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Editing for People Who Love to Write… Too Much

If you’re anything like me, you love words. You love prose, you love language, you love how a perfectly-constructed sentence can say so much more than just letters put in order.

If you’re unlike me, however, you love to use lots of words, and write mountains of prose.

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I know it’s hard not to get carried away, telling everyone everything you’ve ever wanted to say about a subject. Especially online, when blogs are creative outlets, and there are no restraints or word counts. But having been on the reading end of waffly posts (particularly when I haven’t got too much time to spare), I’ve realised the old adage “less is more” really does ring true.

Does that mean you can’t write long-form posts because they bore readers? No! It means write them well.  Make each of those 2000+ words count.

But how do you self-edit when you feel as though every word is important? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s find out:

Tips for Self-Editing

Follow Stephen King’s Number-One Tip

I wrote about his method of editing here, but it’s basically getting some space between you and your work. Stephen King puts his work (literally) in a drawer, and comes back a couple of months later to edit and tweak. You can come back sooner than that, but fresh eyes and a clear head make a world of difference when it comes to editing. Still unconvinced? You won’t be after you read the post!

You really can’t edit while you write, go straight from writing to editing, or edit the same day. Give it some time.

Can you say it in fewer words?

Twitter is great training for this (thanks to its 140-character limit), as was being a journalist – cutting unnecessary words makes for cleaner copy, there’s just no way around it. I’ll bet there are plenty of sentences you can streamline to pack a powerful punch in fewer letters.

Read it Aloud

You’ll be surprised how much your writing can sound perfectly fine in your head, but be totally disjointed when you read it aloud. You’ll notice those times when your sentences run on, where you might need a comma, or where you’ve repeated a word too often.

Print it Out

Reading on a screen, no matter how many times you’ve done it or how comfortable you are with it, is still so different to reading words in print. Your accuracy in identifying errors is far greater when you have a hard copy to refer to, especially when it comes to finding visually-similar mistakes. If you’re working on something that has to have the highest degree of accuracy, print it out, grab a pencil or a highlighter, and get to work.

Look for the Most Obvious

In your first read-over, search for the glaring errors – the typos, the spelling errors, that one time where you got your their/there mixed up, the visual formatting (how did that sentence get down there?), and any time you’ve written in passive voice. Pay special attention to apostrophes – most of the time they don’t need to be there. If it’s a possession or a contraction, fine, but keep them out of where they don’t belong.

Further Reading: Five Quick Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing (Plus Free Downloadable Cheat Sheet)

Turn it Around

You’ll be surprised how much clearer a sentence can be if you flip it. Especially if you have that gut feeling that it’s too long or there’s something not quite right about it. Passive sentences can really disrupt your flow.

“In one day, a month’s worth of blog posts were written by me.”

Sounds so much better (and uses fewer words and has more of an effect on the reader) if it’s written:

“I wrote a month’s worth of blog posts in one day.”

There now, you’ve turned a passive sentence into a punchy, active one, losing extraneous words in the process. Well done!

Done is Better than Perfect

You could spend days tweaking your posts. You add, you take away, you add back, you switch around, you make eight versions of the headline in case one works better. Sometimes you end up going around in circles because you’re so into it now you can’t see straight, and your perspective is all off.

You just have to put your foot down and publish!

As journalists, we had a ready-made cutoff – it didn’t matter how much you had fiddled with your story, at some point it had to go to the printer, like it or not. Set yourself a cutoff, and remember – blogging gives you the gift of updating your post after publication if you really feel it needs it.

If you’ve followed Point One, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something!

Try it… You’ll Like it

If you’re unsure about a paragraph (or even a sentence), open a new document. Cut and paste all those “maybe” paragraphs into the document, and read your original post in its shortened form. Still think it could do with those words? Add them back in, no harm done. (Are you SURE, though?!)

Fact Check

It’s all very well and good to write something to convince people of your message, but you need stats to back it up. Ensure that all the numbers, anecdotes, and information you’ve included can be verified. Make sure there’s links to further information to help the reader understand your post, and to see the proof for themselves.

One top tip I learned is that if you’ve got questions, your reader will too. Wherever have made a bold claim, link to where you got your information. If you think that someone reading your post would benefit from your primary sources, then include them.

Harden Up

I know your work is precious. You’ve put a lot of effort into it. Your blog post is the culmination of hours of research, years of learning, numerous mistakes. You have a lot to say, and you think all of it is necessary.

It’s probably not.

There might be a place where you’ve repeated yourself. You might be able to make your point just as validly, but in fewer words. Some anecdotes, while funny, just won’t fit. Harden up and get rid of the bits that just aren’t working. There’s nothing stopping you from using that information in a future post, but your job here is to look at your work with a critical eye and make it the best it can be. How would you edit this if it was someone else’s work? What bits would you cut out in order to make your story better? Do that. You won’t regret it.

Do you love to write too much? We've got some solid tips for self-editing to help cut the waffle and write clean / problogger.net

 

So tell me – do you find editing hard? Or are you constantly looking over everything you read with your editor hat on? (that can be just as bad – it’s harder to get lost in a story when you’re always getting tripped up by writing errors). What’s your best tip for self-editing?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Helpful Links

9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts

How to Use Google in the Most Unusual Way to Make Your Self-Editing Faster and Better

How You Can Make Your Writing Twice as Fast by Making it 3 Times More Time Consuming. Wait, What?

Hemingway App highlights common errors, long sentences, and grammatical issues that need attention. It also helpfully colour-codes the changes to be made. If you write a lot, you might find this useful.

Grammarly has pretty hardcore algorithms to not only find spelling mistakes, but contextual spelling errors too.

Where to Find Free Images Online

In a perfect world, we could all take amazing photos, edit them scrupulously, and somehow manage to have enough props and stylish flair to snap the exact image you need to illustrate your post.

In the real world, we have access to other talented people who do that instead!

A roundup of places to find free images online for your blog or social media

I’ve lost count of the posts I’ve pinned, sent to Evernote, or emailed to myself that round up great places to find free images on the internet. To save myself that headache (and hopefully you too!) here they all are, finally, in one place. Pin it for yourself!

Tweet this: 27 Places to Find Free Images Online: @veggie_mama + @ProBlogger

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Pexels

Pexels

from their site: All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the photos. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So thatattribution is not required. All in all the photos are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons has almost 25 million freely usable media files. You need to read their Reuse guide to check out the licensing requirements, though.

Getty Images

Getty Images has more than 50 million embeddable images – just hover over  an image and click the </> icon to get the code to paste into your post.

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Public Domain Archive

Public Domain Archive

Public Domain Images are bloggers who have curated all the images in the public domain they’ve come across in one handy place. Both modern and vintage images to choose from.

Free Images

Free Images (previously stock.XCHNG) have stricter requirements with their licensing, so do check each image before use. Option to purchase other photos as well.

Open Photo

Open Photo has plenty of images, vectors, and even video to choose from.

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New Old Stock

New Old Stock

New Old Stock is full of vintage photos from public archives, free of known copyright restrictions. You could scroll for hours!

Picography

As Picography says: Free high resolution photos. Use them however you like.

Creative Market

Creative Market is a paid service, with a weekly grab-bag of free images, fonts and other goodies to use on your blog.

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Stokpic

Stokpic

Stokpic not only has beautiful images totally free to use for personal or commercial use, they will also email you a package of 10 every two weeks. Their image categories are listed right at the top so you can see at a glance if they have something you’re looking for.

Foodies Feed

All food, all the time.

Stockvault

A very easy search function lets you find exactly what you’re looking for straight away on Stockvault. You can read the permitted usage terms here.

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Unsplash

Unsplash

A great selection of images, to which 10 new ones are added every 10 days. There isn’t any search function or categories list, which can make it hard to find something specific, but the current images are laid out in a grid format for you to view.

Photopin

Photopin has free photos for bloggers and creatives, which are accessed from the search bar on their home page.

A Prettier Web

A Prettier Web has beautiful (and quite girly) free images for bloggers and creatives.

Picjumbo

Picjumbo

Picjumbo

Picjumbo has categories of free images on the left-hand side to help you find what you’re looking for. Everything from abstracts to weddings.

SplitShire

Click the menu box on the upper right-hand-side of SplitShire to find the categories, otherwise, scroll through the offerings.

Death to the Stock Photo

Death to the Stock Photo has a bundle of free images that get sent to subscribers each month, usually in a theme.

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Gratisography

If you’re looking for something quirky and fun, you’ll find it at Gratisography.

Morguefile

To use some of the images at Morguefile, you’ll need to ask permission and link back to the creator, but they’re free and hi-res.

Dreamstime

An easy-to-use list of categories shows itself when you are on the “free images” section of the Dreamstime site.

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Pixabay

Pixabay

Pixabay has tons of public domain vectors, drawings, and photos – all for free. A captcha is necessary prior to download, or you can sign up.

FreeFoto

FreeFoto has 132549 free images to use with attribution and linkback.

iStock

Part of Getty Images,iStock has free photos, illustrations, video, audio, and editorial files in weekly batches.

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Boss Fight

Boss Fight has one mission: To be your final “Boss Fight” when it comes to finding completely free (do whatever you want) stock images, photos, and photography.

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons is constantly updated with people all over the world sharing their photos for use. Do check each attribution licence, however, as some are stricter than others.

StockSnap

StockSnap also has royalty-free images with no attribution required.

Where to find free images online  Problogger.net

 

And not technically photos, but Entypo has 411 pictograms for use on websites. Fun!

Where are your favourite places to get images? Are you a photographer yourself?

 

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Top Tips for Getting the Most out of Monetizing Brand/Blog Relationships

Working with brands on blogs is big business, and for one blogger making a full time living through advertising and sponsorships, there are 100 more who’d like to.

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Louisa Claire has been blogging for nine years and runs Brand Meets Blog, where she connect brands with bloggers and trains bloggers on how to work professionally with brands. Having worked with leading brands including Qantas, Kellogg’s, and The Heart Foundation among many, she is passionate about helping brands and bloggers make authentic connections that deliver great value for bloggers, readers, and brands alike.

She’s been around since the early days of brand work on Australian blogs, and has seen the struggles and wins on both sides of the fence – where brands were tentatively taking this leap into new advertising waters, and bloggers realised they had platforms that could become careers.

I recently spoke at the ProBlogger Perth Training Day about the various ways you can monetise your blog (slides and links here, for those interested), and picked Louisa’s very knowledgeable brain about how to get your blog brand-ready. The topic was so large, and her advice so useful, I asked if  we could go into more detail here on ProBlogger. Thanks Louisa!

If you’ve just started moving toward this income stream (or even if you’ve got some experience under your belt), then read on – there’s plenty of tips for you to implement today to get the most out of collaborating with brands (read on for a discounted rate on her brand/blog ecourse!).

*Further reading: Make Money on Your Blog by Partnering With Brands 

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Working with Brands on Your Blog: What You Need to Know

What are the benefits of working with brands on blogs as an income source?

Speaking personally, the positives for me have been huge – I have travelled interstate and overseas as a result of brand partnerships, been paid to write for brands, judge brand competitions and so much more. Just in terms of the experiences and opportunities I’ve had, it’s been fun! For me, fun is huge!

It’s also given me great flexibility as a Mum to be able to juggle little people and school drop offs, upset tummies and all the things that come with parenthood and I’m so grateful for that flexibility. And it helps pay the mortgage, so that’s good too! When I speak to fellow bloggers a lot of these reasons also resonate for them and drive their desire to find a way to make it work for them.

Why do you think it’s such a popular way of monetising?

Because it’s a natural extension of who we are as people! I think that we all love to share the things we love with the people we care about and what better way for bloggers to do this than to partner up with the brands they love and bring them to their readers? It just makes sense!

What are brands looking for when working with bloggers?

Sometimes what brands are looking for at a big picture level is different to what they actually want.

What I mean by that, is that often brands start out looking for reach – this means how many unique views a blog has or more plainly, how many people will see a blog post. What they mostly (really) want is for readers to be moved to act – whether that’s clicking on a link, commenting, visiting their site or more directly, making a purchase – they almost always have a goal that goes beyond simply “how many people will see this blog post.”

The job of the blogger is to help brands see how working with them will lead to that second activity – by showing them that whatever your audience size is, you are able to connect with you readers on a personal level and encourage them to act. For example, you might have a blog with 10,000 monthly uniques, but 85% of those are Australian (or American or UK) readers who have a direct interest in your blog topic. Another blogger might have 50,000 monthly uniques but 50% of their traffic is international and they blog on 3-4 topics so of the Australian (or US or UK – wherever you live) audience maybe only 25% are going to be interested in the topic.

Your job is to be able to explain to brand why your 10,000 uniques are just as useful and relevant to them. (My point isn’t that blogs with big traffic don’t have the same deep relevance as smaller, niche blogs but that the smaller blogs sometimes don’t know how to demonstrate to a brand why their smaller number is actually really good.) Because your goal is to move readers to action, it’s essential to only work with brands that you can truly, authentically endorse and who your readers would genuinely be interested in. It can also be a good idea to consider longer term brand partnerships or a clear focus in the type of brands you work with.

How important are media kits and what would brands like to see on them?

Media Kits are a great way to showcase the best things about your blog in a short, concise way to any interested brand or agency. That makes them an incredibly useful tool for bloggers!

That said, I’d hate for a blogger to be put off responding to a pitch or not initiating a conversation with a brand because they don’t have one – if you can put your key information into an email then that works too. The biggest mistake I see bloggers making with their media kids is making it too long and too hard to find that key information like audience profile and stats.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Media Kit.

What are the best ways to make contact with brands?

Bloggers are in such a great position to do this right now because of their experience and comfort level with social media. With more and more brands trying to carve out their own space in social media, bloggers can get in front of them through simple things like sharing their content, commenting, engaging and striking up a conversation. I think if bloggers can keep in mind how they connect with each other then they are on the right track!

Are there particular niches you think work better than others with brands?

At certain times different niches will be “hot” and that will make it easier – health and wellness has been huge recently and it definitely helps if you’re in that niche at the right time.

That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily easier if you blog on a particular niche other than it might be more immediately obvious to you which brands suit your blog. What I think makes a bigger difference is if you have a really clear understanding of who your readers are and what they are looking for because even if you blog on a niche you’re going to have a few core angles that you take on that niche that will impact who you should work with. Your best opportunities lie in working that stuff out.

How can someone who isn’t in an “easy” or “hot right now” niche work with brands?

Gosh, so many ways! Don’t get put off if you don’t have a niche, because in fact you do. Your passion is your niche! And your passion is what your readers resonate with.

Done carefully, your passion can tie beautifully in to working with brands in ways that benefit you and your readers. One of the participants from our course Brandlicious: Your Step By Step Guide To Making Brands Fall In Love With Your Blog, Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys actually identified this for me recently when she said “Brandlicious made me analyse my blog, and who my readers are to best ascertain who I should be working with. It was less about me, and more about my readers. It made me look at things in an entirely different way!

I get really excited when I see bloggers uncovering this and then seeing what it means for them and the brands they could work with and brands pick up on it too!

What mistakes do you see bloggers making who would like to work with brands?

A couple of obvious ones stand out. The first is making it hard for brands to get in touch with them – sometimes I will find a blogger I’m keen to involve in a campaign but am on a tight timeframe and because I can’t find their name/email/other relevant contact information I have to skip them over. It’s always a shame when a blogger misses out on something that could have been great for them for a simple reason like an email address.

The second is when bloggers inflate their stats or don’t look closely at what their stats mean. If you tell brands that your stats are something more than they are then the brand will almost certainly be disappointed by the results. You’re much better off being upfront about your stats and giving examples of how readers engage with your blog and with other sponsored content so that they can have realistic expectations and end up thrilled with the result!

Where do you see the blog/brand relationship headed in the future?

I don’t think there is going to be one path for brand/blogger relationships but some of the things I expect is that brands will look at long term blogger partnerships and ambassadorships.

I also think that bloggers who know how to present like a business and consider the brand objectives and ROI as part of their approach will be in a better position to seriously monetise.

Already we are seeing that brands are interested in Facebook and Instagram as part of a blogger’s community, and that they are also looking at users who are influential on those platforms even if they don’t have a blog. These will be things bloggers need to consider in terms of what they focus on and how they could partner with brands in future.

Louisa has offered ProBlogger readers a discount on her new online course Brandlicious. Head here for the reduced price, and to read more about how to get your blog brand-ready.

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Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

5 Ways to Make Your Blogging Life Easier

Blogging is serious business - and can take up much of your time! We share five ways you can make your blogging life easier.Blogging. It goes a little something like this:

  • Think of idea
  • Write a post
  • Take/source/edit a photo for the post
  • Format the post
  • Schedule or publish the post
  • Push the post to social media
  • Respond to comments

But that is just the beginning, right? That doesn’t include planning, goal-setting, editorial calendars, blog design, design tweaks, multimedia, multiple updates on social media, a social media workflow plan, guest blogging, networking, sponsorships, affliliate sales, creating products, launching products, email marketing, creating newsletters, being part of the blogging community, going to events, keeping up with trends…

There’s so much to do.

In the five years I’ve been blogging I feel like I’ve made all the mistakes. One of my biggest ones was wasting time. When you’re blogging on top of work and life and other responsibilities, that time you have to spare is is finite. After crashing and burning with my poor habits, I learned very quickly what would work to cut down wasted time, and I then created strategies to be more efficient.

Blogging is serious business - and can take up much of your time! We share five ways you can make your blogging life easier.

5 Ways to Make your Blogging Life Easier

Batching

Batching is when you complete the same or similar tasks in one period of time. Instead of writing a post with a headline, image, post body, etc, you might like to write all posts for the week in one go, edit and upload all images in one go, etc. It means you’re in the right headspace for each task, rather than switching between what you need to do, then the next task, then back again.

Batching is also super-useful for returning emails, scheduling social media, general writing, researching, image sourcing, and the menial task you hate but must be done (accounts, anyone?!).

I’ve even gone so far as to choose which days I batch process. Mondays was content creation, Tuesdays was email and images… I’ve had to make some adjustments this year, but picking days when I was most useful was actually the most successful strategy I tried.

Scheduling

This applies to both time and content. I schedule my time when I have it, and I schedule content.

For example, if I have a few hours spare, I’ll spend a couple of minutes before I get started prioritising my tasks and adding them to blocks of time. I usually try and “eat the frog first”, i.e. doing the thing that’s the hardest to do, so the rest is easier (and also can be added to tomorrow’s to-do list if I get interrupted, as they’re not as time-sensitive as the frog).

My frog is usually content creation. I need to do that when I’m motivated and have space to think. Image processing I can do later, and with less brain bandwidth. So I schedule creation first, then other tasks.

Darren's low-tech editorial schedule

Darren’s low-tech editorial schedule

Scheduling content is super useful for when you don’t have time to blog every day, or you’re taking a break. Scheduling content on your blog and scheduling your social media means less hands-on work, and more time to work on other things. Like binge-watching Netflix and eating popcorn.

If you’re scheduling your social media, do make sure you pop onto the platforms at certain times to respond to people. It’s best if you can post and respond in real time, but if that’s not always possible (I know for me it certainly isn’t), then schedule the updates, and respond when you have time. Or when you’ve scheduled time in your day to respond!

Figure out when you’re most efficient

I’ll never forget one morning I woke up before the birds and wondered if I should just study for my upcoming test seeing as though I wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon. I was soon surprised to realise how clear my thinking was and how well I understood what I was reading. My attention was focused and things made perfect sense. I felt like I had mastered some pretty difficult concepts (it was a third-year psychology exam, after all) and was well on my way to acing a test – all before breakfast! I knew right away I was a morning person.

While working in the early hours hasn’t been achievable for me in the last few years (two kids who don’t sleep, heaven help me), I do know I’m more efficient for brain tasks in the morning, and can satisfactorily respond to emails and requests, upload recipes, and do admin later in the afternoon. I’m pretty fried by night and can barely string a sentence together, so I don’t even bother.

A friend of mine is the opposite – she doesn’t really get her writing groove on until late afternoon, and will write up until bedtime. It’s all about knowing when you’re the most efficient so you aren’t trying to write a 2000 word post on Facebook algorithm changes when you’re dog tired and fuzzy. When you’re efficient, you don’t waste time –  and as a bonus, you complete tasks faster.

Automate

Bless you, internet automation tools, where would we be without you? They are fiercely discussed, loyalties are strong – it’s hard not to love something that makes your life so much easier.

There’s been plenty of discussion here on ProBlogger about what kinds of tools everyone loves to use for automation – everything from social media scheduling apps to creating reports in Google Analytics so they’re sent to you regularly and it saves you going looking for them.

You can automate plenty of things for your blog: If This Then That (IFTTT) is huge for automated behaviours. It can do anything from posting your Instagram pictures to your twitter account (thereby bypassing that pesky issue of Instagram images not showing up in newsfeeds), you can be emailed when someone mentions you online, you can “like” a track on Soundcloud and have it directly downloaded to your Dropbox – plenty of things you can set up to automatically happen after a trigger of your choosing.

I had to giggle when I saw this automation for parents:

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Email canned responses are a wonderful thing if you find yourself answering people with the same information over and over. Gmail in particular is useful for this – it will send a pre-written response as a reply to inquiring emails. You can automate the responses to be sent based on the criteria you choose – often sender, subject, keyword, etc. Very handy for freeing up your time.

Automation doesn’t get much better than apps that manage your social media. No longer do you have to wait for posts to go live before you manually update them to your Facebook! Or set reminders for when you wanted to tweet out your link based on when your audience is online. There are plenty of places to go where you schedule a bunch of posts to go out at a time of your choosing. Darren uses Sprout Social (see his social media scheduling workflow here), I use a combination of CoSchedule and Buffer, and there are plenty that will help you out when it comes to Instagram and Pinterest, too – namely Schedugram, Latergramme, Viraltag and Ahalogy.

Veggie-Mama-Planning

Planning

I cannot recommend this enough! I haven’t always done it, but it made a huge difference to how I spent my time, and how efficient I was when I finally had the time.

After I nailed the planning of time, I moved onto the planning of content. It was important for me to take a step back and see the bigger picture of what I needed to do and what I wanted to achieve when it came to blogging. It was no longer enough to just show up every day and do what needed to be done, I had to plan first so I could be in control, rather than always running to catch up. I hate running.

The first thing I did was figure out when I was most efficient now that I couldn’t do the early mornings any more. Then I figured out which parts of the day would be used for which tasks. Then I made the holiest of holies: the editorial calendar. Even if I didn’t know exactly what day I’d be blogging that pot pie recipe, knowing I had a post to write about pot pies (or creating achievable blogging goals) meant I wasn’t faffing around wondering what to do or what to write. When I finish one post, I look at my list and move onto the next. I move the calendar around when I write spontaneous posts, but having an overarching framework with which to reference has been the breakthrough for me.

You can listen to the webinar Darren and I did with Darlene of Digital Photography School where we discuss how we approach editorial calendars on each site, and how to plan one for yourself.

I use good old pen and paper plus CoSchedule for Veggie Mama, and I use a Google Doc and Google Calendar for content here on ProBlogger.

Bonus tip: Outsource

Sometimes it’s just necessary. Here’s 44 Things Chris Ducker Thinks Bloggers Should Delegate to Virtual Staff.

And there you have it! Five (well, six) ways you can streamline your workflow to get more done.

So what about you? Have you found some shortcuts that help you blog effectively? I’d love to hear them!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie MamaChat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

Setting Goals: Why You Need Them, and How to Write Them

 

 

“How can you get where you’re going if you don’t know where that is?”

Surprisingly to me, the topic of goals seems to divide bloggers into two camps: the ones who think goal setting in any situation is of vital importance, and the ones who think that blogging should be more spontaneous and fluid.

I think they’re both right.

The great thing about blogging that perhaps other business ventures don’t have is the personal aspect. The sharing of stories, the authentic representation of real life people in the real world. Sometimes it’s hard to put structure on that, to say your blog must do X and Y if you are ever going to get to Z. Many people buck the idea of pointing their blog in a direction rather than let it evolve naturally. Plus some of us just really hate being told what to do.

The difference can usually be boiled down to the main reason you write your blog, and where you want your blog to go. Is it a creative outlet? A thing of passion? A bit of fun that isn’t meant to be stressful? Or are you hoping it will earn you some money, maybe some freelance writing work, some speaking engagements, or even a book deal? Maybe even a bit of both: a creative outlet that makes an income?

In order to reach a destination, you have to know where you’re going. And if you’re happy for some structure, a bit of guidance, and practical steps you can take to build your blog into a vehicle to get you where you’re going, then you need some goals.

I know – I tried to resist it for a long time, even though I planned to either monetise my blog or find online work from my blog since the day I realised you could (which, incidentally, was about five minutes after I started it). I liked seeing how my blog evolved slowly as I learned things. I eventually got my head around SEO, about building traffic, and about the importance of good design (that one took me a while).

But the day came when everyone was talking practical goals. That in order to take your blog to the next level, then you better have some stepping stones to get you there. Wandering around doing whatever takes your fancy can only last you so long. Although the scenery is nice.

The Value of Goals

There are plenty of positive outcomes of goals even if you don’t reach them.

Goals give you structure

This is particularly useful if, like most of us, you’re juggling blogging with your life, your other job, your family, and your other responsibilities. There’s often not a lot of time left in the day to blog and you hate wasting it. If you have goals you’d like to reach (post twice a week, get five new Facebook fans this month), then you’re more likely to work on something that will help you reach your goal rather than fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and an hour later you’re on your cousin’s brother’s best friend’s Queensland holiday photos from two years ago. You haven’t written a thing and now it’s time to go to bed. Having even small goals can help you to use your time more wisely.

Goals keep you looking ahead

While reviewing things of the past to figure out what worked and what hasn’t is an excellent tool to keep your blog on track, it’s best to spend most of your time in the present, looking toward the future. Goals can keep you on track by giving you something to aim for. You might feel like perhaps you’ve hit a plateau and are looking around to lift yourself out. You might have made a mistake (like all those years I didn’t think email lists were important) and want actionable steps to rectify it. Having a point you’d like to reach keeps you focused, and also provides a chance to feel successful when you make it.

Goals keep you accountable

I have been meaning to write an ebook for three years. Two years ago, I started it. I haven’t touched it since.

I had some vague plan of maybe working on it for 15 minutes a day, like Darren’s famous story, and I even added it to my daily “to-do” list. At one stage, trying to make it even easier on myself, I made it only five minutes a day to work on it.

Without a specific goal, though, broken down into manageable pieces (design a cover one week, write 500 pages on Tuesday the 15th, perhaps), my vague plan got me nowhere. That book is far from finished two years later because I haven’t been accountable to myself for getting it done. That’s two years of lost revenue.

I’ll say that again: two years of lost revenue.

I could have set a goal, broken it down into manageable chunks (exactly what I talk about in How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed because hey I had a job and two toddlers and a blog and overwhelmed was exactly how I felt) and done it in steps, then I could have had that book ready ages ago.

Goals are motivating

Success is the best motivator. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush you get when you pull something off. You put in hard work and you were rewarded. More of that please! You’ll move heaven and earth to make some time to get that stuff done because you know it works. It feels good to win.

Goals keep you in forward motion

If there’s anything I hear the most about bloggers a few years into their journey is that they can’t break through middle ground. They’re not quite beginner, they’re not quite pro – but what they’ve always done (which saw results in the past) just isn’t cutting it any more. Some people even like to rest here a while – but at some point, most bloggers want to keep growing, keep building their readership, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Setting practical, achievable goals can help bust you out of that rut, while reinspiring you to ignite that passion you had when you first started. Then when you reach that goal (and you find it was easier than you think), then you’ve moving forward. You’re growing.

Setting Practical, Achievable Goals

So we’ve established why goals are important (and if not vitally important to you personally, then at least useful). The next thing to do is chat about how you can make great ones – and actually reach them.

Write them down

Don’t fall victim to the vague plan, I like I did. Set aside a few minutes for brainstorming, then organise your ideas into goals you’d like to achieve. Stick them on your mirror, write them on a whiteboard, email them to yourself, save them into Evernote, write them in your diary – it doesn’t matter where, just write them down. People who write their goals down are significantly more likely to achieve those goals, and it can help you remember your main purpose. It’s fine if you change them later, but get them down somewhere first.

Don’t have many

The best way to overwhelm yourself and ensure you never get anywhere is to write yourself a long list of concrete goals that are impossible to uphold. The fewer in number you keep your goals, the easier they will be to reach and the more likely you’ll be to keep on the path. They need to be adjustable and malleable as your expectations and knowledge changes. You might like to have maybe one a month, or a set of 10 that are dependent upon the goal before it being met. Whatever will be the strategy you are most likely to stick to.

Make them S.M.A.R.T

You’ve probably heard it before – keep your goals specific (“grow my newsletter list by 50 this month” rather than “grow my newsletter list”), measurable (quantities are good here), actionable (something you do rather than something you are), realistic (by all means challenge yourself, but don’t aim for the impossible), and timely (deadlines are exceptional at getting you moving and stopping the “I’ll get to it one day” lie). Do each of your goals fit this criteria?

Break them down

It’s all very well and good to say you’d like to grow your newsletter list by 50 readers this month, but as specific as that is, it’s still quite general. How are you going to reach that goal? What’s the very first step you can take to reach that goal? You might like to break it down by weekly tasks:

  1. Create or upgrade your subscriber incentive by week 1.
  2. Add an extra sign-up box at the end of your posts by week 2.
  3. Write a post describing the value of signing up to the newsletter and pointing people to the new or updated subscriber incentive (and of course, where to sign up) by week 3.
  4. Offer a short-time only extra bonus for newsletter subscribers by week 4.

Set both short and long-term goals

I think most of us have a sort of goal or destination for our blog lurking in our grey matter somewhere, but sitting down and putting pen to paper can really help you figure out what you want and why you’re putting all this effort in. You might even surprise yourself with what comes out when you give it space to grow. So even if you think you’ve got an idea of where you’re headed, write it down anyway. Then run it through the SMART criteria – see if you can put it on a timeline, or make it more practical and actionable than it is. That’s your long-term goal.

Your short-term goals can be a mix of the broken-down steps you’re taking to get to the long term goal, and other small fun goals you set yourself to be just that little bit better than you were before. One of your goals might be to take a writing course, or to have a guest post published on your favourite site. It can be pitching an article to an authority site that you’re absolutely terrified to do – it can even be as small as simply finding out who to pitch to by Friday next week.

Have a buddy

It works for weight loss, so it can work for your blog goals too! You can have an accountability partner and chat together about your goals for the week or month and check in regularly to see how each other has gone. You can have the same goals as a friend and motivate each other to reach them (or even make it a little competition!). You can just email a friend a list of things you’re going to do, or you can even write them in a blog post and be accountable to your readers, like Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom does in her goal review posts. Just make sure you tell someone (other than the cat) so you’re more likely to reach the goal rather than face the embarrassment of telling them you failed.

Keep track of them

I like the idea of saving a file or having a notebook for your goals and jotting down your progress. You can write down what you’ve done to try and reach them, whether it was useful or not – or you can just tick them off as you go. But check in regularly to make sure you’re on track and that they’re still the kinds of goals you’re interested in.

Review them

Plans (and blogs) can change, and what you might have thought was important at the start of last year now has no significance whatsoever. Set regular reminders in your calendar to review your goals and make sure they’re still relevant to you. You can change them, increase them, or throw them out entirely and start fresh. You might also meet some of your goals much faster than you anticipated, so you might want to set yourself some more.

Why You Can’t Set Goals

You’re too busy

I know, it’s hard enough to get through what needs to be done every day let alone step back, take a deep breath, and figure out the big picture. If you treat brainstorming and goal-setting like a non-negotiable task, and block out time on your calendar to do it, then you’re more likely to treat it with the importance it deserves. Make your first goal setting a time to create your goals.

You don’t know what you want

You will when you sit down and brainstorm, I promise. If you give yourself time to reflect and think about your blog and what it means to you and where, ultimately, you’d like to take it, then you’ll begin to realise there are milestones you’d like to achieve. Start with a few and when the time comes to review those goals, you’ll have come up with a few more to add to the list.

You don’t know how to write a game plan

Well now you do!

  1. You brainstorm
  2. You prioritise your ideas into short-term and long-term goals
  3. You run those goals through the SMART filter
  4. You break them down into manageable chunks, and you give those chunks deadlines
  5. You put a list of your goals somewhere where you will see them
  6. You email your goals to a friend for accountability
  7. You set your first step to see you on your way

See? No excuses now!

So were you like me and thought you’d be fine without goals? Have you had goals since day one? You might even have a buisness plan! I’d love to hear how you structure your steps to reach your dreams.

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama (with the added bonus of good food!). Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

 

Blogging and Privacy: How to Blog Authentically Without Losing Your Voice

Hello! (1)Laura Tremaine’s blog is called Hollywood Housewife because she is just that – married to a movie producer and living in LA. A longtime blogger, she’s learned how to balance honest storytelling with keeping her husband, her family, and their life together somewhat incognito. Always only a Google search away from film fans, Laura has erred on the side of caution when it comes to sharing her tales, but manages never to lose the heart of them. She is a gifted writer with an interesting story to tell, and I have no doubt you’ll take away lots to think about if you’ve ever been concerned about laying out your life on the internet in blog form.

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Blog Beginnings

I started blogging as a creative outlet for my writing. I moved to Los Angeles from Oklahoma with the romantic notion that I was going to write novels and screenplays for a living. But I never got that far. I fell into television & movie production as a way to pay the bills, and that workload is really kind of intense. After I got married, I quit working in reality television and decided that I finally wanted to pursue that original dream. Blogging was just beginning to get huge, and the instant gratification of publishing on the internet was so alluring.

At first I just did it for myself and the handful of family and friends that read my first small blog. After a few stops and starts, I finally decided that I wanted to take the whole thing more seriously and grow an audience. I started over with the blog name Hollywood Housewife (because I am one) and have been plugging along with it ever since.

Privacy Needs

My husband Jeff Tremaine is a successful director/producer with a large fan base. The demographics that are attracted to his movies and tv shows aren’t necessarily the same people who want to read about my parenting journey. In the beginning, it was really important to me to keep the two things separate. There are a lot of google searches for his name and work, and I didn’t want people looking for a crude clip of a movie stumbling upon my list of favorite moisturizers. After we had children, I was especially concerned about our family’s privacy and how I could write my story without exploiting our two kids or too much of his personal life.

By now there has been some crossover – people who love him have found my Instagram, for example, which then leads them to the blog and everything else. It’s okay, though. You can see pretty quickly what I’m about, so that naturally weeds out those who aren’t interested in family, faith, & beauty content. And for the most part, almost everyone has been very respectful of the distance I keep between what I’m doing on the internet and what he’s doing on the big screen.

No-Go Zones

For search engine reasons, I don’t use my husband’s name and I have given him and our children little nicknames I use instead. The reasoning behind this makes sense, but sometimes I wish I’d picked something a little less silly. It’s tricky to write the more serious posts while referring to the most important people in my life as The Gorilla, Pigtail, and Pirate. You live and you learn, I guess, but that is one thing that I tell newer bloggers to think long and hard about.

I also don’t include too much about where we live, but I think everyone on the internet – blogger or not – should do that. And there are huge chunks of our life I leave out entirely. We’ve had very significant illnesses on both sides of our family, and even though it was on our hearts day and night, I didn’t write about any of it for years. It just didn’t feel right. I also never write about our personal relationships with people who are well known. I want my blog to be a peek into a true Hollywood household, but it’s not a site for name-dropping.

hhousewife

Balancing Authenticity and Privacy

If it were just me, my blog would be a LOT more tell-all. I have no patience for fake people, and I like to write honestly about things. But juggling these other factors in our life has been a good discipline, actually. I’ve rarely hit publish on a post and wished I could take it back. I’m very deliberate about what and how much I share, but it’s all truth. I think the authenticity comes from me sharing MY heart and MY taste, and less about being juicy. It’s easy for me to be honest about what *I’m* feeling or the products and things that *I* like, and I try to leave anyone else out of the equation. I figure that will get me in the least trouble.

I’m also fairly quick to say if I made a mistake, failed at something, or if I changed my mind on a topic. There is no picture perfect illusion on my blog. This goes a long way in deconstructing  whatever myth people might assume about our lifestyle.

Reader Relationships

I have some of the best readers on the planet. I’m always underestimating them and they’re constantly surprising me. Like if I think I’m posting something sorta wackadoo and they’re not going to understand what I mean – they do! They’re almost always along for the ride and I love this about them. Somewhere along the way we’ve sliced through the blogger wall, and I always feel like I’m a real person writing to real people. It’s easy to get confused about that.

I interact with my readers daily on Facebook and Instagram  I love twitter, but my readers aren’t over there so much. My favorite way to interact with my readers has been through my monthly Secret Posts  These go to subscribers’ emails and the content is more personal than what I put out on the blog. Lately I’ve been asking readers to respond to the Secret Posts, and people are blowing me away with their thoughtful interaction.

And Her Husband?

He loves the blog. It’s the only one he reads – ha! Because his career is such a circus, he has always encouraged me to have my own thing and to pursue it as much as I wanted. He keeps the kids when I go on blogging trips and conferences, and he’s often my sounding board when I’m about to publish a sensitive post.

He is way less concerned about our general privacy than I am. Or maybe he just trusts the way I’ve handled it so far. He has never asked me to delete or change something I’ve posted.

More Privacy = More Struggle

We’ve had a few weird things happen, like people finding me and trying to get a direct line to him. I’ve received more than one script in the mail that someone wishes I’d pass along. (Those go directly in the trash, we can’t directly accept anything like that for legal reasons.) It’s also annoying that sometimes I can’t write about a major thing in our life until after it’s already happened. Last year he made the movie Bad Grandpa and I basically couldn’t write about any part of it for over a year, even though it was a huge part of our daily lives.

That’s not a real struggle, though, is it? While I sometimes have to be creative or find a workaround when writing about our friends and family, the bottom line is that you’ll never regret being too careful about what you put online.

The Takeaway

Even though blogging and social media continue to change rapidly, I feel really lucky to be able to tell my story in real time on the internet. There are people who put way too much of themselves out for the world to see, and there are people who are terrified to put even the littlest bit on display. But for most of us – no matter what level of privacy we either must or choose to maintain – there is a happy medium. Be creative! I know one blogger who writes about some of her current mental health struggles as if it was something that happened a long time ago. That makes her feel safer about sharing. Another blogger I know spills out a lot of harsh detail about a certain situation and she has ended up a thought leader on a topic very few are willing to discuss publicly. A lot of obstacles can be worked around, be it a job or a family situation, or anything else you’ve convinced yourself requires silence. If you want to tell your story, do it. There’s no shortage of people who want to hear it. [Tweet that!]

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So how about you – what’s the balance you strike between authenticity and privacy? It’s one I’ve definitely juggled.

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about simple living, good food, and travelling the world with kids at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

SEO: The Must-Dos That You Just Can’t Miss

Last year, we had Rand Fishkin sort us out with a comprehensive post on SEO basics, tips, and tricks. If you haven’t thought much about SEO and the traffic it can bring your blog, now would be the time to do it! Get into the right habits at the start of the year, and they’ll become second-nature.


 

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

Don’t Blog this Year Without the Most Important Thing of All

On Valentine’s Day last year, Darren reminded us all that blogging won’t get you far if you’re not legitimately passionate about it. What you’ll have is a site you’re only half-hearted about and you won’t be able to sustain that for very long – nor will your readers come to enjoy and respect your work. If you’ve got passion, then you can channel it into the best blog you can create 


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Finding Readers: Strategies for Building Your Audience in 2015

In 2014, Dustin Stout outlined how he grew his audience, and how you can find readers too. It’s worth revisiting so you start this year off on the right foot. What would you add?
growing-readershipIn today’s instalment of the Finding Readers theme week, we delve right into Dustin Stout’s incredibly eye-pleasing site, dustn.tv, and hear how he has built a blog people just can’t help but read and share.

When I launched dustn.tv in March 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had some insight and skills that people needed and I genuinely enjoyed helping people.

Between then and now, I’ve had successes and complete WTF-just-happened failures. Through all of that I believe I’ve landed on a handful of crucial elements that have allowed me to get to where I am today.

1. Give the Reader A Beautiful Experience

It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing, jaw-dropping, slap-yo-mamma content in the world, if people don’t read it. When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.

One of the primary reasons people continue to visit and read my blog (rather than just through an RSS reader or email) is because the reading experience is enjoyable.

With all the templates, themes, and examples of good design permeating the digital space, there’s no excuse for poor design. You don’t have to be a designer in any sense of the word to create a beautifully-designed, content-focused blog. Just find what’s working, what you would enjoy looking at, and imitate it. You can read my tips for creating a stunning reading experience for your readers here.

2. Write For Real People

Once your canvas is ready (your design) you can now fill it with glorious content that knocks people’s socks off! But the most important thing to remember is just that— you want to knock people’s socks off. Not robots: real people.

Having a voice that people can relate to is crucial to growing your readership. If people can’t relate to what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, why would they return?

One thing that has helped me to communicate effectively to my readership is focusing in on exactly who I’m speaking to. No, I’m not talking about my demographic or target audience— that’s not specific enough. To effectively write from an authentic, relatable voice you need to write as if you’re talking to one person.

Try this as an exercise— the next time you draft up a blog post, think of one person in your life that could benefit from the information you’re about to write, and write it in such a way as if you’re talking directly to them. This will help you communicate your message more clearly and your voice will be more authentic.

And people will love you for it.

3. Engaging Content (Actionable)

Another thing I’ve found when crafting content is that the actionable always wins out on engagement. Give people clear, easy-to-do actions and watch your engagement soar.

People don’t always know right off the bat how to take the action you may be moving them towards, so make it easy for them. Tell them exactly what to do.

4. Compelling Content (Sharable)

Making your content sharable is a crucial peice to the continued organic growth. When people share with other people there is power that no degree of marketing could ever capture.

In order to compell people to share your content, you have to first understand why people share things. The motivations are many but here’s just a few powerful reasons someone would share your content:

  • It makes them look smart
  • It makes them look funny
  • It makes them look cutting-edge
  • It makes them look interesting

Do you see a pattern there? People tend to share content based on how it will make them look to others. So if your content gives someone the chance to look better in front of their peers, they will be compelled to share it.

5. The Right Distribution Channels

Okay great, so you’ve got your awesome content written and wrapped inside a beautiful package (your web design) ready for people to consume, engage, and share. So now how do you get people to that content? Distribution channels, otherwise known as social networks.

The right distribution channels make all the difference. For everyone’s audience it may be different. If your target audience is mommies looking for great recipes, then Pinterest may be your best channel. If you’re ideal audience is teenagers who don’t want their parents knowing what they’re up to, then Snapchat may be your ideal channel.

My biggest piece of advice though when it comes to distribution channels is to resist the lie that you have to be on all of them. I’ve built the majority of my audience by doing one network really well. You can either do a mediocre, semi-invested job at many networks or you can knock one single network out of the park.

The latter will grow your audience faster than the former.

For me, I’ve found that the most powerful distribution channel in both driving traffic and acquiring new readers is Google+. No platform has yielded the return on investment that Google+ has, despite what lazy journalists might have you believe.

For me it’s about being able to not only distribute content, but also to be able to create and repurpose content in different formats such as images and video. With Google+, the number of tools at your disposal is beyond that of any other platform making it the most diverse, feature-rich and multi-demensionally engaging platform of them all.

Ultimately though, your perfect distribution channel will be one that has all of the following characteristics:

  • Your audience is there (or at least willing to follow you there).
  • You can fit it into your workflow.
  • You thoroughly enjoy the platform.

One Last Thing

Above all else, be true to yourself. Don’t be someone or something you’re not. Be uniquely you because that is your secret sauce.

Nobody else has the perspective, experiences, and thought process as you in the same combination of skills, knowledge and insight. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you can relate to your ideal audience.

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Make it more about them than about yourself.
  2. Give them an enjoyable reading experience.
  3. Be a real human, not a regurgitation robot.