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Increase your SEO with Team Content Marketing!

This is a guest blog contribution from Matt Ganzak, founder of EliteGurus.com and BuildNetworkPlus.com.

Content marketing and SEO is getting more difficult. Each day, there are thousands of new domains purchased and thousands of new websites going online.

Most new bloggers and content writers will get started with their site, staying active for a couple months, and then reality hits them. No traffic to their articles. The time does not seem worth the effort.

Content Marketing can be FRUSTRATING!

Frustration on a keyboard

In an effort to remove outdated and irrelevant search results, Google has been updating their systems over the years with a series of updates. The latest Google update, Penguin, was said to lower the ranks for websites that have poor quality links and also took into consideration the relevancy.

This was the push some businesses and bloggers needed to find a better way to build quality SEO.

Today’s Content Marketing Strategy for SEO

According to Google, the best way to get quality rankings is to follow this guide:

1)     Post quality content that gets shared

2)     Have social widgets easy to access

3)     Use Google Plus profiles for authors

4)     Use Google Plus Pages for sites

5)     Guest blog on other sites to earn link backs

6)     Do not buy links

7)     Setup your web pages targeting keywords

8)     But do not over optimize

In a nutshell, there is no shortcut to boosting your organic traffic, so just put out the quality content and they will come. Well, this strategy is causing newbie bloggers to get frustrated.

So what is the solution?

I have been teaching my clients to build networks within their niche industry, and share each other’s articles. This is a strategy that will build your organic SEO naturally as all the sites work together to grow traffic. Many bloggers choose to be loners and just focus on “their audience” but realistically, today’s Google Algorithm stacks the cards against these loners.

Fact is, you need to reach out and make new friends. Connect on the social networks, and reshare each other’s content. Then also guest blog on each other’s sites and even send newsletter’s to each other’s lists. If you build small niche teams and work together, Google will build your PageRank and Domain Authority as your sites grow together.

Focus group

Copyright Yuri Arcurs – Fotolia.com

This strategy does not create overnight success, and can be rather time consuming. But Google will index their community with excellent authority and continue to do so as her network grows.

Steps to creating your Network

The first step is to decide on your niche market, and do not stray from it! If you confuse Google by having so many different industries, Google will not index you with high relevance for your target industry. Choose and stay the course.

Next, determine who your competitors are in your vertical. You can do this with a Google search for your keywords. And I always like to check Alexa.com rankings to get a look at their traffic score.

After that, choose relevant keywords with high search volume but low competition. I suggest picking 4-7 keywords to target. If you choose more, you can spread your site too thin which will lower your keyword density for your target keywords.

Lastly, find out where your niche industry peers hang out. This can literally mean go to networking events in person, or meetup groups. Take business cards! But you will also want to find online communities dedicated to your niche. Get in, get involved and start networking together.

Personally, I have been doing this sort of networking for the past year and my group has been growing. If you would like to join, I would be more than happy to chat and put up guest posts on any of my websites.

So let’s all work together to improve our PageRank and Domain Authority to grow our readership together. Content Marketing and SEO has become a team effort. I look forward to meeting each and everyone one of you.

Matt has been working in marketing for the past 12 years. He is an innovator of new ideas and has been training businesses on building their online presence. He specializes in Website Development, SEO, blogging, PPC, media buying and monetization strategy. Connect with Matt on EliteGurus.com, and be sure to check out his WordPress hosting (DollarWebsiteClub.com). 

Is Blogging Still Relevant in a World of Social Media? [6 Reasons Why I Think It Is]

“How relevant is blogging for today in a world of so many types of social media?”

I must hear this question – or a variation of it – at least once a week. So I thought I’d open it up for some discussion to the wider ProBlogger community.

What do you think?

My feeling is that blogging is a very relevant option for developing a web presence but as the question states – there are other legitimate options too.

Each option has their own pros and cons and depending upon your goals and your resources (including how much time you have) you may choose to do all of the options available or just choose some.

Why I Think Blogging is Relevant

A few of the main arguments why I keep blogging as opposed to just using social media include:

  1. if self host your blog and use a blogging platform like WordPress.org you retain full control over your blog and what it looks like, how you monetize it and what kind of content you can put on it
  2. a blog allows you a lot of freedom in terms of length of posts (as opposed to Twitter/Facebook which limit length) and the design of your posts (i.e. inserting images, sub heading, bolding etc (G+ does give you some of this control) etc
  3. As long as you maintain it and pay for your hosting your blog can stay up forever and is not there as long as the social network may operate or be a relevant medium for people
  4. For me a blog is a place that I archive and showcase my best longer form and meaty stuff – social is an important place for researching what I write, sharing it and building community with my readers
  5. Much of what is shared and discussed on social media is links to longer form content – I want to be a creator of that
  6. In my experience it is easier to monetize and make sustainable a business based upon a blog over a social media account

Note: there will always be exceptions to the above. For instance G+ does give you some formatting options, I do know some people who monetize social media well etc – but in general I think the above stands up well.

Note 2: I’m certainly not arguing blogging is the only way or that you need to choose between blogging and social media. I use both but if I had to choose just one (which none of us have to) I’d choose blogging.

Why Others Think Blogging is Relevant

When I asked on my Twitter account yesterday for why my followers blog when they could use social media I got some great responses along these lines like:

I call it “share the message own the destination” – from Gavin Heaton

because sometimes thoughts should be developed beyond 140 characters or less – from James Woods

most of the value I get reading anything online still comes from longer format – from Reuben

I blog because it gives my voice and content a home. #SM platforms can delete anything I say if they so choose. – from Jessica Cue

Because the content is owned by me, not subject to the fine print of the legal text of a socmed service.Scott Fitzgerald

I SM to support my blog, I like the fact my blog space is my own to be me in. SM has it’s own rules depending on platform. – by Jessie Reid

Add Your Thoughts

The above thoughts (both mine and others) are just scratching the surface of this topic – I’d love to get your perspective on the relevancy of blogging for today in comments below!

Bloggers To Watch: Jen Bishop talks about how to become a full-time blogger

Jen Bishop is the creative force behind Interiors Addict, the leading Australian blog dedicated to interiors and home wares. She was made redundant a year into starting her blog and was accidentally thrust into the world of full-time blogging.

I’ve loved watching her journey. She started off with a hobby blog on Tumblr and now reaches over 60,000 readers each month. In this interview, we discuss what she has accomplished since becoming a full-time blogger.

You became a full-time blogger earlier than planned. Did the need for immediate income affect your blog strategy?

Not really. I always wanted my blog monetization to be more display ads than sponsored content. What I did do earlier than expected was start working with an agency, who sell my ads on commission. That’s proven to be a good move.

What have been your most successful methods of monetization?

Banner advertising, without a doubt. Now that’s more established with bigger names on board, booking multiple times, I wanted to concentrate on the sponsored content side too. I also make money from social media consulting work with businesses in the interiors industry, and a little from job ads.

Your blog posts tend to be more newsy, with the occasional in-depth feature. How much time do you spend actually writing the blog content?

That really varies. I’m a very fast writer, after 14 years as a journalist, but I spend an minimum of 2 hours a day writing. Some days I’ll write from 7am to 3pm and suddenly realise I’m starving and have missed lunch!

You’ve turned your passion into a full time job. Have you ever felt sick or writing about the same thing repeatedly?

Never! I still feel like I’m living the dream, writing about what I love, day in, day out. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I make my money from advertising so I have absolute freedom with the content. I can write whatever I like and about whoever I like. I can honestly say I have never put any thought into SEO or link-baiting or what might rank well. I just write about what I love, and know my readers love, and lots of it, and I hope that I write it well.

Growth

You do a lot of in-person networking at events and conferences. Has this contributed to your success?

It’s definitely good for raising your profile as it’s good to be seen at the right events and in the right places. Now I’m more established, I’m fussier about the events I go to, because time is money. But it’s still very important to me. Plus, I enjoy it!

You are very well connected and have interviewed some of the leading people in the industry. How did you get people to trust a ‘new’ blogger?

I think I was lucky to get a few high profile interviews in the early days and it was a case of people thinking “well if they’ve been on Interiors Addict, I want to be on it too!”. I also suspect that having a background in publishing and journalism helps add credibility and give people confidence you’ll write something professional and engaging about them and their brand.

I also made sure, in the early days, that I went to every industry event I was invited to and took every PR opportunity I was offered, however small, without being snobby or picky about it.

You’ve recently started adding extra contributors to what has mostly been a personal blog. How has your audience responded to this?

My audience don’t seem to have had much of a reaction either way. It’s not something I do very often and am wary of doing so in the future, because the blog is very much about me and my personal brand. I think, as the blog grows, I might have to get over that!

How do you plan to grow Interiors addict over the next 18 months?

I’m trying to write even more content (I’d love to get up to 5 posts a day most days but it’s a tall order!) and grow my email database. I’m also going to start doing some blogging events in Sydney, publish my first eBooks, and there’ll probably be a stint overseas where I’ll cover international trends as well as continuing to report on the Australian scene. Watch this space!

I launched a second, sister blog, Appliance Addict, a couple of months ago, and that’s part of my business growth strategy long term.

7 Vignettes Challenge

7 Vignettes is a creative online community centred around Instagram. Participates take part in a 7-day challenge, which starts on the first of each month.

Each challenge is focused around using elements from a key theme. Jen posts the themes on her blog the week before the challenge starts. Users have shared over 20,000 images so far. They even have guest judges and prizes.

You can learn more via her interview at Australian Businesswomen’s network.

You run the 7 Vignettes challenge on Instagram. Has it led to increased traffic to your blog?

According to Google Analytics, no! It only shows 218 visits in the 6 months I’ve been running it. That said, those people spend an average in excess of 5 minutes on the site which is a long time!

I believe I get a lot of traffic indirectly though, and my unique browsers have consistently gone up since November. It’s just hard to measure. Instagram only lets you link to your site once in your profile, that’s it; nothing in captions.

But there’s been a lot of buzz around 7 Vignettes and a lot of people must be coming to the site directly or via Google after hearing about it. I really believe, and hope, that Instagram will start letting you put links in captions in the near future.

How did you get such awesome judges and prizes on board?

I have a list of offers for prizes and judges as long as my arm! In general, they hear about it and approach me.

You reach over 50,000  (more than 60k this month!) readers a month. What are your main sources of traffic?

Most of my traffic comes from search, direct or referred from social media. A large percentage comes from Facebook, where I have the most engagement.

You were an early adopter of Pinterest. Has that helped attract interest in your blog?

To be honest, I haven’t used Pinterest anywhere near its potential. I do get a lot of traffic via Pinterest, but mostly due to readers pinning my images and then other people seeing them and finding me by clicking through. I’ve had a lot more success with Instagram and found it has been the best tool for building community off the blog.

Over to you

I love Jen’s story. She has accomplished so much since I first interviewed her in 2012. Her professionalism and hard work has allowed to accomplish quite a lot in a relatively small period of time.

What did you like most about Jens story? And, do you have any questions for her?

10 Hurdles I’ve Faced as a Blogger and How I Got Over Them

Last night while speaking at a small event here in Melbourne I was asked to identify the most common hurdles that bloggers face in building profitable blogs.

It was a tricky question to answer – not because there are not many hurdles… but because there are so many and each blogger seems to face their own unique set of them.

Here are a few of the hurdles that I’ve faced and some further reading on how I got over them.

Super Track and Field Meet

1. Technical Know How

When I started blogging I was using the web for email and occasional research for essays for the study I was doing. I’d used IRC chat but had never created a web page, had never ‘coded’ anything, had no understanding of how to register a domain or get a site on a server and had no ability when it came to designing a blog.

As a result I made a lot of mistakes in those early years with poor choices of blogging platforms, domain names etc.

The big lessons for me in this was that while there was a lot I didn’t know about blogging and there was always something to learn (and there still is 10 years later) you really don’t need to know it all at once.

Start simple and grow your knowledge and skills as you need them – and as you’re able you might also like to look at partnering with others or outsourcing to people who complement your skill set.

Further Reading: I’m not technical enough to blog: Misconceptions Bloggers Have #4

2. Fear of Looking Stupid

As a result of #1 one of the earliest challenges that could have held me back was looking stupid. I have distinct memories in the first few months of blogging where I would compare my very poorly designed and badly written blog (at least that’s what I saw) with other bloggers who seemed to know what they were doing – I remember wondering if people were reading purely for a laugh.

Luckily I got past this fear and kept working on developing my blogging voice and skill set and in time the fear subsided.

I think the other key for me in overcoming this fear was to focus my energies on creating content with my blog that attempted to solve tangible problems that I knew people had. I think by taking this constructive approach you create a useful blog that is pretty difficult to critique.

3. Finding a Focus

My first blog was one in which I talked about many many topics. It started out focusing upon my work (I was a minister) and so I used it to talk about Church, Theology and Spirituality but over time it broadened to talk about my other interests (movies, politics, photography, life in Australia and later blogging itself).

The more topics I wrote about the more I enjoyed blogging but the more push back I got from readers who didn’t always share my eclectic mix of interests. It wasn’t until I started new blogs for different topics that I began to find my groove and my readership really began to grow.

Further Reading: How to Choose a Blog Niche

4. Bloggers Block

A few years into blogging I had my first bout of bloggers block. The creative juices were not flowing and I would sit at my computer staring at an empty draft of a post and wonder if I’d ever come up with something to write about. The first time it lasted a week or so but I had numerous other bursts of it periodically over the years that followed.

Following are some tips on how I overcame bloggers block.

Further Reading: 11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Solving Reader Problems

Also Check out: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog to help you kick start your blogging if it has lost motivation.

5. Bloggers Burnout

Similarly I also went through times when I almost burnt myself out with the amount of work I was putting into my blogging. At one point I had over 20 blogs running at once and was trying to post to them all each day. It was a recipe for disaster and the quality of my blogging suffered – as did my health.

The solution? I had to scale back. I decided that in order to be able to sustain my blogging I should have just a couple of blogs that I enjoyed writing and could throw myself into. This raised the bar in terms of the quality of what I was doing but also gave me more energy for those projects.

6. Personal Attack

Blogging has always been a medium where you put yourself ‘out there’ with your ideas and will from time to time get people critiquing what you do and write. This is all a part of blogging – however there have been a couple of instances over the last 10 years where the ‘critique’ of others began to feel more like a personal attack than a constructive and genuine dialogue or critique.

This takes its toll and you do wonder whether it is worth it all. This particularly was the case on one occasion where the attack became quite personal and physical in my ‘real life’. Not a nice situation but thankfully one in which things worked out in the end after a frightening encounter.

There’s no real ‘solution’ to this one – I guess you get thicker skin over time when you blog for years but you also develop positive connections with others that help to support you when times get tough!

7. Building Readership

When it comes to building a profitable blog there’s no escaping the need to build a decent sized readership. Every blog monetization strategy I can think of relies upon having people read your blog in order for you to make money and so this is something we all face the challenge of as bloggers.

This is a particularly frustrating challenge and I remember many times where I almost lost hope after many many hours of writing the best quality content that I could only to find that nobody was reading it.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Finding Readers for Your Blog’ Webinar for everything I know about finding readers for your blog.

8. Finding the Right Monetization Model

Having readers is not enough. I know of many bloggers who have built amazing readerships only to find that what they thought would be the right monetization model simply doesn’t work in their niche and with the type of reader that they have attracted.

For me I’ve found I’ve needed to be constantly experimenting with new ways of making money from what I do. I started with using ad networks and some basic affiliate marketing and as my blogs grew found that new opportunities would open up (such as selling ads directly to advertisers and creating my own products to sell).

Further Reading: Here’s my 12 blogging income streams and how I added each gradually over 10 years.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Monetizing Blogs’ Webinar

There is no one way to monetize a blog and over time what works might change. It can be a real juggling act!

9. Time Management

There are just not enough hours in the day some days!

Coming up with topics to write about, writing content, editing it, promoting it, answering comments, engaging on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn…. and more), commenting on other blogs… the list goes on of things you feel the need to do as a blogger.

Add into this mix having a ‘real life’ and the challenge of doing all this between your ‘day job’, family, social life and the logistics of running a household and it is not easy.

Time management is the #1 struggle I find most bloggers have – and it only gets harder as your blog grows!

Further Reading: Check out BlogWise – our eBook on becoming a more productive blogger that features advice from 9 successful bloggers.

10. Scaling Yourself

Related to time management is the challenge of trying to scale yourself.

With the right server set up a blog can pretty much have unlimited readership and reach and still keep running. The challenge of growing a blog isn’t so much a technical one – it often is more about how keep your blog personal and to stay accessible to your readers.

In the early days its relatively easy to answer every comment and reply to every email and tweet while also creating blog posts… but as your readership grows it can become more challenging and something usually needs to give.

The choice is either to just let some reader engagement go, or to bring someone on to help you manage it (and loose some personal touch) or to work longer hours (not sustainable in the long term).

I still don’t feel like I’ve got this challenge right – but keep working at it!

Further Reading: Making Yourself Accessible to Readers

What Hurdles Have You Faced as a Blogger?

As I wrote this post I realised just how many more huddles and obstacles I could have come up with (in fact I may just publish a post with 10 more).

Which of the above resonate most with you? What would you add?

Your Ultimate Guide to Creating Amazing Content that Draws Readers Into Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Does your blog lack something?

Maybe you post regularly, but your posts aren’t getting many comments or shares. It feels like no-one’s reading.

What you need is pillar content. (Also known as “cornerstone content” and “evergreen content”.) These posts get links, shares, and comments. They’re posts that you’re proud to have written; ones that readers can return to again and again.

They’ll often be longer than your usual posts.

They may well be more carefully structured, and more carefully edited.

And you might well be thinking…

Where Do I Find the Time?!

Frustrated blogger

Image copyright Renee Jansoa – Fotolia.com

There’s a very, very simple way to make enough time to create really good posts:

Cut down on the number of posts you currently write.

You don’t have to publish every day. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

(And just in case you’re not convinced … Michael Hyatt agrees, and even Daily Blog Tips no longer publishes content daily.)

Think about it. Have you ever unsubscribed from a blog that provided amazingly valuable content … just because they didn’t post every day?

I haven’t. But I have unsubscribed from blogs that kept putting out content day after day after day – even if it was good stuff. I just couldn’t keep up.

(If you’re writing in a fast-moving newsy niche, it might be harder to cut back. You could narrow your focus a little, or you could pick a particular day of the week to focus on longer-lasting content.)

Your Objectives and Your Post Ideas

Before you write any pillar post, think hard about what you want to accomplish with it. Don’t just write a post for the sake of it.

Depending on your broader blogging objective, the aim of your post could be one or more of these:

  • Create a portfolio piece that you can use to impress potential clients / employers.
  • Impress first-time readers to your blog and encourage them to subscribe.
  • Prompt readers to buy one of your products.
  • Get lots of shares on social media.
  • Receive more enquires from prospective clients.

By having a clear aim in mind before you start writing, you can tailor your post toward it.

For instance, let’s say you blog about parenting, and your goal is to encourage readers to buy your ebook Help Your Teen Pass Any Exam.

You could simply tack on a paragraph about your ebook at the end of a post on any topic – but ideally, you want the post to get the reader into the right frame of mind to buy it.

In this case, posts like these will probably work well for you:

  • Why Our Schools Are Failing Students
  • Ten Tips for Parenting Teens
  • How to Help Your Teen Study for an Exam

Posts on other aspects of parenting won’t bring in the right readers, or get readers thinking about the right things. You might want to rethink topics like:

  • Five Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep
  • How to Prepare Your Pre-Schooler for Starting School
  • Ten Moms Confess Their Guilty Parenting Secrets

Those might well be great, valuable posts – but they’re not ones that will help you sell your ebook.

It’s often useful to come up with a whole bunch of ideas at once. If you can, set aside at least 20 minutes to brainstorm – often, once you get past the first 10 or so ideas, you get into some really interesting and valuable ones.

Keep your ideas somewhere safe, and turn to your list whenever you start a new post. Think about what goal you’d like to meet – and choose a topic that fits well with that.

Crafting Your Title

Although many bloggers write their title after writing their post, it’s a good idea to come up with a “nearly-there” title before starting on your post. If you just have a topic in mind, it can be tough to figure out how best to structure your post, or what to include it in.

Your title should:

  • Be clear. Get keywords in there – don’t try to be too clever. Both readers and search engines need to know what your post is actually about.
  • Be specific. “Five tips” is better than “tips”, because readers get a better sense of what your post involves. (Copywriter Steven Slaunwhite has a great, short video on this technique here.)
  • Create interest. Adjectives are great for this – “five powerful tips” or “five simple tips” rather than just “five tips”. You can also  try words like “secrets” or “little-known”.
  • Avoid excessive hype. If your post title is “Ten Insider Secrets the Experts Don’t Want You to Know” then you’d better have something impressive to share! A hyped up title might get clicks, but readers won’t stick around long (and you’ll lose their trust).

For more tips – including advice on personalising titles, using keywords, using power words, and much more – see How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog.

Jon Morrow Headline Hacks

Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks is a great resource, if you want some ready-made ones for inspiration. You could also look at any popular blog or magazine and borrow from them – take a title you like and switch around a few words so that it works for your blog.

Structuring the Main Body of Your Post

One key aspect of writing that many bloggers struggle with (or don’t understand the importance of) is structure.

If your posts are poorly structured, they’ll not only be hard to write, they’ll be hard to read. You’ll spend too much time staring at the screen, wondering what to write next … and your readers will often click away after a few paragraphs because they’re struggling to find the value in your post.

One basic structure that you’re almost certainly familiar with is the list post. Even if you think these are overdone, get to grips with this structure, because it can be used as a basis for many others.

Here’s how a basic list post might look:

Introduction

#1: Subheading

Paragraph

#2: Subheading

Paragraph.

… and so on until …

Conclusion / call to action

A how-to post looks almost identical in structure. In fact, the only real difference between list posts and how-to posts is this:

  • Readers can use one or several of the points in a list post and still get something valuable.
  • Readers need to follow the points in a how-to post step-by-step.

It’s a really good idea to number your points, because it helps readers orientate themselves – they know how far they’ve got through the post and how far they still have to go.

Using Subheadings

One of the best ways to structure your post, whether or not it’s a list, is to use subheadings. This is especially crucial in longer posts, where readers might be dipping in and out, or skimming for information. (You can see plenty of them at work in this post!)

Some bloggers simply use bold text for their subheadings, but it’s better to use the Heading formats built into your blogging software. This makes the text larger so it stands out more – and you can also use different levels of subheading to split long sections into several parts.

If you want to try something a little different from a standard list post or how-to post, use one of the fool-proof forumlas below.

Three Fool-Proof Post Formulas (Plus Examples)

Fool proof lock and chain

Start with one of these formats, and you’ll find it easy to come up with a great post. These ideas will all produce a post that’s great for linking to in your guest post bios, highlighting on your About page, including in your sidebar, and sharing on your social media accounts.

Idea #1: An A-Z Guide

Example: 26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know, Social Media Examiner

These types of post are fun to write, they suit almost any topic, and they have a ready-made structure. They’re also a really good way to tackle a big topic that might normally be too much for a single blog post.

Creating an A-Z post is simple. Just come up with a topic (like “the A-Z of vegan cooking” or “the A-Z of board games). List the letters A to Z on a sheet of paper, and think of a word or phrase that goes with each. Then all you need to do is write a sentence or paragraph for each item.

Idea #2: A “Why and How” Post

Example: Why You Need to Create and Sell A Product Now (And How To Do It)

Going beyond a simple “how to”, these posts work brilliantly because they help readers understand why something is important. It won’t necessarily be obvious to readers why they’d want to do something unless you spell this out.

You’ll structure your post like this – make the subheadings specific to your topic:

  • Introduction
  • Why This Matters
  • How to Do It (with numbered steps)

Idea #3: Top Experts Answer…

Example: The Experts’ Views on Content Marketing

Even if you don’t have a lot of experience in your topic area, you can produce a great, in-depth post that readers will want to share and link to … by using experts in your niche.

The key to doing this is to choose one question that you want lots of people to answer. Most experts are really busy, and they’re much more likely to get back to you if you ask one question instead of ten. (This is sometimes called a “one-question interview”.)

You don’t even have to approach experts directly. Instead, you could write a post that collates lots of ideas on a particular topic, quoting from and linking to posts that these experts have published.

These three ideas aren’t the only possibilities, of course: there are dozens of other post formulas that you can use too. (Whenever you come across a great post, see if you can break it down and figure out how it’s structured.)

How Long Should Your Post Be?

Some bloggers will say “how long is a piece of string?” – but I’ll give you a proper answer.

Aim to make your posts between 600 and 1,500 words.

If they’re under 600 words, it’ll be tough for you to deliver something really valuable.

If they’re over 1,500 words, you’ll struggle to keep the post structured and coherent.

Of course you can write shorter posts and longer ones – but stick to a standard post length until you’re comfortable there.

Writing Your First Draft

Some bloggers love coming up with ideas and planning posts – but they struggle when it comes to getting words onto the page.

Here’s how to get your first draft written:

  • Plan first. Make sure you have a clear structure in place. That could mean getting all your list points written down, or using one of the ready-made ideas below.
  • Avoid distractions. Yes, you’ve heard this one before – but are you doing it? Writing takes a lot of focus and energy, so try using the Pomodoro technique or similar to write in short bursts … and don’t check Twitter / Facebook / your email until the time is up.
  • Don’t try to make it perfect. You’ll have as much time as you need to edit, so don’t worry if a sentence has come out a little weird, or you’re missing a piece of crucial information. Keep moving forward in your post.
  • Jump straight in with your first major point or section, rather than starting at the introduction. Once you’ve written the post, it’ll be easier to create an introduction that fits.
  • Imagine you’re writing an email to a friend. What advice would you give? How would you write it? Use this as the basis of your blog post. (A great way to go further with this is to do a “Q&A” post where you answer questions from your readers – you may well find your writing flows more smoothly than ever.)

Great Beginnings…

Your introduction has to do a lot of work – almost as much as the title. It needs to hook the reader, making them want to read on. It also needs to pave the way for what’s to come – you could write an amazing, attention-grabbing introduction that falls flat if it doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of your post.

Some easy but powerful ways to begin your post are:

  • With a question. These help the reader to engage by getting them thinking (or at least agreeing!) For instance, “How do you keep yourself fresh, inspired and creative as a blogger?
  • With a quotation. This can be a great way to begin if your post is building on something that another blogger’s written. Some bloggers use motivational or inspirational quotations at the start of all their posts – Alex Blackwell from The Bridgemaker is a good example.
  • With an anecdote – a mini story from your life. If this is relevant to your post, and if you keep it fairly short, it can help your readers feel connected to you.

For lots more ideas for your post introduction, check out Darren’s in-depth post 11 Ways to Open a Post and Get Reader Engagement.

…And Great Endings

Although it’s clear that introductions are important, endings might seem less so. However, they have a crucial role to play. In fact, if you end too abruptly, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

As Darren writes in Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity:

The vast majority of visitors to your blog are paralyzed by passivity. They never comment, they don’t vote in polls, they won’t subscribe to your feed or newsletters, they won’t buy the affiliate products that you recommend, they won’t email a friend about your blog, they won’t vote for you in social bookmarking sites and most of them will never come back.

Let’s say you’ve written a ten-point list post. Don’t just stop at the end of item ten – add a couple of sentences beneath the list to round off the post. A list post is a great one to use to get comments, because you can ask something like:

Do you have a tip to add to this list? Share it in the comments below (or let us know which of the existing tips you liked best).

A “call to action” simply means asking (or telling) the reader to do something. It might look like one of these:

  • What do you think? Leave a comment below.
  • If you enjoyed this post, please hit the “Tweet” button to share it with others.
  • Want to know more about [topic]? Click here to read my post [title].
  • To learn more, check out my ebook [Title and link].

Some bloggers worry that calls to action sound pushy or even desperate. The truth is, readers are used to them – and will often welcome them. After all, if you visited a new blog for the first time and read a great post, wouldn’t you appreciate a link to another relevant post?

It might seem a little silly to ask directly for comments – surely readers know the comment box is there! – but some readers, especially shyer ones, will be much more likely to comment if you specifically invite them to do so.

Editing Your Post

It’s often a relief to get to the end of your post … but don’t hit publish just yet.

Your first draft probably needs a bit of tidying up before it’s ready for the world. In fact, you’ll probably want to run through two separate edits – a “big picture” overview and a “zoomed in” look at the details.

Editing the Big Picture

Before you get too caught up in changing words or checking your use of commas, focus on the bigger picture. Read through your post and look for:

  • Anything superfluous that you can cut. Save what you remove, in case it can be used in a future post.
  • Anything missing that you need to add in. You might need a better transition between your introduction and first section, for instance.
  • Anything that’s not in the right order. Perhaps it would make better sense to start your list with the current item five, for instance.

You might also want to show your draft post to a friend or trusted reader – ask them if there are any major changes they think you should make.

Editing the Details

Once you’re happy that your post contains the right information in the right order, it’s time to make every sentence pull its weight.

At this level of editing, you’re looking out for:

  • Words or phrases that you’ve overused. If you use the phrase “content marketing” five times in a paragraph, it’s going to look like you’re blindly following some outdated SEO keyword-stuffing practice (even if you didn’t mean to and just ended up writing it that way).
  • Sentences that read oddly. Perhaps it sounded right in your head, but looks a bit weird on the page. It’s a great idea to read your post out loud – this will really help you spot any awkward bits.
  • Spelling mistakes and typos. Double-check anything your spell-checker flags up (you do run your posts through a spell-checker, right?) but also look out for common spelling mistakes.

Most writers find it really hard to edit their own work – so even if other people’s typos jump right out at you, go slowly and carefully when editing your own work, or ask a friend to help you.

Don’t get too anxious or caught-up here, though. Yes, spelling and grammar matter – but readers will forgive the occasional slip. If you do spot an error after hitting publish (or if a reader points one out to you), it’s easy to update your post.

Formatting Your Post

Looks are important. You could write a brilliant, useful, entertaining post that doesn’t get readers simply because it looks hard to read.

If you have long paragraphs in a small font, readers may well not bother making the effort to read your post at all. In case you’re not convinced, take a look at these screenshots. They show an identical post, formatted in two different ways:

Post formatting example 1

Post formatting example 2

The second version instantly looks more interesting and attractive.

It’s easy and straightforward to add formatting in your blog editor. Some great ones to use are:

  • Subheadings. These split your post into easy-to-read chunks, and help readers find information that they’re skimming for.
  • Bold text. This is a great way to highlight key points. Don’t overdo it, or it can start to look choppy and distracting. Aim to put whole sentences (or at least long phrases) in bold, rather than individual words.
  • Italics. These are useful for foreign words, individual words you want to emphasise, or “asides” that you want in a different font. (For instance, I use italics at the start of guest posts, where I’m introducing the guest blogger to my readers.)
  • Bullet points. Lists are easy to take in, and they also have extra white space around them – making for easy readability. You can use either unnumbered (usually round, black) bullet points or numbered ones.
  • Short paragraphs. One of the simplest ways to make your posts more readable is to split up any long paragraphs. If you’ve gone over four lines, then think about splitting part-way.

Some bloggers add formatting as they’re writing, others add it at the end. Whichever you choose to do, always have a quick look at your post in “preview” mode and check that everything looks OK. (For instance, make sure all your subheadings are the right size – it’s easy to muddle up H2s and H3s.)

Adding Images

Although it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, you’ll find that most major blogs include a large image at the top of their posts … and there’s a good reason why.

Images grab our attention. They draw our eyes, and ease us into the post. Usually, they help create a professional, polished feel on your blog. In some blog themes, they also get picked up as thumbnails on the front page, alongside the excerpt – and they appear on Facebook if you link to your blog post.

There’s really no reason not to enhance your post with an image. You have plenty of sources, like:

  • Your own photography. This works really well for bloggers like Benny Lewis (who uses photos of himself) and Farnoosh Brock (who uses photos she’s taken, sometimes overlaid with text). If you have a strong blogging voice or if you want to build a deeper connection with readers, try this out.
  • Stock images that you’ve bought. There are plenty of sites like iStockPhoto which will sell you images you can use on your blog. This isn’t a cheap option, but if you’re writing a post that needs to look great, it could be worth doing.
  • Free images from Flickr. Lots of kind artists put their creations (photos, illustrations, etc) onto Flickr, where you can browse for images licensed under “Creative Commons.” Make sure you find images that are marked for “commercial use” if your blog makes any money or might do so in the future – e.g. you’re running ads.

Even if you use other people’s images rather than your own, you might want to come up with some simple guidelines for choosing them perhaps you always use black and white shots, or always use colourful, fairly abstract ones, or use illustrations rather than photos.

An important “don’t”: it’s not OK to use images that you’ve found from a simple Google search. Unless they’re licensed under Creative Commons, you need to get permission from their creator.

Getting and Using Feedback

You can easily strengthen your blog posts if you get feedback and use it. A good way to do this is to ask someone to read your draft post, and get them to tell you how they think you could improve it. You might not be able to do this for every single post – but doing it even occasionally can help give you a new perspective on your blogging.

The best people to ask are:

  • Fellow bloggers who understand the medium. Sure, your old high school buddy might have been brilliant at turning out A grade essays – but he may not have a clue about what works in the blogging world.
  • Thoughtful readers who’ve been following your blog for some time. Maybe you’ve exchanged comments or emails with a reader and built up a great rapport: they might be delighted to have the opportunity to review one of your draft posts.

Don’t approach top bloggers in your niche and ask for feedback on your draft posts. Yes, they might well have great advice to share – but they’re unlikely to have the time to do so, and attempting to begin a relationship by asking for a favour isn’t a great idea.

You don’t have to use all the suggestions you get, but pay particular attention to anything that didn’t come across clearly, or that your reader misunderstood. Even if it seems obvious to you, rewrite it.

If you’re not sure about a particular suggestion, get a second opinion. It’s also a good idea to wait overnight before implementing (or rejecting) feedback – you may find that a break from your post helps you see it in a more objective light.

After You Hit Publish…

Your post is out there for the world – but your job isn’t done.

Unless you have a huge audience, hitting “publish” almost certainly isn’t enough to draw lots of readers to your post. Although some bloggers like to believe that truly great content will be found and shared, the truth is that you’ll almost certainly need to give it a helping hand.

(Of course, it’s crucial to write great content in the first place: aim to find a balance between creating content and promoting it.)

Promoting Your Pillar Post

There are plenty of ways to promote your post. These are some basics that you can do for every post:

  • Link to your post on Twitter. Although there are plugins that auto-tweet your posts, I prefer to craft an individual, custom tweet each time.
  • Link to your post on Facebook. You may want to add a brief blurb about the post, or ask a question to encourage comments on your Facebook page.
  • Include your post in your newsletter. Not all of my newsletter readers subscribe to my blog, so I put links to my posts in monthly roundups.

For really good pillar posts, you might go further, and:

  • Email a blogging buddy and ask them to consider linking to your post. Don’t email the top five bloggers in your niche for this – choose people who you already have a relationship with (perhaps through Twitter or commenting on one another’s blogs).
  • Link to your post from your sidebar. Many bloggers have a widget of “Recommended Posts” or “Popular Posts” to highlight their best content. Some even create eye-catching image banners to link to their best posts.
  • Go back to old posts and link to the new one. If you have an older post on a similar topic, why not link forward? Check in Google Analytics to see which of your older pieces are getting the most search engine traffic.
  • Link to your post from a guest piece on another blog. Be cautious with this, as if you write a guest post just for the sake of links, it may well not be accepted. Only put a link in the body of your post if it’s truly relevant – otherwise, use your bio. Joseph has some good tips on guest posting for backlinks here.

Answering Comments

Once your post is live, set aside time to answer comments. Lots of readers who don’t leave a comment will still scroll down and take a look at the comments section, so this counts as an important part of your post.

You’ll ideally want to:

  • Respond to all your comments (unless they’re very short ones like “Thanks, great post!”) You don’t have to reply to every single comment instantly, but if you let comments remain unanswered for days, it doesn’t create a great impression for new readers.
  • Remove any spam comments. Plugins like Akismet do much of the hard work for you, but it’s still a good idea to act promptly in removing any spam that does get through. You may also want to remove any offensive comments (e.g. ones including racist or sexist language).

If you’re struggling to get comments, you might email a blogger friend (or a loyal reader) and ask them to start the ball rolling. There are plenty of other great tips on getting more comments in Want More Comments? Let ProBlogger Help!

Your Action Plan

I’m aware there’s a fair bit of reading here!

What matters is that you have a go at creating pillar content for your blog – and here’s a simple action plan to help you do that this week, in just 30 minutes per day.

During those 30 minutes, turn off distractions and set a timer. Tell yourself you’ll concentrate until the time is up – so if you get the sudden urge to check Facebook, ignore it!

Day 1: Come up with several ideas and choose the strongest one. Plan out your post (you might want to scroll up a bit and check the advice on structuring).

Days 2, 3 and 4: Write your post. Get as far as you can in 30 minutes each day. If you get stuck at any point, imagine you’re replying to a comment or sending an email to one of your readers – write as though you’re talking directly to them.

Day 5: Edit your post, focusing on the big picture. Cut any tangents, rearrange paragraphs and add in new sections if necessary.

Day 6: Edit your post again, this time focusing on the details. Watch out for typos, grammatical mistakes, and other slips.

Day 7: Add formatting, including an image, check your post in preview mode, and hit publish.

Of course, some pillar posts will need a bit more time for some of these stages. An A-Z post, for instance, might well take an hour or two to plan, and a post that rounds up lots of expert views could involve a lot of emailing and waiting for responses. But this plan should get you up and running with a great post quickly – and hopefully you’ll find the results well worth the time you spent.

I’d love to hear how you get on with writing pillar posts: share your experiences and tips in the comments below. If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them too.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for writers and bloggers who want to take their craft further. Along with lots of seminars and other resources, Writers’ Huddle includes her Blog On e-course, which takes you step-by-step through the process of creating great posts and pages for your blog. Find out all about Writers’ Huddle, and read what members say about it, here.

The Truth about Food Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Amy Murnan, writer of TheFreshFresher. 

It is slim pickings in the world of food blogging.

I know this because, about a year ago, I had a bright idea. I said to myself – hey, don’t worry about your lack of job prospects after graduating University! You like writing and you like cooking, so start a food blog – you’re bound to get a book deal!

Needless to say, I was a tad naïve. In reality, the truth about food blogging is tougher than any other blogging niche. You may not want to believe it, but food blogging is no picnic.

I didn’t want to believe it either, but the fact is that anyone who has ever tried food blogging knows that it is near impossible to get noticed. And why?

Because, these days, anyone can do it.

With the dawning of sites like Instagram, anyone can be a flash-food-blogger. We all know at least one foodie updating the world on every morsel they chew. So why would anyone want to see yet more food on the Internet when so many people are writing about it? And it isn’t just the technology that has changed.

Simply being a good cook won’t get you noticed.

Being (or knowing) a good photographer with a good camera is a standard requirement. You have to be able to transfer that taste – that smell – through the screen. You have to provide something enticing. After all, nobody is going to find my recipe for profiteroles when Good Housekeeping’s looks tastier.

But the fact remains that it is only near impossible. So, how to make food blogging work? I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a few lessons on the subject and mainly from other food bloggers:

Go Niche

And I mean really niche. Diet blogs are slightly more viable, although even gluten-free and vegan sites are becoming more competitive.

Find a gap in the market (easier said than done, I know, but that’s blogging for you) and fill it.

Go Luxurious

Live a jet-set lifestyle? Luckily for you, people love to read about glamorous lives, and glamorous food. Just take a look at The Londoner’s blog. Unfortunately this option doesn’t apply to many.

Go Somewhere

Travel-on-a-shoestring, travel around one city, travel to the middle of nowhere – as long as your posts are good, you’ll have a chance. Food lovers love food culture, and if your blog reveals cultures and dishes they’ve never seen before, they’ll like it. Take a look at The Road Forks.

Go Expert

If you work in catering, food prep or some other food-related profession and have other knowledge to pass on – industry insights, career tips and advice – you will gain an advantage. SugarHero is a great example – it is written by an ex-pastry chef with a book deal.

For me, food blogging was a huge learning curve, and still is. If you are ready to take on the blogosphere and make mouths water, be prepared to think, plan and work hard. But most importantly, be prepared to learn.

Amy Murnan is the writer of TheFreshFresher, a food blog aimed at students and young people craving fresh and flavourful food. 

Building a Blog Brand, Posting Frequency and Choosing a Niche [Speed Q&A]

In our most recent webinar we had 700 questions submitted by attendees – many of which we simply didn’t have time to cover.

Here are 3 of those questions and some quick answers.

How to Build a Brand for Your Blog

“What is the most important rule of thumb for building a brand?” – David

I think the most critical thing you can do in building a brand around your blog is to give some time to considering what kind of brand you want to build.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos is famously quoted as saying that “a brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – the question I think we all should ask is:

What do we want people to say about our blog when we’re not in the room?

Identify what you want to be known for and you’ll be in a much better position to BE that – which is key to building your brand.

This clarity will inform the way that you write, the topics you cover, the social media personas you build etc – all of which contribute to your brand.

Some further reading on Branding Blogs:

Choosing a Niche: Profitability vs Personal Interest

“What is more important, finding a profitable niche or finding something you love writing about?” – Carley

Great question and one that I’m sure there are going to be many perspectives on!

I guess it really comes down to your goals as a blogger as to how you answer that question.

At one end of the spectrum – if you have no intention of making money blogging then obviously profitability of the niche does not come into it.

At the other end of the spectrum – if you are blogging with the sole intent of making money then you’ll want to give the profitability of the niche at least some consideration.

Most ProBlogger readers however start out with mixed emotions and so the answer is somewhere between the two.

I personally have had 30 blogs over the years – the two that have had most success and profit have been the two blogs that I started because I really wanted to talk about the topics (blogging and photography).

My genuine interest in the topic sustained me through the tough times and I like to think that my passion for the topics showed through in the way that I blogged – which I think is an attractive quality when you’re looking for new readers.

Interestingly – the blogs that I started purely because I thought they might be profitable didn’t last long. I couldn’t sustain writing about them every day and I think those who did find the blogs were probably bored by what I wrote.

So if I had to choose between ‘interest in the niche’ and ‘profitable niche’ – I’d probably choose ‘interest in the niche’ (having said that – you don’t have to choose between the two – you can aim somewhere in between).

Ideal Posting Frequency

What is an ideal number of post per week? – Marsha

This is another question that there are many perspectives on and you’ll need to weigh up a number of factors including how much time you have, what type and length of posts you’ll be publishing, your goals for blogging etc

It also comes down a little to experimenting to see what level of posting goes down well with your readers and how much you can sustain because posting frequency can have an impact upon both you and your readers in positive and negative ways.

Let me expand on that a little:

Impact Upon Your Readers:

  • too much posting can burn your readers out and leave your readers feeling overwhelmed.
  • too little posting can make it difficult to build momentum on your blog and won’t enable your readers to feel connected and engaged

Impact Upon You

  • too much posting can burn you out and have a detrimental impact upon the quality of your writing
  • too little posting can leave you feeling disengaged from your blog and readers – while regular posting can help you to build momentum

It’s a juggling act and you won’t really know what is right for you until you start.

As a guide – I generally recommend if you’re starting out with blogging that you start with 3-4 posts per week if you can sustain that. You can then adjust your strategy from there as you get into the swing of blogging.

Read more on posting frequency in this longer previous post on the topic.

3 Simple Questions to Understand Why Your Affiliate Promotions Are Not Converting

I had an email this morning from a blogger who has built a great loyal readership to their blog and who has been attempting to monentize that readership lately by doing some affiliate promotions on that blog.

The problem – nobody is buying anything that they promote.

I spent a few minutes on Skype with the blogger to unpack the problem and asked a series of questions to try to get to the heart of the matter. Here they are and why I asked them:

1. Why are your readers coming to your site?

Getting in touch with the ‘intent’ of your readers is really important when thinking about any kind of monetization. Are they there for community, information, advice, to buy something, for research, for fun or something else?

Understanding the reason for your reader coming will give you some hints as to what they might respond to in terms of promotions.

For example – if they are their to learn something, promoting a ‘how to’ type eBook might be the best thing to promote. If they are there to research buying something – you might be better to promote the products that they’re researching.

Unfortunately not all reader intents convert particularly well with affiliate marketing. For example if they are their for a sense of belonging – unless you can promote a conference or community for them to join you might be better in thinking of a different model for monetization.

2. Are the products you’re promoting relevant to your readers?

This might seem like a no brainer but I’m amazed how many times I see bloggers promoting products that are on a completely different topic to what their blog is even about.

The products you promote as an affiliate need to be:

  • high quality (anything low quality will burn the trust of your readers but if you promote great product they will thank you for it)
  • relevant to the topic of your blog
  • relevant to your readers needs and intent (see point #1)
  • at a relevant price point – i.e. don’t promote high value products if your readership don’t typically have big budgets!

Are You Promoting in a Personal Way?

Another common mistake that I see bloggers making when promoting affiliate products is that they simply stick an affiliate banner or link in their sidebar and think that that will drive heaps of sales.

The problem with this is that it is little more than an ‘ad’ and your readers will likely be blind to it.

By far the most effective ways to promote affiliate products is to write about them in a personal way – from your own experience. This means you probably want to choose something to promote that you have personal experience with that you can give an honest endorsement or review on.

Your readers read your blog because they want to hear from you – so tell them about what you’re promoting it and why you’re promoting it.

Do this in a blog post primarily but you’ll also want to consider emailing your newsletter list for important promotions too and of course following it up with some social media status updates too.

By all means try some banner ad affiliate promotions – but you’ll find your conversions are significantly higher if you add a little of YOU into your promoting of products.

There is a great more to affiliate marketing than what I’ve written above – but if you’re not seeing conversions the above 3 questions might just help to unearth some strategies to help you move forward.

11 Characteristics I Look for When Hiring Writers for My Blogs

Two months ago I went through the process of hiring a small group of writers to write weekly tutorials for Digital Photography School. I’ve written about the process of how I hire writers previously here on Problogger but today want to share some of the qualities I look for in the writers I hired this time around.

My hope is that it might both help those who are hiring bloggers but also those who are applying for blogging jobs.

Of course it is virtually impossible to find a blogger who is perfect in each of the following areas – however the more they have the higher the chances of me hiring them.

11 Characteristics I Look For When Hiring Bloggers

1. Expertise and Experience in the Blog’s Topic

This is fairly obvious but needs to be said. When I recently hired bloggers to write for my photography blog I of course needed them to show that they were experienced in the area of photography.

My blogs are ‘how to’ type blogs so in order to be able to teach one needs to understand their topic.

This does not mean I only hire highly experienced and trained experts – I have hired less experienced writers who bring other skills to the table – but expertise certainly helps.

When I invite applications to be submitted I always ask applicants to share their experience and to submit previously written work and to show their photographic portfolio. It is usually pretty evident from this as to whether the person understands what they are talking about.

2. Passion for the Topic

Experience is one thing – but being able to write with enthusiasm and passion for a topic is one thing that can add a lot to a blog post so I’m also keen to find writers who LOVE the topic.

In many ways I’d sooner hire someone with an intermediate experience level but who was very passionate than someone who was an expert who writes in a way that makes the reader wonder if the person cares about what they’re writing about.

Passion comes through in the way an applicant communicates in their application but also in previous work and also in the test posts that we have our applicants submit.

3. Quality of Posts

Another no brainer but you’d be amazed how many application I receive that show a lack of attention to detail in the actual application. If you’re applying for a writing job you need to demonstrate some quality control in what you submit and the examples that you give of your previous work.

Our hiring process invites short listed candidates to submit a ‘test post’ (which I pay for) which helps me to see if the person has the ability to write at a reasonably high quality.

I’m not so interested in the style of writing (we hire writers who write in a conversational tone, those who write more technically etc) but I’m looking for posts that communicate clearly and deliver value to readers.

4. Understanding of the Reader

The very best writers that I’ve hired have an incredible ability to understand, have empathy for and connect with readers.

This is a quality that is difficult to describe or teach – but it is something I’m always on the look out for.

I think part of it comes down to putting yourself in your readers shoes and understanding where they are coming from. I also think there’s a real skill in being able to show your reader that you know that they are there and that you want to help them in some way. Maybe it also comes down to writing with a more personal tone or in a way that injects a little of your own personality in your posts.

I’m not sure exactly what it is – but I know it when I see it – and so do readers!

5. Problem Solvers

This comes into a couple of the points above but I’m particularly looking for writers who solve readers problems. This again comes down to the fact that I have ‘how to’ blogs but every post that I write needs to solve a potential problem that someone reading might have.

Being able to teach and communicate in this way is no easy so when i see it I get excited!

6. Ability to Use WordPress

This one isn’t a deal breaker as it is relatively easy to train somebody to use most blogging tools but it certainly is an advantage when I get an application from someone who has experience with the blogging tool that I use – WordPress.org.

Again – it’s not going to stop me hiring you if you have other qualities listed here – but it does help a little!

7. Proven Track Record at Sticking at Projects

One problem that I’ve suffered from a couple of times now when hiring writers is that they start out hot but soon disappear – never to be heard of again.

A little digging into their history online in both of the cases that I’m thinking of reveals that they have a history of starting projects and not sticking at them (with a long string of inactive blogs, sites, social media accounts that started with a flurry but didn’t last.

Of course people chop and change what they do a lot these days but I’m particularly interested in hiring people who will be around for a while to develop relationships with my readers – so these days I do check to see if they’ve stuck at their own projects for long.

8. Applicants Agendas

I want the interactions that I have with those I hire to be win/win. This is why we pay those we hire but also why we give them generous bylines and allow them to do some promotion of their own projects to our audience in those bylines and occasionally in posts.

However every time we open up applications to hire writers there are a handful of people who see the job as an opportunity to promote themselves above anything else (and at the expense of the site and readers).

These are the applicants who use their test posts to link back to their own blogs, eBooks and social media accounts in every paragraph rather than using the post to showcase their expertise and helpfulness – which in turn will make our readers want to check them out.

I have no problem with our writers building their profile by writing for our site – but when that is the clear #1 agenda of an applicant and the usefulness of their submissions suffers as a result I’m unlikely to hire them.

9. Meeting Deadlines

I’m a little lenient with our writers on this one because I don’t want the quality of posts to suffer as a result of them being rushed – but it certainly helps your chances of getting hired if you submit your application and test posts when or before you say you will.

10. Proven Engagement

One thing that makes a writer stand out above the rest of those who submit applications is when you can see that they have a proven track record of community engagement on their own blog and when they answer the comments of those who interact with their test posts.

In this last round of hires there was a couple of great writers who submitted quite good posts who didn’t acknowledge any of the comments that they got. Contrast this with a writer who didn’t write a post that set the world on fire but who answered every single comment left and who showed a willingness to learn from the commenters. I hired this last writer because I could see he was genuinely interested in our readers.

On a similar note I also look to see if writers promote their own content to their own social networks. While writers don’t need to have a big social media following (although this can be a bonus) demonstrating that you’re willing to share what you write with the network you have helps.

11. An Understanding of Writing for the Web

The last thing that I’m looking for in applicants are those people who have an ability to write content for the web.

If you write content that can be scanned, that uses images well, that is well optimised for SEO, that uses great headlines, that is the kind of content that people will share on social media etc – then you’re going to be in with a better chance of being hired.

What Would You Add?

While I’ve never hired a writer that scored a 10 out of 10 in each of the above areas these are the types of characteristics I’m looking for when hiring a blogger.

What would you add to the list?