Close
Close

How to Use Metaphors to Engage and Encourage Readers

This guest post is by Elizabeth Joss of Xcellent Media.

“They nailed their stakes into the earth of my life, those farmers. They knew the place in me where the river stopped, and they marked it with a new name. Shantaram Kishan Kharre. I don’t know if they found that name in the heart of the man they believed me to be, or if they planted it there, like a wishing tree, to bloom and grow. Whatever the case, whether they discovered that peace or created it, the truth is that the man I am was born in those moments, as I stood near the flood sticks with my face lifted to the chrismal rain. Shantaram. The better man that, slowly, and much too late, I began to be.”—Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram, p.136-137

The words of Gregory David Roberts fill me with a sense of awe and passion, and at the same time they inspire me to write. His novel, Shantaram, is comprised of moving metaphorical prose that calls readers to action, whether it be to laugh, cry, or to delve deep within themselves.

Metaphorical writing can be used to transport the reader to an imaginary world, all with the unification and comparison of two unrelated objects.

It’s the perfect technique for bloggers wanting to capture readers’ attention—and hold it.

Advantages of metaphors

  • Metaphors add spice to your writing and can make your words sing. They add a layer of richness, making you a better storyteller overall.
  • Metaphors help us relate to a complex world. They help make concepts appear more real and tangible to us and thus we are better able to digest certain concepts (note the metaphor in this sentence too!). They also help us explain complex topics much more effectively to our readers. People will then attach great importance to a topic if they can relate to it through a metaphor.
  • There is a strong visual element to a metaphor, which is what makes it so effective for the reader.
  • Using metaphors can propel the behaviour of your readers and usher them towards action. They are pertinent persuasive devices because they help the reader unlock a part of him or herself and enable a more thorough engagement with the writing and their own imagination.

Metaphor pitfalls

  • Avoid overusing metaphors in your writing, as they can weigh your prose down significantly. A metaphor should give your blog post lasting understanding and clarity. Don’t force metaphors into your writing. Rather, use one extended metaphor throughout a text for a better effect.
  • Steer clear of the cheesy or clichéd metaphors we often use in speech. For example, she was blown away by his words or he cooked up a storm. The metaphor should not bring the reader to a halt while reading—its use should be as natural as possible.
  • Know your audience. Metaphorical language differs from culture to culture but it is nonetheless an important part of societies and of individual cognition. People think metaphorically and they create and organize their world through metaphors. This means that different groups of individuals will have different understandings of metaphors, or even completely different metaphors than others. If you want to write for a certain group of people, be sure to research and understand their metaphor usage.
  • Steer clear of using clichés and of forcing metaphors in your prose, unless you are trying to make a point that is both persuasive and effective.

How to create your own metaphor

Blog posts with metaphorical titles (similes) usually attract a lot of attention. I’m sure you’ve seen articles about why blogging is like dating, going to the gym, or even like The Wizard of Oz. These comparisons usually run through the entire blog post right from the title itself, thus creating an extended metaphor.

Sean Platt’s The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine is a great example of metaphor. Writing a blog post is likened to Eminem’s storytelling and rapping techniques. This controversial headline is catchy and Sean uses a popular artist to make us identify with his topic right from the outset.

Here are some useful steps to create your own metaphor (extended or ordinary) for use in your next blog post:

  1. Focus on the concept you are trying to explain. For example, you may be informing your readers about the benefits of yoga.
  2. Brainstorm the concept and write down everything that comes into your head, as I’ve done below:

  3. What similar, real-life objects or concepts (must be completely unrelated) embody the points you’ve brainstormed? Make a list of the first few things that come to mind using the free-association technique (where you write spontaneously as things come into your thoughts).

  4. Which one stands out at you the most? Once I had brainstormed the benefits, the pretzel idea immediately stood out at me—its shape is similar to a yogi’s body when performing a twist on the floor! This is appropriate and it adds an element of humour as well. You can almost imagine a yogi as a contortionist or pretzel on the floor.
  5. Does this metaphor make your topic more accessible to your readers? The idea of a yogi as a pretzel may be slightly clichéd but people can relate to it and its humour makes it a winner.

If you are in need of some inspiration, check out Darren’s post, Blogging is Like, for 42 examples of extended metaphor/simile blog posts, none of which are obvious comparisons.

Find your magic within

The above short tips are only guidelines to get you thinking about using comparisons in your writing. The trick is to think out of the box and make analogies that are not so obvious. You can use the above tactics if you are keen to create a metaphorical title. However, it is safe to say that the more you read and write, the more natural your metaphors will be and you won’t even have to think about purposely employing them.

So if you don’t want ideas or blog posts that are half-baked or regurgitated then look to metaphors as your food for thought. Metaphors are exceptionally powerful devices that, when used properly, will knock the socks off your readers. So don’t wait around—conjure up your own marvellous metaphors!

Do you use metaphors in your writing? Or are there other literary devices you are more drawn to?

Elizabeth Joss writes for Xcellent Media, a media and marketing company based in Cape Town, South Africa. She covers topics like social media, SEO, blogging and web marketing. For more great blogging tips by Elizabeth, follow the Xcellent Media blog or add Xcellent Media on Twitter

Find Fans’ and Followers’ Pain Points in 5 Simple Steps

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

Social media sites are great for a number of different purposes, including connecting with your readership and establishing yourself as a thought leader within your industry. However, the interactions you have on these popular social sites can also serve another major purpose within your business—providing the market research necessary to uncover your audience’s hidden pain points.

But what are pain points, and what makes these issues so useful from a marketing standpoint?

Essentially, “pain points” are the problems that members of your audience have that they’re actively seeking solutions for. Let’s take a closer look at different parts of this statement to see what makes pain points so powerful:

  • The problems: When you can identify different issues that your audience is facing, you can also identify and provide the solutions they need. Doing so will increase both your reputation within your niche and your ability to market products that resolve these issues.
  • That members of your audience have: As a blogger, you’re only one member of your community, which makes it easy to assume that your audience members are experiencing the problems you expect them to have. Unfortunately, limiting your survey of potential pain points to your own assumptions means that you could miss some tremendous opportunities to connect with your readers over problems you never even imagined they’d be facing!
  • That they’re actively seeking solutions for: Problem-solving is a continuum, which means that people need to acknowledge that they have certain problems and actively seek out a solution before your interventions can be useful.  Approaching readers at the wrong point on this spectrum—for example, before they even know they have problems—can make your marketing efforts less successful.

With all of these different factors in mind, here’s a simple five-step process for uncovering your audience’s hidden pain points and using these problems to connect more effectively through better-targeted blog posts and paid products.

1. Find your audience

Clearly, in order to identify the pain points your audience is expressing on popular social networking sites, you first need to locate your readers!

Now, I’m not just talking about high-tailing it over to Facebook or Twitter, finding a few token users and setting up your pain points marketing plan based on the presence of a few audience members. Instead, what you want to find is the social website where people are actively pouring out their innermost feelings to fellow members of their communities.

Within your niche, this might be Facebook or Twitter—or it might be a forum, message board, or chat site.  Don’t limit the potential of your market research by observing only surface-level interactions or assuming that the top-tier social networking sites will be the best places to understand your members’ inner pain points.

The easiest way to identify your audience’s internet hangouts is to pretend to be an audience member yourself.  Enter questions into Google as if you were searching for the types of information your site visitors are looking for and pay attention to the sites that appear in the natural search results.  Explore these sites and follow any external links you encounter, paying close attention to signs of high engagement (for example, post comments, forum thread views, and social shares).

Once you find the hottest social sites in your niche, take the time to set up a profile for yourself and begin interacting with your audience.

2. Find the keywords they use

As you engage with your potential site visitors on your chosen social networking sites, pay special attention to the way they’re asking questions and the keywords they use to do so.

One of the biggest weaknesses facing bloggers who incorporate traditional keyword research into their website marketing plans is that the data found in these number-crunching programs often fails to tell the whole story about your audience’s actual interests and desires. The result is a blog that’s well-optimized for the search engine spiders, but not your actual readers!

For example, suppose you run a blog in the weight loss industry, and your keyword research turns up good search volume and low competition for the phrase, “easy tips for fat loss.”  However, if your audience rarely uses the phrase “fat loss”—instead, preferring the words “weight loss”—you could be missing a golden opportunity to target your audience’s pain points by failing to optimize your blog for the appropriate words and phrases.

3. Search social media sites for questions and issues

In addition to using social networking sites to uncover potential keyword optimization ideas, you can also search the content that’s been posted to your social-site-of-choice in order to uncover your audience’s most pressing issues.

Continuing with our weight loss blog example mentioned earlier, suppose you determine that one of the best social sites in your niche from a market research perspective is 3fatchicks.com—a popular health and fitness forum site primarily targeting women.  Entering the phrase “help me” (a good signifier of the issues people are actually facing) into the site’s search tool returns the following set of results:

Research results

Many of the threads listed here provide great insight into the pain points your audience is currently experiencing—any of which could be turned into future blog posts or paid products.  As an example, the forum post titled, “help me stop being so addicted to chocolate!!!” could easily be transformed into a “17 Ways to Beat Your Chocolate Addiction” report that you can practically guarantee will appeal to members of your target niche.

4. Ask your audience questions

If you’re having trouble identifying social networking site posts that reveal your audience’s pain points, you can also go directly to the source and gather data by asking your audience leading questions.

For example, consider the following sample questions:

  • What has been your greatest achievement to date?
  • What invention would help you most right now?
  • What one thing would you like to give up forever?
  • What would you do right now if you were handed $1,000?
  • If you could change any one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Just a word of caution, though: for best results, it’s best to use this technique only after you’ve already established yourself as a valuable member of your social networking community. Attempting to ask leading questions when you’ve just joined a new online community can result in either a serious lack of responses or the perception that you’re scamming your chosen social networking site.

5. Develop blog posts and info products based on stated issues

By following the steps above, you should have uncovered a wealth of information about your audience’s hidden pain points that can be directly transformed into effective blog posts and paid products.

However, keep in mind that market research on your audience’s issues should be an ongoing part of your blog’s promotional plan.  Changes occur in every industry, whether in terms of new websites launching, new technologies being released or any other type of innovation, which means that the problems your audience faces will change as well.

For best results, check in with this process frequently and pay attention to the reaction you get to the posts and products you release targeting the pain points you’ve uncovered.  Use this insights to tweak your future launches, and—over time—the insight you gain into your audience’s hidden motivations will make you a far better blogger and a much more respected member of your community.

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.

The Simplest Way to Write a Unique First Draft

This guest post is by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy

Do you have 45 minutes to work on your blog?

If so, I can show you how to write the first draft of your next blog post.

First drafts are messy. This blog post originated from five unrelated words on five separate lines, double-spaced, in a Microsoft Word document. That might not sound like a draft, but without that foundation I would have never created the article that you’re currently reading.

Each lonely word just needed friends to complete my thoughts.

Drafts help you express information that can be crafted later. Writing isn’t a linear process—it’s normal to not know how the finished draft will look. Think of writing as constructing a building. You can’t build the structure in a day. You have to first acquire the proper machinery, excavate the land, install a supportive skeleton, etc.

If you don’t write because you think everything comes out wrong, or you can’t get enough done, that’s like saying building construction isn’t worth the effort because you won’t have a completed product by sundown.

You don’t have to perfectly communicate your intentions right away. That’s not necessarily how a great writer creates words that move you. Writing only becomes natural when you practice. To start, you can train yourself to work in short periods of time.

Here are four simple construction tools to help you write your first draft.

Set the timer

Press the start button on a timer set for 45 minutes. Once the clock is ticking, ignore everything but your draft.

I like this time frame because it takes a bit to get into a writing groove. When I give myself 45 minutes, I actually write for about 30 minutes.

Now, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Who’s your reader?

Write down your ideal reader’s characteristics.

Is your reader busy? Does he need fast, short tips or detailed, lengthy research? What’s bothering him?

Once you answer this question, write every sentence of your blog post for that person. You may not put any part of your answer in your final draft, but when you clearly define your audience, you get a better sense of what you want to write and why you’re writing.

Frequently reference the answer to this question throughout the writing process. If your ideal reader would not understand certain information, rewrite or eliminate it.

2. What’s the point?

Write your main message in 25 words or less. You can extract a succinct headline from this statement.

Does your headline describe a specific topic? Does it contain appropriate keywords? What will the reader learn if she reads your post? You will need to spend time fine-tuning your headline during future writing sessions, but you should still begin with a precise focus.

Your headline doesn’t just grab a reader’s attention; it helps you summarize your blog post.

3. How can you help?

Write the information that the reader wants to know.

How does your content solve a problem? Don’t waste sentences alluding to answers to a reader’s questions. State them. You don’t have to use complete sentences with eloquent transitions yet, but your ideas should provide immense value.

Share details that support your blog post’s headline. Thoughtful responses to these three questions shape your intentions.

If you write broad answers, you’ll produce a generic blog post that is similar to writing on other websites.

But if you answer specifically, you’ll write the first draft of useful content that gets shared because there’s nothing else like it.

What’s your process for writing first drafts of posts? Is it anything like this? Share your secrets in the comments.

Stefanie Flaxman created Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services with your editing needs in mind. Follow @RevisionFairy to keep up with Stefanie’s philosophy for writing and editing your life.

Reach New Readers with a Freebie Blitz

This guest post is by Tom Ross of Blogs.FanExtra.

Today I’m going to talk about one of the most effective ways to market yourself and your website. It’s also a hugely effective way to build relationships within your niche.

And it’s very simple: offer amazing freebies to top bloggers in your niche.

Now this may sound like a no-brainer, but let’s take a look at just why it’s so effective and so underused.

This article is actually based on a real life example of a website owner named Michael I dealt with recently. I’d never spoken with Michael before, but he approached me to release a free UI kit on my website. I’ll get to the story of Michael and the strategy that he has inspired, but it will show you exactly how to market yourself like crazy through the power of freebies. This is really powerful stuff and can help you effectively launch a new site (or explode an existing site).

The principles of why freebies work

Freebies are popular, there’s no denying it. They’re also an awesome way to give your site exposure. Let’s look at why this is:

People love getting stuff for free

Whilst guest posting can be a bit hit-or-miss with being accepted by top blogs, freebies are something that almost all top bloggers will be happy to accept.

I receive daily emails from people asking to guest post at my blogs PSD.FanExtra and Blogs.FanExtra. I end up disregarding most of them. This isn’t to be a bad guy, but because most people need to learn how to Write an Effective Guest Posting Application. It’s far rarer that I’ll get someone emailing me a high quality freebie that I can instantly release on my site.

If the freebie is quality, unique and something I know my readers will love, then there’s no reason why I wouldn’t accept it gladly.

The entire point is that in the past I’ve paid for this type of resource. A great resource that’s offered for free will benefit my audience, and benefit me as I won’t be paying for it.

Freebies are viral by nature

Freebies are always pretty viral by nature. If you submit a traditional guest post there’s a good chance that it won’t perform well on social media and won’t generate a ton of traffic or exposure for you.

Freebies typically have a greater chance of going viral, as let’s face it—everyone loves a good freebie!

The two rules for getting maximum exposure are:

  1. The bigger the blog, the bigger their audience, and the more exposure for you.
  2. The better your freebie, the more value it gives people, and the more shareable it is.

The freebie strategy

I mentioned Michael at the start of this post. Michael runs a site called Best PSD Freebies and decided to market it by offering free UI kits to blogs in the design niche.

I first saw Michael’s work over at Web Designer Depot, a large design blog. He had offered a simple, but attractive UI kit to release on their site. Let’s look at some of the benefits of this:

  • Michael’s work has reached 85,000 subscribers through the site.
  • His site received over 1000 visitors on the day the UI kit was released, and continues to attract traffic daily from the post.

Now let’s look at how you can use this technique to drive serious traffic to your site and build a name for yourself very quickly within your niche.

1. Work out what you’re good at

Identify what you’re good at. If like Michael you’re in the design niche, release a quality design freebie. If you’re in a different niche, then release something that’s relevant for your audience.

The key is that your freebie should be free for your to create—something that takes time and effort, but no monetary outlay from you.

2. Actually create something

Create a freebie, but don’t stop there. First of all, ensure that it’s the absolute best quality you can produce. You want to create a freebie that is premium quality. The kind of thing people regularly pay for.

Then, don’t just create one freebie. Aim for around 20. If each freebie takes two hours of hard work to produce, then that’s 40 hours work total. If you spread this over two weeks, that’s almost three hours extra work each day. It will be tough going, but stick with it.

3. Approach top blogs in your niche

Now that you’ve prepared your 20 freebies, start approaching the top blogs in your niche.

Freebies typically have a very high acceptance rate, as you’re giving the blogger something that’s valuable for nothing.

If you approach the top 40-50 blogs in your niche you should almost certainly find 20 that will be willing to publish your freebie.

4. Remember to promote yourself

Whilst you’re giving your freebie away for nothing, of course you want to be sure to include a link back to your site to reward yourself for all your hard work. This is standard practice for any blog in any niche.

Craft some text to accompany the freebie post, being sure to mention your website and link back to it. This serves the double purpose of effectively writing a post for the top blogger, saving them time and effort, and ensuring that the people in the blogger’s audience who like your work know where to go for more—your site.

5. Coordinate release dates

This is where you get a little more clever, and where the true power of this strategy lies!

If you remember the SOPA Blackout campaign then you’ll recall how thousands of sites “blacked out” their websites for a single day, obscuring their content in protest to the harmful government legislation that was being proposed to censor the internet.

This protest was so incredibly effective not because a lot of websites were being blacked out, but because they were all being black out at the same time. If the thousands of websites were sporadically blacking out over the course of months it would have had way less impact. It’s the fact that for 24 hours millions of web users were frustrated and angry at not being able to access many of their favorite websites.

This is the strategy we’re going to use to get you maximum attention.

Speak with the blog owners who have accepted your freebies. Rather than pushing to have them published as soon as possible, arrange a slightly later date, one that all of the blog owners can meet. If this is a month or two down the line then that’s fine, as long as all of the blogs can release your freebie on that day.

6. Preparing for the flood

Now that you’ve organized the launch of all 20 freebies on all 20 top blogs in your niche, you have to wait for the release day.

However, rather than sit and twiddle your thumbs, you need to start preparing your website for the flood of new traffic.

A great idea is to add a large welcome area to your site offering a mega-freebie of some sort. This should be of the same high standard of quality as the freebies that you have released to the top blogs, but much larger, and therefore more valuable. Add an email optin form to the site, ensuring that visitors must enter their email in order to access the mega-freebie pack.

7. Release day (Who is this guy?)

The day finally approaches when all of the UI kits are released. The response is phenomenal. Being featured on even one of these top blogs would result in a traffic spike. Being featured on all 20 within 24 hours results in a traffic mountain!

Michael received over 1000 visitors from his freebie release at Web Designer Depot. They are one of the larger blogs in the design niche, but certainly not the largest. Let’s say that out of the 20 top blogs you might get around 500 visitors each. That’s 10,000 visitors in just 24 hours—a huge amount for your new site!

Far more beneficial than this traffic though is the reputation that you will achieve.

In a single day you will have dominated your niche, being feature on almost every top blog. Millions of blog readers worldwide are seeing your freebies being posted on their favorite sites. Your freebies are showing as the most recent content in people’s feed readers for 20 of their favorite blogs! Many readers are not just downloading one of your freebies, but 10, 15, or 20 of them! In a single day you have become “the freebie guy or gal” in your niche, and a lot of people are suddenly talking about you and wondering who you are and where you’ve come from.

8. At your site…

Your own site preparation should have also worked wonders for you. Not only will you receive a flood of traffic to your fledgling website, but you should have converted that traffic really well. Every person who has clicked through to your website has clearly shown an interest in your freebies. The first thing they saw when visiting your site was your mega-freebie. Your conversion rate should be very high, so from 10,000 new visitors you’re looking at a lot of email sign ups.

If you convert just 10% of these visitors then that’s 1000 email sign ups in just 24 hours—a very solid base from which you can market your new site.

9. Rinse and repeat

Now that you’ve seen the success of this strategy it’s natural that you’ll want to repeat it. You have already established relationships with these top bloggers, so it will be easier to pitch them a future freebie.

Of course, you won’t want to repeat this the very next week, but in a couple of months you can look forward to another huge traffic spike.

Next time, perhaps release 30 freebies. Spend two months creating 30 freebie packs that are bigger and even more awesome than your initial 20.

10. The effort pays off

After a few months of really hard work and networking, your efforts are paying off. You have built up a super responsive email list of thousands and now attract decent traffic to your website.

Your personal brand as “the freebie guy” also ensures that you’re the go-to guy in your niche for freebies, and you’re regarded as a community expert.

If down the road you decide to release a super-huge premium product, then you can bet it will sell well. After all your contributions to your niche and the reputation you have build up, many people will be happy to help you out by purchasing your product. At the very least, they will be far more likely to buy from you than some new kid on the block who is clearly out to make a quick buck.

The thing is, you’re ultimately in this to make money and be successful too. However, you were just far more marketing savvy about it and helped a whole lot of people along the way. You were also willing to lay the groundwork and put in the effort.

Ah, the power of freebies!

Key points

Here are some important points to consider when you’re implementing this strategy:

  • You can offer freebies in most blog niches at no cost to yourself. All it takes is a little creativity and taking the time to identify your skillsets.
  • In this post I gave the example of the design niche. It’s clearly effective in this niche (as proven by Michael), but to be honest there are way less competitive niches where your freebies will have even more of an impact.
  • Even if you can’t produce a freebie yourself, it may be worth outsourcing the work. This strategy has far more potential than traditional banner advertising and is likely cheaper.
  • Remember to approach top bloggers in your niche in a polite, professional manner. It helps if you provide a post that is ready to publish, rather than just offering your stand-alone freebie.
  • Ensure that your site offers great content. There’s no point driving a load of traffic if you have nothing left to offer people. Think about gathering those emails and achieving high conversions!

Have you ever used freebies to promote your blog? Tell us how you did it in the comments.

Tom Ross is a blogger, entrepreneur and designer. He has built up a blog network that has attracted over 7 million visitors. His latest network site Blogs.FanExtra discusses in depth, practical blogging strategies. No fluff, no vague or generic tips, just quality, applicable blogging tactics. Check out the free 7 day blogging course teaching the exact strategies Tom used to grow his network.

Experience The Great Barrier Reef Queensland with 10 Bloggers from Around the World #QldBlog

Greetings from far north tropical Queensland, Australia, where I’m writing this post from as part of the ProBlogger Queensland Blogger Trip.

You may remember a couple of months back we ran a competition here on ProBlogger to identify ten bloggers from around the world to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland to experience all that the region has to offer — and then to blog about it. The winners were announced here and the trip began earlier this week.

Follow along: You can follow Twitter and Instagram updates by those on the trip—just follow the hashtag #QldBlog—loads of photos and status updates are being made (and a few blog posts have already gone up).

Queensland-blogger-trip.jpg

We all arrived earlier in the week before meeting in the lobby of our Cairns hotel on Tuesday evening. Our first experience was to travel to a local indigenous art gallery (Canopy Artspace), where we had a Welcome to Country by one of the local indigenous leaders, and enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the local indigenous artists.
DSC_0027.jpg

Their work was fascinating and I found myself particularly moved by some of the pieces.

We then had a great dinner together where we got to know each other as a group and began to talk about the days ahead.

Yesterday was our first full day—and it was a very, very full one! Most of the day was spent out in the Coral Sea off the coast of Cairns at a little resort island by the name of Green Island.

There we had opportunity to sit with each other for three hours for our first blogger training session. We spent the time doing a “hot seat” exercise, where each blogger introduced his or her blog, and then the rest of the group brainstormed, critiqued, and workshopped that blog.

Queensland-blogger-trip-1.jpg

The conversation was great. We had a range of levels of bloggers in the room—from those who are blogging as a serious hobby through to those who are full-time bloggers employing staff to run their blogs.

The rest of the day was spent taking in the sights of the area.

Most of the bloggers had the opportunity to go sea walking (walking underwater with a pressurised helmet).

06sw06-00533.jpg

Rebecca Cooper from Simple As That

77b287a2af9b11e1a39b1231381b7ba1_7.jpeg

We were then put on three helicopters and taken out to Vasslof Cay—a little coral sand island in the middle of the reef—where we spent time with Marine Biologist Richard Fitzpatrick, one of the guys who recently shot the amazing Great Barrier Reef documentary.

The flight to the Cay and time with Richard was surreal. For many of our bloggers it was their first helicopter flight, and the views were stunning. The Cay itself was beautiful, and Richard was fascinating.

edf12faeafb411e19dc71231380fe523_7-1.jpeg

As we spoke with Richard, one of the team members noticed some splashing in the shallows just off the Cay. At first they thought it was a Turtle but Richard quickly realised it was a small shark—two, in fact, mating.

Richard was off like a shot, running into the water and shouting that this was one of the rarest things you’ll ever see. He scooped into the water and picked up the male shark and for the next ten minutes we had a lesson that we’ll never forget about the lives of sharks.

514003f8afad11e18cf91231380fd29b_7.jpeg

Photo of myself and Richard taken by Tsh from SimpleMom

I even got to pet it!

We were then shuttled back to Cairns where we had 45 minutes to freshen up before being taken to one of the most beautiful restaurants in the region—NuNu in Palm Cove. There, we were serenaded by a ukulele band and watch a big golden moon rise above the water on the beach before us.

It was as if nature and the team at Tourism Queensland had conspired to give us the ultimate night out.

Today we switch gears a little and are heading away from the reef into the Daintree rainforest. This part of Queensland is a unique region in that it has two World Heritage listed areas (the reef and rainforest) in such close proximity.

We’ll spend another three hours this morning doing some more blogger training at Silky Oaks Lodge next to the Mossman River. Then, in the afternoon, we’ll have the opportunity to do a rainforest walk and get a Spa Treatment … pedicure or massage anyone?

We’re also checking in tonight to an amazing resort: Thala Beach Lodge, which I am told is a unique and amazing place to stay.

Please check out the #QldBlog stream for more regular updates on what our bloggers are doing!

Also check out the blogs of our participating bloggers—posts will start to go up on these in the coming days:

5 Ways Blogging Supports a Multichannel Marketing Strategy

This guest post is by Geoff Livingston of Marketing in the Round.

With so many marketing tactics to choose from, it seems off that more and more businesses elect to forgo blogging.

No, blogging is not easy. Blogging takes writing skills, creativity, and other centric behavior. It requires constant thought and value creation for readers.

However, given the world’s growing adoption direction of digital and increasingly mobile media, it’s hard to see how any business can avoid content creation. The easiest way to create content in a searchable manner remains blogging.

Blogging fits into a multichannel marketing strategy in four key ways.

1. Lead with blogs

If your business is truly a small online endeavor, your blog may simply be the leading driver of inbound marketing leads. In this case, you already understand the importance of blogging well and regularly.

For larger entities, some initiatives like new products and offerings require seeding. Interacting with community members via blogs and associated social networks offers the best way to begin a marketing initiative.

Blogging new ideas engages die-hard customers and loyalists in the conversation first. They are your word-of-mouth army. If the concept holds water, customers will engage, and perhaps even sharpen your offering with feedback and opportunities.

Then, as you deploy other marketing initiatives, you have already made your concept searchable, adding a foundation for long-term marketing initiatives.

2. Use blogging to support larger initiatives

I recently published a new book with Gini Dietrich on integrated communications, called Marketing in the Round. We discuss the many approaches a small business or entrepreneur can choose to lead, including blogging. Comparatively, advertising, media relations, social network-based activity, and direct marketing can all take precedence.

We recommend using tactics like blogging to support the four approaches to marketing.

Content—and specifically blogging—fulfills a valuable role in the marketing lifecycle. It helps you become searchable, it gives people something to talk about online that’s related to your business, and finally, it allows people to qualify you or your business.

Publishing content on a blog provides the honey that attracts the bees. With other initiatives driving interest, inevitably potential customers will search for information about you, either on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!, or through their social networks.

Use blogs to publish value-added content that continues the experience you’ve started with other marketing tactics.

3. Undercut the competition

Competitors. Can’t we live without them?

If your product or service has value, it’s inevitable that that competitors will arise or react to your offering. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can deploy blogging to counter competitive offerings online.

First, take a karmic marketing approach, and blog about larger industry trends, including what your competitors are doing right. Make sure you link to them with critical keywords.

Guess what? When they get searched, your blog should get sourced in the results. Hopefully, potential customers will click through.

Say your competition undercuts you by positioning you inaccurately. It’s certainly happened to me. Respond, perhaps not directly, but address the concerns and misrepresentations clearly. It’s important to state the facts here. Whenever the issue comes up, show people the blog post that offers a clear picture of your offering.

Perhaps you want to respond to a new competitive offering through innovation. Blog about potential weaknesses in the competing product and see what your stakeholders have to say. Perhaps they will give you insights you’d never have gained otherwise.

Again, take a karmic approach here, and don’t attack them publicly. Rather, speak to the issues their product presents.

4. Inspire word of mouth

So much of today’s conversation revolves around content marketing. Even this blog post discusses it at great length.

Content marketing represents a push to the marketplace. That’s not necessarily a good thing, as many people want to have a conversation with brands (even small ones), not receive messages.

Conversations provide word-of-mouth discussion of your brand. Peer discussion remains one of the most trustworthy forms of dialog a brand can produce.

If we step away from the blog itself, a business exists to solve problems, often with an idea that manifests itself as a product or service. Ideas provide a primary conversation topic online.

Use your blog as an idea virus generator. Literally use it to inject new ideas, concepts, and thoughts into the marketplace for larger conversation. Give people something to talk about, starting with your idea.

Let their conversation create the need and the justification for your product and services. In turn, you receive the benefits of a strong word-of-mouth conversation.

5. Content market with visual assets

Sometimes we’re get caught up in the blogger’s journey. As a blogger of seven years and a writer of 20+ years, I can identify.

But blogs are online publishing platforms, nothing more. You can publish just about any kind of content on a blog.

This matters in today’s online world. More and more people access the internet through smartphones and tablets. In turn, because touch interfaces hamper textual input, we’re seeing commenting levels drop. Smaller screens make reading harder, which increases the importance of publishing visual assets.

Your optimized blog already drives content into search. It should also serve new portable media users with visual content that gives them the information they need.

Integrate visual assets into your blog. Publish photos, infographics, charts, graphic design, and more. Make your blog a visual garden, and allow people to share and use these visual assets. In turn, word of mouth and search strength for your visual content increases.

Heck, you can even feature ads so long as you discuss them in a conversational, interactive way. For example, ask “What do you think of this creative?” Even let your customers choose the final design. Above all, make visual content engaging.

Conclusion

Because blogging offers so much strategic versatility, it has many uses in a multichannel campaign. However you choose to proceed with your blog, consider it a powerful tool within the larger context. Remember: blogs are not islands.

Geoff Livingston is an author and marketing strategist, and serves as VP, Strategic Partnerships for Razoo. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and most recently he co-authored Marketing in the Round, a book that shows you how to get more value from all your marketing and communications channels integrated together!

10 No-Nonsense Ways to Build Backlinks

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.

Many bloggers are very much averse to participating or learning anything about SEO, and truth be told, I think that’s a real shame.

Maybe my time with my SEO agency has made me biased, but I personally think most bloggers are missing out on a huge potential source of traffic by just plain ignoring how search engines work and what practices are most effective.

The truth is, SEO for blogs doesn’t have to be overly complicated or require “black magic” in order to work.

My “World’s Simplest SEO Formula for Great Rankings” is:

  1. Craft amazing content that’s built for readers, not search engines.
  2. Get great links to that content.

Okay, so SEO can obviously be a lot more complex than that, but if you’re a blogger just looking for the essentials, that two-step process is actually relevant.

The problem most bloggers run into is this: how do we actually get those “great links” to our content?

Today I’d like to break down a “no-nonsense” guide to attracting (and outright earning) some powerful links. We’ll skip stuff like forum profiles and social media bookmarking. The links we’re going after are going to be powerful and actually send us traffic. Let’s get started.

1. Check your competitors’ backlinks

If there is one great way to find good backlink ideas, it’s to check out what your competition is doing.

While “old faithful” (Yahoo! site explorer) is now a part of Bing’s webmaster tools, there are still a few great options around.

My current favorite is the Open Site Explorer, an excellent backlink tool created by the knowledgable folks over at SEOmoz.

With the free version, you can check where links are coming from (that is, domains and pages). While the premium offering gives you far more insight, you can generally get a good idea with just the free version.

Did your competitor get linked to from a publication/blog that covers your niche? Email the author personally and let them know about a piece of content that you created (or about your site in general) and offer to give them a story to help them out.

That part is essential. Emailing people with direct requests or not-so-subtle begging to “please link to me!” is not going to work.

Fixing a problem that they have (for journalists, this is generating new stories, for bloggers, new guest posts could fit the bill) is the key to getting a link.

You may also find other communities that have linked to your competitors: relevant sites, resource pages, etc. If your competitor can get a link there, so can you.

2. Create a site for readers, not Google

This may seem counter-productive, but hear me out.

As time goes on, search engines (notably Google) are beginning to become more and more in tune with following people, rather than with following links.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that links won’t matter in a few years (they will, for a long time), but I am telling you that the more you focus on creating a site filled with content that’s meant to be enjoyed by real people, the better your site will do in search results.

With Google recently making moves to punish “over-optimized” sites, you have to recognize that fact that a site built just to rank runs the risk of being penalized and losing all of its traffic.

Conversely, a site that has built an audience can withstand any rank drops because a thriving following does not depend on search traffic. Also, a site that is built with useful content and reader enjoyment in mind is going to garner natural links much more easily than a “built for search” site. Content for people generates discussion, and where discussion comes, links will follow.

3. Write for other blogs, and become a regular contributor

By now, you likely know all about the unique power of guest posting to give you a trifecta of goodness in the blogging world in the form of:

  1. traffic
  2. brand exposure
  3. links.

Better yet, if you are able to become a regular contributor to a large blog (either paid or for exposure only), you have the opportunity to build links on a very consistent basis, even to your oldest content.

I can give you examples of both: I am currently a hired content creator for HelpScout and DooID, as well as being a regular (unpaid) columnist for the BufferApp.

All outlets allow me to link to my previous work, and because I’m consistently writing for them, I can build links into deeper pages on my sites, including linking back to old posts in addition to citing my most recent content.

While this strategy is optimal, regular ol’ guest blogging every now and then works just as well. Better yet, I highly advise you attempt the “Guest Blogging Blitzkrieg” technique to build links.

What is that exactly? It’s writing numerous guest posts and attempting to get them published simultaneously, or very close together.

Bamidele Onibalusi, a freelance writer and blogger at YoungPrePro, as well as Kristi Hines, a regular contributor for KISSmetrics and blogger at Kikolani, both use this strategy—with stellar results.

Both contribute paid posts (freelance gigs) as well as guest posts (Kristi probably not so much anymore, I’m sure she has enough work to do!), and do so consistently, on numerous blogs, all the time. If you read marketing/blogging content regularly, you cannot miss their names, as they are everywhere.

This kind of exposure not only generates direct links (from their actual article submissions), but also creates buzz around their brand, and leads to people like me linking to them as examples!

4. Create a beautiful blog

Hold on just a second here… What in the world does blog design have to do with SEO?

Much more than you think.

Not only does a good blog design play a substantial role in increasing your conversions, a great looking (and streamlined) design will reduce your bounce rate, and while many have argued that doesn’t have a direct effect on SEO, it does increase your chances of people sticking around to actually read your content.

Additionally, research has found that people innately trust well-designed sites much more than poorly designed sites; and a site with trust is going to generate more links.

As for direct linking, many sites allow you to submit well-designed sites or even individual aspects of design. TheLogoMix allows you to submit any site logo and receive a backlink for it. Additionally, there are a number of design sites that allow you to submit your full site design to a showcase, and most of them will link back to your main page (CSS galleries and the like).

Lastly, if your site design is truly unique or useful, people may actually write a blog post about it (with links) for just this reason—because your site makes a great case study.

5. Implement resource pages

Not only are resource pages incredible tools for reducing your bounce rate, they also serve as excellent link bait to increase your rankings in tough topics.

I absolutely must point to Copyblogger as my demonstration for this example, as few blogs do things quite as well as they do, especially when it comes to resource pages. Their resources are extremely comprehensive, link back to their best posts on the subject, and target their most difficult keywords.

And considering they are ranking on the first or second page for terms like content marketing, SEO copywriting, and copywriting, you know that they are doing something right.

Think about the biggest topics that your blog covers. Now research a few keywords around those topics with the Google Keyword tool (remember to set it to [exact] searches) and see which terms have a fairly high search count. Then choose the ones you can realistically rank for.

If you’re having trouble brainstorming keyword ideas, try something like the free version of serpIQ to help get the creative juices flowing.

You probably won’t be able to rank for something like “diet”, but could you rank for a term like “paleo diet guide”? Doing just a little homework in this regard, and then making a few resource pages around those terms will result in a few amazing pieces of link-bait that thoroughly cover the topic, and attract a lot of links naturally.

6. Use embeddable images/widgets

This probably seems like the most boring suggestion in the entire post, so let’s get excited for a moment!

You know the humor/comic site TheOatmeal, right? Well, the guy behind that site, Matthew Inman, was actually a former consultant at SEOmoz, and he knows a thing or two about getting links.

In fact, he was able to rank his former project, an online dating site known as Mingle2, for extremely tough terms like “online dating” and “free online dating”, beating out sites like Match.com, eHarmony, and PlentyOfFish for their most sought after terms.

How? Well, among other things, Matthew is very good at creating embeddable content that people showcase on their own site. The thing is, these embeddable widgets also give a link back to Matthew’s sites.

He did this again for The Oatmeal with things like the “Are You Addicted to Twitter?” quizzes, where people could embed their own results. Beyond widgets, folks like the Mint.com content marketing team have used things like infographics with embeddable inputs at the bottom to rank for tough terms.

The reason things like this work is that people are much more likely to share a pretty infographic or a interesting widget than they are to just link to a random website. If you can give them something to share, they won’t mind using your pre-defined HTML and including your backlink.

7. Interview someone influential

When I first submitted my interview questions to Brian Gardner (of StudioPress), I had no idea what the response would be.

That was one of my very first posts to Sparring Mind, and although I knew about the power of interviews, I hadn’t ever reached out to somebody as significant in the WP community as Gardner before.

I shouldn’t have been worried, because not only did I learn that he and many other larger names are incredibly helpful and mostly willing to accept interview requests, it also lead to some significant exposure to my brand new site.

The success I saw here lead to more interviews, including ones with Alex Mangini of Kolakube, as well as Leo Wildrich of the BufferApp.

These interviews are great, especially for new blogs, because who doesn’t love being interviewed? This tactic lets you feature names far bigger than yours, and if you do a good job of asking insightful questions and drawing out great content from the interviewee, they are guaranteed to share the post with their following.

Even if they don’t directly link to the content itself, provided you’ve interviewed someone interesting (especially someone who doesn’t interview often), you’ll find yourself accruing links from people in their industry.

I found myself with a few links from social media sites I’d never heard of before when I published my interview with Leo about the BufferApp, and you can get your site in front of a new potential audience with the same method.

8. Create an exhaustive round-up

Creating round-up posts can be a great strategy for links. A round-up is essentially a collection of articles, resources, and actual products (books, etc.) that covers a topic in totality: exhaustive coverage is a necessity.

Two fantastic examples (one written by Kristi, no less) is The Entrepreneur’s Handbook, a collection of 101 resources for first time entrepreneurs, and the Leaving Work Behind 100, a collection of the best freelance/marketing blogs for people to get started with.

These round-up posts work so well because not only do they link out to a ton of people (who will likely tweet about the article, if not link back), they become “bookmark havens,” posts so large that people have to save and share them given the immense quantity of value that they provide.

If you create a round-up like the two showcased above, research a few keywords that you might be able to rank for before you title the post and publish it. For instance, if I was going to write a resource post for “going green,” I might look at a few search terms like “going green for beginners” or “beginner’s green guide” to see if I could feasibly rank for those terms.

Again, doing a little homework before publishing monster pieces of content like this can not only help you build links, but also bring in additional traffic from ranking well for highly relevant terms.

9. Utilize “crowdsourced” posts

Crowdsourcing is all the rage these days, but did you know it’s an incredibly effective SEO tactic for blogs as well? A “crowdsourced” post is a very interesting take on the traditional interview post discussed above. Essentially, instead of getting a lot of info from one interviewee, you’re going to collect small tidbits of information from multiple authority sources.

One clever example of this is how many hyperlocal websites, such as the Delaware Entrepreneur publication from my hometown utilize local business owners and interviews a ton of them at once to generate attention.

A more common example is the “roundup opinion” post that many blogs use to feature a bunch of experts at once (and hopefully get them to link to it). A successful execution recently was the Social Media Examiner prediction post for 2012, which featured 30 social media experts stating their predictions for the coming year.

These types of posts are a classic pieces of linkbait: the large number of big related names is sure to attract a lot of attention in your niche, so if you can pull one of these off, it’s likely to make a big splash.

10. Create a product

This is something that I feel a lot of bloggers get backwards (heck, even I’m slacking in this regard!). I honestly feel like the “build audience first, create product later” can be taken too far. I’m not saying you need a product from the get-go, but having something to sell and promote can often lead to more brand awareness.

Corbett Barr (a Problogger “blogger to watch in 2012“) from ThinkTraffic offers an interesting example of how this works. His latest course, How To Start A Blog That Matters, allowed him to land a few interviews as well as a few promotional posts on blogs promoting its release.

Corbett staunchly stands by his assertion (with data to back it up) that launching a product can lead to increased traffic for your blog, due to the natural discussion that a new product/course can generate.

This is especially true if you create a widget/resource that your niche can benefit greatly from.

One person who I feel has done this very well is Glen Allsopp from ViperChill, creating and launching both the free ViperBar plugin as well as his flagship premium plugin OptinSkin. Both plugins received big support from other WordPress users who got utility out of them, and both resulted in increased exposure and even direct links (especially from the ViperBar) back to Glen’s blog.

Consider getting your product out sooner rather than later, you could be missing out on some big promotional opportunities.

Over to you

At the end of big posts like this, sometimes we can get stuck in “information paralysis”—having too much in front of us and not knowing what to do next.

Now that you’ve reached the end:

  • Pick just one or two strategies from this post that you’re going to try this week.
  • Let me know which ones they are in the comments!

Gregory Ciotti is the founder of Sparring Mind, the†blog that takes psychology + content marketing and makes them play nicely together. Download his free e-book on ‘conversion psychology’ today for insights on influencing people online.

What George Orwell Taught Me About Blogging

This guest post is by Trevor Ginn of Hello Baby.

Having written masterpieces such as Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell is considered one of the greatest writers of all time. 

In 1941 he wrote the essay called Politics and the English Language in which he criticised the “ugly and inaccurate” contemporary use of English and offered six elementary rules for good writing.  The medium may have changed but these rules are as relevant to the blogosphere as they were in Orwell’s day.

If you want to be understood and read widely, using effective language should be your top priority.  The web is full of mediocre blogs, so make sure yours stands out.  Good writing matters and by following these rules you can rise above the competition and clearly communicate your ideas.

Rule 1: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print

Familiar phrases such as “on the same page” or “think outside the box” come quickly to mind when writing.  However, using these hackneyed phrases will lead to boring blog posts and groans from your readers.  Take time to craft postings which are interesting, inventive and original.  Never resort to clichés.

Rule 2: Never use a long word where a short one will do

Using long words may make you feel clever, but they do nothing for the readability of your posts.  Your blog should be easy to read and aimed at a broad audience.  After all, nobody likes a show off.

Rule 3: If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out

Great blog posts never waffle but are short and punchy.  Your posts are competing with a myriad of other distractions both online and offline and so you need to get your point across with brevity and emphasis.  Less is almost always more.

Rule 4: Never use the passive where you can use the active

When you blog, you should use short, impactful sentences make your points.  To this end active phrases are shorter and more direct.  For example, “the man wrote the blog” is punchier than “the blog was written by the man.”

Rule 5: Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent

Aim to use plain, jargon-free English to appeal to the largest possible audience.  You should always aim to write for the average reader, although admittedly for technical subjects this may be difficult.  Do not drone on with excessive explanation but try to help people understand what you are talking about.

Rule 6: Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous

Above all, be sure to use your common sense!  These rules are easy remember but hard to apply and the key is to care about making your blog easy to read, accessible, pithy and cliché free.

Trevor Ginn is an entrepreneur who runs the online baby shop Hello Baby and ecommerce consultancy vendlab.  You can follow his antics on his blog or@trevorginn.

Use Expert Tips to Build Authority on Your Brand New Blog

This guest post is by Daniel Kidd of Best Money Saving Blog.

I’ve found out over the past couple of months that the hardest part of blogging isn’t thinking of things to blog about, it’s getting people to read them.

There are thousands of helpful sites out there (especially this one) that give you advice on how to build a readership, but the first couple of months can be a real struggle. I now know why there’s such a large amount of bloggers who give up after the first couple of posts—luckily, though, I’m not one of them.

My money saving blog has been around for just over two months, and at first, I was getting next to no hits. Lately though, it’s picked up a bit, thanks to one little change I made to a weekly blog post.

Solving the authority problem

When you start a blog that gives advice to people, no-one’s really interested in you if you’re unknown in the subject you’re blogging about. That’s why I decided to get help from known industry bloggers.

Every Friday, I decided to ask a number of finance bloggers (randomly) to give me one money-saving tip via Twitter. As well as asking those people, I leave the option open for anyone else to give advice, too.

I’m not asking them to give hours of their time like they would if they wrote a guest post. This approach is very quick to respond to, as they have to be on Twitter to read the question anyway. It also helps my social presence, because if a blogger with 5000 followers answers you, there’s a chance their followers will also give you a tip.

Once I’ve got seven or eight tips, I have enough content to make a decent blog post. The post is probably more appealing to readers than if I were to just give advice like normal. After all, I’m asking for tips from people who are more experienced in my subject—many are experts.

Giving back

The post thanks everyone personally and includes a link to each contributor’s blog (if they have one). When the post is published, I thank the contributors publicly on Twitter.

The majority of bloggers who participate always kindly re-tweet or put a link to the post on Facebook. Once again, this is great if they have lots of followers or fans, as I’m bound to get a few visits from their networks, too.

Think of the bigger picture here: not only does this tactic improve a young blog’s traffic, but it gets me talking to other bloggers in my niche, and making myself known. In future, if I’ve got a really great post I want to share, or I want to guest post somewhere, I won’t have to go out of ,y way to break the ice with influencers in my niche.

This tactic isn’t going to attract millions of visitors overnight (unless you’re very lucky), but it gives you a constant source of content, as well as helping you to interact. I’m going to try and get a post like this out every week, and eventually I hope that I don’t have to ask people on Twitter—that my mailbox will be full of money-saving tips each Friday morning.

Do you think this tactic could help you build authority around your next blog? Let me know in the comments.

Daniel Kidd, 26, from London, has been working in SEO and social media for the past three years but stupidly, only just started blogging at Best Money Saving Blog. He’s very passionate about white-hat SEO and proper social media promotion, and has a huge dislike for anything that involves spam.