Close
Close

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.

empty-pews.jpg

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!

Content Week: Let’s Chat! Where do you get your blog ideas from?

Theme WeekThis past week, we’ve been talking about all things content – where can we get it? What inspires us? What works with our audience? What are some out-of-the-box ideas that will set us apart from the regular blogging crowd? We spoke with Chantelle Ellem, of Fat Mum Slim, who encouraged us to write what we love, and Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster, who told us to take a topic and make it personal. We wrote a mega-list of places to go when we’re fresh out of ideas to inspire us again, and we heard from Darren on the topic.

Now it’s over to you – where do you find your ideas? Do you have any sure-fire sources of inspiration? What do you do when you’re hit hard with blogger’s block? We’ll also be chatting about this over on Darren’s Facebook page - we’d love to hear from you all.

Content Week Case Study: Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster

Theme Weekcarly for pb theme weekIn 2008, Cartly Heitlinger was a freshman in college doing what most of us do in her situation – studying a subject they don’t like in order to get a degree they do. So she started a blog as part distraction, part creative outlet, writing about things she was interested in – study breaks and bows on shoes, to name a few.

Now, six years later, Carly writes a wide variety of posts on The College Prepster that revolve around fashion, lifestyle, shopping, her life in New York, and snippets about what she’s learned about blogging. Almost 2000 posts later, it appears she’s never been stuck for an idea.

For those of us who are dying to know how to keep our blogs interesting and fresh, I asked Carly to spill her secrets on how she found her groove, how she realised what her readers wanted most, and what are the kind of posts she won’t go near with a ten-foot pole. What she shares with us today are valuable tips she’s learned through trial and error – tips we can all use to inspire us to create useful and entertaining content no matter what our blog niche is.

carly in the beginningIn 2008 when The College Prepster began, it was Carly’s “little escape” that she could focus her energy on in between school stress, exams, and crew practice. She says the culture of blogging at the time was “actually pretty ideal”.

“There was NO pressure,” she says.

“No followers? No problem. Personal branding wasn’t a buzzword. Twitter wasn’t mainstream. Marketing dollars were still being spent in the traditional sense. The community of bloggers, (there were a handful in the same “niche” as me) was a lot closer and not competitive at all.”

So while there was no pressure, no competition, and no real need to be unique and stand out from the blogging crowd, Carly experimented with content she enjoyed writing and watched how it resonated with her growing audience.

“I really was just desperate for an outlet when I started; what I was writing about just sort of happened,” she says.

“For a while, I would blog about fashion (mainly products I liked) and quick little updates about my life. I was really young and quite busy with school, so I didn’t have that much to contribute. My content continued to evolve as both I and social media matured. I was able to share experiences and provide advice and work more closely with brands to produce exclusive content through the “College Prepster” voice.”

carly the evolutionThere are few blogs in existence that are exactly the same as what they were when they began. Over time, as we get more comfortable, more bold, more understanding of what works and what doesn’t, it’s natural to progress into new areas, to cut others, and find the winning balance. The best part of blogging is its flexibility, the ability of the author to test new things, to learn from their mistakes, and for their blog to evolve as they do.

The College Prepster has grown and evolved just as Carly has over the years, and while it stays true to its roots, it’s a much slicker operation these days, with a little more forethought into its content.

“I consider my blog to be a combination of ‘life and style’,” she says.

“So you might find anything from a recap of a fun weekend I had, new books or movies I loved, a personal style outfit, new arrivals or must haves from a favorite retailer, advice from a life experience, or simply just something interesting!”

The topics Carly features sit seamlessly alongside brands keen to reach her engaged and interested audience. From sharing fashion finds for the love of it, to collaborating with big-name partners, Carly ensures her posts are not just readable, but useful too.

“I always post products that I personally love and endorse. Some are paid features and I often make a commission off of the products, but it’s always things that I love!,” she says.

So what has the blog evolved into? And what resonates with her readers the most?

“I want my blog to be a place where people feel like they’re my friend and reading something they can’t find anywhere else,” she says.

“A blog entirely with only fashion photos seems too impersonal and a diary of just my life would be boring. I like to have a diversified content mix.”

carly what content“The real key is posting things that I find interesting or that I like. The right readers will follow,” Carly says.

“Writing about things that I think my readers will respond well to, versus listening to my intuition of what I want to post, actually has the opposite effect. You end up attracting the wrong audience!”

Right. so: diversify, go with your instinct, and stay true to yourself. What else?

“Readers who come back day after day respond very well to my “life event” updates. Whether I’m sharing a lesson I’ve learned or a fun day I had, they like following that plotline of my life. I get lots of new readers from Pinterest from fashion photos, organizational posts, and DIY/how-tos.”

Got it: Let people peek behind the curtain – they love connecting with the human experience. How has Carly seen that affect on her readers when she posts about personal stories?

“I think [writing more personal posts] is the key differentiator,” she says.

“It comes with costs (mainly a loss of privacy as readership has grown), but the value it adds to my blog is notable. Someone recently sent me an article about how blogs are dead and I almost had to agree. The market is saturated, the content is copied, and attention spans have gotten smaller! However, personal stories I think are getting lost or dramatized. (How many five minute Youtube videos have you watched about an inspirational video… only to move onto the next story next week?) There’s something to be said about a storyline that continues over the years. The College Prepster isn’t perfect, is relatable, and fails and succeeds. She has become a friend to the reader over the years! (It doesn’t stop at just the blog though, using other social media platforms to build out a more robust character is necessary).

“I love blogging about books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched. I love getting recommendations from other people, so those types of posts are generally great “conversation starters.”

But creating fresh, new, interesting content day after day, year after year can be difficult. What serves as Carly’s inspiration, considering she posts nearly every day (and sometimes twice a day!)?

“I find inspiration everywhere,” she says.

“But mostly I draw from my life experiences. I think this has actually allowed my blog to stand out amongst a rather saturated market and gain a loyal, very tuned-in audience. I’m not just showing a pair of new shoes, but instead talking about where I went in the shoes and what kinds of experiences I had.

Bingo.

Another of Carly’s hot tips is to step away from the mainstream ideas of what makes “blog content”.

“I think video, imagery, and writing all go hand and hand,” she says.

“I mean, look at Instagram. It’s really a mini blog (and should be treated as such!). It’s also important, from a business development perspective, to see where marketing dollars are being spent from a corporate level, namely Pinterest (photos) and YouTube (video). Writing certainly will continue to have its place, but it’s important to keep content fresh and “current.” If a photo or a video does the trick, then it does the trick. Content is content.”

So keep it personal, step outside the box, but also know what doesn’t work. What has Carly found doesn’t work for The College Prepster?

“As a rule, I don’t blog about politics or religion. That’s not to say that I don’t have opinions on these topics (I certainly do!), The College Prepster is just not the place. I used also lump personal relationships/my dating life into the off-limits category over time… but I’ve slowly relaxed a bit on that. I have a boyfriend, and while we share certain elements of our relationship online (mostly in the context of fashion and/or events we went to together), we keep it primarily ‘offline’.”

carly's advice“Write about what you’d want to read. (And don’t blog about something you’ve already read. There’s nothing more boring than reading blog posts consisting of photos I’ve already seen on another website!) I write as if i’m writing to my best friend!”

If you’ve found this case study as inspiring as I have, you might like to read more of Carly’s blog at The College Prepster, watch her (super-useful!) YouTube videos here, chat with her on Facebook, or Tweet her here.