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Does Your Blog Have a Mission Statement?

This guest post is from Adam Gottlieb of The Frugal Entrepreneur.

These days, if you go on a search for the magic formula that will make your blog successful, you’ll find no shortage of advice. Plenty of people are all too happy to tell you how to run your blog. But, while some of this advice may be helpful, you may find that a lot of it simply is not.

Before you start wondering what you are doing wrong, let me tell you a secret. Blogging successfully is not really about how well you write, nor how often; it’s not about sales funnels, nor monetization, nor SEO, not even passion, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Now, don’t get me wrong; these factors are all important. But they by themselves won’t make or break your blog. The truth is that the most successful pro bloggers are all very good at one thing.

They are very clear about the purpose of their sites and direction they want to take them.

Never forget where you’re going

This may seem like such simple common sense, but many bloggers get it wrong. It is oh-so-easy to get caught up in post quotas, Google Analytics reports, Adsense and affiliate earnings, and social media.

The result is bloggers can become so distracted by all the blogging “musts” that it gets harder to sift out those actions that are really contributing to the success of their blogs, rather than detracting from them. They can even forget why they’re blogging in the first place.

And that’s a problem.

If you don’t know where you are going with your blog, then realize that none of those “success factors” I mentioned above will matter. You can always outsource the things you are not good at, or have neither the time nor interest to do. And you can always take it upon yourself to learn about the areas you don’t know, such as how to monetize your blog if you’ve never done it before.

But if you lose sight of why you are blogging, then rest assured your blogging days will be numbered.

Blogging is kind of like setting out on trip. If you have a destination, then there are signs, exits, and turns that will help to get you there. Maybe there are even several different routes. You can try for the fastest route, the scenic route, or maybe you need to pick something up along the way so you’ll take a functional route.

But if you forget where you are trying to go along the way, then for all of your driving, for all of your time and effort and the money you’ve spent on gas, though you may have gone somewhere, it’s not likely the place you wanted to be.

Just as a business needs some kind of mission statement to keep its strategies focused, every successful blog will have an overall purpose or mission. This mission could be public knowledge or it could be something you know privately.

Perhaps you are using your blog as part of your business’s sales funnel; as a revenue generator, earning money from Adsense and other forms of advertisement; as a way to build up your personal brand; or maybe you’re trying to flip the site for profit. Whatever the case, realize that each mission will require a different focus and a different mix of strategies to be successful.

Lose sight of your mission, and you’ll quickly lose the path to your blog’s success.

How to write your blogging mission statement

Now I know the term “mission statement” sounds very formal, but don’t let that scare you away. Creating one is pretty simple. The process may only take you a few minutes, yet it can save you countless hours and money down the road.

This isn’t an official document that you need to broadcast to the online world (though you can if you want to). It is meant, first and foremost, to be a personal statement of intent that is there for your reference.

To start off, you need to take a few minutes and think about why are you blogging. This will involve asking yourself several questions: what is the main purpose of the site? What do you personally hope to get out of it and why? How will you go about actualizing these goals?

Once you’ve done this, try to think of one or two sentences that summarize your answers, and write them down. You shouldn’t use this statement to get into too many specific goals or strategies. The shorter and more focused it is, the more useful it will be to you.

So, for example, the personal mission statement for a guy who is trying to build up and flip a blog might be something like:

“I want to make blogginproz.com an authority, revenue-generating website on blogging tips within one year in order to sell it for $20,000.”

A mother who wants to start a blog about home schooling as a hobby and a source of side income might write:

“On homeschoolers.org, I wish to provide useful information, resources, and tips for those interested in home schooling and use the site to generate a moderate stream of revenue.”

Each statement is specific to the situation. If you were to try to mix them up, the results would be disastrous. If the blog-flipper sets his site up like he’s doing it for a hobby, he probably won’t make much money. If the home schooler spends too much time and energy on optimization and monetization, it may come at the expense of producing quality content, and that is her primary goal for the site.

Yet, this is precisely what happens to so many bloggers and their sites.

Benefits of a blogging mission statement

Any blogger who has been blogging for some time will tell you that there are no constants. There may be times when readership is low and earnings are even lower, or there are lulls in advertiser interest. Sometimes you may have difficulty staying passionate and productive, or you may find yourself being distracted by other events in your life.

What you do in those down times can make or break your blog. Your actions will mean the difference between coming out stronger, or closing up shop.

Having a blogging mission statement will help you to stay clear and focused so that you can make productive moves to get over those bumps along the way, as well as sift through distractions and capitalize on any new opportunities that may come up. You’ll be in a better position to know what questions to ask, what statistics to look at, who you could unite with, and what to learn about.

The bottom line is that every blog needs a mission statement. If you already own a blog and have never really thought about it, stop and figure it out now. Once you have it, write it down, tape it to your computer, or on the wall, send yourself email reminders—whatever you need—but never lose sight of where you are going.

Your mission will help to ensure that all the time, energy, and money you are pouring into your blog will eventually lead to success.

Adam Gottlieb has spent over a decade helping small and home-based businesses improve their image, increase sales and better manage their resources (both the animate and inanimate ones). He currently blogs at The Frugal Entrepreneur, a resource for small and home-based business owners in need of frugal business resources and money-saving business tips.

The SnapnDeals Story

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a post exploring the blog growth conundrum. If you read that post, you might remember that I concluded that when your growth slows, you might need to look inside your own wallet for the answer.

Now that can be quite confronting, so I wanted to share with you the story of one of the initiatives we’ve started over at dPS to help ensure that the growth curve of that blog keeps pointing in the right direction.

It will hopefully show that while investment is needed to grow your blog, it doesn’t need to be as daunting as perhaps I portrayed in the first article.

The big idea

For the last few years, Darren has run a Christmas countdown on dPS, and it’s a model we’re all getting familiar with. He offers 12 deals for 12 days in the lead-up to Christmas. 

The first year Darren ran it all on his own, but in the second he asked for some help, and the results are well documented here.

Given the commercial success of the campaign, we spent many an evening exploring ways we could deliver even a fraction of those results across the year.

The challenges we had around the idea were pretty common.

  • Time: We are both pretty busy people.
  • List burn: The 1 million+ dPS subscriber list is an asset you don’t want to burn out with a deal overload.
  • Enough deals: We wondered if there would be enough photography deals to offer throughout the year.

For six months we talked on and off about the idea of offering ongoing deals for dPS.  We decided that we’d run longer deals starting at one a month, then build to a deal every two weeks, and go from there. 

This solved the time problem as well as the deals concern, as we would only need 12 to cover the whole year.

We then decided that we’d feature the deals in the dPS newsletter, ensuring they got exposure to the wider audience without creating too much noise, and at the same time we’d build a specific deals list what wouldn’t suffer the same effects of list fatigue.

While these decisions were great, getting to this point did involve a lot of talking, not a lot of doing!

…that was, until we had a name

Darren send me an instant message, a suggestion for what we could call that “deals site”
we’d been talking about. I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember that I said it was terrible!

Thankfully, the name didn’t go ahead, but it did kick off a three- or four-hour naming session. Then, out of the blue, Darren came out with SnapnDeals—and we were both immediately sold.

“Snapn” had both a photographic undertone as well as a “grab it while you can” sentiment.  And deals? Well that just means deals!

Domains were registered and excitement built

It was strange how almost immediately, once we had a name, the project became much more real.  We stopped talking about the theoretical “deals site,” and started talking about the SnapnDeals launch.  With a target launch date locked in, it was time to build the thing.

We wanted to start small, test it, and build from that momentum, so we agreed on a shippable minimum viable product from day 1. Having settled on a premium WordPress deals theme that we modified slightly to suit our needs, the site was all set up in a weekend, and cost less than the registration of the domains.

As it was built with WordPress, we were intimately familiar with the CMS, and we were able to leverage the wonderful hosting on thesis.

Knowing that web best practice is hard to achieve when you’re building a minimum viable product, we accepted that on day 1:

  • The design wouldn’t be great. unfortunately, it doesn’t appeal to a photographer’s sense of creativity.
  • There wasn’t a mobile version of the site.
  • The list opt-in form was far from optimal.

There was also much more we’d love the site to do. However, we could have spent 12 months and risked thousands of dollars getting all that right. Or, we decided, we could go from deciding a name on Friday, to being ready to launch on Monday.

So we copped those weaknesses on the chin and decide to launch the site as it was.

There was only one problem: we didn’t have any deals.

Reaching out for deals

We had established a good network of product providers thought our 12 days campaigns, as well as affiliate programs we’d run on dPS over the years. So we set up a target list of 20 contacts, and send them all an email.

I wasn’t quite ready for the response. All 20 responded and all 20 were eager to jump on board!

Suffice it to say, deals were not going to be a problem. We very quickly changed our one-a-month plan to oneevery-two-weeks, with deals queued up until the end of the year.

Launching the site

Both Darren and myself are pretty well drilled in launching new products, so it wasn’t hard to come up with the plan. The only specific SnapnDeals aspect to the plan was that we started with a dPS product to ensure that the community were familiar with the deal being offered to them on the new site.

We spent the evening launching the new site, and creating an avalanche of interest … only to be outdone by an earthquake in Melbourne that very night. Yet within minutes we saw sales coming through, which is always cause for relief, and the site has continued to grow every week since.

The results to date

The results have been quite solid and building as every month passes. In only a few months, the site was already pushing six digits in sales, and the profit is looking quite healthy too. With the 12 days of Christmas just around the corner, it’s likely to get a nice jolt as that crazy campaign kicks in.

Importantly, the revenue is incremental to dPS—we aren’t simply taking sales away from dPS and putting them into SnapnDeals; we’re building on top of an existing base.

Finally, we’re now able to offer great deals to the dPS audience on they stuff they love, in a way they wish to receive them. The site has a bright future.

The lessons learnt

While there are always many lessons you’ll learn with each and every product launch, there are five that stood out in my mind about this launch. I’m hoping that they’ll help you in your product creation endeavors.

  1. Talk and planning is great, but it will never deliver you a dime unless to do something about it.
  2. That which has a name, becomes immediately more real.
  3. The challenges you face in creating a product should be tackled, not run from.
  4. Focus on your minimum viable product, or you’ll never go live.
  5. Give yourself a target to aim at—set a launch date and deliver.

So that’s the story of how SnapnDeals came to be. I’d love to hear about your own stories about creating your products and growing your blog to the next level. Please do share some of the challenges and lessons you learnt in building a product all of your own.

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

5 More Reasons Why All Students Should Be Bloggers

This guest post is by Hugh Grigg of East Asia Student.

Guest blogger Michael White has already written an excellent article on student blogging, looking at the career benefits of blogging for students.

He’s covered that area better than I could have (I’m still at university), but here I want to look at the fantastic potential of blogging right from the start of your course, and how it can help you with your studies.

1. It’s a ready-made niche

We all know that one of the biggest challenges in blogging is finding a good, workable niche. This is such a significant task, in fact, that quite a few people make thousands of dollars a month selling software to help people with it. But if you’re taking a university degree, you don’t need to worry about that. Your field of study is a ready-made, off-the-shelf niche.

Now, some subjects will turn into larger niches than others. There aren’t as many maths blogs as there are language-learning blogs, for example (maths bloggers, please reveal yourselves in the comments!). But no matter what your degree is, it makes a perfect niche to work in because you’ve got constant inspiration and input for content.

I write about my East Asian Studies degree, and have far more content than I could ever write about. I’ve never been stuck with the question, “What could I write about?”, but I’m often faced with the query, “Which of these promising topics shall I write about today?”

On top of that, your notes and learning materials are perfect for conversion into online content that will definitely be useful to a lot of people. Which brings me to…

2. You’ve got a guaranteed audience

Not long after I started blogging, I found that I was getting consistent traffic from the city I study in. Not only that, but I noticed my site being mentioned as a useful resource in discussion threads with my classmates, and even saw people with print-outs of my content in class!

At that point I hadn’t even mentioned the site was min—he other students on my course had found it naturally online. Since then, I’ve had students and staff from other institutions contacting me to express thanks for my content or ask if they can use it in their classes.

That felt amazing, of course, but most importantly, it demonstrates that there’s a real demand for hands-on, genuine content about the challenges people have with their university courses. As a student, you find ways to tackle those challenges every day, and that kind of experience is worth so much in the world of blogging.

You’ve got an endless source of ways to help your readers deal with their problems and build an audience. Plus, you spend time with your target audience every day in class, and know them better than anyone else for that reason.

3. It’s your passion

So your university course carves out a good niche and lets you know you’ve got an audience before you even begin. If that wasn’t enough, it also gives you a topic you’re passionate about. You’ve got the topic, audience and motivation for a great blog right there.

Okay, so maybe not everyone is totally in love with their course, and nobody likes it all the time. I enjoy my degree very much, and think it was one of the best choices I ever made, but I still have plenty of days where I’m not motivated. More often than not, though, having the blog provides that boost in interest.

Rather than thinking, “Oh, not another Tang dynasty poem”, I think, “Well, my annotations and translation would be a useful post for anyone studying this”—and that gets me into it. Blogging about your degree makes you more passionate about it.

4. It’s a great way to keep track of your studies

Keeping track of your progress is extremely important if you’re going to stay motivated in the long term. Day-to-day changes in your knowledge can be small, but when you look back over months or years, the difference is staggering. Plus, as Michael White pointed out in his article, it all makes an excellent portfolio to show to others.

What better way to do this than with a blog? This has helped me out on more occasions than I can remember. Rather than leafing through piles of paper or searching for files on my hard-drive, I just Google for my own notes and work. Sometimes I even come across work I’d forgotten I’d done, because it’s all faithfully stored and available online. And, of course, you’re attracting everyone else in the world who finds your notes and coursework useful.

5. Blogging helps you learn

And finally, a slightly less concrete point. As well as making an excellent record of your studies, keeping a blog actually helps you to learn directly. This happens because the old adage that ”teaching helps you learn” is true.

Rather than just writing up your notes idiosyncratically for yourself, you’re forced to re-write them in a way that’s useful and accessible for all. That process pays dividends to you.

Throughout each year at university, I consistently convert my class notes and materials into web content, which requires research, analysis and careful presentation of the topic. At the end of the year, I also use my own posts as a revision tool before exams.

Ultimately I’m writing for myself, but that just ensures that I’m offering the best content I can to my audience, which is what blogging is all about.

Are you a student blogger, or do you know one? Share your story with us in the comments.

Hugh Grigg is studying East Asian Studies (Chinese) at the University of Cambridge, and writes about it at his site East Asia Student.

9 Content Lessons Ted Turner Can Teach You

This guest post is by Scott Aughtmon of RecessionsSolution.com.

He wasn’t planning on becoming a media mogul. He just wanted his father’s billboard business to succeed. But the content strategy that Ted Turner stumbled upon would change his life forever. This is the story of how hardworking Ted Turner became a media mogul.

But pay close attention, because this isn’t just an amazing story. It’s a story that will reveal a content strategy you can use to elevate your own blogging efforts to a whole new level.

Ted’s early years

Ted Turner was born on November 19, 1938 to Edward and Florence Turner. They named him Edward, but everyone called him “Ted.” Ted’s father Edward started out in the mid-1930s as a car salesman in Cincinnati, OH. In the 1904s, Ed Turner saw that the “driving culture” was growing quickly, so he purchased a small billboard company and moved his family to Savannah, Georgia.

Even though Ed Turner’s billboard business was successful, his alcoholism and violent outbursts made home life really hard for Ted, because he was the brunt of most of his father’s attacks.

Ted’s early business lessons

Ted eventually was put in military school, which was a great experience for him. During his summers, Ted would come home and work for his Dad’s billboard company. This is where Ted really gained his understanding of business.

Later he went on to attend Brown University and first majored in Classics, which appalled his father. (He told Ted it made him want to vomit.) Ted later switched his major to Economics. It didn’t really matter what major he chose, anyway, because he never got a degree. He was expelled for having a girl in his dorm room.

He was confused and unsure what to do next. He turned to the one thing he knew: his Dad’s billboard business. He took on a management position there at 21 years of age. He eventually married a woman named Judy Nigh. They moved to Macon, GA and started a family.

Ted doubles his dad’s revenue

It was around 1961 and Ted was then heading up a branch of his Dad’s billboard business. He was basically running everything. He worked constantly and he was rewarded for his efforts. He was so successful he doubled revenue in two years.

He did such a great job that his father’s business was able to buy out his competitors and become the largest outdoor billboard company in the south. His Dad was doing great professionally, but he suffered from mood swings that led him to take prescriptions drugs. This led him to become addicted.

It was during this time that Ed gave Ted advice he would never forget. Advice that laid the foundation for all Ted would later become and achieve.

The advice Ted never forgot

Ed told Ted to set goals higher than he could possibly achieve in his lifetime so that there would alway be something unaccomplished that he could work on.

Ed told Ted that this was his personal mistake in life. He had set goals that were too small. It was only a short time later that Ed Turner committed suicide.

Ted was in shock as he was suddenly put in charge of his father’s company. All this happened when he was just 24. He comforted himself by throwing himself into his dad’s business. He also decided to take father’s advice: to set bigger goals than others thought were possible.

Ted’s business was growing, but his marriage wasn’t. He divorced and he later remarried again. He was riding high on the success of the billboard industry when he decided to enter a new industry. He was determined to do something where he could make a difference and make a fortune. He decided that the media was his one way to do this.

He began by purchasing radio stations around the south. After purchasing five radio stations, he came to the revelation that TV was the medium with the greatest potential.

The purchase that started it all

In January 1970, he decided to make a move into TV and purchased channel 17, which was a local UHF station. He called he TV station WTCG “Turner Communications Group.” HF stations didn’t have a very large reach back in those days, so Ted ended up losing $1 million the first year.

He knew he had to figure out a way to get more viewers. The idea he came up with would become the content strategy he would use over and over again to become the media tycoon he is today.

He purchased older, cheap programming. This programming consisted of shows like Star Trek, Bugs Bunny, I Love Lucy, and Gilligan’s Island.  As better syndicated shows were dropped by the VHF stations, Ted would pick them up for his station at a really low price. The best thing about these shows was that, even though they were inexpensive, people still liked them and wanted to watch them.

The Atlanta Braves

Ted didn’t stop there. In 1972, he purchased the rights to air 60 Atlanta Braves games for $600,000. This was a tipping point for WTCG. After Ted got the rights to the Braves games, people went out and bought UHF antenna so they could watch the games! One year later his station earned (instead of losing) $1 million.

Ted’s goals and dreams wouldn’t settle for that. In 1975, the Atlanta Braves were up for sale and Ted decided to purchase them himself for $10 million.

You need to understand something important. He didn’t just buy a baseball team. He was purchasing content for his TV station. He did everything he could to get his last place team more attention. And in typical Ted Turner style, he was able to double attendance at the games and double TV ratings at the same time.

But something else was on the horizon. Something that would take him to the next level. Something that would allow him to take the content lessons he learned from buying cheap programming and Atlanta Braves games and leverage them to see even greater results.

Ted’s venture into cable TV

Ted had heard a lot about the then-new cable and satellite industry. This allowed a station to send a TV signal across the whole country for a monthly subscription cost. Ted decided he’d take his little local station and transform it into a national network. (Again he was reaching for those bigger-than-life goals.)

In case you don’t realize it, this was a really revolutionary idea back then. Why? Because people mainly watched the three top network stations: NBC, CBS, and ABC. There weren’t a whole lot of other choices.

But Ted persisted in moving forward. He even went up against the other big networks in the media before congress. He did anything and everything to move things forward for cable television.

The result? Of course, Ted won. The previous restrictions on the cable industry were lifted.

TBS Superstation and CNN

On December 17, 1976 the first satellite transmission of WTCG went on the air. Ted decided the new station should have a new name, so he called it “TBS Superstation.” He continued showing the low-cost programming that he purchased and the Atlanta Braves games.

But Ted didn’t stop there. He realized that cable would allow people to have not just three or four TV stations to watch, but hundreds. He came up with an idea that would change news programming forever. He came up with the idea of a 24-hour news station.

How did he come up with the idea? He knew he hardly ever got a chance to watch the news because of his crazy schedule. He figured other people were the same. He decided his new station would be called CNN, short for Cable News Network. And he decided his network would go live in one year.

Again, remember the era this happened in. No such thing as “24-hour news” existed. News was usually shown in the morning, the evening and at night. That was it.

On June 1, 1980, Ted dedicated the new station. At 6pm it went live for the first time ever and has never stopped airing news since then. No one took them seriously, at first. Network news shows mocked them. But the viewership continued to grow. In 1984, TBS brought in over $200 million dollars. But Ted wasn’t stopping or settling for that.

MGM Studios

In July 1985, MGM studios went on the market. Ted purchased the studio for $1.4 billion. But things didn’t go well. TBS was swimming in debt and their newly purchased MGM division had a string of movie failures.

It looked bad for Ted and it could have turned out that way, except for one thing. The cable industry he helped to launch came to the rescue and bailed him out. They invested money in TBS. He sold part of MGM back to the billionaire he bought it from, but kept the massive film library.

Why? Content.

TNT Network

He aired these movie classics on a new cable station he called TNT or “Turner Network Television.” It debuted on October 3, 1988 with the movie Gone With The Wind. (Ted’s favorite movie.) It ended up reaching 17 million households and was the biggest cable launch in history.

He was reaching greater heights in business, but again his marriage failed. At 49, he heard about Jane Fonda getting a divorce and set his goal to date her. He asked her out, but she said she wasn’t ready to date yet. She told him to check back in six months.

He called her again, exactly six months to the day after that first contact. Guess what? She accepted. (What else? Would you expect anything less from Ted?) He later married her. At this point in life, something was about to give Ted the opportunity to make history.

The Gulf War

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. It became apparent to everyone that the U.S. was about to attack Iraq. The network news people left Iraq, but Ted asked his reporters if they’d be willing to stay. Surprisingly, four of them said they would.

On January 17, 1991, they reported live as the U.S. attacked Iraq. It was a first in the history of television. No one had ever aired live from a war zone. And remember how the network news stations originally mocked CNN? Well, they aired CNN’s coverage of the war in Iraq on their stations. That brought CNN to a whole new level of respect and boosted it’s audience as never before.

Cartoon Network

Do you think Ted was satisfied yet? Not at all. He purchased Hanna-Barbera Productions for $320 million dollars. And why did he do that? Content.

He now had access to classic cartoons like The Flinstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, and more. What did he do with them? He took that content, and the Warner Bros cartoon content he had from the MGM vault, and he created Cartoon Network. It was his fith network.

By 1995, TBS was worth $3.5 billion.

The Time Warner merger

The crazy thing is that at this point, his business had gotten so large that Time Warner approached him about a merger. Ted liked the idea, so they inked a deal. The new company was mammoth. It possessed content in television, news, music and print.

It seemed like a great idea except for one thing. Ted wasn’t running things for the first time. That eventually led to the legendary misstep of Time Warner buying AOL.

Philanthropic work

After the shock of losing control of the companies he founded, Ted refocused all of his creativity and work in a completely different direction. He went on to do great things as a philanthropist. One of his most notable acts was donating $1 billion of his $3 billion for U.N. agencies.

Some of his philanthropic work includes the Turner Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Captain Planet Foundation, and the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

Let me be clear. Everything about Ted Turner is not enviable nor worth emulating, but there is a lot we can learn from his content strategy.

9 Content lessons Ted Turner can teach you

Let’s take a look at 9 content lessons you can learn from Ted Turner.

1. Set massive goals

Don’t be wimpy about what you attempt to do. Aim for the skies. Even if you don’t reach your goals, you’ll still do more than you would have with smaller goals.

2. Think of your website or blog as a channel

If you think about it, even when Ted was selling billboard space he had a “channel.” If you wanted your business promoted to people on the road in the south, then Ted was the man you had to go to. He dominated that “channel.”

Change your website and blog paradigm to this view and see how it gets you to think and act differently.

3. You then must decide what type of niche content your “channel” will provide

With CNN, Ted decided to focus on news. With Cartoon Network it was Cartoons. TNT focused on classic films.

What type of content will your “channel” focus on? You must decide what niche your content will focus on.

4. Your first priority must be to provide content that people desire

Ted knew that any old content would not do. He always made sure to get or produce content that people craved. He did this when he originally purchased the cheap programming and Atlanta Brave rights for the WTCG station. He did the same thing with all of his other stations.

There’s no point in just providing content on your blog. It must be content that people really want.

5. Next, come up with ways to partner with other content creators to feature their content on your channel

Ted uncovered companies who weren’t leveraging their content very well (like MGM and Hanna-Barbera) and he attained rights to share their content on his channel, with his audience.

You could do this by finding great bloggers who don’t have much of an audience, and getting them to create content for you. It would be a win-win. They get exposure and you get content.  You could also do this by partnering with other successful content creators through guest postsinterviewswebinars, and more.

6. Your next priority needs to be traffic, or “viewership”

Ted did this with all of his channels and properties, but especially with his Atlanta Braves team. He did everything he could to promote his content (baseball games), get others talking about it, and so on. You need to do the same.

Brainstorm ways you can increase your traffic. Study how other top digital marketers do this and copy them.

7. As you grow your audience, begin to come up with “original programming”

Except in the case of CNN, each of Ted’s networks started out using other people’s content. But each network eventually went on to produce its own content. One example is Cartoon Network. It probably now contains more original programming than it does content created by others.

As you begin to build your audience, you can begin testing out your own content and discovering your own voice.

8. Pay attention to trends and do your best to ride them to higher levels

In an interview, Ted Turner said of his early success with WTCG, “I was just in there first. I just read the newspapers. You can make millions. All you gotta do is think. You know, just tie the information together. You know, you don’t have to be a genius.”

Check out this problogger post on a great topic generation tool you can use to study trends.

9. Leverage your momentum and growth from one channel to another channel

Ted took the momentum from TBS and used it for TNT. He moved from there to CNN and later to Cartoon Network. He would continually use the attention and knowledge he gained from one venture and parlay it to another one.

Darren Rowse is another great example of this. He used his momentum and knowledge from his photography blog and used it to start Problogger.net. You should follow these wise examples!

For more information on Ted, see CNBC Titans Ted TurnerHollywood Reporter, and Wikipedia, which were used as sources for this post.

Scott Aughtmon is a content marketer, content creation specialist, and a speaker. You can sign-up for a free preview of his upcoming “Content Boosters” course here. Read more of Scott’s insights on his blog or follow him on Twitter @rampbusinesses.

A Battle of Two Blogs: Obama v. Romney

This guest post is by Andrew Bart.

Now that both U.S. political parties have concluded the respective coronations of their chosen candidates, it’s time for them to head into real battle in the weeks leading up to the November 6 election.

What tools are both candidates arming themselves with to sway voters in the upcoming weeks? Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have gotten noticed for their TV and web advertising response speeds, their social media capabilities, and even a new iPhone app that can track a voter’s preferences in the weeks leading up to election day.

But today, we will look into the blogs of both candidates, to expose weaknesses, applaud strengths, and see what we can learn and apply on our own blogs.

The power of the blog

Indeed, both candidates are using social media to campaign like no politicians before, with some calling this “The social media election.”

But how are the blog posts being used to feed into the social media information pool? Are the teams behind the blogs using the blogging forum effectively to help change voters’ minds?

The campaign blogs for both candidates may turn out to be a critical factor in the election. Blogging is where both candidates can create campaign excitement, promote voter encouragement, and occasionally even lay out specific steps they believe will help the U.S. in the coming years.

With a variety of bloggers for both campaigns working presumably on-the-fly using mobile devices, which are hosted through VPS hosting sites, each candidate’s blog is filling daily with a mix of editorial and promotional content.

Obama’s blog

On the Obama 2012 blog, content seems to fall into several categories:

  • requests to readers to join the campaign as donors
  • stories of hardship and hope from supporters (likely edited down by campaign bloggers)
  • promotion for the President’s and Vice President’s campaign schedules
  • and more.

Scrolling through Obama’s blog, one feels more that the bloggers are focused more on filling the pipeline with fresh content, and less on attempting to educate voters on the differences in strategies that make the incumbent a better choice for a second term.

To be fair, there is an extensive section called “Get the Facts” used for heavier analysis on topics of jobs, economy, national security, health care, and so on.

But what the blog doesn’t seem to do is link to these positioning statements to points made on the blog in daily posts, which could be a good way to drive readers to understand the issues more fully.

Romney’s blog

On the Mitt Romney blog, the Republican candidate’s team uses a banner across the top asking readers to see the candidate’s five-point plan to help the middle class, while linking to a daily blog post and archived items below.

Some of the posts concern how volunteers from across the country are working with local citizens’ groups to get the word out, and how teams are canvassing voter opportunities.

But the Romney team continues to post about the inarticulate goals of the Obama presidency, and uses the blog to get across fighting points about the current administration’s efforts to manage the nation and the economy.

In this sense, the Romney campaign is doing the right thing at its blog, pushing its core campaign points across the digital platform to a point where the social-media team can work those messages across various social networks.

Your own “party” platform

As Problogger.net readers know, using the power of words and images to create stirring blog posts that spark passion and action among readers remains our central focus.

How can you use some of the political candidates’ blogging tactics to bring about a change in your own blogging?

  • Reiterate your own party platform: What are the main goals of your blog? Maybe it’s time to reach back to your own constituency and tell them what you are doing with the blog, what you plan to do in the future, and what benefits it will bring to the readers.
  • Set up your own town hall meeting: Do you live in a city where you know consistent readers of your blog also live? Set up a meet-up—pick a location, meet your readers, talk about why they read your blog, and find out what can make it better. You can be the best candidate to your readers in this way.
  • Do the unexpected: Maybe your blog has become too predictable, too boring, too safe. Have you tried something unexpected to shake your readers out of the malaise? What about a firm (or controversial?) stance on an industry issue? What about using video to (re) introduce yourself in human form to your readers? There are many ways to shake up your routine. Find one that works for you and work it.

The ideal for both U.S. presidential candidates’ campaigns should be to use their respective blogs as provocateurs of political action, insights, and platform consistencies—not partisan bickering. The candidates’ blogs should outline detailed platform strategies backed up by evidence and data.

The blogs should not fill voters’ minds with venomous rhetoric aimed at the opposition, but should rather provide a source for valuable information leading Americans to make an informed decision in November.

The same should apply to not only apply to pundits, but to anyone with a politically charged blog. There is a time and place to editorialize, and blogs are the perfect outlet for opinion-based writing. But good editorial journalism is backed with stats, facts and well-thought-out theories.

Bloggers should heed this advice and not skew opinions based on unwarranted rhetoric. A well-informed public is the strongest part of a democratic society.

With a diverse career that initiated over a decade ago at iCrossing, a global digital agency that sold for over $325 million in June of 2010 to Hearst Corporation, Andrew Bart has a deep-rooted understanding of innovative Internet marketing solutions.  To learn more about Andrew, connect with him on LinkedIn,Google+, and Twitter.

5 Email Engagement Lessons from the Big Social Networks

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Email remains one of the best ways to increase the reach of your blog and to increase engagement with your readers, since it requires a choice to opt in and is delivered directly to inboxes.

But if you abuse or misuse email while trying to reach your blog readers, it could become a liability, hurting your business in the process.

Increasing the effectiveness of your blog using email demands the development of time-tested strategies. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter send a significant amount of email to their users, and by examining their strategies and formats, you can learn a great deal about using email to reach your blog readers.

Twitter’s email strategy

Twitter’s “digest” email is a relatively recent innovation that provides a list of the most important tweets from your followers. This digest focuses on helping users find the content that is most popular, but that might have been missed given the immediacy of Twitter.

Twitter email

Bloggers can use their email lists in a similar way to highlight the best content on their sites, recognizing that even their most loyal fans can’t catch every single post.

From the posts that are shared the most, to the posts with the most comments, keep track of what visitors to your blog find most intriguing. Then, use your email list to keep the conversation going and build stronger reader relationships.

Facebook’s email strategy

If you don’t manage your emails from Facebook, your inbox will soon be overtaken by them. However, there is quite a bit that bloggers can learn from this network’s strategy.

For instance, Facebook’s email messages are short and to the point, only giving the most important information, which is usually a link to click on. If you want to maximize the impact of your blog marketing, do the same with your emails.

facebook-email

Either provide a few key links to your blog that can be clicked or, better yet, provide one simple action item as the focus of your email message. The more simple and focused your emails, the more likely recipients will visit your blog.

Facebook users can also customize their emails by selecting the exact events and updates they want to be alerted to, and will only receive related emails. This ability to customize what you receive and when is an important lesson for promoting a blog through email marketing.

Email marketing tools like Mailchimp can be integrated into a blog and blog visitors can both sign up to receive email updates and customize how often they’ll receive updates from your site. For example, some visitors will want daily updates so they can be the first to comment or to jump on your limited-time offers. Others will only want a weekly digest of your blog posts.

Either way, you’ll keep your subscribers happy and engaged by providing customized ways for them to stay informed about your blog.

For bloggers hoping to increase engagement, Facebook showcases the importance of letting users choose what they want and finding important information on their own timetable.

Similarly, providing your blog’s subscribers with the ability to customize emails makes it easy to take advantage of market segmentation and ensures your visitors stay happy and engaged without becoming inundated with email.

Google+’s email strategy

Google email

Much like Twitter, Google+ sends a weekly digest email. However, it goes one step further by recommending new users to follow and, most importantly, offers the ability to add them to your circles within the email.

In other words, Google+ uses the email itself to drive user engagement rather than relying on a clickthrough to the network itself.

In short, there’s no reason to force subscribers to click through to your site to engage with your blog, since much of what they do at your blog can be just as easily done in the email itself. You can:

    • provide full blog posts in your emails
    • offer social media sharing buttons
    • reuse the content from your landing pages.

This ensures that recipients have one simple action step rather than being forced to click through to your blog every time they want to do something.

LinkedIn’s email strategy

LinkedIn is another social networking site that sends a large number of emails, and allows users to customize the messages they receive. One of the specialties of LinkedIn, however, is giving customers information beyond what they specify in their settings.

LinkedIn update

LinkedIn emails show users new suggested contacts, job opportunities, and other connections that may be worth making. However, users can always change their email settings to a weekly digest or disable the emails completely if they like.

This is a service that almost any blogger can provide if they properly segment their audience and know what their subscribers want to receive each week.

For example, a blogger who writes about creativity may have writers, graphic designers, and musicians reading her site. Her email list should be broken into those three segments so that she can more effectively reach those interest groups with special offers, content, and new products.

LinkedIn teaches bloggers that they need to know their audience well, and proactively reach out to them based on their interests.

Pinterest’s email strategy

Lastly, Pinterest’s emails are profoundly visual in nature, and presented more like a large sign than a block of text.

While the visual benefits of Pinterest are nothing new, it is a good reminder for bloggers that increasing engagement through email requires using visual tools in addition to text. If Pinterest is growing through image-based content, bloggers should explore that strategy as well.

Pinterest email

Pinteret’s emails are a good example of tying email marketing in with other elements of your online presence, in particular the images on your blog. As you prepare your blog posts, scan them for brief, valuable insights that can be adapted to fit in an image.

Images in blog posts are incredibly useful for SEO and social media sharing, but they can also be integrated with posts in your email updates. An image will break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content. In addition, the image itself is something that can be pinned on Pinterest, increasing your blog’s social reach through email itself.

What can you learn from social media email strategies?

There’s no reason why your email marketing plans for your blog can’t gain some lessons from social networks that have long specialized in effectively using email. It’s just a matter of forming a good plan and then finding the time and energy to get it done.

Here are the five key lessons from each social network for bloggers using email:

      • Twitter: Use email to highlight the best content on your website.
      • Facebook: Keep email messages short and to the point, and focused one one single action.
      • Google+: Drive user engagement in the text of your email, and let users take actions in the email itself.
      • LinkedIn: Proactively use email to reach out to your audience based on their interests, and provide more value than they expect.
      • Pinterest: Use images to break up an email and draw readers into your post’s content—and make them shareable from the email itself.

After all, there’s no real secret to good email marketing. It’s all about investing the resources needed to make it happen, and that comes from watching what others are doing and making email a priority.

What have you learned about email marketing from social media websites—or others in your niche? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This guest post was sent to us by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a shopping cart abandonment company and who also advises Producteev, a to do list Start-Up.

Writing for a Diverse Audience, Part 2

Last week’s post on writing for a diverse audience sparked a great discussion, with some really interesting thoughts contributed by bloggers at all stages of building a blog, and from a range of markets and niches.

AudienceOne thing that really struck me about these conversations was that bloggers seem to feel a bit of a conflict between audiences and niches. I wanted to clarify that today.

Audiences, niches, and topics demystified

I have a pretty simple way to differentiate between an audience and a niche.

I think about an audience as being a group of people.

To me, a niche is like a market “space,” including other blogs, other offerings, other sites and services (all of which may also serve other niches), as well as readers.

And a topic is an area or item of interest. It’s relevant to particular audiences, and probably relates to more than a few niches.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

DPS: topic, niche, and audience

To explain this most clearly, I’m going to reverse the order in which we consider these concepts because I think that’s a more intuitive way to grasp them.

On DPS the:

  • topic is photography
  • niche is DIY amateur photography education
  • audience is English-speaking amateur photographers who want to teach themselves more about photography, typically for a specific purpose: travel photos, family snaps, portraits, and so on. These people have various characteristics—age, gender, purchasing power, previous experience with my brand, degree of photographic skill, interests, and so on—that I can use to unite them into different audience segments.

From this little explanation, you can see that the topic is a big umbrella. The niche fits under that umbrella, with a lot of others. There are lots of other niches in the field of photography: professional photography services, photography equipment and software sales and reviews, photographer profiles, folios and galleries—the list goes on and on, and the niches overlap.

Finally, the audience is the group of people who are engaged with or interested in that niche. They might also be interested in other niches under that umbrella, too—which is why DPS provides reviews and offers on equipment, shows off reader photos in galleries, and so on.

In fact, that’s an example of writing for a diverse audience.

Planning content for a diverse audience

A diverse audience might contain groups of readers with clearly differentiated needs or interests, but most commonly, the truth is that different audience members may move between audience segments, or have a range of “niche” interests that vary over time.

On DPS, I have readers who just want to get better at taking photos with their phone cameras. This is their key need. Then I have readers who are interested in developing a range of professional-level skills as a photographer, without any interest in establishing themselves as pro photographers.

Both these audience segments might be interested in content on taking images of people, provided the information focused on their common needs. What are those needs? Off the top of my head, I’d guess content on either portraits and/or action-shots of people could be made to appeal to both these segments.

Importantly, to meet the needs of these diverse segments, the content would need to give advice that wasn’t equipment-specific, or, alternatively, it would need to give equal attention to the different equipment these readers would be using.

Article ideas that met the needs of these diverse audience segments might include:

  • the basics of photographing people in motion
  • how to spot a good action shot, any time, any place
  • tips for better nighttime photography of people
  • post-processing tips for portraits.

These article ideas are all on the same topic—photography. They address the same niche—self-education for amateur photographers. Within that, they look at the sub-topic of photographing people. And in so doing, they target users from diverse audience segments: camera-phone junkies and high-level amateur photographers who want to develop pro skills.

Show us how you meet the needs of your diverse audience segments

Hopefully this has made the idea of audience segments a bit clearer, and provides a helpful roadmap for your own review and analysis of your own readers and content.

If you’re writing for diverse audience segments on your blog, why not show us how? Point us to a post that meets the needs of multiple segments, and explain how it works—and whose needs it meets—in the comments.

Essential HTML for Bloggers Part 2

This guest post is by Matt Setter of MaltBlue.com.

If you were with us yesterday, Part 1 of this series will have put you in very good stead for making sure the code of your blog posts is perfect HTML!

As you’ll recall, yesterday we looked at:

  • What is a tag?
  • Formatting
  • Alignment
  • Lists.

Today, we’re focusing on the final important aspect of our Introduction to HTML, and that’s links.

Links

Adding links is one of the most common and essential operations that we can do in publishing blog posts. Whether we’re citing references in our work, linking to other blog posts, articles, and videos, or making email addresses available so that we or others can be contacted, links are essential.

Linked post example

Have a look at the screenshot above, from a recent post here on Problogger.net. It has seven links—and that’s just the first part of the article. The remainder of the article has 31 more.

In the WordPress visual editor, there are two buttons for managing links. One to add them, and one to remove them. In your editor, past in a few paragraphs of text from yours or another blog and then select some of it and click the add link button.
Link buttons

When you do this, you’ll see the link editor window, below, open with two fields available: link and title. When you fill out these fields and click add link, your text becomes a link.

Link dialog

Let’s say that you were linking to an article here on Problogger.net, Blogging for Startups: 10 Essential Tips to Make it Work. You put the name in the title field and the link in the URL field.

What does it look like in the source code of the page? Here it is.

<a

title="Blogging for Startups: 10 Essential Tips to Make it Work"

href="http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/09/05/blogging-
for-startups-10-essential-tips-to-make-it-work/"

>Blogging for Startups: 10 Essential Tips to Make it Work

</a>

The code above is what it would look like, if the article name was also the text that was linking to the article. It’s been formatted for easier reading. You see that the text is surrounded first in what’s referred to as a tag, or in this case <a> and </a>.

Then, inside of these, there’s two further parts, called title and href. The title is what is displayed if you hold the mouse over the link for a second or more, and href contains the link that will be opened when you click on it. That’s nice, straightforward, and simple, yes?

In your editor, click on the HTML tab in the upper right and have a look at the link that you’ve just created. Play around with the text inside the tag and the text in the elements in the opening tag, in the title and href areas. Then switch back to the visual editor and see what’s changed. Hold your mouse over the link and click on the link. You see how easy it is?

Now there are a series of other options that you can add in, besides title and href, but on the whole, the majority of them are not used that often and are likely not needed that much in the context of blogging. There’s a few more things we can do with links, though.

Internal links

So far we’ve looked at external links—by external, I mean any document that’s not the one we’re currently reading. What about linking within our document? Let’s say that half-way down our document, we had a list of the most to least highly populated states in Australia.

Let’s say that we linked to it right at the start of our post so that readers could skip right down to it without needing to read the text in between. How would we do this?

In your editor, in visual mode, copy in a few paragraphs of text from another website. Give it a heading “Australian States” and then add the text “Most Popular Australian States” right at the top of the document.

In the heading, “Australian States” create a link, but don’t give it a URL. Change to HTML mode and make it look like the code below:

<a name="australian-states">Australian States</a>

You see that in the href field, we’ve filled out a name field? This is now what’s called a named anchor. Now create a link around the text at the top of the page and set the URL to be #australian-states. When you preview the post, you’ll be able to click on the link and go straight down to the link in the document.

Here is an example of the HTML:

<h1>Australian States</h1>

<a href="#australian-states">to australian states</a>

<p>Die Hypovereinsbank wirbt Kunden für das Sparkonto HVB PlusSparen Top-Sparzins 
mit einer Zinsbindung von drei Jahren. Lässt der Sparer das Geld dort 36 Monate 
liegen, erhält er 2,25 Prozent Zinsen pro Jahr. Muss der Sparer aber vorher an sein 
Geld, gibt es nur sehr bescheidene Zinsen. test.de sagt, was das Sparangebot 
taugt.</p>

<p>Die Hypovereinsbank wirbt Kunden für das Sparkonto HVB PlusSparen Top-Sparzins 
mit einer Zinsbindung von drei Jahren. Lässt der Sparer das Geld dort 36 Monate liegen, 
erhält er 2,25 Prozent Zinsen pro Jahr. Muss der Sparer aber vorher an sein Geld, gibt 
es nur sehr bescheidene Zinsen. test.de sagt, was das Sparangebot taugt.</p>

<a name="australian-states">Australian States</a>

<ul>

<li>Queensland</li>

<li>New South Wales</li>

<li>Victoria</li>

<li>South Australia</li>

<li>Western Australia</li>

<li>...</li>

</ul>

Here is an example of what the page would look like:

Example of internal links

Not that much to it, is there? You can now link to external documents and within an existing document.

Essential HTML for bloggers

Well, there you have it. We’ve now gone through a fairly gentle, yet firm, introduction to HTML so that, as bloggers, we are able to be more hands on when crafting our posts, with the WordPress editor.

We’ve looked at basic formatting, alignment, links and lists and have a better understanding of the changes that are made when we click or un-click the respective buttons.

From here on, though you may choose to keep using an editor for managing your posts and I wouldn’t blame you if you do, you’ve now got the knowledge to step beyond it. I hope that you enjoyed this basic HTML for Bloggers and are able to feel more empowered than you did before.

If you want to know more, leave us a note in the comments and we’ll see what we can do.

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.

Essential HTML for Bloggers Part 1

This guest post is by Matt Setter of MaltBlue.com.

In the modern-world of blogging, there are so many blogging platforms to choose from. From the venerable WordPress, TypePad and Drupal to other great tools, such as Habari, Typo3 and CushyCMS amongst others. All of these make building a professional and stunning web presence, rather trivial—almost something so simple that our grandmothers and fathers could do it.

HTML5 logo

Image courtesy of the W3C

With all the ease of use that these tools afford us, how many of us still know what the underlying HTML looks like, that these tools, with their assortment of visual (wysiwyg) editors build for us? There was a time when you were considered a true web professional when you wrote all the HTML by hand.

To be fair, editors allow us to write quicker and likely more efficiently than we could if we were writing both the posts and the HTML code around them. They allow us to focus on what we’re good at, not the platform on which that knowledge rests.

From time to time, as capable as these editors are, they may either not be enough or we may simply want to know more and be more independent. We may want to know what’s going on underneath so that we’re not so reliant on them should something go wrong.

So in this two-part series, using the WordPress visual editor, I’m going to take you through a HTML for Bloggers Introductory Course. If you’re an aficionado on HTML, then this is likely not for you. If you’d like a refresher, are curious about what the code looks like that you’re producing in each of your posts, or just want to know how to go beyond the limitations of the editors you use, then this post is for you.

In this post, you’re going to learn five key, fundamental, aspects of HTML. These are:

  • What is a tag?
  • Formatting
  • Alignment
  • Lists.

Tomorrow we’ll add one more important aspect:

  • Links.

By the end of the series, you’ll know what’s happening when you click on a number of the buttons in the post editor and be able to change the HTML, should you want or need to do so.

Though I’m referring to it as a course, don’t worry, there’s no test at the end. If there were one, it would be based purely on how more empowered you’ll feel through having a greater hands-on knowledge of HTML.

HTML foundations

Tag: something used for identification or location—merriam-webster.

Before we get started, I want to give you a rapid overview of how HTML works. If you’ve not worked directly with it before, it’s based around the concept of tags or elements. From hereon in I’ll refer to them only as tags.

Tags give documents and parts of documents special meaning. Web browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera know how to interpret that meaning and display the appropriate page, for your viewing pleasure.

Have a look at the following, very basic, HTML document:

<html>

<head>

<title>The Page Title</title>

</head>

<body>

<h1>The Main Page Title</h1>

<p>A paragraph of text</p>

</body>

</html>

This is likely the most simple, yet still meaningful, HTML page that could ever be produced. You can see that the page begins and ends with the word html surrounded in opening and closing angle brackets, < and > and that the closing one has a forward slash,  /, in it. Within that, we then see two further sections, one is called head and the other body.

In head, we see a section wrapped in title and in the body we see two sections, h1 and p. It will work as follows:

  • The text inside the tags and will be what you see in the title bar of your browser.
  • The text in side <code>

    and

    will be the main heading on the page, likely in very large font and bolded.

  • The text insideandwill be the first paragraph that you’ll read on the page.

The image below shows what it would look like if we were viewing it in Mozilla Firefox.

Viewing the page in Firefox

So as you can see, when you think about it, HTML really is nothing more than a document that you would write in say, Microsoft Word, Open Office or Pages for Mac, but with some simple encapsulation around sections of the text to give it special meaning. The catch at times is knowing which element or tag to use and when.

I hope you can see that it’s pretty straightforward. With that, login to your WordPress blog and open a fresh new post, ready to play with, as in the image below.

A new post template

Headers and basic formatting

Right after links in order of importance, comes headers and basic formatting. This includes: the key headers, bold, italics, strikethroughs, and quotes.

Headers

As we all know, for documents to be searched and ranked most effectively in Google, they have to be semantically correct. In short, that means they have to use headers in the right way and use formatting where appropriate. The largest header should contain the core theme or point of the page and the increasingly smaller headers should be for sub-points of that.

Say we’re writing an article on the U.S. election. Well the main theme would be the election itself and we’d likely have two key sub-themes, being Democrats and Republicans. Have a look at the sample I’ve created below:

Header example

You can see that I have the main heading, US Election, with the headers for Republics and Democrats the next level down, with the content for each section, dummy text, in normal text with no special formatting. Let’s look at the HTML that’s been generated behind the scenes by changing to the HTML view. The HTML looks like this:

<h1>US Election</h1>

<h2>Republicans</h2>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

<h2>Democrats</h2>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

You can see that the main heading is wrapped in a H1 tag and the two sub-headings are wrapped in H2 tags. H1 is the primary and most important and H2 - H6 are decreasingly important. Now let’s say we want to mention the recent speech by Bill Clinton to the Democratic Convention. Have a look in the section below where I’ve added a H3 and H4 header mentioning just that.

<h2>Democrats</h2>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

<H3>Democratic Convention</h3>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

<H4>Former President Bill Clinton</h4>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

You can see from the above text that it’s pretty simple indeed. You could, alternatively, have done this using the Visual editor by selecting the respective text and choosing Heading 3 or Heading 4.

Basic formatting

Bold

Now let’s say that we were talking about Obama and wanted to draw attention to his name by doing some simple formatting, say bolding it. Well, in the visual editor, you’d highlight the text and then click B. But let’s look at how we’d do it in the HTML editor.

Change over to it, and in some text, or select some existing text, select it, then surround it with the tags <strong></strong> and , such as in the example below:

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

After you’ve done that, change back to the visual editor and you should seem output similar to the image below.

Bold text

Italics and strikethroughs

What if we’re not wanting to bold text, but to either italicise it, say for a list of important items, or we want to strike through (strike/cross out) and item, emphasising a correction in our text. As you may well have gathered, they’re as simple as all the previous items.

The italics tag is <em></em> and the strikethrough is <del></del>. Let’s say that we have a long list of items, separated by commas, such as towns in New Zealand. And let’s say that we’re highlighting them so they’ll stand out to our reader. In our visual editor, we have the towns: Christchurch, Aukland, Invercargill and Taupo. But what we don’t want to do is italicise either the commas themselves or the word ‘and’. Add the list above in the Visual editor then change to the HTML editor.

All you need to do is to wrap each of the town names in <em></em> and as below and they’re emphasised.

<i>Christchurch</i>, <i>Aukland</i>, <i>Invercargill</i> and <i>Taupo</i>

Now let’s say this was the list of towns contending to host director Peter Jackson as he’s travelling the country looking for new locations for his next feature film; and that, sadly, Invercargill’s not made the cut. We need to strike it out. All we’d do is to take our list above and wrap Invercargill in the <del></del> tag and we’re done. An example is below:

<i>Christchurch</i>, <i>Aukland</i>, <i><del>Invercargill</del></i> and <i>Taupo</i>

When you switch back to Visual mode, or preview it in your browser of choice, it will look a lot like the image below (allowing for the dotted underline).

Italics and strikethrough

Quotes

Like all good bloggers and journalists, we don’t just write our own thoughts or link to others articles and thoughts. We also want to quote authors, whether that’s some prose, a statement, a callout or something they said recently. Commonly we see it in a larger, italicised, greyed font, with prefixed double-quotes. Often times it’s styled nicely like below, from a recent article on Copyblogger:

Blockquote

To achieve this effect, we need to use the tag. We simply surround the text we want to appear quoted in the tag. The example in the image above would be created as follows:

<blockquote>Please expand on your answer to Q1. What have you tried?

What’s keeping you from getting results?</blockquote>

I hope that you can see by this stage, just how very simple HTML is. Though there are a lot of tags and a number of the tags have a wide variety of options, they’re reasonably self-explanatory and quick to master. Keep it simple, start from the most appropriate tags and go from there.

The other thing you’ve likely noticed is just how much of a time save a good visual editor is. Could you imagine what it must have been like in the early days, before editors, doing all of this by hand? I didn’t mind doing it, but well, it’s not always the most effective way to work.

Alignment

Now let’s say we wanted to play around with the alignment of text. Say we want to align a few paragraphs of text either in the center of the post or on the right-hand side. Let’s work with the paragraph below. It will start off left-aligned, move to be aligned in the centre, and then end up right-aligned.

Left alignment

By leaving the text as is, optionally surrounded in

 

tags, will display the text left aligned.

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

Center aligned

By surrounding the text in

 

and

tags and adding the attribute “align” with the value of “centre,” we can display the text center aligned.

<p align="center">augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.</p>

This code will display as shown here.

Center alignment

Right aligned

By surrounding the text in

 

and

tags and adding the attribute “align” with the value of “right,” we can display the text right aligned.

<p align="right">augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.</p>

This code will display as shown below.

Right alignment

Lists

Now we’re coming to the end of Part 1 of out mini-course. We’re going to look at the last of the key, basic elements—lists. In HTML there are two types of list:

  • unordered
  • ordered.

Unordered lists are delimited with a bullet point and ordered lists have a numeric value, such as numbers, roman numerals and so on. Lists are a little more complicated than the tags that we’ve covered so far, though not by much. Lists need tags for the list itself, and for each of the elements within them. Below are two examples:

Unordered list

<ul>

<li>First Point</li>

<li>Second Point</li>

<li>Third Point</li>

</ul>

Ordered list

<ol>

<li>First Point</li>

<li>Second Point</li>

<li>Third Point</li>

</ol>

You can see that an ordered list starts and ends with and an unordered one with . You can also see that the list items start and end with

. So, there’s a nice correlation between the purpose and the name.

 

There’s quite a bit you can do when configuring what your lists will look like, where they will start or resume their numbering from and so on and lists can have sub-lists. But I think that we’ve covered enough for now.

Tomorrow we'll finish up our tour of essential HTML by looking closely at links, the "glue" of the Internet. Before then, let me know if you've learned anything in this tutorial—and what else you want to know. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.