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7 Powerful Ways to Promote Your Blog Offline

This guest post is by Jennifer Michelle of Jennifer Michelle Communications.

Online marketing is a great way to grow your blog—but it’s not the only way. Traditional marketing methods can also be used to promote your blog and develop your readership. Here are seven ideas to get you started.

1. Get in the press

In the world of professional blogging, so much emphasis is placed on guest posting that it can be easy to overlook its predecessor—traditional media.

Yes, you can reach a large audience with a well-placed guest post, but you can do the same with an article in your local newspaper. Call the editor and offer to write an article for them, in exchange for a mention of your website in your byline.

“But wait,” I can hear you saying, “if they read me in the paper they won’t be able to click and visit my site.” That’s right, but they can type it into their smartphone or look you up when they get to the office.

Instant clickability isn’t always the goal—strive for memorability, instead.

When you write a solid piece for the press, you are instantly perceived as an expert. If your article is any good (and your blogging experience gives you the writing ability to ensure that it will be), people will remember it—and they’ll keep you in mind.

Media isn’t just print, though. Not by a long shot. Try radio. There are thousands of talk shows out there in the offline world. Research them. Search on talk radio shows in your topic area and pitch yourself as a guest. Do the same with magazines and television—offer your services as a source, an author, or a guest to be interviewed.

This is, in fact, the tactic I employed when starting my latest blog, Jennifer Michelle Communications. I contacted my state newspaper to pitch the topic, “Websites on a Shoestring,” and spoke with the business editor. He suggested I send him an article to review. That piece will be appearing in print next month.

I had similar success with talk radio. Using my years of blogging to craft a great headline, I made a quick ad on my topic and emailed it to several talk radio show producers. The ad consisted of a headline, a bulleted list of tantalizingly-written talking points, my credentials, and contact information.

The result? Biz Talk with Josh, a CBS station in the Washington, DC region, contacted me to have me as back up for a guest that seemed poised to do a no-show. When, as it turned out, they didn’t need me, they rescheduled me for July.

That kind of thing happens a lot when you’re working with the media, so always tell producers and reporters that they can call you at the last minute.

2. Teach a class

I know you’re used to thinking in terms of webinars, but I mean an actual class.

Take a minute to review your most popular posts. The odds are they could convert easily into intriguing class topics. Or consider your subject as a whole and teach a class relating to that. Sensual University does this with yoga and dance classes. Her message is all about the beauty and sensuality of life (a huge and varied subject in itself), but it’s through her yoga and dance classes that she pulls in new readers. When her students discover her unique, sensual approach to movement, they are eager to find out more.

The trick is to find the right venue for your topic—and your schedule. Ask yourself, are you able to teach a ten-week course or are you looking to do a one-off? Do you want to give a half-day seminar or are you thinking you’ll only need an hour? Community colleges are frequently looking for new classes, so if you’re up for a longer time commitment, give them a call.

Just want to teach for an hour or two? Then see who offers workshops in your area. Libraries are a great place to start, as they often have lecture series. Or try the Rotary club and get on their calendar.

Depending on your niche, there may be quite a lot of possibilities. For instance, if you blog on cooking, you may be able to teach a class at the local health food store.

Whatever you do, give your students print-outs of one or two of your most relevant posts—and be sure it gives your website and contact information.

3. Give an award

There’s nothing like staging an event to attract attention. Better still, when the event is an award that you are presenting, you are instantly considered an authority in your field.

There are lots of ways to go about this. You can take nominations or simply name a winner. You can announce it with a press release, or throw a big bash.

You want the award to represent your brand—ideally, it will become an annual event—so choose wisely. Make it something with broad appeal in your niche, yet something that’s intriguing enough to attract some attention.

Cupcakes Take the Cake has launched a new award this year honoring the best professional and amateur cupcake bakers. They even have a category for best cupcake video! What could be more fun than that?

The press possibilities are endless—just think of how many local newspapers will be thrilled to print that one of their local bakers won Best Cupcake Baker in their city! Every time they mention the award, they’ll mention who presented it—and that spreads the word about your blog.

4. Hand out your business card

It’s amazing how often bloggers will overlook the need for business cards, especially if their topic has limited relevance in their locale.

The thing to remember, though, is that you never know who you are going to meet—and you never know who they will know.

There’s also just something about having your business card in hand that makes you suddenly see thousands of opportunities for telling people about your blog.

When you design your card, be sure to include your logo, tagline, and all your contact information. For more, see this article about what to put on a blogger business card.

And if you want some great examples, check out MomComm’s blogger business card showcase.

Attend a conference for pro bloggers

Sometimes your online and offline worlds converge beautifully—and never moreso than at a conference dedicated to the needs of professional bloggers.

Email isn’t the only way to get a gig guest posting on your favorite blog. How about raising the possibility over drinks at a cocktail party? Or what about going out to lunch with your favorite bloggers and brainstorming ways you could work together?

Just because the end goal is an online event doesn’t mean offline marketing strategies aren’t the best way to get you there.

That’s what blogger conventions are all about—forging networks and creating partnerships (not to mention making some great friends).

Your goal offline should be the same as your goal online: to be as helpful and useful as possible in whatever partnership idea you propose. Help your fellow bloggers get where they want to go and they’ll be sure to remember you—and want to work with you again.

While you’re networking, be careful not to focus too heavily on the most famous bloggers in your niche. Partnering with mid-level bloggers is not to be ignored—they have devoted subscriber lists, too.

SXSW and Blog World Expo are two of the biggest blog events, and of course there’s also the Melbourne ProBlogger Event.

General blogging events aren’t the only way to go, either, so spend some time searching for events targeting bloggers in your niche, like this Wine Bloggers Conference.

6. Attend a conference that’s not targeted to bloggers

If you want to find your readers, niche conferences are the place to look.

They are also an amazing source for new ideas. A couple of days talking with your target demographic and you’ll walk away with a list of new blog posts you can’t wait t to write and a bunch of new product ideas you want to get cracking on. You’ll also be exposed to the latest trends in your field—and get to see firsthand people’s responses to them.

These conferences are filled with workshops and speakers, all of whom are potential partners. There is also, needless to say, the possibility of you being one of the presenters. That’s what Jesse Friedman of Beer & Nosh did at the Craft Brewers Conference.

Since organizers need months to pull these events together, make a point of meeting with them and get on their radar for next year.

7. Donate prizes

People who put on events are always on the hunt for door prizes, enclosures for gift bags, and donations for silent auctions.
When targeted to the right event, these contributions have great marketing reach. Every person at the event will see the door prize and receive the gift bag. If it’s a silent auction, everyone there will walk by each item on display.

Moreover, as a prize contributor, you will be listed in the program and the website, and may even be mentioned in event press releases.

This is a technique I’ve used numerous times to promote PoleSkivvies, the niche sports apparel brand I launched with only a blog and a newsletter. I’ve donated prizes to pole fitness championships from New York to New Zealand and I’ve even donated beyond my immediate niche, giving prizes to silent auctions that were fundraising for other dance styles.

One word of caution: I wouldn’t count on the prize winner becoming a devoted reader or customer. They will surely enjoy their prize, but the impact from this marketing tactic has more to do with brand recognition. You want people to know you’re out there.

That means it’s important to put some thought into what you donate. A copy of your ebook, a consulting package, or a video course are all possibilities. Look over your product list and see what would be the most intriguing.

However, don’t donate something you give away free on your website. Event organizers like to list the value of prizes to increase people’s excitement about winning, so get in the spirit and donate something meaningful.

If you can, attend the event. There’s nothing like mentioning you donated the door prize to strike up a conversation and get people talking about you and your blog.

Bonus tip

An easy way to get people you meet in the offline world to visit your blog is to put a QR code on everything you pass out. From copies of your blog posts to business cards, include a QR code to some of your most popular posts or product pages, as well as your URL.

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and most of them have apps for reading QR codes—make use of them.

Have you tried offline promotions?

Running a professional blog doesn’t mean you should forget about time-honored methods of traditional marketing. Incorporate them into your overall strategy and your blog will be the stronger for it.

Have you promoted your blog offline? Tell us how it went in the comments!

Jennifer Michelle built a niche sportswear company from the ground up using just a blog and a newsletter. She now helps small business owners bridge the gap between their own online and offline marketing. Check out her tips on 21 Ways to Market Your Blog Offline.

8 Killer Tactics to Grow Your Blog with LinkedIn

This guest post is by Josh Turner of LinkedSelling.

Is your blog a business, or do you hope that it someday will be?

If you answered yes, then you should consider refocusing some of your social media activities toward the world’s largest social network for business.

That’s right, LinkedIn isn’t just for big companies or finding a job. There are a ton of practical tactics and strategies that you can engage in to build your blog on LinkedIn. Here are eight of my absolute favorites.

1. Join groups where other bloggers hang out

It’s surprising how few bloggers take advantage of the free communities available on LinkedIn. While paid membership sites flourish, completely free membership groups exist within LinkedIn that offer many of the same benefits.

LinkedIn groups

Consider getting involved with groups such as Professional Bloggers or Small Biz Forum.

These types of groups are full of people just like you: they’re eager to build relationships with other bloggers, looking for guest posting opportunities, and engaged in daily conversations about being a small business owner.

2. Use the LinkedIn Share button to promote content

ou likely have Twitter, Facebook, and maybe a couple other social sharing buttons on your blog. If you don’t have a LinkedIn share button, you may be really missing out.

The Share buttonY

Using the LinkedIn share button, you can quickly post and promote your content in every group that you are a member of.

If your content is relevant to your target audience, and the LinkedIn groups that you belong to are relevant, you’ll see an immediate and sustainable spike in traffic by consistently utilizing the LinkedIn share button. The key to growing that audience, as with almost anything, is that you provide great value through the network, and deliver it consistently.

3. Use premium features to discover new influencers

Would you be interested to find out any time somebody added “Community Manager” or “Blogger” to their LinkedIn profile?

With a premium LinkedIn account (about $30 per month) you can save searches such as these, and receive a weekly digest including every person in the world that recently added these words to their profile.

The LinkedIn people search

As somebody who is looking to build a real business with your blog, connecting with these people could be HUGE for your business. Consider that people new to the game are eager to build relationships, for one.

But the real power play here is the ability to identify new managers of larger sites. By approaching them when they are new to the position, you’re going to be one of the first. Tons of value here.

4. Find Strategic Groups to Explore Partnerships

If you’re like most people, you might not have much of a plan for how you’re going to leverage LinkedIn to build your business/blog. This presents a great opportunity for you if you’re willing to utilize LinkedIn to its potential.

One thing you can do to advance your business is to build strategic relationships on LinkedIn. Here’s how you could do this:

  1. Identify 10-20 sites or blogs that could really help to position your blog in the spotlight.
  2. Research who the players are, find them on LinkedIn, and join the groups that they are active in.
  3. Stay on top of their activity within groups.
  4. Engage with them in their conversations.
  5. Build a relationship.
  6. Take it to the next level.

Darren Rowse is probably not reachable through this method, but the people that run his operation likely are. You have to do your homework, but spending some time on the front end could really open some doors for you.

Darren on LinkedIn

5. Demonstrate your expertise to land gigs

There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your expertise on LinkedIn to generate real, paying gigs.

For most of us, it is consulting income or our “real job” that feeds the family.

The wrong way

Consistently sharing your content and engaging people within groups are two of the best ways to do this. Don’t forget, I said consistently. Dabbling won’t get the results you’re after.

Be sure, if this is the type of work you’re after, that your profile clearly states that you are “for hire.”

From there, demonstrate your professionalism and skills, over and over. Be a good person. Build quality relationships. The rest will take care of itself.

6. Use LinkedIn Ads to promote your products or list

If you sell products on your blog, or you have a budget to work with for building your list, consider exploring LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn advertising

LinkedIn’s advertising platform can be accessed with as little as a $10 per day budget. The beauty of the system is that you can target your ads to an exact type of person. Want to position your ad in front of managers, at Los Angeles businesses, with between 10-100 people, and over 35 years old? LinkedIn can take care of that for you.

Whether your offerings have a broad appeal or are more niche oriented, the LinkedIn ad platform could be a great way to get the word out.

7. Use LinkedIn Signal for competitive analysis

LinkedIn Signal is essentially LinkedIn’s search function for the entire network. Enter a phrase that you’re interested in, and you will see every related bit of activity from within every nook and cranny on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Signal

The power of Signal is that it exposes you to people outside of your first-degree connections. You can see status updates for every person on LinkedIn, and group posts for every group on LinkedIn. Powerful stuff.

Signal is a great way to stay up to date on competing blogs, to research new content ideas, and to find new people who are worth following and connecting to.

8. Follow companies that are in your space

If you’re operating within a specific industry, there are certainly hundreds, if not thousands of companies represented on LinkedIn. There are nearly 2.5 million businesses with registered company pages on LinkedIn. Clearly the actual number of business owners with a presence on LinkedIn is much higher.

Consider following the companies that matter to you. This gives you the ability to receive updates from them, stay current with their news, and it creates visibility for you within the company’s network.

Following a company

You should also consider researching their employees listed on LinkedIn. This can be a great way to get in with the people that matter, providing a channel for interview requests, and positioning your site as a leader in the space.

Are you building a business?

If the answer is yes, you need to be on LinkedIn.

Whether you are writing about dog bones, margaritas or minor league badminton, there are some serious tactics at your disposal within LinkedIn. If you’re interested in building relationships, building your list and building your income, LinkedIn should be a major part of your business strategy.

So how about you? Are you using LinkedIn to build your blog?

Josh Turner is the founder of LinkedSelling, a LinkedIn marketing firm that offers training and outsourced LinkedIn campaigns. Get his free 10-part video training series, How to Convert Your LinkedIn Profile Into a Lead Generation Tool.

How to Use Google+ to Update All Major Social Networks

This is a guest post by Alan Cairns of bozboz.co.uk.

We tend to use social networks as channels that feed into each other, with certain channels for posting content and others for re-publishing it. Widgets and apps can help pull a Twitter feed to a website, or a blog RSS feed to a LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile.

The hub and spoke distribution model represents this system, with a structure that resembles wheels on a bike. The hub is at the centre of the model, connected to each spoke. The hub is the source of the data, and the spokes are the individual channels where that data is published. The hub might represent a blog or Twitter feed, and all the spokes separate social media channels.

It’s important to think strategically about how these channels work together, which channel is going to function as the “hub,” and which as the “spokes.” Obviously, creating bespoke content for each social network is the ideal, but bloggers need to be efficient, and using the hub-and-spoke approach is an efficient way of reaching a large audience through multiple platforms.

Social networks are usually happy for users to integrate feeds and streams into their profiles, making import features available or apps for importing content from elsewhere.

Google+, however, does not allow Twitter feeds, Facebook activity streams or RSS feeds to be imported. This reflects Google’s effort to ensure that the content on Google+ is always unique.

This means that managing a Google+ profile or page can require a lot of work, as updates need to be done manually. This is likely to increase the quality of posts on Google’s social network, but for marketers it creates additional work. Why post bespoke messages on each social media platform if the content and its message is the same?

Considering that feeds are a no-no with Google, using G+ as the “hub” makes a lot of sense, with other social networks being updated from a G+ feed. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t even provide the functionality to export a Google+ activity stream as an RSS feed.

Thankfully, several people have found ways to create a feed from a Google+ profile.

Working with Google+

Several services emerged last year which offered to turn a Google+ profile into an RSS feed that can be imported to other social networks. But most of the hacks that were blogged about last year don’t work any more—Google seem to be discouraging users from importing feeds to Google+.

Fortunately, Rob McGee created an easy-to-use service which can feed your Google+ posts directly to Facebook and Twitter.

All you need to do is sign in with your Twitter and Facebook logins, post a validation code on Google+, and then any posts shared with Rob McGee on Google+ will automatically be posted to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Something tells me Rob is being added to quite a few circles as a result of developing this handy service!

How does it look? Here’s a Google+ post of mine.
My Google+ Update

Here’s how it looks on Twitter.
Google+ feeds to Twitter

And this is the post on Facebook.
Google+ feeds to Facebook

Remember that Twitter can only re-post updates of 140 characters or less.

Facebook and Twitter will create shortened links to Google+ posts that include videos, but posts with images will not be shared automatically. The only way to share images is to put the URL of the image into the status update, which automatically becomes a hyperlink on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s also important to remember that follow-up comments will only be visible on the social network on which they were posted.

Once Google+ is the “hub” rather than the “spoke,” your Twitter and Facebook statuses can be updated centrally from your Google+ account. You might still need to check both networks, respond to comments, and so on, but Google+ now sits at the centre of your social media presence.

While it could be considered duplication of content to feed updates between social networks, this is an efficient way to communicate with followers, friends, and fans—and to roll out your content strategy across several social media profiles simultaneously.

Alan Cairns is a Search and Social Marketing Analyst at BozBoz, a Brighton-based Digital Agency.

The Only Blog Post Idea List You’ll Ever Need

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It.

There are so many articles out there on how you can come up with new blog post ideas, but do any of the suggestions actually work?

We started our youth work blog in September 2011 and have posted six days a week ever since, so we’ve had to come up with over 200 posts related to youth work so far. Needless to say, it’s been tricky coming up with this many ideas.

I’ve read all kinds of different suggestions on how to overcome blogger’s block, but each person’s experience is different. Here are 20 techniques we’ve used to help counter blogger’s block.

  1. Embarrassing stories: Think back to moments of your life when you were really embarrassed. Use that situation to craft a post relating to your niche—there’s a good chance it’ll entertain readers (as did our post on how being asked to rate the first time with your wife out of 10 on a BBC gameshow watched by millions can relate to youth work).
  2. Choose subjects for each day of the week: This has probably been my single most helpful way of deciding what to write. Each day from Monday to Saturday has its own category—Mondays are for posts on youth work activities, Tuesdays are youth work Q&A, Wednesdays are program administration, and so on. This means our focus can be more defined each day, rather than having to come up with a random topic every time we write. You can do this even if you only blog once a week—the first week of the month could always be based on one subject, the second week on another, and so on.
  3. Use special days as inspiration: Use special days and public holidays as post idea prompts. For example, we have a Spotlight on Youth series where we focus on a certain young person based on certain public holidays. For example, we wrote about the former child soldier Ishmael Beah on Veteran’s Day. On National Pirate Day, write your post in Pirate language. National Pancake Day? Work your post around that.
  4. Cell posts: Can you divide your posts into two, like a cell divides? You might start writing a post and realize that you’re starting to talk about two different things. For example, we recently started wrote a series about parents’ involvement in your youth work. When working on a post about unsupportive parents, we realized there were actually two types of unsupportive parents—one who’s unsupportive of their child, and one who’s unsupportive of the work you’re doing with their child. These are completely different issues, so we were able to get two days’ worth of posts out of one original idea.
  5. Change of scenery: Changing your location can have a big impact on your creativity. We’d started getting stale with our idea creation recently, so we went and sat on Virginia Beach for an hour to come up with future topics. After an hour, we had over 100 new blog posts ideas.
  6. Write for sub-niches: Youth work has a number of specialized areas—urban, rural, faith-based, LGBT, gangs, foster care, mental health, sexual health, young offenders, etc. There’s a good chance that whatever niche you’re in has many similar sub-niches. Make a list and use it to inspire further ideas.
  7. Use Google Analytics: Take a look at the keyword searches that are bringing people to your site, as this will give you a great idea of what information people are looking for. You may think that the fact that they’ve arrived at your site means you’ve already written about what they’re searching for, but that’s not always the case. We did a series on preparing young people for job interviews (including what they should wear), but we’ve had many people arrive at that post having searched for what youth workers should wear to job interviews. It’s a completely different topic, but we can now create a number of posts about youth worker interviews.
  8. Likes: What do you love in your niche? Why are you blogging about it? What was your favorite moment relating to your niche? These questions can all be turned into posts for your blog.
  9. Dislikes: Similarly, what do you hate about your niche? What practices wind you up? Let these frustrations become passionate posts.
  10. Consider opposites: By looking at an issue from opposite directions, you can get two new blog post ideas. For example, we recently gave advice on how to come up with good youth group names, but also wrote a subsequent post on how to avoid a lame youth group name.
  11. Be inspired by social media: On Twitter, are there any hashtags specific to your niche? Keep an eye on these as they’ll give you a good idea of questions people may want answered. On Facebook, are people leaving comments on your page that you could address in a blog post?
  12. Solicit guest posts: Try to build up a bank of guest post submissions from other bloggers. These can then be used when you’re feeling dry of ideas.
  13. Search research: Use Google’s keyword tool to discover what people are looking for, as opposed to what you think they’re looking for. This is also where your sub-niches can also come into play. For us, instead of searching for “youth work,” researching a sub-niche like “youth retreat” uncovered a number of keyword searches like “youth retreat themes,” “youth retreat ideas,” “youth retreat games,” etc.
  14. Compilations of your own posts: Introduce your readers to some of your most popular posts by making a compilation list. If you’ve covered a number of sub-niches, you could even have a series of compilations based on each of those sub-niches.
  15. Compilations of other bloggers’ posts: If you want to become an authority in your niche, you’ll need to read other blogs relating to the same niche. Show them some love by creating a compilation of the best posts you’ve read recently and linking to them.
  16. Take training … and share it: Have you had specific training relating to your niche? My wife (the better half of Youth Workin’ It) has an MA in youth work and community development. She’s therefore able to share her learning from her Master’s to youth workers who don’t have that qualification.
  17. Consider current affairs: Are there any popular news stories not directly related to your niche that you could write about by giving your niche’s take? For example, after watching the Stop Kony video, we provided a youth work session plan idea based on the Stop Kony campaign, as well as an opinion piece on whether youth groups should support the campaign.
  18. Use other people’s ideas: Don’t plagiarize other people’s blog posts. Yet there’s nothing wrong with taking their idea and improving on it, or offering a different opinion.
  19. Explain jargon: Are there phrases in your niche that wouldn’t make sense to an outsider—or even an insider? Write a series of posts explaining words or phrases that would be jargon for most of the population.
  20. Run competitions: Are you selling ebooks or any other resources? Hold a competition where readers get the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books. This is not only an easy post idea, but also provides another opportunity to promote your resources.

There are 20 items in this list. What tips can you add to build on these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, which includes a youth work blog and have started producing their own youth work resources to help youth workers worldwide.

3 Quick Tips to Get Your Next Post Out On Time

This guest post is by Tor Constantino of Thedailyretort.com.

The old cliché, “time is money” is particularly true for any professional writer—especially when you’re on deadline. The consequences of missing deadlines are lost money, work, and credibility.

As a former journalist (a.k.a hourly deadline writer) for more than a decade, I know that deadline writing is a skill that can be enhanced. Here are three unconventional tips I learned from the newsroom, which might just help you meet your next post deadline.

1. Treat every writing assignment as a project

Most of my journalism career was as a radio news anchor and TV reporter in Rochester, NY—the home city of five different Fortune 500 companies.

Most of the news in that market had a business focus, and I enrolled in business courses to help sharpen those skills. The course that most improved my ability to write to deadline was not a writing course at all—it was a Project Management class.

Every writing assignment should be viewed as a project with actionable tasks, milestones, resource needs, time management requirements, and a final deadline.

While each writing project plan will vary based on its specific needs, they all have some common steps to help organize your writing.

Steps such as developing timelines, identifying content experts, listing story dependencies, and task prioritization dramatically helped me become a more disciplined and deadline-driven writer.

2. Create an interview log

Eventually, every writer talks to another person or expert to gain information regarding a writing project. A digital recorder is a very useful time-saving tool in this regard.

The time-saving trick occurs when you jot down the time code, listed on the device’s display, each time your expert gives a great answer. That written interview log will save tons of time as you select quotes for the writing project.

Another tip is that, since every state has different wiretapping and recording laws, it’s useful to have your expert acknowledge the fact they’re being recorded on the actual recording itself before you start asking questions.

Also, when you’re up against a deadline, it’s useful to capture your own thoughts on the recorder since the average person can talk nearly three times as fast as they can type. Dictation while driving or standing in line helps transform “dead time” into “deadline-driven” time. You can then transcribe your recorded thoughts later, and create that post much more quickly.

3. Enhance your ability to focus

Your ability to focus is the single most important aspect of writing to deadline.

Every newsroom I’ve every worked in has a large bank of Bearcat-type scanners monitoring hundreds of specialized frequencies for police, fire, ambulance and rescue activity to track breaking-news emergencies. On top of that is the auditory barrage from the block of elevated TV screens to keep an eye on competing news outlets. Plus, there’s the obligatory newsroom noise from 20-30 reporters, editors and producers clattering on keyboards or chattering on phones working toward their respective deadlines.

The ability to focus and write meaningful content in that cacophony was a necessary skill for deadline writing that extends beyond the newsroom.

Even if you never set foot in a newsroom, you can practice your ability to focus.

Start by turning up the volume on your television to a distracting decibel, as well as a nearby radio, while someone is simultaneously vacuuming the living room. Do it, really.

Then give yourself 30 minutes or so—in the midst of that noise—to write a blog post that you fully intend to use, or some other writing project you’re working on.

If you do this focus-challenging exercise once a week your ability to focus, think, and write under extreme circumstances will improve—as will your ability to write to deadline.

Bottom-line: deadline

These deadline-driven tactics can result in real time-saving benefits for virtually any writing project or writing ability.

If you practice them, they could be the difference between making or missing your next deadline‚ and when it comes to blogging deadlines, the time and money you save is most often your own.

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author and current PR guy from Washington, DC with 23+ years experience as a professional writer. He writes regularly at his blog, http://www.thedailyretort.com. You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

How to Use Metaphors to Engage and Encourage Readers

This guest post is by Elizabeth Joss of Xcellent Media.

“They nailed their stakes into the earth of my life, those farmers. They knew the place in me where the river stopped, and they marked it with a new name. Shantaram Kishan Kharre. I don’t know if they found that name in the heart of the man they believed me to be, or if they planted it there, like a wishing tree, to bloom and grow. Whatever the case, whether they discovered that peace or created it, the truth is that the man I am was born in those moments, as I stood near the flood sticks with my face lifted to the chrismal rain. Shantaram. The better man that, slowly, and much too late, I began to be.”—Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram, p.136-137

The words of Gregory David Roberts fill me with a sense of awe and passion, and at the same time they inspire me to write. His novel, Shantaram, is comprised of moving metaphorical prose that calls readers to action, whether it be to laugh, cry, or to delve deep within themselves.

Metaphorical writing can be used to transport the reader to an imaginary world, all with the unification and comparison of two unrelated objects.

It’s the perfect technique for bloggers wanting to capture readers’ attention—and hold it.

Advantages of metaphors

  • Metaphors add spice to your writing and can make your words sing. They add a layer of richness, making you a better storyteller overall.
  • Metaphors help us relate to a complex world. They help make concepts appear more real and tangible to us and thus we are better able to digest certain concepts (note the metaphor in this sentence too!). They also help us explain complex topics much more effectively to our readers. People will then attach great importance to a topic if they can relate to it through a metaphor.
  • There is a strong visual element to a metaphor, which is what makes it so effective for the reader.
  • Using metaphors can propel the behaviour of your readers and usher them towards action. They are pertinent persuasive devices because they help the reader unlock a part of him or herself and enable a more thorough engagement with the writing and their own imagination.

Metaphor pitfalls

  • Avoid overusing metaphors in your writing, as they can weigh your prose down significantly. A metaphor should give your blog post lasting understanding and clarity. Don’t force metaphors into your writing. Rather, use one extended metaphor throughout a text for a better effect.
  • Steer clear of the cheesy or clichéd metaphors we often use in speech. For example, she was blown away by his words or he cooked up a storm. The metaphor should not bring the reader to a halt while reading—its use should be as natural as possible.
  • Know your audience. Metaphorical language differs from culture to culture but it is nonetheless an important part of societies and of individual cognition. People think metaphorically and they create and organize their world through metaphors. This means that different groups of individuals will have different understandings of metaphors, or even completely different metaphors than others. If you want to write for a certain group of people, be sure to research and understand their metaphor usage.
  • Steer clear of using clichés and of forcing metaphors in your prose, unless you are trying to make a point that is both persuasive and effective.

How to create your own metaphor

Blog posts with metaphorical titles (similes) usually attract a lot of attention. I’m sure you’ve seen articles about why blogging is like dating, going to the gym, or even like The Wizard of Oz. These comparisons usually run through the entire blog post right from the title itself, thus creating an extended metaphor.

Sean Platt’s The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine is a great example of metaphor. Writing a blog post is likened to Eminem’s storytelling and rapping techniques. This controversial headline is catchy and Sean uses a popular artist to make us identify with his topic right from the outset.

Here are some useful steps to create your own metaphor (extended or ordinary) for use in your next blog post:

  1. Focus on the concept you are trying to explain. For example, you may be informing your readers about the benefits of yoga.
  2. Brainstorm the concept and write down everything that comes into your head, as I’ve done below:

  3. What similar, real-life objects or concepts (must be completely unrelated) embody the points you’ve brainstormed? Make a list of the first few things that come to mind using the free-association technique (where you write spontaneously as things come into your thoughts).

  4. Which one stands out at you the most? Once I had brainstormed the benefits, the pretzel idea immediately stood out at me—its shape is similar to a yogi’s body when performing a twist on the floor! This is appropriate and it adds an element of humour as well. You can almost imagine a yogi as a contortionist or pretzel on the floor.
  5. Does this metaphor make your topic more accessible to your readers? The idea of a yogi as a pretzel may be slightly clichéd but people can relate to it and its humour makes it a winner.

If you are in need of some inspiration, check out Darren’s post, Blogging is Like, for 42 examples of extended metaphor/simile blog posts, none of which are obvious comparisons.

Find your magic within

The above short tips are only guidelines to get you thinking about using comparisons in your writing. The trick is to think out of the box and make analogies that are not so obvious. You can use the above tactics if you are keen to create a metaphorical title. However, it is safe to say that the more you read and write, the more natural your metaphors will be and you won’t even have to think about purposely employing them.

So if you don’t want ideas or blog posts that are half-baked or regurgitated then look to metaphors as your food for thought. Metaphors are exceptionally powerful devices that, when used properly, will knock the socks off your readers. So don’t wait around—conjure up your own marvellous metaphors!

Do you use metaphors in your writing? Or are there other literary devices you are more drawn to?

Elizabeth Joss writes for Xcellent Media, a media and marketing company based in Cape Town, South Africa. She covers topics like social media, SEO, blogging and web marketing. For more great blogging tips by Elizabeth, follow the Xcellent Media blog or add Xcellent Media on Twitter

Find Fans’ and Followers’ Pain Points in 5 Simple Steps

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

Social media sites are great for a number of different purposes, including connecting with your readership and establishing yourself as a thought leader within your industry. However, the interactions you have on these popular social sites can also serve another major purpose within your business—providing the market research necessary to uncover your audience’s hidden pain points.

But what are pain points, and what makes these issues so useful from a marketing standpoint?

Essentially, “pain points” are the problems that members of your audience have that they’re actively seeking solutions for. Let’s take a closer look at different parts of this statement to see what makes pain points so powerful:

  • The problems: When you can identify different issues that your audience is facing, you can also identify and provide the solutions they need. Doing so will increase both your reputation within your niche and your ability to market products that resolve these issues.
  • That members of your audience have: As a blogger, you’re only one member of your community, which makes it easy to assume that your audience members are experiencing the problems you expect them to have. Unfortunately, limiting your survey of potential pain points to your own assumptions means that you could miss some tremendous opportunities to connect with your readers over problems you never even imagined they’d be facing!
  • That they’re actively seeking solutions for: Problem-solving is a continuum, which means that people need to acknowledge that they have certain problems and actively seek out a solution before your interventions can be useful.  Approaching readers at the wrong point on this spectrum—for example, before they even know they have problems—can make your marketing efforts less successful.

With all of these different factors in mind, here’s a simple five-step process for uncovering your audience’s hidden pain points and using these problems to connect more effectively through better-targeted blog posts and paid products.

1. Find your audience

Clearly, in order to identify the pain points your audience is expressing on popular social networking sites, you first need to locate your readers!

Now, I’m not just talking about high-tailing it over to Facebook or Twitter, finding a few token users and setting up your pain points marketing plan based on the presence of a few audience members. Instead, what you want to find is the social website where people are actively pouring out their innermost feelings to fellow members of their communities.

Within your niche, this might be Facebook or Twitter—or it might be a forum, message board, or chat site.  Don’t limit the potential of your market research by observing only surface-level interactions or assuming that the top-tier social networking sites will be the best places to understand your members’ inner pain points.

The easiest way to identify your audience’s internet hangouts is to pretend to be an audience member yourself.  Enter questions into Google as if you were searching for the types of information your site visitors are looking for and pay attention to the sites that appear in the natural search results.  Explore these sites and follow any external links you encounter, paying close attention to signs of high engagement (for example, post comments, forum thread views, and social shares).

Once you find the hottest social sites in your niche, take the time to set up a profile for yourself and begin interacting with your audience.

2. Find the keywords they use

As you engage with your potential site visitors on your chosen social networking sites, pay special attention to the way they’re asking questions and the keywords they use to do so.

One of the biggest weaknesses facing bloggers who incorporate traditional keyword research into their website marketing plans is that the data found in these number-crunching programs often fails to tell the whole story about your audience’s actual interests and desires. The result is a blog that’s well-optimized for the search engine spiders, but not your actual readers!

For example, suppose you run a blog in the weight loss industry, and your keyword research turns up good search volume and low competition for the phrase, “easy tips for fat loss.”  However, if your audience rarely uses the phrase “fat loss”—instead, preferring the words “weight loss”—you could be missing a golden opportunity to target your audience’s pain points by failing to optimize your blog for the appropriate words and phrases.

3. Search social media sites for questions and issues

In addition to using social networking sites to uncover potential keyword optimization ideas, you can also search the content that’s been posted to your social-site-of-choice in order to uncover your audience’s most pressing issues.

Continuing with our weight loss blog example mentioned earlier, suppose you determine that one of the best social sites in your niche from a market research perspective is 3fatchicks.com—a popular health and fitness forum site primarily targeting women.  Entering the phrase “help me” (a good signifier of the issues people are actually facing) into the site’s search tool returns the following set of results:

Research results

Many of the threads listed here provide great insight into the pain points your audience is currently experiencing—any of which could be turned into future blog posts or paid products.  As an example, the forum post titled, “help me stop being so addicted to chocolate!!!” could easily be transformed into a “17 Ways to Beat Your Chocolate Addiction” report that you can practically guarantee will appeal to members of your target niche.

4. Ask your audience questions

If you’re having trouble identifying social networking site posts that reveal your audience’s pain points, you can also go directly to the source and gather data by asking your audience leading questions.

For example, consider the following sample questions:

  • What has been your greatest achievement to date?
  • What invention would help you most right now?
  • What one thing would you like to give up forever?
  • What would you do right now if you were handed $1,000?
  • If you could change any one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Just a word of caution, though: for best results, it’s best to use this technique only after you’ve already established yourself as a valuable member of your social networking community. Attempting to ask leading questions when you’ve just joined a new online community can result in either a serious lack of responses or the perception that you’re scamming your chosen social networking site.

5. Develop blog posts and info products based on stated issues

By following the steps above, you should have uncovered a wealth of information about your audience’s hidden pain points that can be directly transformed into effective blog posts and paid products.

However, keep in mind that market research on your audience’s issues should be an ongoing part of your blog’s promotional plan.  Changes occur in every industry, whether in terms of new websites launching, new technologies being released or any other type of innovation, which means that the problems your audience faces will change as well.

For best results, check in with this process frequently and pay attention to the reaction you get to the posts and products you release targeting the pain points you’ve uncovered.  Use this insights to tweak your future launches, and—over time—the insight you gain into your audience’s hidden motivations will make you a far better blogger and a much more respected member of your community.

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.

The Simplest Way to Write a Unique First Draft

This guest post is by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy

Do you have 45 minutes to work on your blog?

If so, I can show you how to write the first draft of your next blog post.

First drafts are messy. This blog post originated from five unrelated words on five separate lines, double-spaced, in a Microsoft Word document. That might not sound like a draft, but without that foundation I would have never created the article that you’re currently reading.

Each lonely word just needed friends to complete my thoughts.

Drafts help you express information that can be crafted later. Writing isn’t a linear process—it’s normal to not know how the finished draft will look. Think of writing as constructing a building. You can’t build the structure in a day. You have to first acquire the proper machinery, excavate the land, install a supportive skeleton, etc.

If you don’t write because you think everything comes out wrong, or you can’t get enough done, that’s like saying building construction isn’t worth the effort because you won’t have a completed product by sundown.

You don’t have to perfectly communicate your intentions right away. That’s not necessarily how a great writer creates words that move you. Writing only becomes natural when you practice. To start, you can train yourself to work in short periods of time.

Here are four simple construction tools to help you write your first draft.

Set the timer

Press the start button on a timer set for 45 minutes. Once the clock is ticking, ignore everything but your draft.

I like this time frame because it takes a bit to get into a writing groove. When I give myself 45 minutes, I actually write for about 30 minutes.

Now, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Who’s your reader?

Write down your ideal reader’s characteristics.

Is your reader busy? Does he need fast, short tips or detailed, lengthy research? What’s bothering him?

Once you answer this question, write every sentence of your blog post for that person. You may not put any part of your answer in your final draft, but when you clearly define your audience, you get a better sense of what you want to write and why you’re writing.

Frequently reference the answer to this question throughout the writing process. If your ideal reader would not understand certain information, rewrite or eliminate it.

2. What’s the point?

Write your main message in 25 words or less. You can extract a succinct headline from this statement.

Does your headline describe a specific topic? Does it contain appropriate keywords? What will the reader learn if she reads your post? You will need to spend time fine-tuning your headline during future writing sessions, but you should still begin with a precise focus.

Your headline doesn’t just grab a reader’s attention; it helps you summarize your blog post.

3. How can you help?

Write the information that the reader wants to know.

How does your content solve a problem? Don’t waste sentences alluding to answers to a reader’s questions. State them. You don’t have to use complete sentences with eloquent transitions yet, but your ideas should provide immense value.

Share details that support your blog post’s headline. Thoughtful responses to these three questions shape your intentions.

If you write broad answers, you’ll produce a generic blog post that is similar to writing on other websites.

But if you answer specifically, you’ll write the first draft of useful content that gets shared because there’s nothing else like it.

What’s your process for writing first drafts of posts? Is it anything like this? Share your secrets in the comments.

Stefanie Flaxman created Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services with your editing needs in mind. Follow @RevisionFairy to keep up with Stefanie’s philosophy for writing and editing your life.

Reach New Readers with a Freebie Blitz

This guest post is by Tom Ross of Blogs.FanExtra.

Today I’m going to talk about one of the most effective ways to market yourself and your website. It’s also a hugely effective way to build relationships within your niche.

And it’s very simple: offer amazing freebies to top bloggers in your niche.

Now this may sound like a no-brainer, but let’s take a look at just why it’s so effective and so underused.

This article is actually based on a real life example of a website owner named Michael I dealt with recently. I’d never spoken with Michael before, but he approached me to release a free UI kit on my website. I’ll get to the story of Michael and the strategy that he has inspired, but it will show you exactly how to market yourself like crazy through the power of freebies. This is really powerful stuff and can help you effectively launch a new site (or explode an existing site).

The principles of why freebies work

Freebies are popular, there’s no denying it. They’re also an awesome way to give your site exposure. Let’s look at why this is:

People love getting stuff for free

Whilst guest posting can be a bit hit-or-miss with being accepted by top blogs, freebies are something that almost all top bloggers will be happy to accept.

I receive daily emails from people asking to guest post at my blogs PSD.FanExtra and Blogs.FanExtra. I end up disregarding most of them. This isn’t to be a bad guy, but because most people need to learn how to Write an Effective Guest Posting Application. It’s far rarer that I’ll get someone emailing me a high quality freebie that I can instantly release on my site.

If the freebie is quality, unique and something I know my readers will love, then there’s no reason why I wouldn’t accept it gladly.

The entire point is that in the past I’ve paid for this type of resource. A great resource that’s offered for free will benefit my audience, and benefit me as I won’t be paying for it.

Freebies are viral by nature

Freebies are always pretty viral by nature. If you submit a traditional guest post there’s a good chance that it won’t perform well on social media and won’t generate a ton of traffic or exposure for you.

Freebies typically have a greater chance of going viral, as let’s face it—everyone loves a good freebie!

The two rules for getting maximum exposure are:

  1. The bigger the blog, the bigger their audience, and the more exposure for you.
  2. The better your freebie, the more value it gives people, and the more shareable it is.

The freebie strategy

I mentioned Michael at the start of this post. Michael runs a site called Best PSD Freebies and decided to market it by offering free UI kits to blogs in the design niche.

I first saw Michael’s work over at Web Designer Depot, a large design blog. He had offered a simple, but attractive UI kit to release on their site. Let’s look at some of the benefits of this:

  • Michael’s work has reached 85,000 subscribers through the site.
  • His site received over 1000 visitors on the day the UI kit was released, and continues to attract traffic daily from the post.

Now let’s look at how you can use this technique to drive serious traffic to your site and build a name for yourself very quickly within your niche.

1. Work out what you’re good at

Identify what you’re good at. If like Michael you’re in the design niche, release a quality design freebie. If you’re in a different niche, then release something that’s relevant for your audience.

The key is that your freebie should be free for your to create—something that takes time and effort, but no monetary outlay from you.

2. Actually create something

Create a freebie, but don’t stop there. First of all, ensure that it’s the absolute best quality you can produce. You want to create a freebie that is premium quality. The kind of thing people regularly pay for.

Then, don’t just create one freebie. Aim for around 20. If each freebie takes two hours of hard work to produce, then that’s 40 hours work total. If you spread this over two weeks, that’s almost three hours extra work each day. It will be tough going, but stick with it.

3. Approach top blogs in your niche

Now that you’ve prepared your 20 freebies, start approaching the top blogs in your niche.

Freebies typically have a very high acceptance rate, as you’re giving the blogger something that’s valuable for nothing.

If you approach the top 40-50 blogs in your niche you should almost certainly find 20 that will be willing to publish your freebie.

4. Remember to promote yourself

Whilst you’re giving your freebie away for nothing, of course you want to be sure to include a link back to your site to reward yourself for all your hard work. This is standard practice for any blog in any niche.

Craft some text to accompany the freebie post, being sure to mention your website and link back to it. This serves the double purpose of effectively writing a post for the top blogger, saving them time and effort, and ensuring that the people in the blogger’s audience who like your work know where to go for more—your site.

5. Coordinate release dates

This is where you get a little more clever, and where the true power of this strategy lies!

If you remember the SOPA Blackout campaign then you’ll recall how thousands of sites “blacked out” their websites for a single day, obscuring their content in protest to the harmful government legislation that was being proposed to censor the internet.

This protest was so incredibly effective not because a lot of websites were being blacked out, but because they were all being black out at the same time. If the thousands of websites were sporadically blacking out over the course of months it would have had way less impact. It’s the fact that for 24 hours millions of web users were frustrated and angry at not being able to access many of their favorite websites.

This is the strategy we’re going to use to get you maximum attention.

Speak with the blog owners who have accepted your freebies. Rather than pushing to have them published as soon as possible, arrange a slightly later date, one that all of the blog owners can meet. If this is a month or two down the line then that’s fine, as long as all of the blogs can release your freebie on that day.

6. Preparing for the flood

Now that you’ve organized the launch of all 20 freebies on all 20 top blogs in your niche, you have to wait for the release day.

However, rather than sit and twiddle your thumbs, you need to start preparing your website for the flood of new traffic.

A great idea is to add a large welcome area to your site offering a mega-freebie of some sort. This should be of the same high standard of quality as the freebies that you have released to the top blogs, but much larger, and therefore more valuable. Add an email optin form to the site, ensuring that visitors must enter their email in order to access the mega-freebie pack.

7. Release day (Who is this guy?)

The day finally approaches when all of the UI kits are released. The response is phenomenal. Being featured on even one of these top blogs would result in a traffic spike. Being featured on all 20 within 24 hours results in a traffic mountain!

Michael received over 1000 visitors from his freebie release at Web Designer Depot. They are one of the larger blogs in the design niche, but certainly not the largest. Let’s say that out of the 20 top blogs you might get around 500 visitors each. That’s 10,000 visitors in just 24 hours—a huge amount for your new site!

Far more beneficial than this traffic though is the reputation that you will achieve.

In a single day you will have dominated your niche, being feature on almost every top blog. Millions of blog readers worldwide are seeing your freebies being posted on their favorite sites. Your freebies are showing as the most recent content in people’s feed readers for 20 of their favorite blogs! Many readers are not just downloading one of your freebies, but 10, 15, or 20 of them! In a single day you have become “the freebie guy or gal” in your niche, and a lot of people are suddenly talking about you and wondering who you are and where you’ve come from.

8. At your site…

Your own site preparation should have also worked wonders for you. Not only will you receive a flood of traffic to your fledgling website, but you should have converted that traffic really well. Every person who has clicked through to your website has clearly shown an interest in your freebies. The first thing they saw when visiting your site was your mega-freebie. Your conversion rate should be very high, so from 10,000 new visitors you’re looking at a lot of email sign ups.

If you convert just 10% of these visitors then that’s 1000 email sign ups in just 24 hours—a very solid base from which you can market your new site.

9. Rinse and repeat

Now that you’ve seen the success of this strategy it’s natural that you’ll want to repeat it. You have already established relationships with these top bloggers, so it will be easier to pitch them a future freebie.

Of course, you won’t want to repeat this the very next week, but in a couple of months you can look forward to another huge traffic spike.

Next time, perhaps release 30 freebies. Spend two months creating 30 freebie packs that are bigger and even more awesome than your initial 20.

10. The effort pays off

After a few months of really hard work and networking, your efforts are paying off. You have built up a super responsive email list of thousands and now attract decent traffic to your website.

Your personal brand as “the freebie guy” also ensures that you’re the go-to guy in your niche for freebies, and you’re regarded as a community expert.

If down the road you decide to release a super-huge premium product, then you can bet it will sell well. After all your contributions to your niche and the reputation you have build up, many people will be happy to help you out by purchasing your product. At the very least, they will be far more likely to buy from you than some new kid on the block who is clearly out to make a quick buck.

The thing is, you’re ultimately in this to make money and be successful too. However, you were just far more marketing savvy about it and helped a whole lot of people along the way. You were also willing to lay the groundwork and put in the effort.

Ah, the power of freebies!

Key points

Here are some important points to consider when you’re implementing this strategy:

  • You can offer freebies in most blog niches at no cost to yourself. All it takes is a little creativity and taking the time to identify your skillsets.
  • In this post I gave the example of the design niche. It’s clearly effective in this niche (as proven by Michael), but to be honest there are way less competitive niches where your freebies will have even more of an impact.
  • Even if you can’t produce a freebie yourself, it may be worth outsourcing the work. This strategy has far more potential than traditional banner advertising and is likely cheaper.
  • Remember to approach top bloggers in your niche in a polite, professional manner. It helps if you provide a post that is ready to publish, rather than just offering your stand-alone freebie.
  • Ensure that your site offers great content. There’s no point driving a load of traffic if you have nothing left to offer people. Think about gathering those emails and achieving high conversions!

Have you ever used freebies to promote your blog? Tell us how you did it in the comments.

Tom Ross is a blogger, entrepreneur and designer. He has built up a blog network that has attracted over 7 million visitors. His latest network site Blogs.FanExtra discusses in depth, practical blogging strategies. No fluff, no vague or generic tips, just quality, applicable blogging tactics. Check out the free 7 day blogging course teaching the exact strategies Tom used to grow his network.