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Blog Content Strategy 101

Content strategy might seem like the domain of giant content sites and big-brand online publishers. But if you run a blog, you’re a content publisher. And a solid content strategy can help you to more clearly define your goals, and identify how you’ll achieve them.

For those for whom content is a business, a content strategy can help support, and achieve, the goals set out in your business strategy.

What is Content Strategy?

A content strategy is a plan that helps your users achieve their goals, and helps you to achieve your own goals, through your web site’s content.

Content strategy treats content as an asset that can be used, or combined with other informational or interactive tools, to help users achieve their aims on your site. Content strategy prevents you from seeing your content as mere tactical executions that — hopefully — support some distant business goal. Content strategy frames content as a tool.

Kristina Halvorsen, content strategy guru and founder of content strategy consultancy Brain Traffic, defines content strategy as including editorial strategy, web writing, metadata strategy, search engine optimization, content management strategy, and content channel distribution strategy.

Stepping Toward Strategy

I see the creation of a content strategy as involving these steps.

  1. Set content goals.
  2. Conduct content inventory and identify content gaps.
  3. Review and amend, where appropriate, site taxonomy or labeling, content tagging, and categorisation so that your current treatment of content reflects the goals you’ve set.
  4. Identify content-related tasks and responsibilities.
  5. Set a plan for:
    - filling content gaps
    - the direction of future content
    - recycling or reusing evergreen content to achieve the greatest possible ROI

    Let’s look at each step in turn.

    1. Setting Content Goals

    Every good blog meets a particular need for a given audience. Your content goals are the place where, on paper, your audience members’ needs can be aligned with your business needs.

    For example, imagine I run a blog on chicken keeping, and my audience is backyard poultry keepers — families and others who aren’t exactly poultry enthusiasts or breeders, but want to have a few hens scratching in the backyard. And let’s say I want to generate an income of $1000 per month from my blog six months from now.

    The only way I’m going to achieve my goal is through content: by providing my audience with the information they need. Whether I join affiliate programs, conduct paid product reviews, sell ad space or sell ebooks about chicken keeping, if I don’t publish the content, I won’t have an audience, and I won’t generate an income.

    Content translates to pageviews, audience growth, engagement and loyalty — all the things that bloggers need to monetise their blogs. So my content goals might cover:

    • publishing frequency
    • per-post, per-month, or per-category traffic objectives
    • topic emphasis, post type, or media used
    • the quantity and quality of comments, discussions and feedback

    Even if your blog isn’t a financial concern, content goals will help you stay focused on your blog’s unique advantage — its point of difference — and make the most of that with every post you publish.

    2. Conducting a Content Inventory

    A thorough content inventory involves listing each piece of content on your blog, and noting its publish date categorisation, tags, and any other metadata associated with it.

    Through this process, you’ll find outdated posts, incorrectly categorised or tagged posts, broken links, spam comments, typos — all kinds of issues! Once you’re finished, you’ll also have a clear idea of the strengths of your existing content assets, as well as the weaknesses. And by considering your content inventory in light of your content goals, you’ll quickly be able to find content gaps: areas in which you lack the content that will be required to achieve your goals.

    If one of my goals is for my chicken keeping site to be the recognised authority for backyard hobby poultry keepers, I’ll need the content to back that up. My content inventory will undoubtedly reveal some areas in which my content is lacking, incomplete, amateurish, or fails to represent best-practice approaches. They’re my content gaps for this goal.

    3. Reviewing and Amending Content Treatment

    The information you collected on your content’s metadata during the content inventory also needs to be analysed in light of your goals. This might reveal other gaps — perhaps you’ve overlooked some important tags, or the tags you’ve used don’t reflect the terms audience members usually search for. You’ll want to identify those issues and address them, creating additional tags, making sure your content is categorised as logically and intuitively as possible, and ensuring that the mechanics of your content are closely aligned with your content goals.

    One of my chicken keeping blog goals was income, and I’ve decided I’ll use good organic search placement as one technique to build my readership. My content inventory shows that I’ve tagged all my content about poultry housing with the tag “hen houses”, but my research shows that searchers most commonly search for the term “coops”. I might add that tag to my site — and all related posts — to boost my position in those search results. I might also change the navigation label on my blog that leads to specliaised content about hen houses from “Housing” to “Coops” so that when the users I’ve attracted reach my blog, they see exactly the thing they’re looking for.

    This step is really about looking at the ancillary information that allows users to find and contextualise the information you present, and making sure it’s optimised for your user and blog goals.

    4. Identifying Content Tasks and Responsibilities

    If you’re a solo blogger, the second part of this step will be easy: you’ll be responsible for everything! But just what is “everything”?

    How often will you publish new content? What tools will you use to publish it? Where will you source it and what requirements will you place on every item published on your blog? Who will follow up on any copyright issues and check the factual accuracy of each post? Who will run the spell check? Who will schedule the posts and who will hit the “publish” button? How will you work out, or know, when you need to add a category or tag to the site? And how will you populate that new category with content?

    If your blog is time-relevant, you might need a plan for retiring old content, but every blog contains some content that will become outdated in time. How will you manage that? Where will you redirect users who try to access retired content?

    These are just some of the questions about tasks and responsibilities that you’ll want to answer through your content strategy. The guidelines you’ll want to set at this point will depend on the nature of your blog, and where you want to take it in future. For example, in developing my authoritative chicken keeping blog, I might decide to request guest posts from well-known breeders. This decision has implications for copyright, publishing schedules, consistency of style and voice, and so on. I’ll need to try to anticipate and answer those questions in my strategy.

    5. Setting Your Plan

    The work you’ve done so far forms the basis for your content strategy. You’ve defined a focus, audience and goals, and reshaped your blog (and its underlying process and management) so that it’s in the best possible position to achieve your goals as you move forward.

    The final step involves setting out action plans to implement strategies and tactics that will help you achieve those goals over time.

    That might involve tasks like:

    • filling large-scale content gaps
    • trying new content-sourcing tactics, post types, and media
    • recycling, reusing or repackaging evergreen content to achieve the greatest possible return on your investment in it

    When you work with content all the time, it can be difficult to step back and see your blog as a whole. That’s why comparatively few bloggers have developed content strategies for their blogs. But a good content strategy can help you to focus, and build your offering strategically using content assets that appreciate, rather than devalue, over time.

    Do you have a content strategy for your blog, or are you winging it?

    Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

    About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

    How to Use Guest Blogging to Grow Your Blog Exponentially

    Screen shot 2010-07-30 at 10.27.42 AM.pngOne of the biggest challenges for a new bloggers starting out in an established niche is to find a way to stand out from the crowd and find their first readers. Without existing profile and/or credibility – getting those first readers can be very tough.

    To combat this a few years back a number of bloggers started to use ‘Guest Blogging’ as a technique to launch their blogs and grow their brands to new audiences. This technique launched many bloggers to prominence – including Leo Babauta, Brian Clark, Chris Garrett, Skellie, Jon Morrow (all of whom have guest posted on ProBlogger) and many many more.

    Much has been written on the topic of how to use guest posting but one of the best resources that I’ve seen lately has been produced by Jon Morrow. He’s just released the first in a series of videos (#aff) on the topic and they are well worth watching.

    I’ve seen the complete set of videos for myself and they are easy to watch, actionable and inspiring.

    Jon himself has used guest blogging with great success – including this fantastic post on speech recognition for bloggers here on ProBlogger which helped many.

    Jon’s first video is completely free (no opt in required) and is well worth watching. His future videos require an opt in but you’ll get a feel for whether they’re right for you from the first one. I watched them all and they’re excellent.

    Do yourself a favour and set aside some time today to watch these videos.

    Source Quality Content … Continuously

    What does every blogger need more of? Quality content!

    This is the first of a series of six posts that tackle key content questions. Today, we’re looking specifically at content sources: places where you can get ideas and information that, with a little work, you can turn into quality blog posts.

    Your posts may be text, images or video; they could deal with any topic. But every blogger needs post ideas, and all of us hit uninspired patches through which we still need to produce compelling content to a regular schedule.

    Thinking strategically about the content sources you use can deliver several benefits:

    • It provides its own inspiration: can’t think of a personal story to share today? No problem — use one of the many other content sources at your disposal.
    • It can make your life easier: instead of scrounging around one or two sources of ideas, you can find and track great sources through which you’ll gain access to a constant flow of post ideas.
    • It helps ensure you don’t omit important information: if your blog covers a growing market space, there are probably news items and events that you’ll want to make sure you cover. Monitoring key content sources will help you deliver the essential stories to your readers at the right time.
    • It can help you to think intelligently about how you pitch each post: a greater choice of content sources offers you more opportunities to creatively reach specific reader segments in ways that resonate specifically with them.
    • It can give you a wider range of tools with which to achieve your blogging objectives: try different content sources, and over time you may well find that different types of information produce posts that serve particular objectives. We all know, for example, that a review post can provide affiliate opportunities that can translate directly into revenue. Work out which post types help achieve specific audience, promotion or revenue goals, and identify content sources for those posts, and you’ll be able to focus on making the content resonate with your audience, rather than spending your time searching for basic post ideas.

    I usually see content sources as falling into two categories: internal and external sources.

    Internal Content Sources

    Internal content sources are those that exist within my operation, myself, and my audience. They include:

    1. feedback and audience discussion around past posts
    2. the audience itself
    3. my experiences, perspective, and opinion
    4. my network of colleagues and contacts

    It’s essential that you stay abreast of what’s happening on your site. Existing discussions can help you identify topics that unite your audience in sharing, learning, or debate — all of which helps build community.

    It’ll also provide one means for engaging with your audience (along with social media and other sources of direct audience contact). Sure, your site stats are helpful as a frame of reference, but nothing beats actual user engagement for getting ideas about what your blog’s readers want to know, what makes them laugh, and what motivates them.

    Thinking objectively about your own experiences in the field, as well as those of your contacts, can unearth some intriguing ideas and information that can immediately help you to develop posts. But beyond that, your passion for your field should see you investigating ideas with colleagues, and forming your own opinions about industry developments. Those unique perspectives can provide a wealth of post ideas — from interviews and news-style reports to the kinds of opinion and analysis posts that stick in  readers’ minds, and keep them coming back to check the comments long after they’ve read your post.

    External Content Sources

    External content sources lie beyond my immediate sphere of operation. They include:

    • other media focused on the same topic, including offline media, such as interest magazines and industry publications, forums, user groups, social network trends and discussions, and more.
    • other people focused on the same topic, including thought leaders, commentators, reviewers, passionate hobbyists, and organisational heads.

    I like to subscribe to media that focus on the same topic as my blog, so I’m constantly fed content ideas through story alerts, media releases, and news updates. The same goes for tracking people who lead opinion or have expertise in my area — by subscribing to their blogs, regularly visiting their sites, and following them on social networks, I can keep a grip not just on the news, but on the discussions and thinking that occur in the broader arena in which I operate.

    The posts that arise from these sources might be as pragmatic as a product or service review, daily reports from an industry conference, or ongoing commentary on a major development in your area of interest. Or they can be as theoretical as an essay taking in various industry-leading opinions, advice, and responses on a particular topic. The posts may be yours, or those of a guest blogger you’ve sourced through your offsite research. In any case, your blog won’t be short of content.

    Continuous Content

    Sourcing regular, quality content is every blogger’s challenge. But with that challenge comes the hurdles of variety, insight, exclusivity and personality. At the heart of it all, you’ll need a continuous content sourcing approach.

    To source content continually, you’ll need to build content sourcing into your schedule, and into your brain. Yes, you’ll need to dedicate time to content-sourcing tasks, like flicking through RSS feeds, reading, researching, interviewing, networking, and so on. But all that becomes easy if you treat everything you do around your blog topic as a potential content sourcing opportunity.

    Soon, you’ll no longer sit down to write a blog post and start by wracking your brains for ideas. Instead, you’ll find content ideas pop up everywhere. You’ll stop asking yourself, “What will I write about?” and find yourself picking and choosing from a plethora of ideas that “just come to you”.

    What’s your favourite source of quality content ideas?

    Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

    About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

    5 Tools I Am Willing to Pay for [And Recommend] to Improve My Blogs

    One of the great things about blogging is that it is very accessible to anyone with internet access. There are some fantastic tools around that are completely free that mean you can have a blog up and running within minutes of deciding to start a blog.

    Free tools range from hosted blog platforms like WordPress.com and Blogger through to a myriad of plugins and themes around the web that can make blogging a breeze.

    Of course while there are many many free options out there, sometimes to take your blog to the next level there can come a time when you need to spend a few dollars. I bit the bullet early in my blogging and did this first by paying for my own hosting and moving from Blogger to Movable Type (and later to WordPress.org). I also paid fairly early on for a custom design.

    These days I continue to have a variety of expenses including hosting, design, paying a small team of writers (on dPS), paying for some admin support and some development costs.

    There are also a number of paid tools that have become indispensable for me which I’d like to feature today. While there are free alternatives to some of them, I’ve found them to be of a standard that I’m more than happy to pay for.

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    1. Aweber

    Perhaps the single most important decision that I’ve made in the last few years of blogging was to add newsletters to my blogs (particularly my photography blog).

    I’ve outlined how I use newsletters to drive significant traffic and make money and have written previously Why I use Aweber so won’t rehash it all again – but this is a tool I’m more than happy to have invested in as it easily pays for itself and has been a key part of growing my blogs over the last 4 years many times over.

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    2. Ustream Producer Pro

    This is the latest tool that I’ve invested in. It wasn’t particularly cheap at $199 but enables me to take my video streaming sessions up a notch and do things like have more than one camera angle, do live screen capturing, add a logo to my ustream sessions, import movies and audio into them, have extra transitions, do picture in picture etc.

    Some of this is in the free version and you might find you don’t need to upgrade unless you want a few more bells and whistles.

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    3. MindNode Pro

    I’m a big fan of mind mapping. I used to do it without having a name for it on whiteboards and note pads but when I saw online tools that could help me with it I was in heaven. I’ve tried a lot of the Mac based tools (both free and paid) and the one that suits my workflow best is MindNode.

    Their free version is brilliant and you might not even need to upgrade but I’m willing to pay for the Pro version simply because it adds the ability to fold down sections of your mind map and do things like add images to it.

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    4. Market Samurai

    I’ve not ever really paid money for SEO before until I came across the Market Samurai tool but it’s excellent. I may not use it quite to its fullest potential (yet) but have touched on how I find it useful for choosing a niche to blog about as well as optimizing a single post on your blog for search engines.

    The cool thing is that they have a free trial of the tool which will give you access to its great features to try before you buy – you might find that that’s all you need to do some research and get your blog optimised pretty well.

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    5. Screenflow

    This is a mac only tool which allows users to do great screencasting. I’ve used it more for private resources that I’ve developed for a couple of companies in consulting but it is a very cool way to show what’s on your screen in video as well as insert a view from a camera. A few videos I’ve made with it include -  

    Note: I am an affiliate for Market Samurai and Aweber but am both a user and a fan of both.

    How to Build a Successful Blog Business

    One of the best new resources for those wanting to make money from blogging is a new eBook (and available as a ‘real’ book is How to Build a Successful Blog Business by Collis Ta’eed.

    I had the opportunity to read this great new book last week and was really impressed by the mix of solid teaching, practical tips and fantastic case studies.

    book-cover.jpgCollis Ta’eed is the creator of some highly successful blogging businesses – Envato, Tuts+, Freelance switch and AppStorm. He’s built something with his great team from scratch to be some of the most popular and profitable blogs going around. He’s someone that I respect so much that I’ve invited him to speak at the upcoming Melbourne bloggers day net week.

    Topics in the book include a wide array of things including

    • an introduction to
    • teaching on how to plan and research your new blog
    • tips on creating a brand, naming your blog, choosing domains and design
    • a variety of teaching on staffing your blog
    • content – how to write it, editing content, headline tips, evergreen content etc
    • generating traffic for your blog – how to do it!
    • monetization – teaching on an array of methods of making money from blogs
    • building a long term business – expanding to multiple blogs and adding businesses to your blog

    There are also 3 great case studies on the blogs that Collis has set up – these case studies are highly valuable in and of themselves and my favourite part of the book.

    I found this 327 page book to be a refreshing read and one that I think will help a lot of people. For me the highlight was to get an insight into how another bloggers has approached his business – I picked up a lot of great ideas and know that anyone starting out will gain even more insight.

    You can get a free sample of the book on the sales page for it (including full table of contents and the first chapter).

    How to Make an Absolute Fortune From Your Blog (Really)

    Kevin Geary is the author of Employee Revolution: A guide to being indispensable, irreplaceable, and higher paid (without lying, cheating, or joining a union).

    If you have a personal blog, I’m talking directly to you. If you don’t have a personal blog, get one now. Sorry, but this surefire strategy doesn’t work unless you have a personal blog (you can keep your other blogs, you just need a personal one too).

    What is a resume`?

    Try not to fall asleep. This is short and to the point, I promise.

    A resume is a list of your qualifications on one page. It’s supposed to make it easy for a company to quickly determine whether or not you are qualified for a job.

    But companies actually use your resume` as an excuse to exclude you.

    Secret: They don’t look at what’s there, they look at what’s missing. The key is to not play by the rules.

    This is where your personal blog comes in. The resume` is dead. It’s time to be unique. It’s time to be relevant. It’s time to be revolutionary. It’s time to be a real problogger.

    I want you to use your personal blog as a launch pad for your dream career. The personal blog is the new resume` of the revolutionary.

    What’s it look like?

    In the new global economy, skills and titles are commodities. The times are changing so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to keep up, much less completely stand apart from others skill-wise or title-wise.

    How much better of a programmer are you really? How many more titles can you achieve over the next person in line? How much faster can you complete the design process? It’s all a race in the wrong direction because there’s always someone (or a computer) who can do it better and faster than you (or good enough to get paid a little less and keep the job).

    What’s important for the revolutionary is not physical skill and titles (things that look good on resume`s) as much as it is: personality, uniqueness, imagination, relevance, artistry, passion, personal connection, fearlessness, and problem solving. These are things that can’t be replicated; things that make you an individual and not a commodity.

    It’s also a list of things that are impossible to communicate on a resume`.

    Your personal blog is going to tell your real story. It’s not the story of physical skills and titles. It’s the story of getting things done. It’s the story of being invaluable. It’s the story of doing what nobody else has done, solving problems nobody else could solve, and not just having ideas, but consistently acting-on and shipping them (getting your idea to the public).

    The revolutionary doesn’t have a resume`. The revolutionary has a story that is digitally recorded, spread across the globe, talked about, shared, commented on, revered, admired, hated, and loved. It’s uniqueness translates into scarcity, which translates into value in the marketplace.

    Your personal blog is a chance to tell who you are and show what you do (beyond skills and titles) in a way that makes you irresistible. It’s the way you’re going to land the job you really want. It’s the way you’re going to make an absolute fortune.

    This is where you expect the list.

    There is no list. There can’t be. If there was a step by step process to creating a blog that accomplishes what we just talked about, everyone would have one.

    There’s only step one: get started. Use what you’ve learned here from Darren to get everything set up. Then think about answering the following questions:

    • Who are you, really?
    • Why are you different?
    • How are you relevant?
    • What have you accomplished (not ideas, but actual accomplishments in your industry)?
    • What do you think?
    • Who will recommend you?
    • What have they said about you?
    • What are your ideas?
    • What problems have you solved?

    There are many more, but I think you get the point. These are all things a company should ask, but doesn’t. This is how you change the rules. This is how you win.

    The revolution is new, but the revolution is real. I invite you to leave the confines of the box everyone lives in and be a revolutionary. You’re important. We need you.

    What Was Your Biggest Traffic Day?

    I’m preparing a presentation on ‘Finding Readers for your Blog’ which I’ll be giving at the Melbourne Blog Training Day next Tuesday.

    It’s got me thinking back to some of the bigger days of traffic that I’ve had on my own blogs over the years and I thought I’d open up some discussion on the topic to see if we can identify any trends.

    What was your biggest day of Traffic (or ‘days’ if you can think of more than one) and what happened to make them occur?

    I asked this on Twitter yesterday and it was interesting to see the responses. Some of the reasons giving included:

    • controversial posts
    • creative posts
    • random links from bigger sites
    • social bookmarking events (getting popular on Digg or Delicious)
    • ranking high for terms in Google around big news events
    • breaking a scoop news story

    I’m sure we’ll see some of these themes in your experiences but know that there will be other themes too.

    For me there have been many bigger than normal days over the last 8 years. Two that spring to mind include:

    • My Six Figure Blogging Moment – I had been blogging for a while and suddenly realised that I was on track for over $100,000 in a year earnings from my blogs. The first time I mentioned it was in an interview that I did. I didn’t really think about the implications of talking about it at the time but that interview went viral – as did my followup post. What kicked it all off was a mention on Slashdot (which at the time was equivalent to getting on the front page of Digg).
    • Front page of Yahoo (sort of) – then there was the day that a post on my photography blog was featured by one of Yahoo’s tech blogs. That in itself didn’t sent much traffic but when that particular Yahoo blog’s post was featured on the front page of Yahoo for 4-5 hours one day I saw traffic hit my blog like I’ve never seen traffic before or since. I don’t remember the exact numbers but I saw more traffic from that 4-5 hours than I’d normally see in a week of traffic.

    So now it’s over to you. What Was Your Biggest Traffic Day and Why did it Happen?

    9 Proven Tips For Creating An Extraordinarily Successful Blog [Lady Gaga Edition]

    A Guest Post by Karol Gajda from Ridiculously Extraordinary.

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    I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a Lady Gaga fan.

    I didn’t really know who she was until about 6 months ago. I knew the name, but hadn’t heard the music or learned about the artist. Then I heard the music and my first thought was: “pop genius.” That said, it wasn’t until I heard/read a few interviews and witnessed how she carried herself that I actually became a fan.

    Lady Gaga isn’t just a pop genius, she’s an unapologetic strong-willed marketing genius as well.

    There is a lot to be learned from someone like that.

    Here’s the tip of the iceberg …

    1) Be opinionated. Take a side. Lady Gaga isn’t afraid to speak out on issues she feels strongly about. In doing so, she keeps herself in the public eye. Even more, she attracts her right people.

    2) Don’t be afraid to make money. Blatant product placements in the biggest video of the year? Sure, why not? There is nothing wrong with making ridiculous amounts of cash if that’s what you want to do. There is no such thing as a sellout. If you want to put ads on your blog, do it. If you want to sell products, do it. Don’t apologize. You should be paid to create art. Being a starving artist is nothing to be proud of.

    3) Don’t call your fans fans. Give them something unique to connect with. Gaga calls her fans Little Monsters. Chris Guillebeau has a Small Army. Adam Baker has The Militia. And I have the Freedom Fighters. (Whoa, I just noticed a bit of a military theme!)

    4) Be different even if it’s obvious you’re trying to be different. But don’t state that you’re different, because if you have to put it into words then it’s not true. Confusing? :) How about this: there are too many normal people with normal blogs and normal writing. You are extraordinary so show it. (Show, don’t tell.)

    5) Be good to your Little Monsters. Treat them well and they will reciprocate and make you a superstar. During concerts, Lady Gaga calls a fan in the audience from the stage and invites them to have a drink with her after the show. Whoa! What can you do to connect with your people on a deeper level?

    Personal example:

    For the Version 0.9 launch of How To Live Anywhere, if you were one of the 132 who bought in the first 24 hours you got a hand written postcard from Goa, India.

    Why? 3 reasons:

    1) I wanted to thank the Freedom Fighters for changing the world, because every sale in the first 24 hours got doubled (by me) and sent to Kiva.org. I ended up sending $1600!

    2) I wanted to thank the Freedom Fighters for taking quick, decisive action. Because that’s really what the Ridiculously Extraordinary Movement is about, action.

    3) In this ever expanding online universe I wanted to connect with the Freedom Fighters old school. Yeah, it took me a good 6 hours to write out those postcards, but it was worth it.

    6) Piss lots of people off. You can’t please everybody, right? Take it a step further and piss off the people that you’re not going to please anyway. :) It keeps Gaga in the news and reinforces her message.

    7) Befriend the right people. Lady Gaga has, among others, people like Perez Hilton on her side. Having someone like Perez, who influences pop culture strongly himself, in her corner is a perfect ally in her quest for pop world domination.

    8) Produce killer content. Gaga writes ridiculously good pop hits. Undeniable. She doesn’t produce an extraordinary amount of content, but everything she does is done very well.

    9) Don’t be ashamed of the mainstream. Gaga straight up admits her pop sensibilities are calculated. Everything she does is on purpose. Shoot for the top of your niche with your blog or don’t take a shot at all.

    What did I miss? What other lessons can Lady Gaga teach us about blog domination?

    Read more from Karol Gajda at Ridiculously Extraordinary.

    Blogosphere Trends + Being Opinionated

    This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

    Man alive, I hate bringing you a list of blogosphere trends that includes both Lindsay Lohan and Jersey Shore—not to mention Sarah Palin. But I report the list, I don’t decide what’s on it (neither does Regator—it just calculates what’s being blogged about most this week). Then again, you might love Lohan and eagerly await the next episode of Jersey Shore. You may have voted for Sarah Palin. My distaste for those things is merely my opinion and, in giving it, I have given you a better sense of who I am. As a blogger, I am all for that. And you should be too.

    If you look at the web’s top bloggers, you’ll find they have a couple of things in common: a unique voice, which we talked about recently, and opinions to share. As Darren pointed out, “Expressing opinions on your blog is like adding seasoning to food. Without it, your blog could end up being quite bland and blend into the crowd.” Reporting the facts is useful but adding commentary helps your blog stand out from the dozens—or hundreds—of blogs covering the same story. If you all have the same facts, it’s your viewpoint that will help remove you from the echo chamber. You are providing your translation of the story and encouraging your readers to see it in a new way.

    Let’s look at examples of posts about this week’s top stories to see how sharing your opinions can enhance your blog and engage readers:

    1. Shirley Sherrod – Michelle Cottle of The New Republic pulls no punches in “The End of Andrew Breitbart.” She rails on “conservative pseudo-journalism” and refers to Breitbart as a “toxic tantrum.” Be warned though: This technique is not for the timid. Cottle has a long history of writing highly opinionated pieces that have, no doubt, helped her build a tough skin when it comes to antagonistic comments. The most frightening thing about going from a blogger who reports news to a blogger who reports news with a viewpoint is that you will offend someone—particularly if you phrase your opinions in such a confrontational way. But you will also build a stronger relationship with the rest of your audience, particularly those whose stance is similar to yours (and those who enjoy a healthy dose of debate).
    2. FacebookEpicenter’s “Five Things That Could Topple Facebook’s Empire” is a far more subtle approach. Since no one knows what will (or could) harm the social networking behemoth, Ryan Singel’s list comprises his own ideas about the challenges Facebook faces. This sort of opinion-sharing/hypothesizing is far less likely to ruffle feathers than the first example. While searching for a post that shared original thoughts on Facebook, I had to rifle through literally hundreds that were simply repeating that Facebook has reached 500 million users and Facebook was being taken to court and Zuckerberg was interviewed on television. They all had the same facts with nothing to differentiate one from another. That is what you want to avoid.
    3. Lindsay Lohan ­– Crushable’s “Poll: Should Celebrities Always Do The Right Thing?” shares the opinion that, due to her background, jail-bound Lohan should be allowed to make mistakes. The post follows up with “But maybe we are wrong!” and an invitation for readers to take a poll. One advantage of sharing your viewpoints is that it opens the door to the opinions of your readers and provides a venue for productive conversations. Your enthusiasm for a topic is contagious and much more likely to elicit a response than a straightforward repetition of the facts.
    4. Comic-Con ­– While other nerd blogs were rejoicing in the glory that is Comic-Con, Techland’s Lev Grossman was busy writing “The Guy Who Hates Comic-Con Goes to Comic-Con, Part 1.” It stands out among the posts on the event and the humor of it is a fantastic cloak for what might otherwise have been construed as a bit of a whiny perspective. It is fun to read and, most importantly, it is the author’s brutally honest assessment of the convention.
    5. Inception – Jim Emerson’s “Inception: Has Christopher Nolan forgotten how to dream?” post from Scanners does contain spoilers, so beware of that. But it also contains a unique perspective on the movie that I found compelling enough to share on my social networking pages. Emerson’s post shows the importance of providing supportive evidence to validate your opinion. Even those who do not agree with your assessment of a situation before reading your post may find themselves saying, “That blogger really has a point” if you provide enough reasons for your ideas.
    6. Mel Gibson – Rufus F.’s “In Defense of Casting Stones at Mel Gibson” from The League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen is a direct response to E.D. Kain’s “In Defense of Mel Gibson” from the same blog. That is the beauty of opinions; they are likely (particularly among dissenters) to provoke discussions in the comments and, if they are divisive enough, to prompt entire posts providing an alternate position. For the record, I’m not encouraging flame wars or knock-down, drag-out arguments; I’m advocating respectful two-way conversations between adults with different viewpoints. Keeping your tone positive and staying open to contradictory viewpoints will help maintain a healthy community and positive vibe. I learn a great deal from listening to those who disagree with me, and you will too.
    7. Oil spill – “Gulf of Mexico,” which has been on trending for several weeks, has been replaced by “Oil spill” thanks to news that China is dealing with a spill of its own. How depressing. But I digress… Treehugger’s “In Defense of the Offshore Drilling Moratorium” takes the safest path to stating an opinion by defending the drilling moratorium. Sharing opinions is one thing, but sharing opinions that will alienate most of your readers (for example, a post titled “10 Best Steak Restaurants” on a vegetarian blog) is simply unwise. You don’t need me to tell you that.
    8. Steve JobsFlip the Media’s “On Media and AntennaGate” cites the author’s own history as support of an opinion, making ample use of phrases such as “I don’t think so,” “I agree with him,” and “I doubt it” to make it clear that the blogger is providing her personal opinion. There’s no need to go overboard, but be sure that you aren’t phrasing your opinions in a way that could be misconstrued as fact.
    9. Sarah Palin – From the moment you read the headline “I’m Telling You, Palin Has No Chance,” it is clear that Daniel Larison’s Eunomia post is providing a personal opinion. He acknowledges that “it’s risky to make absolute statements about anything…” but goes on to provide several reasons based on his findings. Again, this is a post that is a rebuttal to a post from another blog.
    10. Jersey ShorePortfolio’s “Here’s the Situation: Fire the ‘Jersey Shore’ Cast” provides its reasoning in the form of bulletpoints in what amounts to an open letter to the makers of the reality TV show. Open letters can be a fun and creative way to share your thoughts.

    Are you opinionated on your blog or afraid of offending people? Let’s chat about it in comments.

    Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.