Get More Comments: Write Unfinished Blog Posts

This is a guest post by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Most bloggers want to know their words are leaving an impact. They want to know people are listening.

One of the best ways to measure this is to see who’s commenting.

Not all blogs have a comments section, but many do. Comments provide an opportunity for the reader to participate in the content, to give feedback and share his or her own ideas.

Comments are a blogger’s best friend.

But the biggest struggle, especially for bloggers just starting out, is getting the first few comments. It feels like a grueling task, akin to pulling teeth.

“How do you get so many comments?” people have asked me. It didn’t always used to be like this, I tell them.

So what changed?

I started employing one simple, but overlooked tactic. You can do the same, if you want to see more comments. Here it is:

Stop finishing your blog posts

That’s right. The best way to get readers to comment on your post is to write a half-finished article.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Here are three reasons why.

1. It makes readers feel important

Whenever I write a completely formed thought and share it on my blog, it rarely gets as much traction and feedback as an off-the-cuff rant.

Why is this? It’s not because readers don’t appreciate quality. They do.

It’s because they want to be part of the process.

That’s the magic of social media: we aren’t just consumers of content, anymore. We’re co-creators.

When you don’t finish a post and ask readers to help you complete it, you’re giving them a sense of purpose. They now have a significant role to play. And most take that role very seriously.

2. It builds community

There’s a reason why news sites that offer comments don’t get as much response as a lot of blogs do:

People want more than information. They want interaction.

One of the best ways to encourage community on a blog is to be imperfect, to show your scars and share your flaws. To have an honest conversation.

Be conversational. I try to write in a pretty informal tone to invite readers to engage with the content. My blog posts don’t have to be perfect. Usually, it helps if they’re not.

This is a challenge for me, though, because I’m such a perfectionist. But a blog is not about perfection. It’s about community.

I don’t want to deliver a monologue. I want to engage in a conversation. Turns out, that’s what other people are looking for, too. If you aspire to build a tribe, to say something people want to hear, this is a non-negotiable: it has to be a two-way street.

3. It will get people to talk about you

Good ideas spread. Big parties usually get bigger. In everything, there is a tipping point.

The same is true for blogging.

Once you start getting ten comments on your blog, it’s pretty easy to get 20, then 30—even 50 or 100. Of course, those first few comments are the hardest. But once you build momentum, it gets easier and easier to continue.

Community begets community

The cool part about having an active community of commenters is that conversations can quickly go viral. A question you asked or challenge you posed can turn into a whole new source of content in the comments.

Usually, when I write a post that gets a lot of comments, it also gets a lot of tweets and shares on Facebook. If you are generous with your platform, your readers will reciprocate.

There is an important concept at work here: the more social your blog is, the more your content will spread.

If you create opportunities for conversation on your blog, you’ll see the fruit. But you have to leave room in your articles for dialogue.

If you do this, you’ll be surprised by how much people will brag on you. They’ll tell their friends, who will, in turn, join the conversation.

This is the secret to most successful blogging communities: it begins with one, but is finished by many.

Start building your community today by publishing half-finished work. It’s so crazy, it just might work. Try it out and see what happens.

What do you think? Is there anything I missed? Share your own tricks and secret weapons in the comments.

Jeff Goins is a writer, speaker, and blogger. You can get his widely shared eBook, The Writer’s Manifesto, for free when you sign up for his newsletter. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter (@jeffgoins) and Facebook.

Get More Comments: How Q&A Video Can Help

This guest post is by Annika Martins of

We hear it all the time.

Create blog content that is relevant to your subscribers.

Seems easy, right?

Maybe, but most of us screw it up.

Especially when we’re just starting out, knowing precisely what content will get the best reaction is actually incredibly difficult. As a result, many of us choose post topics in the worst way possible: we guess.


Inspired by my own experiences and conversations with clients, I published four months’ worth of blog posts and videos addressing issues that I thought my readers would care about.

It didn’t turn out so well.

My comments yo-yoed up and down. One post would get 15 comments, the next raked in a whopping zero. And no matter how much time I spent analyzing the differences between them, I couldn’t find an explanation for the stark contrast in comment numbers.

Why “inspired” videos often flop

Although I was drawing my post topics from real-life examples that were relevant to the theme of my blog, each week’s post was a total experiment. I went with whatever cool idea popped into my mind, an issue brought up by the client I had spoken to that morning, or the email I had just received.

Huge mistake.

I had no clear editorial strategy. What’s worse? I never directly asked my subscribers what they wanted from the blog. Did they want links to a ton of technical resources to help them with SEO? Did they want how-to tutorials on the major social media platforms? Did they want my opinion on the best (and worst) high-level marketing tactics?

I didn’t know what they wanted because I didn’t ask them. I made assumptions, and while sometimes my guesses hit the nail on the head (15 comments), others flopped miserably (a big fat zero).

2012: The year of the good ol’ Q&A

Determined to start 2012 with a video blog that pulled in consistent comments, I ditched the guess-work altogether.

My first video of the year announced I was switching to a question-and-answer format. I asked subscribers to send in the questions that were top of mind for them. I gave them my email address and also invited them to post their ideas in the comments below the video and on Twitter. I promised to provide a video response to every question, as long as it related to the general theme of my blog. I gave no other guidelines.

Handing over control like this does a couple things:

  1. It shows your readers you trust them. You don’t need to impose a dozen restrictions like an overbearing parent.
  2. This also builds enormous good will. Readers don’t miss the fact that they are getting customized content for free. Everyone loves valuable, relevant material with no strings attached. Everyone.

But here’s the kicker:

Customization is key

Not only do I start each video by reading the person’s question exactly the way they phrased it, but I also say their name and thank them for submitting the question.

And throughout the video, as I’m answering the question, I use their name again. I’m speaking directly to them. Your readers will adore you for validating them in this way.

Offering the Q&A opportunity to your existing subscribers is a great start, but what about new visitors to your site?

Add a link/button to your homepage encouraging new visitors to submit their questions as well. Not only will this help keep your content mill full, but it’s also a perfect way to build your list. Once they’ve submitted their question, make it easy for them to sign up to your list immediately.

The payoff

I don’t have massive ProBlogger-esque comment numbers to brag about. And I’m okay with that. Increasing comment numbers is all well and good, but keep your focus on the quality of those engagement points, not the quantity.

Since transitioning to this Q&A format, my blog is finally achieving the strategic goals I started out with:

  1. Build rapport with current subscribers.
  2. Establish credibility in my niche.
  3. Grow my email list.

Even without massive comment numbers, I am accomplishing those things now, so I swear by the effectiveness of the Q&A.

It’s a simple equation: Give people what they want (customized, useful and free content) and they’ll give you what you want (comments, signing up for your email list, purchasing your products/services).

Has anyone else adopted a Q&A format on their blog? How’s it going? Or are you a subscriber of a blog that uses this format? What do you like (or dislike) about it?

Annika Martins uses the Q&A format on her video blog about women entrepreneurs who want practical business tips delivered with soul. Don’t believe she really answers every (relevant) question she receives? Click here to submit your question and find out. You can also send her your Q via Twitter – she’s @annikamartins.

Get More Comments: Know Which Posts Make Readers Talk

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

As a travel blogger, there are many different types of articles that we write. We like to help people to get inspired, get informed, and to get going. We know that not every article we write will get the same response in regards to social media sharing and comments.

You really need to understand which ones will get the better responses, and why. This will help you to know how to write your posts the most effectively.

After I have finished writing a post, I have a fairly good idea of the response I’ll get via the comments.

A lot of posts we write provide travel tips and information people need to go to a specific destination. These types of posts are therefore relevant to a specific group of people, and are time-sensitive to the point at which they want to travel there. As a result, the comments for these types of posts are low.

Our other styles of posts are my travel thoughts and inspiration posts. These usually target those issues that are relevant to all travellers and are designed to inspire my readers into action. These always get a great response.

I have been a traveller for many years, therefore I know how my readers think and feel. Travel has a certain culture attached to it. I write about that culture and my readers connect. They see a friend in me—someone who thinks like them. They become inspired and excited by this, and so want to comment and share their thoughts on the same topic.

To get a high comment response, you just have to think and feel like your reader. Allow them to see you as their friend who understands them, and talk about issues that are relevant to them.

Caz Makepeace believes that life is all about the memories and inspires others to travel and make their life a story to tell at her popular, y Travel Blog. She also owns Mojito Mother, a blog aimed at putting the mojo back into a mother’s life, where she shares her experiences as a mother and a woman following her own dreams.

Get More Comments: Focus on the First Comment

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Remember the first time you realized that you’ve actually got traffic?

Suddenly, you aren’t blogging to an empty void—real people are consuming and engaging with your content!

Or are they? That’s when you begin to wonder … why isn’t anybody leaving a comment?

This can be a frustrating challenge for bloggers, and some blogs never get past it. There are blogs with readerships in the hundreds of thousands with barely a handful of comments per post.

Odds are you don’t want that to be you. You want people to read and interact!

Why don’t people comment?

This may come as a bit of a shock if you’ve been navigating the blogosphere for any length of time, but commenting on a blog is not a natural or intuitive behavior.

Blogs are new, publishing is old.

Outside of an extremely small circle of blogosphere denizens, most people are new to blogs, and accustomed to traditional media; television, newspapers, magazines, and books. These are all uni-directional media; the publisher publishes, and the audience has the choice of consuming the content (watching or reading), or not.

Just a few years back, those were the only two options. Engaging in dialogue was difficult (writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper), or impossible. When most people visit a blog, their perceived options are to read, and if they love it, to bookmark or subscribe. They might even share.

But for commenting to happen, they must understand it as an option.

The easiest way for readers to know they can comment is to see the comments of other readers. Except for two things:

  1. If your blog is new, there aren’t any other readers.
  2. Even if there are, many readers will see blog commenting as one of those things “other people” do.

The solution is a change in focus: it’s not about getting people to comment on an ongoing basis.

Instead, focus on getting people to leave their first comment on your blog. Just one—because after leaving one comment, it’s far more likely they’ll leave more.

That first comment is the tipping point.

So … how do you get it?

How to get that first comment

Here are some ways you can people to make that very first comment:

  1. Be interesting. This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: if your content isn’t interesting, and people don’t make it to the bottom of your posts, they will never leave a comment.
  2. Tell people why they should. Make it clear why people should leave comments. Some blogs offer “do-follow” links (meaning the links going back to their blogs keep the “Google juice”), some use plug-ins like CommentLuv and KeywordLuv. On the bottom of my blog’s sidebar (around the bottom of posts), it clearly states why you should leave a comment:
    1. “We read all of our comments.”
    2. “We reply, and answer every question.”
    3. “We often click through to see commenter’s sites.”
    4. “We might invite you to guest post!”
  3. Tell your reader to comment. That’s right—the oldest rule of copywriting is to ask for the action you want. So be explicit, and ask!
  4. Ask a question. Sometimes your readers will want to join the conversation, but won’t know what to say. Help them out by asking a specific question at the end of your post, one they can answer; “How does this apply to you? When have you seen examples of this in your own life? Do you agree or disagree, and why? What advice would you give to someone with this problem?”
  5. Make it easy. My most commented-on post is the first guest post he wrote for Copyblogger, about 38 Critical Books Every Blogger Needs to Read. At the end of the post, I asked people to list any books they love, and would add to the list. This worked so well because everybody has a favorite book, and writing it down takes zero effort (as opposed to answering a question that takes more time and thought). In other words, I made it easy.
  6. Be awesome. My most popular post on Firepole Marketing received over 200 comments, and Firepole Marketing isn’t anywhere near the size of Copyblogger. But that post was awesome (and in fact, that post became the framework for a book that I’m co-authoring with Sean Platt!). It was continually linked to, new people kept reading it, and people felt the need to mention how helpful the post was to them.
  7. Be controversial. My second-most popular post on Firepole Marketing was a controversial take on the topic of social transactions, called Is the Bank of Social Capital… Broken? It was a post that demanded people to take a stand and have an opinion.

The first comment is the key

The key to making it all work is that very first comment.

Once people comment for the very first time, they realize that “this is something I can do”—and the next time is that much easier.

Create another opportunity, another reason, another excuse—and suddenly they’re up to two, three, four, or even more comments.

Before you know it, a habit is formed. And with it, an engaged, dynamic, actively commenting community.

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).

11 Pro Tips for Unmissable Talking Head Videos

This guest post is by Marco Montemagno of Presenter Impossible.

Anyone can create a video and upload it to their blog or onto YouTube. But so many of the videos out there are boring, and viewers shut them off after a few seconds.

In my six years presenting my own TV show on Sky News on Italian television, I saw many great clips from the web—and an equal number of really horrible ones.

So how do you create a really great video?

The trick is to make a video clip that is not only inspiring and entertaining, but also interesting to watch. This can be achieved with good technique and knowledge—and it can be surprisingly simple.

Here are 11 tips to help you create better talking-head videos.

1. Use tools and other objects

This is very, very simple, but tools and props will keep the viewer interested.

A good example of this is the above video, which won the Davos YouTube video awards 2009. In it, a guy talks whilst showing cups—an instant attention getter. Or you can watch this Hans Rosling video where boxes and toys are used live to attract audience’s attention.

It’s simple, but it works!

2. Use a whiteboard with a countdown

If you think that a whiteboard is old-style, think again. Watch how Brendon Burchard uses it effectively.

His presentation may sound a little austere because he explains his topic using only a whiteboard, but the information he provides is interesting and worth paying attention to.

Plus, he uses countdowns. One easy way to create a countdown is to video a wall to which you’ve stuck pieces of paper showing the numbers one to ten. Remove or lift up a piece of paper as you count down through the items and show what’s underneath. Who doesn’t want to know what you’ve got hidden under number 1?

3. The “super-zoom”

Ze Frank is another good person to watch on video—he’s funny, but more importantly his editing is spot-on, fast, and unique. He has perfected the art of mixing images and profiles into powerful presentations using the “super-zoom. Check it out.

4. Use text and images

Text and images can give rhythm to your clip. Try to insert something every 60/90 seconds to break up the monotony of your direct-to-camera video, and keep the visual interest of the viewers piqued.

The audience will also find the video easier to follow, because you’ve made distinct breaks between sections. At the most basic level you can simply add a countdown or a slide with a phrase taht you add during editing.

5. Be active and pay attention to your body language

Don’t stare at the camera like a stunned animal caught in the headlights! Allow your eyes to move naturally, the way you would if you were talking to someone face to face. Use your eyes to give rhythm to your speech—let them move around as you think of something or when you collect your ideas and then look back to the camera.

This approach is natural and super-effective. Check Gary in the above video for some ideas about how you can be active in front of a camera!

6. Partner up

Think Batman and Robin, and consider tag-teaming with a partner. Everything sounds more interesting when discussed between two people. The topic of conversation is easier to follow, because the viewer’s attention is recaptured whenever the other person talks.

A good example of partners in presenting is given by Diggnation with Kevin Rose.

7. Use your voice creatively

Don’t speak in a monotone—that’s guaranteed to make the subject matter boring and dull. Change the volume according to where the emphasis is in your script. Slow down when talking about important things, and speed up when the content is not so important.

Watch in the video above to see how many voice variations Robin Williams can perform. For the average blogger, I think 1% of them will be more than enough!

8. Nail down the format

This should be done before you start recording. If you want to talk about your niche, think before starting about the best format to use. How long should the clip be? Where should it be filmed? I would suggest writing down exactly how long each block of content will be (for example: the opening jingle four seconds, introduction 20 seconds, chapter 1 topic four seconds, chapter 2 topic 40 seconds, etc.).

Timing is very important and will depend on the topic and the host. Work on your format and keep improving it. How about trying a video that explains your topic in 60 seconds, like the above video?

9. Use subtitles

I’m not a native English speaker. Yet I cannot tell you the number of videos that are presented in English which I have quit after few seconds because the audio is not good, or the accent is very difficult to understand. Like me, plenty of other non-native English speakers around the world are doing the same thing.

Subtitles are a great tool because they draw attention and make the video more understandable. They also boosts the SEO of the video. Still not convinced? All TED videos come with subtitles. English subtitles on a video that’s presented in another language (or vice versa) can also expand your video’s audience.

10. Use super editing

Are you a video editing god? Great! Cool video editing will pump up the number of views your video gets, so if you have access to video editing software, learn how to use it. Slick editing keeps the audience on its toes and surprises them. In Italy, a user called Zoro uses a selfmade fast editing format where the same person acts in multiple roles. His editing makes the video very exciting.

11. Be the next Tony Robbins

Tony is a motivational expert and storytelling guru—and he’s generating great content.

His web video clips normally just feature him in front of a white background. Sometimes he inserts a short sentence into the video to break the rythm, but that’s it.

Only if your content is great and you have his passion and charisma can you go “naked” the way Tony does!

Which techniques do you use?

So there you have some simple tips and tricks to make your YouTube video clip stand out and get your message across.

Let me know which tips you’ve tried—or plan to use—in your videos in the comments below.

Marco Montemagno is a tech entrepreneur and founder of “Presenter Impossible, lessons from a decade of unconventional presentations“, where he shares ideas and tips to create inspiring presentations.

How Video Interviews Can Help Grow Your Blog

This guest post is by Torrey McGraw of Grind & Thrive.

For beginner and more advanced bloggers, one of the most important questions we must ask is, “How will my blog stand out in my niche?” With the ever-growing list of blogs that are created daily, this can be a difficult question to answer.

One way to set yourself apart is by incorporating video into your content strategy while others are primarily using written articles. It’s a wise move—according to the 2011 State of the Media report, over 140 million people watched online video in 2011. That number has been and will continue to trend up each year.

But let’s say you understand that, and you’re creating video posts on your blog. What else can you do with video to stay ahead of the pack?

Online video interviews can be just the thing to breathe life into old blogs and kickstart new ones. From the comfort of your own computer, you can converse with anyone anywhere with little to no inconvenience or cost. Then, you can work those conversations into compelling video interviews for your users to enjoy.

How interviews help grow your blog

Here are five powerful ways online video interviews can help you grow your blog.

1. Create an opportunity to converse with your niche’s most interesting people

Getting on the radar of influencers in your niche is a great way to establish who you are and put your blog on the map. This can be done by asking influential people in your niche to allow you to interview them. With typical in-person interviews, it’s more difficult to secure because they may be in a different city, have a jam-packed schedule, or both. Either can make interviews unfeasible, especially if they aren’t familiar with you.

Conversely, the option of an online video interview is often more appealing. Essentially, you’re just asking them to sacrifice a few minutes sitting in front of their computer, rather than traveling to a specific location or totally rearranging their schedule.

2. Create a differentiation point between you and your competition

I alluded to this earlier. Think about the websites and blogs in your niche. Chances are only a few (if any) are creating content via online video interviews. How great would it be to separate your brand from everyone else’s? Online video interviews may be your ticket to do that.

3. Create compelling content

Online video interviewing gives you the opportunity to create compelling content. It is an awesome alternative to someone who wants to make a mark online, but lacks the writing skills or desire needed to create text articles. Or you may simply enjoy conversing with people, rather than emailing them the typical question-and-answer document that’s often reproduced on blogs. An online video interview will appeal to people who enjoy learning through an interactive conversation.

4. Build an audience

Of course you’re interested in growing your audience, right? My most popular interview to date is my conversation with relationship blogger and professional matchmaker Paul Carrick Brunson. When he told his passionate online community of fans and followers to check out the interview, my site was flooded with people. Many subscribed to my site after our interview. Even to this day, he refers to our interview when asked how he got started as a matchmaker.

When that happens time and time again, you’ll see how easy it is grow your own passionate audience through guests promoting your interview.

5. Establish credibility

Make interviews part of your content strategy, and over time you’ll interview several key people in your niche, and come to be known as a go-to site for personal insight.

Let’s say you blog about natural hair tips for women.  You can easily interview natural hair experts, natural hair stylists, and natural hair product creators on a regular basis. Over time, you’ll become a trusted resource because you’ve created a valuable resource on the topic of natural hair. People will begin to trust you because you’re providing awesome content from the best and brightest people in your industry.  The end result is you establishing credibility with your community and your peers.

Tools of the trade

If the idea of online video interviews intrigues you, it’s quick and inexpensive to get started, and you won’t need much equipment:

So there you have it: everything you need to get started conducting online video interviews. Give it a shot and have some fun!

Do you think adding online video interviews to your content mix can help you grow your blog? Let us know in the comments.

Torrey McGraw is the host of Grind & Thrive, a webshow featuring candid one-on-one conversations with today’s trendsetters sharing lessons from their roads to success. Say hi to Torrey on Twitter.

Three Easy Video Formats for First-time Vloggers

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.

YouTube is the next big thing for blogging.

Seems like pretty poor advice, since everybody is hopping all over Pinterest and people have known about YouTube for a long time.

The thing is, few bloggers are utilizing YouTube to its full potential.

And it’s not just me thinking that: on a recent post on Social Media examiner, many of the 30 experts featured agreed that YouTube was going to see a tremendous rise in use by bloggers in 2012.


Because YouTube has finally come out of its “Wild West” past.

That means people are taking original content more seriously on YouTube these days—it’s no longer for Family Guy clips and videos stolen from elsewhere.

YouTube partners are making some serious coin, and many bloggers are learning that the traffic generated from YouTube can be big. David Edwards has been pointing this out here at ProBlogger for a while.

Check out the traffic just one of my blogs receives per week from YouTube:

Most bloggers get stuck when it comes to video content, because they’re unsure of what to make. (We’re not all illustrators and animators like David, after all.) Don’t worry, you won’t be forced to make any cheesy comedy videos, or “S_____ People Say” style viral videos either.

We’ll be taking a more serious and proven approach. Let’s look at three kinds of videos you can make to capitalize on the rise of YouTube.

1. Screen-capture videos

This is a biggie: screen capture videos can bring in huge amounts of search traffic. Why? Because people are constantly searching for “How-To” videos on YouTube, and nothing beats the good old-fashioned screen capture in a tutorial.

If you title your video “How To _______”, get some views on your blog, pick a good how-to topic, and do a great job presenting it, you are guaranteed to have made a video that will give back for years to come in terms of views and traffic.

Not only do your readers benefit, but you get big exposure from the browsing YouTube audience who have the very real possibility of turning into future blog subscribers.

Leveraging your blog’s audience by embedding your video into a post is a great way to ensure you rank well for the “How To” term as well, since view count affects how high videos display in YouTube’s search results.

Get started by checking out programs like Camtasia and CamStudio (free) to record what’s on your screen.

Example video:

This is a great video by Pat Flynn detailing how to create whiteboard videos, so you’ll learn something else too!

2. Interview videos

You know if you read my blog that I’m a huge fan of interviews to bring in traffic. I’ve done plenty, and they’ve all sent a tremendous amount of shares and links my way:

  1. Interview with Brian Gardner of StudioPress
  2. Interview with Rafal Tomal (Lead Copyblogger designer) & Alex Manginig (owner of Kolakube)
  3. Interview with Danny Iny, Onibalusi, and Georgina Laidlaw (Content Manger of Problogger)
  4. Interview with Leo of the BufferApp

The thing is, as much as I love these text interviews, I’ve seen the obvious benefits of video interviews from a few of my other favorite sites.

Not only are you going to rank well for the interviewee’s name (it’s YouTube after all, and YouTube videos rank easily on Google), but you’ll also get the obvious additional traffic from people finding your videos on YouTube from search and related videos.

Not only that, but having an interview means that anyone can share the interview on their own site, even the person that you interviewed! (It’s like a free guest post on content you already created for your own blog!)

That’s a whole other audience right there with no effort, so you should really consider making your next interview of the video variety.

To get started with interview videos, check out the programs Call Recorder (for Mac) and Pamela (for PC) to record Skype video chats.

Also, look out for a post on how interview videos can help grow your blog here on ProBlogger later today.

Example video:

Two of my favorite bloggers, Corbett Bar and Jeff Goins in a great discussion on writing.

3. “Talking head” videos

The last video I love to see bloggers using is the classic “talking head” video.

In this style, you are simply going to be facing the camera, and chatting with your audience about advice, tips, a personal update, a story, showing them something live—really, any topic works for these videos.

You can feature someone else (non-interview style) discussing a certain topic, as Derek Halpern did with his videos on blog design.

Or, you can simply record yourself, which gives a really personal take on your content and allows you to mix things up from the standard blog post.

Darren is known to do this himself on his YouTube channel, and you’ll see through the comments that people really enjoy getting a personal take from a blogger via video. Nothing adds “you” to your blog like video content.

To get started with a talking head video, all you need is a camera with video recording capabilities (HD preferred) and a YouTube account, which makes this one of the easiest forms of video to get start with. Darren’s also handily explained the setup he uses for his videos.

This is another topic we’ll look at in detail later today, when an experienced video blogger shares his tips for making talking head videos like a pro.

Example video:

This video example from Amy Porterfield shows how to relay a quick tip via video, using an in-person recording and screen capturing, which we discussed above.

Over to you

Have you tried out video content yet?

What is your favorite form of video style that I’ve discussed above? Any that you are looking forward to trying? I’d love to hear your thoughts on video in the comments.

Gregory Ciotti is the author of Sparring Mind, a content marketing blog that focuses on research & facts to find what really works in creating valuable content that creates a loyal following. Find out how Greg does things or follow him on Twitter.

Better Buttons Part 1: Set the Right Expectations

This guest post is by the Web Marketing Ninja.

Almost everything I read, see, or hear about buttons (the web version) is all about color, size, location, and contrast. Do any research on this topic, and you’ll come across statements like these:

  • “Just make the button bigger.”
  • “Orange buttons always convert better.”
  • “Get your buttons above the fold.”
  • “You need to use contrast and responsive design with you buttons.”
  • “Make sure your button’s at the bottom of the page, too.”

To a degree, that’s all relevant (although I still can’t explain the orange button mystery!). But there’s one aspect of buttons that I never read about, and it’s something I think is just as important—maybe more important.

And that’s the text you use on your buttons.

Sure, design and location will get your button noticed, but it’s the text that drives that all-important user action.

Button breakdown

Let’s first fly a little left of center a look at what a button is … in the real world.

Excluding the really real button—the fashion button—a button is something you interact with (that is, press) in order to make something happen. And we usually have an expectation about what that “something” will be.

There are three key points here: interaction, expectation, and response.

A button’s color, size, and location might suggest to a users what’s going to happen (“Don’t press the red button!”) but it’s either a symbol or words that give users the greatest indication of what will happen when they press a button. And the same goes for buttons on the web.

So let’s look at each of these stages in a button-press.

  • Interaction: In the web world, interaction involves a mouse click, a tap (on a tablet or phone), or a key stroke. The interaction is the easiest part of the process to wrap your head around.
  • Expectation: You’ve asked your user to do something and yay they have…  but what have you set in the way of expectations?
  • Response: The interaction initiates a response. That response might be to show a page, enlarge an image, or something else.

Now, let’s look at a good web example. On your sales page, you have a nice, clear, above-the-fold, and—for the sake of it—orange button. The text on the button clearly reads Buy now.  A user clicks on the button, and the next page they see is the Checkout page.

  • Interaction = click
  • Expectation = to order
  • Response = checkout

Tick, tick, and tick! We have a happy customer, and a happy blogger.

Now, let’s look at a not-so-good example. On your sales page, you have a nice, clear, above-the-fold, and—for the sake of it—orange button. The text on the button clearly reads Download now. A user clicks on the button, and the next page they see is the Checkout page.

  • Interaction: click
  • Expectation: to download
  • Response: checkout

Here, the user is clicking a Download button and getting a “pay me” response. That’s bad.

What’s that? More people will click on a Download button? That’s true. I guarantee that if you put a Download button on your page, rather than an Order Now button, you’re going to get more clicks. But why stop there? Make it a Free Download button, and watch your clicks go through the roof!

But what happens next?  When the user’s expectation about their interaction with a button isn’t met by an appropriate response, fear will strike and they’ll bail.  After all, a lot of users are just looking for an excuse to leave.

But that’s not all. There’s a name for this kind of tactic: it’s called “bait and switch.” In many countries it’s actually illegal, but regardless of where you’re located, it undermines your sales process. You shouldn’t do it. But if you do do it, and you do it before you’ve got the cash from your customer, you’re only robbing yourself.

Button text in action

Let’s look at a real-world example: let’s see what Darren does.

Download buttons

Darren opts to include a double meaning in his sales page buttons. Because he’s selling ebooks, he wants to set the clear expectation that customers are going to need to download something (that is, they’re not buying a printed book), and that they’ll need to pay something to get the download.

Given the larger font used for the Download text on this button, I do wonder if he’s trying to toe the line between getting as many clicks as possible without misleading his customers—this is something I’d love to test on the site.

When I talk to people about buttons, in 99% of cases, they’re not trying to bait and switch customers—it’s just that many online marketers chase the click first, and worry about checkout abandonments later. Most of the time, they haven’t really through about the expectations that button text can drive, either.

I’ve focused here on just one type of button, but let’s look more subtle example.

Join vs. Sign Up buttons

When you click a button that says Join, you expect to be joined with the site’s community. On the other hand, button text that reads Sign Up suggests that something still needs to happen before I join—I need to sign something.

So Join is best used when it’s complimented by an input box that accepts the user’s email address—you have all the information you need by the time the user clicks on the button, and you can respond with a message that tells them they’ve joined your site. However, if it’s a standalone button, you might want to use text like “Sign-up to our newsletter” before taking users to you form.

These subtleties can make a significant difference.

Right text, right time

I’ve spoken about sales funnels before, and when you’re thinking about button text, there’s timing to be considered as well.

If you take on board the advice we’ve already discussed, you’ll meet users’ expectations of your buttons with an appropriate response, but now you’ve got to ask yourself, “Am I asking for the interaction at the right time?”

Continuing with our transactional (Buy Now) button text example, your sales funnel might move people through these stages:

  1. Google AdWords ad
  2. to a sales page
  3. to a checkout process
  4. to a sale.

This is pretty basic—you might include a free sample or email auto-responders as part of it—but for now, let’s keep it simple.

Now let’s think about what button text we’ll use, and where. On your AdWords ad, you could use button text like More information, Order now, Free download, or Free sample—to name a few options.

You might find Free download is your best-converting button text for clicks (but if you don’t offer a free download, you’ll be in trouble, as we saw earlier). To then meet users’ free download expectation, you take them to a free download landing page (mentioning a paid option if you want to).

However, your testing might show that a Buy Now button does the job with fewer clicks. You’re now in an interesting position.  As we mentioned at the beginning, the expectation around a Buy Now button is that it will let the user buy, so take them straight to the shopping cart, rather than a sales page. In my experience, the straight-to-cart option wins in terms of both conversion and dollars.

If your More Information button wins, that’s the easy one: you can take users straight to the sales page.

You’d repeated the same test on all the steps in your sales funnel—your ad, your landing page, and your cart—to make sure you’re showing the right text at the right time, and delivering on user expectations.

Here, I’ve talked about buttons from a customer satisfaction perspective, but later today, Georgina will look at button text from a branding perspective.

Stay tuned for more posts by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand. Follow the Web Marketing Ninja on Twitter.

The Brilliant Content Strategy Everyone Gets Wrong

This guest post is by James Chartrand of Men with Pens.

For a long while (and on the Internet, a “long while” means about six months), there were dozens of posts telling you how to reuse content.

Your content, other bloggers’ content, magazine content, brochures-from-that-stack-in-the-attic content. It didn’t matter. The point was that you didn’t need to come up with all the ideas on your own. You could jump-start your brain with interesting content from other sources than the bottomless depths of your own genius.

It was good advice. Reusing content was (and remains) a smart, valid strategy.

The problem is that no one does it right.

How they got reusing content wrong

The basics are simple: find someone else’s content (or your own content from long enough ago) and spot something interesting you can relate to your own work. Then all you need to do is write a good post.

It was a hard strategy to mess up, and no one really did. For the most part, reusing content netted interesting posts that featured interesting content from sources that wouldn’t otherwise have shown up in that industry.

And content reuse is a perfectly valid strategy for when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel creativity-wise and you just need a jolt to get going again. It’s great, in fact. Go forth and use it with my blessing.

But that’s where everyone stops.

Sure, it was great that you applied that nuclear physics conclusion to brilliant copywriting, and it made for one hell of a post. By the next day, though, readers are looking for the next hot thing.

They’ve forgotten your brilliant post. They’ve forgotten how interesting they found it.

And because someone else has a new, interesting post, they’re all about that post now.

So that strategy won’t further your business. It’s just going to keep your blog alive for one more day. That’s not enough, is it?

Of course it’s not. You need to grow your business and your readership. You need to bring in clients, create products, or become an insightful and focused teacher.

Just recycling the same old content and the same old approach as everyone else in your niche means you’re going to fade into the background.

How to do it right

You’ve heard of Malcolm Gladwell, haven’t you? How about Seth Godin? How about the Heath brothers, Dan and Chip, authors of Made to Stick?

These authors reuse content from the word go. All their books (and in Seth’s case, pretty much his entire blog) rehash anecdotes and stories they’ve heard elsewhere. They’re simply applying those stories to the subjects that interest them most.

By sorting out all of the relevant stories to one particular aspect of their field and bringing it all together in a book, they did something revolutionary: they created a philosophy.

Seth Godin’s purple cow? That’s content reuse. Seth didn’t originate the story of the purple cow, nor any of the other twenty anecdotes that make up the content in his book. He simply saw what all that content had in common and brought it together cohesively.

Few people who read Seth Godin’s book are utterly amazed at what they find there. Really? To have people notice me I have to be remarkable?

The book isn’t fascinating because of its insight. The basic philosophy is what you’re pretty sure you knew all along.

But by stringing together a thousand examples, Seth managed to make a simple concept seem important enough to keep at the front of your mind all the time in your business.

Not just in branding, but when you email a client. Not just the product but the packaging. Not just the upper management but the mail room.

Bring the purple cow into every room of the business, Seth said, because it belongs everywhere.

He didn’t come up with that concept out of thin air. He came up with it by looking at twenty stories from twenty different sources that all put a purple cow in a different room of the business.

You got it: content reuse, done right.

What you can do with reused content

It’s clearly been established that reusing content just to fill your blog doesn’t work. Well, it does, if all you want is to keep your blog alive.

But it doesn’t work for your business, which means you need to find a way to reuse content when you’re ready to put some thought and energy into the next phase.

Start making a list of the stories you enjoy telling over and over again. The advice you keep repeating. Most of the time, you’ll enjoy reusing these stories and advice because they seem to exemplify what’s important.

That tells you something. You have useful knowledge you’re continually sharing because you know readers need it. So what can you do with it?

Mind map it. Connect the dots. Brainstorm. Let the content take you where it will.

Because one day you’re going to wake up and see the connection. You’re going to have a Big Idea. And it’s going to change your entire world.

It doesn’t have to be the formula that cures cancer. It just has to be valuable and true—and it’ll have a whole lot of content from your archives to back it up.

How reused content begins a revolution

When I started to look at my own content for the stories I liked to tell over and over and the advice I kept sharing with writers, I realized I didn’t need to write yet another post on how to not screw up writing.

If people could teach themselves, surely one of those posts would have hit home by now.

My sudden realization was that readers needed help—more than yet another blog post.

And every single one of the anecdotes in my reused content told me this. All my stories about successful writers involved someone getting a teacher, sitting down, and putting in the work.

It seemed like anyone could do this on their own, but the more I looked at all the content, the more I realized that readers could… but they don’t.

So I set out to give them a place where they didn’t have to work alone. I used my content and built an online writing course for business owners where there were teachers willing to help, lessons that were easy to understand, homework to make students accountable, and peers to empathize with and learn from.

I called it Damn Fine Words.

It was a simple idea, born of content I’d told and retold until it had worn thin at the seams. But it changed the lives of my students.

How can your repackaged ideas change the lives of your readers?

James Chartrand of Men with Pens teaches students at Damn Fine Words, the only online writing course that helps business owners succeed so they can stop keeping their blog alive for just one more day and start pulling in results with their content.