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The 5 Step Voyage of Creating Awesome Content

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer.

Do you struggle for content inspiration? Do you feel like every article you write is exactly like another you’ve already written or read?

You’re falling victim to content stagnation, and it’s something we all deal with.

Perhaps you need a refresher, a reminder, or just someone to give you a few new ideas - a nudge along the way.

This article will give a full look at how to encourage and capture readership, optimize for action and engagement, and get the most out of your content – the full gamut of content marketing best practice.

I’ll refocus you on the five steps that you need to take to create interesting content that get shares, comments, engagement and loyal readers as well as content that generates leads.

Let’s make sure you’re doing this content creation thing right.

 

Step #1 to Creating Awesome Content: Grab their Attention

I wish I could tell you that the title of your content doesn’t matter anymore, that your content’s readers, visitors, viewers and listeners have grown more discerning in the past couple years and now it’s all about the quality of your content: the expertise, experience and analysis you throw painstakingly into each and every article, podcast, video and presentation.

Unfortunately, I can’t do that for you.

Your content’s title is hugely important to its success – not just because of search optimization but for clickability, shareability and engage-ability.

Without a title that snaps, grabs the eye, intrigues, frustrates, scares or humors, your content will fall flat on its face, no matter that it’s the second coming of Gangnam Style.

Content Title Formulas that Work:

  • New! Never-before-seen Insights into [your Job/Sector/Relevant Subject]
  • Exclusive Strategies from [Sector Expert/Authority/Boss]
  • 23 Things you Need to Know in Order to [Succeed in Some Way]
  • 10 Tricks to [Achieve a Goal]
  • How [Your Field/Relevant Subject] is Like…
  • How I [Did Something Unbelievable/Surprising/Awesome/Terrible]
  • 16 [Amazing/Awesome/Sexy] Things you Need to Hear About
  • Are you Making this Huge Error that’s [Leading to a Bad Result]?
  • How do you do [Activity]?
  • 52 Ways to [Improve in Your Job/Your Sector/Relevant Subject]

Step #2 to Creating Awesome Content: Optimize for More than SEO

It’s taken me a bit too long to accept this fact, but fact it is nonetheless: SEO is antiquated and incomplete, a universal term of use we should steer away from.

Let me back that up, because I hear some of our SEO readers sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches.

Optimizing your content for search is still hugely important, but we should stop using it as an umbrella phrase when what we actually mean is optimizing for readership, engagement and conversion.

Optimizing your Content for Readership:

This is the general SEO stuff: the strategies we implement to get our content to the top of the front page of Google.

  • Use H1s (title) and H2s (sub-headers) and where applicable. Ensure these include keywords.
  • Put alt text on your content’s images and videos relevant to the content’s subject.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing (keep it to about 1 in 25, depending on sector).
  • Place meta tags within your content.
  • Consider long-tail search keywords and niche topics (rather than competing with the corporations).
  • Link intelligently by including keywords in your links. Never use “Click <here> for more information”. Instead use, “Learn more about SEO in my article <How to Easily Optimize your Blog for Search>” (see how I did that?).

Optimizing your Content for Engagement:

Content engagement, also known as social shares and comments, is not only important because of the Hummingbird Algorithm (Google’s update to SEO a year ago that placed more importance on social endorsements) but because the more your content is shared, the more readers you have. Duh!

  • Have a title optimized for SEO and another title optimized for social platforms (shorter, more Buzzfeed-like). Include one in your URL and a different one in your social toolbars.
  • Ensure your content’s header is social-friendly so it shows up whole on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Include “Tweetable” statistics or takeaways (with a link) throughout your content to encourage a specific social share.
  • Ask for questions, comments or examples from your readers at the end of articles.
  • Be an active commenter on other people’s sites (as well as your own).

Optimizing your Content for Conversion:

We’re blogging for business here, not musing about the trials and tribulations of maternity (unless you are… In which case you still need to be optimizing your content for conversion!)

Think about it, is there any real point in your article being at the top of Google’s search results or having a million readers a week if nobody’s acting on your CTA buttons, downloading your ebooks, registering for a free trial or subscribing to your email list?

No. No there’s not.

Here are a few ways you can optimize your content for a real-world conversion (something that helps your business in a concrete, measurable way):

  • Include links to your email-gated content on the sidebar and bottom of your blog articles, podcasts, webinars and Slideshares.
  • Implement click pop-ups and email subscription toolbars so readers or viewers don’t have to be sent to a separate landing page and tab to convert.
  • Don’t link to competitors.
  • Link to related articles and resources on your site (increasing the value of engagement) and external content where you’re business is mentioned (increasing the level of trust and authority).
  • Test CTA button copy to determine what “Ask” resonates most with your readers.
  • Implement exit pop-ups promoting email-gated content relevant to your content’s subject matter. For instance, implement an exit pop-up with “want to learn everything there is to know about landing pages?” and show it to unique visitors (once!) as they go to leave the page.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.40.43 am

Step #3 to Creating Awesome Content: Format Your Article Intelligently

The longer you can keep a reader looking at your page, the less likely they are to leave it, the more likely they are to share it, and the more likely they are to convert on one of your “Asks” spread across your optimized blog.

Your title, hook and introduction get them to stay for the first 10 seconds (the most crucial section of your article as, if they stay for more than 10 seconds, the chance of them leaving drops like a rock):

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.41.26 am

Beyond those first ten seconds, your articles (or podcasts or webinars) needs to be structured to encourage readers to stick with it and stay engaged.

Here are a few best practices that will help you do that:

  • Segment your articles with bold, clearly visible subheaders that grab the eye of your reader.
  • Include an image once every segment (if possible) to keep the reader visually stimulated.
  • Use bullet-points or numbered lists in your sections to communicate your message or advice clearly and quickly. This also increases the chance that someone skim reading will pause for a moment.
  • In both podcasts and webinars, give a short breakdown of the points you’re going to cover at the beginning
  • Where possible, include exclusive tips and tricks (in all types of content) that you tease your audience with at the beginning and only include at the end. In webinars and podcasts, test hiding your big secret without telling people when exactly it’s going to be.

 

Step #4 to Creating Awesome Content: Incorporate Awesome Images

Articles with images are shared twice as much as those without.

But I’d like to emphasize that it’s not just any image that encourages a share or keeps a reader scrolling. You have to be using awesome images.

Put time into original image content (even if you’re just drawing over and citing someone else’s pie chart). Put time into getting to know PhotoShop, GIMP, even Google Drawings or Presentations.

For instance, I made this with the Google Presentation tool in about 6 minutes:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.43.35 am

I know. It’s awesome.

Images not only encourage social sharing, communicate data and statistics quickly and grab the eye of the reader, they also humanize your business and make your articles more visually appealing and scrollable.

When used badly, however, they can cause your readers to go elsewhere, your articles to flop socially, and your authority to decrease significantly.

Stock images, for instance, are increasingly recognizable for what they are. As a result, they’re increasingly becoming one of the chief causes of a page bounce:

I mean, c’mon:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.44.26 am
Put that little bit more time into your content. Find the Google Images “Labeled for Reuse” or subscribe to one of the million photo sites and use the least “stocky” images you can find.

And don’t force an image. They should always serve a purpose (as “teamwork” rarely, if ever, would above). Instead, communicate the stuff that adds to the value of your article (statistics, case studies, industry report findings, etc) in a visually appealing way.

 

Step #5 to Creating Awesome Content: Be Unique

Content audiences (the people that listen, read and watch your content) are fickle creatures. They’re skim-readers, hyped up on coffee with not enough time on their hands and an urgent desire to, essentially, channel-surf content.

Channel surfing is actually a pretty solid analogy now that I think about it.

Your content audience is like a TV watcher before we had Netflix: sitting slouched on their couch hitting the “up” button on their remote control, searching for something they haven’t seen before. More often than not they’re disappointed (as your “10 Marketing Best Practices You Haven’t Seen Before” article is a blatant lie).

But sometimes they land on your article, give it the standard three seconds, and decide they’ll put the remote control down on the couch, cross their arms, and watch.

But how do you ensure your content engages your reader more than the other 100,000 shows on TV right now?

Tell a Story:

People like content relevant to them. Even more than that they like content relevant to them written by an author recognizable to them with a story they can relate to. The more like your reader you can be, the better your content will be.

That’s not to say you don’t have to tie your story into genuine, professional analysis of changes or best practices in your sector – but make it interesting and make it recognizable.

Be Honest:

Transparency in marketing is becoming best practice (just look at Buffer if you want to know what I’m talking about). It’s about being an open, honest, modern company – a company that plays foil to the murky, underground goings-on of multinational corporate giants or the federal government.

Consider articles entitled something like:

  • “5 Lead Generations That are Working for Us Right Now”
  • “The 10 A/B Testing Mistakes I Tried that Failed Miserably, and Why”
  • “10 TImes I was the Mayor of Fashion Faux Pas City”
  • “5 Divorce Mistakes I Wish I’d Known About”
  • “A Step-By-Step Guide to Our Sales Funnel”

Be Yourself:

What is it about you as a content creator that sets you above your competitors. Is it your ability to pump out content, your silky-smooth podcast voice, or your never-ending anecdotes that entertain and educate?

Increasingly your content audience is looking for something to differentiate you (and your content) from that of your competitors. It’s like when applying for university or a job: readers are receiving thousands of applications every day and they’re struggling to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s what I recommend: make your application bright pink, printed on poster paper, covered in golden glitter, or make it a pop-up book. Do something that sets you apart.

A few recommendations to set your content apart:

  • Become a visuals guru, incorporating awesome graphics into every one of your articles, videos, webinars and ebooks. It might take you longer, but it’s worth testing the ROI.
  • Create a content persona, mascot or alter ego – something to make your content entertaining.
  • Find the niche in your niche, and own it. Be the go-to expert on a specific part of your sector.

Or, honestly, just get creative every once in a while (I’m not talking about every single article) but test adding personality to your content periodically to see what kind of return you get.

Conclusion

Hopefully that’s given you a refresher course (or even an educational one) on how to optimize your content for readership, engagement and loyalty.

Content marketing is officially (there’s no arguing anymore) the best way to increase your business’ online profile, generate leads and ensure brand authority. It can be a challenge though, don’t get me wrong.

My main recommendation for creating content that snaps, crackles and pops is to put time into how you start your article. Focus on finding the right topic, the right title, the right structure and the right way to make it different. Then start writing.

 

How to Write Smart Content on Days You’re Feeling Dumb & Distracted

This is a guest contribution from Pratik Dholakiya.

It’s Wednesday morning, you barely slept last night, missed your morning coffee because you were running late, and are now sat in front of your computer staring at a blank Word file wondering what on earth you’re going to write about. You know you should get on with the task but your hands don’t move and your brain refuses to boot up. You’re longing for Saturday already, but it’s only the middle of the week. 

Yeah, the world is a cruel place.

Especially for writers who need to hammer out reams of authentic material every single day of the week. 

The good news, however, is there are ways around even the worst of the situations. I should know, I write for a living. I must have written thousands of articles so far, many of which were produced on days I was struggling.

Along the way I have devised quite a few mind hacks to tackle the problem of focus and motivation. One of these always bails me out on the days focus is a scarce commodity.

Do Some Dumb Stuff

Well, you’re feeling dumb already, so this shouldn’t be a toughie!

Dumb isn’t always bad, especially if it’s the humorous kind of dumb. Humor is good. It cracks you up, brings you back into the moment, lightens the mood, and suddenly the morning doesn’t feel so bad anymore. 

When you loosen up and connect to the moment, ideas aren’t so hard to come by. 

The best part about this is that it helps you think out of the box.

So you have to write about synthetic carpets and you are bored as hell at the mere thought of it?

Your best bet is to let your imagination run wild. Think of everything one can do on carpets. Imagine a huge carpet flying up in the sky with Calvin and Hobbes sitting on it.

That’s your idea – best cartoon strips featuring carpets. 

Listen to Chants or Any Music That Helps You Focus

Here’s one brilliant suggestion, which really melts the distractions for me. 

Create a playlist for all moods. If you choose the right kind of music, you may find it easier to get your mind on the task.

Put on Earplugs

No, really. The kind that go in deep and drown out your surroundings. You will be surprised at how beautifully they work. 

This is a tried and tested measure which goes back to my university days. Any time I feel scatter-brained and unable to focus, I get out my earplugs (have gotten into the habit of carrying them with me). It’s eerily quiet when your ears are plugged. You don’t go deaf, but all noise loses its edge. Even the sound of your colleague on steroids jabbing away at his keyboard feels like it’s streaming in from somewhere far away. You can hear yourself breathing. You can also listen to your thoughts and follow them without any effort. The writing that this frame of mind produces, regardless of whether you have slept the night before or not, is surprisingly sharp.

I don’t exactly know why this works, but here’s my guess – shutting down one of the senses makes the rest perform even better. With earplugs on, the noise around you does not register, which means you automatically listen to yourself loud and clear. 

Unless you have tried this you will never guess just how much of our energy leaks to sounds and noisy distractions, even in seemingly quiet places. On days you are not feeling bright, this neat trick could make all the difference.

Watch a Stimulating TED Talk

One can feel distracted and foolish for a number of reasons. Sometimes it may have to do more with a lack of creativity than with your energy levels. If your enthusiasm for life is wavering or you need a dose of inspiration to fire up, a good TED talk may work better than coffee. For someone I know, watching old Seinfeld videos does the trick. It’s up to you to figure out what inspires you and refer to it when the need arises.

Create a Bank of Go-to Blogs 

Reading some brilliant writing (especially that which is full of play on words) gets me in the mood each time. My phone is loaded with apps that bring to me the choicest of writing from a variety of sources. You can create your own database of inspirational blogs (not necessarily the most popular blogs) and watch the magic rub off on you.

Pick Topics That You Can Write on in First Person

If you have the choice to pick your subjects, pick up the ones that present a greater scope for personalization.

It’s always easier to write something based on your experience, or even narrate a fictional episode, if you already love writing. That kind of stuff just flows because it comes from your heart, not your mind (which you don’t think is working), and before you realize it you have already put a few hundred words on the doc file.

Leave the research-heavy stuff for days you have slept well and are actually having a bearable morning.

Lay out a Structure for Your Posts

If you don’t have the luxury to choose your topics, and calling in sick is not an option, use your limited energy wisely.

Spend some of it in creating a solid structure for your post, something you can rely on to guide you through till the end. 

Let Things Come to You

Trying too hard is a recipe for failure. It’s worse on the days you are already suffering. Let go of laboring over ideas. Instead, take a 5-minute break to collect your thoughts. Just wait patiently, with a calm mind, no hurry at all. The ideas will come to you, and sooner than if you were to chase them. (If you make meditation a part of your life, it will prove priceless during such times.)

Get Moving

When the mind is stuck, moving your body can make it come unstuck. Go on a short walk and walk with a spring in your step. Tap dance in the bathroom for a couple of minutes. The mind-body connection is deep, and the rhythm of one rubs off on the other.

Create a Mind Map

Images come to rescue when words fail us. Take out a pen and paper, or your smartphone, and start drawing. For something related to home décor, draw a home, then a garden, the windows, and the like. 

Alternatively, create a mind map with a pen or a stylus in your hand; I find this works better than doing so on the computer. Both these methods will very likely give you a few breakthroughs, which will make your assignment easier for you.

Finally, get a perspective.

If nothing works, it’s all right. You are allowed to have a bad day.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, a digital marketing agency and OnlyDesign, a creative design firm. He’s passionate about start-up marketing, entrepreneurship & all things digital. You can find him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik to discuss on any of these topics.

How to Use Content Themes to Make Blogging a Snap

This is a guest contribution from Sonja Jobson.

This might sound familiar: you’re staring at a blank screen, panic slowly rising, headache setting in, mind blank. You’re due to publish a blog post but you have absolutely no idea what to write about. Again.

The “writers block” cycle can put a serious cramp in your blogging style, but contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a mysterious ailment with no known cure. In most cases, writers block is a direct result of poor planning.

This is good news, because it means that with correct planning, you can skip right over the blank screen and save loads of time and sanity when blogging.

First Things First: Your Editorial Calendar

Before we dig into using content themes, you need to have some tools in place to hold the whole process together.

The editorial calendar is like a blogging secret weapon – except, it’s not so secret. Most successful blogs – across all sorts of niches and industries – use editorial calendars to give structure and consistency to their blogging.

If you’re not already on the editorial calendar bandwagon, now’s the time to jump on. 

If you’ve been putting off starting an editorial calendar because it sounds too time consuming, complicated, or technical, don’t worry about it. Starting an editorial calendar can be as simple as grabbing a cheap wall calendar from the store and penciling in blog posts on the appropriate dates. Or, you could go digital and use an app like Google Calendar or start a simple spreadsheet.

What are Content Themes?

Coming up with an endless stream of fresh blog post ideas can be exhausting. But, like most tasks, it can be made simpler by building on your momentum instead of approaching it in a scattered, ununiformed way.

Say you get an intriguing question from a reader that sparks some inspiration, and you spend some time figuring out how to transform that idea into solid blog post. It takes a bit of time, but you finally find a good angle and the perfect way to tie the topic into your overall blog theme. Next week’s blog topic: check.

Now you go back to square one and begin coming up with an entirely new blog topic to add to your editorial calendar.

Starting the idea process at square one over and over again is time consuming. There is a simpler process that requires you to complete step one just once, and then build on that same foundation to create weeks or months’ worth of content ideas all at once.

That’s where content themes come in: it allows you to pick a broad topic and build off of it with a bunch of hyper-focused topics, making the planning process quicker and more organized.

For example, take a look at ProBlogger’s product creation theme week

 Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 2.50.30 pm

For an entire week, each post focused on creating products, diving into sub-topics like what to do before you create a product, what type of product to create, and launching a product.

How to Create and Plan Content Themes

You can structure content themes in several different ways.

Some bloggers find that themes save them so much time and hassle that they use them on an ongoing basis for content planning (each theme beginning right after the other one ends).

You can also use themes for a set period of time (say, one week or one month) scattered throughout your editorial calendar whenever you want to create a focused burst of content on a specific topic.

Regardless of whether you choose to use themes on an ongoing or selective basis, the steps for creating and planning your theme will be the same.

Step #1: choose your topic

You always build a theme on a base topic. For example, a health blog might create a theme based on the topic of ‘eating raw foods for weight loss’. Or, an entertainment blog might create a theme around the topic of ‘80’s movies that are still going strong’. 

The two keys to coming up with theme topics are 1) choosing a topic that is broad enough to support several sub-topics (in other words, you shouldn’t be able to sum it up it just one blog post) and 2) the topic needs to be something your audience cares about.

Step #2: choose your timeframe

After you know your topic, you’ll need to decide how long you want your theme to run. A week? A month? Several months? There is no hard and fast rule on how long a theme should run, so make the decision based on how much content you think you’ll need to create to cover the topic, or simply how long feel like talking about the same thing.

Step #3: Choose and schedule your sub-topics

Now that you know your main topic and the amount of blog post slots you want to fill, it’s time to sit down and plan your individual blog posts. Coming up with a calendar full of ideas should be much easier now that you have a base topic to work off of. A great way to get started is by asking yourself “what are the most pressing questions my audience has about this topic?”

As you decide on individual blog post topics, schedule them into your editorial calendar.

And that’s it! You now have an organized group of blog posts and, for the duration of your theme, you’ll never have to wonder “what should I write about?”

Bonus: Use Your Blogging Themes to Simplify Your Other Marketing Outlets

Saving all that time when planning out your blog content was pretty good, but it gets even better.

You can use the themes you create for your blog to streamline all your other content marketing efforts as well.

Use your theme to help you come up with social media updates, live event (like webinars, live steams, or Q&A sessions) topics, email marketing or newsletter content, or whatever types content you create to market your blog or business.

Using one theme across all of your online platforms will help you to create consistency, structure, and a lot more free time.

Your turn:

How will you use themes to simplify your blogging life? Or, if you’ve already used themes, what were your results? Share it with us in the comments below!

Sonja Jobson helps entrepreneurs grow their audience online in a way that fits their schedule, style, and personality. Want even more advice on simplifying your marketing life? Take her FREE 5-Day Marketing Dare.

Theme Week: Extend Your Ideas With Future Blog Posts

This week we’ve been looking at what to do after you’ve hit publish on your blog posts.

Today I’d like to suggest a task that I think has real potential to help our blogs to make a big impact upon our readers by taking them on our journey.

Think about how to extend the ideas in your post, and follow it up with more content.

Over the last 12 or so months I’ve noticed numerous blogs using a strategy that I think is a little short-sighted.

It comes in the wake of big sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed who largely use curated content, wrap headlines about it that are either sensational or use curiosity, and then call those who arrive on the site to take action with a ‘like’ or ‘share’.

While this model of publishing is obviously working for sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed, my concern is that within almost every niche now I see blogs that used to be creating quality original content moving to this model.

In the photography blogging space I can think of 4-5 blogs that used to publish 1-2 quality original posts per day (posts that were all about helping readers and building momentum from post to post), now publish as many as 15-20 curated posts per day.

While I’m sure their traffic is up, I’ve noticed something of a backlash happening on social media. Almost daily I see people complain about the ‘fluffy’ content and headlines that over-promise on the content that will be featured.

These blogs that had built loyalty, trust and community now are in danger of having a less-engaged readership, and brands that are somewhat damaged.

I guess it partly comes down the monetization model of the blog in question – this curated content approach certainly can drive significant traffic and thus increases advertising revenue – but I worry that blogs are becoming ‘fluffy’, and less relevant as a result.

In this time of ‘fluffy’ content, I see a real opportunity for bloggers who want to stand out by producing blogs that go deeper.

One of the ways I think bloggers could do this is to consider producing content that builds from one post to another – something that was very common place back in the day when I began blogging.

You’ll notice here on ProBlogger we’ve been doing this more and more over the past year with our ‘Theme Weeks’ (like the current one we’re running). Going deeper into topics with longer-form content.

A planned series of posts is just one approach to doing this. Another is simply to pause after you’ve written and published a post to ask yourself a simple question:

“Is there anything in what I’ve just written that I could extend or followup with another post?”

Get into the habit of asking this question, and you’ll naturally start to create content that goes deeper and builds momentum between your posts.

Other quick tips on ‘extending’ your content in this way include:

  • Pay attention to the tangents you consider taking mid post – many times we consider adding ideas into posts but don’t. These could well become separate posts.
  • Pay attention to the questions that your blog posts readers with in the comments on your posts.
  • Examine older posts in your archives that perhaps could be developed further because they’ve become a little dated
  • If you’ve written an opinion post – could you follow it up by exploring the opposing view?
  • Could you follow up the post with a case study or example of what you’ve been writing about?

Lastly – check out this mind mapping exercise that I wrote about a few years back which is all about taking a post you’ve written and finding ways to extend it.

Theme Week: How to Repurpose Your Content [and Why You Should Do It!]

This week we’ve been talking about what to do with your blog posts after you hit publish. So far we’ve talked about optimizing it for search and socializing it on social media - today we’re going to talk about ‘repurposing’ it.

What is Repurposing Content?

I like Erin Everhart’s definition of repurposing content. She defines it as:

“repacking one piece of content across many different media. Each time, you’re adding to it (or taking away from it), and making it unique for the source, the medium and the user who’ll be reading it.”

If you’ve been blogging for even just a few months you’re already probably got quite a bit of content in your archives that you’ve invested a lot of time into creating. The idea of repurposing some of those posts is that it enables you benefit again from the work you’ve already done by highlighting those ideas again in a new medium.

What it’s NOT
To be clear – what we’re talking about here is not simply re-promoting content you’ve already written on social media.

We’re also not talking here about rewriting or updating old blog posts in a new way.

There’s nothing wrong with re-promoting or rewriting – but repurposing content is about creating new content in a new medium based upon what you’ve already done.

What are the Benefits of Repurposing Content?

There are a number of benefits of repurposing content that you’ve already written.

Reach More People with More Relevant Mediums

For starters it can help you to reach more people with your ideas using media streams that are more relevant and digestible for them.

Reading a blog post will appeal to a certain percentage of people, but not everyone likes to read – so communicating your ideas using other media makes them more accessible to people with different learning styles, personalities, and backgrounds.

Rank Higher in Search Results

There can be numerous SEO benefits of repurposing content. For starters, creating a video, slidedeck, or podcast that links back to your original blog post means more incoming links to that post.

However that is just the beginning – create content in your repurposing that has a shareable component to it and you could just see your content appearing on other people’s blogs and websites – complete with link backs to your site. For example creating an embeddable infographic that links back to your article exponentially grows the incoming links to your site. It also is great for growing your brand and profile.

Deepen Impact Upon Readers

If you are trying to have a deep and lasting impact upon your readers with your ideas, then it is likely that you’ll need to communicate your core ideas more than once.

It isn’t that your readers are stupid or that your communication isn’t good – it’s just that people are being bombarded with messaging, and they live lives full of distraction. Sometimes it just takes a few goes to get your message through.

Repurposing content allows you to communicate your core ideas numerous times in different ways. It allows you to explore a topic from different angles. If done well it can significantly improve the impact of your ideas upon readers.

Here’s what Seth Godin says:

“Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.”

Take a Little Pressure Off Yourself

One of the main ‘benefits’ of repurposing content that I see people preaching about is that it is an ‘easy’ way to come up with new content for your blog.

My reaction to this is that ‘easy’ is not always a description I’d give to repurposing content. It takes work, in fact sometimes it takes more work than the original creation of the content. So it isn’t always easy – but it does take a little pressure off you as a blogger.

Many of us as bloggers feel a lot of pressure to have to come up with something completely new, original and mind blowing every single day on our blogs.

It is unrealistic to expect anyone to come up with a completely new and world changing idea every single day. Most of us struggle to come up with a BIG idea in a lifetime let alone every day!

Repurposing content can give you as a blogger a little extra breathing room. It enables us to have a little extra time to better explore, deepen and communicate our ideas before needing to come up with the next one.

What are the Risks of Repurposing Content?

Repurposing content is something that has many benefits if done well – however I want to emphasise that it can also be done badly and has some associated risks.

Every blogger that repurposes content has their own approach to doing so but from my perspective some of these risks include:

  • Formulaic repurposing
  • Going for quantity over quality
  • Creating fluff

Let me illustrate with an example.

Last year I heard a speaker at a conference talk about how they had developed a system for repurposing every single blog post they wrote.

Every week they would write three blog posts that would be sent to a virtual assistant for repurposing.

That assistant would then create a slideshow, a video of the slideshow, five graphics with quotes from the post that would be shared on social media, and three rewrites of the original blog post to be pitched as guest posts. The speaker would also record himself reading his blog posts to post as audio files which were presented as a podcast.

So for each of his three blog posts, he would be creating 11 other pieces of content – 33 per week!

The blogger and his assistant are to be admired for their endeavour – but the result was overwhelming and probably hurt his brand.

In order to create so much content, templates were used for slideshows, videos, and graphics which resulted in a certain ‘sameness’ in a lot of what was produced.

As I listened to this blogger speak, I looked over his blog and social media accounts and was very quickly overwhelmed by content. His three blog posts each week were good – but the systemised repurposing of content and sharing of it was too much to digest, and by repeating it all three times a week it became quite formulaic, predictable, and repetitive.

My Suggestions on Repurposing Content

There’s a lot to be said about how to repurpose content, much of which comes down to your individual style, the type of content you create on your blog, the needs of your audience, your goals as a blogger and the type of content that will appeal to your audience.

I can’t give you a blueprint, but here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Choose Your Content to Repurpose Carefully

I’ve already alluded to this numerous times above, but the selection of which content to repurpose is critical.

I would not suggest repurposing every piece of content you write, but instead to be a little selective. Personally, I choose to repurpose content that fits into one (or more than one) of the following criteria:

1. It is a core idea – if there is something that is central to what you’re on about as a blogger and what you feel your reader needs to hear, than this is prime content to repurpose.

2. Evergreen content – content that doesn’t date will enable you to repurpose it without fear of that repurposed content dating. This will enable you (and others) to refer to it numerous times into the future and gain maximum impact for your investment.

3. Content that has already been shared or received well – if you’ve published a post that has been well-received it might be the kind of content that will do well again if you repurpose it. Look in your analytics for your most popular posts and you’ll probably find something you could repurpose.

2. Think Carefully About the Medium

Not every post will lend itself to every medium for repurposing content. Similarly, not every medium will appeal to every audience.

There are many different mediums available to you for repurposing content – here are just a few that come to mind that you might want to experiment with:

  • Slide Deck – use a tool like Slideshare or AuthorStream to communicate your main points, share quotes, highlight statistics etc.
  • Infographics – present key stats, stories, histories etc in a visual form using a tool like PictoChart or Visuall.y
  • Instructographic – similar to an infographic, but more focused upon presenting a ‘how-to’ or a step-by-step process
  • Podcasts – take the core ideas in your post and record yourself exploring them as an audio file. Alternatively, set up a conversation that explores the topic with one or more other people and record it.
  • Interviews – seek out someone else in your niche to interview about the topic of your blog post. This could be presented as another blog post, podcast, video etc. Interview numerous people and it could be compiled together as an industry report.
  • Screen capture videos – if your blog post talks people through a process that can be captured as a screen capture video, record it and upload it to a video sharing site like YouTube. Use tools like Camtasia, Jing, Screenr or Screenflow to do this.
  • Talking head videos – set up a webcam and talk to camera about some aspect of the blog post you’ve written.
  • PDF download – convert your blog post into a PDF for downloading for those who wish to have a copy for future reference. Services and tools that could help with this include Anthologize, Zinepal and BlogBooker.
  • eBooks/Reports/Whitepapers – expand upon your blog post or compile it together with other content you may have written and present it as an eBook, report, or whitepaper.
  • Graphics for Social Sharing – take key quotes, points, or stats and put them into an eye-catching graphic for sharing on social media using a tool like Canva or PicMonkey. Alternatively, outsource it using a service like Swiftly.
  • Autoresponder – break your content down into digestible parts that readers could subscribe to as a series of emails.
  • Guest Posts – write a blog post that extends upon your post or that explores a related topic that you could submit as guest posts to other blogs. If not accepted, these could be used as followup blog posts on your blog or could be published on Google+, Tumblr, or LinkedIn
  • Articles for Media or Industry Publications – take the key findings or points in your blog post and submit them as an article to mainstream media or industry associations for republishing. If not accepted, these could be used as followup blog posts on your blog or could be published on Google+, Tumblr or LinkedIn.
  • Webinar – create a webinar based upon a post (or a series of posts) using a tool like Gotowebinar
  • Hangout – hold a Google+ hangout for your readers to come and have a discussion about a piece of content you’ve published
  • Twitter/Facebook Chats – hold a social media chat session to expand upon a blog post, interview someone related to the topic and generate reader discussion about your topic.
  • Workshops – compile your main points into a workshop that you could deliver at a real-life event
  • Transcription – if you’ve done a podcast, webinar, video or workshop, get the recording transcribed for those who might like to read it rather than listen/view it.
  • Create a Printable – create a downloadable printable checklist or template that relates to your blog post.

3. Take a Different Approach to your Original Content

A key with repurposing content is to present something that relates to the original content but that doesn’t present exactly the same information. This means if your readers do see the repurposed content in different forms, they don’t get annoyed by hearing the same thing over and over again.

There are a few ways to do this:

Extend
One way is to find related ideas to your original post. Extend what you’ve previously presented. I’ll write more on this later in this series.

Drill Down
Another method is to drill down into just one small aspect of your original content. For example, highlighting a key quote or stat, point or quote that you might have covered in a longer blog post and present it as a graphic.

Similarly if you create a longer webinar, podcast, or video – why not take a key 30-second grab from that content that you can share as a ‘taster’. The snippet might be a self-contained idea that by itself is useful to anyone who listens to it, but which also might serve as a way to get them to listen to the full presentation.

Compile
Another method (and one of my favourites) is to make your repurposing a summary of numerous previous pieces of content. For example many of the teaching webinars that I’ve done compile information in numerous blog posts that I’ve written. So take key articles from a category on your blog and compile them into a single eBook, whitepaper, webinar, or presentation.

Final Thoughts

Before we wrap up this post today – here area few final thoughts on repurposing content to keep in mind:

Spread it out

There is no need to bombard your readership with loads of repurposed content on the same topic quickly. Spread it out over time. You might publish a blog post today and then share a slide deck based upon it next week, and followup with a video or info graphic next month. It all helps build momentum naturally over time without annoying your readers.

Repurpose as You Write

As you write your original blog posts pay attention to the ideas you get as you write on how you might repurpose them. Quite often when I’m in the middle of writing a blog post I’m also making notes on how I could get graphics or slides made for followups or to insert into the post that could also be used for social sharing. The more you repurpose content the more you’ll find yourself naturally doing this.

Pay attention to your archives

Repurposing content can happen relatively quickly after you publish a new piece of content but also don’t forget about your archives. Some of your older blog posts might actually be the best ones to repurpose so dig back into your archives for the gold hidden there!

Make it Visual

The web is increasingly a visual place and on social media – where the bulk of your repurposed content will probably end up – the visuals are what can make or break what you do. So pay particular attention to the design of what you’re creating and consider investing in some outsourced help if design and visuals are not your thing.

Cross-link

I’ve already mentioned this in passing above but when you repurpose your content you will want to leverage that new content to link back to your original posts that relate to it. This is key for SEO and for sending readers deeper into your site.

What Would You Add?

Repurposing content is a massive topic and there are no right or wrong ways to do it – so I’d love to hear YOUR perspective on the topic.

I’m particularly interested in seeing your examples of where you’ve repurposed blog posts into other formats and would love to see any links in comments below with examples of when you’ve done this for yourself!

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com

Abraham Lincoln Axe Quote 1

Many newbie (and sometimes even veteran) bloggers erroneously spend 95% of their time creating blog content and only 5% pondering titles. Unfortunately for these bloggers, most readers’ attention spans expire in seconds.

Unless you reel in your readers instantly, your well-crafted content goes largely unnoticed and going viral becomes impossible.

Set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes for choosing a magnetic title after crafting your post.

List three to five intriguing titles guaranteed to increase your CTR and page views. After carefully thinking through each option, select the one that inspires you like no other.  Ask your friends or followers for feedback.

Most importantly, test and learn from data you collect looking at engagement metrics, such as social sharing and page views.  Double down on best-performing headlines and keep testing new ways to engage your audience.

Garret Moon proposes re-writing your blog headlines at least three times to A/B test your headlines using Twitter and email marketing. If you are serious about blogging, invest as much resources and time as you can to headline testing and optimization.

6 Lessons for Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

At SearchDecoder blog we did an in depth headline analysis looking at the most popular posts of 2013. The data included over 30K visits and 6K social shares.

Most of the content featured in the study that made the top 10 lists was generated by NYU students participated in the Inbound Marketing Clinic and couple recent grads who work with me at Lowe Profero. The objective of this post is not to brag but rather share data insights with the blogging community to get feedback.

SearchDecoder Top 10 2

Top 10 Most Popular Posts on SearchDecoder Blog in 2013

Use Power Verbs

Use power verbs to goad readers into clicking on and sharing your content. Imagine yourself as a blogging commander, enticing to swift action with assertiveness. Start titles with actionable verbs like “Read,” “Download” or “Learn”.  Actionable verbs can be visualized and acted upon easily.

Keep things simple and never use a power verb in any spot other than the beginning of your title. Maximize the effectiveness of these action words.

The third most shared blog post on SearchDecoder, Optimize Your Click Through Rate on Google (Infographic) is a good example of using a power verb to drive action.

SearchDecoder Take Action 3

Employ Colorful Adjectives

Colorful adjectives effectively magnetize eager readers to your titles. Consider using colorful words to appeal to the imagination. If readers can see what you wish to convey, you will generate high CTR.

Pull out a thesaurus. Scour the manual to find descriptive, entertaining adjectives to lasso readers’ eyeballs. Test words like “awesome,” “unstoppable” and “unconventional” for engaging your reader’s visualizing faculty.

The number-one most shared, read and commented on blog post on SearchDecoder, 10 Unconventional Keyword Research Tools to Include in Your SEO Toolbox, generated over 7K views, nearly 700 social shares and over 30 comments. Moreover, it got picked up by the editors of Moz Top 10.

Interestingly, the two blog posts I’ve published using the word ‘unconventional’ in the title made it to the top 10 most shared blog posts on SearchDecoder.com.

10 unconventional keyword research tips 4

Arouse Curiosity

Reading questions piques your interest. Interested web visitors set the foundation for viral blog posts.  Readers rarely scan question-themed titles without clicking through because inquiring minds need to know.

Brian Clark notes on Copyblogger that sharing benefits via insider knowledge is a timeless approach to crafting magnetic titles.

Asking questions or exposing industry ‘secrets’ compels clickthroughs because few can resist mystery. Observe the masterful novelist. Supreme writers craft cliffhangers filled with mystery and intrigue. How could you put down these page turners when each chapter ends with either a question or some other secret yet to be revealed?

One of the top shared blog posts on my blog, The 10 Secrets of Effective Bootstrap Digital Marketing for Startups, leverages this tactic. If you want to successfully run a startup, getting enough credible information is critical.

Crafting this title for the accompanying deck on SlideShare goaded readers to click through and share it on Twitter at a stunning rate, appearing on SlideShare’s homepage as ‘Hot on Twitter’ and boosting its views to over 7K.

Build Lists (Always)

Building list-themed headers is a surefire approach to crafting magnetic titles. In fact, 9 out of the 10 best performing posts on my blog included a list in the headline.

Testing various numbers in list headlines (I tested between 7 and 30) on my blog didn’t indicate a clear winner (statistically), however the number 10 performed best.

Readers need gobs of information to satiate their curiosity. The average web cruiser craves thorough content. Sharing 11 tips or 8 steps to solve a particular problem draws readers in because they expect to find a practical answer to their specific questions.

Jeff Goins notes how using obscure numbers in titles like 19 or 37 can appeal to readers. Experiment with different single and double-digit numbers to see which titles result in the most clicks.

The highest number in the list headline I used was 30 and it performed surprisingly well (contrary to the less is more approach). The 30 Awesome Free SEO Tools for Small Businesses headline was the 8th most popular blog post on Searchdecoder in 2013.

Use the Magic Words

“Quick,” “Easy,” and “Simple” are the magic headline words guaranteed to boost clicks pronto. Do you want to know the quick, easy or simple way to solve a problem you have been trying to address? Of course you do.

Appeal to the Internet culture of today by using these magic words frequently. However, make sure that the solution is quick, easy or simple to keep your credibility intact. Promising a simple solution to a problem but following up with complex instructions can damage your online reputation.

Add “lessons” to your ‘magic word’ list. People read blogs to learn, and no matter how ‘easy’ your advice seems, it is always a good idea to anchor your findings in data, interviews or case studies. The #5 best performer on SearchDecoder, 7 Lessons for Effective B2B Content Marketing via the Maersk Line Case Study, drew in eager students quickly.

Pick Up the Paper

Always learn from the pros. Read a newspaper or scour online news sites to find appealing blog post title ideas and become a trusted curator of information for your community.

Follow the example of the 8 Internet Books You Should Read in 2014 post that performed exceptionally well for me during the slow Holiday period in December. Whatever you are blogging about; there are tons of relevant books and blogs you can curate.

Vintage Books 5

Mine the web or your local newsstand for creative, proven titles guaranteed to increase blog readership. Taking a cue from some of the best title writers on earth is a simple way to create a viral post.

Curating content proved to be the most low-effort, high-return activity on my blog. The 8 Content Marketing Statistics You Need to Know title was the second best performer on SearchDecoder.

Headlines are visual

It’s a social media world. If you want to increase the sharibility and CTR of your blog posts, include eye-catching images and visuals which get populated on your homepage and social media feed. Spend time choosing the best ‘featured image’ for every headline.

SearchDecoder blog posts 6

What didn’t work?

Using names of influencers in blog titles didn’t perform well for me. While the Q&As and interviews represent some of the best content on my blog, they underperformed in terms of traffic and engagement. Using Twitter handles and hashtags in the headlines didn’t perform well for me either.

What worked for your blog last year? I’d love to hear your best-performing blog post headline in the comments section.

Matthew Capala is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur, who understands both the user and algorithm. He built SearchDecoder.com, a place for bootstrap marketing ideas for entrepreneurs. Matthew currently teaches a graduate class on search marketing at NYU, works as a growth consultant, while making the final touches to his upcoming book: SEO Like I’m 5. He is a dynamic speaker, trainer and blogger. 

The Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

This is a post from ProBlogger.net Managing Editor Stacey Roberts

When I was studying journalism, it was pointed out to us very early on that our first drafts of anything were never going to be printed. They just weren’t. They were to be edited by professionals with no emotional ties to the content, and we were to accept the final product as it passed through their experienced hands.

If we were going to get precious about our words and our bylines, we were in the wrong profession.

As a result, I learned to detach from my writing. To write well, but also to see it from another’s perspective, and to be able to take edits and cuts with no offence. The subs weren’t trying to be cruel, they were doing their job by making my copy better.

When I began blogging, and had no editor or filter to pass through before I published my work, I still would read back over my work with a sharp eye to tidy it up a bit before launching it into cyberspace. What journalism taught me was to write cleanly, boldly, and in the least amount of words possible. I could no longer waffle, and I wasn’t precious about cutting my copy where I thought it might be extraneous.

But what about blogging?

The nature of blogging and journalism means you’re usually in a rush to get your content in the hands of readers while it is still relevant. We’re staying on top of trends and we’re riding the waves while we can. But for more evergreen content, or things that aren’t time-sensitive, then Stephen King’s editing method is one of the most useful things I’ve ever practised: the art of putting time and space between you and your words.

In his book On Writing, King describes the methods by which he creates fiction novels.  A manuscript should take a season to write, he says. Then he will put a physical copy of it in a drawer and forget about it for at least six weeks.

What does that do?

  • It puts just enough time between you and your writing to ensure you’ve become somewhat unfamiliar with the words and can read it with less bias.
  • It ensures you’re looking at the work with fresh eyes, not in the heat of the moment where your brain autocorrects the errors it reads so they fail to register.
  • You disassociate yourself somewhat from what you have written so it doesn’t hurt to cut it.
  • Your brain has had time to percolate on some of the ideas and thus can flesh them out more.
  • You can immediately see simpler and clearer ways to convey your message.
  • You can finally remember those things niggling at you in the back of your mind that you wanted to include but couldn’t quite put your finger on what they were.
  • You might have learned something new you could add.
  • You might decide you hate it all and start over again.
  • It means you have a deeper feel for what works and what might be received better by your readers.
  • You can publish knowing you’ve produced the best work you’re capable of.

Now, obviously there are small differences between a behemoth fiction manuscript and your blog post. You might not want to wait six weeks, and you don’t think it’s necessary to print it out. That’s not important. What is important is that you are distancing yourself from your work in order to come back to it with a more professional attitude.

Your blog might be personal, and your words an extension of yourself. It is ok to feel a bit of emotional attachment to them – this method only ensures you’re editing with a clear head as well as a full heart.

The takeaway:

Save your work and close your laptop. Forget about your writing as fully as you can, and put as much time as possible between you and it. Re-read your copy with an open mind and make quick notes about edits you’d like to make as you go. Then you can go back and change. Don’t be afraid – be bold and decisive. These are words to be molded, sentences to be crafted. Go with your gut and rearrange what you want until you feel it is right. Then hit publish.

Tell me – do you let your posts rest for a bit before going live? Or are you churn-and-publish kind of blogger?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found writing, making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

 

Life After Keywords (Not Provided): What’s Next For Bloggers?

This is a guest contribution from Jim Burch, a copywriter from St. Louis.

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When you use Google Analytics to track your blog’s traffic, you may see (not provided) on your list of keyword searches. Simply put, this is Google’s way of encrypting keyword searches in the name of privacy and security.

If you heavily rely on keyword analytics for the content you produce, you may be in a bit of a panic. What was once a quantitative measure to strengthen search engine rankings is now much more qualitative. As a blogger, you want to see every piece of analytics behind every keyword, but in 2013 that’s just no way to do business.

The Web is the only medium where people write for machines instead of people. You get so caught up in keyword density, you may forget actual humans are reading the content.

This Is Good

The first point to understand is this is an improvement for the Web. Adjustments and transitions will take time, but in the end, the general quality of content is about to increase. Imagine if off-Web content was written to fulfill SEO and keyword standards. What would an Ernest Hemingway novel look like if it needed to rank for “great American author” on Google? Hemingway didn’t write for Web crawlers and neither should you.

“Content is king” and all those wonderful cliches still apply, but there’s a little more work to be done now. Digital marketing agencies are looking ahead on this. The marketing blog at iAcquire recommends implementing a “content system” to create content that is both high-quality and consistent to get the jump start on life after (not provided).

Creating a Content System

A content system is an efficient way for bloggers to produce high-quality content while staying organized and consistent. The switch to (not provided) keywords is seen as a restriction by some, but really it’s an invitation to rock some of the best and most-effective content the Web has ever seen. You just have to add the layers to form one delicious cake. What does a content system look like? There are a few elements:

  • An editorial calendar that is both active and consistent. Follow it and use it to keep up with consistent social media and blog posts.
  • When you’re constructing blog posts and social media, keep the themes consistent. You can thoroughly cover a topic and keep readers engaged through all social media platforms.
  • Stop writing for keywords and start writing for people — your audience.

Authors with Authority

Gaining Google Authorship or collaborating with a writer with Google Authorship can be a big asset to your blog’s rankings. Google’s most recent update may give more power to authors who use Google+ and Google Authorship.

Who writes a post could be as important as the site on which it’s published, in the eyes of Google’s web crawlers. This makes the relationship between the author and the publisher mutually rewarding — the publisher will get stronger rankings from quality authors and the author will drive up his or her own authorship ranking with each post.

Not Everything Changes

Keep in mind, just because Google isn’t providing raw data on keywords doesn’t mean its algorithm doesn’t count them. So don’t throw the whole strategy out the window.

These changes are designed to refine existing strategies, not rewrite them. If your work help boost rankings in the past, keep doing them. The addition of better, more consistent content will help rankings in a more organic manner, even if you can’t see feedback from specific keywords.

Bloggers Have It Best

While marketers are scrambling to adjust methods for better rankings, bloggers are good to go. Chances are, you were always writing for an audience first and search rankings second. This method of organic content is going to pay off now that Google rewards both concepts and authorship more than ever before. It’s time for players who cut corners to step back in second place. Bloggers who do it the right way, have been doing it the right way, are about to take the lead.

What do you think? Will the new Google strategy help or hinder your blogging?

Jim Burch is a copywriter from St. Louis. Jim has spent the last 2 years specializing in writing for SEO and helping some of the worlds biggest brands build out their content marketing strategies. He specializes in advertising and marketing and also covers a variety of health and fitness topics. 

Content Week: A bit of homework to inspire you – come and get involved!

Theme WeekAfter the week we’ve had immersing ourselves in the wild and wonderful world of sourcing blog content, there shouldn’t be any one of you who hasn’t come up with at least one idea for a post. But in order to blog better this year, I’m encouraging you to push even further – spend some time this week (why not right now?!) writing 25 blog post ideas to get started. You don’t need to use all 25, just find some space in your brain to dig them all out and get them all down in hard copy. Have even more than 25? Go for it! Really, it’s just an exercise to put everything we’ve learned this week into practice. If nothing else, you’ll have a handy list to refer to next time you’re struggling for ideas.

As always, let us know how you go in the comments – you’re bound to find a friend in the same boat as you!