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How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Outtake - Nooo! [Overwhelmed]
This post is from ProBlogger Managing Editor Stacey Roberts.

Blogging is a voracious beast, and there is literally always something you could be doing to improve your traffic, find new readers, interact with other bloggers, and make some cash. The more you put in, the more you get out – but how do you cut through the (almost) infinite internet and create a manageable blog environment? Well, like anything, it takes trial and error. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is alive and well, but soon we all get to a point where it can all get too much to keep up with, and something’s gotta give.

These tips could work with anything that you find overwhelming, not just blogging. Just started a new job? Want to start your own business? Want to write the Great American Novel? Well, don’t panic – let’s get some perspective.

Break it down

Once you realise the magnitude of what you’re about to do, hyperventilation is only a moment away. Get back on top by sitting down for a minute and taking the task apart. Once you see it in sequence, it can be much easier to achieve. Yes you might need to blog, then tweet, then share on Facebook, then read six articles on blogging, then respond to comments, then find something to write for the next day, but it doesn’t all need to be done at once. Break it down and spread it out.

Don’t let your head run away with you

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Our brains conjure up worst-case scenarios, which in turn scares us and makes us think it’s not possible to succeed. Recognise when you’re about to board the Paranoia Train, and get some facts straight. You can survive (and thrive!) with just doing a little every day. Don’t just assume it’s too much and you won’t ever make it so you shouldn’t even try. Get out there and do what you can, for something is always better than nothing. Even one tweet can be useful.

Get some perspective

Often when you write down your tasks and responsibilities, you can see that they’re not so overwhelming. A list of things you need to do is a tangible thing to help you get your head around the job at hand. It’s common to then realise it’s not as crazy as you thought, and in fact is actually quite do-able. Identify the parts that aren’t important, or not viable at this time, and focus on the things you can actually do. An overview is incredibly useful when you’re liable to get carried away.

Find five things you can do right now

This helps make everything seem even more manageable, and gives you that perspective you need. Once you’ve got five easy things done, you feel much more productive, which inspires and motivates you to do more. Maybe it’s just one extra tweet, editing some photos, or even writing a couple of post intros. Each journey begins with a single step, as they say, and you’ve just taken five.

Set mini deadlines

Want to write brilliant posts, but don’t know where to start? Time is of the essence, and you’ve got none? Set yourself a deadline and get stuck in. It might be a post a day, it might be two posts in the next hour, but give yourself a time to have achieved at least one thing on your list. If there’s an even bigger deadline (guests post submission cut-off date or something), then set mini deadlines before then so you’re not frantically scribbling something at the last minute. Have your post ideas sorted by Monday, a rough draft by Wednesday, and a well-thought-out, well-written post and image by Friday. It might only take five minutes a day, and that’s infinitely more do-able.

Ask for help

You might need someone to watch the kids while you write. You might need someone to show you how to create good video content. You might even need to ask a blogging veteran to share a tip or two – don’t be afraid and think that your questions are silly, or that you should know this stuff by now. Or that blogging isn’t important. If you need help, reach out – you might even make a new friend in the process.

Spend some time getting acquainted

The first thing I do when asked to write for a publication is spend some time hanging out in the archives to see what’s been covered, where’s a knowledge gap I can plug, and what the vibe is. That can work for anything – if you’ve been asked to guest post, or if you want to see what is the trend in your blogging niche. What are people looking for? What can you provide that’s missing at the moment? What are other people Tweeting? What’s getting engagement on Facebook? Getting a feel for what you will be doing is essential for toning down panic and turning up productivity.

Just do it

Stop talking yourself out of it. Stop reading this! Go and kick some blogging goals.

But come back to ProBlogger when your’e done! What’s one thing you can do today to cross off your overwhelming to-do list?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

The Practical Guide to Writing Conversational Copy

This is a guest contribution from Monika Mundell, communication strategist and copywriter.

Image by Flickr user Rohit Rath

Image by Flickr user Rohit Rath

Conversational copy is one of the best ways of creating engagement with a reader. It sets a welcoming, familiar tone that invites readers in. Famous copywriter John Caples delcares conversational copy to be about “You + Me.”

Many people believe they have to be a skilled copywriter to write conversationally. You don’t! If you can hold an engaging conversation with a mate at the pub, or a girlfriend over a lazy coffee date, then you have the ability to write conversational copy.

However…

Before you sit down to write your heart out, consider the tips in this guide. You should know: this guide has been written for bloggers, business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to build more engagement with their readership, and to help them build trust with their community.

Having said this, there is nothing stopping you from using this guide to write amazing letters to a dear family member, or pitch your partner on a hot mystery date – because the principles of conversational copywriting stay the same.

Getting the Basics Right

The basics of conversational copy are simple: write like you speak. Think of it as having a conversation with your dream client. It helps if you tune into and visualise your reader before crafting words into digital pixels. You want to make your reader feel welcome and appreciated.

You want her to think that she’s the ONLY person that receives your message. And you want to show her that she can trust you because you totally understand the problems and frustrations she might be having. You and your blog or business are here to fill a need. Here’s a simple example:

“I know how you feel right now, because I’ve felt the same way. But when I discovered [the solution], things changed.”

So the most predominant word in your message should be “YOU.”


Message to Market Match

Effective conversational copy is congruent. Avoid slang and abbreviations if you don’t talk like this in person. It will come across as fake and you’ll end up turning people away from you instead.

Dan Kennedy calls this process “message to market match,” meaning your message must be written with your target market in mind, also known as targeting.

Which brings me to an important point – you must have an idea of who your readership is.

It is hard to write compelling conversational copy when you don’t know anything about who is reading your site. In order to write persuasively, you must have a clear picture of to whom you are marketing in the first place.

  • Who is this person you’re trying to attract into your tribe?
  • What are her likes?
  • What is she frustrated about, angry about?
  • What issue of hers do you have to solve to keep her engaged?
  • What interests and hobbies does she have?

You can ask hundreds of questions to build an accurate reader profile (like Darren does here), and the best way to profile your audience is to ask them lots of questions… on your blog, in your newsletters, on social media. Over time you’ll build a fantastic and powerful swipe file of your market’s needs, wants, desires and frustrations. Don’t be afraid to ask for permission to dig around in their heart and listen for the golden nuggets!

Why You Must Feed the Desire

Have you ever been told to feed the desire of your readers when writing copy to market your blog or business?

You can do this in a number of ways:

  • You can demonstrate indisputable proof that your product works, by showcasing tons of case studies and/or testimonials.
  • You can demonstrate how they’ll get an unfair advantage by buying your product (needs to be congruent and NOT hypey!)
  • You can write about their hot buttons, and drill deep into them.

You should keep in mind when writing your copy: it is a lot harder to sell prevention than it is to sell a solution.

Why? Because people do just about anything to relieve pain. They’re less motivated to buy prevention. Pain motivates!

Personally I’m not too fond of negative-ridden copy that continues to ride on the reader’s pain (hype). I believe today’s savvy consumer wants more authentic engagement and less rah-rah.

Tell Stories

Stories are an everyday part of our lives. You probably tell many stories throughout the day, and chances are you use one of the seven story archetypes in every story you tell. Watch this kooky guy as he introduces these archetypes in a short stop-motion video.

Stories rock! When you tell stories, you lower the B.S. guard of your audience. Stories build trust. And they have the power to engage your readership like nothing else. They’re also far more interesting to read than bland sales copy.

Think about how you can weave stories into your online presence. The people in your community will always want to hear your stories  to get to know you better.

How to Write Concise Copy with Heart (Brevity Rocks)

Concise copy is good copy. When you ramble, people tune out. The definition of brevity is this: concise and exact use of words in writing or speech. (E.g. fluff-free copy.)

Brevity is sexy. It helps the reader to digest your message in small junks of information.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Use more powerful verbs (doing words) and less adjectives (describing words). Let your sentences be active,  not descriptive.
  • Keep your sentences short (aim for less than 13 words per sentence).
  • Eliminate jargon and clichés where possible (I admit I’m guilty as charged).
  • Check your readability stats (Google how) and aim for a low Passive Sentences score, a Flesch Reading Ease score of above 60, and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of below 9. This article here explains how to activate this on Word 2010.

Creative Ways to Give Your Copy Cult-Like Resonance

Apply the tips within this practical guide to let your copy sing.

With just a few simple and conscious applications, you can write compelling conversational copy that rocks your community and builds your tribe. As long as you remember to identify with your reader’s problem you can’t really go wrong.

Use words to paint the outcome. Take readers on a journey of discovery: from problem to solution, in a few (simple) steps.

The best way to build cult-like resonance is to be generous with your knowledge!

With that said, I want to hear from you!

Tell me in the comment below how you intend to apply some of the information within this practical guide. I’d love to know.

Monika Mundell is the go-to communication strategist + creative copywriter for sassy women in business. Monika explodes her client’s profit potential with her fresh, funky, and fun writing style. She created her FREE Sales Letter Love Script to help you magnetise your perfect client + make love, with words. Connect with her on Facebook.

The Psychology of Color: Is Your Color Choice Making or Breaking Your Website?

This is a guest contribution from Thai Nguyen, of The Wantrepreneur Journey.

Image by Flickr user Kari

Image by Flickr user Kari

Along with the human emotional response to music, perhaps there is nothing more universal in experience as the human response and perception of color (of course unless you are color-blind). Despite the ubiquitous nature of color in reality and indeed our daily encounter with different colors, the concept and understanding of color psychology seems to be somewhat lacking and even esoteric in practice. So much so, that when we choose colours for our website, we may not have thought about what effect it can have on our readers.

Many ancient cultures have practiced forms of color therapy, otherwise known as chromotherapy, light therapy, or colourology. Even today there are groups practicing such therapies as part of holistic and alternative treatments. Artist and interior designers have long understood the relationship between color and human emotional response.

Some of the most intriguing research on color response has included:

  • students exposed to the color red prior to an exam having negative effects- reducing scores and grades.
  • wildlife and park rangers have planted red flowers to deter people from entering into certain areas.
  • sports teams dressed in black are more likely to receive penalties.
  • warm-colored placebo pills get more of a response than cool-colored placebo pills.
  • the installation of blue-colored streetlights have suggested a reduction of crime in those areas.

Here is a breakdown of the major colors and their parallel emotional response:

RED
Positive: courage, strength, warmth, energy, excitement
Negative: defiance, aggression, danger.

BLUE
Positive: intelligence, trust, serenity, calmness, coolness, reflection.
Negative: distance, aloofness, emotionless, unfriendliness.

YELLOW:
Positive: optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: irrationality, fragility, depression, anxiety.

GREEN:
Positive: harmony, balance, refreshment, love, restoration, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation, envy

VIOLET
Positive: authenticity, truth, quality, awareness, attunement, luxury, royalty,
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.

ORANGE
Positive: comfort, security, abundance, fun, passion, stimulation/hunger/food.
Negative: deprivation, frustration, immaturity, frivolity.

PINK
Positive: tranquility, nurture, femininity, sexuality, love, delicate.
Negative: inhibition, emasculation, weakness, fickle, claustrophobia.

GREY
Positive: grey is psychologically neutral.
Negative: lack of confidence, lack of energy, depression, hibernation, reclusiveness.

BLACK
Positive: sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: opression, coldness, menace, heaviness, intimation.

WHITE
Positive: purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency, clarity.
Negative: elitism, sterility, distance, isolation, coldness.

BROWN
Positive: earthiness, connectedness, reliability, support, grounded, stable.
Negative: heaviness, lack of sophistication, lack of humor, dullness.

In light of the impetuous development of technology in our current day and age, and life becoming more online, perhaps nothing could be more pertinent than the need to consider not only what our choice of color conveys about our personality, but what kind of a response is evoked from the color we use on a website layout.

Some considerations in choosing color schemes for your website:

What is the nature of your work?

Media? Environmental? Music? Business? Religious? If your theme is environmental and you are heavy on the use of red and orange, this would produce a conflict in the reception of your message. In like manner, if you are a religious organization, then a dominant use of pink might not be very appropriate.

What is the purpose or mission statement of your business or website?

What kind of a response are you trying to elicit from your audience? Once they spend time on your site, think of some words to describe the way you would like your audience to feel. Inspired, encouraged, relaxed, at peace, energized? Match up these responses with the color and response list.

What artwork or photographs are featured on your site?

Do these match up also with the message that you are trying to convey? You may have chosen great colors but you can easily undermine your color/message synchronicity with a photograph or piece of art that is not in line with your color scheme.

It is also important to have consistency if you are going to use a variety of colors, keep in mind that colors are grouped and divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and work best when used in these relations. Variations are perhaps best used in individual blog posts when you are writing on a specific topic and trying to bring about a certain response- this is very important when you are choosing photographs to be incorporated into the post.

Thai Nguyen is the founder of www.wantrepreneurjourney.com the site dedicated to inspiring people to step out build a business around their passions- to make a living, living the dream. Thai has been a successful chef and athlete, and now teaches on the topic of personal growth.

Do Something Different Today to Help Grow Your Blog

DIFFERENTIt is a truth universally acknowledged that if one has a blog, one is in want of readers. We want people to stop by and read our stories, hear our messages, see our videos, listen to our podcasts. We want to connect, we want to share, and we want to engage.

But sometimes we get stuck in a rut marketing ourselves to our audiences. It might be from a lack of time to spare, it might be from fear of the unknown – but it happens more often than we think. It’s usually always a good idea to give yourself a bit of a shake-up and move out of your comfort zone, (even if you’re only taking baby steps) but it can be another thing entirely actually doing it.

Proven traffic-drivers and ways to engage your readership are talked about a lot. There are tons of articles on what social media platform might be best for you, how to write a great comment so you get noticed on other people’s blogs, and how to be seen. Why not take a tip you’ve never used before and give it a go?

Think Outside the Box

Different things work for different people, but some of us also are guilty of sticking to our old favourites. What I’m suggesting is we look outside our usual channels and see if something might be useful. What are new bloggers doing that we aren’t? (Darren’s post on reviewing blogs as part of your research is a great start). What are bloggers in different niches doing? Is Instagram worth a shot to broaden your brand? Are we neglecting what Facebook can offer? Should we get started on Pinterest? Have we forgotten about Twitter? (I have!).

Let’s do a little experiment. Let’s take a new tactic that’s working well for someone else and give it our best shot. It might be successful and we have a new trick in our arsenal. It might get lost in the arctic wasteland of the internet. But we’ll have learned something, and will have more of an understanding of where our readers are and where new ones could be.

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

5 Reasons Your Blog Needs A Kindle Book

This is a guest contribution from Stefan Pylarinos, author of Kindle Money Mastery.

Kindle books have been getting a lot of buzz lately amongst the internet marketing community, and with good reason. Amazon has made it extremely easy for anyone to publish their own Kindle book for sale on Amazon.com, and many bloggers are taking advantage of it.  You might have thought in the past that writing and publishing your own book could be a challenging pursuit, but I’m about to prove you otherwise.  By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be crystal-clear why publishing your own Kindle book is something that you won’t want to miss out on.

1. More Money

This is the most obvious reason.  Selling your own Kindle book to your audience is a great way to monetize your blog.  If your audience enjoys your writing and content, then it’ll be an extremely easy sell for you that will pocket you extra money every month.  Not only that, but by promoting it to your blog audience, it will help boost your Kindle book on Amazon.com.  Amazon is currently the #1 paid search engine in the world, with over 300 million credit cards in their system, which means that they will help sell your book for you to their visitors.  Even if you don’t have a blog, a Kindle book is still a fantastic way to make money if you know how to rank your Kindle book on Amazon.

2. Builds More Trust

A Kindle book is a fantastic way to build more trust and a deeper relationship with your readers.  In your book, you’re able to share stories and deliver immense value, which helps your readers to connect with you even more.  Often times people will skim over blog posts or not receive the value of them fully, simply because it’s free content that people take for granted.  With a Kindle book, people will actually sit down without distraction and read from start to finish with their Kindle e-reader, tablet or on their computer.

3. Makes You An Authority

Publishing your own Kindle book immediately makes you an authority in your marketplace.  Not only do you gain the status of being a “published author”, but you can also quite easily attain the title “Amazon Bestselling Author”.  I remember when I published my first Kindle book, Life Mastery, and posted the news on my personal Facebook page.  Immediately, I received a massive response of praise and admiration from friends and followers.  People put authors on a pedestal and will begin to see you differently. You instantly become an expert.

4. Will Help You Get More Traffic And Subscribers

Amazon provides a lot of opportunity for you to promote your Kindle book on their website.  One advantage they have is something called the KDP Select program, which means that your Kindle book becomes exclusive only to Amazon for 90 days.  During that time, the main benefit you receive is being able to run a Free Promotion on your Kindle book for up to 5 days.  During these 5 days, your Kindle book will be listed for free on Amazon and they will do the promoting for you.  It’s not unusual for a Kindle book to get a couple hundred or couple thousand downloads during those 5 days.

I’ve had a Kindle book get me over 22,000 downloads in five days.  You might be wondering, “how the heck does this help me get more traffic and subscribers for my blog?”  The primary way is by optimizing your Kindle book to promote your blog.  For example, you could have links in your book to different articles on your blog, to a squeeze page, as well as your social media accounts.  By taking advantage of this strategy, you could easily gain hundreds or thousands of new, highly targeted, quality visitors and subscribers.

5. Can Lead To Much Greater Opportunity

Being an author on Amazon can lead to much greater opportunity, such as media exposure or speaking opportunity.  I’ve been contacted by members of the media and been interviewed many times, getting me a lot of extra exposure, simply by having my own Kindle book.  I’ve also been invited to speak at different events and seminars.  Even requests for coaching and consulting can begin to become frequent.  Like I mentioned earlier, others look up to you as an expert and authority in your marketplace.  You’re no longer just a “blogger”, but you’re an AUTHOR.

These five reasons should be enough to really persuade you into writing and publishing your own Kindle book.  If you’re already writing content and articles for your blog, then it should be a fairly easy process for you to write your own Kindle book.  I see writing a Kindle book similar to writing a series of blog posts.  These days, a book doesn’t have to be super long either.  You could publish a 40 or 50 page book and sell it for $2.99 or $4.99, in which case Amazon will pay you a 70% royalty for every sale.  You can make even more if you create a paperback version of it also, which is extremely easy using CreateSpace.  The opportunity is there and it’s something that you’re going to want to jump in on sooner, rather than later.

Get going on it and don’t miss out!

Stefan Pylarinos is an Amazon Bestselling Author and founder of Kindle Money Mastery.  Stefan’s Kindle Money Mastery course teaches you step-by-step how to create, publish and market your own Kindle books so that you can make a full-time living through Amazon.

Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

Today I want to suggest an exercise that has the potential to improve your blogging profoundly if you build it into your daily routine.

Look at another blog

Image by zev

Image by zev

OK – this may not sound that profound – most of us read other blogs every day but it doesn’t revolutionise what we do – but stick with me for a second while I explain HOW to do it in a way that could have a big impact.

Here’s what I do every day

I choose a blog and then spend 5-10 minutes reviewing it. My aim is not to ‘consume’ it as a reader…. but rather to review it with the view of learning about blogging.

What I’ve found is that my spending 5-10 minutes every day looking at another blog in this way that I learn so much! In fact I’ve learned so much over the last few months that last week in my team meetings I’ve introduced the idea of us doing this as a group – each week we’ll review a blog to see what we can learn.

The objective is not to do these reviews to copy what others are doing – but rather I find in looking at other blogs I often find inspiration and insight for my own blogs. The learnings cover a wide range of areas – from design, to product ideas, to content, to increasing engagement, to use of social media, to marketing etc.

Let me dive a little deeper into how I do it:

Choosing a Blog to Review

I review a blog every week day so over a year I’m potentially reviewing 260 blogs so I don’t have a single criteria for choosing which blog I’ll review.

When I started doing this a few months ago I started doing it mainly with photography blogs (those in my own niche) but I’ve since moved outside my niche too. While it is great to know what competitors in your niche are doing there’s a much to learn by going beyond it too.

Not only do I mix up the niche but I’m also trying to mix up the size of the blog. There’s a lot to learn from the biggest blogs who have lots of readers, staff, developers, professional designs etc – but you can learn a lot from medium and smaller blogs too.

Also I like to keep my eye open for those blogs that are up and coming – those that seem to burst onto the scene quickly – because these blogs are often doing something new or innovative.

Lastly I like to try to mix up the style of blogs. While I mainly focus upon creating ‘how to’ content blogs I also regularly review blogs that focus more upon ‘news’, ‘reviews’, ‘personal’, ‘opinion’, ‘entertainment’ etc.

So if you’re just starting to do daily reviews – do start with blogs in your niche – but mix it up too, and you’ll discover a lot that you can apply in your own blogging.

Tips on Conducting Your Review

I don’t have a set routine for reviewing the blogs that I look at, but there are a number of things that I tend to do.

I usually start by viewing the blog on my desktop computer which has a nice, wide, 27-inch display. However I also try to view the blog on my iPad and phone which is often quite illuminating from a design viewpoint.

I generally will start by reviewing the front page of the blog and pay particular attention to my first impression and feelings about the site (first impressions are often lasting ones), but will always dig around deeper into the site and review ‘posts’ (both recent and those in the archives) and also any ‘pages’ (about page, advertising page, contact page, etc).

Questions to Ask As You Review

There are a variety of areas that you can review when looking at another blog. I tend to break things down into the following areas and find myself asking questions like those that follow.

Note: I don’t ask all of these questions every time I do a review – but I hope by presenting them you’ll get a feel for what directions you can explore.

Content

  • what voice/s are they writing in?
  • what is their posting frequency?
  • how long are the posts that they write?
  • what type of posts are they majoring on (information, inspiration, engagement, news, opinion, etc)?
  • what style and medium of posts are they using (lists, imagery, video, podcasts, etc)?
  • what blend of original vs curated content are they using?
  • what topics/categories are they majoring on?
  • what type of headlines/titles formulas do they use?
  • do they use multiple authors/guest posters or a single writer?

Community

  • how do they engage readers?
  • what calls to action do they use and what is being responded to?
  • what type of posts get the most comments, shares, likes?
  • do they use tools like polls, surveys, quizzes or other engagement triggers?
  • what social media sites are they using and how they using them for engagement/community building?
  • do they have a newsletter – how do they incentivise signups? What type of content do they send?
  • how much do the writers of the blog engage in comments?
  • do they have a dedicated community area? (forum, membership etc)?
  • do they have ‘discussion’ posts or ‘assignments’ or ‘projects/challenges’ that give readers something to DO?

Finding Readers

  • where do they seem to be putting most of their energy in terms of generating readership (social, guest posting, media etc)?
  • which social media sites are they primarily using for outreach and what are they doing their?
  • what type of content seems to be being shared the most on their site?
  • how do they try to ‘hook’ new readers once they’ve arrived (newsletter, social, RSS etc)?
  • what type of reader is this blog attracting?
  • how does the blog rank on Alexa? What does Alexa say about sources of traffic, type of reader that the blog has?

Monetization

  • how are they monetizing?
  • if advertising, what advertisers are they working with directly?
  • are they using an ad network like AdSense?
  • how many ads are they showing per page?
  • where are they positioning ads on their pages?
  • what size ads do they offer advertisers?
  • do they have an advertiser page? Do they publish their rates, traffic or other interesting information on it? Do they have a media kit? What is their main selling point to advertisers?
  • if selling products – what type of products seem tot be selling the most?
  • what can you learn from the way they market their products?
  • what affiliate programs/products are they promoting?
  • do they offer premium paid content or community areas on their blog?
  • do they have a disclaimer/privacy page? What can you learn from it about how they monetize?

Design/Tech

  • what layout do they use?
  • what navigation/menu items do they have?
  • what first impressions does their design give? What is the first thing they seem to be calling people to DO when arriving?
  • have they used a designer or blog template for their blog?
  • how do they communicate what their blog is about (do they have a tag line)?
  • how are they using their front page? Is it a traditional blog format, portal or something else?
  • what do they have in their sidebar?
  • do they have a ‘hello bar’ at the top of their site? What are they using it for?
  • what do they put in ‘hot zones’ on the blog (above the fold), below posts, etc?
  • what type of blogging tool do they seem to use?
  • what can you observe about their approach to SEO?
  • what kind of commenting technology do they use?
  • what widgets and tools do they have that make the reader experience more interesting?
  • how do they use images in posts?
  • what’s their logo like?
  • what colours are they using in their design?
  • how do they highlight ‘social proof’ in their design?
  • do they have an app?
  • is their design responsive to mobile/tablets?
  • do they use any techniques to increase page views?

Email/Newsletter

  • do they have an email newsletter?
  • if so – how are they driving people to signup? Popups, forms, hello bar etc?
  • are they incentivising signups with something free?
  • signup for the newsletter and watch what kinds of emails they send. Is it an auto responder or more timely broadcasts?

Social Media

  • what social media accounts do they promote on their blog?
  • how are they promoting their social media accounts?
  • are there social media mediums that they are ignoring?
  • which type of social media seems most active/important to them?
  • where are they getting most engagement?
  • how often are they updating their accounts? what times of day seem to get most engagement?
  • what techniques are they using on social that seem to get most engagement and build community?
  • what techniques are they using on social to drive traffic?
  • what techniques are they using with social to monetize?
  • what feedback is this blog getting from readers on social? What are they known for (both positive and negative)?

Other Questions to Ponder

  • are there opportunities to network or partner with this blog/blogger?
  • do they accept guest posts – could you write with them?
  • do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate?
  • do you have a product that they could promote as an affiliate?
  • if they are in your niche – what ‘gaps’ in their content could you be filling in your own blog?
  • what are they doing poorly that might provide you with an opportunity to have a competitive advantage?
  • what are they doing well that you’re not doing to the best of your ability?

What would you add?

The above list is not something I systematically work through for every blog that I look at – rather it is the type of questions I find myself asking as I review a blog and might be useful as a starting point for you to work from.

I’m sure there are other areas you could dig into further and I’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.

Learn From The Actions of Others

Let me finish by coming back to the motivation for doing blog reviews like this.

What I’m NOT suggesting is that you review other blogs to simply steal other peoples ideas and replicate what they do.

What I AM suggesting is that you will learn a heap by looking at how others blog.

It might sounds odd coming from a guy writing a blog about blogging but I think you’ll actually learn as much – if not more – by doing the above exercise each day than by filling your RSS reader full of blog tips blogs. There’s only so much theory you need to hear – much more can be learned by watching people practice their craft.

A side note about Blogs about Blogging: The reality is that most ‘blog tips blogs’ are written by bloggers whose most successful blog is a ‘blog tips blog’. While this doesn’t discount them as people to listen to, it’s worth keeping in mind as you ponder their teaching and calls to purchase what they sell.

It also strikes me that the vast majority of successful bloggers going around are quietly going about building amazing blogs and not broadcasting their tips and learnings. Their focus is building their blogs – not teaching others how to blog. While it’d be great to get inside their heads the great thing is that almost everything they do is live on their blogs for all to see – hence the opportunity in spending time learning by watching what they do.

My Challenge to You

For the next week, review a blog every day. It need not include every question above – but put aside 10 or so minutes each day over the next week to look at another blog and see what you can learn.

I dare you! It could just be the most valuable 70 minutes of blogging learning you ever have!

If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear in comments below what you learn!

7 Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Write Effective Marketing Copy

This post is from Leslie Anglesey, writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers

You may be asking yourself: “How do I write copy that sells?” – Too many of us get distracted by myths about the rules of communication, marketing messages, and stuff like that.

Today’s post blends together seven out-of-the-box ideas for effective marketing writing into a comprehensive guide that can drastically improve the value of your blog. While there’s little left in this contemporary culture that could be considered out-of-the-box, these ideas are most definitely not orthodox.

If you want to make your blog writing memorable, follow these tips to make it shine.

Idea #1: Actually Get to Know the Audience

While it may seem cliché, in reality very few marketing-based writers take the time to get to know their audience beyond the bare essentials. The devil’s in the details ladies and gentlemen. We’re in an era of big data and the analytics abound. Use them. Many of these sources of information are free, for example Alexa.com, while other more specialized software options can be pricier but well-worth the investment.

Regardless, what separates the sheep marketing writers from the shepherds can be quantified in consumer behavior tracking, bounce rates, conversion rates along with split-testing. DATA. Oftentimes even the most creative and accomplished writers must bow and sacrifice for data that says, “This audience prefers this over this.” Typically that means shorter sentences, more precise statements and verbiage that first-graders consider elementary.

Idea #2: Base Your Marketing Writing on the “SEO of Tomorrow”, Not Today

How effective would your marketing copy be in terms of ranking (exposure/traffic) if it was written according to the SEO status quo of five, or even one year ago? Yeah, that’s how fast search engine technology and algorithmic innovation is moving. Take a look around at what the status quo considers to be highly optimized marketing writing today and then project a mere six months into the future. Where are we headed?

  • Conversational: The cryptic corporate-speak of the advertising world is no longer effective. At the slightest hint of unwanted sales pitches consumers click away. Marketing writing must speak the conversational language of the particular audience searching for and reading it.
  • Human: The more authentic, genuine and informative the writing the more valuable it will be even if the topics include technologies and things which are rapidly evolving. Forget about writing for search engine algorithms and write only for human beings.
  • Mobile-Friendly Inquiries: The inquiries of tomorrow will be spoken, not typed into search bars. Think about that carefully as you consider how to title your writing and craft it.
  • Authority: All marketing-based writing should to some degree seek to build/maintain perceived authority to be of any use in the online marketing realm of tomorrow.

Idea #3: Throw Traditional Outbound-Voice Completely Out the Window

This has to do with being transparent, conversational and human. The modern person’s brain completely shuts off the moment it perceives/hears a blatant pitch. Instead, write in an inbound-style that seeks to educate and inform the audience into making a purchasing decision without asking for it. Ideally, without even mentioning products or services until deeper within the sales funnel.

Idea #4: Consider What Your High-Brow Competition Isn’t Doing

Speaking of the SEO of Tomorrow, make your marketing writing stand the test of time by being the most important things a) relevant and b) authentic. No matter how amazing your writing may be, if it’s about a common subject it’s going to be almost impossible to stand apart from the crowd. Moving forward simply repurposing content isn’t a viable route. It has to be not only relevant, but authentic.

This means branding, updated user experience (the design that is shaped around your writing), and incorporating something unique. For example, a bamboo company can’t expect to rank by simply regurgitating common bamboo knowledge at this point. But, if they involve images, video and marketing writing that involves their farm, their day-to-day operations, their installations etc. that is unique. That’s what most of the competition ISN’T doing.

Idea #5: Play with a Niche-Focused Approach

Most marketing writing is meant to appeal to wide arrays of potential clients/readers, rather than being laser-focused on one specific niche. Instead of selling one type of bamboo to solve one issue or problem, common (ineffective) copywriters try to sell it to anyone willing to buy. As a matter of course, even the most conversation language no matter how finely formatted, comes across as generalized.

Moving forward the most effective marketing writing will be written by copywriters with specific knowledge about the niche/audience. Like studying the audience on a deeper level, being “niche” these days requires more narrowing.

  • The writing is for a specific kind of bamboo buyer from a specific region or location.
  • The writing focuses on specific benefits that these bamboo buyers need, ideally just one.
  • An example would be for hedging bamboo or privacy bamboo in particular using the most popular species of clumping bamboo.

See the difference between that niche-approach and writing basic post for the bamboo niche at large?

Idea #6: Understand the Dynamics between Genius & Creativity

Here’s how the most creative minds approach a problem, and it is a signifying trait of results-based genius (vs. traditional IQ tests). First, when presented with a problem, for example a 1200 word piece of marketing copy for a niche client, their minds go completely blank. Yes, nothing but mental cricket sounds can be heart initially.

Then, they allow the first random thought to surface without resistance and from there without any pattern go from one thought to another associatively. They sit back and wait until something relevant surfaces that leads to another until they can combine them into a creative and unique approach to the material. Once you understand how it works, you can employ this as well which makes writing first drafts far easier and less of a headache from a creative standpoint.

Idea #7: Elevate the Inbound Value of the Material

Regardless of how you define successful marketing writing, the bar is being raised whether you know/like it or not. What was considered premier web content a year ago is outdated and nearly irrelevant now. That’s a fact. Part of writing for the optimization of tomorrow is knowing that quality of content is measured in utility and accessibility.

Sometimes raising the inbound value doesn’t have to do with maxing the copy longer, or adding more unique geo-tagged photos or meta-data enhanced videos, but simplifying the message so that it’s genuine and almost child-like. Viral marketing has demonstrated this time and again through many well-documented marketing campaigns over the last decade.

Conclusion: Differentiation & Definitive Branding

Effective marketing doesn’t only make a sale or convert organic traffic, it expands brands, builds online empires, established internet credibility, generates perceived authority and differentiates common knowledge through unique content.

Voice is a component of branding, and intonation is the main ingredient of effective human communication. Everything needs to come together in harmony: branding, niche copy, conversational human engagement, excellent scanner-friendly formatting and a focus on concepts/platforms rather than rudimentary keywords. That truly is a quality recipe for effective marketing writing that you can bank on.

Leslie Anglesey is a writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers, a website that provides writing tips for college students and recent graduates.

Passion – Do You Have It?


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The 3 Ingredients in Our Best Selling eBook Titles


Over the last few days in Facebook groups I participate in, I’ve seen a number of people ask for advice on coming up with titles for new eBooks, courses and books.

Below is a combination of a few pieces of advice I gave in response to the topic:

Coming up with titles for our eBooks on Digital Photography School is always something that takes our team considerable time and debate.

There’s no right way to to create a title and many factors come into play but there are generally three main ingredients that I try to include in titles of eBooks:

1. Clearly Communicate What the Book is About

This is pretty obvious, but it can be tempting at times to come up with a title that is a little more cryptic. I’ve found that the clearer you are about the topic, the better (this also helps with after-sale customer service – you’ll get a lot less complaints if people know exactly what they’re buying).

2. Include a Tangible Benefit

I didn’t always do this but have noticed that our best selling eBooks tend to have one. A good example of this is the ProBlogger eBook – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Do this, and you’ll get this – show the people who are pondering whether they will buy your product what they’ll get as a result of doing so. What’s in it for them?

Sometimes putting the benefit in the title is tricky, particularly if you’re looking to create a short title. In this case, we would usually create a sub-title that we prominently display.

For example, our landscape Photography eBook is ‘Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography‘. The benefit or result is (stunning landscape photography).

So as you’re creating your product, make a list of the needs/problems/challenges that your readers face that your product solves. You may come up with multiple benefits but choose the biggest one (one that readers have at the top of their minds and that the product solves), and use that in the title.

Keep the other benefits that you’ve brainstormed handy because they will be very useful when you’re writing your sales material for the eBook.

3. If Possible Say Something Aspirational that Touches Emotion

This is not something we always do, but particularly for our Photography eBooks, we know that as we’re talking about photography (which is an aspirational topic), that when we use words that evoke some kind of emotion that we generally get a better response from readers.

Note: there’s a fine line here between manipulation and hype, and doing this well.

The example of our ‘Living Landscapes’ eBook mentioned above is a good one. ‘Living Landscapes’ communicates something about what we’re trying to do with the eBook – i.e. help readers to bring the landscapes that they photography to life.

Also in the sub-title we use ‘Stunning Landscape Photography’ rather than just ‘Landscape Photography’. The addition of an adjective not only communicates our objective with the eBook to readers, but also gets them dreaming a little about the things that our eBook will help them to unlock.

You’ll also see if you dig into the sales copy on dPS eBooks, that many of our sales pages also use this more aspirational language in how we sell our products.

Another example of this is Transcending Travel: A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography which at the time we published it was our fastest selling eBook.

You can see in the title alone the same kind of formula. You can tell what it is about (Travel Photography), there’s a clear tangible benefit and words like ‘Transcending’ and ‘Captivating’ are aspirational.

Look at the sales page and again you can see that the copy starts by aiming to touch the ‘heart’ – getting readers to think about the feeling that we all know of getting home from a trip to find that the images we’ve taken don’t capture the true spirit of our time away.

Two Last Tips on Creating Great Titles for Products:

While the above three ingredients are things that we try to get into our eBook titles, it is important to re-emphasise that there is no right way to do this.

Our approach has worked for us with our readership, but I know others take different approaches (and I’d love to hear yours below).

The two last tips I’d give also come out of our experience:

1. Test and Watch How Your Readers Respond

Not all of our titles have worked, and there have been times when we’ve used titles that I had doubts about that worked surprisingly well!

The key is to experiment and see how your readers respond. There are a variety of ways of doing this including:

  • watching how readers respond to titles of blog posts – over time you’ll see some posts get read more than others and that certain words/topics/title formulas seem to resonate more than others
  • test how people respond to social media updates – tweet a link to a blog post you’ve written with two alternative titles for the link and see which works best
  • watching open rates of emails that you send your email subscribers – in the lead up to a product launch send an email to your list pointing them to a blog post on the topic and test different subject lines
  • As your readers which title they’d be most interested in reading – we’ve done this a couple of times on Facebook with readers, showing them two covers of eBooks and asking which they like more

2. Involve Others in the Process

I learned with my very first photography eBook how powerful it was to involve others in the coming up with titles and sales copy.

I was close to launching my first eBook with the simple title ‘Portrait Photography’ when I shot Brian Clark from CopyBlogger an email asking his advice. He came back with the title ‘The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography’.

The title was much stronger and the eBook sold very well.

While not everyone might have access to email one of the best blogging copywriters around (Brian is brilliant) even tossing a title around with friends, family, colleagues and other bloggers will help you to hone your title.

These days we spend days tossing around title ideas as a team before deciding upon one and I think doing so has helped a lot. You’ll also find that as you talk it through the marketing of the product will also become easier as you’ll get more clarity about the benefits of your product and how it will help readers.