a portfolio.

To make it a little more “real,” I looks on some job boards and found a few high-level blogging and social media jobs. I tried to reach beyond my own skill level when searching, looking for jobs where I knew I wouldn’t be the most qualified candidate, or at least jobs where I wouldn’t be the only qualified candidate if I applied. If I wanted to be hired in any of these positions, I would have to really have to convince them to take a chance on me. I’d need to have the strongest portfolio possible.

The result? I wrote a number of posts I’m very proud of including these right here on the NMX blog:

I take pride in every post I write both here and on my own blogs. However, when I told myself that someone would be looking at these posts in order to consider me for a high-level job, I kicked things up a notch.

But this method isn’t sustainable.

I think that going through this process has helped me stretch myself as a writer, but it also isn’t sustainable over time. It’s easy to start thinking that no post is good enough, to start doubting everything you write. Analysis paralysis is no fun.

Also, in writing this kind of content, it’s easy to ignore what the beginner audience needs, at least in my specific case. Not every blog post you write has to be super detailed, analytical, or creative. Sometimes, you just need to get basic information across in a clear way. Here’s an example of that: How to Track Conversions from YouTube Viewers [Video]. I wouldn’t typically use this post as part of my portfolio, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a good lesson for people looking for this specific information.

Still, this was a great experiment. Most of the posts I wrote received a higher number of social shares than normal, including some attention from the advanced-level bloggers I did hope to attract. It may not be the approach I take when writing every blog post, but lying to myself was definitely a great exercise that I will use again to continue to grow my blogging skills.

Black Eyes and Bruises: How to Finish a Blog Post That’s Fighting You


Finish a Blog Post That's Fighting You

Most of the time, blog posts just kind of flow from my fingers as I type. I might do a bit of an outline before I start, but I can finish the first draft of most posts in under an hour (and sometimes in as little as 10-15 minutes).

But every so often, a blog post decides to fight me. I have a great idea–or so I think–but the words just won’t come. I’m stuck staring at a blank screen, and when I do finally get some words written, I’m not happy with what I’m producing.

So I scream.

Or, at least I want to. I don’t actually scream because I don’t want to frighten the neighbors, but I have a little temper tantrum that usually involves me slamming my laptop closed and proclaiming that I’m giving up blogging and all other writing jobs because I’m no good. At one point, I actually told my boyfriend at the time, “Stick a fork in me! I peaked while in college! IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE!”

I might be a tad dramatic when I have writer’s block.

Yet, this isn’t traditional writer’s block in that I don’t know what to write. I know exactly what I want to write. The words are just in a boxing match with me.

I’m going to share with you a few ways I get through it whenever this happens, but please tell me that I’m not alone. Have you ever experienced knowing what you want to write but for some reason not being able to write it? What do you do to get through this kind of writer’s block?

My tips:

  • Delete everything.

Yep. It seems harsh, but sometimes, the best course of action is to highlight the entire post and hit the delete button. When you aren’t feeling it, your readers aren’t going to feel it either, and editing a pile of crap is often not worth the trouble. Save the idea, but burn everything else to the ground. Starting fresh can be cathartic and it might inspire you to approach the topic in a new way, giving you the ability to write something worth reading.

  • Have the tantrum (and work on something else).

As I mentioned, when I can’t seem to write, I throw a fit like a five-year-old who’s balloon just popped. It’s actually pretty effective. I get really mad, pace a bit, and then work on something else. Like a post about what to do when you’re trying to finish a blog post that’s fighting you. (Seriously, I just got done with a tantrum about another post that is bothering me.) Sometimes, I just need to come back to the original post with fresh eyes another day.

  • Play devil’s advocate.

Sometimes, it can help me clarify my opinions on a topic if I try to write the opposite. Playing devil’s advocate is not easy, especially when you have really strong feelings about a topic, but doing so really helps me find weaknesses in my own argument. Looking at a topic from a different angle is also great for getting the creative juices flowing, so for that reason alone, I like doing this writing exercise.

One thing I never do, no matter how frustrated I might be, is publish a post that isn’t my best work. The amount of utter crap on the Internet disgusts me, and by not putting my best foot forward with every single post, I’m only adding to the problem. In addition, it opens up the gateway to complacency. One “meh” blog post easily turns into two and before long, you’ve lowered the bar for your entire blog. So, even if a post takes a little more time, I’ll let it give me a black eye while wrestling it to perfection instead of just muttering “good enough” and hitting the publish button.

Your turn: when you can’t find the right words for what you want to say, how do you get through the blogging slump and finish the post that’s fighting you?

5 Ways to Avoid B2B Blogger Burnout


falling from chair Whether you write about GPS systems or accounting software, you know blogging about business-to-business (B2B) topics gets boring quickly. As time goes by and you keep pushing for new topic ideas and trying to find more time to write about them, you often find yourself feeling uninspired, bored, or otherwise wishing for a way out. So you have to ask yourself: How can I avoid this problem in the first place?

To help answer that question, here are five ways to avoid getting burned out as a blogger!

Keep Up with the Competition

A little healthy competition can be a good thing. When you watch the other guys churning out quality content time and time again, you know it’s possible. What’s more, you’re challenged to try to keep up. Hopefully you’re already following a variety of other blogs in your industry, but if not, do some research and subscribe to a handful of the best. Then use them to keep yourself motivated.

Seek Out Inspiration

Finding inspiration goes hand-in-hand with eyeing the competition—by continuously taking in relevant content, you set yourself up to be inspired. Follow blogs in your industry, media outlets relevant to your field, interesting users on social media, and so on. Anything that serves to cultivate fresh ideas and concepts is worth using.

Get Help

When it comes to blogging, your load gets lighter when you ask for help. Who else on your team could contribute? If you’re a one-person operation, could you enlist guest bloggers? What series could you launch and then ask colleagues to contribute content? By delegating part of your blog work, you free yourself up to stay inspired.

Think Outside the Box

When you’re stumped for new topic ideas, don’t quit blogging—think about a blog post that’s different from the ones you’ve been doing. If you typically share your thoughts, why not post a roundup of other articles from around the Web? Or perhaps you might interview an industry authority, review a relevant book, or create and post a unique infographic. By letting yourself think outside the box, you expand the ways blogging can work for you.

Plan Ahead—and Be Realistic About It

Setting an editorial calendar for your blog, in which you plan a month’s or a quarter’s posts ahead of time, may sound daunting. The truth is, though, that knowing what you need to write ahead of time is half the battle. It’s harder to feel uninspired when Friday’s topic and synopsis are right before you. Likewise, when you set your schedule, be realistic about it. If you know you are only able to write once a week, set your calendar accordingly. This not only helps you avoid frustration and burnout, but it also gives your readers clear expectations about when you post.

What do you think? Have you experienced some sort of blogger burnout from time to time? What could you do about it? If you’ve tried one of the above strategies, has it helped? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Image Credit: Bigstock

24 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Writing Viral Posts


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: Writing Viral Posts

We all dream of waking up one morning to find that a post we wrote exploded over night and drove millions of new readers to your blog. Heck, forget millions most of us would be happy driving thousands or even hundreds of new readers to a post. We all cross our fingers that one of our posts will go viral, but the fact is that this isn’t common no matter how good your content may be.

Viral posts spread like an infection – fast and to many people. But what exactly defines a post as viral? And how do you replicate this success again and again on your blog? This week’s Brilliant Bloggers is all about how to write posts that set you up for this success. There may be no silver bullet formula you can follow that guarantees your post will go viral, but you can at least nudge things in your favor as much as possible!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

leo widrich What Makes Content Spread: The Anatomy of a Post that Got Over 500,000 Likes by Leo Widrich

If anyone knows a thing or two about viral posts, it’s the guys from Buffer, who see people sharing certain posts (and not sharing others) every day. In this post from Buffer’s Leo Widrich, the entire process of going viral is broken down into chunks, using a specific popular post as a case study. If you’re writing great content, but just can’t seem to reach that viral level, this is a post you need to read.

Also, make sure you follow Leo on Twitter at @LeoWid and check out Buffer as a content-sharing tool. Disclosure: they’ve exhibited at our conference in the past, but I wouldn’t recommend Buffer if I didn’t think this was an amazing tool.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 7 Steps to Create a Viral Blog Post by Jason Delodovici (@jdelodovici)
  2. 11 Tips to Write a Killer Blog Post that Can Go Viral by Nandita B. (@nanditaSEO)
  3. Create Powerful Viral Blog Posts With This Ten Point Plan by Scott Dudley (@ScottDudley)
  4. Five Easy Tips To Write Viral Blog Posts by Gary Lawood (@lawmacs)
  5. Forget SEO: Here’s How to Write a Post That Goes Viral by Neil Patel (@neilpatel)
  6. Go Viral: How To Write A Successful Blog Post by Josh Ebsworth (@CW_JoshE)
  7. Going Viral: Analyzing the Shared Characteristics Behind Viral Blog Posts by Tom Ewer (@tomewer)
  8. How I Used Twitter to Attract 34,771 Unique Web Hits by Derek Halpern (@derekhalpern)
  9. How to Go Viral with Your Blog Post by Terri Lee Ryan (@TerriLeeRyan)
  10. How To Plan And Write A Blog Post To Go Viral by Francisco Rosales (@socialmouths)
  11. How to Write Articles That Go Viral by Daniel Zeevi (@DashBurst)
  12. How to Write Copy that Goes Viral by Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog)
  13. How To Write For Viral Marketing by Chris Lentzy (@chrislentzy)
  14. How to Write Posts that Go Viral by Onibalusi Bamidele (@youngprepro)
  15. How to Write Posts that Go Viral in Social Media by Leslie Anglesey
  16. New Blogger? Create a Viral Post in 5 Simple Steps! by Greg Digneo (@GregDigneo)
  17. No More Blah Blogs: Let’s Go Viral by Hannah Kaufman for Savvy Panda (@savvypanda)
  18. Our Viral Blog Post Formula by Caitlyn Muir (@scribblinghappy)
  19. The Simple Secret Behind Writing Viral Blog Posts by Srivathsan G.K. (@dangerdiabolick)
  20. The Truth About Going Viral: What I Did After 1 Million People Stopped By My Blog by Jeff Goins (@JeffGoins)
  21. The Ultimate Guide to Creating Viral Content by Neil Davidson (@WEBPRESENTER)
  22. Who Else Wants to Write Viral Blog Posts? by Jasmine
  23. Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof by Carson Ward (@carson_ward)

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Hosting Webinars

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.

From Good to Great: 5 Ways to Turn Passion into Better Blogging


If there’s one thing that sets the big blogs apart, it’s passion. With that in mind, here are five ways to turn your passion into better blogging!

1. Be Willing to Learn New Things

Take that enthusiasm you have for your industry and use it to grow your ability to communicate about it. Blogging is a unique medium, different from magazine advertising, direct mail marketing, or email newsletters—so invest the time to learn how it works and to continually improve your skills. Here are a few areas to explore:

  • HTML/CSS: In today’s world of user-friendly blog software and templates, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding to start a site—but learning a few basics won’t hurt. In fact, with a little extra coding knowledge under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to tweak your design as you like. For a good start, see this helpful article at Google.
  • Design: Content may be king, but design definitely matters. Keep track of blog designs you like and continually look for ways to raise the bar on how your site looks to visitors.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization is crucial for increasing traffic because it helps bring users to your site when they’re already searching for related information. For more information on this topic, take a look at “Why SEO Matters No Matter How Brilliant Your Content Is.”
  • Photography: The Internet is a visual place, so improving your pictures goes a long way towards improving your site. At the Straight North Blog, we’ve used royalty-free images from Fotolia; at my personal blog Food Loves Writing, I’m always looking for ways to take better pictures and even to hand-illustrate when appropriate.

2. Let Your Excitement Show—on Social Media

When someone is passionate about what he or she is saying, it’s not hard to tell—and that’s just as true online as it is at cocktail parties. Whether on Twitter or Facebook or another site, let your genuine enthusiasm show by sharing and posting online the things that catch your attention.

  • Relevant Links: Find a blog or website that inspires and motivates you? Share it with your followers and tell them why you like it. Not only does this make your feed more valuable, but it also builds community with the authors and creators whose works you’re promoting. Food bloggers do this all the time when they share recipes and links from other sites, like Sarah Kieffer from the Vanilla Bean Blog does here on Facebook:

vanilla bean blog

  • Interesting Articles: When you come across a study or article that relates to your industry, tell your fans about it—they might feel the same way, like Helene from French Foodie Baby does here:

french foodie baby

  • Your Own Work: Promoting your own content on social networks is acceptable, as long as that’s not all you promote. With discretion, let your followers know about your recent work—blog posts, press releases, news updates—and where they can find it.

the house that lars built

3. Find Other People as Passionate as You Are

One of the greatest benefits of sharing your passion online is finding a network of people who also love what you love. Whether you’re a food blogger obsessed with baking, a business blogger fascinated by corporate case studies, or a graphic designer ever on the hunt for slick logos, you can bet there are other bloggers who feel the same way. By forming relationships with like-minded people, you create a strong community that greatly enhances your online experience. Reach out on social media or via email.

Some of the benefits of blog community include:

  • Genuine friendships
  • Loyal audience
  • Promotion of each other’s work
  • Creative inspiration
  • Opportunities to learn
  • Greater visibility
  • Enjoyment

4. Reach High for Specific Goals

Passion is great, but passion with a purpose is even greater. Rather than just striving to blog better, set specific goals—this helps guide your efforts and ensures you’re moving towards a better blog.

Three tips for setting blog goals:

  1. Be Specific: Don’t say, “I want to blog better.” Say, “I want 2,000 new RSS subscribers by the end of three months.”
  2. Make Goals Measurable: If your goal is more subscribers, find a way to calculate that number. If your goal is a lower bounce rate, set up Google Analytics. Make your goals measurable so you know if you’re hitting them.
  3. Set Time Limits: Be sure to set time limits on your goals. Rather than aiming to blog twice a week, aim to blog twice a week for a year—this helps to keep you motivated.

5. Branch Out

Who says you have to stop at blogging? Why not branch out beyond traditional posts into the world of videos or podcasts? Sometimes a new vehicle is all you need to improve your work. Here are a few ideas for spreading your passion even farther:

  • Videos: Visual, engaging, and filled with potential for adding your personality to your site, videos are typically crowd pleasers. Try answering reader questions, sharing behind-the-scenes information, running interviews over video, or giving helpful how-tos, like Meghan from Eat Live Make does here:

photography 101

  • Podcasts: Built off the idea of radio broadcasts, podcasts let you communicate with your audience orally, opening up all kinds of possibilities, from interviews to roundtable discussions to music and more. One new way to do this is through a Google+ Hangout, which is what Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks did on March 9.
  • Guest Posting: Spread your voice online by guest-posting on other websites, like authors do on this site regularly. This builds community with other blog authors and gets your brand out to a larger audience.
  • E-books: By making an e-book, you have a packaged product to sell or give away. This option is great for how-to guides, topical booklets, compilations, etc.  You may create the book in a Word processor, save it as a PDF, and market that PDF directly through your site; or you could go through a service like Amazon Kindle Direct, like we did with our ebook.

written together

Your Thoughts

Whether you’ve been blogging a day or a decade, what have you seen to be keys to blogging passion? How does it show? How can you nurture it? Is passion driving what you do?

10 Movie Plots That Can Help You Write Better Blog Posts


Formulas can make your writing boring, but they exist for a reason: they work. The key is making the same old, same old you own with a little creativity. In this post, we’ll go over 10 movie plots that can help you write creative, engaging blog posts for your community.

some like it hot

1. The Fish Out of Water

Description: The main character gets thrown into a situation where he or she is very uncomfortable. Hilarity typically ensues, and the protagonist usually learns a lesson.

Movie Examples: Big, Some Like it Hot, Edward Scissorhands

The Twist for Bloggers: We’re all a little set in our ways. Try putting yourself in a situation that isn’t comfortable for you, and reporting back on the results. It’s even better if you can put your own little spin on it. Teach your readers a lesson through your experiences.

Blog Example: Let’s say you run a food blog that typically posts home-style recipes, just like mama used to make. What would happen if you took one of her butter-heavy favorites and made a healthier version? Sure, you might not be a traditional health food blog, but this could be a nice spin, especially if you not only post the recipe, but also talk about what you’ve learned about slimming down a meal.

karate kid

2. The Coming of Age

Description: Coming-of-age films follow the story of a child becoming an adult. Through the series of events in the movie, the protagonist matures physiologically and enters a new stage of life.

Movie Examples: My Girl, Can’t Hardly WaitThe Karate Kid

The Twist for Bloggers: Tell your readers a “coming-of-age” story that makes sense for your topic. In other words, talk about your transition from one way of thinking to a more mature way of thinking.

Blog Example: A tech blogger, for example, could tell the story of how he/she always hated a certain brand of cell phones, until getting one for Christmas and finding out that all assumptions about the brand were wrong.


3. The Buddy Comedy

Description: Buddy movies pair two unlikely candidates together and put them in a situation where they have to rely on one another. Usually, the two people are of the same sex and they solve some kind of crime or defeat some kind of evil together, with hilarity ensuing at every turn.

Movie Examples: Men in Black, Up, The Odd Couple

The Twist for Bloggers: Team up with another blogger to do some joint debates, where you take one stance and the other blogger takes the opposite stance. You can combine these into one post, or write separate posts. The point is to give the reader a look at both sides of the coin so they can decide for themselves. It’s great for getting community interaction on your blog, since people like to give their opinions on polarizing topics.

Blog Example: We did this right here on the NMX blog when we asked Jason Falls and Marcus Sheridan to each talk about their opinions on using curse words on your blog.

texas chainsaw

4. Serial Killer/Slash

Description: Most serial killer (slasher) movies start with a group of unsuspecting teens or young adults who are having fun, and then start getting picked off one by one. At the end, there is usually one person or a couple left standing.

Movie Examples: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, Halloween

The Twist for Bloggers: The same way killer might pick off people one by one, you can pick off topics one by one in a special series, where you cover one item in a category every week/day.

Blog Example: Let’s say you have a home improvement blog. You could do a series on the types of tile, with each post covering one type and going over the advantages, disadvantages, and costs.


5. The Love Triangle

Description: One of the most common chick flick movies is the love triangle, where two people randomly meet and develop feelings for one another, but one of them is already engaged.

Movie Examples: Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Wedding Planner

The Twist for Bloggers: The essence of the love triangle is that one of the people realizes that they are not in love like they were or they realize that the relationship isn’t right and they should break it off. Think about a habit or technique relating to your topic that you really should quit, and talk to your readers about the outcome of doing so.

Blog Example: If you run a fashion blog, you could talk about how you have a tendency to buy or keep clothing that is too small, and how it was liberating to purge your closet of items that just remind you you aren’t as thin as you used to be.

slumdog millionaire

6. Rags to Riches

Description: The hero of this story goes from being poor and downtrodden to being rich in a strange turn of events. This can also mean that the “ugly” girl is turned beautiful or that the geek is turned into a popular kid.

Movie Examples: She’s All That, The Blind Side, Slumdog Millionaire

The Twist for Bloggers: How did you change your life? People read your blog because they want to be like you. So teach them lessons based on your own experiences.

Blog Example: On your financial blog, you could talk about how you got out of debt or on your marketing blog you could talk about how you grew your email list to over 100,000 people.

day after tomorrow

7. Man versus Nature

Description: The characters in the story are battling a natural disaster that threatens to totally wipe out mankind. Or, the characters are battling an animal that threatens to totally wipe out their little group. Either way, man is fighting Mother Nature, usually just battling to survive because there is no possibility of stopping the natural world.

Movie Examples: The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, Jaws

The Twist for Bloggers: What challenges are inevitably found in your life? How have you overcome these challenges? When you’re dealt a certain lot in life and don’t have a choice in the matter, what can you do to still succeed? The theme of your post should be survival of something you have no control over.

Blog Example: Maybe you run a small business blog and you can talk about how a small real estate firm used social media to survive the housing marking crash. Or maybe you have a green blog, and you talk about how you grow your own ingredients, even though your apartment has no outdoor space.

v for vendetta

8. Man versus Society

Description: The protagonist of a Man versus Society movie is battling against “the man.” He or she sees a problem in the world and chooses to stand against it. Often, this person ends up leading a revolution.

Movie Examples: Schindler’s List, V for Vendetta, Braveheart

The Twist for Bloggers: What do you see happening in your niche that is bad? It can be scarey to speak out against other big-name bloggers or common advice that everyone follows, but doing so can also start a revolution.

Blog Example: On our TBEX (travel exchange) blog, our CEO Rick wrote “You Are Not a Travel Blogger” about some of the bad behavior he sees in this niche and how some people who call them professionals aren’t really professionals.

shrek 2

9. The Sequel

Description: When a movie does well in the box office, it is usually followed up with a sequel. Sometimes the same actors are involved. Other times, it’s a completely new cast. Rarely is the sequel as good as the original, but sometimes it is even better.

Movie Examples: Shrek 2, The Dark Knight, Aliens

The Twist for Bloggers: Got a post that’s getting tons of traffic or comments? Write a follow up to that post. You could pull inspiration for your new post from a discussion in the comments or go into further detail about your opinion.

Blog Example: If you wrote an informative post about a recent news story, you could follow it up with an op-ed about the story. Or if you wrote “15 Tips for…” you could follow it up with “15 MORE Tips for…”

true grit

10. The Remake

Description: When a movie is good the first time around, it sometimes gets remade. People are usually highly critical of the remakes, because they loved the original, but you’re starting with a proven story, so there’s the opportunity for greatness with a remake.

Movie Examples: Dawn of the Dead, Scarface, True Grit

The Twist for Bloggers: There’s no reason you can’t rewrite a post to modernize it. Update the information so it’s more relevant for users. You can also do this with posts from other blogs, but make sure you’re adding something valuable of your own, not just rewriting information, and always give credit where credit is due.

Blog Example: Say someone in your niche writes “The Top Things You Need to Know about…”. You could write your own version of this, referring to some of his/her points, but also adding some of your own.

Some Final Thoughts

Of course, most movies are actually a combination of formulas and plots. If they weren’t, going to the movies would be pretty boring. So think about how you can combine some of these formulas and use them to create interesting blog posts. No matter what your niche, you can use these plots to make your blog better.

7 Pieces of Blog Advice to Ignore


When it comes to advice, blogging’s like anything else—everybody’s got an opinion, and these opinions often conflict. How can you know whose to trust? Which advice is the right advice? Are there certain tips that you can always assume to be untrue?

To help answer those questions, here are seven pieces of advice you can safely ignore:

1. “Always blog every day.”

One of the earliest and most popular pieces of advice given to bloggers was also one of the worst, saying you have to blog every day. While the experts say daily blogging is necessary for building traffic, the truth is that daily blogging is not the only way to gain readers. In fact, some bloggers find the pressure to post every day lowers their posts’ quality and therefore, in the long run, hurts them more than it helps.

Better advice: Blog regularly, but blog quality.

2. “You need to be controversial.”

Controversial topics indeed draw readers’ attention—but sometimes they backfire. When a site with a generally happy, uplifting tone publishes a sharp, critical article, the audience recoils. Controversy for its own sake is not beneficial; it’s alienating.

Better advice: Don’t feel you need to be controversial to be different. It’s just as interesting to approach a topic from a new angle or perspective. More than that, stay authentic to your own voice.

3. “Comment on other sites constantly.”

In blogging’s early days, everyone said to comment on other sites as much as possible because by responding on other blogs, you alert other bloggers to your site.

Better advice: Rather than commenting on blogs to bring traffic to your own, comment on other blogs when you’re genuinely interested in what the blogger has to say. This fosters real relationships.

4. “Don’t go too specific.”

The biggest blogs are about the biggest topics—or at least that’s what some experts say. That’s why specialists often recommend writing about the industries with the largest followings. But if writing about the popular topics isn’t authentic to your voice, readers will notice—and you’ll never get anywhere.

Better advice: When someone says your niche is too specific, don’t listen. Whatever your passion, an audience exists for it.

5. “You have to build traffic.”

Whether you blog about accounting or home design, the experts push for numbers, numbers, numbers. Everything is about building Web traffic and attracting more eyes to your content—but, in reality, building traffic is only one potential goal.

Better advice: Evaluate what you hope to accomplish with your site—Brand awareness? Better SEO for your website? New leads? More sales?—and see if that goal demands more traffic. If it doesn’t, don’t waste your time.

6. “Pull pictures from Tumblr.”

Everybody knows pictures make blogs more attractive and interesting—they give readers something to look at, respond to, and sometimes share. And if you look at other blogs, you’ll find other bloggers taking pictures from Tumblr or Pinterest and posting them on their own sites. You may do it, too.

Better advice: Most photos on Tumblr don’t link to the original source, and taking someone else’s picture without permission is not okay; it’s stealing. It’s better to use your own pictures, or use a resource that gives full permission for usage.

7. “Nobody reads blogs anymore.”

Here’s a piece of advice meant to discourage: Blogging is done. You hear this from cynics and experts alike, along with stats on how many blogs exist and how few find success. Why should you even bother with a blog? Stick to social media instead.

Better advice: The prevalence of blogging is less a testament to over-saturation and more a testament to its power. In 2013 more than ever, content is key for firms to stand out online, as well as for individuals. Blogs add relevant, authoritative content for businesses and draw big-time SEO power for websites. That’s why, whether you blog for business or pleasure, blogging is worthwhile.

Your Turn

Does this post resonate with you? Have you received advice like this from well-meaning blog experts and wondered what didn’t add up? What other bad advice have you received about blogging? What good advice?

The Unintentional Thought Leader: Seven Steps For Small Business Blogging


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?

Putting Pen to Paper: P H O T O G R A P H Y


Have you ever had a challenging time coming up with a blog topic? Everyone has a different way to jumpstart their juices. I simply take notes (yes, actually take to paper, pen in hand) and jot what comes to mind. So if you’re at a complete stop, simply grab a piece of paper, then start jotting anything that comes to you. Every dot is a powerful connector.

I love photography, so I decided to jot down each letter to jumpstart this post about my inspiration for taking photographs. Perhaps one of the letters will stick-to-mind on your next jaunt into the world of photography, or in your own writing discovery.


Passion: everything that gives this little planet a voice excites me. I am always present-minded aware that life is fleeting. It gives me that sense of urgency to capture unique moments of truth.

 Autumn Rainbow


Honesty: many people ask me if I “stage” my subject. I am a true believer in what you see in that moment is truth, and I want to snap it and share it, exactly how it presents in front of me.

Asbury Park Americana


Opportunity: opportunity is all around you. Look down, to the side, up. Frame a spot catching your eye. And snap the shot. Right place, right time.

Three Umbrellas


Timing: sometimes you’re simply in the right place at the right time. And, sometimes you’re not. So create that timing. When you anticipate that perfect moment wait, patiently… patiently.. patiently… then snap your shot!

Tent Sweet Tent

OOH!: it’s that feeling: “STOP THE CAR” ~ you just *have* to stop what you’re doing, grab your camera and take the shot. There’s nothing like the feeling that you captured a moment no one else had the chance to see, and immediate need to share it!

Sandy Moment


Gratitude: when I’m in the right place at the right time; when I upload my photos to my computer then discover the camera captured something I didn’t see, I say “thank you” aloud to The Universe.


Readiness: goes without saying.  A photographer is *always* ready to take the shot. Whether it be camera-in-hand or simply cell phone with camera, anything with a lens, and memory.


Amazement: I truly am amazed by life. Its design, texture, color, shape, expression. Everyday is a day of wonderment and inspiration to capture that moment.



Patience: admittedly, not my strongest ability, though, interestingly, if I anticipate that perfect shot, I can hold tight and still for as long as it takes.

Effervescent Rainbow


Happy: the moment I have the opportunity of time to grab my camera and head outdoors to shoot, I’m happy, and all in the world is good.



Yay! The feeling of sharing my photos and seeing a person’s eyes light up and say “Wow! I love this!” It gives me complete joy to evoke emotion with a photograph. It gives me a true sense of accomplishment and confirmation of purpose in the art of photography.

Snowswept Beach


So if you find yourself at full-stop on ideas for starting your post, or you’re a budding photographer interested in looking for a way, or reason to begin, simply grab your pen, and sheet of paper. Your mind already knows the answer; it just needs the pen and paper to jot the “how to” and then, you’re on your way!

Do you have more tricks for coming up with, and moving ideas ahead?

Making Quality Writing Count in New Media


Paraphrasing a very wise SNL character: “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

A decade ago, a pair of twenty-somethings at a party asked what I thought about the future of traditional journalism with online media and communication gaining speed, strength and reach.

“The Internet,” I said, as if I had half a clue, “is a double-edged sword. On one side you have this world-shaking, powerful technology that allows anyone to have a voice, to publish what they have to say, a privilege once reserved for those with power and money.”

And the other side of the sword, they asked.

“Not everyone has something to say.”

These days, there’s still a double edge, but it’s on a different sword. There are plenty of people who, through the power of online self-publishing have discovered that, yes, they do actually have something to say.

And the other side of the sword?

Most are not very good at saying it.

It sounds like an uber-snooty remark but, truthfully, there really is an Everest-size difference between saying something and telling a story, between a compelling narrative and a rehash of a diary, between informing and regurgitating, between writing and, well, just typing. There’s a similarly sized difference between getting readers to open your blog and getting them to come back.

Responding to a LinkedIn question I posted about the importance of quality writing in blogs, nearly every poster said yes, they prefer sites that are well written. While the reasons varied, the one that jumped out at me was painfully simple:

“Readers want to feel like they’re having a discussion with somebody smarter than they are. Poor writing, no matter how well informed, won’t get that done.”

Are we talking about Steinbeck? No. Solid writing has less to do with prose and fancy phrasing than it has to do with 3 steps: Having a point, knowing what that point is, and writing to that point. Sounds simple, but a quick cruise through the blogosphere (and, frankly, a lot of legacy media outlets) shows that the importance of a point is, at best, underestimated.

That said, it’s not difficult to, with a few basic tips, make writing significantly better. Really.

Are there bloggers who are wildly successful without great writing skills? Of course. They have to work harder or rely more on their other tools – photography, videography, research, self-promotion, SEO – to not just gain new readers, but to keep them.

Can you rely entirely on great writing to be wildly successful? No. You still have to have something to say.

“If it ain’t one thing …”

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to learn how to turn your writing into powerful storytelling, be sure to check out Spud Hilton‘s session at NMX in January, entitled “Road map to storytelling: Writing that turns visitors into loyal readers.”


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