Category Archives: Content

Five Pieces of Bad Blogging Advice

467477733You have a blog, and whether you’re new at this or you’re just hoping to boost your readership (or perhaps find some ideas to come up with fresh content), chances are good that you’ve been looking around the Internet for advice. The thing about blogging advice is that anyone can give it, whether they have a successful blog or not! I went searching for blogging advice, and here’s some of the worst that I ran into:

  1. Follow the Rules: There are certain rules to blogging. You must set up your posts to go up at the same time on the days that you post. Every piece of content should be about 300 (or 500 or 1,000) words long. You must decide ahead of time on your editorial schedule, and you must stick to it. All of these are examples of rigid rules that should usually be broken. If you’ve committed to writing 300 words every odd-numbered day, eventually you’re probably going to burn out. And what if something really interesting comes up that needs double (or triple!) that length, and it happens on an even-numbered day? Be flexible and break the rules.

  2. Use Lots of Links: Link to your own pages, and link to other pages. Aim for three (or five or ten) links per blog post. This is silly advice. First of all, your readers are not going to want to click on all of those links. Secondly, you will probably get dinged by Google if you are linking to random sites, particularly if they have little to do with your post and are affiliate links. If you want to link to something that you have written or to a great deal that you’ve run across, then by all means, do so! (Note that there is a page linked in the first paragraph.) Just don’t turn this into a bad habit.

  3. Use Spinning Software: You can plug an article that you’ve read into free spinning software that you find online, then you can use it for your own blog. You’ll get unique content with no real work at all. As an experiment, I tried spinning this last italicized piece of advice, and here’s what one particular software program came up with: You can connect an item that you’ve read in the freedom spinning software that you locate online, then you can use it for your own blog. Here you find unique content to get no actual labor anyway. Is this what you want to have on your blog?

  4. Be a Constant Commenter: You follow other blogs, right? Great! Make sure to comment plenty on those blogs, as well as others in your industry or field of interest. Of course, reading blogs takes time that you don’t have, so don’t feel like your comments have to be relevant; just write, “Great article! Thanks for sharing!” and be sure to leave a link to your last blog post. Don’t do this; blog owners can see through it, and very few readers will follow a link to read more from a blogger who leaves a generic comment.

  5. Learn How to Keyword-Stuff: If you want to get more readers, you need to use lots of keywords. For example, if your topic is about hotels in San Diego, your keyword could be “hotels San Diego.” Fit that phrase several times into every paragraph if possible. That keyword is not natural at all, and while a skilled writer could get it in a couple of times without making the entire blog entry look like it was written by a non-native speaker, it’s not a good plan. Use each keyword once or twice in the entire article. That’s plenty.

As you blog, you’ll need to keep an eye on which posts bring you the most traffic, and you’ll begin to see what works. Of course, nothing is set in stone, because Google changes its algorithms very frequently, and what worked in the winter might not work in the spring. If you’re following advice that seems unnatural or exceedingly difficult, then chances are good that it’s probably not the best advice, or at the very least, that you’re making your job harder than you have to. If you’re just starting out, feel free to check out others’ advice on how to create a blog that will attract readers, but be aware that much of blogging success is trial and error.

 

Blogging Strategies: Getting People to Show You the Love

So, you have a blog. You post on it regularly, and you give some thought to what you want to say. You proofread your posts and choose interesting images to go with your text. A peek at your analytics shows that you’re getting views, and you seem to be slowly picking up a good readership. But… when it comes to the comments section, there’s nothing but crickets. People are reading, but not saying anything back. What are you doing wrong?

You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, which states that about 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. If you applied this to your blog, then you might figure that 80% of your comments and interaction come from 20% of your readership. Not bad, right? Unfortunately, the Pareto Principle doesn’t really apply when it comes to most blogs. Instead, you have to apply the 1% rule, which is pretty well recognized among Internet communities: Only one out of one hundred readers are actually going to become active users. The rest will just read along silently, or, in ‘Net-speak, “lurk.”

While you might think that this doesn’t bode well for the echo chamber that you call your comments section, there are actually some things that you can do to boost your reader interaction. Reader comments tend to snowball; if you get one, you’re likely to get a few more, and if you can get a dozen, then you just might have a conversation (or even a debate!) going, which can lead to even more comments. Try some of these strategies to see if you can get the ball rolling:

  • Be open-ended. It’s great to end your post with a question; this might inspire readers to type in an answer! Another good suggestion is to leave some of your topic unsaid. If you leave out a couple of well-known points, a helpful reader just might decide to contribute his or her own take on things. In other words, don’t be a know-it-all; let your readers add in their two cents in order to complete your blog post.

  • Make it easy on them. One frustrating trend that I’ve seen is the necessity to register for an account, sign up for an email newsletter or pick out an avatar before leaving a comment. Unless I’m really committed to sharing something, I just won’t bother most of the time. Who has time for that? A name and email address (which doesn’t get posted) should be all that’s required to comment on the vast majority of blogs.

  • Push a few buttons. This suggestion could go either way, so do this cautiously. If a current event is related to your industry or business, then you could give your opinion on it. If it’s a bit controversial, then you might wrangle up some conversation. Of course, in an effort to stay professional, you will need to be diplomatic and perhaps closer to neutral than to either end of the “extreme” spectrum. And remember that if you’re posting controversial topics often, then people might be turned off, particularly if that’s not the point of your blog. Once in a while, though, this could be an effective strategy.

  • Don’t be desperate. Adding fake comments, allowing spam or letting abusive responses sit in your comments section are all bad ideas. Let your comments section evolve organically, and remove spam and other inappropriate posts as soon as you see them.

  • Interact back! When you do get comments, make it worth your reader’s while to comment again. Respond with a well-thought-out answer. If someone asks a question, answer it, either right then and there, or in another blog post. You can even respond via email if it’s something you’d rather not have published publicly on your blog.

The goal of getting some interaction on your blog is a good one, and should be thought about after you have some content that is attracting readers. Just don’t get discouraged, and remember that it usually takes time to build up a good core group of interactive users.

What about you? Have you found the holy grail of reader involvement and interaction? You know what to do.

 

Getting Organized in 2015: Your To-Do List

We recently talked about choosing a calendar in order to help you get organized in 2014. Did you pick one out yet? It’s already February, so if you don’t yet have a calendar, it’s time to put that at the top of your to-do list. You do have a to-do list, don’t you? I know I do… and it’s never-ending. Does your list make you feel accomplished, overwhelmed, in control, or maybe some combination of all three?

Some people like to make lists. Most people would probably benefit from making lists, whether they like to or not. A to-do list can take many forms, but the most important thing is that it puts down, in black and white (or in whatever color you like to write – or type – in), everything that you need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month or whatever timeframe you choose. If your to-do list is either non-existent or not functioning as you’d like it to, here are some tips on how to make your to-do list work for you:

  • Make and look at your list before the morning. If you have no list when you arrive at work (or when you turn on your computer, if you’re working from home), then you need to waste valuable time thinking about what you did yesterday and the day before, going through your calendar to find out where you are in relation to upcoming deadlines, and deciding on a course of action. It’s better if you can do this the day before. Try to complete your next day’s to-do list before the end of your workday and, if it helps, double check it in the evening so that you can go to bed psyching yourself up for what you want to get started on first thing.

  • Decide on three non-negotiable items that absolutely must get done first thing. I know, I know, you probably have six or twelve or three dozen items that absolutely must get done. Choose three of them. Make sure at least one is something that you actually like doing. Write them down at the top of your list. These are the items that you are going to start with. Once you get into a groove and you’re able to cross a few important things off of your list, you will feel better than if you haphazardly pick and choose random items that aren’t quite as important.

  • Write down “check email” closer to lunchtime, then again at the end of the day. Most of us check our email first thing in the morning. The problem with this is that it’s very easy to get sidetracked! A client needs something, and you decide that it’s an emergency, whether it is or not. At the very least, do your three items before you log onto your email platform. It’s even better if you schedule yourself twenty minutes to deal with email right before lunch. If it makes you feel better, set up an automated email to go out explaining that you check emails twice daily, and that you’ll get back to the person as soon as possible. If it’s that important, they’ll call. Speaking of which…

  • Schedule yourself some time for returning phone calls. Most phone calls are not an emergency! Allow calls to go to voice mail, and check it every hour if you’re worried that you’ll miss something vital. Then return calls at a specific time. A good time for me to do this is usually in the mid-afternoon, when I’m in a bit of a slump anyway. Your mileage may vary; choose a half hour or an hour that works for you. Don’t get sucked into lengthy conversations, either; these will get you off-track as far as following your to-do list. Ask clients or your boss what they need, then get off of the phone. If necessary, tell them that you are leaving for a meeting.
  • Be realistic. This is probably the most important tip. If you work eight hours per day, don’t schedule yourself ten hours’ worth of projects. You’re not going to be able to get it done, and then you’ll start off behind tomorrow. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. If the worst happens and you complete everything on your list by 3:00, then you can decide if you’d rather take the rest of the afternoon off or start something else, but this is infinitely better than still having two major projects to work on when it’s time to go home.

Your to-do list will likely consist of a lot of trial and error, particularly if you don’t regularly follow one. Once you get into a good groove, though, you’ll find that you’re more organized than ever. The main rules are to be realistic and to not let yourself get distracted during the course of the day. It’s good to maintain some flexibility, but not so much that you aren’t getting accomplished what you need to do.

Do you have a great formula for making a to-do list that works? Share your tips with our readers!

 

Getting Organized in 2014: Your Calendar

Did you know that most people who make new year’s resolutions end up breaking them by February? You know who you are: Did you resolve to lose weight, quit smoking or stop procrastinating in 2014? How are you doing?

Many business owners resolve to finally get themselves organized. It might be that you are having trouble keeping up with your daily, weekly or monthly tasks and have to play catch-up as deadlines loom. Or maybe you’re thinking ahead to tax time, which will be here before any of us know it, and are kicking yourself for not keeping up with your organization last year. This, you tell yourself, is the year that will be different.

Well, it just may be! One thing that you need to do, if you haven’t already, is find some way to document what you want to do, what you are doing, and what you did do. Most of us choose to use some type of calendar for this. Many of us then fret over whether the type of calendar or planner that we’ve chosen is the right one for the job. What is it about a new year that brings out these insecurities? If you haven’t found a calendar that you love, first determine whether you want to go with a paper or digital version. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Do you like the physical action of writing things down? For some people, the act of using a pen to write things down helps to cement ideas and actions in their minds. If that last statement resonates with you, you may want to consider sticking with a paper calendar or planner.

  • Are you more of a creative or logical thinker? Creative types may be better off with a paper planner, while those who are more logical and methodical may prefer a digital calendar. Ask yourself if you like making lists and doodling on your calendar, or if you are more likely to keep all of your appointments on your calendar, but nothing else? That might be all of the answer that you need.

  • How likely are you to lose a paper calendar? Let’s face it: Some of us could lose our heads if they weren’t attached! It’s not a character flaw, just the way we’re wired. If you hesitate to keep a paper calendar because you’re terrified that you’ll lose it, then a digital version, which can be backed up, might be the way to go.

  • Do you have a good memory? The question might really be: How likely are you to remember to check your calendar? If the answer is, “not very,” then a digital calendar, which can beep and alert you to upcoming appointments, can help you keep track of whatever you have going on.

  • Are you technologically savvy? If the thought of a digital calendar makes you fear that you’ll never figure out all of the ins and outs of it, then a paper planner might make more sense.

Of course, you’ll have to weigh everything, and some of these hints might seem contradictory. Creative, doodly types may also be the type more likely to lose a paper planner, so just make the best choice that you can. Once you decide which format would work best for you, it’s time to find the specific product that you’ll buy. You can ask for recommendations, but be forewarned that what works for someone else might not work for you. A good strategy is to go to an office supply store and actually handle the planners available. (The great news is that at the moment, planners may be on sale… after all, most people buy them at the end of December or the beginning of January, so they’re not really a hot commodity right now.) For a digital version, try downloading free trial versions until you find the one that you like best… but don’t spend too much time on this. Perhaps choose three to try for a few days each, then just pick one.

Once you make a decision, resolve to stick with it. Having several different calendars over the course of a year will make you (and next year, your accountant) crazy! Unless there are some extenuating circumstances, just try to make it work for you.

Making a calendar work for you means actually using it. Instead of making a broad resolution to get organized, just make yourself a promise to update your calendar each day. Check it at the beginning and end of each day, marking appointments and goals as they come up. It takes 30 days to form a habit, so do whatever it takes to ensure that you’re using your calendar every day. By this time next month, it should be second nature!

Do you have a calendar or planner, digital or paper, that you love? Share it with our readers in the comments section below!

 

Overcoming Blogger’s Block: Thinking Up Ideas for Your Blog

You already know how important it is to have a blog if you want to create a rapport with your website’s readers, who will, in turn, likely turn into your paying customers. Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets can only go so far when it comes to getting your thoughts out there and into the minds of your clients, customers, fans and readers. If you own a corporate site selling widgets, though, how many different ways can you think of to talk about widgets? Just the thought of writing post after post pontificating on the benefits of your product can bore you to tears, and to be honest with you, it’s likely that your readers aren’t all that interested, either. You need material that is going to pique your intended target’s curiosity enough to cause him or her to return to your blog. What’s the solution? Here are a few ways that you can come up with topics that will entice your readers to come back for more:

  • Consider your target demographic. Think about what you’re selling. Is it something that appeals to middle-aged men, teen girls, pet lovers, people who love food? If you own a roofing company, for example, you want to attract homeowners to your website. They are, after all, the ones who will be putting roofs on their houses. You also want to attract those who aren’t going to be installing their own roofs, so they need to have the funds necessary to pay you for your services. You might consider that your target demographic is 30- to 50-year-old professionals who take pride in their homes. Suddenly, you might be able to think of a wide range of topics. Anything having to do with home improvement would be wise, as would topics having to do with balancing home organization with work or landscaping. Put yourself in the minds of your readers by considering what’s important to them in addition to your widget.
  • Keep your eye on the calendar. Every month of the year promotes advocacy for something. There are also holidays that belong to each month, as well as obscure observances that you can easily search for. All of these offer fodder for your blog. No matter what your product or service, you can probably relate it in some way to the major winter holidays, New Year’s resolutions, romance around Valentine’s Day, the changing weather when spring finally arrives, summer vacations, the time that the kids go back to school, and on and on. Find out whether your product has a day dedicated to it (you might be surprised) and play that up for anywhere from a week to a month or more preceding the big event.
  • Take advantage of social media. Whether or not you have a strong social media presence, you can use trending ideas to come up with topics for your blog. Glance at the list of trending topics on Twitter, for example, or see what’s new on Digg. You can even use sites like Instagram and Pinterest to find interesting new ideas to blog about. While you’re at it, sign up for Google Alerts; this free service will fill your inbox with the latest news on your chosen topics or keywords.
  • Interact with your readers. Some of your best topics will come from your readers themselves! Ask a question on your blog or social media profile and really take a good look at the answers. If someone asks you a question, assume that several others are wondering the same thing, and write your answer as a blog post. Don’t let your readers get frustrated by leaving comments and questions that go unanswered; if you’re not able to answer right then and there, integrating some comments into your blog entries will keep them coming back in the hopes of seeing their ideas addressed.

It can be difficult to come up with ideas to keep your blog moving forward nicely. Remember that every entry does not have to be a full blog post; you can also use infographics, short observations, videos or photo montages or a list of helpful links. By thinking ahead and keeping a list of topics handy, you should be able to avoid blogger’s block, for the most part.

 

Has Content Been De-Throned?

You have heard it said, time and time again: When it comes to attracting a good readership and achieving a higher search engine ranking, content is king. And for the most part, that’s true: If you don’t have high-quality content, not only will Google turn up its nose at you, but your readers won’t be your readers for long. Your content needs to be engaging, accurate and well-written in order to satisfy the 21st-century information-seeker. Still, the king can’t do it alone: If you’re relying only on content to boost your readership (and your bottom line), then you might find yourself lacking in overall success. So, what else matters at least as much as content? Here are some elements to consider including on your site in order to make it the best — and most profitable — that it can be:

  • Tools – Consider sites like Facebook, Amazon and Google. Ranking among the top ten English websites on the World Wide Web, they don’t contain any real content to speak of. What do they consist of? Tools. While your website might not exist solely for the purpose of providing visitors with tools, they can definitely help make your site more user-friendly and valuable. Some to consider include a search bar, a way for clients or customers to add their own reviews (of your products or other products on the market), a way to interact with other users, email or text message capabilities, private messaging, and instant chat.

  • Community –  Related to some of these tools is a sense of community. Being able to interact with others through the use of tools isn’t going to provide a lot of value without a community of people ready and able to put them to use. A forum is an excellent way to bring interested people together. You will need to come up with forum rules and a focus, as well as moderators to ensure that both the rules and the focus are adhered to. You don’t want to run into the problem of having a community that has gotten out of control with spammers, members who want to pick arguments and a lack of moderation, so proceed with caution. A successful community, however, guarantees you a readership, can boost your sales and can improve your brand’s recognition.

  • Appeal – You’ve undoubtedly visited websites that, while providing good content, usable tools and a sense of community, were unappealing for some reason. It might have been the theme colors. Perhaps there was music that started automatically which annoyed you (and those in the room with you). The font might have been too small, or the photos too grainy. Maybe the site map was missing, or you couldn’t find the “contact us” link anywhere on the page. All of these are factors that you need to keep in mind when designing your site; if users find it hard on the eyes, annoying to the ears or frustrating to find what they’re looking for, then they won’t use your tools, they won’t join your community, and they won’t read your content.

While content may never be de-throned as king, it’s important to realize that there other members of the royalty that are just as important to your site’s continued success. Work on improving the facets that tend to draw people in and keep them coming back, and you should see your sales, clicks, readership and bottom line go up!