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Why Every Entrepreneur Must Become a Blogger

This is a guest contribution from blogger and graphic designer Luke Guy

You’ve heard about this blogging stuff. You’re already making money and time isn’t on your side. Is blogging really worth it? Can afford to do it (time-wise). The answer is: Yes. Here’s why.

As you know eBay, Amazon, and all these the other sites spend millions to do one thing. And that’s win people’s trust. How much are you spending to build trust with new people? And how exactly are you doing this? I understand they’re not making time anymore, but trust doesn’t come easy either. Knowledge is ever exploding and your competition probably just started their blog yesterday. But is it for you? What if you’re an ecommerce site? Do you still need a blog? I talk more about this in my article: The Epic Guide To Growing Sales With Content Marketing. Google is a business site and they make billions, simply by building trust and letting users feel the Google experience without spending a penny. How have they done this?

They built the following all for free:

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Mobile

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Specialized Search

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Home & Office

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They spent millions of dollars trying to gain users and one day beloved customers. Don’t tell me freeware and resources can’t build a business. The top websites in the world do it. According to Alexa, the top 5 sites in the world are freeware based.

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I’m not saying go make free software that cost millions. I’m just saying start building and create something useful. And you can doing that by starting with a simple blog post. Instead of having agenda, just be helpful. Why? You’re building relationship. It’s hard to turn a man down that’s always giving.

It’s not that blogging is some kind of magic, it’s what it does. Let me give you some of the other benefits here besides trust:

  1. You solve problems (with your product)
  2. It’s effective advertising
  3. Another form of marketing
  4. Great way to capture emails
  5. Growing connections
  6. Receive feedback from customers
  7. Gain Influence
  8. Attracts people
  9. Express your thoughts
  10. Gives you a talking piece

So much is happening from your blog article. You really don’t have time not to write. How much and how long is up to you. But no where in history has man had more opportunity to build an audience and make a living doing it.

 

What To Write About

I’ve seen many business owners talk about the world and everything in it when blogging. Wrong move. Why? You attract traffic who don’t care anything about your products. You want to attract buyers here. Traffic isn’t the only thing you want, but traffic that buys and trusts you.

The number one thing you should be focusing on is your customer’s problems. Let it be your title even. Within that post, talk about the problem and the pain it causes. From there, explain how your product can solve that. When you advertise that, and share that, you will attract people from all over who are now valuable leads. People who are hurting and needing a solution. You are that solution! By addressing their problem, offering a solution, and being entertaining… You will generate sales. It’s really beautiful.

Once you blog and gather traffic, you want to establish that trust even farther and get their email. So you can spam them? No, so you can hook them and pull them close. And then…  Offer even better content like webinars or free courses. You want to saturate that list with your amazing content. Once you do that good things began to happen.

 

How An Email List Is A Customer List In Disguise

The biggest thing you can do is build the email list. By sending that list content that helps, it makes them love you. You’re cultivating relationship, and better yet traffic. That traffic will buy from you more than any other traffic. Why? It has relationship with you. It’s even better than Facebook which is built much like the list. That’s fading though tremendously though. I talk more about that here: How the Email List Beats Facebook Every Time.

As that list grows your traffic will grow, your readers will grow (in number:), and your profits will grow. So having your opt-in forms handy is a must. Make sure to build an email collecting machine are your site. This is great when you have a deal you want to mention.

Imagine a list 3,000 people. 20-30% usually open from a trusted blog. That’s around 900 people who will that deal. Imagine if only 2% bought from you. That’s 18 sales from a single email. Once again though, they’re not waiting to get pitched. They’re waiting to hear from you because you help them so much.

 

The Biggest Struggle With This Method

Main problem most people face is creating the content, and making sure that content is amazing. Not easy. Someone with passion must be behind it. If money is your drive, content creation isn’t for you. If making someone’s life easier today your drive, then you will make it. It’s not easy writing for free at first, but soon it becomes who you are. You must serve a purpose and be the hero for someone.

Many feel overwhelmed with creating content and they under the load. Just know it’s worth it, that it’s not easy reaching out, but the connections you’re building is worth the struggle. If you’re wanting to gain a customer base in a noisy world, this is how you do it. You don’t want to park the business in ghost town do you? Then you must build your traffic and get more eyes on you. From there you build trust, and then you gain a client. It’s that simple, but you can’t be selfish. You must simply be a power giver.

Luke Guy is both graphic artist and blogger, publisher for LukeGuy.com, and graphic designer for hire. He’s loves to blog and helping people with dreams in starting a business.

500 Top-Tier Publishers Tell You What They Want from Content Marketers

This is a guest contribution from Kelsey Libert from Fractl.

The good news: Content is here to stay as a digital marketing powerhouse, giving marketers more opportunities than ever to tune their SEO goals for every stage of the buying cycle.

The bad news: The boom in content marketing has resulted in a veritable avalanche of email for publishers. In fact, some top-tier publishers receive over 300 pitches a day – more than 3x the email volume of the average worker.

What does this mean? Without placements that will reach the right audiences, the quality of your content is a moot point. Competition is tougher than ever in the inboxes of those who are calling the shots on publishing your work; only the best pitches will receive the attention of the most coveted sites. That’s why BuzzStream and Fractl collaborated to survey more than 500 publishers to find out how to break through the noise and improve your content promotion.

Pitch Perfect Subject Lines

The subject line is your first and most important opportunity to capture a publisher’s attention. Honing this one area of your pitching practice can mean the difference between a top-tier placement on HuffingtonPost.com, Mashable.com, or BusinessInsider.com – or weeks of fruitless pitching with your fingers crossed for some low-authority pickups.

Why is the subject line so crucial? 81% of publishers want email pitches, which means the inbox is your best avenue for earning their interest. 85% open emails based on the subject line alone, which means that knowing what they’re looking for will improve your odds of earning their attention. Our survey results tell us that the following six influencers have the most impact on your open rates.

1. Speak to Their Beat

The single most important takeaway from our survey might just be this: more than 60% of publishers told us that the best subject lines should be tailored to their beat. This means that you need to use that limited space to let them know that you both understand what they cover and have something relevant to share with them.

More than 50% agreed that you should do this by being both specific and descriptive. In a sea of hundreds of emails, publishers want you to get to the point. Tell them exactly what you have and why it matters to them.

2. Keep it Short

Once you’ve nailed down the content of your subject line, the next important step is to keep it under 10 words. Nearly 40% agreed that subject lines should be brief, making brevity the fourth most important quality on our list. 75% prefered subject lines between 0 – 10 words, and this range has an added benefit: keeping your subject line concise helps ensure that it won’t be cut off in inboxes.

3. Offer your Assets

Letting publishers know in the subject line what kinds of assets you’re offering will help them make a quick decision about whether they’re interested. If you’ve done your research on the kinds of assets the publisher typically embeds, this will work to your advantage; if you haven’t, you may lose their attention before they open your email. In our survey we learned some of the assets publishers request most:

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  • 85% want raw data. While they won’t publish the raw data, having quick access to your research information will help them verify your findings and explore their own interests more.
  • 65% want data visualizations. This includes infographics, mixed-media pieces, images, video, and interactive maps.
  • 19% want articles. If this is an asset you offer, be sure to take a look at the average length of the articles your target publishes to ensure your piece is in line with their preferred word count.

4. Entice with Exclusives

Publishers love to be the first to report on a hot story. Nearly half reported that they prefered offers for exclusive pickups over syndications, which means a subject line that includes the opportunity for an exclusive will earn extra attention from eager writers and editors.

Even though exclusives are a great incentive for publishers, that doesn’t mean that your content promotion strategy should end once the first placement has been secured. A good syndication strategy can protect you against a lackluster first print, or unpredictable variables like competition from breaking news or unfortunate headline flubs.

5. Establish and Maintain Relationships

65% of publishers feel that establishing a personal relationship before pitching is at least somewhat important. Once you do the legwork of getting to know a publisher’s work, making contact, and landing your first placement, don’t let that relationship flag. 66% said they’d also be more likely to open a future pitch if you reference your past relationship in the subject line.

Sending a publisher a quick comment every so often via email or social media is a good practice to keep your name and work familiar to them. But beware sounding overly friendly; publishers were quick to point out that they don’t appreciate phony tones in pitches or messages.

6. Avoid These Pitfalls

While you incorporate these best practices into your pitching tactics, be sure to avoid the pitfalls that will get your email deleted – or worse, earn you (and your company’s domain) a place on a publisher’s blacklist.

  • Double check your spelling, including the publisher’s name. 85% said they’d delete a pitch with bad grammar or spelling regardless of the quality of the content.
  • Don’t sensationalize your subject line. 99% agreed that subjects shouldn’t look like clickbait. Less than 20% said subject lines should be provocative or catchy.
  • Limit your follow-up. 87% told us that you can send one or two follow-up emails at most, but any more than that and you risk being seen as a spammer.

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Start perfecting your pitch by writing subject lines publishers want to open. Be specific, descriptive, relevant, and brief, and you’ll earn the attention of editors who want to amplify your content rather than delete it.

Want to see which verticals are pitched most – and least – along with more insights from this study? Download the free white paper on Subject Line Open Rates.

Kelsey Libert is a Marketing VP and partner at Fractl, a creative digital agency specializing in high-quality content creation and placement. Kelsey’s industry research can be seen on the Harvard Business Review, Inc, The Next Web, Fast Company, Contently, HubSpot, Marketing Land and Buffer.

Stay a Step Ahead on Social Media: Tips from SMX Social in Las Vegas

SMX_Social_1This is a guest contribution from Paul Zubrinich of Little Web Giants.

Late last year, I returned from the biggest social media marketing conference in the world, SMX Social in Las Vegas. There were experts from all fields of social media and a wealth of new ideas floating about. Here are some of the takeaways.

ROI is more than conversions

“Facebook News Feed is like email with a 100% open rate” – Beth Horn, Facebook

Think about this scenario. Someone discovers your business through Facebook and likes it. In the coming months they notice a few of your posts and engage with a couple of them.

A few months later, they Google your business and convert to a buyer. Now in your web analytics, the conversion is falsely attributed to Google organic search, even though Facebook was the first point of contact and crucial to the sales cycle. Due to this realisation, marketers are moving toward measuring ROI based off more factors than just the last click. If you only measure by the last click, it is like measuring each player on a footy team by how many goals they kicked, thus neglecting the contributions of the backline and mid-fielders.

The takeaway for SMEs: Measure engagement – it has value!

Tone down the “buy now” rhetoric!

“ROI isn’t important in this arena. Engagement is!” – Erik Jensen, Denny’s Restaurants

You know the guy. He clomps into every online conversation, selling. All of his posts are so promotional that they make infomercials look subtle. Imagine if he went to a business conference and in every conversation he was just telling people how good his product or service was. This is no way to build trust or make friends.

This is becoming even more important as Facebook has stated that as of January 2015, people will see less promotional content in their News Feeds. It prompted Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb to tell the New York Times, “It’s a clear message to brands: If you want to sound like an advertiser, buy an ad.”

On social media, the soft sell is the best way to win people over (and reach their News Feeds). An oft-recommended strategy is to apply the Pareto principle: 80% of your posts should be informative and 20% can be promotional. This article is an ideal example. I am sharing information without loading it up with my own sales spiel.

The perfect time to post is different for everyone

“The world’s best practices aren’t always your best practices.” – Tim Welsh, Academic Partnerships

I will embrace the day when people abandon those memes saying the “best time to post”. Imagine you sell UV lamps and one of your target demographics is people who work night shifts. You read one of those blog posts that says mid-afternoon is the ideal time to post on Facebook. But your target demographic is in bed then. What about a fast food place that targets young students up late at night? Post in the evening. Go for it. The takeaway: Know your demographic and meet them on their terms.

There is a wealth of tools out there for discovering when your followers are online. Facebook has Insights, Twitter and Pinterest have Analytics, and Simply Measured offers analytics tools for LinkedIn and Instagram. No matter what social network you are using, find out about your followers and your target market, rather than settling for population averages. It will put your posts in front of more potential customers.

Summing up…

The future of social media will not be built on one-size-fits-all strategies. You must know your target market. Track your outcomes and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Take part in the conversation with a more human tone. Show you care about your customers. Now get active and join the conversation!

Did you follow #SMXsocial on Twitter? Do you have any other tips to share or questions for the author?

Find all the slides from SMX Social here: http://slidesha.re/1xZoFX0

Paul Zubrinich is co-founder and head of online marketing at Little Web Giants, an internet services firm. He blends a skillful mix of strategic search engine marketing, conversion rate optimisation, content marketing and pay-per-click advertising. He has worked with clients from fields as diverse as the solar photovoltaics industry, environmental advocacy and the health and beauty industry. He won Marin Software’s Biggest Social Geek contest of 2014 against over 2,300 social media marketers worldwide.

Filtering Out Google Analytics Junk to Read Your Numbers Better

This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.

Web developers, content managers, marketing teams, and many other online professionals rely on Google Analytics to understand visitor trends. However, you can run into a significant amount of noise, which can skew your Google Analytics numbers and your subsequent interpretations of this data.

Luckily, you can filter out certain types of traffic, so that your numbers don’t get watered down by your own traffic, Web crawlers, or duplicated because of web address letter case discrepancies. Here are three main filters to consider setting as you move forward with a Google analytics strategy.

Cutting Out Internal Traffic

Every time you and your colleagues navigate throughout your website, it can skew your traffic numbers. Luckily, you can filter these out of your Google Analytics reports, so that you get a more accurate representation of your traffic.

Just head over to your Admin page and select “Filters” under the “View” column. Next, click on “+New Filter” and make sure that the “Create New Filter” bubble is selected.

Name your filter something like “Exclude office traffic” or “Exclude home traffic.” Choose the “Custom Filter” option, then select “IP address” from the dropdown menus.

When you enter the IP address in the Filter pattern field, you’ll need to use backslashes before each dot, according to Google’sregular expressions requirements.   

Excluding Bots and Spiders

It can be extremely frustrating to examine your web traffic data, only to see that certain recurring bots and spiders are accountable to a large chunk of the pie. Luckily, Google istaking proactive measures to protect Analytics users from these annoyances.

You can opt into Google’s automated bot and spider filtering by going to your Admin panel, clicking on “Reporting View Settings” and checking off the box that reads, “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” However, some bots and spiders will still be able to leak through. You can target these individual irritants by creating a new filter, selecting “Custom” and then choosing “Visitor ISP Organization.” Then enter the service provider of the bot using a regular expression.

Keep an eye on your analytics, and be sure to create manual filters for additional bots that attempt to sneak past you. This can prevent bothersome bots and spiders from skewing your website’s data.

Enforcing Lowercase

If visitors enter an URL into their browser or click links that use a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters, then you could wind up with duplicate Google Analytics entries for the same destination. Luckily, you can fix this issue by creating a filter.

Just create a brand new filter and call it something like “Force Lowercase.” Choose “Custom,” click on the “Lowercase” bubble, and select “Request URI.” Once this is done, you should stop seeing multiple entries when browsers load up a page using different letter cases.

Increase the accuracy of your Google Analytics traffic data by using filters to cut through the noise. Don’t allow your metrics to become skewed by your own internal traffic, spiders and bots, or by web addresses that contain a mixture of letter cases.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Dazzle & Connect With Your Audience with these 7 Storytelling Strategies

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

Image via Flickr user Digital Paradox.

This is a guest contribution from writer Thai Nguyen.

After finally asking the young lady for a date, the nervous young man asked his father how to avoid moments of awkward silence.

His father quickly responded, “Son, when it comes to conversation, all you have to remember are three things: food, family, and philosophy, and you’ll have plenty to talk about”

The night of the date came, and so did the awkward silence. Recalling his father’s advice, he quickly asked about food:

“Mary, do you like asparagus?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t really care for it.”

Met with more silence, he asked about family:

“Mary, do you have any brothers?”

“No,” she replied. “I don’t have any brothers.”

With no luck, he turned to philosophy:

“Mary…if you had a brother…would he like asparagus?”

And that, my friend, is philosophy.

That simple story is better than any textbook for explaining what is philosophy. Indeed, ancient cave paintings have long affirmed modern neuroscience—humans learn and communicate best through stories.

People will remember your name when it’s connected with a compelling story; you’ll bore investors with facts and figures but capture them if they’re wrapped in a story.

Whether it’s creating a memorable brand or connecting deeper with customers, here are seven essentials for effective storytelling:

1. Opening and closing the curiosity gap

What if I told you your income could be tripled in less than one month?

It may be snake oil, but it perked enough of your interest to hear the rest of the story and pitch. Storytellers call it an “inciting incident.” We have curiosity wired into us, tapping into that through provocative questions opens the window wide for the rest of your elevator pitch.

2. Evoking VAK

Psychologists and therapists use VAK—visual, audio, and kinesthetic modalities to immerse a person into a desired experience or state.

When the mind begins to imagine and think through emotional and sensory experiences, parts of the brain light up as if they’re actually happening.

Using these cues by describing the adrenaline racing through your body, or the tragedy that brought you to tears, will immerse a person from passively listening to the story, to feeling like an active participant.

3. Conflict and resolution

Whether it’s your business proposal or product demo, two traditional storytelling elements you don’t want to leave out are conflict and resolution.

Have you identified a problem, and explained how your product brings a resolution? Shawn Coyne from The Story Grid says a common mistake for entrepreneurs is presenting heavily from a developer’s angle and ignoring a consumer’s perspective.

Approach conflict and resolution like a consumer, and tell your product’s story like a satisfied customer.

4. Appealing to the higher self

Whether crafting your own personal goals or presenting a vision to a company, we can’t fight our survival mechanism’s self-interest. So why not leverage selfish motives? Fuel for achieving a future goal comes with presenting a better version of ourselves, or a better version of the customer.

The story of the tortoise and the hare will be more compelling if it ends with you celebrating in your mansion by the beach after signing up to your investment plan. The personal image of being an environmental savior is enough for many to spend extra on a Tesla.

5. Shock and awe

Humans think in patterns. We process the vast exposure to information and try to spit out a logical understanding. A break in that linear pattern is like a splash of icy water on your face. That’s why movies like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Romeo & Juliet are capturing. The twist endings created a mental pattern break.

It doesn’t need to happen at the end. A paradoxical opening statement for a speech is a common attention grabber. Incorporating pattern breaks anywhere within a story increases effectiveness.

6. Build a catalog of illustrations

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps even the Prodigal Son. Jesus’ teaching are known through his compelling parables.

Use personal experiences to build a catalog of metaphors and illustrations and add more color to your stories. The time you drove past three gas stations and then ended up on the side of the road with an empty tank can later highlight to your staff the importance of checking email notifications or, to your investor, how your new app will save people from disaster.

7. Internal and external components

Just as Stephen King said, “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” There are layers. A good story doesn’t just present raw content, but uses vehicles to deliver it. That’s the power in allegories and discovering the moral to a story.

Before crafting your story, decide what elements will be latent and what will be obvious. Facts and figures are best delivered under the surface. Promoting your product’s new features as raw content won’t be as effective as layering them underneath a traveling husband talking ‘face-to-face’ with his daughter.

A refugee from Vietnam, raised in Australia, with a BA from Texas, Thai’s unique background is reflected in his work. He writes for The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and The Utopian Life. Having been a professional chef, international kickboxer, and spiritual teacher, Thai is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves. Signup for his free weekly Infographics at TheUtopianLife.com | Connect @ThaiWins | On Facebook  

10 Simple Hacks That Will Increase Your Blog Traffic

This is a guest contribution from Garrett Moon, co-founder of CoSchedule.

Of course, you know that writing more blog posts will increase your blog traffic.

If one blog post results in an average of 200 visits, then two blog posts should magically turn into 400 visits. Voila!

But, that sucks.

What if there was a way to increase your blog traffic without creating more content?

Rather than using two posts to reach 400 visits, what if you could get those same 400 visits from a single post?

The good news is that it’s possible. Just recently, we began publishing one less post per week on the CoSchedule blog. Even better, our traffic actually went up. Yes, up!

We did it by better optimizing the traffic we received from each piece of content that we posted online. We decided to blog smarter, and not just harder.

The good news is that you can easily do it, too.

Here are the 10 ‘hacks’ that we used to optimize traffic on our own blog. Most of them will make an instant impact on your traffic growth, so plan to implement a few as soon as you can.

1. Make Your Content More Shareable Using A Click To Tweet Plugin

Everyone has social media share buttons somewhere on their blog, but what happens if you add them in your content as well?
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Click To Tweet links do just that by helping you to create tweetable quotes and comments throughout your post.

The idea is that you are not only providing readers a way to share, but actively suggesting that they do. This naturally leads to more shares and more exposure for your content.

At CoSchedule, we wanted to be able to add these Click To Tweet boxes with a single step, so we made a custom plugin for ourselves and have since decided to distribute it for free. It’s easy to install. You can grab it here for free if you’d like.

2. Maximize The Emotional Value Of Your Headlines

A while back, we did some research on more than 1 million blog post headlines and make a huge discovery—blog posts with more emotional headlines actually result in more shares.

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The takeaway? Write headlines that have stronger emotional output.

There are several tools that you can use to do this. The Emotional Value Analyzer by the Advanced Marketing Institute will give you a basic rating on the emotional value of a headline.

The Blog Post Headline Analyzer will do the same, but also give you a rating on the overall quality and length of your headline. It should make it easy for you to to write awesome (and emotional) headlines every time.

3. Create Longer-Form Content

Did you know that Google gives precedence to long-form content in its search results? By long-form content, I mean posts that have a total of 2,000 words or more.

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Oye!

In a recent post, Neil Patel outlined Google’s trend towards long-form writing. He found that long-form content was more likely to be linked to from another site, and it was more likely to take the top spot in search results.

Not a bad deal for a few hundred (or thousand) extra words.

4. Improve Your Meta Tags And Rich Snippets

There are a ton of things you can do to your blog to make sure that your content looks as good as possible when it’s shared on social media or picked up by search engines like Google.

Most of this relies on a small bit of meta tag code that you should include in the <HEAD> of your html page. This code will provide instructions to networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest by telling them which image, title, and description to use when a post goes live.

You can even preview what your own link previews look like using this handy debug tool provided by Facebook.

If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great way to make sure that most of it happens automatically. By making sure your content looks as good as possible when it’s shared, you will increase your blog traffic with ease.

5. Tell A Better Story

In 2014 helpdesk software maker Groove shut down their content marketing blog after seeking a solution that would bring them more traffic. Groove decided to shift their content from “generic evergreen content” to the story of their own success.

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Groove relaunched their blog as a step-by-step telling of their journey from $20k in revenue per month to more than $100k.

As it turns out, the relaunch worked! In the first five weeks of the new blog, Groove gained 5000 new email subscribers instantly, and gave us all a lesson in the power of storytelling.

One way to increase your blog traffic is to actually tell your story!

6. Promote Your Content On Social Media More Than Once

One of the biggest mistakes we make as bloggers happens right after we press the “publish” button. Once a blog post goes live, too many of us only share our posts once or twice on social media—even though we are frequently producing evergreen content.

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The trick here is to follow a simple pattern to promote your content on social media.

  1. On publish – Social messages publish when your blog posts go live.
  2. Same day – Initial social messages trickle out to your accounts throughout the next 2–3 hours.
  3. Next day – Messages are shared again on the appropriate social channels.
  4. Next week – Another series of messages are pre-scheduled and sent the following week.
  5. Next month – More social messages are pre-scheduled for the following month. This is especially important for evergreen content.
  6. Next _____ – Additional messages can optionally be scheduled for the three-month mark or beyond.

By the way… make sure you add some variety to your social content so you don’t come off as just another spammer. You can read more about this whole process here.

7. Make Your Blog Load Faster

Did you know that Google considers the speed of your website when ranking your website in search results?

Back in 2010, Google engineer Matt Cutts announced that Google is now factoring site speed into search rankings. So, it only makes sense that you would make your blog as fast as possible.

If you aren’t careful, you can easily add a bunch of crummy plugins and themes that degrade your site’s performance over time. It’s important to spend some time reclaiming that speed and improving how you rate on Google.

While it can be a bit technical, WPMU DEV has a great guide for speeding up your WordPress blog. Follow it, speed things up, live long and prosper.

8. Optimize Your Social Sharing Buttons

Do you know where the best place to put your social media buttons is?

The placement of these buttons can actually make a big impact on how many shares your posts receive. Our research has found that they seem to do best near the top left of the page, but you can use this free heat map tool from SumoMe to find out how readers interact with your pages.

9. Clean Up Your Sidebar

One of the fastest ways to make a big impact on your blog is to simply clean up your act. After a bit of time, most blog sidebars start getting pretty congested with ads, links, and other cool widgets.

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But, those widgets aren’t so cool if they’re distracting your readers from what they should really be doing. Take a minute to really decide what you want your readers to be doing and remove any clutter that you can.

10. Improve Your Call To Action

One way to determine if a widget belongs on your blog is to ask yourself if it is contributing to your bottom line.

At CoSchedule, our blog is set up to lead readers to only two different calls to action. Users can either sign up for our email list or try CoSchedule. It’s that simple!

Have a  a clear call to action, and a blog layout and design that accurately leads your readers to it. This is a guaranteed way to improve your blog traffic and conversion rate.

Garrett Moon is a co-founder at CoSchedule, a social media editorial calendar for WordPress that allows users to schedule blogs posts and social media on an easy drag-and-drop calendar. He blogs about social media and content marketing every week on the CoSchedule Content Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter @garrett_moon.

Get Social Media Right: Five Things you Just Can’t Miss

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

There’s no doubt social media is important for businesses to engage with potential and existing customers. It’s marketing 101. Since it’s the de facto “I’ll let the world know what I think about this product or brand” medium, it’s also a unique channel where companies and businesses now face intense scrutiny.

Social media is best used for engagement. It’s a powerful tool that finally lets companies (of any size) get one-to-many with its customer base. Social media allows you to sell (without actually pushing).

At least 72% of people surveyed by HootSuite state that they are likely to buy from a company they first interacted on Twitter, for instance. There’s also a 30% in unsolicited recommendations.

With more than 500 million tweets a day and over 230 million active users, your customers are on Twitter, which is proving to be a great way to improve customer relationships. Facebook – with a user base over a billion and counting – continues to be the mainstay for B2C companies.

LinkedIn meanwhile is a great platform to establish your social presence, attract clients, employees, vendors, and even investors.

On social media conversation, share, and engagement is a direct result of your updates performing. If social media provides amplification for your content assets, the right metrics help you measure that amplification.

However, there are production costs associated with those updates. People, time, tools, resources are all under the anvil. So, how do you finalize your key performance indicators, measure the metrics that are important and determine if they’re the one that can deliver maximum ROI? Here are some of the top indicators every social media marketer should pin to the wall.

Business Assets

Today, content can be classified as a business asset. Assets are built to perform. Analytics help you understand how your assets perform over time in line with your business strategy. But just because something exists doesn’t mean it’s important. With so many metrics out there for a marketer to measure, life just got harder for content marketers.

For contemporary content marketers, metrics are best classified into classes, and then each asset must be measured against the overall performance of the asset class it comes under.

Cyfe is a single tool that helps you aggregate all of your asset classes in one place. You can pull in the numbers from the various sources, channels, campaigns (organic and paid), and maintain a single view for analytics. Chris Abraham of Socialmedia.biz termed it as One Dashboard to Rule Them All.

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Cyfe integrates with social media networks, email marketing tools, and all other major sources for your traffic, revenue, or sales. Cyfe also plugs into campaign data from Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Yahoo Advertising, retargeting networks, and with Facebook paid campaigns.

It helps you mitigate these challenges that metrics carry:

  • Metrics are numbers. But the actual transaction flow – from the time a prospect first knows about your business to the point of sale – isn’t straightforward.
  • One single metric, by itself, doesn’t mean much.
  • Metrics are best understood in clusters.

Time Vs Production

Time has a cost to it – a direct one at that. Although this metric is an internal assessment for your team to ponder on and get better at, it has a direct correlation to the rest of the metrics.

  • If there’s an editorial calendar, planned per day, for the period of time, how are the deadlines being met?
  • For every specific content asset, how long does it take to create and publish/
  • How many different types of content are produced and published for a specific period of time?

Use Excel or any other tool/software you are comfortable with but measure these to get your internal processes in shape.

Retention

Social media retention is hard to get at, especially given that social updates have a miserable shelf life of about three hours on average, according to Pamela Vaughan of HubSpot.

According to her post,

  • The mean half-life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
  • The mean half-life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours.

Given these numbers, you’d have a vested interest in looking at the effectiveness of your social media assets beyond the initial contact. For your social updates, you’d need to look at:

  • Tracking follower or fan growth over a period of time.
  • The ability of each social update to garner interest in the form of likes, Tweets, and interactions with each update.

For Twitter, as an example, here’s a sample snapshot of Twitter growth for the last 28 days:

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You also get to see demographic information, interests of your followers, and gender distribution as follows:

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Engagement and Sharing

Social media is “social”. Unlike any other media, there’s the question of reach, engagement, and sharing that’s critical to this media. Traditional publishing depending on reach alone. Social brings in engagement and sharing too.

The more engagement, reach, and share your social updates can manage to stir up, the better it is for your business for multiple reasons. Tools like HootSuite and Buffer App already provide built in analytics for you to dig into. Each social network, meanwhile, also provides analytics on how your social web properties perform.

Facebook provides insights. LinkedIn has analytics. Twitter just rolled out activity dashboard to let you see how your Tweets perform including link clicks, engagement, retweets, replies, and instances of your Tweets being marked as favorites.

For each social network, the important engagement and sharing metrics will include (but not limited to):

  • Number of impressions or reach per update.
  • Activity level around engagement per update.
  • Retweets, shares, likes, comments, and responses per update.

Lead Metrics

Vanity metrics don’t mean a thing. They really don’t. Except for massaging your ego, there’s nothing else vanity metrics do for you. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert writes:

“The end goal is action, not eyeballs.”

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All the branding, engagement, and sharing later, it’s finally about leads. Kevan Lee of Buffer Blog wrote the ultimate guide on social metrics and gets right to the point with an emphasis on leads.

A conversion is that metric you should hang on to. Defined as the number of leads generated from the sum total of social updates, amplification, engagement, and reach.

If you use a tool like Snip.ly, you can also measure direct metrics like clicks originating through each update. This nifty tool also helps you measure conversions (originating from links within social updates) to specific destinations such as landing pages and website pages.

This is the point where all the talk about social media ROI begins to make sense. Taking it a bit further, these are the metrics social hawks at Moz are looking at. The folks at Moz talk about relative engagement rates. Their point is simple: the conversion rate on Facebook isn’t the same as engagement that comes from your Instagram or Pinterest account.

They recommend a tool like TrueSocialMetrics, which helps calculate the true economic value of your social marketing across specific platforms.

Over to You

With social media, the numbers aren’t hard to get. The only thing that matters is your analytical interpretation of those numbers and how they relate to your business goals.

In short,

  • Ignore vanity metrics.
  • Define your goals, classify your metrics, and measure what matters.
  • Conversions are still the real metrics that matter.

How do you measure your social metrics? What are you on the lookout for? What kind of numbers are you busy crunching?

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M and MoveoApps. He’s passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, start-ups and all things digital marketing. Hit him up on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik for a quick chat.

The One Secret You Need to Read to Increase Conversion Rates

This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov of Devore Agency.

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Image via Flickr user Jerry Nihen.

Have you ever thought to yourself: “Why are some internet marketers so successful, while most are just average?

Now, we can come up with a variety of excuses as to why they are more successful: a bigger list, better networking, more time invested… But at the end of the day, those ARE just excuses.

There is, however, one thing that successful internet marketers do that the average internet marketer probably doesn’t think twice about. And while these hall of famers constantly talk about it, for most it just goes in one ear and out the other.

What I’m talking about is split testing. Split testing is what truly differentiates an average marketer from an extraordinary one. You see, they didn’t build a huge list by just firing aimlessly. They are strategic and analytical about the way they find prospects, and sell to customers.

If you’ve ever set up an opt-in page looking to gather prospects to add to a list, did you bother split testing with another opt-in page? Let’s say you did, but where did you draw the line? Did you only split test with one other page? Or did you keep testing with a third, fourth and fifth variation?

Success stories rarely come from luck, rather it is the relentless ability to keep trying new variations when one just doesn’t seem like enough. There really is no secret to it, but few will take the actual step to make it happen. It’s similar to being fit and healthy. You KNOW you should go to the gym and eat better, but how many people actually do?

Split testing is the backbone of all successful copywriting. You need to have a control which you can test against variations. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if your copywriting is only mediocre, how well do you think your product will sell?

Sometimes you write copy which you think is a masterpiece, but how will you know without testing? As an internet marketer, you are not branding yourself through television ads or billboards which have no known way of telling us a return on investment. We are lucky enough to live in an age where everything can be checked through analytics, to tell us how well our marketing is doing.

The truth is, you already know all of this information, just like you know that proper nutrition and exercise is the key to a healthy life. The hard part, the part that takes discipline, is implementing it into your marketing efforts. Take the extra step, and see how it changes your business.

Here’s to your success!

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by paying them a visit online.

How to Get Read: 8 Ways to Take your Blog From Existence to Greatness

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

 

Here’s one thing I bet you don’t know about Isaac Newton – do you know Newton has the most valuable tooth in human history?

One of his teeth was sold in 1816 at auction for approximately $3,600. In today’s terms, that is about $35,000 – which cost more than a Ford Fusion Titanium car in the United States.

But how is this related to writing a great blogpost? Well, we will talk about it later (if you can’t wait, skip to point #2). But before we dig deeper, here are two more facts for you:

Blogging is practically a given these days, regardless of your title or industry — and for good reason.

Though there are plenty of ingredients required to make it… rather than just write to an abyss, quality blog posts are one that you just can’t overlook.

But what exactly makes a great blog post? Here are eight tips to take your blog from good to great.

1. Make your titles count

Before anyone actually reads your post, they’re going to see your headline — and that headline often is the only consideration you get as to whether they read the post or move on, so make it count.

Coming up with decent headlines isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but by creating a good set of headline templates that you can use later for brainstorming and writing reference, you’ll save yourself time on the back end — not to mention beat out writers’ block when it strikes.

A little more on headlines

Keep in mind the following when it comes to developing headlines for your blog posts:

Don’t under-estimate the value of a good “how to”

Every article seems at least a little bit interesting when you add “how to” into the title. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “How to pour plain water into a glass in 49 ways” go viral one day. And you know what? I’d probably read it. “How to” just inspire curiosity.

Incorporate “How to” in different ways and in different places in your headline. For example, you might do “49 ways to pour water” or “How to pour water: 49 unique ways” or even “49 unique ways to pour water into a glass: the how-to you need to see to believe.”

By placing the “how to” statement at different points in your headline and adding in adjectives or other lead ins, you’re able to adjust your levels of directness or drama.
If it bleeds, it leads

Not all words are created equal, so use them appropriately and carefully. Some words are soft and picturesque, some are impactful, heavy, threatening, and powerful… you get the idea.

Words like “kill,” “bleed,” “scary,” “dark,” “war,” and “secret,” for example, are quite powerful and quickly draw intrigue. They can also drive directly to a point –or, conversely, simply create an interesting play on words. Consider your purpose.

For example, “The war on words” creates a very different headline than “Why are there so many bad blogs?” Frankly, it just sounds more interesting and impactful. Or, take the following — which of these two headlines would you rather read: “Bleeding Blue… Democrats Take All” or “Democrats Win Seats Tuesday”?

3. Ride on the famous

Famous people have pull and persuasion — use that. This isn’t to say that you can start making up quotes or statements supposedly from Sandra Bullock… but you can use what (and who) you know and have access to.

Every industry has its power players — allude to them or incorporate them smartly and relevantly.

For example, “8 Ways to Think Like Warren Buffet — Create a Powerful Rapport With Your Readers,” mentions a well-known industry authority in a non-attributive way that still establishes know-how and intrigue. “Develop a Steve Jobs-quality Vision for your Company” is another example — it includes a well-known, respected persona in a neutral way to gain interest and establish legitimacy. It works for all industries — fashion and beauty? Try something like “5 Fall Outfits Even Anna Wintour Would Approve of.”

2. Open with a bang

When someone reads your blog, you have just a few seconds to hook that reader, so make every word count and make every word interesting. If you can hook visitors to read even just your first two or three sentences, they’ll be more likely to read your whole post.

There are many different types of hooks you can use in your blogpost. To name a few:

  • Shock the readers with interesting facts.
  • Use a quote that meshes up with your topic.
  • Ask a question to spark readers’ curiosity.

Make use of fact sites (example – this, this, and this) to find interesting facts and data. The story about Isaac Newton’s tooth earlier, for example, is a hook I use to attract more reads.

3. Write how you speak

speak

People read when what they’re reading is fun… corporate or formal tones are not fun to read, so loosen it up a bit.

Write your blog in fun, easy-to-understand language that takes a more personal tone. This is what distinguishes your blog from a whitepaper or other corporate communication — and, it’s why people will read your blog. They want to know what you’re up to and they want to know you (assuming you have something to say, that is) — so let them get to know you. Share your thoughts in your writing and let them get to know you by not only what you say, but how you say it.

Nenad Senic says it beautifully:

“Write like you talk. I love English for that. No matter what industry you’re coming from, write the way you talk. Writing blog posts is like giving advice or/and making a point…Your goal is to be understood. You want to get your message across. You can’t do so with cold, bureaucratic-like language.”

4. Use images to your advantage

It’s common sense, but also statistically proven again and again: articles that incorporate images attract more back links and views. Choose images that are not only relevant, but that are actually interesting. Avoid generic clip art, people can smell cheesy a mile away.

Personally, Pixabay and Compfight are my favorite sources for high quality, beautiful, and free photos. I love Pixabay due to its flexibility (no attribution is needed for images found on Pixabay!) and Compfight due to its flawless user-experience (very easy to search images). And, in case you want more, here’s a list of 20+ free image sources for bloggers.

5. Give your post flow and structure

Good blog posts are easy and fun to read not only because of how they say and the tone or language — they’re also easy to read because they’re well structured. Things like sub headlines, bullet points, images, tables, and other visual elements help to guide the reader’s eye and makes it easy for people to follow and read.

Easy reading gets more reading — it’s true.

6. Be social, be friendly

Want to get your blog posts read more frequently? Make it easy for people to share on social media.

When people see something they like, they like to share it with people they know — so making it easy for them to do so will direct more traffic to your blog. Simple share buttons for the major social networks are free and easy to install on your blogs — in fact, 54 percent of the 10,000 largest websites now display social sharing links and, according to a recent study, websites with a Twitter share button get 700% more sharing than their social media unfriendly counterparts.

Not into the buttons or want to draw even more attention? Don’t be shy — use call to actions to better interact with your readers and encourage them to share the post.

7. Have your own voice

You remember in #4 when we talked about writing more in the way you speak? This is your voice — use it.

Your voice is your personality — and it’s what sells your blog and makes it unique. Don’t try to be someone you’re not and never be too shy to show your personality. Your blog is your own — you’re allowed (and supposed to) share your opinions and even stand up to criticism. It’s your opinion… that’s the beauty of it!

In truth, controversial posts often get more links and attention on social media… that isn’t to say that you should write with the intention of picking fights — just don’t be afraid to be yourself, opinions, personality, and all.

8. Ask for what you want

Ever read something and end up thinking something to the extent of, “and….?” Don’t write an “and…?” piece.

Make sure that every blog post has a specific point and a specific objective. That objective might be to gain social media shares, email sign-ups, or traffic to another page — the objective can change, so long as each post has one. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want — directness is good and clearly communicates to your readers. A solid call to action will accomplish this beautifully — let your readers know exactly what you want them to do.

Not sure what will work?

Do some A/B testing to determine which approach works best with your readers.

Now over to you!

These are my tips above to keep your blog post on the “great” list.

There are lots of things that separate a great blog and great posts from the rest. Do you agree with the points I mentioned in this article? What’s in your must have factors for a great blogpost? I look forward to your input in the comment section.

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. You can get his best blogging and growth hacking advice here.