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The 12 New Media Days of Christmas 2011: 8 Links a-Baiting


During the 12 New Media Days of Christmas, we’re counting down the days until Santa comes by featuring some of the best blog posts of 2011 from awesome writers within the BlogWorld community! Skip to the end to read more posts in this holiday series and don’t forget to leave a comment if you’ve written a post about today’s topic!

Today’s topic is simple: how to write link bait . I think the term “link bait” has a bad connotation sometimes. People often use it to refer to articles that have fantastic headlines, but that don’t deliver on content, but that’s not really an accurate way to use the phrase. It can also be used to describe posts that are overly critical and insulting, even if the author doesn’t believe it, just to get people upset.

But link bait doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, good link bait can really help your community grow – or at least give you a boost in traffic for a few days, which is great for advertising and SEO purposes.

What makes a post good link bait? Humor, list posts that are easy to scan, heart-warming stories…Let’s take a look at some awesome posts about the art of writing link bait.

Post too long? Head to the Quick Links section for just a list of the links included in this post without all the analysis and quotes!

1. ‘Tis the Season for Link Baiting by Stephan Spencer at Search Engine Land

This post is right on the money if you ask me. Using whatever is being discussed in the news is a great way to write link bait pieces, and whatever holiday it happens to be is always a current event. Hey, why do you think I’m doing a series that coincides with Christmas? It’s my way of (hopefully!) making good content even more interesting. Stephan’s post also highlights another really cool holiday series and what makes the series such great link bait. He writes,

Noomii did a lot of things right with this campaign in a limited amount of time. For one, the site was built with off-the-shelf tools (WordPress and various free plugins), which means the creators didn’t need to spend a lot of time or money getting it up and running.

The concept is simple and easy to “get” right away. Someone stumbling upon the site will instantly understand the what it’s all about without the need to read the “About” section (the button for which, incidentally, is cleverly labeled “WTF?”, for “What the Fruitcake?”).

To read more about using the holidays to write link bait pieces, check out the full post at Search Engine Land. Stephan also writes at Stephan Spencer’s Scatterings and you can check out his book, The Art of SEO, if you’re interested in search engine optimization. Stephan is on Twitter @sspencer.


2. The Doll Experiment: What Babies Can Teach You About Writing Catchier Article Titles by Aman Basanti at Age of Marketing

Although link bait isn’t only about the headline, the title of your post really does matter. I like this post from Aman because it talks about the psychology behind writing a good post, rather than just being a list of tips we’ve all read before. Aman writes about an experiment where babies were show something unexpected and their results were measured. From the post:

If people pay more attention to unexpected events then it stands to reason that by using an unexpected element in your title, you can increase the chances of the title being noticed and clicked. That is, if you want your post title to be noticed give it an unexpected title.

After checking out the post, you can pick up the free ebookMarketing To The PreHistoric Mind, which is available if you sign up for their mailing list. You can also follow Aman on Twitter @ABasanti.


3. How to Rescue a Bad Blog Headline by Stanford Smith at Pushing Social

This post is actually not about writing a great headline, but instead about writing a great opening (or lede) to your blog posts, much in the same way newspaper journalists write their openings. While we don’t always like to admit it, most of us decide whether or not we’re going to share a post before we’re even finished reading, so the link-bait-y-ness of a particular post depends a lot on your opening. Writes Stanford,

Your lede helps yours reader decide one critical question: do I keep reading or hit the back button? If you fail here, your post will never stand a chance.

You can diagnose whether your ledes suck.

In addition to blogging at Pushing Social, Stanford is also the VP of Marketing for Fluency Media. You can like Pushing Social on Facebook and find Standford on Twitter @pushingsocial.


4. Positive and Negative Link Baiting: The Risks and Rewards by Jennifer Van Iderstyne at Search Engine Watch

I think this post is a fantastic look at the different ways you can write link bait posts on your blog – and why the traffic you’ll get from a negative post may not be worth the traffic and SEO rewards. In this post, Jennifer talks about the problems of “bad” link bait, so if you’ve been considering this technique for traffic, you might want to check out what she has to say. Writes Jennifer,

There’s an old expression about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. We’d like to think that holds up on the web. But when it comes to negative link bait, it appears that some flies really dig Balsamic.

It may be less work that goes into negative link baiting and it may yield more results faster, but in the long term is it really good for you, your reputation, or your site? And positive link baiting may take longer and sometimes prove fruitless, but when you do well, you do really well.

Jennifer is the Sales & Marketing Manager for Internet Marketing Ninjas. You can find her on Twitter @Vanetcetera.


5. How to Build Links to Your Website Without Selling Your Soul to the Devil by Marcus Sheridan at The Sales Lion

Marcus and I must be on the same wave length when it comes to post topics, because this one is hot off the press at The Sales Lion. Like Jennifer noted in the last post I linked, you don’t have to be negative to write great link bait. In this post, Marcus gives some proven techniques to help you write posts that really get others to link to you. He comes from a small business background, so I really like how his post incorporates those experiences to show you what works. Writes Marcus,

When Panda came out, people that had built their links through awesome content got rewarded.

Others that had been working for years to ‘game the system’ and take link building ‘shortcuts’ shot down the rankings or even got penalized by Google.

Great content is the ultimate ‘Anti-Panda’. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Google loves delivering it to their customers, and their customer (that’d be you and me) love reading it.

And that’s where the links start to build.

After checking out his post, you can follow Marcus on Twitter @TheSalesLion, like The Sales Lion on Facebook, and add him to your Google+ circles. You can also grab a free copy of his inbound and content marketing ebook by signing up for his mailing list.


6. Link Bait -A Viral Marketing Strategy Businesses Missed by Mark Acsay III at Webby Thoughts

This is a great overview of just what link bait is and how it can help you site. Mark lists the different techniques commonly used to create link bait, the essentials you need in every link bait piece, how to market your post so it has the potential to go viral, and how to find the “linkerati.” That’s a term that cracks me up and I absolutely LOVE it! Even better, he talks about how to monitor your success with link bait posts, which is something that many bloggers forget to do! Writes Mark,

Marketing for products has advanced together with the technology. Now, marketing a single product can reach millions of people around the globe. The idea of link baiting provides an avenue for business organizations to introduce their product at a bigger market. However, the technicalities should be considered since it also has limitations and risks.

After checking out this post, you can find Mark on Twitter @markacsay and add him to your Google+ circles.


7. White-Hat SEO + Social Media = Link Bait Magic by Ben Jackson at SEO Discovery (guest post for Problogger)

I like this post because it isn’t just a how-to guide on writing link bait – it talks about how to combine your great post with promotion to get some attention. I especially love his Drop My Link tip, since that is a tool I’ve never heard of before. And, more importantly, even though he’s an SEO guy, I like that Ben’s post doesn’t talk about shady ways to get as many links as possible at whatever cost. The focus here is on quality content, quality comments, and quality relationship-building with other bloggers. Writes Ben,

SEO is becoming less and less about traditional link building, and spamming becomes a dumber idea every day. If you focus on sharing quality content, creating a great user experience, and integrating social media, you are bound to grow your traffic and increase your rankings.

This is a guest post, but you can find Ben’s main site at SEO Discovery. You can follow Ben on Twitter @SEODISCOVERYorg and like his Facebook page.


8. How To Make A Link Bait That Goes Viral by Rohan Pawale at TechLunatic

The terms “link bait” and “viral” go hand in hand, and in this post, Rohan talks about the intersection. He talks about some of the smartest tips I’ve heard in a long time! Create posts with information that people will forget (yes, really!). Map the success of other people. Use videos. The awesome advice goes on and on. If I sound like I’m gushing…it’s because I’m gushing, and y’all know that it takes a lot for me to gush. I love when I read a post where I learn brand new things about writing and marketing my content.

Writes Rohan,

It takes military level precision to execute a perfect link bait. Everything from the number of outgoing and incoming links to the preferred social media should be planned in advance. Link bait if taken means a surge of very high PR incoming links and traffic.

You can find Rohan on Twitter @techlunatic and like the TechLunatic page on Facebook.

Quick Links

For those of you short on time, here’s a list of the links covered in this post:

  1. ‘Tis the Season for Link Baiting by Stephan Spencer (@sspencer)
  2. The Doll Experiment: What Babies Can Teach You About Writing Catchier Article Titles by Aman Basanti (@ABasanti)
  3. How to Rescue a Bad Blog Headline by Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial)
  4. Positive and Negative Link Baiting: The Risks and Rewards by Jennifer Van Iderstyne (@Vanetcetera)
  5. How to Build Links to Your Website Without Selling Your Soul to the Devil by Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion)
  6. Link Bait -A Viral Marketing Strategy Businesses Missed by Mark Acsay III (@markacsay)
  7. White-Hat SEO + Social Media = Link Bait Magic by Ben Jackson (@SEODISCOVERYorg)
  8. How To Make A Link Bait That Goes Viral by Rohan Pawale (@techlunatic)

Other posts in the 12 New Media Days of Christmas series will be linked here as they go live:

12 Bloggers Monetizing
11 Emailers List-Building
10 Google+ Users a-Sharing
9 Vloggers Recording
8 Links a-Baiting (this post)
7 Community Managers a-Managing
6 Publishers a-Publishing
5 Traffic Tips
4 New Media Case Studies
3 Must-Read New Media Interviews
2 Top New Media News Stories of 2011
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You can also check out the all the posts from 2010 and 2011 here, and don’t forget: If you wrote a post in 2011 about today’s topic (Link Bait), PLEASE leave the link in a comment below to share with the community!

Is Your Blog Like Chinese Food?


Pork fried rice. Sweet and sour chicken. Wonton soup. Mmmm. Chinese food is delicious, and believe it or not, it can teach you a few things about blogging. Is your blog like Chinese food? Here’s why you might want to consider this cuisine as you’re adding content:

  • Something for Everyone

One of the reasons I love ordering Chinese food with friends is that there’s something for everyone. When you order pizza or subs, you have fewer options and there’s always someone not happy. With Chinese food, you have a huge variety of treats from which to choose, and everyone can order something that they enjoy. Most Chinese restaurants even have healthier options for those who are dieting. Does you blog have something for everyone? Of course, you won’t connect with every person in the world (that would be a crazy blog), but within your specific target market, there are going to be a lot of different tastes. If you rely on just one type of post (like just list posts or just rants), you’re not going to appeal to as many people. Make sure your target is focused, but don’t make it so focused that your audience is too small.

  • Keep Them Coming Back

One of the complaints that lots of people have about Chinese food is that you’re hungry again an hour later. Is that true? Maybe…but for bloggers, this is a good thing! You want great content, but you also want to always leave them always wanting more. Include related links at the end and links within the body to keep readers on your site. Encourage readers to sign up for your mailing list or subscribe to your RSS feed. Clearly link to your social media profiles on your sidebar and make sure you promote you content on these platforms. Most importantly, make sure every single post you write is awesome. It only takes one “meh” post to make a reader decide they don’t need to come back to your site.

  • Easy to Find

No matter where you live, you can find Chinese food. Heck, even at my mom’s house, which is located in a super rural area with less than 100 people in the entire town, you can get to a Chinese restaurant pretty quickly. Make your content similarly easy to find. You want to create a presence for yourself so that others are mentioning you and your name just pops up in conversations related to your niche. Attend offline conferences (like BlogWorld LA of course). Do guest posts on other sites in your niche. Write content that can easily be linked by other bloggers. Get people excited about what you’re doing so that your name just starts to just appear everywhere. You want people to be like, “Oh, I’ve heard of him/her…” even if they can’t rattle off your bio (yet).

So those are my three tips for the day. How is your blog like Chinese food?

Are You a One-Hit Wonder Blogger?


He's too sexy for your blog, too sexy for your blog...

Earlier this week, I was watching VH1’s Top 100 one-hit wonders of the ’90s. If we’re being honest, I wasn’t just watching it. I was singing along. And as that disaster was happening, it struck me that a lot of bloggers are like these artists – they have one hit and then they disappear, or they rely on that one hit to stay relevant.

On every album, there are some songs that are “throw-aways.” I don’t really like that term, because I don’t necessarily mean that they are crappy songs. Some of those songs might be individuals’ personal favorites. Some explore themes or processes important to the artist. Some are brilliant. But they aren’t single material. That is, they aren’t viral material. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it just means that they aren’t going to be hits.

Blog posts are the same way. It’s nearly impossible to go viral with every post. That doesn’t mean that they stink. Some just have viral potential while others don’t. Can you say “Hey Macarena”?

But let’s be honest – everyone kind of looks down on one-hit wonders in the musical world. Sure, the songs themselves are great, but the artists are kind of…well…jokes. We enjoy what they gave us, but in the back of our minds, we think, “they weren’t good enough to do anything more.”

That’s definitely not what you want to be as a blogger!


One-hit wonder bloggers write a single post that goes viral, but the rest of their content falls a bit flat. That doesn’t mean bad necessarily (though that is sometimes the case), but it doesn’t compare to the popular post they wrote. I imagine that these bloggers have extremely high bounce rates – people come to read the viral post, but don’t stick around for anything else.

And rather than curate their community, one-hit wonder bloggers rely on their single popular post almost exclusively. There’s no growth, no development of the theme or exploration of the niche that would hook someone, keeping them interested in more blog posts. These bloggers tend to point to the popular post they had as a symbol of great success, and while I suppose that success is in the eye of the beholder, it’s easy to become a bit of a joke if you are a one-hit wonder blogger, just as one-hit wonder musicians risk becoming a joke. Ice, ice, baby.

Remember, part of growth is trying new things. A lot of one-hit wonders in the music world come from albums where nearly every song sounds exactly the same. When someone hears your blogging “music” you want them to know it is you, but you also don’t want to continue writing the same thing over and over, even if a post in this vein went viral once before.


I believe that the key is to avoid writing posts that are engineered to go viral.

Of course, all bloggers want their posts to go viral, and I’d be giving you horrible advice if I said you shouldn’t think about what it takes to reach viral status. You can just write and leave things to chance, but if writing a better headline or more enticing lead paragraph can help your traffic blow up, why wouldn’t you? What I’m proposing is that you don’t engineer the posts you do. In other words, don’t say to yourself, “Wow, this is a really popular topic or good idea, but I don’t really care about it at all“and write about it anyway.

What is the primary reason for writing your post? Are you teaching the reader something new? Are you entertaining the reader? Are you inspiring the reader? These are all great reasons to write posts. Most importantly, you have to care about the topic. Passion is important – passion to share, to examine, to create a forum for discussion.

Are you writing the post because you want traffic? Not so good. Are you less than interested in the topic yourself? Even worse.


Even if your post is high-value, be thinking about how it fits into your overall goals as a blogger. I think each post has to work into the overall vision you have as a blogger for your blog.

If you don’t have a vision, that might be your first problem. I think it’s great to just start blogging and see where it takes you. Not every blog out there has to fit strictly in a niche. But ask yourself – what is your goal? Why are you blogging?

Every post should relate back to that goal. If you’re writing a post just to go viral and it doesn’t really relate back to that goal, you’re going to have a problem convincing people to stick around. Imagine that you heard a super catch pop song and decided to purchase the entire album only to find that the rest of it sounded like it came from a completely different band. Like I’ve noted, you want to grow as a blogger, but not so much that your hit post is out in left field, unrelated to the rest of your blog.

Picture via Wikipedia.

The Difference Between Writing a Blog Post & Paying For One


As a blogger, the expectation is that you blog. You sit down at your computer and write up the amazing posts that are the reason people come to your site in the first place. But running a blog doesn’t mean that you have to create every single piece of content that goes up on your site, does it?

I have a biased opinion of course, being that I’ve written for far more blogs than just my own and have paid my bills with the resulting money. It’s a discussion that’s happening more and more often, though: there are bloggers who barely feel present on their own sites anymore, others that herald paid posters as the harbingers of some sort of blogging apocalypse, and plenty of opinions in between. Assuming that you’re comfortable with the idea of using paid bloggers for your own site, though, there is a difference between what you get and what you might write yourself.

When You Pay a Blogger…

When you write a post for your own site, the only people you’re responsible to are your readers. You can have an off day and not feel badly; a typo can slide through and it’s not the end of the world. But when you’re putting down cash money for someone else to write that same post, even one typo is really unacceptable. You have a right to expect a certain type of quality from a paid blogger.

I say a ‘certain type of quality’ because you can judge a post on a variety of different qualities. In question here are the mechanics of a post: Is it well constructed? Are the grammar and spelling spot on? Does it convey a set of thoughts in a way that the reader will understand? Those are the expectations that go along with a paid post — what you can and should expect. That’s also the difference that you’ll see: paid bloggers don’t have the luxury of ‘phoning it in.’ That’s a fast way to lose a client, after all.

You may not get some of the other types of quality you are looking for with a paid blogger, though: unless you’re able to hire a mind reader, you’re not going to get a voice absolutely consistent with the rest of your site. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get a post that will go viral either (no matter what some paid bloggers will promise). What you’re paying for is almost always good, not great. And that’s okay.

Ten Tips for Powerblogging When You’re Super Busy


If you need to get somewhere quickly, you can powerwalk. If you need to blog quickly, I like the term powerblogging. Let’s face it – sometimes we just don’t have time for long 1000-word op-ed posts full of research and links and the like. Sometimes, we’re really busy, but still need to update readers. At times like that, we need to powerblog, racing against the clock to finish work.

That doesn’t mean that your post quality has to go down. In fact, my argument is that if you can’t write something high-quality, you’re better off not writing anything at all. It is possible to write posts quickly that are of a high quality, though. Here are my ten best tips:

1. Keep a list of topic ideas on your computer.

At any given time, I have 20 to 30 ideas in a Word document, just sitting on my desktop waiting to be used. Some of these ideas aren’t very well thought out. Others are. In any case, coming up with a solid idea is one of the longest parts of writing a blog post, at least for me, so when I need to powerblog, I go to my ideas list and start there.

2. When you aren’t busy, get some drafts started.

While I have titles and ideas waiting for me on my desktop, I also have a few posts completely outlined and waiting in WordPress for me. Again, some of these drafts are more thought out than others, but when I’m not busy and have time to outline posts, it really helps me when I’m short on time.

3. Post a picture round-up.

People love pictures. Unless you talk about photography, you don’t want to make every post just a group of pictures, but it’s a quick way to create a post from time to time. Point in case – when I was at BlogWorld, I wanted to do a post about our co-located partner, Book Expo America, but I didn’t have a lot of time. So, I took a ton of pictures and posted those instead of doing a length wrap-up. You could also post pictures around a specific theme that makes sense for your niche – for example, if you blog about gardening, use Flickr’s Creative Commons to find pictures of beautiful roses or the most delicious-looking vegetable gardens.

4. Pose a question to your readers.

Sometimes, it’s okay to let your community create content. Post a question relevant to your niche, answer it yourself in a paragraph or two, and ask your readers to leave comments with their answers.

5. Go with a list format.

While list posts can take a long time to write too, when you go with this format, it’s a little easier to outline your ideas and fill in the information about each point. For example, this post, which is in list format, probably took about half the time as a non-list post of the same length.

6. Post something for beginners.

Not all of your readers know as much about your niche as you do. In fact, a lot of your readers might be completely new to the topic. Create a 101 level post for those members of your community. If you’re experienced in your field, it shouldn’t take long to write a post for beginners about a specific topic – and they’ll thank you for the information.

7. Do a link round-up of your own posts.

Doing a link round-up isn’t necessarily the quickest kind of post to do – unless it is a round-up of your own posts. If you’ve written a lot about a certain topic, take a moment to compile these links in a single post. This is an especially good idea if you’ve been blogging for a very long time and have relevant posts that are years old, since it brings new eyes to these old posts. A good example of this is the round-up Nikki did on BlogWorld Twitter posts. Just make sure that the topic you choose lends itself well to being a link round-up. Don’t choose a topic that is out of date quickly.

8. Revisit an old topic.

Have you written a topic about a topic in the past that is somewhat out of date? Revisit this old post and post an update. Since you already wrote about it, you aren’t starting from zero, you’re just adding your updated opinion, so it doesn’t take so long to write.

9. Tell people about something you love.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it much easier to write about something I love. When you’re passionate about a topic, the words typically flow more freely and your opinions are already very formed, rather than a work in progress. Think about something that you love and that you want to tell your readers about – a product, another blogger, a service…whatever it is, take a post to tell your readers why you love it.

10. Focus and get the work done.

Lastly, when you have to powerblog, turn off the TV, shut down Twitter, stop answering the phone, and work. It can be hard to focus, especially if you’re excited about going on vacation or busy with other work (or whatever is causing the need for powerblogging), but if you tune it out and just get the work done, it will go much faster than if you’re constantly stopping in the middle of the post to do other things.

Your turn – what are your best powerblogging tips?

Why You Shouldn’t Blog About “Some People”


When writing opinion pieces, it is often impossible to completely express your ideas without talking about what other people have said on the subject. Personally, I love that aspect of blogging – debating issues where people have strong opinions.Unfortunately, whenever you’re covering an issue that elicits emotions in others, a debate can turn into an argument can turn into mud slinging.

Feelings can get hurt in a hurry, and I think we can all agree: no matter how much you love voicing your opinion, the goal is not to hurt other people. That doesn’t mean it never happens.

It’s one of the most stressful parts of blogging, in my opinion. Whether you like someone personally or not, it can be a little scary to disagree. Will the other person see it? Maybe. Will they be hurt? Maybe.

Should you still voice your opinion? Again, maybe.

What I don’t believe you should do, however, is blog about “some people.” I understand why it’s done and I’ve even fallen into the trap myself, but I think that, in the end, blogging about “some people” only hurts you.

“Some people” shouldn’t have to remain in the shadows in your blog posts.

Who are “Some People”?

First, let me go over what I mean by “some people.” When you have a strong opinion that is in direct conflict with another person’s opinion, I believe that it is respectful to actually name that person and link to his/her site (with the exception being to truly heinous opinions like racial slurs, which in my opinion don’t deserve the traffic you’ll give them). Instead, what I see lots of bloggers doing is say, “Some people think…” I’m sure you’ve seen it too. Even though the blogger is talking about a specific person, they won’t name that person. They just generalize.

I’m not saying that you always have to call out other bloggers. For example, in this post, I’m writing about “some people.” Obviously not every blogger out there does what I’m writing about, but I haven’t chosen to name names. Why? I don’t have anyone specific in mind. I’ve seen people do it, and if I search long enough I can probably find some great examples. But off the top of my head? I can’t name a specific blogger.

If you can, please name that blogger. Many of your readers will realize the person you mean anyway…so don’t call them “some people.”

I’ll say this as well – it depends on the point of your post. If you’re mentioning a comment in passing or giving an example of a situation, you don’t always have to name names because that’s not really what your post is about. “Some people” could be fine in those instances, simply because you don’t want to take the focus away from your main argument. What I’m proposing in this post is that you shouldn’t use “some people” if you’re writing a post in opposition to what a specific other person (or few other people) have written or what other people are doing.


In my opinion, naming names is all about respect. We don’t have to agree to be friends. Heck, we don’t even have to agree to both be right. Two people can have valid but different opinions. When you don’t name me, though, it somehow makes it seem like my idea is not as important as yours.

You don’t have to “call someone out.” In my opinion, disagreeing with someone is not the same. Calling someone out, to me, means that you’re attacking the person and their ideas, often relying on gossip and hurt feelings without any foundation in facts. It’s not a good thing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with respectfully disagreeing with an opinion someone else posts, though – and I think part of showing respect is linking back to them.

Naming names instead of referring to “some people” is respectful to readers as well. Your readers might know the blogger you’re talking about, but this won’t always be the case. If you don’t give them the opportunity to check out the other side of the debate, you’re not presenting the best argument possible. Your readers have the right to make up their own minds, and the best way you can make sure this happens is by presenting the opposing opinion as well, and not just as you choose to summarize it. If you really do have a strong argument, you should feel confident allowing your readers to see the opposing viewpoint as written by someone just as passionate as you.

Credit Where Credit is Due

The blog posts that you write aren’t always inspired by what other bloggers are posting, but sometimes they are…and when that happens, that blogger deserves a little credit.

You can’t copyright an idea, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give someone a little credit if they gave you the idea for a post of your own. That blogger writing about a concept inspired your to write a rebuttal of sorts. In my opinion, it’s just the right thing to do to link back to that initial blogger, citing their post as the reason you’re writing about the topic.

The Coincidental Mistake

In any niche, coincidences happen pretty regularly. Everyone talks about the same news stories, but beyond that, when you’re covering a topic that is more “evergreen,” you might find yourself posting about the same things as other people on the same day. I’ve been accused of copying ideas before, actually, but it was honestly just a matter of happenstance that we both published posts about the same subject with similar messages with a day or so of one another. I just don’t have time to read every blog every day, so sometimes coincidences happen.

The problem is, if you get into a habit of blogging about “some people” without naming names, people start to think that’s just what you do – you talk about people is a very behind-their-back type of way and present one-sided arguments to your readers without giving any type of credit. Then, when it actually is a case of coincidence, it seems like just another cowardly post on your behalf. On the other hand, if you’ve always posted links and have engaged in professional debate with your peers, most readers will give you the benefit of the doubt, not jumping to conclusions right away even if someone else recently posted on the same subject.

Finding the Confidence to Use Names

Without a doubt, naming names in any niche does require confidence. It is much easier to be more ambiguous, speaking your mind without as much risk that there will be any backlash. The truth of the matter, however, is that if everyone just agrees with you all the time, you probably aren’t being the best blogger you can be. Debate is part of what is so great about working online and connecting to people from all over the world.

Reread your post. If you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, don’t say it online either. There’s no need to be rude. But don’t shy away from voicing your opinion, even if you agree with some pretty popular bloggers. If you do so in a respectful way, any mature blogger out there will appreciate your feedback and the chance for some friendly debate.

Blog What You Know – And What You Don’t Know


I came to blogging from a writing background, and one of the tips that has been drilled into my head as a writer since I was very young is “write what you know.” In other words, even if you’re writing fiction, use your real-life interests and experiences in your writing to create stories that are believable.

While blogging might be a very different form of writing, I think this advice still has merit – and the opposite approach can help you grow as a blogger too.

Blogging What You Know

As blogging continues to grow in popularity, many writers, marketers, and others start blogs in the hopes of making some easy money. There’s nothing easy about blogging, though, especially if you choose a niche simple based on how much money you think you can make. It’s a clumsy way of starting a blog because you’re missing a prime element: passion.

“Blogging what you know” goes beyond choosing a niche, though. It’s also something to keep in mind each time you write a post. Lots of other bloggers have talked about how storytelling is an effective form of blogging, and I agree. When you talk about your own life in relation to your niche, it’s easier to connect with readers and write posts that are unique, rather than what everyone else out there is already writing. It’s a way to talk about the same information in a new way.

Some great bloggers have talked about storytelling on your blog; here are some of my favorite posts:

Blogging What You Don’t Know

I definitely recommend “blogging what you know” – but at times, blogging what you don’t know can give your blog that extra little “something” it takes to be really great.

I’m not suggesting that you write blog posts about topics that you know nothing about as though you are an expert. When you’re full of BS, people can tell (usually), and it’s a good way to lose readers if you ever had them in the first place. I’m also not suggesting that you start a blog about a topic when you don’t already have knowledge about that topic. With few exceptions, people want the writer to be an authority of sorts. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert, but if you don’t know anything about training monkeys, don’t start a blog about training monkeys.

What I mean about blogging about what you don’t know is this: speak to people about your shortcomings and about your learning process. Even if you do consider yourself to be an expert in your niche, nobody knows everything. It makes your more real to readers, which makes your other advice stronger.

One of the best examples I can give you, which I’ve mentioned before, is Erica Douglass’ The Failure Manifesto, which is one of the most popular posts on her site. Erica is wildly successful at what she does and, in my opinion, one of the smartest business minds out there, but in The Failure Manifesto, she talks about how some days she doesn’t feel that way. She’s made mistakes and has problems just like the rest of us. I think that post is when I became a true fan of hers.

Of course, you should write about how you’re a failure every other post. You want your readers to have confidence in your abilities and advice! But don’t be afraid to show that you’re human. People want to be able to relate, not feel as though they can’t live up to your perfection.

When it comes to content creation, there’ really no one right or wrong approach. I’d love to hear your thoughts about blogging what you know – and what you don’t know.

Is Generic Content Bringing You Down?


Think back on the last few weeks and all the blog posts you read, podcasts you downloaded, and videos you watched. If you’re anything like me, the list is pretty long. But now ask yourself this: how many do you actually remember?

Often times, I’ll click on a link expecting to read some high-quality content. And I do – the information is well-researched, there are no spelling errors, and the blogger’s message is clear. In our fast-paced ADD Internet world, though, I’m moving on to another link pretty quickly. If your content was generic, no matter how informative and well-written the post might be, I probably won’t recommend it to others…and after a few weeks, I definitely won’t remember it.

What is Generic Content?

“Generic” is kind of a vague term in this context so let me explain what I mean. To me, generic content is content that can be found on any blog out there. There’s no little oomph to connect it to you as a blogger and the information is nothing new. Essentially, it just looks like you rewrote a post from another blog and plopped it on your own site. It brings you down as a blogger and it certainly brings me down as a reader.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t cover news stories and topics that have been covered by other bloggers in the past. Heck, I don’t have to tell y’all that it’s hard to come up with super original ideas every single time you write a post. Sometimes you just want to cover a concept that you really enjoy, even though others have as well. Also, readers, frankly, need information that’s been covered elsewhere. Just because you read Billy Sue’s Amazing BBQ Blog where she covered the different types of BBQs doesn’t mean that the readers of your cooking blog do, so covering that same topic makes sense.

So if I’m not saying that every post has to be super original, what am I saying? Let’s take a look at how to pull your blog out of generic-land.

Baby, Are You Down, Down, Down, Down, Down?*

Here’s a good way to evaluate your content to see if it’s generic. Take your name off the post and label it “admin” instead. You don’t actually have to do this, but at least imagine it. Would people still know it’s you? Would they care?

Personality in your posts is important, but being generic isn’t just a lack of personality. It’s a lack of style, and personality is just a part of that. A lot of bloggers don’t have big personalities, and that’s okay as long as you make up for it in other ways. Someone like Jordan Cooper is going to write a recognizable post because of his sense of humor. Humor is part of his personality. Take away all of that funny stuff, though, and you still have a blog post that is far from generic. Likewise, someone like Kyeli from Connection Revolution is going to write a recognizable because because her posts are super introspective and sensitive. It’s part of her personality. Take away the tear-jerking and humbling moments, though, and you still have a blog post that is far from generic.

What is it beyond personality that makes these bloggers (and many others I love)? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use original ideas when possible. Like I’ve said, that’s not always possible, but original ideas, ideas that are not found anywhere else, will build a backbone to your blog.
  • Be opinionated. You don’t always have to present information like a textbook. Your opinions will make your content unique.
  • Think about the words you use. Writing (and even speaking if you podcast or vlog) is an art, and taking a moment to consider the specific language you use can really elevate your blog posts.
  • Find a new angle. If everyone under the sun has written about a specific topic, look for a way to cover it that is new and interesting. For example, if you blog about celebrity relationships, instead of writing a straight news story about Hugh Heffner’s financee calling of the wedding, you could cover the story in a post about celebrities that have been left at the alter or celebrity couples with huge age differences. You’re still providing readers with the information, but you aren’t rewriting stories found on other blogs.
  • Crowdsource. What is a blog without its readers? They’re one of the things that makes your blog unique. So, use their comments or tweets as jumping off points for your posts.

Of course, not every post has to include all of these elements. However, if you’re writing generic posts that could be found on any blog out there with any writer’s name on it, you’re doing a disservice to your readers and to yourself. Present your knowledge in a way that stands out, and you’re create a blog that people have to read and share, rather than a blog that readers forget.

*I couldn’t resist. I love that song.

Writing for Online Readers: The Most Important Rules


… by Dave Copeland

I have less than 30 seconds to capture your attention with this post, so here goes: if you read some, most or all of the next 750 words or so, you will know how to write Web copy that is more useful to readers of your blog.

Online Readers Are Different

Seems pretty obvious, right? But the fact is, many of us still write the same way online as we do for books, magazine articles and other long-form and traditional print mediums. The fact is, recent research shows that online readers use vastly different sections of the brain than offline readers. In short, the brain is conditioned to skip around when online reading, as clicking on a link that will reward the brain with new images and content.

With offline readers, we can take our time and develop points with long blocks of text and narrative, and with fewer visual elements. Offline reading rewards the brain that slips into a state of deeper concentration.

In Plain English, Please

Your writing – offline or online – is effective when readers take away your message. Writing effectively online doesn’t mean that every reader reads every single word that you write. It means they can quickly and efficiently get the information that is most important to them and move on.

People who read our blog posts come from all over, and from a wide range of backgrounds. The reason they choose to read a particular post will vary from reader to reader. Your job as the writer is to make sure they can find the information that is most important to them and move on to using that information.

Best Practices

I’ve spent a good portion of the past year researching reading habits of online readers and have been sharing that with writers, bloggers and journalists, as I did during my presentation at BlogWorld East in May and through a series of free, online Webinars.

I can talk for hours on the subject, but if asked for the most effective ways to get online readers to read what you write, I would offer these strategies as the most important:

  1. Write compelling but clear headlines: Don’t get cute. Online and in print, the headline is almost always the first thing readers look at. Make sure it is clear and gives a good idea of what the post is about, while still leaving the reader wanting more.
  2. Write in the active voice: Effective online writing is all about getting to the point, and on a line-by-line basis, the most effective way to do that is to use the active voice, which naturally lends a sense of urgency to your writing. The easiest way to do that is to start each sentence with the subject, immediately follow that with a strong, active verb, and then follow that with the direct object. Avoid adverbs: they’re a telling sign that you chose the wrong verb.
  3. Online writing is visual: Long, dense paragraphs turn off online readers. Create white space in your copy by keeping paragraphs short and using bulleted lists when appropriate. Use bold text to accent key information and use block or pull quotes to draw readers into the copy.
  4. One main idea per sentence: Keep sentences on point. Avoid multiple clauses and phrases, and lots of information stops and commas. Make sure each sentence has one idea, and not much more than that.
  5. No sentence without a fact: Every line you write needs to move the story forward. If a sentence doesn’t have a fact, cut it.

How long should it be?

I hate this question and always offer a smart-ass answer: as long as it needs to be. If every sentence has a main idea and no sentence is without a fact, keep going. I do, however, recommend the 3-2-1 formula. For every 1,000 or so words that you write in an online article or blog post, be sure to include:

  • Three subheads: Subheads are bold, one-line headlines that break up long chunks of text and organize information. Keep the same headline-writing rules in mind when you write subheads.
  • Two links: Links offer additional information for readers who want to go deeper, and they also give your post authenticity and transparency about where you information came from without getting into long, narrative attributions.
  • One graphical element: A photo, a chart or anything else visual helps readers. Whatever you use, make sure it advances the story: don’t just put a photo in the post for the sake of posting a photo.

Dave Copeland is an award-winning writer and journalist, and a communications studies professor. He blogs on writing, journalism and other stuff at Cut Off At The Salad Bar and tweets at @bloodandvolume. He is available for corporate and small group training on a wide range of writing subjects

Find Your Next Article Topic Through Observation


One challenge for bloggers of all sorts is that of finding interesting topics for articles. I’ve found it’s not too hard to come up with many topics simply by turning on one’s observational skills

Up, Up, and SomewhereAs I write this article I’m wrapping up a day of travel from Portland to the Bay Area for a workshop and the evening’s meet-and-greet activities, and I made some observations throughout the day. Think about what you write about, and see if you can find something interesting amongst the things I’ve noticed today:

  • the woman next to me on the plane who saw my iPad and asked if it was “a droid”
  • the Southwest Airlines boarding process, which is different than all others
  • saying goodbye to my wife and kids
  • the business process where airlines will oversell a flight and then bump people because there isn’t enough room on the plane
  • a friend making an email introduction between his boss (who will be at the same workshop) and I
  • being told that I’m the focus of an article someone is writing about connecting with people online and then turning those connections into meatspace meetings and friendships
  • using time on an airplane for leisure (sleep, reading a tabloid) vs. business (writing, reading an industry publication)
  • the notion of a VIP or premium customer who bypasses the line that’s for the “regular” folks
  • the temporary inconvenience of road construction which will lead to more capacity when it’s finished
  • meeting a podcaster in real life whose work I’ve followed for several years online
  • learning from other workshop participants vs. learning from the workshop instructor
  • keeping in touch with family while on the road

I could see topics for article about business, tech, mobile, travel, friendship, and family. What other potential articles could be written based on the observations of a day?

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