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Why You Should NOT Start a Travel Blog

travelThis is a guest contribution from travel blogger Chris Appleford.

From the moment we made the decision to sell everything we own and travel the world indefinitely, we wanted to have our own travel blog. Went spent hours looking for the best templates, making lists of what blogs needed to be written when we ‘go live’, signing up to affiliate programs, reading other blogs to get travel and blog advice, coming up with the all important name, blah, blah, blah. We had high hopes that within no time we’d be seeing big numbers visiting our site every month and we’d have made our first dollar.

Well guess what? It turns out it’s not that easy. And guess what else? I’m questioning whether we should have started a blog at all. Everyone who starts a travel blog will tell you they’re “doing it to keep their friends and family back home up to speed with what adventures they’ve been getting up to”. But we all know that’s a load of garbage, right? Deep down they did it because they want to be ‘internet famous’ like Nomadic Matt, and fund their travels with sponsored posts, banner advertising, affiliate sales, eBooks, the list goes on. They want to be ‘location independent’, the great buzz phrase of blogging superstars!

But the reality is, just because you’ve decided to travel, doesn’t necessarily mean you should start a travel blog. And if I’m going to be honest, most of you shouldn’t. Here’s why…

Market saturation

Do you know how many travel blogs there are? No? Neither did I, but when I typed ‘travel blog’ into Google, there were 1.2 million hits. Are you as old as I am and remember watching the World Wrestling Federation when it was allowed to be called the WWF, with Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Andre The Giant and the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage? There’d be 25 wrestlers in the ring at the same time and it was a Battle Royale until there was only one man left standing. That’s what travel blogging is going to like for you, except there are 1.2 million in the ring instead, and it’s not fake! If the aim of your blog is to make money and help fund your travels (be honest), then you’ve got some major competition. There are only 10 spots on the first page of any Google search, and if you think you’re going to be sitting anywhere near the top of the pile of a search query any time soon, you’re dreaming. Unless of course your blog is soooooo niche that you’re basically the only one in it! If you want to be duking it out with Nomadic Samuel, The Planet D, The Professional Hobo, or any of the other big hitters, then you’d better be prepared because it’s going to take a long time.

Time

How long are you travelling for? Six months? A year? If you’re going to be gone for anything less than two years, and you want to make decent money from your blog (and when I say decent, I mean enough to pay for food and accommodation), then don’t bother. I know, I know, there are a few success stories where people have started making decent money within 12 months of starting their blog, like Chris Guillebeau and his originally titled site www.chrisguillebeau.com. But they are few and far between. Have you read articles online that made you think, “yeah, I could do that?” Be honest, I did too, like ‘How I make $40,000 a month from my blog’ and ‘$72,000 in eBooks in a week – 8 lessons I learned’. Here’s the harsh reality: unless you’re willing to spend years building your audience, this is never going to happen for you.

Effort

To build an audience quickly, one of the thousands of tasks you need to do on almost a daily basis is write good articles. If you’re a good writer, you might be able to pump out a well-written, articulate piece of prose in about an hour or so. If you’re an average writer, it’s going to take longer. And if you suck, it’s probably not going to take you that long at all, which is why your article is going to suck and no one apart from your mum and dad are going to read it! Your article has to optimised up the wazoo…SEO, key words, outbound links, internal links, attention grabbing headlines, the right URL, meta data…I think my head is going to explode! And that’s before you even start promoting your posts. Triberr seems to be the ‘in’ thing, but does anyone actually click on those automatically scheduled tweets? You need to build your audience on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube (if you make videos), Vimeo (if you make really good videos), Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon…have I missed any? Probably, and of course you don’t need to be on all of them (I’m honestly not so sure Facebook is worth it any more), but whatever platforms you are on, developing those takes time.

Then there’s commenting on everyone else’s blog posts to generate inbound links, the holy grail of SEO! Not that these kind of backlinks are worth much, but they’re better than nothing. And of course, guest blogging, like I’m doing here on ProBlogger (thank you Mister Rowse for all eternity). The better the site you guest blog on, a) the better quality the backlink is, and b) the better chances of enjoying a little surge in popularity with the faint hope that some of them will stick (until they realise your blog sucks and go back to what they were doing before).

And I’ve just scratched the surface of what you need to do. I haven’t even mentioned things like research to keep up with the ever-changing world of blogging, networking, creating products to sell, pitching for paid media junkets, etc., etc.

Education

Do you know what SEO stands for, or any one of the thousands of other digital TLA’s there are (that’s Three Letter Acronym for those who don’t know)? I bet you’ve read about big bloggers who said they didn’t have a clue about blogging when they started but “with hard work and dedication I taught myself and made it to the top, and you can too”! Guess what, that was in 2006 when they said that, and hardly anyone knew about blogging back then. Now EVERYONE knows what SEO is, everyone is working their butt of to make sure every article they write, and every post and page they create, is optimised like crazy.

But as I’ve already mentioned, there are only 10 places on the first page of any Google search, and if you’re not on it, chances are you’re not going to be found by very many people. So I suggest you bite the bullet and pay for some education, do an online course and see what you think of blogging once you’re done. I did a course called Travel Blogging Success and really enjoyed it. My blogging improved out of sight. Doing a course may give you a buzz, or it may make you see the light and you explore other ways to make an income. Either way it will be money well spent.

Money

It costs money to blog. There are small startup costs like purchasing your domain name and buying a decent premium template. There are ongoing costs like hosting and cloud storage. There are educational costs if you want to get better, faster. I paid a few hundred dollars to do the Travel Blog Success course, and it accelerated my learning about 1000%. I may still have learnt how to blog had I not joined by just doing my own research, but this helped me improve my blog immediately. Then there’s the cost of time. You see, when you’re spending hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks, working on your blog, that is time you’re not spending on making actual money by doing something else. I have to make money while I travel, otherwise the bank will take my house back in Australia, so I get work on Odesk. But if I’m going to set aside time to work on my blog, then that is time I’m not working for a client and getting paid real money. It’s an important consideration that we sometimes forget.

What you miss when you blog

When you’re blogging, you’re not doing something else. Sounds obvious right, after all, we’re not Neo from The Matrix who seems to everywhere at the same time. So when I’m at my laptop bashing out another article that next to no one is going to read, and my two-year-old son is tugging at my arm begging me to chase him around the room, I’m missing out on that play time. Or I’m not wandering down the Champs Elysees at night in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or I’m not watching the latest Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve been dying to see, or Skyping friends and family back home. The truth is when you’re working on your blog, you’re not doing something else you would probably rather be doing. You need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

Some people just can’t write!

Ok, this is going to cause some people a little pain, maybe even dent the pride of a few people, but some of us were not born to put pen to paper (sorry, but I couldn’t think of a digital analogy about laptop keys and Microsoft Word)!

If you can’t spell, and don’t know how to use the built-in spell checker, your blog site is going to suck. If you can’t string a few words together in a coherent, engaging way, then guess what? Everybody together now…”your blog is going to suck”. Why would a company inject funds into you and your blog if you can’t write something that somebody else is going to want to read? They’re not, because any brand that a company sponsors is a reflection on them.

Be honest with yourself, if you want to make money from your blog but you can’t write to save yourself, then do yourself a favour and find other ways to make money while travelling. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway, but you can’t be Lloyd Christmas either (Google him).

Is there any hope?

No.

Just kidding, of course there’s hope! Where there’s an Internet connection, WordPress, and a will there’s a way. There are many, many success stories out there of people who make a living from their blog and the associated income streams they generate from it like guest speaking, digital products, and membership programs. But be honest and ask yourself the right questions before you plough time and money into your travel blog. How long am I going to be travelling for? What’s more important to me, keeping a travel blog or spending that time doing something else? Is there an easier way for me to make money while travelling? Do I suck at writing?

If you’re still keen to start that travel blog then I commend you. You’ve obviously thought long and hard about it, and are willing to put the time and effort into making it a success. From my research, it seems like any blog that is making serious money started around 2007, give or take a year or two. That gives you some idea of how long it’s probably going to take to start raking in those six and seven figure salaries.

In hindsight, we were on a hiding to nothing starting a blog about nomadic family travel, after all there are plenty of those like yTravel blog and Travel With Bender who are already firmly established in that niche. We would have been better off trying to get even more specific and targeting a smaller, but far more receptive and loyal audience. If there’s one thing that I’ll always be grateful for having started our travel blog, is that I now know what I must do to make my NEXT blog a success. Unless of course the brilliant readers of ProBlogger become loyal followers of Travelling Apples and send my monthly unique visitors numbers into the stratosphere!

You can follow our journey on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Happy travels!

 

3 Tips for Accelerated Blog Growth & Online Visibility

This is a guest contribution from Robert Kramers.

Discouraged with the amount of traffic your blog attracts? Maybe you’re looking for ways to engage more readers, build more business and build a loyal following?

Understanding a few effective strategies can help you attract the readers you want and get them to share your content, grow your readership and increase your overall visibility.

Here are the three super-effective blogging strategies for building your reputation online.

Find Blog Topics you Know have a Proven Record

The trick to publishing content that people share, is to base the content on something that has already worked in the past.

You can take a lot of the guesswork out of publishing content by researching what people have already enjoyed and improving on it.

Hereís a few ways you can do this:

Method #1: Examine a successful competitor

One of the best ways to work out what’s popular on a competitors website is to use Moz’s Open Site Explorer.

Let’s say you are in the social media industry and you’re looking for a topic for which you want to maximize the chance of success. You could throw a competitors home page URL into OSE, and view the top pages of their website.

  • Step #1: Find competitor who ranks well in Google search:

 

 

 

 

  • Step #2: Enter their home page URL into OSE

ose-search

  • Step #3: Click the ‘top pages’ link to the left of the page (pictured)

top-pages

  • Step #4: Scan the list of top pages on the website. You will often find some of their most popular blog posts in among the top few pages.

scan-results

Top pages in OSE are based on the authority of the page, which incorporates a number of signals including links from other websites and social signals.

In about 40 seconds of searching, I managed to find: 7 Mobile Marketing Stats that Will Blow Your Mind, which has a heap of social shares, tweets and Facebook ‘likes’ to go with it… It’s popular!

You now have a topic which you know people are interested in. Can you make it better? Add additional information or images? Rinse and repeat for other competitors and you’ve got a solid strategy for creating content you know people love.

Method #2: Work out whatís HOT using Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a tool which scans the web for content which has the highest number of social shares, based on keywords you type in to the search.

  • Step #1: Search for your topic

step1-buzz

  • Step #2: Scan the results and find popular topics

search-results

Enter more keywords in the search and find a gold mine of topics which have a proven record of success. All you need to do now is make it better, and get it in front of people. Theyíll share it!

Pro Tip: Find out who currently links to your competitors content and show them your more advanced and improved version. Chances are, they’ll either share or link to your content.

Blog Post Titles Matter HUGELY

A great headline can help your content stand out among the information overload. It tells your readers why they need to read your article and why it should be read now, rather than put in the ever-growing stack.

A compelling headline convinces a potential reader that your content is valuable and that theyíll get something out of the effort they put in.

Use effective verbs, and adjectives amplify the effect of your blog post title. You can test some of the common headline structures to see what works best with your audience.

Include keywords in your blog post title to help with your search engine rankings.

Unsure about which keywords? This guide might help.

Adding keywords to your headline is not just good for helping your website show up in Google, but it is also a proven method of increasing the click through rate (CTR) of your search engine snippet.

According to this, if I searched for “social marketing tips” in Google, I would be more likely to click this result (highlighted), than those below it because it’s a closer match to what I initially searched.

Aside from that, it has the most intriguing headline also.

google-twitter

Pro Tip: Make sure to include your popular keywords in your headline, to ensure your blog post has a better chance of ranking for related searches.

Deliver Great Content that Engage the Reader

In the past, obtaining visibility in search engines for your website was achievable with a few simple “SEO techniques”.

However, times have changed.

Google is more advanced and the number of shortcuts have significantly decreased. Search engines are getting better at analysing actual social signals, including shares, re-tweets, and links to your content.

Search engines use this information to determine where your content fits on the continuum of popularity and quality.

“Create something worth sharing and people will share it”.

In order to get this “social currency”, you need to provide something that readers actually want to read and share with people they know.

Blog posts that provide answers, advice, and inspiration to readers consistently generate traffic and can become cornerstones of a successful blog. And when you solicit your readersí, create discussion and get opinions you get them involved with creating and improving your content.

Specifically, consider these types of posts to engage and increase readership:

Craft Useful Answers to Specific Questions

Readers appreciate posts that provide real answers.

Present a solution or range of solutions that have gotten results, and then ask readers for their feedback. Any responses you get back will strengthen your post and help drive traffic. You may get positive and negative responses to your original answer and hopefully some additional creative solutions that readers can try.

Pro Tip: Reverse engineering common questions is a great strategy in itself for finding new blog topics.

Objective Advice / Shared Results

If youíve had success solving a problem, starting a new venture, or meeting a particular goal, share it.

Offer advice based on where you ran into problems or made mistakes. The goal is to provide inspiration to your readers and to make their path easier.

This type of content can add to your credibility as a blogger in addition to driving traffic. It puts you in the position of being the expert and gains the trust of your readers, especially if they are able to replicate your success based on the template you provide.

What strategies do you use to resonate with your readers and drive blog traffic?

Robert Kramers is an SEO consultant at E-Koncept. Want to learn more about increasing your website traffic? Sign up to his newsletter or follow him on Twitter.

9 Copywriting Rules To Create Hypnotic Posts Your Readers Will Love

Image via Flickr user Daniel Lee

Image via Flickr user Daniel Lee

This is a guest contribution from Hassan Ud-deen.

Your blog posts have a purpose, right?

You want your readers to take a specific action after reading your post. It could be to: like, share, subscribe, comment or just think about something. Either way, you’re aiming to elicit a response.

And It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a sale letter, a blog post, or an email.

If you aim to evoke any kind of response or action… you’re writing copy.

Funnily enough, most of the content marketing style writing you read now, is heavily influenced by copywriting principles that marketers (who violently squeezed the power out of every word to make their copy super effective or go to bed hungry,) used to sell to complete strangers.

So let’s revisit the raw “old school” copywriting roots of blogging/content marketing and discover the powerful principles used to make millions from the written word, and how they apply to writing popular posts today.

 

1 Put On Your “Blog Detective” Hat

In the marketing world, a hook is the one story, idea or feature that races out the screen and locks the reader’s attention in its jaws.

Copywriters would dig through sales literature, interview previous customers, and brush up on the history of a product. All in search for the one undiscovered piece of information that made a reader’s eyes jump out of their sockets.

Legendary copywriter John Carlton calls this putting on your “sales detective” hat and getting into a “Bogart-like” gumshoe frame of mind.

The same principle can be used to craft irresistible posts that spread like wildfire.

Jon Morrow is a perfect example of this. The only difference being that he wore a “blog detective” hat instead of a sales one.

Before his posts went viral on Copyblogger, he noted the number of comments on almost every post, analyzed the type of comments being made, and studied the social media statistics for years.

Jon’s thorough detective work allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the heart-warming dreams, worrying problems and crippling fears of the Copyblogger audience, resulting in posts that exploded with comments and shares.

If you want to write posts that go viral, put on your blog detective hat and study popular posts, dig through comments, analyze them, and look out for patterns.

You’ll find exactly what your audience wants to know, and be able to deliver hot content that they will love.

 

2 One Thing Successful Copy and Winning Posts Have in common

Highly converting copy and popular posts have one crucial element in common…

A magnetic, benefit-driven headline.

According to David Ogilvy: “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

That means if you’re headline isn’t up to scratch, your product isn’t going to sell, and you’re going to be bleeding money.

If you’re a blogger, your audience won’t be sold on why they should click on your links and your your post aren’t going to be read.

Take a look at the popular post section to the right here on ProBlogger.

My favourites are:

The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program

7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog

Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Notice Something here?

They all promise an irresistible benefit to the reader.

We could spend hours discussing the anatomy of popular headlines, but there are two must- haves for injecting a hefty amount of stopping power into any headline.

  • Promising a mouth-watering benefit to the reader
  • Arousing the readers burning curiosity

If your headline does the two things above, that’s a good sign.

Looking for more ways to power up your headlines? Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks report is an indispensable guide

 

3 Strong Copy and Seductive Blog Posts Adhere To The Same Formula

Ever heard of the AIDA formula? It’s a known formula for writing sales pages, but it can also be used to quickly create high-power blog posts.

A- Attention. This is your headline and your opening sentence, where you’re looking to snag your prospects attention and quickly show that what you’re selling is beneficial to them.

If you’re a blogger, the only difference is that your readers aren’t paying you with cash.  They’re paying you with their time and attention, and you’re selling them on how reading your content will benefit them.

I-Interest. This is where you’ll pique the interest of your prospects. Nudging them further down your copy by weaving a relatable story or describing a painful problem that your product solves.

In your posts, this is where you’d seduce readers further down the page by sharing a story or arousing their curiosity and emotions.

D-Desire. Here’s where blogging and copywriting have a slight split.

In a sales page, this would be where you describe the benefits of your product and get your reader warm and runny over what you’re selling.

In your posts, this is where you deliver your content.

A-Action. After being swept off their feet by all the amazing benefits of your product, this is where you invite your prospect to take some kind of action. Usually to make an order, cut out a coupon or fill in a form.

As a blogger, after your readers are charged up and inspired by the content you’ve delivered. This is where you invite them to take action by commenting, subscribing or clicking on a link.

Blog posts and sales pages both have the same goal: To get the reader to take action, and that’s what the AIDA formula is designed to do.

So the next time you find yourself gazing at the ceiling with a blank page on your screen. Give the AIDA formula a try.

 

4 Long Post vs. Short Posts?

What’s more effective, long posts or short posts, long copy or short copy?

Joseph Sugarman answers the question perfectly: “Copy is never too long if the readers takes the action that you request. Therefore, it can’t be dull, it must be compelling, it must relate to the readers and, finally, it’s got to be about something the reader is interested in.”

This means that as long as you’re providing value to your readers, keeping them engaged, and relating to them… the length of your post is almost irrelevant.

 

5 Adopt the Gun to The Head Writing Philosophy

When John Carlton started his copywriting career, he had no source of income, savings for only one more month’s rent, and last a tank of gas in his battered car. (Not a nice place to be right?)

But instead of feeling panicked by his situation, he describes feeling eerily calm.

Why?

Because he had to create successful ads, or starve.

To do this, he treated each ad as if it was a life or death matter. Like their was a cold nozzle of a loaded gun pressed into to his head while he wrote.

So, how does one write when they have no choice but to create something that moves people to act?

  • You don’t take risks.

You rely on proven methods that you know will work. In the world of copywriting this means using proven structures, headlines and devices. Relate this to blogging, and it means using proven headlines, blog post types and topics to create hard hitting posts.

 

  • You be as clear as possible.

If your reader loses interest, you lose the sale. Similarly, if your post is boring; you’ve just lost a reader. Use simple language and aim to be as clear as possible.

 

  • You always provide a juicy benefit to the reader

In a sales letter, you communicate the benefit your readers will gain from your product.  In a blog post you communicate how your content will enrich their lives.

What can they expect to gain from your continuing to read your content?  Be sure to let your reader know or risk losing him.

Give yourself no option but to write stellar content, and you will.

 

6 The Most Powerful Word in Your Writing Arsenal

Is the word “You.”

Your readers doesn’t care about what you want. What your interests are, or what you like. However they care, very deeply, about what they want, like and find interesting.

Constantly relate everything back to your readers by use the word “you” generously in your writing. It’s about your reader, not about you.

 

7 Shock Your Readers Into Paying Attention

Another lesser-known copywriting trick used to craft hypnotic sales letters is to anticipate and answer objections before your reader can voice them.

Read any good sales letter, and you’ll notice every time the reader can ask a question, it’s answered immediately. This helps the copy flow and extinguishes any stress the reader may have.

You can do something equally powerful when writing your blog posts too.

In their book “Made to stick”, Chip and Dan Heath discovered that we all have a little guessing machine running inside our heads. It’s constantly trying to guess what’s going to happen next.

And as long as everything goes according to plan, people stay a little bored and disinterested.

A powerful way to snap people out their guessing trance, is to break their guessing machine by knowing what they expect you to say, and deliberately going against it.

So instead of anticipating objections for a product, anticipate what your readers expect to hear and say the opposite (or something they’re not used to hearing).

Take for example this post here by Carol Tice.

Carol predicts what the reader is thinking, and says the complete opposite. She simultaneously educates and shocks the reader. Instantly jolting their guessing machine and forcing them to pay attention.

If you want your posts to snap your readers into attention, attack their guessing machines with something unexpected. It could be unique advice, a controversial view or something that no-one else talks about.

 

8 Use Stories To Bond With Readers

Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic. They are ideally set up to understand stories- Roger C. Shank.

Stories stir feelings and charge you with emotion. Sometimes making you burst with excitement or flooding your world with sadness. Thanks to their extreme power,  they are a popular tool amongst copywriters.

A recent experiment by journalist Rob Walker set out to test the power of stories and how they can add value to almost anything.

Rob hired a group of writers to create emotionally provocative stories about unwanted, cheap thrift store items.

He then placed the items on ebay with the story in the description.

The results?

They sold $128.74 worth of abandoned thrift items for over $3000 dollars. An overall value increase of over 2,700%.

By using stories in your blog posts, you arouse your readers emotions and create sympathy and make yourself more relatable. You’ll also be able to cement ideas and information into readers brains with much more strength and clarity.

 

9 Electrocute Your Readers With Emotion

There’s a reason why sales letters describe painful problems, amazing dreams, and heart breaking stories to readers before mentioning their products.

Emotion.

Copywriters rub salt into readers wounds and paint pleasing pictures to charge people with emotion. They know the only way to get anyone to act and to pay attention, is to get their hearts to beat a little faster. To raise their body temperature up a notch. To make them salivate with desire. To make them feel.

In a special report by Jonah Berger and Katy L. Milkman called “what makes online content go viral” one of the biggest revelations was that content that evokes powerful emotions is more viral than content that doesn’t.

This makes sense. For people to take act, they have to feel.

So for people to actively share and promote your content, they have to be exploding with so much inspiration, ambition or hope that they can’t help but spread your message.

While there are a ton of ways to inject more raw emotional power into your writing, the best way is to charge yourself up with the emotions you want readers to absorb.

Get flush with anger. Get extremely hyper. Get insanely happy. Then, discharge your energy into your writing.

 

One Final Thing

All the tips in this post can do wonders when it comes to creating popular posts.

But, if there’s one thing that could render all the above tips combined utterly useless.

It’s value.

If what you’re write doesn’t bring value to your audiences lives in any way, no tip will ever help you create posts that readers bookmark and share.

How do you come up with killer content for your readers? Please tell me in the comments below!

Hassan Ud-deen is a freelance blogger and email copywriter who helps businesses use content to grow. You can find out more about him on his blog www.f-bombmarketing.com or if you need help with your blog posts or copy, shoot him an email or connect with him on Facebook.

Design Trends of 2015: How Your Blog Can Adapt

This is a guest contribution from Owen Andrew.

Since mobile internet began to overtake desktop internet usage in January 2014, there have been major innovations in website design in light of this trend. In general, websites have been opting for a simpler, mobile-friendly design. Maintaining a blog in such a fast-paced environment can be a huge challenge, but staying on top of trends is required for success. In order to keep your blog interesting and relevant in the upcoming year, there are five design trends to keep in mind when continuing your work in 2015.

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Image via shutterstock.com

Emphasis on Mobile

With so many people turning to their mobile devices when going online, it’s no wonder that many blogs have begun creating content that is easy viewable on smaller screens. While mobile used to be a consideration, for web-savvy designers, mobile is now the focus. If a site doesn’t work on mobile, you are now neglecting what is likely the majority of your audience, so start any web design process by focusing on mobile, and adapt that design to work on a desktop screen, rather than vice versa.

 Focus on Typography

Thanks to Google Fonts, a free package of various typefaces, and a recent decrease in typography package prices, there has been renewed interest in creating a unique look through higher-end typography. Typography is not only useful for creating a more beautiful, unified look for your blog or website, it can also have a large impact on the readability of your text– especially on mobile platforms. For example, fonts such as Verdana and Georgia have been shown to have the best readability on screens. Small touches such as typography can lend a lot to a site, and help it stand out among the competition.

 Minimalist Design

Because of the new emphasis on mobile, the web design landscape is expected to be much more minimalist than in previous years. The emphasis on flat designs and stripped-down icons will be more present in 2015. Apple, Microsoft, and Google have all embraced two-dimensional buttons and icons recently, and other websites are beginning to follow suit.

 Large Background Photos

A major web design trend in the upcoming year, large background photos have become popular because of their ability to fill in an otherwise sparse, minimalist site. This trend has been facilitated by an increase in bandwidth across the globe, and allows for scrolling sites filled with large pictures and lots of information. Using large background pictures is great for home pages, and when used with flat-design buttons lends any website or blog an expansive, elegant appearance.

 Expandable Menus

To accommodate the simpler look that is currently prominent in website design, bloggers and blog sites have started utilizing expandable menus in order to keep the blog decluttered and clean-looking. These expandable menus are often integrated with flat designs that use intuitive, minimalist icons rather than three-dimensional ones. These expandable menus are especially well suited for mobile, where they can stay out of the way of the text and media.

Blogging, especially for a living, is an extremely competitive field. Keeping up-to-date on current trends in design will enhance your content by supporting it with a cleaner, more modern look. The internet is estimated to contain more than 152 million blogs! Staying ahead of the curve on advances in technology and design will help your blog keep ahead of the pack.

Owen Andrew is a tech journalist and Apple enthusiast. When he’s not writing or drooling over the latest Apple announcement, he’s usually hanging with his kids and doing family activities. Feel free to give him a shout on G+ or Facebook.

Going from a Blog to a Vlog: What the Big Companies Can Teach Us

This is a guest contribution from social media analyst Matthew Yeoman.

The move online from only having a blog for your online marketing is, of course, one which has long since been abandoned. Brands now have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on and on to promote their website and the blogs themselves.

A trend towards video, with YouTube leading the way, has lead to the rise of the vlog as the next big thing in content marketing. Many of the biggest brands in the world are on YouTube. They are killing it with views, subscribers (there’s a familiar term for bloggers), and brand exposure.

I’m going to be using data supplied by SocialBakers to look at two channels: Apple and Red Bull. These two brands have contrasting styles of content presentation. You can see both extremes of how you can vlog successfully, and how this relates to blogging.

The Apple vlog strategy: Quality over quantity

We all know Apple to be one of the highest quality electronics manufacturers in the world. Their products are sleek, sexy, and right to the point. It’s no surprise that their vlogging strategy follows this exact style guide.

Apple’s vlog works on having high quality content at only the most high need moments. You can expect a new video on their page for a product launch, and their bi-annual events are also posted.

To look at the numbers, here are Apple’s top ten most viewed videos as of Oct. 30 2014:

TITLE VIEWS LIKES DISLIKES RATIO [%]
Apple – Holiday – TV Ad – Misunderstood 6723096 46077 3891 92.21
Apple – Introducing iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus 5478799 34912 5081 87.3
Apple – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – TV Ad – Duo 5408369 21099 8642 70.94
Apple – iPhone 5s – TV Ad – Powerful 2855270 22496 2295 90.74
Apple – iPad Air – TV Ad – Your Verse 2526843 20616 1779 92.06
Apple – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – Seamless 2522625 15249 1823 89.32
Apple – iPhone 5s – Dreams 2042473 20378 1331 93.87
Apple – Mac 30 – Thirty years of innovation 1891868 26777 2114 92.68

Click on any of those 10 videos and you’ll see a high quality video with incredible production values. This is part of Apple’s overall brand strategy of being a bit elitist. Your brand strategy on both your vlog and your blog has to match the overall feeling of your brand as well.

An interesting approach that Apple has taken is that they have disabled comments on all their videos. Take a look at the Likes and Dislikes for each video, the ratio shows a percentage of how ‘Liked’ Apple is on YouTube.

Their Like/Dislike ratio is, at best, 92.68. At lowest, 70.94. They average out in the high 80s. This is highly unusual for a brand as they typically score much higher. Nike Football has nearly a 97% Like/Dislike ratio for their 10 most popular videos.

Apple is a bit of a controversial brand. In order to escape the nightmare of YouTube comments, they have chosen to disable comments. If your brand blog has problems with controversy following you, you may want to disable them on YouTube as well. Apple’s low ratio shows that their YouTube page would likely be filled with negativity, avoiding it may prove to be a wise move on their part.

Everything I have just talked about parallels Apple’s blog exactly. They write about the same stuff they’re vlogging about, and they update just as often. The posts themselves are very well produced, and there’s no comment section. Are you starting to see the similarities in blogging and vlogging now?

Red Bull fosters community and rapid video releases

Red Bull is a company so vastly different from Apple that it is no surprise that they have gone a completely different route with their vlogging. With a target marketer of nearly always active millennials, with short YouTube attention spans, and a product that is best with constant promotion, Red Bull have turned to the power of LOTS for their vlogging. Here’s a typical video:

Short, punchy, full of action. And infrequent actions isn’t their style. Here is what the Red Bull video page looked like at the time of this writing:

RED BULL VIDEOS

Seven new videos in the last 24 hours! You’d think that this extreme audience, with some videos catching virality and getting 1 million+ views, would have an equally unpredictable subscriber growth. You’d be wrong about that:

SUBSCRIBER GROWTH

That growth is so consistent that it’s boring! This approach, however, is far from boring. They have taken the concept from their daily blog, and applied it to a vlog. If you’re seeing growth in your brand’s blog with daily updates, this may well be the approach you take with your vlog to increase your channel subscriber growth.

The other thing that they are doing, which Apple isn’t, is fostering a community by opening up their comment section. Now it is, I’d say around 50% of the time, full of pointless trolling. The rest of the time you’ll see their fans voicing their amazement, asking if it’s fake or not, or bragging about crazy stuff they say they’ve done.

Their channel engagement rate shows this consistent brand interest paying off as people come back again and again to comment:

RED BULL ENGAGEMENT

Just like Apple above, everything that Red Bull does on their blog they also do on their vlog. Both have a clear vision of who they are as a brand, and link their content strategy across vastly different content delivery platforms.

What you can learn from Red Bull and Apple’s vlogging

There are two key takeaways from this:

  • You need to match your company voice to the content style you deliver. A high profile brand needs a high end vlog – just like their blog. A high-energy brand needs high energy content with a frequent delivery schedule – just like their blog.
  • Your community engagement will depend on the type of feedback you typically receive. Brands with controversial images may benefit from having no comments associated with their vlog. Those with a youth market need to help foster a community, and the comments section is where that happens.

How all of this ties back into your blog is that you will likely have already learned a great deal of how you will vlog thanks to your blog. If your comment section is notoriously filthy, clean it up by disabling it. If you have seen a community growing around your brand in the comment section that goes beyond trolling, open up your comments and allow the community to grow. Above all, make sure that the tone and presentation of your blog and vlog match one another for a consistent brand voice.

Matthew is the social media analyst over on the Devumi blog. You can find him there every Wednesday and Friday writing about the latest developments in social media. Stop by the blog, follow the @Devumi Gorilla on Twitter, or check out this article, to learn more about Devumi

The 6 Step Online Marketing Strategy Every Small Business Should Follow in 2015

This is a guest contribution from Jawad Khan.

2013 was the year when people started taking content marketing seriously. The momentum grew in 2014 and thousands of corporations, small businesses and startups invested heavily in content creation. 2015 will see this trend grow even further. Thousands of new blogs and millions of new blog posts will be created over the next 12 months.

Perhaps the biggest revelation is the way local bricks and mortar businesses have taken up content marketing. From search results to social media, the internet is getting more and more local. Many local businesses have realized that content is the cheapest way to build trust and attract customers from online channels. And the way people are turning towards Google for suggestions about their local outlets, means that more local businesses will start investing in different online marketing activities.

But with increased competition, content creation alone is not be enough to win you customers, especially if you own a local bricks and mortar business. You need to come up with a comprehensive promotional strategy to make your business stand out.

To simplify this for you, I’ve divided this strategy into six key activities. In 2015, you need to stay focused on these six areas to get ahead of your competitors and boost sales.

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the foundation of this strategy. Creating high-quality, actionable, and useful content is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. If you want to be perceived as a company with in-depth knowledge and expertise of your industry, you need to create high quality content that addresses the problems and questions of your target customers.

This includes creating content for your own blog, guest blogging on other established blogs in your niche or a niche that complements your industry. Target the blogs where you can engage your potential customers.

Take your content right where your audience is. Get active on forums and discussions websites like Quora, LinkedIn groups, Twitter and any other platforms where you can talk directly to your customers. Share your content on social networks, create engaging and educational email courses, and write eBooks and Whitepapers on industry issues.

Make sure everything you know about your industry is out there in the form of your content.

2. Reputation Management

You’ve created a great blog with high-quality content. You have also been featured on high-traffic blogs in your niche. You have traffic flowing in to your website from different sources.

But when a customer decides to visit your outlet or buy from you online, what does he do first? He looks for reviews about your company.

Generating positive reviews and maintaining a strong online reputation is crucial, especially for local bricks and mortar businesses.

Research shows that dissatisfied customers are twice as likely to write an online review as compared to satisfied customers. So even if you have lots of happy clients, your reputation can be tarnished by just a few unhappy customers, because they speak out more often.

To counter this, make sure you have lots of happy client reviews on the web. Your reputation is at stake here and, with it, thousands of dollars in potential sales.

I personally recommend automating this reputation management process with Reputation Loop, a smart online reputation management tool.

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It maximizes positive reviews from satisfied customers using a series of follow up emails and updates, and minimizes negative reviews by proactively approaching dissatisfied clients for feedback. So before they can write negative reviews about your company on a public forum, they’re given an outlet to express their anger and dissatisfaction.

In short, the online reputation of your business is the gatekeeper for all other forms of marketing. So take it seriously.

3. Influencer Outreach and Networking

Every niche or industry has certain influencers who command respect and enjoy a large following. They’re perceived as the ultimate industry experts and their opinion holds a lot of weight. Your target, as a local business, should be to get in the good books of these influencers. Even a few words of endorsement from influential figures in your industry can skyrocket your reputation, credibility and sales figures.

There are different ways of getting in their radar. For local bricks and mortar businesses, the best thing is to associate with the influencers in real world. But to do that, you’d first need to engage with them in the online world.

You can start by following their Twitter account and joining their blog’s mailing list. Tweet the different posts from their blog (don’t forget to tag them), comment on their posts and respond to their Tweets. Do this for a while so they start recognizing you. You can then invite them to your outlet or offer them something complementary (even if that means sending a gift through a courier service).

You need to invest time and energy in building your network and engaging the influential figures in your industry. These relationships can pay back dividends

4. Email List Building

If you’re not building an email list, you’re not building your business (even for a bricks and mortar business). In this age of competition, where companies are approaching customers through multiple channels, you need to engage your customers regularly even when they’re not buying from you. Keep reminding them about your presence and stay in touch with them through informative emails, exclusive offers and discounts.

Make sure your website and blog are optimized for email conversions. Place email opt-ins on multiple prominent locations of your website. Use pop-ups and free giveaways to seduce your visitors.

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I’ve personally found great results with SumoMe List Builder. Even its free version has lots of great options for maximizing email conversions. You can use it as a pop-up, activate delayed appearance and many other useful features to get the attention of your readers and increase opt-ins.

5. Offer Ecommerce and Online Shopping

 

If you’re currently not offering online shopping options on your website, seriously consider doing so. The global ecommerce growth, thanks to smartphones and tablets, is reaching unprecedented heights. Just recently, the Chinese ecommerce giants Alibaba made more than $9 billion sales in one day. Even local customers are much more likely to buy from your online store as compared to previous years.

 

Thankfully, adding ecommerce features to your website or setting up an online store is not difficult these days. You can create a fully functional online store and add complete ecommerce features to your website with tools like Selz.  It’s an easy to use ecommerce and shopping cart solution that is equally effective for selling digital and physical products and services.

 

 

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Selz handles everything from product listing and store creation to payment collection and list building. You can embed a Selz store to your website by copy/pasting a simple html code or using their WordPress plugin.

There are other great ecommerce tools that you can choose as well. Here’s a useful comparison chart to help you.

6. Facebook Advertising

If there’s one paid advertising mode that I’d gladly recommend any day of the year it has to be Facebook advertising. It’s by far the most economical, targeted, and effective paid advertising mode especially for local small businesses. You can choose your target audience based on interests, age groups, location, Liked pages and many others criteria.

It’s most effective for boosting your list building activities. My personal formula is to create a landing page (use LeadPages or create a simple one on your blog), add a free giveaway on the page and use Facebook advertising to route traffic to the email list. It’s almost like switching a traffic button on.

But if you’re using it for the first time, start with a small budget. Test $20-30 ads with different configurations. Once you get the right combination, increase your budget gradually.

If trends from the previous years are anything to go by, 2015 will be a rocking year for small businesses that are prepared to take advantage of the different online marketing, advertising and promotional channels. The significance of content marketing will increase even more. But you’d have to combine smart reputation management techniques with it to ensure that visitors convert into customers. As I said at the start, if you stay focused on these six points, it’ll be hard for your competitors to catch you.

What are your thoughts? Which one will you be trying this year?

Jawad Khan is a content marketing consultant and a freelance blogger for hire. Follow him on his blog Writing My Destiny, Twitter, and Google+.

How To Advertise Your New Business In Blog Posts Without Looking Too Promotional

Image via Flickr user twicepix.

Image via Flickr user twicepix.

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Victor Ijidola.

Sometimes we just want to advertise our new businesses in blog posts so people can quickly know the new product or service we’re selling.

But then, we don’t want our readers to see us as being too promotional. So often we say little or nothing about our product, thereby making a lot of them read, get value, and leave. without ever having a glimpse of what we sell.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound good for business.

So how do you solve this puzzle?

Here’s the truth: Millions of people visit various blogs every day to get tips that would help solve specific problems for them. If they begin to read your posts and notice that you’re all about how to get their hard-earned cash, they mostly won’t have a reason to give you their attention.

And when when they don’t give you their attention, they’re not in the right frame of mind to buy whatever you’ve got to sell.

So you really don’t want to look too promotional in your blog posts.

In this post, I’ll be sharing two basic strategies by which you can effectively advertise your new business in blog posts without turning people off.

Strategy #1: The challenge approach

Okay, this approach will stress you. However, you will discover that it’s worth the effort in the end.

Basically, here’s how it works:

  • Come up with a problem
  • Solve the problem with your product/service
  • Get results
  • Share your results in blog posts

The following posts will give you a clearer picture of the challenge approach:

  1. Neil Patel’s How I Grew Techcrunch’s Traffic By 30% In 60 Days

So what’s the problem in this case? Traffic.

It’s something anyone who makes blogging a part of his marketing strategy would crave for. But if you’re running a blog, you’d know how challenging it can be.

Neil solved this problem by using his digital marketing service to grow TechCrunch’s traffic by 30%, and then shared his result in a blog post.

See how it works?

This way, he’s not only sharing some great tips with his readers, he’s also advertising his craft.

  1. Zac Johnson’s How I Made $860,538.38 PROFIT in 4 Months!

Six figures in four months?!

Seriously, that’s a big problem for a heap of us bloggers.

Zac got it solved and made a blog post out of it — telling the whole world that he really is a genius in making money online.

How does this apply to his products and services?

Well, there are a lot of bloggers out there who would do anything possible to make as much as six figures in a year, let alone in just four months.

Hence, if Zac is offering any make-money-online coaching service, trust me, people would sign up from all over the world.

But how do you get these kind of challenges and results to share as blog posts while you’re just starting out your business?

After all, these guys have being in their respective niches for years. Of course, they would have even more to share form their experiences.

Well, it’s the same approach:

  • Challenge yourself with a problem – particularly one that your peers find challenging.
  • Use your product/service to solve it
  • Then share your results in blog posts

It doesn’t have to be multiple challenges at once.

Just pick one. After all, we all face challenges at one point or the other in our lives, and we discover that one problem is better tackled than two or more.

Here’s an example of a post by a blogger who challenged himself to write 270 guest posts around the year he started out blogging.

Bamidele Onibalusi’s How I Wrote 270 Guest Posts In 8 Months.

Bamidele started blogging in 2010 and challenged himself to write more guest posts that every other blogger in that same year.

Long story short, he was able to write 270 guest posts in 2010.

The problem here is this: getting 40 guest posts published in eight months is a huge problem for a lot of us bloggers.

Bamidele wrote 270! Seriously, that’s huge.

So what results did he get? He puts it this way

“…I got no true results until I told people what Im capable of. It all started when I wrote a post on my blog telling people how I wrote 270 guest posts in 8 months, this boosted my credibility, made people to start respecting me, brought a lot of interview offers and eventually landed me a big client…”

See how it works?

If you’re freelance writer, for instance, you come up with a challenge like: getting a good number of social shares on a particular articleor getting published on a big blog.

When you’re done with the challenge (if you succeed, of course), you can then come up with a post like: How I Got [xxx] Number of Shares on a Single Guest Post.

This would tell your prospects that, as a freelance writer, you can write articles that will get their prospects engaged and in turn, expose their brand to more customers.

See how it works? When you solve a common problem, you become recognized.

Strategy #2: The business blogging approach

If you run a regular blog, don’t worry, it won’t hurt to do some business blogging once in a while.

After all, you want to advertise your product/service blog posts without looking to promotional, right?

By the way, what exactly is business blogging?

As Corey Eridon of HubSpot puts it Business blogging is a marketing tactic that uses blogging to get your business more online visibility.

It’s simply the art of running a blog that talks about how your product or service can solve specific problems for people.

For example, HubSpot is an inbound marketing company, hence, you’ll usually find topics related to inbound marketing on their blog. That’s business blogging.

Okay you get the drift.

So if you’re an internet marketer, for instance, you can simply write posts like:

  • 7 Incredible Reasons Why Internet Marketing Is A Must For Every Business
  • How Internet Marketing Can Get You Longtime Customers, etc.

Here are few tips you need to make this approach effective:

  • Content is king – you’ve heard that a million times. So genuinely write great contents. We know it’s really not about word counts, but take your time to dive into every corner of each topic. This way, you would get your prospects’ attention.

Ive just developed a handful of simple habits that have bumped my pay rate much higher than the pay rate of the average freelance writer 

See how she dropped the hint that she’s a freelance writer?

  • Lastly, craft a compelling author bio.

Bonus tip: You can use this approach on your guest posts on bigger blogs. This way, you’ll be reaching a wider audience, telling them how much you know your stuff.

I used this approach with my guest post on Blogging Tips.

The result? I got a client.

Here’s the harsh truth 

If I’m going to be honest with you, I’ll let you know that the strategies above don’t always bring an overnight success.

However, it does bring success.

But you’ve got to use them to write a heap of great posts, on your blog and on other blogs.

Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing puts it this way, “You understand that if you want blogging to part of your marketing strategy, then you’re going to have to write great posts, and lots of them on your blog, and on bigger blogs, too” .

What are your thoughts?

Victor Ijidola is professional freelance writer and copywriter. You can learn more about his freelance writing services or more get sales and marketing tips for your new business on his website. Some of his works have also been published on Forbes and Blogging Tips. Connect with on Twitter @veeblogs

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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.23.50 pm

Mobile

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.24.01 pm Business Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.24.07 pmMediaScreen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.24.13 pmGeo

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.24.32 pm

Specialized Search

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.24.50 pm

Home & Office

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.25.00 pmScreen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.25.10 pmSocial

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.25.22 pm

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.34.12 pm

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.