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10 Ways To Stand Out As a Blogger

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If you want to be like everybody else, go with the flow. But if you want to stand out as a blogger, you’ve got to be different. Here are 10 good ways to differentiate yourself from the sea of other bloggers out there by bringing something unique to the table!

1. Be Generous: One of the most effective ways to get readers’ attention is by being generous. Respond to comments. Interact on other blogs. Promote others’ work. Host a giveaway at your own expense. Continually look for ways to give to the blogging community, and you not only come across as a generous blogger—you become one worth following.

2.Be Passionate: When you’re genuinely excited about something, your audience can tell. Write about topics that truly matter to you, and look for ways to communicate your passion to your audience. This could be through writing, podcasts, videos, or something else. Do what feels right to you.

3. Be Everywhere: Making your blog visible is about more than churning out regular content. You need to find ways to reach your audience even off your specific site. Engage on social networks like Twitter and Facebook by providing links to your content, related links, and interesting updates. Guest post on other sites to tap into other sites’ audiences. Do what you can to be in as many places as possible in order to build your presence online.

4. Take an Alternate View: When everyone else in your niche is saying “up,” be the guy who says “down.” An alternate viewpoint can be the thing that makes you interesting. Try this tactic with caution, however—being different just to be different rarely works. Your audience needs to sense you’re also authentic about your contrary view.

5. Try a Different Spin: Talk about business like a comedian. Write about recipes through poems. Do a photography blog wherein you only post photos taken at the same certain time every day. Do what you can to find a way to take a different spin on your subject matter, and you’re sure to stand out.

6. Go Beyond a Template: Blogging templates are great tools to start with, but to make your site more noticeable, move away from an “out-of-the-box” design. Customize your template with a professional logo/header, attractive social media buttons, and so on. It should be different from any other site, not an exact replica.

7. Showcase Original Content: Write creative content for your blog that readers can’t find anywhere else. Likewise, instead of using clipart to spice up your posts, take your own photos—and make them good.

8. Build Real Relationships: Your readers are more than numbers; they’re people. Take the time to connect and engage with these people to build real relationships—this alone sets you apart from many bloggers and also builds your audience over time.

9. Don’t Give Up: Anybody can start a blog and quit within the first year— most bloggers do. So rather than joining that statistic, take the road less traveled simply by not quitting. If you keep consistently blogging for over a year, you’re already going to be in the upper echelon of writers who don’t give up.

10. Be Yourself: The reality is that there’s no other blogger on earth who can blog like you can, with your personality and perspective and history of life experiences. Infuse your blog with who you are, and you’ll have a unique voice unlike anyone else’s.

Have you used any of these approaches? What’s worked for you? Any ideas to add to the list?

10 Tips for Your Brand or Business to Get Started on Instagram

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instagram homepage

instagram homepage Photo-sharing app Instagram isn’t the first service to help brands and businesses share pictures from a mobile device to your community and it definitely won’t be the last.

Instagram, fresh from finalizing its acquisition by Facebook and crossing the 100 million users mark, has become the prominent dashboard for capturing, editing, and sharing images across the social web. With the growing importance and emphasis placed on images within social media, Instagram has become an optimal visual sharing mobile platform.

If your brand or business is ready to integrate Instagram into your content strategy and social media mix, here are 10 things you can do now to get started on the path.

GET STARTED

Reserve Your Instagram Name

Instagram is currently not set up to have brand/business accounts, but you can set up more than one personal account. If you already have a personal Instagram account, just make sure that you sign-up for another account using a different email address.

KEY TIP: If you are having difficulty securing a username, Instagram does have a trademark policy in place and by contacting Instagram you may have a chance at claiming your business Instagram name.

Set Up Your Profile

Instagram allows you to add a profile image, bio, and link to your website. Take advantage of filling these out and keep your information descriptive and simple.

KEY TIP: Since Instagram is rooted in mobile usage, make sure that the website that you decide to link your profile to is mobile friendly.

Sync Your Social Profiles

Instagram can be an excellent visual starting point for any photographic content that you wish to syndicate on other platforms. Take Facebook, for example, you can share your Instagram photos to brand pages, ensuring that your content displays larger and more prominent in Facebook streams than conventional shares and updates.

KEY TIP: Be sure to connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and any other third-party social sharing sites where you have an account (Profile > Edit sharing settings).

DEVELOP A STRATEGY

What’s Your Story

Instagram is a great platform to tell your brand story and can allow you to connect with your audience on a very emotional level. Spend time researching what Instagram consumers are most excited about, what type of content they engage with the most, and why consumers should even follow you on Instagram in the first place.

KEY TIP: Planning out your brand story and content strategy ahead of time will give you the insight into how and where your Instagram content will be distributed within your social media ecosystem.

Develop Your Editorial Calendar

Much like an editorial calendar for your blog, Twitter, or Facebook page, Instagram should be viewed with the same comprehensive tactics.

Brands can earn greater reach and results by investing in a journalistic approach to their content. Move your editorial calendar away from promotional messaging to the delivery of very useful, inspiring, and meaningful images that will drive engagement and positive viewing experiences.

You can define a schedule on how often you would like to update Instagram. At the beginning of the week you may decide to post behind-the-scenes images of your business, followed by new product updates mid-week, and finally ending with inspirational quotes or photos leading into the weekend.

KEY TIP: Entering a social platform takes commitment and consistency. Over time, your brand or business should be able to understand what type of images are most engaging within your community. You will also learn when is the optimal time your Instagram audience is most active.

Cross Platform Integration

Since Instagram is a tool that works best in conjunction with other social platforms, developing a strategy within a holistic social media strategy is a strong approach. Visually-emphasized sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Facebook can benefit from the additional photographic content that will help further the reach and engagement of your messaging.

KEY TIP: When re-publishing content across multiple platforms consider adjusting the copy on each platform’s post. Copy that is suited for Pinterest with a specific call to action may not work for Facebook.  Facebook and other social platforms may require a different call to action.

ENGAGEMENT TACTICS

Involve Your Staff and Employees

Sticking to a set Instagram editorial calendar can get overwhelming at times, especially when you find yourself with a shortage of visual content to update. This can be a perfect opportunity for your brand or business to begin involving your staff and employees.

Not only will empowering your staff in contributing to Instagram give them a stronger sense of ownership, it will also show your employees a more creative side of your business and how social media can play a valuable part.

KEY TIP: Like any other social platform it’s about defining a brand voice. Instagram is just a more visual medium. Behind-the-scenes photos from staff and employees can put additional faces to your brand or business, as well as show a holistic view of your brand.

Engage Your Community

Be sure that you stay engaged with your community even when at times you may feel like you have nothing to share. Just like any other social platform, remember that Instagram is a community too and that reciprocity is key! Reach out to your followers and other Instagram users by liking and commenting on photos, especially if they mention your brand or business. This can increase visibility and provide additional insights to defining your community. Responding back to comments can be viewed as active participation in the community and will continue to keep your consumers engaged and happy.

KEY TIP: Other engagement opportunities can include creating contests and promotions that encourage your community to talk about your brand or business. Feel free to share any promotions/contests you may have running on your other social profiles. This will help raise the awareness with your consumers that you are on Instagram and will be providing content that may be valuable to them as well.

Tag and Geo-Tag Your Photos

Incorporating hashtags (just like on Twitter) will help increase visibility. A great start can be as simple as using a hashtag for the photo’s subject matter, location, filters used, and maybe even additional inspirational descriptions. While hashtags can increase visibility and build context around your images, don’t go overboard.

Instagram now places additional emphasis on geo-located images with their integration of a map function in app, geo-tagging your photos can provide additional visibility.

KEY TIP: If you don’t like the look of all those hashtags in your photo caption, feel free to add hashtags in a comment below the caption. This will keep updates cleaner yet still prove functional within Instagram search queries. As for geo-tags, adding a location to your photos, whether it is a city or even your actual place of business, will provide greater context around your Instagram images that consumers can engage with.

MEASURE AND OPTIMIZE

Utilize Tools To Optimize Your Content

After all is said and done, gaining more insight into your community and content will keep you on the continued path of optimizing your photos. There are a number of different tools such as Statigram or SimplyMeasured that are available for brands and businesses that can shed light into your most engaged times to post during the day, best filter used, and even identifying your brand advocates who engage with your content the most.

KEY TIP: Define what your success metrics are when it comes to Instagram and developing your strategy. This will help you to know what goals you want to achieve and what you’ll need to optimize to get there.

Remember that Instagram should reflect your brand or business as a whole and not attempt to create it’s own identity. Instagram can be a positive investment within your social eco-system that you may be pleasantly surprised with later down the line.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

24 Must-Read WordPress Tips and Tricks

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WordPress tips Whenever I do a workshop on WordPress, I see the little flashes, the light bulbs that turn on when someone finally “gets it.” And it isn’t always something earth-shattering. Often it’s that tiny problem that’s been bugging you forever. You know—the one that when you solve it, life becomes a little easier.

Here 24 tips and shortcuts that might eliminate some of those bumpy spots in the road:   

  1. When you do a return in a post or page, you always get a double space. If you want it single, simply press <shift> <return> on your keyboard.
  2. Creating a powerful password for your admin login is the first step in making your site more secure. The second is to change that password monthly.
  3. To get your readers to click through to your full post, stop it at exactly the spot where they will be most curious to read the next sentence. Every post has such a spot (or it should). To take advantage, stop the post there and insert the “read more” tag.
  4. If you have unused plugins or themes installed, and have not activated, delete them. This greatly beefs up site security.
  5. If you are looking for a WordPress developer to create your site, your first question should be: “Do you know php?” If they claim to be a developer (not a designer), but their answer is no,  run!
  6. Don’t use a widget because it’s cool and shiny. Use it because it is useful to your reader.
  7. Whether it’s your WordPress blog or website, make sure that people are able to contact you. Don’t hide your contact info in size two font in the footer of the page. Make a separate, highly visible contact page.
  8. Remember, it’s WordPress. Capital W, capital P, no space between. If you land on a site and they call themselves a WordPress expert, but spell the name wrong, beware.
  9. When inserting a photo into your post or page, don’t forget the alt (alternate) tag. This is what Google looks for when it’s indexing images on the web and the big G doesn’t like a site with alt tags missing.
  10. If you have chosen to block search engines in your privacy setting during the construction of your blog or website, remember to turn it back on when you go live. Because that little sucker blocks them good.
  11. Keeping your plugins up-to-date is just as important as keeping your WordPress version up-to-date.
  12. Do you want to change your homepage to a static page rather than your blog? Can’t figure out what to do? Create a page for your homepage and one for your blog. Then go to settings >reading and change the settings on the “front page displays.”
  13. If you are self-hosted, back up your database and all your files regularly. Hear that? Back up, back up!
  14. Think about the theme you choose for your blog or website. Does it meet all your needs? Does it allow your site to grow as your business grows? Because if you decide to switch themes down the road, chances are it’s not a simple one-click process.
  15. If you fly off the handle or rant in a blog post, remember, the moment you hit that publish button, it appears on the web and to your RSS subscribers. If you are angry when you write a post, it’s always best to save it as a draft and revisit it later for one last look.
  16. Use a photo to provoke emotions in your blog post. Not only will you attract more readers, but they will remember your content longer.
  17. If you have only one row of tools when you are creating a page or post, simply click on the far right button, “show kitchen sink,” and you will get a whole second row of tools.
  18. If you are still using the default “admin” for your user name, it’s time to get rid of it. Create a new one, then delete the old one, assigning all posts and pages to your new user name. Otherwise you are giving hackers 50% of your login info.
  19. If you cannot find an option on your edit post or page window, check the tab “screen options” in the upper right corner. That feature may be hidden.
  20. To expand your editor window, grab the lower right, ridged corner and drag it.
  21. Be careful when you underline text. Readers still have a habit of thinking any underlined text is a link.
  22. Remember to turn off your comments on static pages. No one wants to comment on your about or contact page.
  23. Remove or replace the default blog tagline under your general settings. Otherwise, people will see that generic message that says, “Just Another WordPress Site.”
  24. And lastly, don’t be taken in by over-promises.  Like most worthwhile things, WordPress has a learning curve.

14 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

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As the owner of a blog there are several issues bloggers have to deal with. One of the biggest challenges is learning how to write quality content.

Below I will give you 14 tips to becoming a better blogger.

1. Write with a goal.

Every time you sit down to write you need to have a goal in mind. Maybe the article is supposed to educate, inform, or trigger thought. Knowing your direction will make the article flow more easily. People all over the internet write different types of articles for different reasons. For example, if you are looking to get on the big popular blog sites, you don’t want to write short articles that carry no meaning. The alternative is writing long informative 800-1,000 word articles that actually deliver quality information on your topic.

2. Do your research.

The better you know the topic, the easier it will be to write about it. By knowing your topic, you can cut down on the time it takes to create informative articles your readers will enjoy. Follow a general blogging rule; the topics you choose should be ones in which you are an expert. If you don’t consider yourself an expert, become one.

3. Just write.

The more you write, the better you will get at it. Don’t just focus on personal topics, but challenge yourself to research and write on topics you don’t know. Write on anything and everything, and your overall writing skills will improve, not to mention your typing speed. Both things will help you reduce writing time in the long term.

4. Write with your readers in mind.

Instead of writing with the idea of making money, write about what interests your readers. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the reason my readers are reading my article?
  • Am I addressing their needs and concerns?
  • Why would anyone read what I have to say?

If you can get into the mind of your reader and what they are seeking from you and your writing, you’ll be able to address their needs and write something that they will enjoy and keep coming back for.

5. Backlinks.

If you are writing for the purpose of back linking remember to include your keywords. Now with back linking I am going to say the main goal is still the same and that’s to attract your readers, remember traffic is the key to getting ranked in Google. As Google recommends, create your content for your readers, not just to improve your ranking in Google. If all you’re trying to do is rank in Google you will fail.

6. Learn to use crafty titles.

Titles are one of the most important parts of the article and a big part of the writing battle. It doesn’t matter how informative or well written your article is, if the title doesn’t catch the readers and make them want to open the article then all your blogging is pointless. With that being said, spend some time on your blog post title. Next, focus on making it reader friendly and interesting.

7. Write with passion.

If you are bored by your topic, chances are your writing is going to not only show it but bore your readers as well. If you love your topic then your readers will be able to pull the passion right off the content you write. The more passion they feel on the topic, the more interested they become in what you’re blogging about. Not to mention, you my gain them as a daily reader.

8. Forget the Grammar.

Stopping to do spell check and grammar is a killer on time when you are first writing. When you constantly stop to edit your post, most likely your post will die with it. Instead, focus on getting the thoughts and ideas down, and then go back and do the spelling and grammar checks. You’ll find your mind thinks and writes much quicker by using this method.

9. Quality.

There will forever be the debate over quality and quantity. The truth is good quality will automatically give you quantity. If you are always providing good quality then people will check out your work on a regular basis. The more publishers that take notice of your work, the more targeted traffic you will be getting.

10. Turn off word count.

Don’t worry about how many words your post has in it. Sure, don’t have your posts be 100 words each, try and keep it above 300 words but whatever. This is the best way to ensure that your articles are quality and not fluff. Watching word count makes you want to add extra wording that does not need to be there and it keeps you from concentrating on your content.

11. Read. Read. Read.

Reading is a way to open you up to the world and what it has to offer. It also gives you knowledge that can be used in your writing. Some people don’t believe this but it can help with your grammar and vocabulary all of these are things that can lead to quality content.

12. Check the competition then do it better.

Find out what your competition is doing and try and do it better. By knowing what kind of content you are trying to compete with, you can improve your own skills and marketing mindset.

13. Use your target audience language.

If you are writing for highly educated people, your writing should reflect that. If you are targeting parents, write from the mindset of a parent. You get the picture. Now what this means; you have to know who your target audience is and what they need. Figure this out and it will be a gold mine to you.

14. Understand that writing is a skill.

It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. If that is the case then you need to spend lots of time practicing. You also have to realize writing is not for everyone. If writing is not your thing then you should consider outsourcing the work to others. There are tons of people that love to write content. Check out Blogging.org, it’s a great resource for finding quality writers at cheaper prices.

I hope these tips will help you improve your content writing skills. These tips are not going to help unless you actually start writing and putting them into practice. Once you do this it will become second nature.

If you already use these tips or have others feel free to share them.

When I Land on Your Blog, Please Don’t Make Me…

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I love finding new blogs to read. I won’t even tell you how many I subscribe to (hint: it’s in the hundreds). There are so many hidden gems out there, and once I find one, a big smile spreads across my face.

At least sometimes.

Because even though your blog might have the most fantastic content in the world, unfortunately, I may not become a reader. And while the content is the main reason I’m there, it’s the middle stuff. What happens before I read it and after I read it is just as important.

Now some of you might be saying,  this is my blog and I’ll do what I want. Hmmm, so you don’t care about your readers? You are writing for yourself then?  You are writing what you want to, and damn those pesky readers?

The problem is this: Unless you just want to vent or share life experiences no one but your mom cares about, then you need to care about your readers. If you don’t, then why not just keep a journal?

So here’s the deal. Whether I find your blog through a link, a comment you left on another blog, a Google search, or just by accidentally ending up on your site…

When I land on your blog, don’t make me…

Wonder what your blog is about

It drives me crazy  when I first land on a blog and the title, tagline, and header picture don’t tell me, “This blog is  about XYZ.” I am not going to assume anything from the link or even your description in the search engine listings. When I arrive at your site, within a second or two, my eyes are drawn to the header. If you talk about social media, say so. Because the photo in your header? The one of a quiet stream in the woods? That does nothing for me.

Get distracted by too many shiny objects

We all love fun stuff, shiny objects, cool things. But don’t put too many of them ‘above the fold.’ Sure, if there is a huge ad before your post, if it’s something I really need at the time, maybe I’ll click on it. But will I come back to read your post after you have taken me away from your blog? Probably not. Yes, you want people to take action when they land on your homepage, but engage them with your wonderful content first.

Hack my way through long, unformatted paragraphs

It’s a fact, people, the majority of our readers are skimmers and scanners. They are attention disordered and are looking for just the specific information they need.  They may not even read the whole post.  But your post length is not the issue. It’s the formatting.

Are you using numbers, bullets and a large enough font size? Are you breaking up text with decent sized sub-heads. Do you include great photos? All of these things will make your reader’s experience more enjoyable.

Have to close a pop-up window

Okay,  this is my personal rant. Yes, I have a marketing background and understand how effective they can be. And yes, you can grow a decent list that way. But personally, I think they suck. I have landed on your blog for the very first time and you expect me to say, “Well, duh, I don’t know you from Adam, but sure, I’ll sign up for your newsletter, though it may be nothing but crap.” You might also say, everyone does it, so it must work. Well, my mom had a saying about that.

And when I’m finished reading your blog, don’t make me…

Wonder how to share your post

Share buttons are simple to install, yet I still find many good blogs out there without them. Please let me share. I was told as a kid that it’s a good thing. Because you have lost me if you are making me copy the title of your post, open Twitter or Facebook, create a nice little message, paste in your title, go back and copy the URL, return to my update, paste that in and send. I wouldn’t even do that for my best friend.

Not find a way to subscribe to your blog

I realize that you are more interested in growing your newsletter list, so that opt-in box is prominent. I also get it that you would rather have people subscribe to your blog via email, so you can build that list. But please give me that little RSS subscribe button so I can add your wonderful blog to my reader. We may be in the minority, but don’t ignore us.

Wonder about who you are

Most of us readers want to know about the blogger. That is why blogs have about pages. Add one to your blog. Give me some insights into who you are. Because if I am looking for more info on you, that’s a good thing, right?  I’m not a stalker. I simply want to learn more about the fascinating person behind the words.

Struggle to connect with you

So I have read your post. I like what you say. I’m thinking that maybe you would be worth following on Twitter. Hopefully I’ll be able to find those shiny social connect buttons. Or maybe I want to do more than connect with you. I want to hire you. Yes, you impressed me that much. I should have no problem finding the contact button in your navigation bar, right? I won’t need to drop down to the footer and find the words “email me” in 6-point font.

So there you have it. I know there are other things that are just as critical, but just wanted to share my thoughts. And the next time I land on your blog, welcome me with open arms, I’m really not such a bad guy.

What about you?

Is the before and after experience just as important to you as reading the post?

The Devil Is in the Details: A Blogger’s Guide to Best-Kept WordPress Secrets

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Last week, at BlogWorld in NYC, I found myself thinking about the conference in a different way. I had recently organized WordCamp Seattle for the first time. And as I watched BlogWorld unfold, I could relate to all the energy the organizers had expended up to then, and what they would be experiencing over the next three days—although BWE was easily 10 times bigger than my event. The key to a successful conference is attention to the details. because it’s the small things that can make a big difference in an attendee’s experience.

And as I finished presenting my session at BlogWorld, I thought about how the experience of WordPress users can also be affected by the small details. WordPress is notorious for hiding small, simple solutions. Some of the brightest people I know have struggled for hours with something that should just have taken them mere minutes.

When I share these small details at workshops, I always find at least one person who has been using WordPress for months, only to finally have their ‘a-ha moment.’ More often than not I will hear a gasp coming from a chair somewhere in the back row.

It was no different at my session at BlogWorld.

Those freaking’ WordPress details that can drive a blogger mad

The Kitchen Sink

If you have been working with one row of buttons in your editor window, live dangerously and click on that last button. Now you suddenly have a whole new row of options.

Editor Window Size

By default, the editor window isn’t very big, which makes it hard to see much of the post or page you are working on. Here are two solutions: 1) grab that ridged corner in the bottom right and drag, or 2) go to settings > writing and increase the number of lines in the size of post box.

Privacy Setting

Are you not showing up in Google? Sometimes by default, or perhaps when the person was setting up your site, they may have blocked your site to keep the search engines from indexing your page before your site was finished. Make sure you check out your privacy settings under settings > privacy.

Changing Your Homepage from a Blog to a Static Homepage

This is a biggie. So many times bloggers find a simple theme, but down the road decide they would rather have the homepage, or landing page, a static intro instead of a lists of posts. They would rather see the blog as an inside page. It’s pretty simple. Create a page, call it homepage, and add your content. Then create a page and call it ‘Blog,’ but don’t add any content to it. Now go into your settings > reading and change “Front page displays” to “Static Page.”

Your Publicly Seen User Name

Typically, when you create a username to sign in to your WordPress dashboard, it isn’t your actual name (for security reasons, of course). Your user name might be something like: bobX45Ng88. But when you do a post, you don’t want it to say “Posted by bobX45Ng88”. So go into your profile, fill in your first and last name, and then, from the drop down menu by “Display name publicly as,” choose your first, last, or both names for your posts. Or you can create a nickname and use that instead.

Hide Comment Box on Pages

This is a common mistake. There is nothing more strange looking than to find a comment box on a page of a site. For example, if I see a comment box on your contact page, I think, what the heck? Am I supposed to say something like “Wow, great contact page. I never thought of doing one like this. I really like how you created this form.” Your theme may allow you to turn off comments on all pages globally, but if not, when creating a page, scroll down to your Discussion options and uncheck the “Allow Comment” box. It will make your readers and your blog much happier.

So, there you have it, just some of the small details in WordPress that can drive a blogger crazy.

What other things have taken you over the edge of sanity?

Why No One Shares Your Blog Posts

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Ever write a blog post, hit publish, and feel like all you hear are crickets? If your content isn’t remarkable, it’s not shareable. Social sharing is the new link-building. It’s a Panda world and we’re just blogging in it, so that means social authority matters more to Google than garbage content.

People share content for a variety of reasons. We share content to define ourselves to others, earn respect and develop a sense of belonging. That definition of self can vary – it can be a professional or expertise definition. It can also mean sharing hipster things because you want to be a hipster.

Either way, when it comes to content marketing, you need to ask yourself if you are serving these needs of your readers and potential sharers. Are you filling your editorial calendar with content that is interesting and entertaining enough for people to want to associate their personal brands with it? If not, you better re-think your approach and consider these 7 tips.

Why No One Shares Your Blog Posts

1. Your Headline Sucks

Your headline is the most important part of your post because it’s your first impression. It’s what people see in big text when your blog post shows up in search engine results.

It’s also what they see when your content is tweeted and shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. So without a great headline, few people will get that initial intrigue that makes them want to click through and check out your post. Write great headlines that are descriptive, but also spark a sense of urgency. And don’t be afraid to try a funny or snarky one, too. Grab their attention with the headline, and hook them with the great content behind it.

2. You Write About Yourself

Your company is interesting to you and your mom. So she might subscribe to a blog full of company party photos and long essays written from your point of view. But is your mom your target audience?

When readers are visiting your blog for the first time, they don’t care about you yet. Make them care by addressing the topics they want to learn and talk about. How-to articles and lists of tips and resources are good formats to begin with.

3. … But You Don’t Write Like Yourself

Developing your own unique voice is a great way to build a community of regular readers who want to share your posts. One blog that I think does a particularly great job with this is Nerd Fitness. The blog’s author Steve Kamb is enthusiastic, descriptive and personable in every single post. And the posts have a similar format each time: YouTube videos, funky stock photos of Lego men. LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS AND BOLD TEXT LIKE THIS!! Plus, there’s generally just a lot of positive messaging. This style isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t meant to be. It’s what fits this readership, and they love to share it. Develop your own style.

4. Your Posts Are All the Same

Ever listen to a band and every one of their songs sounds the same? Nickelback, I’m looking at you… Change up the format of the content with charts, infographics, videos, photos, and other visuals to keep people coming back for more. If you look at Social Media Examiner‘s posts, you’ll see how they break up the text with different visuals, headings, and bold text. Be sure to enforce this formatting through editorial guidelines.

5. There is No Clear Takeaway

If there isn’t a clear takeaway from your content, people don’t have a key point to share with their friends and followers. Long paragraphs full of allegory, symbolism, adjectives, and adverbs are best saved for English literature class. Cut to the chase, and make the lessons from your content loud and clear. I think this is particularly important for B2B content. If people wanted to make time for rambling, they’d read a magazine.

6. You Make it Difficult to Share

It’s surprising to me how many blogs either don’t have social sharing buttons or don’t have them properly formatted for sharing. It’s easy to get caught up in selecting the perfect design or theme and then forget about the obvious, functional elements likes social media buttons or “subscribe by email” widgets. Have at least a simple design that looks clean, but first get the basic features on your blog and get a content plan in line. Then go crazy with design.

What makes you want to share a blog post? How will you use these elements in your blogging? Let us know in the comments!

10 Best Blog Tools for Beginners

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Blogging can be challenging for beginners. We’ve all been there: the early days of blogging when it’s exciting just to receive a single comment on one of your posts, when writing good content takes up all of your free time, and when it feels like you’re talking to no one on social media.

So today, I wanted to share with you all the best blog tools for beginners. These tools can help you make friends online, find new readers, save time, and avoid common blogging mistakes. And of course, I hope there are a few tricks in here for experienced bloggers too! I didn’t start using some of these tools until late in the game, simply because I didn’t know about them.

1. Windows Live Writer

I know I’ve mentioned this tool before, but I have to start by mentioning it again – it is super valuable if you’re a blogger on the go (and who among us isn’t?). Windows Live Writer can be downloaded onto your desktop so you can write blog posts when you’re offline, making it perfect for travelers, and because you can link it to your blog (or multiple blogs), when you type, you’ll see how the blog post will look when it’s live on your site, which is invaluable for placing pictures and doing other formatting tasks. When you’re connected again, you can simply upload your posts straight to your blog without having to copy/paste. So now you can make use of otherwise wasted time during your day by writing blog posts for later.

2. Zemanta

Another tool that you may not be surprised to find on this list, since I’ve mentioned it before, is Zemanta. This plugin sits on your dashboard in the “new posts” page and allows you to quickly link to other resources as you’re creating your blog posts. You can set it up to hunt for related posts from people you know, and you can also insert posts from members of the Zemanta community you don’t know yet. Linking to others’ posts is a great way to make friends in the  blogging community. They also have a new image insertion process, which makes adding high-quality fair use images easy to insert into your posts, saving you time.

3. PicFont.com

Need to add text to a picture? Unless you have a photo editing program like Photoshop, you might find yourself resorting to *eek* Paint. No more! You can simply go to PicFont.com to add outlined or shadowed text in a variety of fonts and colors. It doesn’t take and technical skill to use this site and get a really professional look. Remember, having great images is part of what it takes to be successful on Pinterest.

4. Google Alerts

If you aren’t already using Google Alerts, definitely set up this tool to use in conjunction with your blog. Even if you don’t report the news, it’s good to know what is going on in your niche. You can also set up a Google Alert for your name (if it isn’t too common) and for your blog’s name so you get an email every time someone else talks about you. Even if you’re new, you might be surprised how often other bloggers link to your site or mention something you’ve written.

5. Skype

It never fails to amaze me how many people are not yet using Skype, but this free calling tool is invaluable! You can use Skype to interview others, talk to fans, record podcasts, and more. You can even set up a business line so you don’t have to give out your home phone or cell phone.

6. Survey Monkey

One of the best ways to get better as a blogger is to ask your readers what they like and don’t like. Survey Monkey is a great tool for doing this. Like most of the other tools on this list, you don’t need technical skills to set it up, so it’s great for beginners. Even if you only get a few responses to your questions right now, it’s still better than not knowing what your readers want at all.

7. Visual.ly

Infographics are certainly hot right now, but many bloggers avoid posting them simply because they do not have the skill set to create them. Not to worry; there are many designers out there who would love to have you share their work, as long as you credit it. Visual.ly is one of my favorite places to go to find free infographics for your blog. If you are a designer, you can also create infographics on this site for others to share.

8. Twitter Lists

Twitter in and of itself is a great tool for blog promotion, but what I find especially helpful is the list function. I create private lists (so others can’t see them) in categories I want to follow, which makes it a lot easier to weed through all of the tweets to see what’s most important. You can set up lists for others blogging in your niche, which makes it easy to connect with these people regularly (important to any new blogger’s growth), and you can also create lists for any conference you’re attending (like BlogWorld of course) so it’s easy to meet up with other attendees.

9. Evernote

I swear, sometimes my lists have lists. Evernote is a great way to keep track of everything you have to do, and it’s totally free. You can sync it across your phone, tablet, laptop, and other devices, which I absolutely love, so if you have a great blog post idea while you’re out getting your hair done, for example, you can simply write yourself a note to remember when you get home. Easy-peasy, no more sticky notes all over your desk!

10. PDF Converter

Lastly, if you’re going to create some free eBooks or guides, one tool that I love is this free PDF converter. There are tons of PDF tools on the market, but this is one of the few free ones I’ve found that will actually keep any links you’ve inserted into the text. With other PDF converters, you’re more limited, since the links won’t carry over from a Word document.

Okay, those are my 10 favorite tools for beginners – now it’s your turn! Leave a comment with the best blog tool you’ve come across to make your job easier.

And of course, if you’re a beginner, definitely consider checking out BlogWorld in June. We have sessions for all levels, from beginner to experience, so everyone can walk away with awesome education!

 

Jamie Thomason Interview – DiviHQ Blogging Tools

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Murray Newlands of Influence People interviewed Jamie Thomason of DiviHQ during BlogWorld 2011. DiviHQ makes a blogging tool that makes it easy for multiple people to collaborate on what they’re writing. In episode of Future of Publishing, Murray Newlands works with VigLink to get the latest news and insights about collaborative blogging tools from an informed DiviHQ employee. Find out how collaborative blogging tools work and what you can use them for:

Future of Publishing is sponsored by VigLink

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