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Kick-Start Your Blog With These Engaging Content Suggestions

This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Long of Market Domination Media.

Image via Flickr user mkhmarketing

Image via Flickr user mkhmarketing

There is not a specific content strategy that is set in stone for bloggers to follow. Every single blog has a specific target audience, requiring content that engages that blog’s particular audience. What works well for “Blog A” might not work as effectively for “Blog B,” requiring each blog owner to test different content approaches to determine what performs the best for his or her particular blog.

Here are some content suggestions that can be used to help spark some interest in your blog:

1. Free Giveaway

Want to build a loyal blog following quickly? Give something away for free! People love free giveaways, but don’t think that you will need to break the bank to attract attention to your giveaway.

Think of something that your target blog reader will see a value in, and this doesn’t mean monetary value. Sure, it could be a physical product such as a t-shirt or prize, but it can also be an eBook packed full of information that they will want to get their hands on.

Use your giveaway to gain an action such as an opt-in to your email list, a Facebook like, a follow on Twitter, or any other action that you deem to be beneficial for your blog’s growth (ensure it is done legally, however – you will find different states and countries require different specifications). You can create one-time giveaways or even weekly giveaways in order to gain traction.

When done successfully, it will snowball the blog’s growth. The first giveaway can be used to increase the blog’s social media following and subscriber list, making the audience for the second giveaway much larger. Now repeat this over and over and watch the growth occur.

Share Knowledge

Blogs are a great way to develop a special connection with your readers, and you will build up a loyal following if the audience feels that the information being shared with them is genuine. Use your knowledge and share it with your audience.

This applies to business blogs run by large corporations all the way to personal blogs started about a topic of interest. For example, if a super fan of the New York Yankees starts a baseball blog about the team then they should share as much knowledge about the team as possible. The readership and engagement will increase as the blogger presents knowledgeable information to the readers.

Avoid sounding like you are trying to sell them something. Your blog isn’t the place to pitch products or services. If the blog is an extension of a big brand, then post useful information. If the reader finds it valuable, they will naturally want to do business with the brand after making that connection.

Answer Common Questions Publicly

While this applies many to blogs run by a brand, this same approach can be used by virtually any blog out there. Keep track of customer service inquiries and develop a list of commonly-asked questions. Once it is determined that a particular question is asked frequently (like this one Darren spoke about recently), then address it via your blog.

There is a good chance that a large percentage of the audience has the very same questions but hasn’t taken the time to contact the blog with their question. You can even group these into your FAQ section and continue to add to it over time.

If you see an increase in a specific question due to a current event or something that is time-sensitive, then take a moment to address it on the blog. If you answer your readers’ questions before they have to ask, it makes your blog appear to be a great source of information in the eyes of the reader.

Data & Case Studies (Visual)

Many of us are visual learners by nature, hence why infographics have become such a popular and successful form of content marketing. If you have data that you feel your blog audience will enjoy and find useful, present in a visual manner and make sure you encourage them to share it.

The same applies to case studies; if you have interesting information, then share it. Virtually every blog out there, regardless of the topic, can gather some interesting data for their readers. Taking the same baseball blog we used as an example above, that blog could post interesting statistics about upcoming opponents, previous games, or stats in specific categories. Presenting them visually will attract more interest and result in more social sharing love.

“How-To” Posts

You will find “How-To” posts on almost every blog out there, and for a good reason: they are very well received. These types of informative posts are a great way to spark conversation and they do not necessarily have to be straight-up text posts. You can create “How To” posts using infographics, video, images, or even slide shows (or even a combination of these).

It all comes down to providing useful content that creates an action from the reader, whether that is a comment, a social share, a follow or like, or even an email list opt-in. Over time you will understand what types of content your audience responds to the best and can create informative “How-To” posts based around your most popular blog topics.

Are you currently utilizing a content engagement strategy that is producing amazing results for your blog? Feel free to share what is working for you in the comments below.

Jonathan Long is the President/CEO of Market Domination Media, a web design and online marketing firm that specializes in creative outside the box marketing with a focus on ROI.

How To: Customize HTML of New Getty Images for Your WordPress Blog

This is a guest contribution from Bhagwad Park of hostoople.com.

As we discussed last week, Getty Images recently opened up millions of its images for free usage. Coming from a professional stock photo website, this is a phenomenal step and one that will be greatly appreciated by thousands of bloggers all over the world. Most of us have been in the position where we have found a really appropriate picture to use only to find that it is copyrighted and requires a license fee to display. Now we can have access to the best photographs on a dazzling variety of subjects for free. By default, Getty Images provides you with a stock I-frame that displays the image as well as the credits link. What we want is to find a way to properly incorporate it into our WordPress post so that it fits in nicely with our theme and aligns properly.

Getting the Embed Code

The first step is to find an image that is embeddable. Getty Images hasn’t opened all of its pictures to the public – just a large fraction of them. So for example if I have initiated a search using the term “blogging”, I will get a number of results and I need to figure out which once I can use. To do this, hover your mouse over each of the icons and you will get a pop-up. The ones we’re looking for have an “embed” button along the bottom of the picture to the right of all the other icons as shown in the screenshot below.

embeddable

Clicking this icon will bring up the code to display it on your website. It takes the form of an I-frame that you need to insert into the HTML of your document. It comes with a default height and width and you will probably need to change to adjust it to fit your site. Below it, is a checkbox to toggle the image preview on and off. Enabling it will show you how the picture will look.

paste code

Aligning and Resizing the Image

Let’s say we want to embed this image in the top left corner of our post. Go to your WordPress visual editor, and enter the HTML editing mode by clicking the “Text” tab on the right-hand side. This will allow you to edit the raw HTML in your content. Paste the copied i-frame code right at the very top as shown in the screenshot below. If you preview your post now, you will see that the image is the very first thing displayed with all of the text underneath it.

code and preview

But what if we want it left aligned so that our text “flows” around the image? To do this, we need to add the following code to our I-frame as an attribute:

align=”left”

Place this immediately after the I-frame tag as shown below:

align left

Now when you preview the image, it will be left aligned with your text appearing to the right of it. But what if we need to reduce the width so that it more easily fits in with the dimensions of our blog post? Let’s say we want to reduce it to 300 pixels instead of the default 515. To do this, simply change the “width” attribute in the HTML to the pixel size you require. In our case, we change it to:

width=”300″

This reduces the width but leaves the height intact which is a problem. As shown in the screenshot below, reducing the width without changing the related height attribute will leave a lot of whitespace below the image.

whitespace problem

Changing the height is a matter of trial and error. The Chrome developer tools do a great job of allowing you to experiment with the right height. In my case, I found that 268 is the optimal height. So I changed the related attribute to:

height=”268″

This gives me a left aligned image with perfect dimensions on my blog. Using these simple instructions, you can have the very best pictures suited to your content for free – thank you Getty Images!

Bhagwad Park is a writer for hostoople.com, specializing in WordPress. You can follow him on Google+ here.

Five Quick Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing – Plus Free Cheat Sheet

someecards.com - Punctuation is important. It is the difference between
This is a guest contribution from Jim Butcher of Mr and Mrs Romance.

There’s never really such a thing as a perfect blog post, is there? There’s always something else you could have done, something more you could have added. Another, better way you could have phrased a sentence.

And then there’s grammar and punctuation. I was never taught grammar at school further than ‘a verb is a doing word. A noun is a naming word, etc’. It’s no wonder native English speakers make so many simple mistakes.

Spotting these mistakes after you’ve hit ‘publish’ or – even worse – having a reader tell you about them, isn’t a nice thing. In fact it’s downright embarrassing.

The good news is these mistakes are pretty easy to avoid.

Here are my top five grammar focus points for mastering – or at least controlling – the written word!

Apostrophes.

These little things can turn a man’s hair white with fear, but they’re not that bad once you get to know them.

They have a couple of different uses: for contractions, and to show possession.

Contractions

These are the easier ones that most of us know pretty well. If you’re cutting down a word – like we are, you can just say we’re. Easy.

However, I did see this in an application letter for a job teaching English once: learn’t. This candidate was unsuccessful in their application. By the way, you can either use learned or learnt. It’s up to you – just be consistent. Choose one and stick to it.

More commonly, people get confused between you’re and your. And they’re, their and there, and things like that. Make sure you know the difference between these:

You’re = you are: You’re a wonderful person.

Your = something that belongs to someone: I want to hold your hand.

They’re = they are: They’re wonderful people.

Their = something that belongs to them: I want to meet their friends.

There = refers to a place: I dream about walking on the Moon but I don’t think I’ll ever get there.

We can also contract years with apostrophes. For the 1960s it’s always the ‘60s never the 60’s or the 60s.

The same goes for people’s ages. You don’t need an apostrophe to say someone is in his 20s.

Possessive apostrophes

These are the ones that get people confused, but once you get the hang of them, they’re actually quite satisfying to use.

Possessive apostrophes come in two types: singular and plural, but they both do the same thing; they tell the reader who or what owns the object.

Eg: This is Brian’s turkey sub. We know this turkey sub is owned by Brian. Lucky Brian.

So, the shop’s window displays – the window displays belongs to the shop.

In these instances, the apostrophe always goes before the s. That’s because there’s only one Brian and only one shop.

The confusion comes when there is more than one owner. Where does the apostrophe go?

If there are two or more shops, then the apostrophe goes after the s: the shops’ window displays.

These rules work on time periods too. I’ll still be working on my grammar in one year’s time. But I’ll be a grammar guru in two years’ time.

Notice the apostrophe moves to after the s when you’re talking about more than one year.

Sometimes the noun is automatically plural. Women for example already talks about more than one woman. The possessive apostrophe always goes before the s with this type of word. Women’s shoes, children’s books, mice’s food – they are all already plural.

The one exception is it. The only time we use an apostrophe with it is for contractions: it is or it has. It’s a bad day or it’s been a bad day. There is no plural form of it.

If we want to say this thing belongs to it, we simply write this is its thing. No apostrophe. I’ve seen this many times: its’. This makes my head ache trying to make sense of it but there’s no way this is ever possible.

My last point on misused apostrophes is with plurals of acronyms. For example, JB Hi-Fi regularly has signs advertising Cheap CD’s. This is wrong. Cheap CDs or DVDs or even CD-ROMs is what they’re looking for… unless they’re talking about a cheap CD’s case or if a cheap CD’s good.

Every day or everyday?

One of the most common mistakes I see is the confusion between every day and everyday. And I have an internal dialogue every time. It goes like this:

I read: I eat vegetables everyday. 

I mutter like a crazy person: No. No, you don’t. You eat vegetables every day. 

Everyday comes before the noun, and is used to describe something that is commonplace. These are my everyday clothes. I save my best outfits for weddings and funerals.

Every day comes after the noun, is much more common and describes how often you do something. I wear these clothes every day. Yes, I probably should expand my wardrobe.

Everyday comes before the noun you’re describing, every day comes after.

And if you’re still not sure which you should use, try replacing every with each. It’s pretty much the same meaning (though technically each is for two or more items, every is for three or more!).

If each fits just as well as every, you should use two words: every day.

Amazingly, companies have made this mistake. Big companies. Glad’s slogan on their Glad Wrap is ‘Seals in Freshness. Everyday.’ They’ve even trademarked it! The same goes with Officeworks. ‘Lowest prices everyday’ – and they’ve had huge signs with this on.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it shouldn’t really happen.

Using that, which, and who

We use these words all the time (they’re called relative pronouns, by the way) and they’re very handy. But there are finer points that can make your writing more readable.

We know that which and that are used to talk about things – this is an apple tree, which my grandfather planted. Or, this is the apple tree that my grandfather planted.

If you are using ‘which’, it should come after a comma. You do not need a comma if you are using ‘that’.

When do you use ‘which’? – when you are including extra information. It becomes a non-restrictive clause, because you can leave it out and the sentence will still make sense (“This is an apple tree”). “Which my grandfather planted” is interesting extra information you’re adding, but not vital to the sentence.

You will also use ‘which’ when the clause is descriptive: “an apple tree”.

When do you use ‘that’? – when your piece of information is vital to the sentence. “This is the apple tree that my grandfather planted”. The fact your grandfather planted the tree is the most important part. The clause is also now defining: “the apple tree”, not just any old apple tree.

So who and that are used to talk about people – this is my brother who/that lives in Zimbabwe.

But sometimes, we only want to use these parts of a sentence as an aside – I passed my driving test first time, which was a relief. Or My other brother, who lives in a commune, is a bit strange.

Notice the comma in these last two sentences. They separate the sections that the which and the who command. Notice also that we can’t use that in these types of sentence. It’s just a grammar rule.

How do you know whether to use a comma or not? Read the sentence aloud. If you pause when you come to the which or who, you need commas.

The commas will give your sentence a rhythm that makes it that much friendlier to read.

Commas

When you’re writing directly to someone, don’t forget the commas. Compare these two sentences:

I know Mum. = I know and am aware of this person called Mum and I’m telling someone else this information.

I know, Mum. = I agree with you, my mother. I understand what you’re saying.

While we’re on commas, let’s talk about if sentences – also known as conditional sentences.

You need to separate conditional sentences with a comma if your sentence begins with if or whether or unless or when. Conditional sentences show a cause and an effect. The comma shows where these two elements are in a sentence.

If you don’t use a comma in a conditional sentence, I will release the hounds.

Unless you use a comma here, I’ll start crying.

When I see a conditional sentence without a comma, I dream of owning a nuclear warhead.

However, if you have the if, whether, unless or when words in the middle of the sentence, you don’t need a comma:

I’m so happy when I see a correct sentence like this one.

Capitalisation

In English, we use a capital letter for proper names. Like English. Surprisingly, mum can also be a proper name. This is my mum doesn’t need a capital m. How are you today, Mum? does need a capital.

This is because – in the second sentence – Mum becomes that person’s title. It’s that person’s name now. The first sentence is talking about mums in general. Notice it says my mum.

This rule also applies for things like university. If you’re just talking about studying at university, no capitals required. If you are talking about a specific uni by name, you need a capital letter.

I went to university when I was 14… I’m not a genius I just got lost.

I went to Cambridge University – dressed as Harry Potter. Security didn’t see the funny side of it. Expecto patronum!!

It’s amazing the difference in intimation a little comma can make, isn’t it?

Most of these grammar points will be picked up by Word’s grammar check – the blue squiggly lines. Pay attention to them – they’re not always exactly right, but sometimes they are.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing and want more information on it, I can’t recommend highly enough the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. It’s quite sardonic at times but it’s a fun way to learn about punctuation and grammar.

To make it simple for you, I’ve also created a downloadable Grammar Cheat Sheet. Get yours: Grammar Cheat Sheet for ProBlogger.net.

Do you have any handy tips for getting tricky grammar points right? Are you a grammar pedant? What mistakes make you cranky?

Jim Butcher runs the lifestyle blog Mr and Mrs Romance with his wife, Christina (of Hair Romance fame). Jim is also an author, freelance journalist and copywriter, and an avid grammar enthusiast.

9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts (That Every Blogger Can Use)

This is a guest contribution from Ali Luke of Zen Optimise.

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Have you ever glanced at a post the day after publishing it … only to notice a glaring error?

In an ideal world, you’d have a professional editor helping with your posts, making careful adjustments and double-checking things with you until your post is the polished masterpiece it deserves to be.

In the real world, chances are you’re on your own. If your post is going to be edited, it’s up to you to do it.

Whether you’re a highly experienced writer or a new blogger who’s very unconfident about their writing, spending some time editing (and doing it right) will result in dramatically better posts.

Here’s how:

9 Tips for Editing Your Own Blog Posts

#1: Plan Before You Write

One of the best editing tricks takes place before you even write your post.

By spending five to ten minutes creating a plan, you can save yourself hours of frustration trying to whip your post into shape later.

Your plan needn’t be complicated: a list of your subheadings is enough. My plan for this post began like this:

Introduction

1. Plan before you write

2. Avoid editing while writing (link Daniel’s post)

3. Don’t go straight from writing into editing

#2: Avoid Editing While Writing

Have you ever started a blog post, got a paragraph or two in, scrapped your introduction, started again… and then ended up bogged down mid-way?

A good plan will help a lot here, but you also need to get out of the habit of trying to perfect every sentence while you’re working on the first draft. It’s an inefficient and often frustrating way to work.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Daniel Scocco, who suggests you should never hit backspace when you’re writing – personally, I think it’s no big deal if you quickly correct a typo or occasionally restart a sentence. But at least 90% of the time, you should be making forward progress with your first draft, not going back and rewriting.

#3: Don’t Go Straight from Writing into Editing

If you’re in a hurry to get a post out, or simply in a blogging mood, you might finish drafting your post and immediately start editing.

While this is OK once in a while, it’s definitely better to allow your post to rest a bit before you start editing.

This has a couple of benefits:

You won’t be so close to the material, so you’ll see where you might want to add something in, take something out, or rearrange paragraphs. (You’ll also be more likely to spot all the good bits!)

You’ll hopefully come back feeling refreshed, so you’ll be in a better position to spot typos, grammatical errors, and other tiny but distracting mistakes.

How long should you stay away? If you can leave your post overnight, that’s perfect; otherwise, a lunch break or even a coffee break can be enough.

#4: Edit the Big Picture First

When you hear the word “editing,” you probably think about fixing spelling mistakes and debating over word choices. That’s definitely a big part of editing … but before you get into the details, you need to take a look at the big picture of your post.

Think of it this way: you don’t want to spend ages getting a paragraph just right, only to later realize it doesn’t belong in your post at all.

So spend at least a few minutes reading through your post and deciding whether you should:

Cut out information that might not be relevant (or that’s repetitive).

Add in information that readers may need in order to understand the post.

Move around paragraphs or subsections that aren’t currently in the best order.

At this stage, you’re focusing on paragraphs and perhaps sentences, rather than individual words.

#5: Cut Down Your Introduction

Most blog posts benefit from some cutting … and introductions are a great place to begin. 

The first few lines of your post need to hook the reader and encourage them to read on. If you spend several paragraphs explaining the inspiration behind the post, or if you start to repeat yourself, readers may well switch off and click away.

One handy trick here is to delete your first paragraph and see whether the post works without it. If not, just add it back in.

If you’re stuck, try How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros for some great tips.

#6: Add a Call to Action

If you included a call to action during your first draft, good for you! Missing calls to action are one of the biggest mistakes I see when I’m editing guest posts or training bloggers.

A call to action, in case you’ve not come across the term before, is a clear prompt to the reader to do something. It could be “click here to buy my ebook” or “tell us what you think in the comments” or “if you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook” … or almost anything else.

The best place for a call to action is right at the end of your post, because that’s the point at which readers will be deciding what to do next. If you’re not sure what to write or want to see how other bloggers do it, check out 6 Action-Inspiring Ways to End Your Blog Post (and 12 Examples).

#7: Don’t Let Spellcheck Do Your Proofreading

Although it’s definitely a good idea to run a spellcheck on your post, you shouldn’t trust spellcheck to catch everything.

When you proofread, look out for:

Inconsistencies in how you write a word or phrase (e.g. “e-book”, “eBook”, “e-Book” or “ebook” – pick one and stick with it throughout).

Missing punctuation marks – I sometimes find I’m missing the period at the end of a paragraph, and it’s also easy to forget to close your parentheses.

Missing words, especially small ones like “a”. Sometimes, these errors creep in when you edit a sentence and don’t change everything you should.

Spelling mistakes, especially with words that sound alike – e.g. “you’re” vs “your”.

One good trick you can use here is to read your post out loud. This forces you to slow down, and often means you’re more likely to notice mistakes. (Alternatively, you could print your post and read it on paper, with a red pen in hand.)

#8: Don’t Agonize Over Making it Perfect

One of the great things about blog posts is that you can edit them after publishing them. (Obviously that’s a fair bit harder if you print a set of business cards … or 500 copies of a book.) While it’s definitely important to have a well-written, polished post, if a typo remains, it’s not going to kill your chances of blogging success.

If you’re spending so much time editing and proofreading that you’re struggling to actually write enough for your blog, or if you’re losing your enthusiasm for blogging, cut back.

And don’t feel that you have to use every single tip on this list on every single post you write – though it’s definitely worth checking off each point if you’re editing something really important, like a guest post or a piece of flagship content.

#9: Preview Your Post and Check the Formatting

Get in the habit of previewing your posts – sometimes, a problem that’s not obvious in the text editor will stand out sharply in the preview. 

Even if there aren’t any problems, you may find yourself spotting typos, or simply seeing things that you decide to tweak to make your post more visually attractive. This could mean:

Adding in formatting … or taking some out if you’ve gone over the top with the bold text!

Editing the title or subheading to avoid one word wrapping onto the next line.

Changing a link so that it doesn’t wrap across two lines.

Putting in extra space, perhaps after a list (some blog themes tend to squish lists and the subsequent paragraph together).

Of course, all of this is very nit-picky – but if you do spot something that’s quick and easy to change, this is a good opportunity to make your post even better.

So, those are my nine best tips. Which ones(s) will you be putting into practice this week? And do you have a tenth to add? Let us know in the comments…

You can find Ali Luke over at Zen Optimise, where she blogs about content marketing, social media, and more. For help with planning and writing, as well as editing, take her free video training (45 minutes) on The Writing Process for Bloggers.

Canvassing ProBlogger Readers: How Have You Built Your Readership?

As you might be aware, each month this year we are running a themed week – delving in deep the topics that are of the most interest to you.

We started with creating content, moved on to resources for newbie bloggers just starting out, and this month we had an epic drilldown into creating products to sell.

Our next themed week is all about building readership and creating community on blogs. We are looking for people with success stories in different niches – have you build a great readership? Or know of someone who has?

If you are interested in sharing your story here on ProBlogger.net, we’d love to hear from you. Please head here and fill out the form – we’ll be in touch.

If you’re interested in how to build your readership base, you might like these posts on ProBlogger.net:

 

When Journalism and Blogging Collide: 7 Reporters’ Tactics to Make You a Better Blogger

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

Image via Flickr user Binuri Ranasinghe.

This is a guest contribution from journalist and blogger Christian Toto.

Journalism appears to be a dirty word in 2014. Some people blast reporters for their perceived biases. Others say journalists simply protect the status quo rather than speaking truth to power. Everyone else is is fed up by reporters paying more attention to a twerking Miley Cyrus than the deficit or health care.

None of this means journalism skills aren’t a great way to separate your blog from the competition. In fact, blogging with Cronkite-colored glasses can help your site gain both trust and readers.

Here are seven ways bloggers can rely on journalistic tenets to enhance their brand:

1. Be Transparent

When you make an argument, link to reputable sources to support your case. If you make a factual error, own up to it in a clear manner like a newspaper correction. Readers forgive mistakes, but they’re less willing to trust a blogger who traffics in stealth edits.

2. Flash Your Expertise

Once upon a time – before the Internet upended journalism in toto – media outlets hired reporters with specific skill sets to cover topics like business, health and entertainment. Now, general assignment reporters work overtime to replicate the expertise these areas demand. Chances are you bring plenty of knowledge to your niche. That’s why you’re blogging about it in the first place. Don’t be bashful … show it off.

3. Sexy Ledes, Compelling Headlines

Readers have very short attention spans, and your best chance at grabbing them comes down to the headline and opening sentence (the “lede”). Make that headline sizzle without forgetting essential keywords. Better still, craft a killer first sentence that makes readers eager to keep reading.

4. Less Is (Much) More

When in doubt … cut. Edit extraneous words from every post. Rely on short sentences to break up a paragraph’s rhythm. Pluck out adjectives that aren’t mandatory. Your writing will be more powerful and readers will appreciate that you aren’t wasting their time.

5. Step Away from the Laptop

Bloggers were once dismissed as pajamas-wearing amateurs. We’ve come a long way since then, but a good blogger must put on a tie or business skirt now and then. Journalists attend rallies, cover protests and interview people in their niche. Do as they do. Writing a political blog? Sit in on a meeting of the local GOP party or capture a day in the life of a rising Democrat star. Blog about cooking? Attend a chef’s class and spot the way he holds a knife when cutting vegetables. Your writing will come alive, and you’ll pick up valuable sources along the way.

6. Don’t Trust Your Biases

Sometimes we want a story to be true so badly our inner skeptic takes a coffee break. Consider how many people share those faux Daily Currant headlines on Facebook. If a story feels too good to believe, double check it. As the saying goes, if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

7. Unearth Those Buried Ledes

A great way to generate story ideas is to read newspaper articles and find the missing angles or juicy nuggets buried after the jump. News judgment is subjective, and even ace reporters give short shrift to vital information now and again. When they do … pounce.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, film critic and blogger. He offers tips and tactics to his fellow fathers at http://daddylibrium.com.

The Benefits of Making a Business Blog Available in Multiple Languages

Your company blog: while often neglected due to its perceived lack of purpose (and the commitment it requires), it is also a personal way to convey a message to a client base that isn’t possible with different forms of social media.

Far too many business owners forget that a comprehensive blogging strategy is essential for a company’s greater marketing plan: a company blog puts a face and personality to what appears to potential customers everywhere as a faceless entity offering a product or service. In short, it’s a cost-effective and simple way to connect to an audience and receive their feedback.

Breaking the Barriers

For businesses that have a presence in multiple countries, maintaining a blog that reaches different groups of people–who speak different languages–offers an intriguing challenge. Visiting a company’s website to find that their blog is in a different language is a turn-off. It creates a barrier between a customer and the business he is paying for a service. It’s impersonal and seems like the company isn’t making an effort to coalesce. A blog that is available in more than one language makes for a much more positive experience for the consumer; something many often pay more for, rather than dealing with an unknown, unfriendly commodity.

As the TheWebsiteCenter.com notes, customer trust and the website level of rectitude typically needs to be more significant when purchasing a service, as opposed to a product. A service implies an extended relationship, while purchasing a product usually ends when payment is accepted. A service, however, is an ongoing event, which requires constant communication to ensure the effectiveness of the relationship.

Connecting with the World

Connecting with the consumer is impossible with barriers. A potential customer will go elsewhere if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced by the business they are about to give their money to. For companies with a business in multiple countries, a multilingual blog is a way to connect with potential consumers, as well as showing them they are dedicated to providing a comfortable business experience. More eyes will be privy to a blog that is available in different languages. It enhances a business’s internet presence by ranking the blog higher in non-English search engines, in addition to English search engines.

Having a multilingual blog provides new avenues for interaction with consumers, meaning a company can improve their product or service to fit the wants and needs of potential customers. Interaction is good: it helps create a relationship between two parties. Interaction with customers that are feeling-out different businesses makes it more likely they will choose your company, plain and simple.

Nothing to Lose

The process of setting-up a multilingual blog certainly isn’t a huge undertaking, by any means. Set-up is easy to do, and duplicate content doesn’t count across languages. There are specific companies that specialize in content development, integrating translation capabilities into their services.

The alternatives include using a dedicated translation service, or even just hiring someone that is fluent in the desired language. Site maintenance and coding often prove to be obstacles to companies focused on providing a service a product, so having someone with great familiarity with HTML, in addition to the desired languages, is essential for providing a respectable, friendly blog.

The ultimate goal of offering a blog in multiple languages is to make it as interactive and friendly as possible. By catering to the needs of potential consumers, offering blogs in different languages reaches to a wider base than offering posts in English, exclusively.

Sloan McKinney enjoys sharing her knowledge on International Communications with readers. She contributes some of her writing to TollFreeNumberNow.com, and specializes in topics of business globalization and technology.

Top Tips to Let Go of Fear

Image via Flickr user audiolucistore

Image via Flickr user audiolucistore

This is a guest contribution from Jennifer Louden. 

What I’m about to tell you is the most overlooked key to being a successful teacher – as well as a successful business owner, parent, writer, athlete, and all around happy human being.

It’s the precursor to more sales, to repeat business, to turning customers into raving fans, to your ideas having a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of your students, readers, and clients.

It’s also how you unlock your own potential to thrive.

Really it can do all that, and more.

The secret? Feeling safe.

You can’t make decisions, take risks, or learn when your nervous system is on high alert. Your brain’s learning and decision-making functions slow or shut down. That’s why people click away from your sales page, stop attending your course, or never sign up for another one of your classes. They’re afraid. And they probably don’t even know it.

They’re afraid they won’t get it, they’ll look stupid, they’ll waste their money and time. In a nutshell: they’re afraid they’ll fail. 

You’re afraid too, and you signal your fear to your students and potential clients. Do you worry if you have what it takes to be a great coach/website designer/Pilates teacher? If anyone will buy your services? If you can keep learning and growing? We all have these worries!

This low-grade state of fear keeps you stuck, and it keeps your customers from buying and from growing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Safety is something you can experience – and offer – starting right now.

Nothing is Going to Eat You

My favorite in-the-moment safety move is to stand up, stretch, and exhale with a long “ahhhh.” Then I look around my studio and tell myself, “Nothing is going to eat me.” Yes, it makes me laugh, but it also signals to my reptile brain that a stressful day does not equal death. You need a similar trick up your sleeve to calm yourself in the moment of freaking out. Use mine or one of the many relaxation tricks you already know.

Make Feeling Good a Priority

Remind yourself that resetting your nervous system is not a luxury; it’s non-negotiable self-care, like exercise or drinking water. Become a devoted student of what relaxes you, both in the midst of a stressful situation and when you have an hour or a weekend to unwind. Weave more pleasure into your day – music, a tea you love, three squares of dark chocolate. Nourish your senses.

Extend Hospitality

Welcome your students warmly. At live events, greet people. Online, say hi (by name, if possible) as people dial on. I always include a short video welcome inside my online courses with a warm welcome, and I repeat info about how the course works for visual learners who might not read the welcome emails. Make it easy to navigate your website and sign up for your services; otherwise prospects feel dumb and unsafe, and they run away. Brainstorm simple ways to be a good host from the moment your customers and students come in contact with your business and you.

Where’s The Bathroom?

Clear driving instructions, sending the phone bridge number for each session, telling people what to bring to be comfortable – be meticulous in this area. Your customer is looking for reasons to back out. Making her feel safe by taking care of basics can feel like cheating – it’s so easy – but I’ve seen it prevent drop-outs, increase participation, and convert customers for life.

Include the Body

A few moments of calming yourself and your students or your client opens the space for learning and creates trust. It need not be woo-woo. You can joke that pro football players practice mindful breathing before the Super Bowl, then invite a few full, relaxed breaths and long exhales.

Preview Your Material & Review Parameters

I always want to skip this step because I think it’s boring. But many people need to know what’s going to happen next or they can’t relax. Remind them how long the session or class will be, when questions are welcome, how many revisions are covered in your contract, how long it takes you to answer emails, the nuts and bolts stuff. Do this often. You may think it’s overkill but that’s only because it’s obvious to you.

Less is More

One of the biggest shifts I see in teachers who take my TeachNow course (1006 students to date!) is understanding that information overload shuts down learning and hurts your bottom line. Too many teachers and business owners think being generous means flooding their customers with information and options. A big part of your job is making the hard choice of what to offer and in what sequence. Master this and your business – and impact – will soar. Discernment and focus is your friend.

I have a thousand more suggestions, but then I wouldn’t be following my own advice. I’ll stop here with this invitation: become curious about what feeling safe offers you and the people you work with. Investigate these suggestions and find your own ways to use safety as a path to growth. May it be fruitful!

Jen Louden is a best-selling author, speaker and teacher of teachers. She created the popular TeachNow course (1006 students to date!) for people who want to successfully teach what they love. Test drive TeachNow for free with the sample class, Dissolving Obstacles to Teaching Joyfully & Effectively

Getty Images vs Creative Commons and Privacy: What Bloggers Need to Know

This is a guest post written by Simon Schmid of iubenda.

Getty Images recently announced a new image embed feature that allows bloggers (and others) to access and use their vast library of images for non-commercial purposes. This rather remarkable change in policy by Getty Images shows that it’s ready to work with content creators and adapt to the times we live in.

Even WordPress also published an announcement post in which they share the details of Getty’s new offering and how easy it is to embed an image into your blog. There’s now a “</>” below every image in the catalogue that lets you effortlessly publish that particular image into your post (to be completely accurate and to quote from the terms for the first time, “Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice”).

How easy is it really over all though? And is it entirely without complications? Let’s review some of the most important clauses in theterms of the embed feature and we’ll do this by comparing this with another very popular image source (images under a Creative Commons license) for bloggers.

What can you use Getty’s embed for?

At first you must to be very clear about the fact that Getty’s model is the licensing of images. Therefore you will have to play by their rules and expect to do something for them in return. I’ve read comments on the WordPress announcement that communicated their leave from using the system as soon as ads start appearing. What I’m saying is, that this is something that might be in the works and something that you’ll have to be willing to give back in exchange.

“You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest).”

Using the “Embedded Viewer” you consent to use the images for editorial purposes only. Editorial purposes are in a very wide sense non-commercial purposes. This becomes more clear when you read the rest of the terms regarding the “Embedded Viewer”. It outlines that you may not use the images in any of the following ways:

  • (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship;
  • (b) in violation of any stated restriction;
  • (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or
  • (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer

Therefore the most important question that needs to be answered is the notion of “commercial”. What kind of use constitutes commercial use, and therefore exceeds the limits of what is allowed with the viewer? Is Here’s an official statement by Craig Peters that goes into detail and helps us at understanding non-commercial use:

Blogs that draw revenues from Google Ads will still be able to use the Getty Images embed player at no cost. “We would not consider this commercial use,” says Peters. “The fact today that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business. They would need to get a license.” A spokeswoman for Getty Images confirms to BJP that editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, will also be able to use the embed feature as long as images are used in an editorial context.

Compare these facts above to going with Creative Commons content instead:

Creative Commons: Creative Commons-licensed images can be used for any purpose, by anyone, anywhere. That’s as long as you follow the terms of that specific license. None of the CC licences outlines that a piece of licensed content may only be used for a specific purpose–editorial or otherwise.

Creative Commons II: NonCommercial in CC’s Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 means “not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation” which naturally is a much friendlier definition.

Creative Commons III: the restriction of not displaying outside of the Embedded Viewer does not apply to CC-licensed content, in fact it expressly states that you are allowed to exercise the licensed rights in “all media and formats whether now known or hereafter created, and to make technical modifications necessary to do so”. This can be a deal breaker for things like image carousels or videos or the like.

One more very interesting fact is that Getty can revoke the access to the embedded imagery at any time: “Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content”. Creative Commons on the other hand declares their licensing to be irrevocable. This ensures that you don’t have to go back and make changes anytime down the road.

Let’s take a look at both solutions side by side:

What a Creative Commons embed looks like…
…links to author plus the right license.

vincentsl / CC BY 2.0

What a Getty embed looks like, yaaay well done…
…shows the viewer with the branding, some picture credits and the sharing buttons.

Apart from the very obvious branding that the embed gives you, we may have another issue that you should at least know about and isn’t immediately obvious. Embedding services like Youtube and others (like the embedding of your image) and even a like button open up another legal field: data privacy.

Looking at a page with Getty embed in Chrome’s cookie window.

What you can see in this window (Chrome’s developer tools, right click and then “Inspect Element”) are the cookies that this page sets with just the embedded image. There are two main elements. The first being the tracking by Getty’s embedding window, the other one caused by the social sharing buttons by Twitter and Tumblr, both also part of the Embedded Viewer.

So why is this so problematic? Essentially, an iframe like this allows their owner (Google, Facebook, Getty…) to make a connection. That connection is between the embedding site, their reader and the third-party host. Or how EFF puts it:

The third-party host can possibly get and log your IP address and the exact time of the request; information about the web browser you’re using, your browser’s version, your operating system, processor information, language settings, and other data; the URL of the website you’re coming from; and sometimes tracking cookies.

The way this affects you as a site owner is that the least you can do is to minimize legal implications and include a description of this data collection in your privacy policy. Above all in Europe there’s a stance by regulators that assumes that cookies may only be placed without user consent if services wouldn’t work without them. That’s not the case for social sharing buttons (mostly). The vague privacy policy posted on Getty’s site is cause for doubting the future use on a site that’s compliant with privacy laws around the world and most of all, in Europe.

Takeaway I: Getty is taking the right steps by making their images easy to use for editorial purposes, however there are still a couple of issues concerning their acceptable use policy (alleged first comments surfaced claiming that Getty Germany denied a blogger/freelancer the free embedding because of his blog being on the same domain as his freelancer page).

If you aren’t ready to accept some of the drawbacks described above, Creative Commons is more than an interesting alternative.

Takeaway II: the knowledge about Getty’s future data collection is murky at best. At least European bloggers should consider including statements about Getty’s iframe and the Twitter/Tumblr sharing buttons included in the iframe. There are a couple of resources out there that help you with crafting a privacy policy. We at iubenda make it really easy for bloggers to generate their legal document with a couple of clicks by simply adding the Twitter/Tumblr and Getty services to their privacy policy.

Addendum:

How to choose Getty Images for your posts

It’s really as simple as clicking on the “</>” provided below the images and then using the embedding code.

How to choose Creative Commons licensed images for your posts

It isn’t that hard to find CC-licensed pictures either, use one of the following methods below:

Resources used:

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Simon Schmid blogs at thegodfounder.com and works on iubenda.