Blogging in Brief: Smart Writing Techniques, Swipe Files, and Myths Dispelled

This week, I’m kicking off a new, regular feature here on ProBlogger, called Blogging in Brief.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user quil

The idea each time is to highlight a few cool, interesting, creative ideas that professional bloggers are implementing as potential inspiration for you.

ProBlogger’s based upon a philosophy of sharing stories and learning from each other, so every couple of weeks, I’ll take a look at some of the trends, ideas, and innovative new techniques various successful bloggers are using, and which you might like to test out for yourself.

Trying a new technique

Tommy Walker’s testing a new approach to writing blog posts at the moment—have a look at this one and you’ll see what I mean.

In the world of blogging, many bloggers tend to be attracted by a particular writing style, and then work to emulate that themselves. It’s great when a blogger really strikes out on their own with a radically different approach. Tommy’s preparing a piece for us to post here on ProBlogger next month, so I’m pretty excited to see where it leads!

More unexpected blogging

Corporate blogging may seem a worthy but potentially dry area. Think again. We recently came across a post on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blogs (tweeted by @kasthomas). The topic? Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.

It’s humorous, entertaining, and does a great job of presenting the CDC’s key message—being that they’re prepared for, and will respond to, any public health emergency—in a way that really opens up their blog’s audience. Great blogging!

Share your story

Chris Guillebeau’s now calling for stories as part of the research he’s doing for his next book. Maybe you have one to share?

The book is on the topic of “quests”—”a project of measurable challenge that you work toward over a long period of time.” If you think you might have a story to contribute, you can find out more here.

Cool idea: swipe file

I love this idea from Lynn Terry of Lynn keeps what she calls a “swipe file” of marketing she sees that works, and calls on this when she needs ideas, tips, and inspiration.

It’s a really simple idea, and a great way to learn from others. You might have a blog post ideas list, or a product ideas file, but do you have an examples file—for marketing, blogging, or something else? Maybe it’s time to start one.

Dispelling blog freelancing myths

Tom Ewer, who’s written for us a few times now, is preparing to launch a new product which I think will be a real eye-opener for a lot of bloggers. This ebook is a practical guide to freelance blogging—something we’ve been talking about quit a lot here on ProBlogger recently.

Many of the posts you’ll see on this topic present freelance blogging as a simple, natural advance from blogging on your own blog, as a way to make money blogging … but that expectation can be a problem. An ability to write for your own blog doesn’t automatically make you a great freelancer. There’s a lot more to it than that.

This book (which our Content Manager Georgina has had a sneak preview of) tells it like it is as far as freelance blogging goes. Should be interesting to see the reaction from bloggers on this one!

Creating a better Internet, people

Finally, I came across this post by Allison Boyer this week and thought I’d share it. It’s got some great, basic advice I think we can all agree on. As Allison says, “Let’s create a better Internet, people.”

The news of Google’s launch of the Disavow Links tool, to help site owners who’ve suffered from bad backlinks claw back search rank, might help support the same cause.

What cool, creative things have you seen other bloggers doing this week? Share your links in the comments.

Bounce Rates High? Why?

Most bloggers I know want to reduce their bounce rates. Sometimes it can seem as if it doesn’t matter what the bounce rate for a page actually is, we want it to be lower!


Image courtesy stock.xchng user ColinBroug

While it’s a stretch to expect we’ll hit a zero bounce rate, for most bloggers, it is worth looking at your bounce rates regularly, and trying to find ways to reduce them where appropriate.

While blogging’s about people—not just numbers—bounce rates can give you hints about the ways individuals are using your blog, and where you can help them out. In this post, I’d like to explain that in a bit more detail.

What is a bounce?

You undoubtedly know what a bounce is—a user who lands on our page from an external source, then leaves our blog without looking at any other pages. It’s a “single pageview” usage of our site.

But what does a bounce mean?

  • Did the reader get what they came for, and leave?
  • Were they disappointed by what they saw on your blog page?
  • Did they arrive at the page expecting to see something else?
  • Is the content current and compelling—and clearly so?
  • Is it clear from a single glance at the page what your blog is, does, and delivers?
  • Are there clear paths from that page to other actions or information that are likely to meet the needs of target users?
  • Are the bouncers regular readers who check out all your posts, so each time they just come to the latest one, read it, and go again>

Understanding the possible reasons for the bounce is an important step in doing something to reduce the bounce rate itself. Let’s look at a case study from ProBlogger to see exactly how the diagnosis of reasons for a high bounce rate can go.

The bounces, and the page

On a usual trawl through the site’s stats one month, I spotted this:

Bounce rate stats

These stats were for a single month. As you can see, this page attracted some good views, and almost 95% of them were from new visitors! But the bounce rate was really high, the time on site low, and the average visit duration? Terrible!

My first thought was to visit the page itself. It didn’t take me long to find a few issues—let’s step through some of the main ones I found (note that I’ve updated the post since, so these items have been addressed on the live page):

  • The opening dated the article. This piece has a publication date of 2008, but even if the new visitors didn’t see that, the opening, which would have been fine at that time, was written when I was a Twitter newbie—not ideal these days!
  • This problem was amplified by the outdated Twitter follower number I’d quoted. I mentioned in the post that I had 5500 followers; now that number’s over 160,000.
  • I’d included a link to Twitip in the opening. This immediately pulled readers through to one of my other sites, which doesn’t generate any income. While the content had been valuable, that site’s a bit dated now, due to a lack of regular updates. It certainly seemed smarter to try to keep these new visitors on a bit longer, rather than syphon them off to Twitip.
  • Much of the content in the article itself was dated.
  • The post didn’t provide many links to other great articles we have on topics like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks, and social network engagement strategies, here at ProBlogger—simply because that information wasn’t available back in 2008 when I’d written the post.

Yep, this page was pretty outdated! But I bet most sites that have been around for a while will probably have a page or two that are in a similar state.

Sources of bouncing traffic

Okay, so I knew I had a problem with the content of the page—and there were plenty of opportunities to improve it. But in order to make the right improvements—improvements that would give me the best chance of reducing that bounce rate by actually meeting individuals’ expectations—I wanted to know what the users were expecting to see when they came to the page. What needs did they have?

So I took a look at the traffic sources for the page:

Traffic sources

This was interesting. For any blog that gets a lot of its new traffic from search engines, you might expect the main traffic source to be Google. And when I first looked at the page in question, I’d imagined that most of the traffic to this page was coming from search and being pulled to Twitip. In fact, the traffic was coming from Twitip.

Understanding how the page is being used

Now I was getting a pretty clear idea of how this page was being used, and why the bounce rate was so high.

Twitip users were following a link from that site to this article. The second paragraph of the post was directing them right back to Twitip. In that case, would they feel that ProBlogger was more of an authority on Twitter than Twitip? Not likely. No wonder the bounce rate was so high!

But, as expected, Google was also among the top three referrers, and that traffic had a bounce rate of more than 90%.

Beyond content

Knowing that this page was being visited mainly by new users, it was worth looking beyond the content itself, to the page’s layout, branding, and design.

This page is laid out in the same way as the others on my blog, many of which—even if they mainly attract new users—don’t have such high bounce rates. This suggests that the layout probably isn’t the problem.

Now, the major call to action—the main point of engagement and interaction—on my blog’s content pages is to comment. Comments had long since closed on this post, so users may have struggled to find their way to other relevant content on the site at the post’s end. I’d included a Further Reading list there, but the articles were no longer current.

Yet, given how outdated the post was, and the tiny average visit duration, I guessed the visitors I was getting probably weren’t making it that far through the post anyway.

Understanding your bounces

As you can see, a little sleuthing can go a long way in helping you to understand the reasons for high bounce rates.

I try not to be thrown into a panic by the numbers alone. When I look a little deeper, I usually hit on more information that can help you take action on the bounces—if indeed that’s what you want.

In the case of this page, we made some tweaks to bring the content up to date an try to draw search traffic more deeply into the site.

But the reality for the high bounce rate from Twitip users is this: Twitip targets a different audience from ProBlogger. While it’s not unlikely that bloggers will read Twitip, that site is at once far more focused (Twitter tips only!) than this one, and more broad (it targets anyone who wants to use Twitter better—which could include casual, social users of the network, right through to online marketers in corporate environments).

So while ProBlogger contains Twitter tips, to try to convert traffic from Twitip into readers of this blog is probably a bit of a challenge. The two audiences want different things. While it was definitely worthwhile updating the ProBlogger post, the Twitip audience, on the whole, probably isn’t going to be interested in what we’re doing over here.

And that’s an important thing to realise: not all bounces are bad, and not all need addressing. Many do and will, and they’re the ones you’re better to spend your time trying to fix. But you won’t be able to work out which ones they are unless you take a few minutes to dig into the facts behind the bounces in the first place—to think about the individual users behind the numbers.

What do you do about your blog’s bounce rates? Have you been able to lower bounce rates through any specific tactics? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

Blogging Isn’t a Numbers Game: It’s a People Game

Last month I had the privilege of attending one of the biggest events in Australia—the AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final. For those of you outside Australia, it’s kind of like the Superbowl of Aussie football (without all the cool ads and wardrobe malfunctions…).

Anyway, I was a guest (with my wife “V”) at the event of Virgin Australia and it was quite the experience.

The game is held at the MCG (a stadium in Melbourne) and was attended by 99,683 people.

During the Nathional Anthem moments before the game started

I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of being in a crowd close to 100,000 people, but it is a pretty amazing thing to be a part of—especially when so many of them are so passionate about supporting their team to win the season’s ultimate prize.

The game starts

As I sat there in that frenzy of flag-waving, face-painted, screaming fans it was easy to look at the crowd and almost see them as a single unit. Within an hour or so, the stadium had been transformed from a quiet, empty place into one that was teaming with life.

Buddy Franklin (one of the biggest AFL stars) takes a ‘Mark’ early in the game

However that crowd was actually made up of almost 100,000 small parts. Each person in attendance had entered through the turnstiles that day, one by one, having made their way to the stadium from around the city (and in some cases, from around the country). Each one came in their own unique way, with their own unique story, and their own unique expectations of what was about to unfold at the Grand Final.

Within seconds to go the game was tied up – this vital contest led to a goal that sealed the match for the Sydney Swans.

Each one also had their own experience of the day. For some, those expectations were exceeded as their team won. Others left the stadium dejected after seeing their team lose.

This was highlighted to me at the end of the game, particularly when I watched these two fans celebrating with such emotion.

Tension – it went down to the wire

Emotion – the win is in sight

Jubilation – the final siren sounds and pandaemonium breaks lose around us

It strikes me that all this is true for the “crowds” that read our blogs, too.

I was chatting with one blogger at the ProBlogger Training Event in Melbourne recently and they told me that they’d just passed the 100,000-visitors-in-a-month milestone. As we chatted, I told her that that’s enough people to fill the MCG, and an amazing thing!

However it is good to also remember when we celebrate these milestones that the crowds (whether they be 100, 10,000, 100,000, or 10,000,000) are actually more than just a number—they’re made up of individual readers.

The total “unique visitors” stat that many of us use to measure the success of our blogs is actually made up of real people who arrive, one by one, on our blogs.

  • They have unique journeys, and arrive from different places.
  • They each arrives at a different part of our blog (many on our archives).
  • They each come with their own set of needs that they’re looking to fulfil.
  • Each person has been shaped by their own stories and experiences.
  • Each has his or her own expectations of what the experience of your blog will be like.

Keeping this in mind as you blog is so important—it should shape the way that you write, the way that you build community, the way that you find new readers, and even the way that you monetize.

Don’t get too wrapped up in the overall number of visitors (big or small). Instead, focus upon the individuals who make up the crowd, and you’ll create something that not only grows, but really impacts the lives of those who read it.

A big thanks to Virgin Australia for the experience of going to the Grand Final – an experience of a lifetime.

What’s Good for the Blogger Is Good for the Blog

As we were preparing this weekend’s posts—which all deal with topic of productivity and the blogger’s lifestyle—I was reminded of a blogging truism that many of us seem to forget.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

For the blogger who’s taking their blog and their readership seriously, what’s good for us is generally good for our blog.

Conversely, what’s good for our blog is generally good for us.

This truth isn’t just helpful when it comes to feeling motivated, inspired, and creative—it can also help us stay on track. Keeping this in mind helps me align my blog with my life—and vice versa, making my blogging a sustainable part of my life as a whole.

What’s bad?

Some of us might be tempted to take that as an excuse to avoid the tasks we don’t like doing. Of course there are always blogging tasks we don’t enjoy—for me, it’s the accounting. But what’s good for my blog—staying on top of the accounting—is also good for me (since my blog pays my bills!).

This philosophy isn’t an excuse for forgetting about things we don’t like doing. Instead, it’s a call to action to tackle them and make sure they’re as successful as they need to be. I hired an accountant, which has been good for me, and helped sustain my blog!

And what’s good?

But what about the tasks we do want to do? If I’m considering a new business idea or strategy, and find that I’m feeling weighed down or burnt out by it, that can tend to impact my life beyond blogging as well as my blogging itself.

When that happens, I’ll go back to the new idea I’m working on and try to find the real problem—is there some aspect of the plan that needs to change? Should I consider another idea instead? For me, there’s no reason in pursuing an idea that I’m not enjoying, or that’s taking more out of my life than it’s putting in.

It’s not just me who feels this way, though—this weekend we’ll hear from three bloggers who have made blogging a part of their lives, and have let their lives enrich their blogging too.

  • Karol K will reveal the 7 habits of highly inefficient bloggers … which is based on his own experience, as well as the lessons he’s learned from those around him. As he shows, these seven inefficiencies can make your life as a blogger a lot harder than it needs to be. Fortunately, they’re all pretty simply fixed.
  • Jon Rhodes will show us how he’s making the most of his full-time blogging lifestyle—and what that has meant for his blog. If you need a breath of fresh air—and fresh inspiration for your blogging—don’t miss this piece.
  • Jefferson and Michelle, a husband-and-wife blogging team, will let us in on some of the advantages of blogging in partnership—with your significant other! Again, their story proves that if you’re serious about your blog, what’s good for it will usually prove to be good for you, too.

Every day, we see the work we put into our blogs, but we may not be so quick to look at what our blogs contribute to our lives. The fact is that if we don’t see the relationship as symbiotic and mutually beneficial, we probably won’t continue with our blogs.

What aspects of your life are good for you and your blog? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Writing for a Diverse Audience, Part 2

Last week’s post on writing for a diverse audience sparked a great discussion, with some really interesting thoughts contributed by bloggers at all stages of building a blog, and from a range of markets and niches.

AudienceOne thing that really struck me about these conversations was that bloggers seem to feel a bit of a conflict between audiences and niches. I wanted to clarify that today.

Audiences, niches, and topics demystified

I have a pretty simple way to differentiate between an audience and a niche.

I think about an audience as being a group of people.

To me, a niche is like a market “space,” including other blogs, other offerings, other sites and services (all of which may also serve other niches), as well as readers.

And a topic is an area or item of interest. It’s relevant to particular audiences, and probably relates to more than a few niches.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

DPS: topic, niche, and audience

To explain this most clearly, I’m going to reverse the order in which we consider these concepts because I think that’s a more intuitive way to grasp them.

On DPS the:

  • topic is photography
  • niche is DIY amateur photography education
  • audience is English-speaking amateur photographers who want to teach themselves more about photography, typically for a specific purpose: travel photos, family snaps, portraits, and so on. These people have various characteristics—age, gender, purchasing power, previous experience with my brand, degree of photographic skill, interests, and so on—that I can use to unite them into different audience segments.

From this little explanation, you can see that the topic is a big umbrella. The niche fits under that umbrella, with a lot of others. There are lots of other niches in the field of photography: professional photography services, photography equipment and software sales and reviews, photographer profiles, folios and galleries—the list goes on and on, and the niches overlap.

Finally, the audience is the group of people who are engaged with or interested in that niche. They might also be interested in other niches under that umbrella, too—which is why DPS provides reviews and offers on equipment, shows off reader photos in galleries, and so on.

In fact, that’s an example of writing for a diverse audience.

Planning content for a diverse audience

A diverse audience might contain groups of readers with clearly differentiated needs or interests, but most commonly, the truth is that different audience members may move between audience segments, or have a range of “niche” interests that vary over time.

On DPS, I have readers who just want to get better at taking photos with their phone cameras. This is their key need. Then I have readers who are interested in developing a range of professional-level skills as a photographer, without any interest in establishing themselves as pro photographers.

Both these audience segments might be interested in content on taking images of people, provided the information focused on their common needs. What are those needs? Off the top of my head, I’d guess content on either portraits and/or action-shots of people could be made to appeal to both these segments.

Importantly, to meet the needs of these diverse segments, the content would need to give advice that wasn’t equipment-specific, or, alternatively, it would need to give equal attention to the different equipment these readers would be using.

Article ideas that met the needs of these diverse audience segments might include:

  • the basics of photographing people in motion
  • how to spot a good action shot, any time, any place
  • tips for better nighttime photography of people
  • post-processing tips for portraits.

These article ideas are all on the same topic—photography. They address the same niche—self-education for amateur photographers. Within that, they look at the sub-topic of photographing people. And in so doing, they target users from diverse audience segments: camera-phone junkies and high-level amateur photographers who want to develop pro skills.

Show us how you meet the needs of your diverse audience segments

Hopefully this has made the idea of audience segments a bit clearer, and provides a helpful roadmap for your own review and analysis of your own readers and content.

If you’re writing for diverse audience segments on your blog, why not show us how? Point us to a post that meets the needs of multiple segments, and explain how it works—and whose needs it meets—in the comments.

Essential HTML for Bloggers Part 1

This guest post is by Matt Setter of

In the modern-world of blogging, there are so many blogging platforms to choose from. From the venerable WordPress, TypePad and Drupal to other great tools, such as Habari, Typo3 and CushyCMS amongst others. All of these make building a professional and stunning web presence, rather trivial—almost something so simple that our grandmothers and fathers could do it.

HTML5 logo

Image courtesy of the W3C

With all the ease of use that these tools afford us, how many of us still know what the underlying HTML looks like, that these tools, with their assortment of visual (wysiwyg) editors build for us? There was a time when you were considered a true web professional when you wrote all the HTML by hand.

To be fair, editors allow us to write quicker and likely more efficiently than we could if we were writing both the posts and the HTML code around them. They allow us to focus on what we’re good at, not the platform on which that knowledge rests.

From time to time, as capable as these editors are, they may either not be enough or we may simply want to know more and be more independent. We may want to know what’s going on underneath so that we’re not so reliant on them should something go wrong.

So in this two-part series, using the WordPress visual editor, I’m going to take you through a HTML for Bloggers Introductory Course. If you’re an aficionado on HTML, then this is likely not for you. If you’d like a refresher, are curious about what the code looks like that you’re producing in each of your posts, or just want to know how to go beyond the limitations of the editors you use, then this post is for you.

In this post, you’re going to learn five key, fundamental, aspects of HTML. These are:

  • What is a tag?
  • Formatting
  • Alignment
  • Lists.

Tomorrow we’ll add one more important aspect:

  • Links.

By the end of the series, you’ll know what’s happening when you click on a number of the buttons in the post editor and be able to change the HTML, should you want or need to do so.

Though I’m referring to it as a course, don’t worry, there’s no test at the end. If there were one, it would be based purely on how more empowered you’ll feel through having a greater hands-on knowledge of HTML.

HTML foundations

Tag: something used for identification or location—merriam-webster.

Before we get started, I want to give you a rapid overview of how HTML works. If you’ve not worked directly with it before, it’s based around the concept of tags or elements. From hereon in I’ll refer to them only as tags.

Tags give documents and parts of documents special meaning. Web browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera know how to interpret that meaning and display the appropriate page, for your viewing pleasure.

Have a look at the following, very basic, HTML document:



<title>The Page Title</title>



<h1>The Main Page Title</h1>

<p>A paragraph of text</p>



This is likely the most simple, yet still meaningful, HTML page that could ever be produced. You can see that the page begins and ends with the word html surrounded in opening and closing angle brackets, < and > and that the closing one has a forward slash,  /, in it. Within that, we then see two further sections, one is called head and the other body.

In head, we see a section wrapped in title and in the body we see two sections, h1 and p. It will work as follows:

  • The text inside the tags and will be what you see in the title bar of your browser.
  • The text in side <code>


    will be the main heading on the page, likely in very large font and bolded.

  • The text insideandwill be the first paragraph that you’ll read on the page.

The image below shows what it would look like if we were viewing it in Mozilla Firefox.

Viewing the page in Firefox

So as you can see, when you think about it, HTML really is nothing more than a document that you would write in say, Microsoft Word, Open Office or Pages for Mac, but with some simple encapsulation around sections of the text to give it special meaning. The catch at times is knowing which element or tag to use and when.

I hope you can see that it’s pretty straightforward. With that, login to your WordPress blog and open a fresh new post, ready to play with, as in the image below.

A new post template

Headers and basic formatting

Right after links in order of importance, comes headers and basic formatting. This includes: the key headers, bold, italics, strikethroughs, and quotes.


As we all know, for documents to be searched and ranked most effectively in Google, they have to be semantically correct. In short, that means they have to use headers in the right way and use formatting where appropriate. The largest header should contain the core theme or point of the page and the increasingly smaller headers should be for sub-points of that.

Say we’re writing an article on the U.S. election. Well the main theme would be the election itself and we’d likely have two key sub-themes, being Democrats and Republicans. Have a look at the sample I’ve created below:

Header example

You can see that I have the main heading, US Election, with the headers for Republics and Democrats the next level down, with the content for each section, dummy text, in normal text with no special formatting. Let’s look at the HTML that’s been generated behind the scenes by changing to the HTML view. The HTML looks like this:

<h1>US Election</h1>


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

You can see that the main heading is wrapped in a H1 tag and the two sub-headings are wrapped in H2 tags. H1 is the primary and most important and H2 – H6 are decreasingly important. Now let’s say we want to mention the recent speech by Bill Clinton to the Democratic Convention. Have a look in the section below where I’ve added a H3 and H4 header mentioning just that.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

<H3>Democratic Convention</h3>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

<H4>Former President Bill Clinton</h4>

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec diam felis,

vulputate et facilisis sit amet, aliquam a lacus. Vestibulum nec mi ac

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

You can see from the above text that it’s pretty simple indeed. You could, alternatively, have done this using the Visual editor by selecting the respective text and choosing Heading 3 or Heading 4.

Basic formatting


Now let’s say that we were talking about Obama and wanted to draw attention to his name by doing some simple formatting, say bolding it. Well, in the visual editor, you’d highlight the text and then click B. But let’s look at how we’d do it in the HTML editor.

Change over to it, and in some text, or select some existing text, select it, then surround it with the tags <strong></strong> and , such as in the example below:

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

After you’ve done that, change back to the visual editor and you should seem output similar to the image below.

Bold text

Italics and strikethroughs

What if we’re not wanting to bold text, but to either italicise it, say for a list of important items, or we want to strike through (strike/cross out) and item, emphasising a correction in our text. As you may well have gathered, they’re as simple as all the previous items.

The italics tag is <em></em> and the strikethrough is <del></del>. Let’s say that we have a long list of items, separated by commas, such as towns in New Zealand. And let’s say that we’re highlighting them so they’ll stand out to our reader. In our visual editor, we have the towns: Christchurch, Aukland, Invercargill and Taupo. But what we don’t want to do is italicise either the commas themselves or the word ‘and’. Add the list above in the Visual editor then change to the HTML editor.

All you need to do is to wrap each of the town names in <em></em> and as below and they’re emphasised.

<i>Christchurch</i>, <i>Aukland</i>, <i>Invercargill</i> and <i>Taupo</i>

Now let’s say this was the list of towns contending to host director Peter Jackson as he’s travelling the country looking for new locations for his next feature film; and that, sadly, Invercargill’s not made the cut. We need to strike it out. All we’d do is to take our list above and wrap Invercargill in the <del></del> tag and we’re done. An example is below:

<i>Christchurch</i>, <i>Aukland</i>, <i><del>Invercargill</del></i> and <i>Taupo</i>

When you switch back to Visual mode, or preview it in your browser of choice, it will look a lot like the image below (allowing for the dotted underline).

Italics and strikethrough


Like all good bloggers and journalists, we don’t just write our own thoughts or link to others articles and thoughts. We also want to quote authors, whether that’s some prose, a statement, a callout or something they said recently. Commonly we see it in a larger, italicised, greyed font, with prefixed double-quotes. Often times it’s styled nicely like below, from a recent article on Copyblogger:


To achieve this effect, we need to use the tag. We simply surround the text we want to appear quoted in the tag. The example in the image above would be created as follows:

<blockquote>Please expand on your answer to Q1. What have you tried?

What’s keeping you from getting results?</blockquote>

I hope that you can see by this stage, just how very simple HTML is. Though there are a lot of tags and a number of the tags have a wide variety of options, they’re reasonably self-explanatory and quick to master. Keep it simple, start from the most appropriate tags and go from there.

The other thing you’ve likely noticed is just how much of a time save a good visual editor is. Could you imagine what it must have been like in the early days, before editors, doing all of this by hand? I didn’t mind doing it, but well, it’s not always the most effective way to work.


Now let’s say we wanted to play around with the alignment of text. Say we want to align a few paragraphs of text either in the center of the post or on the right-hand side. Let’s work with the paragraph below. It will start off left-aligned, move to be aligned in the centre, and then end up right-aligned.

Left alignment

By leaving the text as is, optionally surrounded in


tags, will display the text left aligned.

augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.

Center aligned

By surrounding the text in



tags and adding the attribute “align” with the value of “centre,” we can display the text center aligned.

<p align="center">augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.</p>

This code will display as shown here.

Center alignment

Right aligned

By surrounding the text in



tags and adding the attribute “align” with the value of “right,” we can display the text right aligned.

<p align="right">augue luctus scelerisque ut a ante. <b>Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in</b>

faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Duis malesuada.</p>

This code will display as shown below.

Right alignment


Now we’re coming to the end of Part 1 of out mini-course. We’re going to look at the last of the key, basic elements—lists. In HTML there are two types of list:

  • unordered
  • ordered.

Unordered lists are delimited with a bullet point and ordered lists have a numeric value, such as numbers, roman numerals and so on. Lists are a little more complicated than the tags that we’ve covered so far, though not by much. Lists need tags for the list itself, and for each of the elements within them. Below are two examples:

Unordered list


<li>First Point</li>

<li>Second Point</li>

<li>Third Point</li>


Ordered list


<li>First Point</li>

<li>Second Point</li>

<li>Third Point</li>


You can see that an ordered list starts and ends with and an unordered one with . You can also see that the list items start and end with

. So, there’s a nice correlation between the purpose and the name.


There’s quite a bit you can do when configuring what your lists will look like, where they will start or resume their numbering from and so on and lists can have sub-lists. But I think that we’ve covered enough for now.

Tomorrow we’ll finish up our tour of essential HTML by looking closely at links, the “glue” of the Internet. Before then, let me know if you’ve learned anything in this tutorial—and what else you want to know. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.

When You Don’t Have “One Reader”: Writing for a Diverse Blog Audience

“Write for one reader” is advice we hear often in the blogosphere, and it can be a useful way to get a consistent voice going on your blog.

But the longer you blog, the more likely you’ll be to get to know your readers, and the more diverse their needs may seem. Or perhaps you’re blogging in a niche whose readers, while they’re united on some fronts, have deeply divided opinions on certain aspects of your topic.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user mzacha

This kind of diversity can be particularly common among readers of blogs in the religious, political, and “cause” niches—areas where people feel really strongly about the topic, and have a deep appreciation of what can be the many complex aspects of the topic.

That said, I’d guess that plenty of blogs would reach audience segments with differing—perhaps conflicting needs. Meeting the needs of those segments is a challenge that every blogger faces.

What if you don’t have “one reader” that you can keep in mind as you write? What if you have three, or four—or more?

Today, I’d like to talk about a strategy you can use to meet the varying needs of a diverse blog audience. It has three key steps:

  1. understand
  2. match
  3. meet.

1. Understand

The first step—and perhaps the most important—is to understand the different audience segments you’re writing for. Have a think about your readers, and note down the ways you think they vary.

For example, if you’re writing a travel blog, you might be juggling the needs of armchair travellers who want a vivid story and glowing shots from around the globe with those of pragmatic travellers who really need practical advice and inspiration to help them get out there and see the world.

You might have more segments than just two—that’s fine. Once you’ve worked out what basic factor differentiates them from other readers on your site, it’s time to delve a bit deeper. Look through your blog comments (or those on other blogs or forums in your niche) and try to track down some key facts about each segment:

  • Their attitudes: Consider their motivations or reasons for holding certain opinions.
  • Their media preferences: Your blog may in fact unite readers who might not otherwise come together online. But even if it doesn’t, different segments will likely use different media within (and beyond) your niche. It’s a good idea to make a little profile of their media usage habits, as far as you can work them out, as this can give you insights into other opinions, preferences, or expectations they may have.
  • Their post format preferences: There may be little difference between segments’ preferences for different formats, or there may be a lot. Do certain segments prefer list posts, or vlog posts, or opinion posts? Does your podcast subscription list equally represent your audience as a whole, or has it attracted more readers from a particular segment?

All you’re tying to do here is get a feel for what makes these different segments tick—what interests them, and why.

2. Match

Once you understand each segment a bit better, you can consider how your brand serves the needs of each one.

You might be able to see, for example, why different reader types respond in certain ways to particular topics you’ve covered on your blog, or why they react in certain ways to your interactions on social media. Ideally, you’ll be able to point to actual examples of posts on your blog that work—and don’t work—for each segment within your audience. I’ve visualised that matching of your brand, your blog topics, and your segment’s needs in the diagram below.

A diverse audience

Don’t just look at posts on your blog, though—it’s a good idea to also at the other media you know this segment’s readers use, and do the same there.

Hopefully, this exercise will help you come up with a list of topics and messages that your brand can use as a basis to form deep, lasting, loyal relationships with the readers in this particular segment within your niche.

3. Meet

The last step in this process is to make sure you meet each segments’ needs through your activity on and around your blog.

You created a list of topics above, you know what aspects of your brand resonate with each segment, and you also know how they like consuming your content. The trick now is to create a list of potential posts that look at the topics of interest through the lens of your brand.

Now you can drop those post ideas into your content schedule, so that you can make sure you’re meeting the needs of the important segments within your larger audience. If you want, you can probably come up with some more targeted, specific ways to address them through social media, through your current (or new, targeted) email sequences, and perhaps—for large segments—through your product strategy too.

This way, you can make sure you’re diligent about meeting the needs of each subsegment within a diverse blog audience, without undermining your blog’s brand or making any group you want to serve feel left out or forgotten about.

Celebrate diversity

I think that perhaps the best way you can go about addressing sub-segments of your readers very specifically is to get excited about the diversity your blog has attracted!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging is how it opens up doors to connect with people we’d probably not have met otherwise. Those relationships can be so rich and rewarding—don’t miss the opportunity to connect with key segments in your broad audience.

Does your blog have a diverse audience, with a few—or more—different segments? Tell us about them, and how you’ve tackled them, in the comments.

5 Tools for Harnessing the Power of We #bad12

Today is blog action day, and this year’s theme is “The Power of We.” But for some of us, harnessing that power is a major challenge.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user srpatel

One of the most common complaints of bloggers I speak to is that they want to collaborate more effectively with their audience members, customers, or readers, but also with other bloggers in their niche, industry leaders, mentors, and more.

To me, collaboration is as much about attitude and personality as it is about process. That said, tools can make a big impact on how well we collaborate. So many of us work alone, or with collaborators in different cities, regions, or timezones, that collaborative tools are a necessity.

So in this post I want to show you five common tools that we use to help us collaborate here at ProBlogger, and to show you how we use them. While we’re not exactly pushing the envelope in terms of the way we do things, I hope that these ideas might help you try some new approaches with your own collaboration, and prompt you to share your own tips with us in the comments.

1. Email—and email redirects

Like many bloggers, all my blogs’ email addresses were funnelled to my own email address for years. But as my blogs grew, that arrangement became less and less feasible—I became swamped with email, and managing reading and responses became a massive burden.

Despite that, I really believe email is a useful collaboration tool. It’s had some pretty bad press in the last few years, but it has many advantages—including the fact that it doesn’t require you to coordinate time with the person you’re emailing (like a call or IM does), and that most email programs store email, providing a handy archive of conversations that, again, aren’t always available for real-time conversations.

One thing I’ve done recently is to set up email redirects to various members of my team, so that they receive the emails they need to respond to directly, rather than having me forward them on. It sounds elementary, but for the solo blogger, handing over that level of control can be daunting. I’d recommend it, though—once you’ve trained up your team members so that they, and you, know what to expect from each other, this is a good way to streamline your processes.

It means that the people who approach my blogs as writers or collaborators get a quicker, more personal response, but it also means that I can spend the time I used to spend sifting email collaborating with others. For me, more efficient email management means I can focus on opportunities to collaborate.

2. Basecamp

My team uses Basecamp quite a bit, particularly in the process of creating products. For example:

  • To-do lists: we might use these to set and manage tasks associated with product development
  • Projects: we use the discussion-thread-style “Projects” to manage discussion around projects, though it’s often supplemented by email
  • Whiteboards: these can be handy for scoping and brainstorming product ideas and topics as a team.

Again, one of the benefits of Basecamp and tools like it is that your collaborators don’t need to be online simultaneously, so you can get a lot done without having to fit it into everyone’s schedules at the same time. It also provides an excellent record of the evolution of product ideas, strategy, or whatever you’re using it to discuss.

Combine Basecamp with something like Dropbox for exchanging really large files, and you have a good system for creating products collaboratively, wherever your colleagues are located.

3. Google Docs/Drive

Google Docs—or Google Drive, in its new incarnation—is another good tool for collaboration on posts (with authors and content managers), sales content (with marketers), and more.

Like email and Basecamp, Google Docs allows for solid collaboration over elapsed time, but importantly, it has a great real-time editing feature, that lets you collaborate with others simultaneously on the same document.

This can be especially handy in high-pressure situations—when you’re trying to nail your sales copy in the hours leading up to a product launch or announcement, for example. You might combine Google Chat (or some other IM tool—or even a live phone or Skype call) with real-time editing to explain your copy tweaks to your collaborator as you make them, then watch as they tweak your tweaks!

This can also apply to your collaboration with authors on posts, or even with your accountant on your budget spreadsheet. If you haven’t tried real-time editing yet, have a look and see how it might fit your collaborative style.

4. Skype and Call Recorder

My team uses Skype a fair bit, not just for meeting calls, but also as an instant messenger tool. Despite being slightly notorious for sound quality issues, we find Skype pretty reliable for collaborating in real time. Since most of my team members work from home, we can also usually arrange to meet within reasonably short notice if we need to. (Though if Skype’s being flaky, you can always try a Google Hangout instead.)

One of the tasks that Skype’s proved very handy for is content creation. We’ve used it, combined with the tool Call Recorder, many times to interview topic experts for blog posts and products we’ve created.

Recording interviews like this can give you a lot of material that you can reuse in posts and other content you’re developing—with the interviewee’s permission, of course. And that’s material you’d never remember from an unrecorded conversation, or be able to get through an emailed, Q-and-A-style interview.

5. Social media

You may not have been expecting this one to be on the list! But social media can be a great collaborative tool.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Google+ to engage with readers and others through longer form content than I can post on Facebook or Twitter, and Jade mentioned recently how we’re engaging with potential DPS contributors through Pinterest.

Engagement is the first step in collaboration. I’ve found a good number of authors through social media collaboration—and not just by contacting, or being contacted by, those people myself. Often my team members will spot something or someone on social media, DM me about it, and spark a collaboration that way.

The other advantage of social media has been as a collaborative content creation mechanism in itself—on G+ I’ll post an idea or perspective, get feedback and input from my connections on that network, build on those extra ideas, then use everything I’ve learned as the basis for a post on either ProBlogger or DPS.

I have a hunch that some bloggers still see social media as a promotional platform, and—at most—somewhere to engage with individual readers for a short period of real-time before they disappear into the ether again. But if you let it, social media can fit into your collaborative toolset in a really productive, rich way.

Harnessing the power of we

These are just five tools that my team and I use to harness the power of we on an ongoing basis. If you’ve heard about certain tools, and think they might be helpful for you, but haven’t give them a try yet, I’d really encourage you to do so.

You don’t have to commit yourself to them for life, but if you can just give them a go, you might discover that they do a lot to help you harness the power of we with collaborators around your blog.

What tools—or other offline approaches—are you using to harness the power of we in your blogging? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

We’re Spending the Week On Your Blog!

It’s Monday—the start of a new week on your blog—and I wonder what challenges you’re facing.


Image courtesy stock.xchng user Jan Willem Geertsma

If you’ve neglected your RSS or social media feeds over the weekend, you’ll likely find plenty of good advice there—advice that you feel you really should try out if you want your blog to be its best.

But before you become overwhelmed by all the things on your weekly To-Do list, let me tell you what we have planned for the week ahead.

This week, we’re focusing not on promotion or social networking or reaching the right readers or affiliate programs or SEO.

We’re focusing on you and your blog. Entirely.

A week on your blog

Imagine if you could put aside all the other, external things you usually do to keep your blog humming along for a whole week.

Imagine if you could instead spend the next five days really honing your approach to blog design, content, and your own productivity.

If you’re anything like me, you rarely spend this much time focused exclusively on your own online presence. I know I normally slot the tasks of content and design around other things, mainly to do with product development, reader engagement, and promotion.

While I don’t think any of these elements exists in a vacuum—they all interplay thought our blogs and our lives as bloggers—I do feel that sometimes it’s good to take a break and really home in on our blogs themselves.

Stepping back

Blogs evolve over time. Each day we learn new ideas to try, and we want to see what the produce.

But ongoing blog tweaks can be a curse as well as an aid. If we never step back, the tweaks we make to our designs, our interfaces, our content, our structure, and our brands overall can slowly erode the sharp focus we began with. That can be more than unfortunate—that can undermine your ability to maintain and grow reader loyalty.

So if you’ve spent the past months in the trenches, head down, backside up, working hard at a tactical level, then this week’s posts will hopefully help you step back and look critically at some key elements of your blog.

We’ll have posts on landing pages and logos, on voice and audience, and on making the most of the time you dedicate to your blog. We’ll mix writing and design tips with productivity advice.

The aim? To help you focus on the thing that matters most—the thing that keeps you attracting readers, converting subscribers, and selling products: your blog itself. And to help you take stock of where you’re at, and where you can improve to make your brand more coherent and powerful.

We’ll kick off later today with a post by the Web Marketing Ninja which is designed to help those with bigger blogs whose growth has stalled. He’ll show you how to look closely at your online presence and face up to the tough questions: why has your blog stalled, and what do you need to do to get it going again?

Before we get to that post, I’d love to hear about the challenges you’re facing in building an online presence on your blog. Share them with us in the comments.