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How to Hire an Ace Blogger for Your Company: A Blueprint

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Image via Flickr user Brizzle Born and Bred

This is a guest contribution from Steff Green of WorkflowMax.

Having been a freelance blogger since 2009, I’m used to looking for ways to improve my pitches and blogging job applications. However, recently I got to sit on the other side of the desk. I’ve landed the dream job – writing the awesome business blog at WorkflowMax – a cloud-based job management software for creatives and other service businesses. But we wanted to expand the blog from 3-4 posts a week to 7+, as well as start to work on some other cool content projects, and for that, we needed to bring another full-time blogger on staff.

It was up to me – and our Marketing Manager – to find this blogger. Mission: Accepted.

Having never hired a writer before, I turned to the internet for some advice, but didn’t really find much beyond very generic job-search tips. So, based on our experiences flying blind through the application process, I’m writing two posts for Problogger. The first is advice for companies like ours who need to hire a blogger. The follow-up post will be advice for bloggers who are looking for a full-time, steady job as a content creator at a company like ours: what to expect, and how to ensure you have the best chance of landing the gig.

 

Step 1: Write an Enticing Job Ad / Description

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a job ad that appeals to bloggers. This will be the first clue to prospective applicants that this job could be a good fit for them. Most bloggers that I know aren’t looking for a full-time job at a company (they are freelancers looking for several clients or making their income off their own blogs), but remember that you could be offering something that is quite unusual: a regular, monthly income as a writer. That stability for writers can be quite rare, which will mean you’ll definitely have a lot of interested candidates.

Because I’m the writer on staff, I had to take care of writing the job ad. I tried to highlight:

  • Different types of writing the job would entail – such as blogging, ebooks, EDMS, social media.
  • A sense of who the audience for the blog was, and the voice of the company.
  • A sense of who the company are, and the benefits and learning experiences gained from working for them.
  • Some of the perks the blogger could expect, such as flexible hours and their own laptop.

I wanted to attract writers who were used to writing B2B content, who had some knowledge about cloud-based software, service businesses and have the ability to quickly learn, adapt and write about a wide range of topics.

 

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Candidate List

We received a huge number of applications. HR sent us only 10 or so of the more likely candidates – so I didn’t get to see many of the real doozies. Our task was to narrow down our list to 3-4 candidates to interview.

If you are like me, you may never have had to choose interview candidates before, especially not based on resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. If you’re not a writer (like my manager), this can be even more terrifying. How do you know if someone is a good writer or not?

Here are my tips for narrowing down the herd:

  • Think of the resume as a blog writing sample. After all, they are quite similar in structure – lots of headings, lists, and bullets to make it easily scannable, highlighting key points, an eye-catching opener to entire you to read more. We received one resume that was literally a laundry list of points (“Studied Communications. Led 20 person team for International project, A in Social Media Paper, Good Communications Skills”) with no apparent order or hierarchy. If a candidate can’t properly structure a resume, what hope will they have to properly structure a blog post or ebook?
  • Look for creative thinkers. We had one candidate who wrote what would be considered a “risky” application – she made her cover letter into a blog post – with subheadings, bullets, a call to action, everything that is a blogging cliche. For any other job, this kind of application wouldn’t fly, but I found that in the sea of other candidates her writing stood out as fresh and different.
  • Remember not to judge the cover letter too harshly. We were looking for quite a chatty, personable tone, and many of the cover letters we received were stiff and stilted. I tried not to judge them on this, as it’s the normal tone for a cover letter. Instead, I judged their writing ability on the strength of their samples.
  • Ask for samples! We asked candidates to supply 1-2 writing samples with their applications. We also visited candidates websites and blogs to get an idea of the work they were producing. If a candidate lists a personal blog or website, go and check it out, because you can find all sorts of things you might not discover otherwise!

 

Step 3: Interviewing the Candidates

Now that you’ve narrowed down your applicants to a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to get those people into the office or on Skype for an interview. This is the most daunting part of the process, both for candidate and for company, because you’re no longer simply assessing if they can do the job – you’re trying to figure out if they will be a good fit for your team.

We narrowed our list down to five candidates, and interviewed four in the office and one over Skype. We were given a list of questions from HR that we could use, but we also had created a few of our own questions. Here are some of our tips for successful interviews:

  • Start by talking through their CV. I’ve never seen this at an interview before, but I found it an extremely useful thing to do. Often, our candidates had many different jobs listed – from social media internships, to project-based work, to permanent roles, and long stretches of freelance work. Talking through their work history (all candidates were quite young) gave us an overview of where they were going in their career, and helped pinpoint skills they had picked up and unique experiences they could bring to our team.
  • Ask about daily word count. An interesting question I asked each of our candidates was how many words they thought they could write in a day. I’m a solid 2000 word girl myself, and it was interesting hearing responses from 1000 words right up to 4000+. Wordcount definitely isn’t everything (quality over quantity, of course), but as writing is so subjective it gave us at least one solid metric with which to measure candidates.
  • Put them on the spot about their blogging knowledge. For example, we would give them a scenario where they had just written and published a post on our blog. Now, how would they get lots of eyes on that post? I was much more interested in those candidates who talked about forming relationships with other industry bloggers than in those who said, “um … social media?”
  • Ask about their future plans. Future plans can be a good indicator of whether the candidate is looking for a role they can grow into, or something to bridge a gap while they look for something better. We had one extremely strong candidate whose goal was to move into a strategic role, and her current role was already placing her in this type of work. Because our role is primarily production (writing blog posts), we decided she probably wasn’t right for the position in the end.
  • Get to know their personality. You’re going to be working with this blogger for a huge chunk of the week, so make sure you’re looking for a candidate that is a good fit for your company. See how they respond to your questions. Ask them about their working style. Talk about their career so far. Do they seem like a good fit?

 

Step 4: Create a Writing Test

This may not be a necessary step in every company, but we were really struggling to choose a candidate. All four candidates were strong writers according to their samples, and they had great personalities that meshed with our team based on the interview, and different strengths and experiences. We decided to create a writing test that was specific to our company’s blog. Our company regularly sets tests when we employ developers, so it wasn’t so out of the ordinary.

I set three questions that related to different aspects of our blog. It would require candidates to read through some articles on our blog and get a feel for our voice and our audience.

First, I asked the bloggers to write a list of topic ideas for one of our verticals – creative agencies – to help promote an ebook. Then I asked them to choose one of their topics and write a 500-word blog post based on their idea. To do well in the exercise, the candidate would need to look at a few posts on our WorkflowMax blog, and write some ideas that fit our tone and audience (A lot of guest bloggers approach us with general business advice articles, which is NOT what we’re after, so I was interested to see if our candidates would make the same mistake. Some of them did.

The test was the single biggest indicator that helped us choose our first-choice candidate.

When creating your own test, think about:

  • What activities your blogger will need to do regularly (idea generation, creating tweets, blogger outreach, writing posts, submitting guest blogs) and design simple exercises around these aspects of the job.
  • Keep the test short – it should take the candidate less than an hour to complete.
  • Give the candidates a few days to complete the test from home.
  • Look for ideas and writing that could easily work alongside what you’re currently producing. Look for the structure of a blog post. Look for details like linking to other articles, using headings and lists, and having a call-to-action.
  • But on the other hand, don’t discount a blogger because of features that could be learned – such as post formatting or compelling headlines. Have they got the basics right?

 

Step 5: Create a “points” system

So you’ve finished your interviews, and you’ve got notes written about each candidate. But now you’re stumped. They all have their strengths and weaknesses – how do you decide who is right for your company?

One thing I did is create a points system. We created a spreadsheet with a list of different factors, including:

  • digital marketing experience
  • copywriting / blogging experience
  • WorkflowMax writing sample
  • Other writing samples
  • WorkflowMax topic generation
  • Output – words per day
  • Unique, engaging voice
  • Future goals aligned with role

We then went through and rated each candidate out of five for each of the factors. Adding up the points gave us a score for each candidate. This helped to give us something with which we could measure candidates with different strengths against each other, rather than simply saying, “Well, Clara has experience in the cloud computing industry, but Doris’ sample was better. Now who do we choose?” This helped us single out two candidates who stood out.

 

Step 6: Talk to a Writer

If you don’t have a writer on staff already, then hire one to look over the writing samples and give you their honest opinion. If you are not a writer, it can be difficult to understand what makes a good one, and what makes a great writer stand out from the good.

 

Step 7: Make the Offer!

You’ve done it! You’ve found the right blogger for your position. You can now dance on a table and go out for a beer. But not before you’ve made them the offer, of course! We’re really happy with the blogger we chose, and she’s fitting in nicely with our little team.

Finding a blogger for a full-time position can be a real mission. But it’s important to find the right person for the company, because you are stuck with them for a long time.

Have you ever gone through the process of hiring a blogger? What advice could you offer other companies?

Steff Green is the content manager for WorkflowMax, cloud-based job management software that tackles everything from leads, quotes, time sheeting, invoicing, reporting, and more. You can find her writing business advice for creative agencies, architects, IT companies and other business that bill by time on the WorkflowMax blog.

How Your Business Can Make the Most Out of Google Updates

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This is a guest contribution from Emma Henry of True Target Marketing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), when executed well, can reap significant results for an online business.  It can boost search engine rankings and increase targeted website traffic, resulting in more sales leads and paying customers. If you have plans to implement an SEO campaign, it pays to be aware of the latest Google updates to ensure that you adapt your online business as required in order to boost your search engine rankings and avoid being penalised.

The Search Engine Landscape is Changing

The latest Google Algorithm update has had a substantial impact on the way the search engine is now ranking sites. This update has been one of the most significant in the last 2-3 years. 

We are seeing a trend away from keyword-based search into query-based search. Google is now delivering search results based on what people would ask or say in conversation rather than on specific keywords. So, for example, “Where can I find …?” Or “How to ….?” Or “What is the …”

Google is attempting to return better search results that provide a more direct answer to these query-based searches. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole sentence in the search query is taken into account, rather than specific keywords. The result is that website pages matching the entire query will rank better than website pages matching just a few key terms in the query.

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No. In fact Google says the fundamentals remain the same, and it comes down to having original, high-quality content on your site. Signals that have been important in the past remain important. Hummingbird just allows Google to process webpages in new and more relevant ways. Gone are the days when it was all about choosing specific keywords and manipulating your content and onsite SEO around these. Content is king. This has always been the case and has never been as important as right now.

So what does this mean you need to do?

You need to create good quality, relevant and unique website content on a regular basis around search queries relating to your niche. 

Google will reward websites who display the most relevant answers to these types of queries. The more query-based content you create, the more likely that Google will boost your search engine rankings. Answering common industry questions will not only get you additional search engine traffic, but it will boost your rankings for your primary geo-target keywords.

Where to find query based content ideas

The originality of your content is very important. It’s about digging deep and creating good content around sub-topics within your niche. Here is a good trick to generate content ideas: type your seed keyword into Google (that is, one of the primary keywords you would normally try to rank for). If you scroll to the bottom of the search results page for this keyword in Google, you will see “searches related to your keyword”. You can then create an informative article relating to a query around those related search queries.

For more content ideas, continue clicking through each related search term and see what other related searches appear, and create more content based on the most relevant phrases. 

Another idea is to note down all of the common questions that your customers ask you.  Or even get friends or family who are not in the business to list out as many “typical” questions that would be asked in your industry. 

These types of questions provide excellent opportunities to create informative website content. It is the language that your customers speak. The best thing is that you are in control and can put a spin on all of your articles that position your company as the industry expert. 

There are many other places to find new content. You can look at industry forums and see what questions people are asking. You can go to Yahoo Answers to see what sort of questions people are asking there. Another idea is go to Wikipedia and have a look at the categories and sub-topics of major categories for inspiration. 

Is Onsite SEO still important?

Yes! Page titles and meta-descriptions are still very important to help you rank in the search engines. It is important to write your articles naturally around the long tail search queries. You can optimise images for your articles with the Alt tag, however do not do this for all images and all articles. Label some as generic names such as building-contractor l001.jpg. Google are on the lookout for sites where the SEO lines up too perfectly and that appear to be manipulating the system and they may just penalise your site for that. You want to get the balance right, by helping Google to understand what your content is about without lining everything up perfectly.  

What does this all mean? 

Educate your market and become a leader in your industry – in the eyes of your customers and in the eyes of Google. The informative articles based around real-life questions will drive traffic to your site for people who are genuinely interested in a specific topic. People really do type industry-specific questions into the search engines. Many of those searches could result in a lead or an inquiry or a sale for you. The traffic that you get from targeting longer query-based keywords probably won’t be as much as for primary broader keywords, however you might rank very, very quickly, and if you attract that right buyer, you are more likely to convert than someone who is just typing a broad term. 

A combination of good query-based content and a strategic offsite SEO strategy to target the prime keywords is the winning formula to reach the top of Google this year.

Emma Henry is an Online Marketing Specialist and the owner of True Target Marketing. Emma tailors bespoke online marketing strategies for her clients. She specialises in lead generation, customer conversions, increased website traffic and improved website responsiveness. 

Theme Week Roundup: Which Tip Will You Put into Practise?

FINDING READERSLast week we delved in deep to the things you can do with your post once you hit “publish”. Some people feel as though that’s the end of the road, and others feel as though it’s only the beginning!

There are plenty of things you can do to keep your post current on social media, ensuring it is optimised for SEO, how to repurpose it for different channels, how to keep readers on your blog once your post is published, and how to extend your ideas for the future. It was a week packed with information, and plenty of takeaways for you at home. Let’s have a look at what we covered, and we’d love to hear your feedback on the ones you think you might like to try (or ones you feel as though didn’t quite work in your situation).

How to Socialize Your Posts For Maximum Effect:

Darren wrote extensively about where you can post your posts on social media to be in the right information stream for your readers. He broke down the choice of social media to what kind of time you have to spend, where the majority of your readers are, what suits your content best, and where your competitors might be. He explained how a rhythm to sharing is important, and outlined how to do this for maximum return. He gave great tips for sharing on Twitter and G+, and the kinds of resharing he does after the initial push. Which tip resonated with you?

Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Readers Will Be Forever Lost:

Rand Fishkin reminded us all that content can stay current after its inital social media push by optimizing it for search. He explained how fast your post can die if not supported in the first instance with good SEO, by paying attention to keyword research, the best way to go about finding a title and what kind of information to include in body content, and the best ways of reaching out to your network to get your content seen by the right people. I loved the presentation he included called “How To Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul” – something to think about if you feel as though optimising and keywords take away from the beauty of writing from the heart to connect with your readers. Did it have an impact on your thoughts about it?

How To Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It:

Repurposing content isn’t just re-promoting your posts on social media, as Darren explains. It’s about changing up your content for different media streams, and for the different interests for your readers. It heightens your search result rankings, and readers can also connect with your work more deeply. Of course, there are risks present, and Darren outlines those, and he also gives his best advice for how to repurpose your content for the best results. There are some solid tips and concrete examples – which ones do you think you’ll try?

You’ve Got Readers To Your Blog: This is How You Keep Them There:

Day four was all about keeping readers excited and wanting to engage after you’ve optimised your post for SEO, published it to all the right channels, and even repurposed it for different reader needs. I broke it down into site design, reader comments and how to interact with them for the best results, and what you can do off your blog to drive traffic back to your posts. Everything from responding to as many of your readers as you can, being useful, sparking conversations between readers, to having a clear design, making commenting a breeze, and returning the favour of a comment on someone else’s blog. I’m sure at least one of those tips would be successful if you used them today – which one will it be?

Extend Your Ideas With Future Blog Posts:

Darren explains the problem he is seeing with current sites focusing on curated content, and how sensationalist headlines will only get you so far. He outlines the best tips to make you stand out from the crowd – how to go deeper with information, and how to provide genuine, interesting, useful content. He tells us how to find future post ideas in the post you’re currently writing, and how to extend previous posts you’ve written for a new readership. What is something you can adopt in your daily writing practise to help your information go further?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Theme Week: Extend Your Ideas With Future Blog Posts

This week we’ve been looking at what to do after you’ve hit publish on your blog posts.

Today I’d like to suggest a task that I think has real potential to help our blogs to make a big impact upon our readers by taking them on our journey.

Think about how to extend the ideas in your post, and follow it up with more content.

Over the last 12 or so months I’ve noticed numerous blogs using a strategy that I think is a little short-sighted.

It comes in the wake of big sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed who largely use curated content, wrap headlines about it that are either sensational or use curiosity, and then call those who arrive on the site to take action with a ‘like’ or ‘share’.

While this model of publishing is obviously working for sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, my concern is that within almost every niche now I see blogs that used to be creating quality original content moving to this model.

In the photography blogging space I can think of 4-5 blogs that used to publish 1-2 quality original posts per day (posts that were all about helping readers and building momentum from post to post), now publish as many as 15-20 curated posts per day.

While I’m sure their traffic is up, I’ve noticed something of a backlash happening on social media. Almost daily I see people complain about the ‘fluffy’ content and headlines that over-promise on the content that will be featured.

These blogs that had built loyalty, trust and community now are in danger of having a less-engaged readership, and brands that are somewhat damaged.

I guess it partly comes down the monetization model of the blog in question – this curated content approach certainly can drive significant traffic and thus increases advertising revenue – but I worry that blogs are becoming ‘fluffy’, and less relevant as a result.

In this time of ‘fluffy’ content, I see a real opportunity for bloggers who want to stand out by producing blogs that go deeper.

One of the ways I think bloggers could do this is to consider producing content that builds from one post to another – something that was very common place back in the day when I began blogging.

You’ll notice here on ProBlogger we’ve been doing this more and more over the past year with our ‘Theme Weeks’ (like the current one we’re running). Going deeper into topics with longer-form content.

A planned series of posts is just one approach to doing this. Another is simply to pause after you’ve written and published a post to ask yourself a simple question:

“Is there anything in what I’ve just written that I could extend or followup with another post?”

Get into the habit of asking this question, and you’ll naturally start to create content that goes deeper and builds momentum between your posts.

Other quick tips on ‘extending’ your content in this way include:

  • Pay attention to the tangents you consider taking mid post – many times we consider adding ideas into posts but don’t. These could well become separate posts.
  • Pay attention to the questions that your blog posts readers with in the comments on your posts.
  • Examine older posts in your archives that perhaps could be developed further because they’ve become a little dated
  • If you’ve written an opinion post – could you follow it up by exploring the opposing view?
  • Could you follow up the post with a case study or example of what you’ve been writing about?

Lastly – check out this mind mapping exercise that I wrote about a few years back which is all about taking a post you’ve written and finding ways to extend it.

Theme Week: You’ve Got Readers To Your Blog – This is How You Keep Them There

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There’s no denying that driving traffic to your posts is usually at the top of every blogger’s list once they hit “publish”. And while we’ve chatted this week about sharing your posts on social media for the best effect, and how to repurpose your content so even more eyes see it – it’s time now to talk about keeping those visitors on your blog once they get there, interacting with your content, and engaging with you.

Reader comments

Reward your readers

Replying to the comments you do get is one of the best things you can do – not only to encourage that person to be a repeat reader, but also to show other readers that you’re interested in the stories they might like to share. When you put the effort in to have conversations with the people who make an effort to speak to you, it fosters more of a community environment.

Email your thanks

Darren talks about taking the time to email your readers to either thank them for their comment, or to follow up on something they’ve talked about. It is taking the extra step that will make them feel appreciated and more inclined to spend their time on your blog, where they know they will be heard, appreciated, and made to feel welcome.

Ask a question in your reply

If your reader tells you a story or shares an anecdote with you, ask them further questions about it in your reply. It’s likely they’ll come back again and answer you, and you’ve created the beginning of a conversation, not just been hit by a “drop and run” commenter.

Invite future comments

If a reader tells you they’re going to put your advice into action, or make your recipe, or in some other way take your blog into their real life, ask them to let you know how that turns out for them. When they do come back, you can then ask them even more questions: What was easy? What did they find difficult or confusing? Did they enjoy the end result?

Foster conversations between readers

When replying to people who have commented on your blog, you can tag other people in your comments, or highlight where someone’s said something similar, or answered the question they’re asking. You can put the call out for other readers to share their experience, or answer the commenter’s question in your reply to them. By making the environment on the blog conducive to conversation and then letting your readers exchange with each other, you’re only going to see a rise in engagement. This is one of Mrs Woog’s secrets to a highly-engaged community of readers.

“It is the facilitation of these conversations that will give you a really great insight into who your readers actually are. It is this information that will help you to work out what sort of content to deliver to them. What will work, and what will sink.”

Give considered responses

In today’s fast-paced, bite-sized world, a comment is an absolute gift. That someone took the time to read your post, form an opinion, sign in, and leave a comment? and/or perhaps even share your post? that deserves more than a “thanks” or some other brief nod of the head, when you can spare it. Sure, if you don’t have time to reply to every single comment you ever get, then this is better than nothing. But if you can give a chatty reply back, then you are more likely to entice others that it’s worth their time and effort to get involved.

Provide further information

Be useful to your readers not only in the body of your posts, but in your replies to them too. If there’s more information you can point them to, then do so. If there’s someone else’s blog post you can highlight – even better. They might even come back and thank you.

Link your content

If you’re talking about things you’ve covered in posts elsewhere, then highlight that in your text. If the reader doesn’t find anything in this post to respond to, they might be interested enough in something you’ve linked to and feel encouraged to leave a comment there.

Ask questions in your posts

A useful strategy to encourage readers to comment is to not only ask them a question at the end of your post, but also to weave in open-ended questions throughout your text. Create many jumping-off points to start conversations, and let people choose which ones they want. By asking for advice or reader experiences, you’re providing a forum for people to share.

Start a debate

Everybody knows that controversy is one way of getting eyeballs and engagement. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but even smaller-scale contentious points can entice people to comment on which side of the debate they are on. It could be as innocuous as asking readers whether they prefer peanut butter or honey on their morning toast, but it still inspires a desire to answer.

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Use a poll

Further to the debate idea, asking readers to answer a question about where they stand on a subject can be a quick and easy way for people to engage. You can create a post around it, or even have them permanently in the sidebar like the ones on Digital Photography School.

Reader projects

If you and your readers are participating in a blogging challenge, or another type of community project, it can foster a great environment for people to come together to chat about it. It might be something as big as 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, or it could be a fun creative exercise, like blogging every day for a month. When everyone’s in it together, there’s more of a chance they’ll stick around for the conversation.

Hold back a bit

If you say everything that’s needed to be said in a post, then there’s not much for the reader to contribute. While expert, informative posts are incredibly useful, it’s also a much better outcome if the readers are participating in a conversation around it, rather than just writing “great post!”. Leave them something to add.

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Be a mini-expert in something specific

There’s lots of posts on the internet solving common problems. Where you might have more luck with engagement is solving a rare problem that isn’t often covered. I have a post about recovering documents that are saved to Office 2011 Autorecovery. I pieced it together after a very stressful lost-file incident, from advice spread throughout many pages and forums. It is so specific I wasn’t sure if it would be useful to many people, but it consistently gets not only regular views, but regular comments from truly relieved and grateful readers who found it at their wit’s end. Even if you think only a handful of interested people will read the post, you might be the only person writing that particular solution to that particular problem.

Site setup

User-friendliness

If your site is clear, easy-to-read, and gives the viewer a pleasing visual experience (like Dustin talked about here in our last theme week on creating community), it’s more likely they will stay. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to want to engage with you. Dustin says:

“When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.”

Make it easy

There’s nothing more off-putting than a hidden comment section, a cluttered comment section, a hard-to-sign-into comment section, or a comment section that requires you to fill in the captcha code. I’ve heard readers say time and time again that they just give up when they can’t get the captcha right. Others go so far as to not even bother trying.

Point people to newsletters

You’re full of useful information, so ensure you’re letting readers know that you’ve got even more of it that isn’t always on the blog. Keep eyeballs on your site by making it easy for them to click over. If they’ve signed up to receive your newsletter, it might be the incentive they need to visit your blog when it arrives in their inbox. Make your newsletter visible and easy to sign up for. Also include it at the end of your popular posts, or in the body of your posts (when logical to do so, of course).

Call to action

It’s obvious, but still not everyone does it – asking outright for comments. Maybe you feel weird about asking readers directly to comment or share (I know I do!), but it appears to be very effective. Whether it’s a casual “I’d love to hear your thoughts” or even a “please comment”, it might be just the push the reader needs to reply.

Think about the kind of reader you are

What entices you to spend time on someone else’s blog and join in their conversation? Think about the kinds of things you like to see and enjoy elsewhere and see if you can’t replicate similar things on your site. There’s a good chance that if you like it on other blogs, your readers will like it on yours.

Make sure they’re notified when you reply

The best way of keeping engagements high is ensuring your commenters know when you’ve continued the conversation. Not everyone checks back to see if they’ve been replied to, but if they have an email notification (such as a Disqus reply) or similar, then it’s more likely they will come back to chat.

Off your blog

Keep an eye on your pingbacks/trackbacks

When you see that someone has mentioned you on their site, it takes two seconds to pop over and thank them for it. By showing you’re grateful and interested in what they have to say means it’s more likely that reader will keep being engaged in your blog and your work.

Return the favour

Being an active participant in the blog community does wonders for the kinds of engagement you can create in your own space. Reciprocity is a perpetuating cycle that’s beneficial for all involved. Comment often. Comment freely. Comment without expectation, but just enjoying the process. Comments beget comments, and while not everyone will return the favour to you, many will. Be one of the people who do.

Reply on social media

While ultimately it is beneficial to have people solely comment on your blog, it is good practice (and a lot of fun!) to reply to their comments on Facebook or Twitter about your post. Some people prefer to have conversations there, and some people are new to you. They might be more incentivised to click over and read if you’re taking the time to care about what they say on their social media of choice.

What about you? What have you found to be a useful way of keeping people engaged on your blog posts, and not just skipping off to the next distraction?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she 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.

Theme Week: How to Repurpose Your Content [and Why You Should Do It!]

This week we’ve been talking about what to do with your blog posts after you hit publish. So far we’ve talked about optimizing it for search and socializing it on social media - today we’re going to talk about ‘repurposing’ it.

What is Repurposing Content?

I like Erin Everhart’s definition of repurposing content. She defines it as:

“repacking one piece of content across many different media. Each time, you’re adding to it (or taking away from it), and making it unique for the source, the medium and the user who’ll be reading it.”

If you’ve been blogging for even just a few months you’re already probably got quite a bit of content in your archives that you’ve invested a lot of time into creating. The idea of repurposing some of those posts is that it enables you benefit again from the work you’ve already done by highlighting those ideas again in a new medium.

What it’s NOT
To be clear – what we’re talking about here is not simply re-promoting content you’ve already written on social media.

We’re also not talking here about rewriting or updating old blog posts in a new way.

There’s nothing wrong with re-promoting or rewriting – but repurposing content is about creating new content in a new medium based upon what you’ve already done.

What are the Benefits of Repurposing Content?

There are a number of benefits of repurposing content that you’ve already written.

Reach More People with More Relevant Mediums

For starters it can help you to reach more people with your ideas using media streams that are more relevant and digestible for them.

Reading a blog post will appeal to a certain percentage of people, but not everyone likes to read – so communicating your ideas using other media makes them more accessible to people with different learning styles, personalities, and backgrounds.

Rank Higher in Search Results

There can be numerous SEO benefits of repurposing content. For starters, creating a video, slidedeck, or podcast that links back to your original blog post means more incoming links to that post.

However that is just the beginning – create content in your repurposing that has a shareable component to it and you could just see your content appearing on other people’s blogs and websites – complete with link backs to your site. For example creating an embeddable infographic that links back to your article exponentially grows the incoming links to your site. It also is great for growing your brand and profile.

Deepen Impact Upon Readers

If you are trying to have a deep and lasting impact upon your readers with your ideas, then it is likely that you’ll need to communicate your core ideas more than once.

It isn’t that your readers are stupid or that your communication isn’t good – it’s just that people are being bombarded with messaging, and they live lives full of distraction. Sometimes it just takes a few goes to get your message through.

Repurposing content allows you to communicate your core ideas numerous times in different ways. It allows you to explore a topic from different angles. If done well it can significantly improve the impact of your ideas upon readers.

Here’s what Seth Godin says:

“Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.”

Take a Little Pressure Off Yourself

One of the main ‘benefits’ of repurposing content that I see people preaching about is that it is an ‘easy’ way to come up with new content for your blog.

My reaction to this is that ‘easy’ is not always a description I’d give to repurposing content. It takes work, in fact sometimes it takes more work than the original creation of the content. So it isn’t always easy – but it does take a little pressure off you as a blogger.

Many of us as bloggers feel a lot of pressure to have to come up with something completely new, original and mind blowing every single day on our blogs.

It is unrealistic to expect anyone to come up with a completely new and world changing idea every single day. Most of us struggle to come up with a BIG idea in a lifetime let alone every day!

Repurposing content can give you as a blogger a little extra breathing room. It enables us to have a little extra time to better explore, deepen and communicate our ideas before needing to come up with the next one.

What are the Risks of Repurposing Content?

Repurposing content is something that has many benefits if done well – however I want to emphasise that it can also be done badly and has some associated risks.

Every blogger that repurposes content has their own approach to doing so but from my perspective some of these risks include:

  • Formulaic repurposing
  • Going for quantity over quality
  • Creating fluff

Let me illustrate with an example.

Last year I heard a speaker at a conference talk about how they had developed a system for repurposing every single blog post they wrote.

Every week they would write three blog posts that would be sent to a virtual assistant for repurposing.

That assistant would then create a slideshow, a video of the slideshow, five graphics with quotes from the post that would be shared on social media, and three rewrites of the original blog post to be pitched as guest posts. The speaker would also record himself reading his blog posts to post as audio files which were presented as a podcast.

So for each of his three blog posts, he would be creating 11 other pieces of content – 33 per week!

The blogger and his assistant are to be admired for their endeavour – but the result was overwhelming and probably hurt his brand.

In order to create so much content, templates were used for slideshows, videos, and graphics which resulted in a certain ‘sameness’ in a lot of what was produced.

As I listened to this blogger speak, I looked over his blog and social media accounts and was very quickly overwhelmed by content. His three blog posts each week were good – but the systemised repurposing of content and sharing of it was too much to digest, and by repeating it all three times a week it became quite formulaic, predictable, and repetitive.

My Suggestions on Repurposing Content

There’s a lot to be said about how to repurpose content, much of which comes down to your individual style, the type of content you create on your blog, the needs of your audience, your goals as a blogger and the type of content that will appeal to your audience.

I can’t give you a blueprint, but here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Choose Your Content to Repurpose Carefully

I’ve already alluded to this numerous times above, but the selection of which content to repurpose is critical.

I would not suggest repurposing every piece of content you write, but instead to be a little selective. Personally, I choose to repurpose content that fits into one (or more than one) of the following criteria:

1. It is a core idea – if there is something that is central to what you’re on about as a blogger and what you feel your reader needs to hear, than this is prime content to repurpose.

2. Evergreen content – content that doesn’t date will enable you to repurpose it without fear of that repurposed content dating. This will enable you (and others) to refer to it numerous times into the future and gain maximum impact for your investment.

3. Content that has already been shared or received well – if you’ve published a post that has been well-received it might be the kind of content that will do well again if you repurpose it. Look in your analytics for your most popular posts and you’ll probably find something you could repurpose.

2. Think Carefully About the Medium

Not every post will lend itself to every medium for repurposing content. Similarly, not every medium will appeal to every audience.

There are many different mediums available to you for repurposing content – here are just a few that come to mind that you might want to experiment with:

  • Slide Deck – use a tool like Slideshare or AuthorStream to communicate your main points, share quotes, highlight statistics etc.
  • Infographics – present key stats, stories, histories etc in a visual form using a tool like PictoChart or Visuall.y
  • Instructographic – similar to an infographic, but more focused upon presenting a ‘how-to’ or a step-by-step process
  • Podcasts – take the core ideas in your post and record yourself exploring them as an audio file. Alternatively, set up a conversation that explores the topic with one or more other people and record it.
  • Interviews – seek out someone else in your niche to interview about the topic of your blog post. This could be presented as another blog post, podcast, video etc. Interview numerous people and it could be compiled together as an industry report.
  • Screen capture videos – if your blog post talks people through a process that can be captured as a screen capture video, record it and upload it to a video sharing site like YouTube. Use tools like Camtasia, Jing, Screenr or Screenflow to do this.
  • Talking head videos – set up a webcam and talk to camera about some aspect of the blog post you’ve written.
  • PDF download – convert your blog post into a PDF for downloading for those who wish to have a copy for future reference. Services and tools that could help with this include Anthologize, Zinepal and BlogBooker.
  • eBooks/Reports/Whitepapers – expand upon your blog post or compile it together with other content you may have written and present it as an eBook, report, or whitepaper.
  • Graphics for Social Sharing – take key quotes, points, or stats and put them into an eye-catching graphic for sharing on social media using a tool like Canva or PicMonkey. Alternatively, outsource it using a service like Swiftly.
  • Autoresponder – break your content down into digestible parts that readers could subscribe to as a series of emails.
  • Guest Posts – write a blog post that extends upon your post or that explores a related topic that you could submit as guest posts to other blogs. If not accepted, these could be used as followup blog posts on your blog or could be published on Google+, Tumblr, or LinkedIn
  • Articles for Media or Industry Publications – take the key findings or points in your blog post and submit them as an article to mainstream media or industry associations for republishing. If not accepted, these could be used as followup blog posts on your blog or could be published on Google+, Tumblr or LinkedIn.
  • Webinar – create a webinar based upon a post (or a series of posts) using a tool like Gotowebinar
  • Hangout – hold a Google+ hangout for your readers to come and have a discussion about a piece of content you’ve published
  • Twitter/Facebook Chats – hold a social media chat session to expand upon a blog post, interview someone related to the topic and generate reader discussion about your topic.
  • Workshops – compile your main points into a workshop that you could deliver at a real-life event
  • Transcription – if you’ve done a podcast, webinar, video or workshop, get the recording transcribed for those who might like to read it rather than listen/view it.
  • Create a Printable – create a downloadable printable checklist or template that relates to your blog post.

3. Take a Different Approach to your Original Content

A key with repurposing content is to present something that relates to the original content but that doesn’t present exactly the same information. This means if your readers do see the repurposed content in different forms, they don’t get annoyed by hearing the same thing over and over again.

There are a few ways to do this:

Extend
One way is to find related ideas to your original post. Extend what you’ve previously presented. I’ll write more on this later in this series.

Drill Down
Another method is to drill down into just one small aspect of your original content. For example, highlighting a key quote or stat, point or quote that you might have covered in a longer blog post and present it as a graphic.

Similarly if you create a longer webinar, podcast, or video – why not take a key 30-second grab from that content that you can share as a ‘taster’. The snippet might be a self-contained idea that by itself is useful to anyone who listens to it, but which also might serve as a way to get them to listen to the full presentation.

Compile
Another method (and one of my favourites) is to make your repurposing a summary of numerous previous pieces of content. For example many of the teaching webinars that I’ve done compile information in numerous blog posts that I’ve written. So take key articles from a category on your blog and compile them into a single eBook, whitepaper, webinar, or presentation.

Final Thoughts

Before we wrap up this post today – here area few final thoughts on repurposing content to keep in mind:

Spread it out

There is no need to bombard your readership with loads of repurposed content on the same topic quickly. Spread it out over time. You might publish a blog post today and then share a slide deck based upon it next week, and followup with a video or info graphic next month. It all helps build momentum naturally over time without annoying your readers.

Repurpose as You Write

As you write your original blog posts pay attention to the ideas you get as you write on how you might repurpose them. Quite often when I’m in the middle of writing a blog post I’m also making notes on how I could get graphics or slides made for followups or to insert into the post that could also be used for social sharing. The more you repurpose content the more you’ll find yourself naturally doing this.

Pay attention to your archives

Repurposing content can happen relatively quickly after you publish a new piece of content but also don’t forget about your archives. Some of your older blog posts might actually be the best ones to repurpose so dig back into your archives for the gold hidden there!

Make it Visual

The web is increasingly a visual place and on social media – where the bulk of your repurposed content will probably end up – the visuals are what can make or break what you do. So pay particular attention to the design of what you’re creating and consider investing in some outsourced help if design and visuals are not your thing.

Cross-link

I’ve already mentioned this in passing above but when you repurpose your content you will want to leverage that new content to link back to your original posts that relate to it. This is key for SEO and for sending readers deeper into your site.

What Would You Add?

Repurposing content is a massive topic and there are no right or wrong ways to do it – so I’d love to hear YOUR perspective on the topic.

I’m particularly interested in seeing your examples of where you’ve repurposed blog posts into other formats and would love to see any links in comments below with examples of when you’ve done this for yourself!

Theme Week: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

Theme Week: How to Socialize Your Posts for Maximum Effect

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Image via Flickr User Kris Olin.

Today as part of our exploration of things to do after you’ve hit publish on blog posts, I want us to take a look at the topic of ‘socializing’ our content.

Most bloggers have at least some kind of strategy in place when it comes to sharing our blog posts on social media, but it is an area that most of us also know we could improve upon.

I for one know that even after 12 months of a real concerted effort with developing a social media strategy for Digital Photography School, that there are areas I could drastically improve upon!

So today I challenge you (and me) to spend a little time doing a critical review of your approach to sharing content on social media and to choose 1-2 areas that you could improve.

Note: this post will not present a complete social strategy. Social media is useful for many things (including engaging readers, building profile, networking with others in your niche), but today we’re just focusing upon the topic of sharing/promoting the new blog posts we write.

The two main areas that I would suggest you review when it comes to thinking about socialising of your blog’s content are:

  • which social networks?
  • developing a rhythm of sharing

Which Social Networks?

The choice before us as bloggers as to which social networks to engage in can feel a little overwhelming. As a result I see bloggers falling into numerous traps.

Some feel so overwhelmed that they opt out altogether and don’t engage in any social media.

Others feel the need to engage in every social network and end up either burning themselves out or engaging so much on social that their blogging suffers.

Others still engage widely on lots of social media sites but spread themselves so thin that they don’t do it very well.

There’s no blueprint or formula for choosing which social media to engage in but a few questions come to mind to help you make this decision:

1. How much Time do you Have?

If you’re time-poor, choose one network to focus on primarily, but secure accounts for other networks so that if/when you do want to engage on them you’re ready to go.

If you do choose one network to engage on primarily you might also want to consider more automated sharing of your content on the other networks. For example if you choose Facebook as your primary social network, you could set up an RSS to Twitter tool that automatically tweets links to new posts on your Twitter account any time you publish.

While these automated tools don’t help you build relationships with Twitter followers, they at least get your content out there and you will find some followers appreciate them.

Example: Seth Godin’s Twitter Account is perhaps the best example of this. He follows nobody and every tweet he does is simply an update from his blog. While not engaging, every update is retweeted many times and his account is followed by over 376,000 people. Seth’s Facebook page does the same thing.

This is exactly what I did on the dPS Twitter account for more than two years before I started using that Twitter account in a more strategic way. While I knew I could use the account better, by doing the automated Tweets I did drive traffic and actually saw our Twitter numbers increase so that when I stated to use the account more intentionally, we already had a network.

If you have more time on your hands, you can of course choose to engage in more social networks. Just don’t overcommit and end up spreading yourself too thin!

2. What Social Networks are Relevant to Your Readers?

Get 10 successful bloggers from different niches in a room and ask them which social networks are best for driving traffic to their blogs, and you’ll get a different answer from each one as to where their readers hang out in greatest numbers.

My own two blogs are quite different. For ProBlogger I find most of my readers are engaging most on Twitter. Facebook would be second, followed by Google+ and then LinkedIn.

On Digital Photography School, Facebook is king. Twitter and Google+ would be numbers two and three, and Pinterest would also be close.

This of course changes over time as new networks emerge, so keep assessing it and find ways to find out where your readers hang out (I run annual surveys on my blogs to get this data).

3. What Social Networks are Relevant to Your Content

In addition to assessing where your readers hang out, think about the type of content you produce because it may be more suited to one network than others.

For example, on Digital Photography School our content is very visual. While most social networks these days allow you to share visual content, each network is slightly different in how you can present it.

For example, Twitter limits how much you can write (140 characters), Facebook lets you write more and present multiple images in an update, Google+ allows you to write as much as you want and embeds video and images nicely. Pinterest is obviously great for visual content.

4. Where are Your Competitors?

I’m not a big fan of looking at other bloggers as ‘competitors’ (learning to see other bloggers as potential allies is a powerful thing) but doing some analysis of what others are doing is useful in making decisions.

Firstly it can help you work out where your potential readers are if you see all other bloggers in your niche doing well in one particular network) but also you might find a gap where no other bloggers are doing anything which could present an opportunity.

While a lack of presence in a network by other bloggers might be a signal of it being a place where there’s no traction you might find doing some experiments with the network worthwhile too!

Other Factors?

Lots more could be said about choosing which network to engage in. I’d love to hear how you made the decision below.

Here’s a cool little info graphic from Leverage Media with a good breakdown of some of the main different networks and their advantages:

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Develop a Rhythm of Sharing

Once you’ve done some analysis on which networks to build a presence on, the question becomes HOW to share content on those networks.

One of the things that I’d highly recommend you ponder when it comes to this is to think about developing a rhythm to your sharing.

Let me illustrate the power of rhythm with a snippet from an email from one of my readers at dPS that I received a few weeks back. The email came in on a day I’d been sick and had missed scheduling a couple of status updates to Facebook.

“Dear dPS team. I just wanted to check if everything was ok with you? I noticed that your 6am and 11am Facebook updates didn’t go out today. I miss them! – Susan”

That email made me so happy and illustrated to me the power of developing a rhythm to social media updates. Not only had Susan noticed I’d not made a couple of updates, she’d actually noticed that I published updates at the same time every day – something I thought only I’d noticed!

Over the last year I’ve slowly developed a rhythm of posting to the dPS Facebook page (I wrote a little about it here). I usually post five times a day to our page and have assigned times to when I want each post to go live. The reason I came up with the times was to help me space out my posts during the times that most of my readers are online – but also to help me be more disciplined with posting.

I’d never have guessed that my readers would begin to notice when we updated – and that some would even be looking out for those updates at those times!

While I’m sure most of our readers don’t notice the exact timing of our updates they do notice if we go missing for a day or if we post too much in a 24-hour period. Regularity and rhythm are a powerful thing.

So what rhythm will you develop to your social media sharing of your content?

For me it is quite different from social media network to network. While Facebook is five times a day, I try to hit a higher rate of sharing on the dPS Twitter account (I’m aiming for 10-15 posts a day there). On our Pinterest account, Jade (our Pinterest magician) aims for around 12-15 pins per day – scattered through the day.

Of course not all of our Pins, tweets and updates are sharing of our new content – we ask questions, share other people’s posts as well as resharing some of the content in our archives – but developing a rhythm is important.

Of course the other thing to consider within this rhythm is how often you’ll share the same piece of content?

Different bloggers have quite different approaches to this.

I recently shared this Kissmetrics graphic that suggests a starting point for social sharing of the same piece of content.

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My own approach is less aggressive than this as I rarely reshare anything on social more than once within even a week or so – unless it is a post that is going very well for some reason. Having said this, at dPS we publish 14 posts per week, so there’s always something fresh to share and with over 4500 posts in the archives there is no shortage of good evergreen content to share on any given day alongside our new stuff.

There is no right or wrong answer to how often you can share content on social media but do keep in mind these two factors:

  1. each social network is different – for example on Twitter you can probably get away with sharing the same content more times as tweets don’t have as long a life as on other networks.
  2. pay attention to the reaction of your audience to your updates – there does come a point where those who follow you will begin to disengage with you if you share the same stuff over and over. Sometimes they’ll tell you if you’re sharing too much but most times I suspect they simply stop following you or at least become a little blind to your updates. Tread carefully!

If you do decide to share the same piece of content multiple times try to mix up the messaging of your sharing.

Again from the same Kissmetrics post mentioned above comes this great graphic to illustrate 5 different ways of sharing the same content on Twitter:

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I’d add to that list that sometimes sharing a visual from a post can be a good way to share a post too. Here’s one I did recently which incorporates a question and visual:

Dan Zarella has found that tweets with images are 60% more likely to be retweeted (we definitely see this on dPS, in fact last time I looked it was 100-200% more likely). The same is true on other social networks – images are powerful!

Of course the other thing to do when you’re resharing the same piece of content is to mix up the timings of your updates. If you first tweet a piece of content at 9am – at least wait a few hours to reshare it so that others in different parts of the world are likely to be online. The same thing applies to other networks (although I’d wait longer than a few hours to reshare on networks like Facebook or Google+).

Also consider avoiding sharing during those times of the day that are particularly ‘noisy’. Sometimes sharing during times that you’d think your audience isn’t online is actually best. Dan Zarrella calls this ‘contra-competitive timing’ and has some great data on the topic here.

There are so many factors to consider when writing posts, but hitting “publish” shouldn’t signal the time to stop thinking about them. Where can they go, and how can you promote them for maximum results? I hope these tips and the ones we will introduce across the week will help you shape the best social strategy for your situation.

Theme Week: 5 Things to Do With Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit Publish

FINDING READERS

This week on ProBlogger we’re starting a new theme week that examines five different things to do when you’ve finished writing a blog post (other than hitting publish).

If you’re anything like me – you put a lot of time into the writing of blog posts. You ponder the topic, pour your heart and soul into writing, obsess over choosing the right headline, put a lot of effort into polishing the post up to look its best, and read and reread it many times over to make sure everything is just right.

But what happens next?

For many of us the next logical step is to hit publish… and to start work on the next blog post.

While turning your mind to your next post comes naturally, this week we’d like to suggest five things bloggers can do after hitting publish to make sure that the posts we put time and effort into creating have the maximum impact.

Without these ‘next steps’, your posts could go largely unread – or at the very least not live up to their full potential in helping you to reach your blogging goals.

Each day this week we’ll present a ‘next step’ so keep tuning in! We’ll also update this page with links to each step – so make sure you bookmark this page and keep checking back.

Day 1: Socialise Your post for Maximum Effect
Day 2: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
Day 3: How to Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It
Day 4: How to Keep Readers on Your Blog
Day 5: How to Extend Your Ideas with Future Blog Posts
Day 6: Which Tip Will You Put into Practice?