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How Long Should a Post Be?

reader-questionsmistergin asks – “I notice most of your blog entries are short. I have a habit of not necessarily being long winded, but very detailed. I want to cover all the bases and make the article “full”.

However, I realize that I start running into posts that scroll through 2 sometimes 3 pages. I keep paragraphs short, try to use to accentuate, and bold/color where possible, but I still can’t help but feeling that while my site is great for content, some folks may not want to read all that.

Any suggestions on the length of my articles? I keep thinking that right now I want to build “pillar articles” as I believe you called them, and then link to them later on. It seems to me that long and detailed articles now will help get me indexed and linked, and then shorter articles may keep the feed readers happy.”

Hmmm – one of the longer questions that I’ve been asked (sorry – couldn’t resist).

Let me answer with six points:

1. Both Can Work

I believe a blog can be successful based around both short and long posts. Check out sites like Engadget or Gizmodo for short post sites (often newsy based ones like short posts) or Read Write Web or Steve Pavlina for longer, deep and/or analytical ones.

I think the key is to develop a rhythm in the style and focus of your blogging so that readers come expecting to get what you offer them.

2. You’ll Attract Readers Who Like Your Style

You’ll probably find that the type of post that you write will attract a certain type of reader also. For example I know with Steve Pavlina that I often hear extreme views expressed about his writing. Some don’t have the patience for his long posts – others thrive on it and wouldn’t have him change at all.

3. Consider the Life Stage of Your Blog

One factor to consider is the age and life stage of your blog. One strategy that many bloggers use in the early days of their blogs is to build up a good number of longer ‘pillar‘ or ‘cornerstone‘ posts on a blog. These can help you to build credibility but will also be articles that link to later on as you blog.

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Where to Get Product Pictures for your Blog

reader-questionsFrank Johnson (no url provided) asks – “Darren – my question is how you find product photography for your product-related blogs. Do you 1) take photos of the products yourself; 2) grab them off the manufacturers’ websites after asking for permission to use them; 3) grab them off the manufacturers’ websites without asking for permission (assuming it’s fair use); 4) do something else? Thanks!”

I generally take the approach of using a companies product shots without permission (if they’re the original producer of that content). In reality I am generally emailed press releases when a new product is launched which includes a product shot (or a link to one). Most major manufacturers also have press sections on their sites which generally have image galleries specifically designed for use in the press or online media.

The key is to compile a list of the official sites and keep an eye on them (hint: don’t just look at the US sites, often products are released in Europe and Asia before the US).

When I can’t find these I also have relationships with a couple of other blogs and sites in my niche where I have reciprocal agreements to use pictures that they’ve used (and they can use mine).

In a last case resort I’ve asked for permission to use other site’s shots if they’ve specifically taken them but it rarely comes to this – manufacturers are pretty good at getting pictures out pretty quickly once a product is released.

Is Your Blog Truly Valuable?

This post was submitted by Chris Garrett from ChrisG.com

Valuable content. Most people know this is the way to be successful in blogging.

Sure there are other important factors too. Traffic, design, usability, community … All the good stuff.

Whatever reason people have for visiting, they stay for the content.

Here is the catch. Have you actually sat down and worked out what “valuable content” means?

  • Is it a one-off post that gets to the front page of Digg?
  • Articles that get lots of links?
  • Posts that attract comments?
  • Is it that top 100 list you bookmarked?
  • A funny cartoon that gets pinned to a cubicle wall?
  • Flash games you just can’t put down?
  • All of the above?

Value is tough to pin down. The definition depends entirely on point of view. What is valuable to the creator could be subscribers and AdSense clicks, while the reader could be just looking for a solution to their plumbing leak.

What is valuable depends entirely on your audience. Before you work out what you need to create, you need to get inside your audiences head and have a really good poke around. Solve their problems, motivate, educate and entertain.

While most people would love to have millions of visitors, thousands of subscribers and maybe a top 100 spot in the technorati list, if you are not supplying value then all of these lovely high-scores and stats are hollow at best.

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A Process for Persuasive Blogging

Today I was digging through Joseph Sugarman’s ‘Advertising Secrets of the Written Word‘ and came across a section describing how he teaches students to work out the sequence of ad copy.

Without rehashing the whole chapter his style is very much about identifying a reader need and then leading them through a logical process of asking questions and providing answers to a point where he can close the sale.

In asking the right question at the right time in an ad he argues that you get the to read on and establish a flow for your readers to progress through your ad (or if you’re blogging, your post).

In the same section Sugarman also suggests copywriters use a Flow Chart to outline the process that you’re attempting to lead readers through.

At each step along the process you state a problem or question that your readers need to overcome and present an answer to that problem or question.

Post-Process-1

The idea of a flowchart is probably not something that most bloggers would do on any given post – however it’s a good exercise to do occasionally on longer posts (or series of posts).

In fact I used to use this type of approach when writing sermons and have applied it quite a few times over the last couple of years in writing posts.

Another way of thinking about it is like this:

1. State ultimate Problem – starting with a problem that your reader needs to overcome (or a need that they have) is a great place to start if you want to call them to some action. People rarely take action on things if there’s no felt or perceived need.

2. Outline sub-problems – break down the larger problem into sub problems that need to be overcome for that problem to be solved. You’ll then tackle each problem one at a time.

3. Answers/Solutions – Logically step through each of the identified sub problems one at a time. Every time you propose a solution for one of the smaller problems you make a stronger case for the solution of the ‘ultimate’ problem

4. Call to Action - once you’ve tackled each of the smaller issues or problems along the way you’re in a good position to restate the ‘ultimate’ problem and call readers to an action that will answer it and meet the need that they have.

Post-Process-2

This sort of process will obviously work better for some blogs than others (the way I’ve written it is ideal for ‘how to’ blogs) – however it can be applied in a variety of situations.

It works because of the weight from the accumulation of answers. Give it a go and tell us how you find the process.

Giving Underperforming Posts a Second Chance with Updates

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again….

Have you ever written a post that you thought would hit the spot with your readers, generate lots of interest and/or stimulate a great conversation and then find it fell flat on it’s face?

I have – in fact it happens all the time for a variety of reasons:

  • Sometimes your posts fall over because other stories break in the blogosphere and hog all the attention
  • Perhaps you just had some bad luck and the right influential blogger didn’t happen to see your post (and spread the word)
  • At other times its because you posted on the wrong day of the week
  • Or perhaps you wrote the post in the early days of your blog before you really had any readers to read it
  • Alternatively it can be simply that your post wasn’t good enough

Many of these unsuccessful posts slide off the front page of a blog never to be seen or thought about again (by your readers or by you) – however, perhaps in time, they deserve a second chance. After all, you’ve put work into researching and writing them and with a second chance in the spotlight they could actually reach their potential and become more fruitful and rewarding to you as a blogger.

Over the last few weeks I’ve experimented on a number of occasions with giving old posts that I felt hadn’t lived up to their potential a second chance. I’ve done this in a few different ways with varying degrees of success but wanted to share the method that was most successful for me (as well as a few others at the end of this post).

Reposted Update

The most successful of my experiments with giving old posts a second chance have been reposting them on the front page of a blog with updates.

I did this a few days back with a post on DPS on Slow Sync Flash. The previous version of the post had been posted back in January when my readership was considerably smaller than it currently is (ie most of my current readers wouldn’t have seen it before) and while it had been moderately successful in terms of generating comments I was never completely satisfied with the post (in terms of what I’d written and/or the traffic it got).

So I updated the post with a few tweaks that made it more useful, attractive and relevant and reposted it at the top of my blog (simply by changing the posting date in WordPress). I also included a note that it was an updated post at the end of the post.

IMPORTANT NOTE – I am able to do this at DPS because I have a permalink structure that does not include dates (ie it is just the BlogName/PostName not BlogName/Date/PostName as it is here at ProBlogger. if you have dates in your permalink structure you shouldn’t use this method as you’ll end up with a new URL for the post which can mean you lose any SEO ranking your previous version of the post had.

The results of this updated repost were significant with a front page appearance on Digg, large StumbleUpon traffic, being featured on the front page of Delicious and link ups from many blogs including a few authoritative ones.

The advantage of this method is that the post not only gets a second chance in the spotlight – but because it’s an established post with some Search Engine Ranking – the combination of the content being updated and new comments being added (SE’s like fresh content), the appearance on your front page and the extra links that the post might generate means that the post will build it’s SEO authority.

The danger of this approach is that if you do it too often with posts that most of your readers will have seen before you run the risk of them becoming disillusioned with you. I don’t have a problem with updating old posts to make them more relevant and useful – but some of your readers might get a bit sick of reading the same old stuff if you do it too often.

This approach works best on evergreen or timeless posts – particularly ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ posts.

Other ways of updating content and giving it a second chance

The reposted update is something that has worked very well for me on a number of occasions. However there are other ways to give an older post a second chance including:

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Write a Better Blog Series In One Sitting

This post was written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev (feed). Check out LifeDev for tips to increase creativity and productivity in your writing.

If you’re wanting to generate a little bit of buzz around your blog, you might think about writing a blog series. I’ve found that they usually generate a fair amount of link love, and if anything it gives your regular readers something to look forward to.

However, writing a blog series isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It can be a daunting task, and the potential to stop halfway is very high.

I just wrote a blog series on digital vs. paper productivity tools, and while writing stumbled on a great little tip. I found that the best way to write a blog series is to write it all before you hit publish. Just by writing them all up, and use the advanced posting feature to automate the process over a few days (or however long your blog series is), you can kick back and watch your series take care of itself throughout the week. It’s a beautiful thing.

I know writing an entire series ahead of time sounds scary and daunting, but it’s really not that bad and it will pay off. Here’s why. [Read more...]

How a Young Couple Made Half a Million Dollars In an Hour Before My Eyes

Just a few weeks ago I found myself sitting in a room full of 500 aspiring internet marketers who had gathered together to learn the art of growing an online business.

I was there to present on the topic of blogging but after presenting right up front as one of the first speakers found myself fascinated by the way in which the other speakers presented.

Each speaker was given just over an hour to talk and then 10 or so minutes to pitch a product, resource or service to those attending.

Over the three days of presentations I saw a wide array of presentation styles:

from the quiet and humble interview that the organizer did with one presenter who was making her fortune through selling pearls

through to the hype filled presentation of a black hat SEO splogger (who made me feel ill)

through to the dynamic presentation of a 22 year old young man who was building an online community with hundreds of thousands of members around teaching people to play piano by ear

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Blogging Is About Writing

By Lorelle VanFossen of

When you visit Google, do you click a picture to begin your search? Do you face a screen full of images like in a grocery store self-checkout? Click fruits, then apples, then scroll through pictures of apples before you find the Jonagold Apples you want to buy, and select those?

Of course not.

The web is about words. No matter how visual and audible it becomes, it continues to be about the words.

Blogging is about writing. Many claim that content is king. If content is king, then the army that protects and defends the king is the written word.

Here are some things to think about next time to put your army to work on your blog.

  1. Don’t Just Show, Show and Tell: It’s time to get back to show and tell. Blogs offer amazing ways to present multimedia information, but you still have to tell us about it. You must show and tell in order for your point to be fully understood. Words may not do it alone, but a picture is not worth a thousand words when fed through feeds and search engines. You must have the words.
  2. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords: With the recent public release of the Google Patent for Blog PageRank, your keywords are more important than ever as the algorithm applies multiple content matching, content relevancy, search relevancy, and link-to-content relevancy tests to determine if the keywords match the content. Learn how to write keyword-rich content to increase your page ranking. More importantly, write with keywords to help your reader know exactly what you are writing about.
  3. Write Clickable Titles: The keywords you use in your post titles tell potential visitors what your post is about. If they don’t get it, they won’t click it. If they do click, and the content doesn’t match, they won’t be back.
  4. Make Your Point in the First 200 Words: You have less than a second to capture your reader’s attention. If the user on your site, feed, or search engine summary doesn’t “get the point” in the first two or three sentences, you’ve lost them.
  5. Blog Writing Is About Editing: A great idea does not translate automatically into good writing. It’s the editing that clarifies your writing so the idea comes through. It’s as much about the words you add as the words you take away to increase the post’s clarity and power.
  6. Make Your Words Timeless: Blog writing isn’t like words you throw out into the air and expect them to vanish. The words you fill your blog with tend to last. Make sure the words you use and the things you say are worth reading twenty years from now.
  7. Don’t Waste Words: A powerfully titled article drew me from my feed reader and I was greeted with this first sentence: “I still have to take a shower, and I’m late for work, but I wanted to tell you about this because I think it’s important, so I’ll just rush this off before I jump in the shower and head to work.” Don’t waste words. Don’t tell your readers things they really don’t want to know. Get to the point and stop wasting your time and theirs.
  8. Explain Jargon: We get so caught up in our little world of acronyms and industry jargon, we forget few outside our clubhouse know what we are talking about. Stop once in a while and explain to us what these terms and letters mean. It doesn’t have to be a paragraph, just a few words. Don’t assume we know what you are talking about.
  9. Use Descriptions in Images and Links: Blog writing isn’t limited to just the words. If you aren’t using titles in links and alt in images, you are missing out on a very valuable use of keywords and content building. You are also not in compliance with web standards.
  10. Use Descriptions for Flash, Podcasts, Videocasts, and Screencasts: If you are using any audio or visual multimedia on your blog, help us understand what we are going to see and hear. Convince us to click to play. A picture may speak for itself, but you have to do the writing for it.
  11. Present a Problem, The Solution, and The Results: Don’t present a solution before the reader understands there is a problem. Present the problem, give us the solution, and then lead us through the results and the benefits of the results. When readers follow along with the process, they better understand how it works and why it works for themselves.
  12. Just the Facts, Ma’am: Everyone has an opinion. What makes your opinion different from other opinions is that yours is based upon the facts. Wild accusations, suggestions, and analogies do not build trust and respect. Make your opinions be based upon valid facts and identifiable references and citations. Be prepared to back your word up with the truth.
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Long Posts vs Series of Posts

Reader QuestionsAh Pek asks – ‘I have started a new blog, and I will be doing a series of articles that are quite lengthy. I have divided it into a few parts. Is it advisable to post it as a regular entry with titles that says XXX Part 1 and so on or would it be better to put all the parts in a single page with a dedicated title? Which option will be better from a SEO point of view?’

Let me attempt to outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of Long Posts vs Series of Posts.

The Pros and Cons of Long Posts

As you suggest – one of the options at your disposal is to simply write one long post. The beauty of doing this is that your readers get all the information on a topic in one uninterrupted post that they don’t need to keep coming back to over time. For reader satisfaction alone a long post can be great.

The problem with long posts is that unless you’re an incredibly gifted writer – many of your readers won’t get to the end of a long post. Studies into how people read online have shown that they respond better to short sharp pieces (although I do find readers respond well when I write long pieces too).

Another problem with long comprehensive posts is that they can actually drain you of ideas that could sustain your blog for a longer period of time. For example instead of writing one long post with 30 tips in it you alternatively could have written 30 shorter posts with 1 tip in each over a full month. I’ve seen a few bloggers launch with incredibly comprehensive posts that cover almost every aspect of their niche. Those posts can do very well with readers an on sites like Digg – but the next day the blogger can often be left wondering if there’s anything on their topic left to write.

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