Close
Close

Blog Tips from ProBlogger Guest Contributors

Hypnotic Writing | 5 Effective Strategies To Put Your Reader In A Trance.

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

5323104963_50c0b02711

You are getting sleepy…very sleepy…

That’s typically what comes to mind when you think of hypnosis—a stage show with some unfortunate soul doing the chicken-dance. However, those who practice hypnosis are quick to give a proper explanation.

Here’s the textbook definition: The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person becomes highly responsive to suggestion or direction.

We enter into hypnotic states on a daily basis; completely absorbed in an activity and losing track of time. It happens when you drive, when you watch movies, and—when you read.

Hypnosis feeds off the psychosomatic power of words. An intriguing study in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink highlights the mind-body relationship inherent in words. Subjects were lead into a room, asked to describe how they felt. Then, they were told to read a list of words: “worried,” “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “grey,” “sentimental,” “bingo,” “withdraw,” “forgetful,” “retired,” “wrinkle.”

Afterward, subjects not only described feeling slow and sluggish, but physically walked out of the room slower than when they entered. In psychology, it’s referred to as Priming, in hypnosis it’s synonymous with “embedding a command.”

This fascinating link between words and physiology is often exploited by the advertising and marketing industries. Words are carefully crafted to evoke powerful emotions and a state of higher suggestibility.

Exploitation occurs because something is so effective. That effectiveness can certainly be applied to the article you’re about to write.

As you write, here are five hypnotic strategies to put into place:

1. Poetic Meter

Ever wondered why Shakespeare’s work is so mesmerising? He uses iambic pentameter heavily throughout his plays and sonnets. Pentameters indicate the rhythm of spoken words; iambic being the most common in English poetry. The rhythm of poetry captures us, and can be applied to writing.

Think of the da-DUM rhythm of the heartbeat and the tic-TOCK of a clock. The unstressed syllable followed by the stressed syllable is the iambic pentameter. It’s not only our feet, but also our minds that cannot help tapping to the beat. Here’s the first line of Shakespeare’s 12th Sonnet:

When I / do COUNT / the CLOCK / that TELLS / the TIME

Let’s be clear, this isn’t a challenge to try and turn all your articles in poetic pieces, but if you are able to bring more of a rhythmic and poetic flow to your writing, you’ll certainly be more engaging.

2. Active Voice VS. Passive Voice

Research and academic writing is general done with the passive voice—hence they’re so tedious to read. The focus is always placed on object—the evidence, findings, and results, rather than the subject—the person doing the research.  Hypnotic writing is all about the subject; always use the present active voice when structuring your subject and verbs.  The “now” engages people much more than the past or future.

Notice the difference between:

The brakes were slammed on by Stacey at the red lights.

and,

Stacey slammed on the brakes at the red lights.

3. Personal Stories

Everybody loves movies. Great stories are universal across all cultures because they allow for human empathy. When you share a personal story or experience in your articles, people respond with, “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened to me!” Or they can at least imagine what that’d be like.

A story brings you into a different setting. You’re suddenly detached from sitting on a chair and looking at your laptop to immersed in the scenario presented. Studies show that when we engage our imagination, the lines between what’s mentally constructed and what is real gets very blurry. A person who imagines practicing piano experiences similar neurological effect as one who physically does.

Use stories in your writing to activate your reader’s imagination and immerse them into hypnotic experience. Simply starting off a sentence with “Imagine…” will get the ball rolling.

4. “You.” Yes, You.

“You” makes readers feel as though your article is directly speaking to them. Although you’re writing articles in hope of having it read by millions, you certainly don’t want to sound that broard and generalised. That create a canyon of disconnect. You want to sound as though you’re having a personal one-on-one conversation with your reader.

There’s a psychological principle called the Fundamental Attribution Error—you’ll be furious and disgusted when you see someone texting and driving, but oh-so forgiving as you drive and text away. Our critical factors are on high alert when we analyse others, but take a break when we analyse ourselves.

If you write as though addressing a broad audience, you’ll have to fight through the critical factor, the more you are able to be personal, the more engaged your uncritical reader will be.

5. Explanations.

“Why is that so?”

“Because” is your key word here. Humans have curiosity hardwired into us, we’re always searching for answers and justification. Addressing problems and creating curiosity in your writing is crucial, but even more so is providing a resolution and explanation.

The classic “Xerox copy” study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer demonstrated the power of simply giving an explanation. The set-up was a student attempting to cut in line for the copier:

In the first scenario, she asked “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% allowed her to cut-in line.

The second scenario was more specific and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” The numbers shot up to 94%.

The third scenario is the most surprising: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” The numbers stayed about the same at 93% even with a redundant and ridiculous explanation.

A well written and hypnotic lead-in will create enough momentum for the reader to come to a climactic “Why?” But as the study shows, we’re profoundly responsive to explanations, and not presenting an explanation is like switching off a movie before the big ending.

The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Previously a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian LifeFacebook or Twitter.

The 5 Step Voyage of Creating Awesome Content

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer.

Do you struggle for content inspiration? Do you feel like every article you write is exactly like another you’ve already written or read?

You’re falling victim to content stagnation, and it’s something we all deal with.

Perhaps you need a refresher, a reminder, or just someone to give you a few new ideas - a nudge along the way.

This article will give a full look at how to encourage and capture readership, optimize for action and engagement, and get the most out of your content – the full gamut of content marketing best practice.

I’ll refocus you on the five steps that you need to take to create interesting content that get shares, comments, engagement and loyal readers as well as content that generates leads.

Let’s make sure you’re doing this content creation thing right.

 

Step #1 to Creating Awesome Content: Grab their Attention

I wish I could tell you that the title of your content doesn’t matter anymore, that your content’s readers, visitors, viewers and listeners have grown more discerning in the past couple years and now it’s all about the quality of your content: the expertise, experience and analysis you throw painstakingly into each and every article, podcast, video and presentation.

Unfortunately, I can’t do that for you.

Your content’s title is hugely important to its success – not just because of search optimization but for clickability, shareability and engage-ability.

Without a title that snaps, grabs the eye, intrigues, frustrates, scares or humors, your content will fall flat on its face, no matter that it’s the second coming of Gangnam Style.

Content Title Formulas that Work:

  • New! Never-before-seen Insights into [your Job/Sector/Relevant Subject]
  • Exclusive Strategies from [Sector Expert/Authority/Boss]
  • 23 Things you Need to Know in Order to [Succeed in Some Way]
  • 10 Tricks to [Achieve a Goal]
  • How [Your Field/Relevant Subject] is Like…
  • How I [Did Something Unbelievable/Surprising/Awesome/Terrible]
  • 16 [Amazing/Awesome/Sexy] Things you Need to Hear About
  • Are you Making this Huge Error that’s [Leading to a Bad Result]?
  • How do you do [Activity]?
  • 52 Ways to [Improve in Your Job/Your Sector/Relevant Subject]

Step #2 to Creating Awesome Content: Optimize for More than SEO

It’s taken me a bit too long to accept this fact, but fact it is nonetheless: SEO is antiquated and incomplete, a universal term of use we should steer away from.

Let me back that up, because I hear some of our SEO readers sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches.

Optimizing your content for search is still hugely important, but we should stop using it as an umbrella phrase when what we actually mean is optimizing for readership, engagement and conversion.

Optimizing your Content for Readership:

This is the general SEO stuff: the strategies we implement to get our content to the top of the front page of Google.

  • Use H1s (title) and H2s (sub-headers) and where applicable. Ensure these include keywords.
  • Put alt text on your content’s images and videos relevant to the content’s subject.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing (keep it to about 1 in 25, depending on sector).
  • Place meta tags within your content.
  • Consider long-tail search keywords and niche topics (rather than competing with the corporations).
  • Link intelligently by including keywords in your links. Never use “Click <here> for more information”. Instead use, “Learn more about SEO in my article <How to Easily Optimize your Blog for Search>” (see how I did that?).

Optimizing your Content for Engagement:

Content engagement, also known as social shares and comments, is not only important because of the Hummingbird Algorithm (Google’s update to SEO a year ago that placed more importance on social endorsements) but because the more your content is shared, the more readers you have. Duh!

  • Have a title optimized for SEO and another title optimized for social platforms (shorter, more Buzzfeed-like). Include one in your URL and a different one in your social toolbars.
  • Ensure your content’s header is social-friendly so it shows up whole on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Include “Tweetable” statistics or takeaways (with a link) throughout your content to encourage a specific social share.
  • Ask for questions, comments or examples from your readers at the end of articles.
  • Be an active commenter on other people’s sites (as well as your own).

Optimizing your Content for Conversion:

We’re blogging for business here, not musing about the trials and tribulations of maternity (unless you are… In which case you still need to be optimizing your content for conversion!)

Think about it, is there any real point in your article being at the top of Google’s search results or having a million readers a week if nobody’s acting on your CTA buttons, downloading your ebooks, registering for a free trial or subscribing to your email list?

No. No there’s not.

Here are a few ways you can optimize your content for a real-world conversion (something that helps your business in a concrete, measurable way):

  • Include links to your email-gated content on the sidebar and bottom of your blog articles, podcasts, webinars and Slideshares.
  • Implement click pop-ups and email subscription toolbars so readers or viewers don’t have to be sent to a separate landing page and tab to convert.
  • Don’t link to competitors.
  • Link to related articles and resources on your site (increasing the value of engagement) and external content where you’re business is mentioned (increasing the level of trust and authority).
  • Test CTA button copy to determine what “Ask” resonates most with your readers.
  • Implement exit pop-ups promoting email-gated content relevant to your content’s subject matter. For instance, implement an exit pop-up with “want to learn everything there is to know about landing pages?” and show it to unique visitors (once!) as they go to leave the page.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.40.43 am

Step #3 to Creating Awesome Content: Format Your Article Intelligently

The longer you can keep a reader looking at your page, the less likely they are to leave it, the more likely they are to share it, and the more likely they are to convert on one of your “Asks” spread across your optimized blog.

Your title, hook and introduction get them to stay for the first 10 seconds (the most crucial section of your article as, if they stay for more than 10 seconds, the chance of them leaving drops like a rock):

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.41.26 am

Beyond those first ten seconds, your articles (or podcasts or webinars) needs to be structured to encourage readers to stick with it and stay engaged.

Here are a few best practices that will help you do that:

  • Segment your articles with bold, clearly visible subheaders that grab the eye of your reader.
  • Include an image once every segment (if possible) to keep the reader visually stimulated.
  • Use bullet-points or numbered lists in your sections to communicate your message or advice clearly and quickly. This also increases the chance that someone skim reading will pause for a moment.
  • In both podcasts and webinars, give a short breakdown of the points you’re going to cover at the beginning
  • Where possible, include exclusive tips and tricks (in all types of content) that you tease your audience with at the beginning and only include at the end. In webinars and podcasts, test hiding your big secret without telling people when exactly it’s going to be.

 

Step #4 to Creating Awesome Content: Incorporate Awesome Images

Articles with images are shared twice as much as those without.

But I’d like to emphasize that it’s not just any image that encourages a share or keeps a reader scrolling. You have to be using awesome images.

Put time into original image content (even if you’re just drawing over and citing someone else’s pie chart). Put time into getting to know PhotoShop, GIMP, even Google Drawings or Presentations.

For instance, I made this with the Google Presentation tool in about 6 minutes:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.43.35 am

I know. It’s awesome.

Images not only encourage social sharing, communicate data and statistics quickly and grab the eye of the reader, they also humanize your business and make your articles more visually appealing and scrollable.

When used badly, however, they can cause your readers to go elsewhere, your articles to flop socially, and your authority to decrease significantly.

Stock images, for instance, are increasingly recognizable for what they are. As a result, they’re increasingly becoming one of the chief causes of a page bounce:

I mean, c’mon:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.44.26 am
Put that little bit more time into your content. Find the Google Images “Labeled for Reuse” or subscribe to one of the million photo sites and use the least “stocky” images you can find.

And don’t force an image. They should always serve a purpose (as “teamwork” rarely, if ever, would above). Instead, communicate the stuff that adds to the value of your article (statistics, case studies, industry report findings, etc) in a visually appealing way.

 

Step #5 to Creating Awesome Content: Be Unique

Content audiences (the people that listen, read and watch your content) are fickle creatures. They’re skim-readers, hyped up on coffee with not enough time on their hands and an urgent desire to, essentially, channel-surf content.

Channel surfing is actually a pretty solid analogy now that I think about it.

Your content audience is like a TV watcher before we had Netflix: sitting slouched on their couch hitting the “up” button on their remote control, searching for something they haven’t seen before. More often than not they’re disappointed (as your “10 Marketing Best Practices You Haven’t Seen Before” article is a blatant lie).

But sometimes they land on your article, give it the standard three seconds, and decide they’ll put the remote control down on the couch, cross their arms, and watch.

But how do you ensure your content engages your reader more than the other 100,000 shows on TV right now?

Tell a Story:

People like content relevant to them. Even more than that they like content relevant to them written by an author recognizable to them with a story they can relate to. The more like your reader you can be, the better your content will be.

That’s not to say you don’t have to tie your story into genuine, professional analysis of changes or best practices in your sector – but make it interesting and make it recognizable.

Be Honest:

Transparency in marketing is becoming best practice (just look at Buffer if you want to know what I’m talking about). It’s about being an open, honest, modern company – a company that plays foil to the murky, underground goings-on of multinational corporate giants or the federal government.

Consider articles entitled something like:

  • “5 Lead Generations That are Working for Us Right Now”
  • “The 10 A/B Testing Mistakes I Tried that Failed Miserably, and Why”
  • “10 TImes I was the Mayor of Fashion Faux Pas City”
  • “5 Divorce Mistakes I Wish I’d Known About”
  • “A Step-By-Step Guide to Our Sales Funnel”

Be Yourself:

What is it about you as a content creator that sets you above your competitors. Is it your ability to pump out content, your silky-smooth podcast voice, or your never-ending anecdotes that entertain and educate?

Increasingly your content audience is looking for something to differentiate you (and your content) from that of your competitors. It’s like when applying for university or a job: readers are receiving thousands of applications every day and they’re struggling to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s what I recommend: make your application bright pink, printed on poster paper, covered in golden glitter, or make it a pop-up book. Do something that sets you apart.

A few recommendations to set your content apart:

  • Become a visuals guru, incorporating awesome graphics into every one of your articles, videos, webinars and ebooks. It might take you longer, but it’s worth testing the ROI.
  • Create a content persona, mascot or alter ego – something to make your content entertaining.
  • Find the niche in your niche, and own it. Be the go-to expert on a specific part of your sector.

Or, honestly, just get creative every once in a while (I’m not talking about every single article) but test adding personality to your content periodically to see what kind of return you get.

Conclusion

Hopefully that’s given you a refresher course (or even an educational one) on how to optimize your content for readership, engagement and loyalty.

Content marketing is officially (there’s no arguing anymore) the best way to increase your business’ online profile, generate leads and ensure brand authority. It can be a challenge though, don’t get me wrong.

My main recommendation for creating content that snaps, crackles and pops is to put time into how you start your article. Focus on finding the right topic, the right title, the right structure and the right way to make it different. Then start writing.

 

Top 10 Web-Based Personal Project Management Tools

TOP 10 (1)This is a guest contribution.

Every time we encounter the phrase “project management”, the very first thought you might have is that only businesses undertake projects for managing their needs. In reality, time-bound activities can be dealt as a project, irrespective of size. A wedding, opening a small store in a city, renovating an old home or a dumped caravan are all projects. They all require planning, have limited time, have cost and have a deliverable or objective. So, if we consider some of our daily personal activities or blog work as projects, we can apply principles of project management to enable us to measure success in our life, derive personal satisfaction, have better blogs, be better planners, and happier human beings.

Top 10 useful tools for enhanced management and tracking of personal projects:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.26.02 am

Basecamp

Tasks needing to be performed in a personal project can be properly listed through to-dos in Basecamp. These tasks can be assigned to different people participating in a project and can be checked off on their completion. It is so easy to view which activities happened in a project in a given time span. Relevant files and documents can be attached to threads. Important emails like bills can be forwarded to Basecamp, making it easy to search them from the heap of emails. Text documents help to track things which keep changing frequently with time like menus, gift cards, etc. Basecamp lacks time tracking, so it cannot be precisely known how much time was spent in executing various tasks in a project, which can be cruscial knowledge. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.27.32 am

ProofHub

Personal projects can be smoothly managed with this online collaboration and project management tool. Important events like birthdays and anniversaries can be effectively planned and conducted as scheduled. People subscribed to events receive reminders in advance. Recurring events like get-togethers can be arranged on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. As tasks can be assigned to multiple people, so it becomes far easier to assign and distribute work among a group of family members or friends. This way everyone is clear about his respective tasks in a celebratory event. Labels like “in-progress”, “completed” and “high priority” can be assigned to the tasks, which helps to plan and track them in an easy manner. Deadlines can be set for tasks, so these can be performed in a time bound manner. Collaborators in a project can conveniently discuss matters concerning them. They can better share their views and ideas, and images. Any number o f people can be added as contacts into a project.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.30.16 am

Asana

Asana allows creation of separate workspaces for personal and professional projects, making it great for organizing all types of projects. Have calls to make? A shopping list? Throw it all in a workspace or project. Each project has its own sharing controls, so you can have a party shopping list with your roommates while organizing a wedding party with your family. You can even make your projects public. The Asana mobile applications make it even more easier to access your shopping list on the go and your friends busy in other arrangements, can easily track activities within seconds.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.32.18 am

Trello

​Trello is great for personal use. It consist of boards comprising one or more named lists to keep track of all the tasks. Trello’s power lies in assigning multiple people to a board. Comments can be added to the cards, allowing discussions on various topics. This tool does not provide the chat feature that could have facilitated communication and collaboration among people, though.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.34.22 am

Teamwork​

​Assigning tasks to collaborators involved in a personal project can be properly done with this tool. The priority for a specific task can be set and it can be known how much percentage of a task has been completed. Task reminders can be set. Recurring tasks can be created and tasks can be rendered private if required. Time spent over tasks can be recorded. Tasks can also be rescheduled. Collaborators participating in projects are able to communicate smoothly through messages. They can attach files. Improved task management and smoother communication enables successful accomplishment of personal projects.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.36.25 am

Podio

​People are able to collaborate on Podio over personal projects through workspaces which can be rendered open or private. Tasks can be better defined and assigned to concerned people. Reminders can be set to know if tasks have been completed within the defined time. Recurring, shared and personal tasks can be created. Files can be shared from any remote location. Distantly located collaborators have more clarity over tasks assigned to them. So they are able to execute their tasks within the limited time frame. This tool is quite useful for organized management over projects.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.38.50 am

Wrike

​The highlight of this project management tool is that tasks can be easily created from emails and can be discussed upon with ease. Priorities can be set for tasks and these can be executed in a scheduled manner. Progress achieved in a project can be precisely monitored in real time. So projects can be better organized and managed. Collaborators in personal projects are able to execute their assigned tasks in an orderly and scheduled manner. They can know the exact percentage of progress achieved in projects. This tool’s limitation is that it incurs a lot of time and effort in learning how to use it properly.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.41.07 am

AtTask

​Tasks can be better managed, organized and viewed at the same place through this task management software. Tasks and their due dates can be easily edited. Resources can be properly allocated to people in personal projects, so they do not get overloaded or underloaded with work. They are able to communicate smoothly. They can access documents from the same location and share them. Through feedback, they can be lauded for good work done by them. Reports help to keep everyone updated in projects without putting strain on the inbox. Time spent in projects and tasks can be accurately logged which enables accurate billing. The disadvantage of AtTask is that though users can comment on specific tasks, but there is no earmarked area solely for discussions.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.42.27 am

Comindware

​This work management software improves collaboration among people working together in projects. Messages, attachments and actions in a project can be arranged in a structured manner in group discussions. This improves organization over projects. It also has the mobile feature, so users can participate in discussions while on the go. So personal projects can be better organized, managed and executed. Users can readily share documents with each other.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 9.43.53 am

Smartsheet

​With this tool, personal projects can be effectively managed through simple task lists. People participating in such projects are able to attach files and set alerts. Due dates for tasks can be set. Tasks can be viewed and edited in calendar. Status details or brief notes can be added to tasks for more clarity over them. People participating in a personal project are able to collaborate in real time. Status of tasks can be viewed and updated even on the go through mobile app. The disadvantage of this tool is that it offers no solutions for time management.

In summary, on encountering the word project management, we naturally think that only businesses need to manage projects. In reality, big or small activities can be dealt as projects as they all require planning, got limited time, have cost, deliverable or objective associated with them. By considering our daily activities as projects, principles of project management can be applied on them. So we can be better planners and happier human beings. Project management tools like Basecamp, ProofHub Asana, Trello, Teamwork, Podio, Wrike, AtTask, Comindware and Smartsheet can be employed for improved management and precise tracking of personal projects.

What type do you use and recommend? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comment section.

Kanika is a freelance content writer who likes to delve deep into writing about technology tools. In her spare time she enjoys sketching, cooking, travelling and spending time with her family and folks.

Are You Ignoring this Important SEO Strategy?

This is a guest contribution from Al Gomez.

So, you have a new business – a new product to market. So now what’s next? Perhaps you are thinking about getting traffic, or how to have more visitors to your website? If so, then expect that your mind will be abuzz with terms such as social media, SEO, AdWords, videos, banner ads, articles, etc.

Or, it will be empty and blank.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.09.20 pm

Focus.

Search Engines are what you need, despite all the buzz about social media. Google, Yahoo, and Bing remain a main source of traffic for many people. SEO can help you get there, simple as that. However, SEO is often confused with different technical tactics. If you are a search engine marketer,the tactic sounds technical, spammy, and secretive – it’s not worth your time. One great SEO strategy that works best in search engine marketing is making your website a valuable resource. But, before going into it deeper, let me discuss first the importance of having a good SEO strategy.

SEO Strategy and Its Importance 

SEO is the first concern when talking about traffic- despite the presence of social media. But what can you do and how are you supposed to do it to have the traffic you’ve been wanting for a long time?

It has been a common trap to get caught up in various tactics. These tactics, for the most part, may hurt your reputation, and worse – won’t work. If you focus on pleasing the people as your prime concern, you’ll end up ignoring SEO strategy and still be fine. But, this is not what search engine marketing is all about! Getting to grips with SEO the right way is a major help. There is no need to complicate things, just don’t ignore them. Among the many strategies that Search Engine Marketers employ to take the business higher, one of the most ignored is to make the website a valuable resource – making the website a one-stop spot for everyone and let users leave satisfied they found everything they wanted.

The Strategy: Make the Website A Valuable Resource 

The best SEO geeks at present focus on how they can please the people first, then, the search engine. The key point is that, you can actually do well in SEO by creating content that people would want to save, bookmark, share, comment on, and make as a reference. When you can make this happen, this would indicate that they see your content to be useful and they want it to be a reference for future use. This is what the search engine is looking for and in return, it will reward your content with higher rankings.

Custom Google Analytics 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.22.04 pm

To intensify this strategy, you can make use of custom Google Analytics to give you an idea of your useful content and make a difference by serving as a reference material that will be of great help in solving your readers’ concerns and needs. Being reference material is good for ranking, given that it is likely to be shared, clipped, and linked to – a long-term value for your website.

Additionally, being a valuable resource will serve as a foundation for your content marketing strategy. Being a “valuable resource” may not sound as sexy as “engaging content” or “going viral”, but sure thing, it is a much better way to spend your time on, more so when you are just starting out.

Investing a significant amount of time on using SEO the right way is a must. There might be so many strategies around, but not all of them will be applicable to what you can offer to the people. It’s time to be picky – make sure that you’ll stay immortal on the web and people will always be craving what you have in store for them.

Al Gomez is an SEO Expert – working as an SEO consultant and strategist for the last seven years. He focuses on improving website visibility across different industries, including e-commerce websites, health and technology, legal and law, consulting firms, real state, SEO in Los Angeles, and many more. He has also acquired extensive experience in the field of Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Google Adwords (PPC), Email Marketing, Web Development, and other SEO strategies. Know more about Al Gomez by visiting his blog.

Blogging for Business – Why it Works

This is a guest contribution from Maria Mincey.

Based on study by HubSpot, the companies that run a business blog have 97% more inbound links. Now, that’s a statistic that should set rolling the blogging mills of enterprises – be them startups or multinationals. 

Official blogs have had proven benefits for businesses. The very fact that they jazz up the monotonous tone with which a brand is communicating to its audience, and replace it with a line of communication that is much core connective and personal, is what makes business blogs a priceless asset. 

There are several ways blogs benefit businesses, two of which are more than obvious:

It Maximizes Reach

A blog helps companies reach a much broader customer base than their website would. Let’s be honest, how many people bother going to the website of a particular brand or a product they have been using? The websites of companies have to be restricted to providing business-centric information and advertise the offerings of the company. Every bit of information provided on the blog is static, and that is the singularly most relevant reason for your visitors to be totally disinterested in the website, even if they liked to navigate through it on their first visit. Having a blog makes your site dynamic as you keep giving newer insights to the readers and tell a story about your brand.

It Boosts Incoming Traffic by Not just By Intriguing Readers, But also by Enhancing the SEO Aspects

Naturally, when the blog section of your site is offering your readers something new to read, you are bound to get more number of repeat-visits; not to mention the greater number of unique visits as the blog gets shared and liked across the web. But another contributor to this increasing traffic is the optimization of the SEO capability of the website. When you are making quality writers write content for the blog, they know how to write interesting articles while injecting the relevant keywords that is identifiable for your target audience and also let the search engines crawl your website with a greater degree of eagerness and direct a higher volume to the site. You can add only so much of keywords to your product website. 

Which Blogging Platform to Use?

There isn’t a dearth of highly popular and effort-worthy blogging platforms out there. However, if you wish the blog to click into the top gear right away, there is no need to look beyond WordPress. Acc. to more stats:

WordPress is the most sought-after CMS as more than 19% of the self-hosted websites are running on it. 

More than 17% of Alexa’s top million websites use WordPress.

Now Before You Start, Why do you want to Blog in the First Place?

There are also brands who fail to get the desired results they’d expected their blog to pour in for them. Reason: their blogging strategy was too haphazard and there was hardly a plan into the place regarding who are they targeting and how many numbers they hope to achieve. Apparently, the blogs were headed for doom from the very first day due to the lack of insightful approach.

Here are the questions you, as a company blogger or entrepreneur, need to as yourself:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What percentage of that blog audience is prospective buyers?
  • What do they really want to read (what should be the mix of company related info, the industry related info and the interesting bits that only remotely connect to your brand)?
  • What should be the frequency of your posts?
  • How good is your networking?

Unless you have a clear-eyed answer to each of these questions, it is advisable to wait

Know What You Have to Write

It is understandable if you find yourself scrambling for topics to write on or deciding on how to structure your posts. But there are several things to be tried out:

  • Create the “best of ….” style posts. Such posts do command attention and get a lot of clicks. If written in a qualitative manner, they also get shared over the social media.
  • Post reviews, but not just of your products. Let’s say you are running a blog for a job portal. You can post a review of some movie that has released recently that is themed around careers and accounts for some relevance to what you represent.
  • Interview the influencers in your industry. People love to read interviews, and they are going to do their bit to boost the traffic.
  • Crowd source your content. When you ask your readers to be your contributors, and if and when they contribute, they are going to boost the site visits by sharing their own content among their circle.

Have some really interesting titles and subtitles for the articles in order for them to take hold of the readers. There is a large section of Internet users who like to just scan the content by reading only titles and subtitles – and more often than not, they only segue onto the subsequent content if they find the subtitle intriguing enough.

Again, on the Internet, shorter paragraphs would mean more attention span.

Do make sure that you break your post into bullet points in order to make it more readable.

Get some Professional SEO Help

If you haven’t realized it yet, it’s seemingly impossible to attain high volume of traffic without resorting to SEO. The SEO professionals know how to make your website more visible across the web, how to create relevant backlinks and at which places. Getting a good page rank for your site is extremely important, and that’s one area SEO professionals are able to address successfully. 

Getting an appreciable number of organic visits a day is what dictates the success of your blog at the end of the day. When visits from Google start pouring in, you can be rest assured that your blog is one the right track to empowered traffic. 

Some of the keyword tools that can be used include:

Keyword Planner

Word Tracker

The keyword tools can help you know what are the keywords that get most searched by the audience of your industry. The meta tags and meta descriptions are arguable very important for any website to place its targeted keywords in a manner most reachable for the search engine crawlers. The meta descriptions can be up to 140 characters – so you have a fairly good scope of including the keywords into them. But what works bets is when you place the keywords at the very beginning of the description.

The Images of the Post

The images in your post not only make them more readable by telling a story and moving it forward, but images make a great SEO tool as well. Do not let your image files’ name sbe gibberish. When you name them appropriately, there is a greater chance of them cropping up in the Google image search results. Also, do fill out all the fields. There is a field, “Alternate text”. It will serve you well if you don’t leave it blank and write something in four to five words that describes the content.

Make Sure the Keyword Density is Just Right

When you are sure of the keywords you are including are relevant and will do their bit in bringing in the traffic, the next thing you need to be sure of how densely you spread them across the content. Experts say it should not exceed more than 2%, since Google might penalize you for forcing the keywords into the content. And when you are including keywords in any post, make it certain that those are visible within the first two lines of the post.

Banality may more often than not find a room in business blogs since they are presenting information about an industry that already has voluminous literature dedicated to it. But giving your writeups a spin that is unique – both in terms of technical bits and the language – is what helps you stand out from the herd. 

Maria Mincey is a blogger who loves to share everything about web development and new web design technologies initiatives. She currently works as a chief writer for WordPrax , a PSD to WordPress Conversion company and has a quantum experience to share. Follow her on Twitter: @mariamincey64

Top 5 SEO Techniques That Will Hurt Your Business

This is a guest contribution by Greg Whelan of RankExperts.

5. Relying on Backlinks Alone

The use of SEO has been on the rise for a long time, especially for people who venture in online business. However, while SEO is considered a core tool in enhancing online businesses, the same trend can trigger adverse effects if not implemented in the right way. There are certain limits that you must observe when employing SEO for your business – in other words, SEO for business should never be used blindly.

A great number of online businesses are established each day with most of them turning futile while others respond slowly. Note that some of these businesses make use of SEO strategies and still end up disappointing the founders. This implies that SEO should be used in a strategic and wise manner. It is the only way you will be in a position to make your business yield high returns.

To ensure that SEO works ideally for your business, certain techniques must be avoided. There are strategies which have been confirmed to be really alarming for online businesses hence the need to understand and avoid them now and in the long run. Below is a crackdown on five key SEO strategies which must be avoided for best gains in your business:

1. Purchase of Links

This happens to be one of the most profound habits among people who venture in online business. The good thing is that the trend has worked perfectly for most people in the past. However, the benefits attached to purchasing of links may be cut short in the long run.

It has been revealed that search engines are in the move to eradicate the trend of using purchased links in websites. Google for instance is working tooth and nail to ensure that the trend is stopped completely. It will surprise you to know that Google and other search engine companies have a great team of workers whose sole obligation is to trace purchased links and flag them. This implies that people who are used to buying links for their websites may get hurt in the near future after the fight against the link purchase is fully implemented.

At times, even the untrained eye can detect purchased links in any content. Some patterns formed by a set of links may not make sense at all hence they create suspicion. In addition, you might come across a set of unrelated links which do not even tally with the content in question. This is a pretty clear indication that the links are purchased. The bottom line is that search engine teams will easily know if you have used purchased links or not.

2. Focus on Quantity of Links Rather Than Quality

While use of a huge number of backlinks is considered a perfect SEO strategy, the same can go a long way in ruining your online business. One of the worst mistakes that people make is placing their focus on incorporating a bunch of links in their websites not knowing that quality overrules quantity.

Link building is pretty simple since most people consider it so. Actually, it might not take you long to have a lot of links built for your site. However, most people fail to consider the quality of links they get. Instead, they get excited with the number and forget the quality.

Any link created should be authoritative and attractive to ensure that surfers follow it without a second thought. It is always advised that you refrain from links which are characterized by low DA. This is one of the core recipes behind failure in online business.

3. Keyword Stuffing

For a long time, the threat behind keyword stuffing has been emphasized. It has been confirmed that use of many keywords in website content may trigger adverse effects to your business in terms of ranking. The sad part of it is that most people tend not to drop the practice of stuffing keywords in their content.

Keyword stuffing might have been working perfectly in the past couple of years but it no longer does these days. If you must elevate your business with the help of keywords, then optimization is paramount. You must focus on reaching the recommended density of keywords in your content and avoid stretching further. In most cases, keywords are expected to hit 2% density and nothing more.

Instead of using a lot of keywords in your website, it will work best if you focused on creating quality content. If keywords must be used, the appropriate application and fitting is necessary. The keywords must also be in context to ensure natural flow.

4. Use of Duplicate Content

This is one of the most dangerous SEO strategies that any online businessperson can implement. In most cases, businesses with more than one site tend to recycle their content. You might come across similar articles in different sites. It is also possible to follow a certain link and find similar content from that of the mother website.

If you have the tendency of implementing duplicate content, then your online business is possibly not doing so well. It is important to note that search engines are always on the lookout for unoriginal content, regardless of whether or not the site is owned by one person. Normally, search engines do not rank two copies of similar content. In fact, a penalty may result from using duplicate content. This means that the mission of elevating your online business won’t work.

5. Relying on Backlinks Alone

If you have the perception that use of backlinks is the only avenue towards achieving best ranking, then that is not so at all. There are other tools that must be employed to ensure best SEO for your business website. A lot of people have the delusion that many links in a website will remarkably boost traffic which in return elevates the ranking in search engines.

On the contrary, you must team up a number of SEO strategies and techniques for great results to be achieved. Depending on back-links alone will only boost SEO to some extent but not completely. You must ensure that the use of backlinks is balanced with other suites in the SEO sphere. Content marketing, use of social media, as well as onsite optimization can work as a perfect SEO blend.

The five strategies highlighted above are actually things that can be easily snubbed yet with very drastic and adverse effects in the end. They techniques must therefore be avoided at all costs since it is the only way you can move your business to a better level.

The RankExpert’s  Head of Marketing Greg Whelan holds a degree from the University of Austin’s Mccomb School of Business and a MBA in Marketing. With his unique insights into the world of digital marketing, Greg oversees strategic planning for large to enterprise-sized companies. 

How to Create Massive Value Content & Blow Your Readers’ Minds

HOW TO CREATE MASSIVE VALUE CONTENT

This is a guest contribution from Pooja Lohana.

Let’s face it. Your readers are selfish.

The moment they land on your blog, they look for “what’s in it for me?”.

And that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Knowledge is power. Once you know what they are looking for, you can serve it to them.

At the time of writing this, there are 152,000,000 blogs on the Net. That means every half a second, a new blog is created somewhere in the world.

It’s getting harder and harder to be found in the blogosphere and this is not changing in the future.

If you’re passionate about your topic, perhaps you won’t mind blogging without traffic. But eventually, you will end it all in frustration.

You want people to share your message and to have great conversations with.

You want to stand for something.

The only way out is to stand out by writing unforgettable content or as I like to call Massive Value Content.

What is Massive Value Content?

Jon Morrow calls it an “epic” post and prefers writing one epic post week rather than writing one mediocre post every day.

It solves you readers’ specific, burning problem.

You become a mind-reader. They relate with your post, thank you and leave tons of comments.

Here are some examples:

  1. 39 Great Ideas to Beat the Dreaded Writer’s Block
  2. 102 Quick Recipes to Prepare Your Meals Under $10
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Building a Business from $500
  4. The Reason Blogging is Dead & What to Do Instead

Get the gist? Good.

When done right, it has good chances of going viral and bring you new eye balls.

Your blog gets back-linked, a lot. Influencers in your niche love to talk about you. Other bloggers invite you over for guest posts and webinars.

Perfect, isn’t it?

There is only one question: How.

I am not going to leave you high and dry or ask you to “go create epic sh*t”. I’m actually going to tell you how to do it and get noticed big time.

The Ultimate Cheatsheet to Create Massive Value Content on Your Blog

STEP 1. Keep Calm & Create a Plan

Ever get a killer idea for a post in the shower? It hits you like a brick, and you cannot wait to run to your desk to complete your post.

You sit down, compose a cool post, add a stellar image and boom – you hit Publish.

And you wait for the comments to pour in. For a long time.

Slowly you realize that your “killer” post is actually a dud.

I’ve had that experience in the past. It still happens when I don’t pay attention to what I’m creating.

In fact, I’ve set a timer for 60 minutes in the past to write, format, and publish a post with a featured image.

The result? Only a handful of readers.

What’s missing is a concrete plan to stick to. I love how Jon stresses the importance of having a calendar. That was, all you have to do is “blindly” follow it!

Your editorial calendar is one of the simplest and most effective productivity tools out there. It’s a roadmap.

Here’s an example of a calendar for your blog:

DATE TYPE TITLE STATUS
June 02 Massive Value Content (MVC) Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 09 Regular posts/Podcasts/Interview/Opinion/Video posts Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 16 MVC Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 23 Regular posts/Podcasts/Interview/Opinion/Video posts Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP
June 30 MVC Tentative title Published/Pending/WIP

Give yourself at least 7-8 hours to churn out each MVC post because you will need time for research and writing.

Then there’s external linking, sourcing images, social media so that that into account.

You can alternate MVCs with “regular posts” that can be shorter, quicker and easier to create. The frequency of both these posts and how you schedule them is totally up to you, but as a thumb rule, for every 3 regular posts, write at least one MVC post.

Now I know what you’re thinking – that looks like a lot of work in a month.

And I’m not going to lie to you. It is a lot of work.

If you rush a blog post, you will see mediocre results. The best advice if you’re serious about it is to be patient and focused.

STEP 2. Pick Your Type

1. Long Lists Post

People are lazy. Top it with the millions of results available at our finger tips from Google and you ought to love a shortcut.

A lists post gives your readers just that. It makes a specific promise and delivers.

How can you ever get a list post title wrong? Only when your content is not high-value.

If you are giving great value upfront, this type of post can never go wrong.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the right hand sidebar of BBT. You’ll find it is full of list posts.

Why? Because list posts build authority. They are easy to relate with and promise juicy benefits to your readers upfront.

Here are a few tips to make your list posts even more effective:

  • Steer clear of fluff. Deliver value straight to the point. You can do this by staying focused on creating a list of steps that are fresh, effective and in-depth.
    Tell them how. For example, in this post I’m not just saying “write massive value content” but I’m also sharing how.
  • Add references. Just because you’re creating a long list post doesn’t mean you have to cover everything. Link to external sources where necessary.
  • Write more than 7 items for more eye-balls. One internal test done by HubSpot proved that list posts with less than 6 items weren’t as popular as their longer counterparts.
  • Know when it’s not a list post. Don’t try to convert every single piece of content into a list-based post. Some are better off a tutorials or “ultimate guides”. A good example is when the list is less than 6 items.
  • Use odd numbers when possible. According to a study conducted on students, odd numbered grouping worked better than even-numbered one.
    I wouldn’t take this too seriously though and I encourage you to come up with your own findings.
    And if you have 12 unique bullet points to share after multiple re-reads, by all means go ahead and share them!
  • Use fine adjectives. Strategic adjectives work like a charm.
    Think “29 Killer Exercise Rituals”, “53 Magnetic Headlines” or “10 Easy Recipes Under $10”.

2. Case Studies

If you have clients, you can use case studies and use it for dual purposes.

One, you’re creating MVC because case studies are much in-depth piece of information.

Two, you’re promoting your clients along the way.

KISSmetrics blog does this very well. They are known for rich case studies that solve a problem or deliver value.

Here’s one that explores industry-wide gender bias by WordStream.

A case study focuses on a specific example (WordStream in the above example) or a company as opposed to a white paper, which is more generic.

Using a case study boosts your credibility manifold. It shows your readers what’s possible and all they have to do is follow the exact steps you’ve listed.

Again, the magic of telling them how to do something, instead of telling them the what, is at work.

3. Tutorials & Guides

Ever seen an “Ultimate Guide”?

Perhaps the most common ones have to do with social media or marketing.

“The Ultimate Guide to Using Pinterest” or “The Ultimate Guide to Successful Email Marketing”.

A quick search for “ultimate guide” on Google returns 439 Million results on my end. Refine the search for your industry or niche to get more specific.

For example, “ultimate guide blogging” returns more than 2 Million results.

This type of MVC is a full-blown tutorial on the topic, complete with screenshots, infographics, real life examples, steps, external reference links and calls-to-action. Anything that adds value goes.

In short, as a classic MVC, your ultimate guide will detail step-by-step instructions on how to do something.

Here’s another tip: Since these posts tend to be long, sprinkle visual elements in the form of infographics, video and memes to keep your readers engaged.

83% of learning happens visually. Contrast this with people remembering only 20% of what they read every time so a visual guide along with supporting text works great.

You can always create infographics and other visually engaging content to support your articles with online apps such as Visme.

No matter what niche you’re in, you can still make use of an ultimate guide and do a few things with it.

  • Give it away to your subscribers as a PDF in exchange for their email address. (Also known as lead magnet.)
  • Split it into a series of articles and send it to your mailing list in the form of an e-course.
  • Publish it on Kindle platform (You can list it as free or paid).
  • Record it in your own voice and sell it as an audio.
  • Create a course on Udemy and give it away.
  • Hold a webinar on the same content and give the guide away to listeners after the webinar.

4. Collaborated Posts

Want to tap into other people’s audience for free?

You can. Except for the “free” part.

You see, there is no free lunch, so you have to put in some planning and effort in the mix before you can leverage an influencer’s reach.

  1. The first step is to create a list of influencers in your niche.
  2. Then split the list into tiers 1, 2 and 3 according to their popularity. The bloggers with a slightly larger email list or reach that yours will go under “1”; a more popular one will occupy “2” and so on.
  3. Start with the low-lying fruit, tier 1. (Although not absolutely necessary, you start here because that way you will be more confident when approaching more authoritative blogs.)
  4. Build a relationship with these people.
  5. When the time’s right, pick their brains on one specific question relevant to your blog post and bring all answers together for your next MVC.
  6. When the post’s live, send the contributors a link and thank them. Let them know you’d appreciate if they can tweet or post about it.
  7. Once you’ve worked with tier 1, it’s time to reach out to tier 2.

5. Curated Posts

Do you know why authorities like Oprah are famous? Because they know well to curate.

Curators are people who bring the best stuff at one place – in your case, that “place” is your blog.

Think about it – if your readers can get the best of all worlds, all well-organized, structured and ready to be served, wouldn’t the love you for it?

Curated posts, such as round-ups from the Net or resource pages listing out the best content others have spent hours creating, scream “authority”.

Here’s one: 63 Blogging Tools that Will Make You Insanely Productive.

Do you see how it’s got 171 comments? Also, it’s one of the most popular blog posts BBT’s hosted as you can see in the right-hand sidebar.

It’s actually a resource post listing everything you need for your blog to be up and running (and making money too).

6. “Start Here” Page

Although this is technically a page, you can still count it as MVC because of its nature.

Think of it as a mini-about me page. Your visitors may be finding you from literally anywhere — Facebook, Twitter or another website.

When they land on your page, they need to be held by the hand and shown around.

The Start Here page will do just that and your visitors will thank you for it.

Most of all, this page gives you a chance to gain familiarity and likeability from visitors.

The purpose of a Start Here page is twofold:

  1. Tell them why your blog exists (the benefit)
  2. Spoon-feed them your best content.

So it’s a good idea to organize everything into categories and make it easy to check things out.

And while they’re here, why not ask their email in exchange for a juicy lead magnet (a free report, an audio clip etc)?

In a pistachio shell, here are some things to consider putting on your Start Here page:

  • Why your blog exists
  • What’s in it for them
  • How can they access your content nicely tucked in one place
  • A welcome message with your photo
  • A video of you (optional)
  • Your vision, mission and values (don’t make it boring)
  • What you promise to offer
  • A reminder to join your mailing list

STEP 3. Do It Already!

It’s time to start creating Massive Value Content and claim your authority as a blogger.

Whatever your goal from blogging, the above steps will get you noticed, talked about and attract tons of eye-balls if you combine it with strategies like guest-posting and social media.

Every serious blogger wants to know when they will hit “the jackpot”.

The first 1,000 subscribers.

The first time when they hit 5,000 visitors a day.

The first mention by NYT.

The first $10,000 month from blogging.

What they should be asking instead is how to become a better writer and generate unforgettable content.

In the words of Brian Clark, here’s how:

  1. Write.
  2. Write more.
  3. Write even more.
  4. Write even more than that.
  5. Write when you don’t want to.
  6. Write when you do.
  7. Write when you have something to say.
  8. Write when you don’t.
  9. Write every day.
  10. Keep writing.

What exactly are you waiting for? Go create that piece of awesome content and make someone’s day!

Pooja Lohana is a freelance writer, ghost writer and online marketing mentor featured on Problogger, Firepole, JeffBullas, MarketingProfs, Hongkiat and more. If you’re an aspiring writer and want to become self-employed, create wealth and live a better life by launching your online writing biz, steal her free mini-course to make your first $1000 (and more) writing at home.

How to Write Smart Content on Days You’re Feeling Dumb & Distracted

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

It’s Wednesday morning, you barely slept last night, missed your morning coffee because you were running late, and are now sat in front of your computer staring at a blank Word file wondering what on earth you’re going to write about. You know you should get on with the task but your hands don’t move and your brain refuses to boot up. You’re longing for Saturday already, but it’s only the middle of the week. 

Yeah, the world is a cruel place.

Especially for writers who need to hammer out reams of authentic material every single day of the week. 

The good news, however, is there are ways around even the worst of the situations. I should know, I write for a living. I must have written thousands of articles so far, many of which were produced on days I was struggling.

Along the way I have devised quite a few mind hacks to tackle the problem of focus and motivation. One of these always bails me out on the days focus is a scarce commodity.

Do Some Dumb Stuff

Well, you’re feeling dumb already, so this shouldn’t be a toughie!

Dumb isn’t always bad, especially if it’s the humorous kind of dumb. Humor is good. It cracks you up, brings you back into the moment, lightens the mood, and suddenly the morning doesn’t feel so bad anymore. 

When you loosen up and connect to the moment, ideas aren’t so hard to come by. 

The best part about this is that it helps you think out of the box.

So you have to write about synthetic carpets and you are bored as hell at the mere thought of it?

Your best bet is to let your imagination run wild. Think of everything one can do on carpets. Imagine a huge carpet flying up in the sky with Calvin and Hobbes sitting on it.

That’s your idea – best cartoon strips featuring carpets. 

Listen to Chants or Any Music That Helps You Focus

Here’s one brilliant suggestion, which really melts the distractions for me. 

Create a playlist for all moods. If you choose the right kind of music, you may find it easier to get your mind on the task.

Put on Earplugs

No, really. The kind that go in deep and drown out your surroundings. You will be surprised at how beautifully they work. 

This is a tried and tested measure which goes back to my university days. Any time I feel scatter-brained and unable to focus, I get out my earplugs (have gotten into the habit of carrying them with me). It’s eerily quiet when your ears are plugged. You don’t go deaf, but all noise loses its edge. Even the sound of your colleague on steroids jabbing away at his keyboard feels like it’s streaming in from somewhere far away. You can hear yourself breathing. You can also listen to your thoughts and follow them without any effort. The writing that this frame of mind produces, regardless of whether you have slept the night before or not, is surprisingly sharp.

I don’t exactly know why this works, but here’s my guess – shutting down one of the senses makes the rest perform even better. With earplugs on, the noise around you does not register, which means you automatically listen to yourself loud and clear. 

Unless you have tried this you will never guess just how much of our energy leaks to sounds and noisy distractions, even in seemingly quiet places. On days you are not feeling bright, this neat trick could make all the difference.

Watch a Stimulating TED Talk

One can feel distracted and foolish for a number of reasons. Sometimes it may have to do more with a lack of creativity than with your energy levels. If your enthusiasm for life is wavering or you need a dose of inspiration to fire up, a good TED talk may work better than coffee. For someone I know, watching old Seinfeld videos does the trick. It’s up to you to figure out what inspires you and refer to it when the need arises.

Create a Bank of Go-to Blogs 

Reading some brilliant writing (especially that which is full of play on words) gets me in the mood each time. My phone is loaded with apps that bring to me the choicest of writing from a variety of sources. You can create your own database of inspirational blogs (not necessarily the most popular blogs) and watch the magic rub off on you.

Pick Topics That You Can Write on in First Person

If you have the choice to pick your subjects, pick up the ones that present a greater scope for personalization.

It’s always easier to write something based on your experience, or even narrate a fictional episode, if you already love writing. That kind of stuff just flows because it comes from your heart, not your mind (which you don’t think is working), and before you realize it you have already put a few hundred words on the doc file.

Leave the research-heavy stuff for days you have slept well and are actually having a bearable morning.

Lay out a Structure for Your Posts

If you don’t have the luxury to choose your topics, and calling in sick is not an option, use your limited energy wisely.

Spend some of it in creating a solid structure for your post, something you can rely on to guide you through till the end. 

Let Things Come to You

Trying too hard is a recipe for failure. It’s worse on the days you are already suffering. Let go of laboring over ideas. Instead, take a 5-minute break to collect your thoughts. Just wait patiently, with a calm mind, no hurry at all. The ideas will come to you, and sooner than if you were to chase them. (If you make meditation a part of your life, it will prove priceless during such times.)

Get Moving

When the mind is stuck, moving your body can make it come unstuck. Go on a short walk and walk with a spring in your step. Tap dance in the bathroom for a couple of minutes. The mind-body connection is deep, and the rhythm of one rubs off on the other.

Create a Mind Map

Images come to rescue when words fail us. Take out a pen and paper, or your smartphone, and start drawing. For something related to home décor, draw a home, then a garden, the windows, and the like. 

Alternatively, create a mind map with a pen or a stylus in your hand; I find this works better than doing so on the computer. Both these methods will very likely give you a few breakthroughs, which will make your assignment easier for you.

Finally, get a perspective.

If nothing works, it’s all right. You are allowed to have a bad day.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and OnlyDesign, a creative design firm. He’s passionate about start-up marketing, entrepreneurship & all things digital. You can find him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik to discuss on any of these topics.

How to Optimize Your Content for Authorship Success

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.35.19 amThis is a guest contribution from Jaclyn Freeman.

Who are you?

Don’t fret – this isn’t philosophy class and no, we’re not trying to steal your identity.

One of the most important things you can do in 2014 as a content creator, is identify who you are as a personal brand by monitoring how you come across online. As a writer, it is essential that you are taking advantage of every opportunity you have to turn yourself into a developed brand. 

Twitter, that always-on social network that is constantly abuzz, and Google+, a social network claimed to offer incredible SEO benefits, offer two incredible ways that complement each other to solidify your digital presence. But how, you ask?

Through digital authorship.

Introducing Your New Best Friend: Google Authorship

Everyone is talking Authorship, and with good reason. Google Authorship is a revolutionary function of Google that allows you to identify content you’ve produced, as well as the publishers you’ve produced content for.

The purpose of Google Authorship is to help segment out true quality content from the plethora of content living on the web. Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt wrote in “The New Digital Age” that the true cost of remaining anonymous may be detrimental one’s overall search position:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in the in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Google Authorship helps to further the notion that all content is not good content; rather, writers must have a) verified content and b) a solidified niche subject matter that they consistently produce original content about. Google Authorship helps to bridge the gap between the casual writer, and the professional content creator.

AuthorRank – Myth or Legend?

While AuthorRank is tough to concretely define, its origins can be traced back to 2005 (pre-historic in digital terms) and as Brian Clark puts it:

“Author Rank is the idea – supported by patents filed by Google – that who creates a page of content (and links out from that page), based on their historical reputation for creating content people actually like, would become one of the signals Google relies on when ranking relevant results of a particular topic.”

While AuthorRank hasn’t officially been implemented by Google as a ranking factor, the idea behind it has already been implemented across digital marketing platforms universally. How do we know? One such sign that has the digital world up in arms is the removable of the pictures next to bylines with Authorship correctly set-up. Some are foolishly associating this cosmetic tweak with the demise of Google Authorship – which couldn’t be farther than the truth. It actually represents the opposite! Google is continuing to acknowledge content produced with semantic markup as higher quality content than content without Authorship, pictures or not. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Even if AuthorRank never officially occurs, it really doesn’t matter in terms of SEO. Why? Because quality content will continue to reign supreme, and those with their authorship set up, who continuously produce content in their particular field will become obvious authorities. We don’t need AuthorRank to tell us that.   

While Authorship may have lost that visual touch, this minor change was done in an effort to improve mobile search results. Your authorship markup still lives, even without a face, and still has a heavy role in distinguishing you as a credible author on the web, so take advantage.

Set Up Your Authorship

Setting up your authorship is relatively easy, and requires a few lines of code in the backend of your posts, as well as a link to the publication on your Google+ profile. Google provides a step-by-step guide to authenticating your authorship here and as outlined below:

You can link content you publish on a specific domain to your Google+ profile.

  1. Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.

  2. Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content

  3. Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.

  4. Verify you have an email address on the same domain as your content. (Don’t have an email address on the same domain? Use this method to link your content to your Google+ profile)

  5. Submitting this form will add your email address to the Work section of your profile, which by default is viewable only by your circles. You can keep your email private if you wish. It will also add a public link to the domain of the email address to the Contributor to section of your profile.

  6. Sign up for Authorship.

Cross-Checking Your Google Authorship Code

Once you have your authorship set up, you’ll want to ensure:

  • Your content has true semantic Google authorship <a href=”https://plus.google.com/G+ID? rel=author”>Google</a>

  • Your content’s  @href contains a G+ profile link and @rel=”author” or @rel=”me”

  • Your content’s @href contains a G+ profile link with the [?&]rel=author query parameter and @rel DOES NOT contain nofollow.

  • Your readable author bio pages inlcude<a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Joe Smith</a>

While you’ve likely heard more than enough about how to optimize your Google+ profile, have you given any consideration to your Twitter account for personal branding and authorship success? If not, you should.

Twitter for Authorship? YES!

In the same way that Google+ and authorship serve as an indicator of your online brand, Twitter works as a constant source of credibility via conversations.

Appearance: Twitter recently unveiled a new design that is big on content and visuals. Much like the Facebook design, the new Twitter profile boosts a larger header image and profile photo. In order to have a uniform appearance across the Internet, make sure you choose a profile photo that displays your face clearly, looks professional, and is used across your various personal social properties.

The new Twitter layout also highlights your tweets that get the most engagement, which brings me to our next point…

Verbiage:First, create a Twitter bio that is filled with your subject matter expertise — and hashtag them to create added virality in your profile. Next, add your website, LinkedIn profile, personal blog, and tag any publications that you frequently contribute to.

Beyond the content you post, your website is the only direct lead-generation tool that exists on Twitter profiles. Leave that field blank, and those viewing your page will not have an easy way to learn more about you and your content.

Another great new feature is the ability to pin tweets to the top of your page. Choose a pin that not only received a good amount of engagement, but that personifies you as a brand. Keep it fresh by switching up your pinned tweets every few days!

Sharing is Caring

Who you follow is almost as important as what you post. Find people that are influential to your particular field, as well as publications or companies that you admire, to follow. Engage with the people you follow by commenting and retweeting, in addition to posting relevant, new information.

Convince and Convert suggests that the sweet spot of curation (non self-promotional) vs. self-promotional linking to your site 25-50% of the time generates the best results. Always socialize the content you produce, but make sure to include a healthy mix of re-Tweets of informative, inspiring, and relevant content.

Metadata on Twitter

Twitter Cards enable you to attach media to Tweets that link your content: It’s social’s all-important metadata. Whether that be a summary, a summary with a photo, gallery card, app card, player card, a product card, lead generation card, or website card – Twitter cards enhance the appearance of your Tweets and add to your overall prominence on social.

To set up your Twitter card, add a few lines of HTML to the backend of your site, and voila! Popular content management systems like Hubspot and WordPress offer social plugins, making this step even easier.

Users who share your content will have a “card” automatically added to said Tweet, that will be visible to all of their followers.

Twitter offers more information on how to set up your very own Twitter card here:

  1. Review the documentation for the type of card you want to implement.

  2. Add the pertinent meta tags to your page.

  3. Run your URLs against the validator tool to be approved.

  4. After approval, tweet the URL and see the Card appear below your tweet.

  5. Use Twitter Card analytics to measure your results.

Content Attribution

Lastly, you’ll want to look for the following metadata on each piece of content you produce to make sure it’s properly attributed to you:

  • Authorship is valid if: meta[@name='twitter:creator'] tag (@content is a valid twitter handle [0-9A-Za-z_]{1,15}).

  • Authorship is valid if: <a> tag @href is a Twitter profile URL and @rel is “author” or @rel is “me”.

  • Your readable author bio page on Twitter includes an on-site rel=”author” link in your author bio.

Why Social Optimization Matters for Writers

So, why am I yelling at you about everything from your philosophical identity to coding? Well, because, as a writer, this stuff matters.

Establishing credibility as a content curator in an aggressively digital age is tough, and while you may have your authorship and Twitter perfectly optimized, there is no sure-fire way to know that you are an influential writer to your particular niche… Or, is there?

Recently launched, ClearVoice is a new metric for your voice. It acts as a representative of your content’s authority and showcases your publication’s power. By using a first-of-its-kind algorithm, Clearvoice generates a score for writers based on:

  • Your Twitter and Google authorship markup

  • Where your content lives

  • How many articles you’ve published

  • How many domains you’ve contributed to

  • The social virality of your content

Beyond the funky look and ease of use, ClearVoice offers the ability for writers to claim their profile. Once claimed, writers will have a unique URL that will act as a constantly updating portfolio, chronicling not only all the content you’ve produced, but how well it performed socially. In addition, authors can cross-check proper authorship implementation and troubleshoot with engineers if there are any issues.

ClearVoice can also organically help you score jobs, as publishers can search the platform to discover writer’s who are qualified in a particular field.The ClearVoice score offers an unique view into individual writers influence, as well as offers an unprecedented way for writers to be discovered.

Jaclyn Freedman is the Community Manager for ClearVoice. She promotes and market brands by identifying and representing their unique voices across digital platforms.