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The Anatomy of a Better Blog Post

The last couple of weeks have turned up some valuable blogging advice for those who are working to hone their craft and become better blog post writers.

Not everyone falls into this category—some bloggers are happy with the way they write. Others publish videos or sound files instead of text. And that’s fine.

But for the rest of us, I wanted to put together a little roundup of advice on each of the parts of a text-based blog post.

  1. 4 Post Headlines that are Guaranteed to Get Readers Excited
    This post by Greg Ciotti was published here at ProBlogger late last year. It has some great ideas to help you focus as your writing headlines, and produce really compelling titles.
  2. 10 Tips for Opening Your Next Blog Post
    I designed this post to help you overcome Opening Line Paralysis (OLP)—something I suffer from often!
  3. How to Write Irresistible Blog Intros
    In this post, Andrea Wren analyses possible introductions, providing a different perspective that I found valuable.
  4. How to Write a Great Paragraph
    Tackle the techniques of great paragraphs with James Chartrand. This post is a great one for any blogger who wants to keep readers glued to their posts.
  5. 5 Tips for Creating a Truly Valuable Tutorial
    Sharpen your skills in writing tutorials and how-tos with this straightforward ProBlogger guide.
  6. Finding Truth in Fiction
    Andrew Dubinksy’s post about the power of story, which was published on Jeff Goins’s blog, is guaranteed to help you bring life to the story you tell in your next post.
  7. How to Use Images in Your Blog Posts
    Karol K covers all the basics of using images to accompany your text content, so even if you’re not technical, this guide’s perfect.
  8. 8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read
    I found Robert Bruce’s Copyblogger article very interesting. I’ll be trying some of these tips myself—who wouldn’t? Great advice.
  9. Is Your Link Text Letting You Down?
    Here, Georgina explores a few different ways you can include links within your blog posts.
  10. 7 Powerful Ways to End Your Next Blog Post
    Of course, today we published Ali Luke’s advice for wrapping up a post—great ways to avoid having your post trail off into nothing.

Have you seen a great article on crafting quality blog posts recently? Help us build this list by adding it in the comments below.

How I Expanded the Demographic of My Niche Blog to Include Every Person Online

This guest post is by Sonal Pandey of Tap Easy.

Some things don’t get better with time. This was going to be one such case. Here I was, sharing an awesome technique capable of changing lives, but not many were paying attention.

My niche had the perfect demographic—open-minded, receptive, and suitably educated, with interests ranging from psychology to health and fitness. And yet…

I had over 35 solid posts on the blog. I had a video up on the sidebar demonstrating exactly how to use the revolutionary technique. I also had a newsletter opt-in with a desirable giveaway.

Three months had gone by since I had started my niche blog catering to Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) enthusiasts. And yet, nothing much was happening. The email opt-in rate was miserably low, even for a new blog. Sometimes there were no sign-ups for days together.

Well-meaning people told me to just hang on and things would improve with time. Somewhere inside, I knew they wouldn’t. Where was I going wrong?

I was doing everything that successful bloggers were suggesting. But all that was falling on deaf ears. The bounce rate was a staggering 83%. I knew I needed to take stats data with a pinch of salt, but there must have been some truth to them after all.

It got worse

Also around that time, my Google search impressions dropped drastically. Within a span of three days, the search impressions came down by 92%. Such drastic reduction in search impressions also meant a drastic decrease in the clicks to my blog through search results.

I submitted a reconsideration request through Google Webmaster. But they came back reporting no evidence of manual actions by their webspam team. As far as Google was concerned, I was in the clear. So the problem was inside the blog.

From a good enough daily traffic figure (even if with a high bounce rate), it came to days when traffic to the blog was zero. It was scary, and depressing.

My impulsive reaction was to think of myself as a reject. No one wanted what I was offering. But my research had shown considerable demand for such material. People are quite exploratory when it comes to self-help and healing modalities. So why weren’t there more takers?

Stats sleuthing

On a close analysis of the blog stats, it turned out that a good number of people were coming through search engines. But they were not arriving here because of EFT related keywords.

For the longest time, the #1 most popular keyword sending people to my blog was “disappointed.” The Universe was trying to rub it in! For whatever reasons I wanted my blog to shine, “disappointed” was not one of them. Yet the material on the blog frequently referenced similar words since they were an integral part of the self-help process.

These visitors were people who had no clue what EFT meant or what they were doing on my blog. So they would come and quickly bounce back.

EFT is a powerful tool to help people recover from all kinds of negative emotions, including disappointment. So Google was probably sending them to the right place. But the visitors didn’t know why they were there. That lead to a very high bounce rate.

I wondered if this very high bounce rate had brought about the downfall in my search results placement.

That was when I had an epiphany.

Aha!

I created a minute-long video trailer especially for those completely oblivious to EFT. And placed this video on the sidebar with an opt-in form below it. The video didn’t get into any EFT mumbo jumbo. It didn’t even talk about how to use EFT. It talked about why.

It simply informed the visitors that they could get relief from a host of emotional and physical problems if they used EFT. And that they could bring positive changes in their lives through this technique.

I started offering my earlier video about EFT process demonstration as a giveaway to those signing up. To encourage visitors already familiar with EFT to sign up, I added an e-book that listed my best tips on using the technique. So that giveaway package became attractive to both people new and not new to EFT.

Why it worked

Earlier the blog only catered to the initiated, people who were already using EFT. They could find their way around the blog easily. Even before things improved, such visitors would stick around for ten, 20, or 30 minutes.

The video trailer made sure that even if somebody landed on my blog by mistake, they would at least come to know how they could use it to their advantage. Now anyone who had stress or problems (that includes everyone, right?) was a prospective visitor and subscriber.

Sell them what they want, so you can give them what they need.

Apart from laying down the real-life benefits of EFT in plain English, the video was reminding people to sign up. That in turn gave them the exact tools needed to get started with EFT, and use it in the best way possible.

From using these tools, all the material on my blog became comprehensible to them. So they stayed around.

Just rewards came

Suddenly everything improved: time on site, page views, bounce rate, search impressions. Email subscriptions shot through the roof. When I say “through the roof” I mean it in the frame of my new blog and relatively small traffic. But I’m a firm believer in the theory that a good conversion rate can beat high traffic stats any day.

These results were achieved without writing a single new post during that interval. So what was needed was certainly not more content.

The moral of the story

The takeaway from this experience is to keep in mind the visitors who may be unaware of your area of expertise. It is not so much about showing a video. It is about helping a first time visitor feel at home.

I used to think of my blog as a niche blog, but now it is open to anyone who has an Internet connection and a set of problems.

And to a great extent this learning will influence what content I write next. Because it will be based on a policy of inclusion, not exclusion.

Sonal Pandey is a software engineer turned self-help blogger. Her philosophy on self-help advice is that it should be targeted, effective, and easy to incorporate quickly. Through her blog, Tap Easy, she offers Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping scripts to help people overcome stress, fear, and other negativity and bring positive changes naturally.

How to Create and Host a Blog Carnival

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Everyone has them, except possibly R.L. Stine. I’m referring to those days when you’re lacking either the inspiration or the energy to write something fresh and/or inventive.

If you can somehow get those days to occur on a regular schedule, say weekly, there’s a solution. Outsourcing.

I’m not talking about running guest posts, nor contributions from freelance or staff writers. I mean leveraging the work of dozens of other bloggers in your genre, for your mutual benefit.

Host a blog carnival: a roundup of timely posts from other bloggers, concentrating on a particular area of interest. Your colleagues write the posts, then you assemble, fold, collate, and link to them for presentation to your regular audience.

My blog, Control Your Cash, hosts the weekly Carnival of Wealth. As you can probably deduce, the carnival is germane to my blog’s focus on personal finance. The Carnival of Wealth goes live at around 2pm GMT every Monday and features bloggers from, at last count, four continents.

Every week I receive dozens of submissions, which means that my biggest challenge is getting each week’s edition of the carnival down to a workable size. The carnival posts frequently receive the most comments and trackbacks of any posts on my site. In other words, hosting a carnival means something for everyone. In descending order of importance, that’s:

  • interesting content for my readers and my contributors’ readers
  • an increase in legitimate visitors for my site
  • an increase in legitimate visitors for the contributors’ sites
  • a respite from research for me
  • inbound and outgoing links aplenty for everyone.

Where it all began

I’d love to take credit for creating my carnival from scratch, but the truth is that I picked it up secondhand. It’s the brainchild of Shailesh Kumar at Value Stock Guide, who started the carnival a year and a half after he began blogging about personal finance. During that period, while he got to know similar bloggers, his own blog found its voice—a fusion of personal finance and lifestyle, vaguely similar to what I do at Control Your Cash.

As a submitter to other carnivals, Shailesh had trouble finding ones whose area of interest overlapped his own. His posts were too personal finance for the lifestyle carnivals, too lifestyle for the personal finance carnivals. So he created his own, an amalgam of the two. As Shailesh puts it, “There was no one carnival that addressed this super-genre.”

Leveraging the goodwill and/or notoriety that come with commenting on other sites, the Carnival of Wealth’s founder received 20-odd submissions for each of the first few editions. Most of those were via invitation, rather than from bloggers who read the announcement of the carnival and then decided to submit.

As a carnival builds, a combination of momentum and prodding helps it grow. It requires haranguing your submitters to tweet about the carnival, and to share it on social networks, which they’ll probably be happy to do anyway. Simple courtesy dictates that anyone who submits to a carnival should offer a reciprocal link, but even the promise of a unilateral link is enough to attract other bloggers and help a carnival grow.

(If you’re wondering, I had originally offered to host the Carnival of Wealth once a month. And did so. Then, after a few months, I got the opportunity to take it over permanently and jumped at the chance.)

How it works

The mechanics of hosting a carnival are straightforward. To keep the submitters happy, I’ve made it easy for them to submit their posts. My carnival has a dedicated page at BlogCarnival.com, with rules for submitting and a firm deadline. Each submitter includes a summary of her post, and if it fits (many of them don’t come close), I run it.

BlogCarnival.com sends me the submissions as they’re received, which I then hold onto and leave unopened until I’m ready to begin assembling. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s inefficient to deal with each submission as it arrives, and then add it to the carnival if it passes muster. Better to let the submissions collect until the deadline, then address them en masse in one concentrated writing session.

Hosting other people’s work in a carnival doesn’t have to mean surrendering the tone that distinguishes your blog. Far from it. I make it a point to showcase every edition of the Carnival of Wealth in the same style that my site is infamous for.

The best part of hosting a carnival is that it guarantees me a slew of readers who wouldn’t normally visit my site. Fans of the submitters who make the cut will leave comments on Control Your Cash, and hopefully bookmark it.

The Carnival of Wealth is anomalous in that the same blog hosts it every week. Most carnivals rotate among a series of bloggers, each of whom gets penciled into the schedule months in advance, whereas I seldom incorporate guest hosts. (In fact, I only do so when the Carnival of Wealth conflicts with my spot in the rotation for someone else’s carnival.)

I’d rather have people visit my site. And I’d rather have my readers know they can find the Carnival of Wealth as a regularly scheduled feature on Control Your Cash, as opposed to anywhere else. Plus the carnival roundups are just plain fun to write, and doing so gives me the opportunity to read some brilliant posts that I’d never have discovered otherwise.

Hosting a carnival can be a lot of work in the initial stages. But it’s work with a huge capacity for leverage. When you host a carnival, it fosters relationships with like-minded bloggers and readers. Done correctly, it can’t help but make your blog grow.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Build Keyword Density the Right Way

This guest post is by Bill Achola of SeoArticleWriteService.com.

It would be great if the only purpose of your copywriting was to sell your products. Unfortunately your copy often has to serve two purposes: attracting visitors to your site, and then selling to them.

Attracting traffic using copy requires using search engine optimizing techniques, and adding keywords. Using the topic of baby food, in this post we will look at a few ways to include keywords in your copy.

Keep it natural

The key to successful keyword optimizing in your copy is to keep it natural. As Greg McFarlane points out in his post Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft, people often make the mistake of overloading the text with keywords, and replacing every generic key term with the keyword or phrase. This will not give you high-quality persuasive copy, as you can see in the following example.

Keyword = baby foods

As new mothers we all want our babies to have the best baby foods; we spend a lot of time researching good baby foods recipes and making sure we buy high-quality baby foods. Giving your child a good start in life with healthy baby foods ad not giving them baby foods that they are not ready for, is one of the major concerns of new parents.

The above example is not only annoying to read, parts of it have been made grammatically incorrect in an attempt to use the keyword as often as possible. While you might get a lot of traffic to your website from parents searching for the keyword “baby foods,” they will quickly move onto another site when they start reading.

Make sure you select your keywords carefully so that they fit in easily with the subject of your copywriting. This will improve the flow of your copy, increasing your sales conversions.

Here are three ways to include keywords naturally.

1. Break up keywords phrases

It can be hard to fit a long keyword phrase into your copywriting. I was once asked to use the key phrase “baby food recipes 6 months.” This is an awkward phrase to use altogether, but it works well when split up by punctuation. Search engines read straight punctuation marks such as full stops, commas and colons so think how you can use these to split your keyword phrase.

Keyword phrase = baby food recipes 6 months

Look no further for tasty and healthy baby food recipes. 6 months is the perfect time to start introducing your bay to new tastes and textures.

The above example keeps the keyword phrase intact so it will be recognized by the search engines, but does not seem out of place or awkward.

2. Lengthen the keyword phrase

Some phrases are difficult to include because they are singular when you would usually use a plural or vice versa. Adding words to the end of the phrase can help you overcome this problem as well as giving you inspiration for your writing.

Keyword = food for baby

  • Food for bay weaning
  • Food for baby meals
  • Food for baby taste buds

Adding a word or two to the end of this phrase makes it less grammatically awkward and helps you to fit it into your copy writing sounding repetitive.

3. Use a keyword phrase that describes what your product is not

Take the example of the keyword “cheap baby food.” When a parent enters this search term they are looking for good value, high-quality baby food that they do not have to pay very much for.

However, if you describe your product as cheap baby food, it will give the impression that it is poor quality, and therefore not great for their precious child. Avoid this by using the keyword to describe what your product is not.

Keyword = cheap baby food

Try out one of our healthy, easy-to-make recipes as an alternative cheap baby food. Once you’ve tasted one of these nutritious homemade meals, you’ll never want to feed your little one cheap baby food again.

Using the above techniques will ensure your copywriting remains natural and that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to keyword density.

A final tip: write your copy first and then go back with your keywords in mind and place them where appropriate. This will make your copy flow more naturally, and will appeal both to your readers and the search engines.

Visit the blog at SeoArticleWriteService.com to learn how Bill Achola can write high conventional marketing content for bloggers and affiliate marketers.

Un-dull Your Blog Posts: Four Fiction Techniques to Try

This guest post is by Harry Bingham of Writers’ Workshop.

Most blog posts are dull.

They might be well-informed, offer interesting insights, teach useful things—but they can do all those things and still be dull.

Although readers do come to blogs to learn, they are only ever two clicks away from rival offerings, which means you’re under constant pressure to retain those eyeballs.

And eyeball-retention is a learnable, replicable skill. I’m a novelist, after all. People don’t come to my books in order to learn anything: they come for entertainment and will desert me if I don’t satisfy their expectations. So I—and my peers—made darn sure we satisfy them. What’s more, the approaches that work for books are eminently transferable to blogs.

Story

One driver that always works is story. Let’s suppose you’re writing about an SEO technique which yields, on average, a 30% traffic increase over a three month period. Clearly that technique is, in principle, going to be of interest to your readers.

But isn’t that presentation dull? I mean, don’t you feel your heart contract just a little when you hear those stats? You know you need to read the post but, gosh, it doesn’t excite you.

Contrast that with a post that starts with a story. Jed Edwards is a fishmeal seller who’s struggling to make a go of his business in recessionary times. He hits on a new SEO technique that doubles his online traffic in the space of three months. He renegotiates a bank loan on the back of a new business plan and for the first time in years, things start to look up.

Now that snippet still feels a little poor. We want more detail, more personalization, more that is specific to Jed and his business. But enrich that one paragraph to, let’s say, three and you have a human, empathic connection. Your reader is hooked.

Of course at that point, you’ll need to backtrack. You’ll need to say that the Jed’s experience is unusually positive, that 30% increases are the norm, not 100% ones. And you’ll need to get into the nuts and bolts of the technique. But all that doesn’t matter. You’ve got the reader into your article. You’ve won their trust. Your task isn’t finished—but it’s very well started.

The trick to this approach is to start (and ideally finish) with the personal, the specific, the detailed. You can see one example of this approach on our blog here, but you can also view countless examples of it in the newspapers. If a journalist is writing about the Japanese tsunami, for example, they’ll likely start by picking out the experience of one particular family, or one particular village. Start with the particular, move to the general, and move back to the particular with your close.

Controversy

Another good alternative is to go for controversy. You don’t necessarily need to believe 100% in the position you are presenting. Obviously, you need to have some real belief what you’re saying, but it’s okay to allow yourself to express things more strongly than you truly believe. That’s not about lying: it’s about helping to clarify things for readers. By making strong statements, you can let your readers test out what they do and don’t believe on a subject.

In the end, a controversial stance is simply a way to keep the reader interested in what follows. A recent guest-blogger on our own writing-related website made a big splash with an argument that alcohol could be used to promote creativity. It’s a controversial position—but that post scored almost three times as many hits as one of our regular posts. (His post can be found here.)

Facts

You wouldn’t think that novelists spend much time wrestling with facts, but we do! Historical fiction, for example, nearly always relies on a novelist finding some extraordinary aspect of the past and bringing it to life via story. But if the background material weren’t compelling, the book wouldn’t be either. Philippa Gregory’s international hit book (and movie) The Other Boleyn Girl worked primarily by bringing an extraordinary aspect of King Henry VIII’s colorful life to public view.

You can do the same. Most pro bloggers recycle the same old facts. You need to avoid that. You need to locate the specific, unknown fact that throws a new light on the issue you are commenting on. You don’t need to embellish that fact or wrap it in fancy packaging. If your fact is strong enough, you can hook a post to it without any of that.

Take, for example, Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire. Countless commentators regurgitated Amazon’s sales statistics—to such an extent that no blog advertising this fact could be of real interest. So Clint Boulton did some original research (which he discusses here) and transformed a dull post into a value-added one.

Style and humor

A fourth—difficult—approach relies on writing style and humor. It’s hard, because you need real writerly skills. You can’t just bolt them on, the way you can with the first couple of approaches. And humor that falls flat is much worse than no humor at all.

On the other hand, there are replicable skills here too. Economy, for starters. Are you saying something in 12 words that could be said in eight? If so, your blog post risks being 50% longer than it ought to be. Pedantic micro-corrections to your text can build into a large macro difference in interest.

Cliché is another grievous sin against good writing. Every cliché kills—just a little—the reader’s interest in your text. If you spot examples of cliché in your text (and that means remembering to look for them!), you can correct the problem in one of two ways. Either come up with your own original striking phrase or choose a simple but accurate replacement. So you could change “She was grasping at straws” into either of these alternatives:

She grew desperate, a drowning woman in search of a lifebelt.
Tiny facts now filled her with unreasonable hope.

Both of those options are a big improvement on the cliché.

Examples

Finally, humans aren’t particularly rational creatures. Logically, it makes good sense to state general principles and let readers figure it out from there. But readers want examples. They make those general principles leap to life.

The joy of hyperlinks means that you don’t even have to slow your prose down with reporting those examples: you can just point to them and move on. The better written and more joyous the posts you point to, the more joy you bring into your own post too. It’s like love: you create more by sharing.

Have you used any of these techniques to un-dull your writing? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Harry Bingham is a novelist. He also runs the Writers’ Workshop which offers help with all aspects of writing a book.

Why You Should Create Your Own Graphics for Your Blog

This guest post is by Naveen Jayawardena of sleepWRITER.

When I decided to start a blog on sleep habits, I wanted to try something different. As any aspiring blogger, I was trying to stand out from the crowd. And I did it by creating my own graphics.

Now I run my blog exclusively with “home-made” graphics. My readers love it and I enjoy making graphics as much as writing posts.

The alam bully, who features on Naveen's SleepWriter.com website

I am not a professional graphic designer. So I can assure you that most people can learn how to make graphics with a little practise.

I am a self-taught amateur graphic artist. And I started out from scratch. And I will tell you how to do it yourself.

I use “home-made” graphics for each and every one of my blog posts. If you are wondering whether this is worth all the trouble, then consider these benefits you can get from using graphics:

  1. Graphics blend in with the blog design more easily than photos. I have limited my blog design to few colors and could not have achieved this without the use of graphics.
  2. It’s much cheaper than buying photos or graphics.
  3. It introduces your own, unique voice to the your posts via graphics.
  4. You can come up with the right picture for the posts every time.
  5. You can explain difficult concepts with infographics.
  6. Making graphics is fun. Drawing a few sketches after writing a post can help you relax and think creatively.

How do you start?

If you’re an absolute beginner, I suggest you start simply. Don’t worry about your graphics not being lifelike. The idea is to create your own style, with which others can identify your graphics.

You can draw something on paper and scan it, or take a picture of it from a digital camera. This is a very basic method of using graphics. You can draw cartoons and add lists in your own handwriting.

At some point you need to learn to use graphics software. I use Adobe Illustrator, but there are plenty of other software packages that can do a good job. I suggest you stick to one and learn it well.

You can learn from books, web tutorials, video tutorials and by attending classes. There is a range of brands under each category, and most of them cover the basics. I used video tutorials but I feel that having someone to show you the ropes can help you learn faster. Take time to learn the basic functions, and remember that learning keyboard short-cuts can save you a lot of time in future.

Once you have the basic skills in place, you can explore on your own. But if you are serious about graphics, then there are plenty of online tutorials that teach you, step-by-step, how to create advanced graphics. I use online tutorials to sharpen my skills and also to learn new “tricks.”

To create good graphics, you need to be a good observer. Look at the graphics on stock graphic collections and libraries. What techniques are they using? Can you replicate them? Look at the graphics and cartoons that appear on newspapers and websites and learn.

Once you are confident in making graphics, then you can adopt your own style and technique. When I write a post, I also think of the graphics which can go with it. If I don’t get a good idea for a graphic, I finish my writing and visit again with a fresh perspective for a graphic idea.

What are the drawbacks?

It would be unfair if I told you only the good side of creating your own graphics. I have encountered few disadvantages of using graphics for my blog:

  1. Detailed graphics take time. This can affect your posting routine. But with practice, you can create them faster. You can recycle old graphics to save time.
  2. It takes time to learn to make graphics. It took me few years to master the art of graphics and I still learn. It is not a quick fix.
  3. It may not suit all types of blogs. But it is worth a try.

Graphics can be a nice addition to your blog. I hope I inspired at least a few of you to bring your inner artist to your blogs! Please do share your own experiences using graphics on your blogs.

Naveen Jayawardena is a doctor by profession and blogs during his free time. You can find plenty of graphics and sleep tips at sleepWRITER.

Forget Blogging as Usual: 5 Outrageous Tips for Super-sized Attention

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

It happens every minute. About six thousand new blog posts are published. That’s a lot.

Blogs have given enormous power to people. It’s given them a chance to have a voice in a world that used to be controlled by gatekeepers like traditional media. While I’m happy about this, this makes it very hard to get attention in the online world.

Do you want attention for your blog? What about super-sized attention—the kind you get when someone likes Drudge or Time magazine links to your blog because of your work? Well, here are some tips on how to do that.

Super-cool user-generated sites

One of the most popular sites on the web is a user-generated site: I can has cheez burger. Sure, it’s silly, but it’s a valuable lesson: people want to laugh and share stuff for an audience, no matter what it is.

Another site that does this really well is Dear Blank Please Blank. This user generated site is simple. All you do is fill out a short form, click if you want to be notified when it’s published and then submit. That’s it.

While I think this site is genius for the simplicity of the idea and ease of execution, I think it’s simply beyond genius when it comes to the way readers can interact. For instance, after reading the entry, you can choose five options that describe what you feel about it. “How Dare They,” “You’re a Douche,” “Hilarious,” “Like This,” and “Umm, WTF?!”

Of course, you can also comment. The point for you is to think of outrageously different and unique ways of generating user content, because sites like Dear Blank Please Blank show that people want to contribute a lot.

Super-sized photos

According to the 2011 Technorati State of the Blog report, 90 percent of bloggers use some kind of multimedia on their site. This shouldn’t surprise you, but the most popular form is photos:

With this in mind, just putting photos on your blog or website postings isn’t going to get you a lot of attention. The Boston Globe’s Photoblog is one of the most unique blogs in 2011 because of its use of photos. At over 990 pixels wide, these photos are big and bold and are hard to ignore. They look good when they show up in my RSS reader.

A lesser known but equally powerful blog, Fiked, peppers each post with dozens of powerful photos. The copy is lean, so you move very quickly through each post, but the posts are also very long. Think of it as a list post on steroids.

Another fantastic site is Cabin Porn. They take it even further than The Boston Globe and each photograph fills just about the entire screen.

Super-sized posts

One of the things I try to do over at Quick Sprout is give readers a very technical and detailed understanding of my topic. This is the best way to go about it, especially since the Panda and Farmer updates, which essentially targeted sites and blogs with lots of low-quality content.

Besides, because of the glut of blogs and post, people are not going to pay attention to half-page, half-baked posts. They are not going to bookmark or share them either.

You need to create high-quality, interesting content if you want people to read, comment and bookmark. Here’s a short list of questions you can ask yourself that will help you create technical and detailed blog posts:

  • Is what you wrote original?
  • Can you provide practical advice or relevant research?
  • Did you correct any spelling, grammar or factual errors?
  • Is the topic of interest to a reader or a machine?
  • Is the article well edited?
  • Does your site have authority?
  • Are you providing insightful or interesting information beyond the obvious?
  • Would you bookmark your article?
  • Is your article cluttered with call-to-actions, ads or promotions?
  • Would a magazine or journal print your article?
  • Is your article short, weak and useless?
  • How much time and attention did you give to detail?
  • Would someone complain if they saw this article?

Writing high-quality content takes time. But if you ask yourself those 13 questions each time before you write your chances of creating great content will improve.

Cut back your blogging frequency

It used to be that everyone would tell you to blog every day to get the attention you need. Believe me, it’s not easy to keep up that kind of production. Eventually you’ll wear out of ideas and produce crap.

But it also has an effect on your readers. One of the things I learned over the years is that the frequency of blog posts affects interaction. In some of the tests I’ve done, when you deliver long posts that are detailed on a less than frequent basis, like once a week, my readership and number of comments rise. I think it’s because you give space for readers to read, comment and absorb what you wrote.
You do have to keep in mind that this flies in the face of research by Hubspot in their 2011 State of Inbound Marketing. According to their report, bloggers who blog daily will get five times as much traffic than those who blog once a week or less.

Personally, this hasn’t been my experience, so I recommend you test what frequency works best for you.

Wage war against an enemy

Whatever you’re feelings for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, you have to admit that he was a genius when it came to drawing battle lines.

There were enough people in the world who felt like their government was keeping secrets from them, especially in the U.S, and Assange used that anxiety to create an information empire and become an international celebrity.

That tactic is also a common theme when it comes to copywriting. In his “Influential Writing” course, copywriting legend Dan Kennedy used to talk about the “rally against a common enemy” strategy. If you can identify a person, industry, organization or thing (like a disease, for instance) that enough people feel threatened by, you can create a following by waging war against that person or thing.

Think of the story of David and Goliath. We root for the small guy. A consumer advocate blog like The Consumerist is a good example of going after a common enemy. You can even think of Drudge as being an advocate against a common enemy, namely traditional media.

Conclusion

If you want to get a lot of attention for your blog, then you need to start ignoring the traditional ways of blogging and embrace some more outrageous, out-of-the-box ideas. Hopefully the above examples and tips will help you do that.

What other outrageous ideas can you share about getting massive attention for your blog?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Why You Should Wear The 6 Thinking Hats On Your Blog

This guest post is by Nischala Murthy Kaushik.

Wearing the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog helps in generating valuable, interesting and diverse content.

What are the 6 Thinking Hats?

Dr. Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. And once they’re learned, the tools can be applied immediately!

The 6 Thinking Hats

Image copyright Lisa F. Young - Fotolia.com

The premise of this concept is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be identified, deliberately accessed and hence used in a structured way to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues.

De Bono identifies six distinct states in which the brain can be “sensitized”. In each of these states, the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered.

His 6 Thinking Hats are:

  1. the White Hat, which calls for information that’s known or needed: “The facts, just the facts.”
  2. the Yellow Hat, which symbolizes brightness and optimism; under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit
  3. the Black Hat, which is judgment—the devil’s advocate that spots the difficulties and dangers, and where things might go wrong; this is probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused
  4. the Red Hat, which signifies feelings, hunches and intuition; when using this hat, you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates
  5. the Green Hat, which focuses on creativity, the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas; it’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions
  6. the Blue Hat, which is used to manage the thinking process; it’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats guidelines are observed.

How to wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog

Blogging is a testimonial of an individual’s thoughts, creativity, and literary expressions. And the quality of the content you create on your blogs is directly linked to the quality of your thoughts. Given that de Bono’s principles focus on mindful thinking, the Thinking Hats concept is highly relevant to blogging.

In my journey as a blogger for more than two years, I have published 1000+ blogs and have been featured in several forums, communities, and reputable sites. And when I look at the body of work that I have created, I realize today that I have consciously and unconsciously worn these many hats in my blogging.

The Six Thinking Hats can help you create diverse content on your blog, keep it vibrant, enjoy blogging, and create a meaningful relationship with your readers. Here’s how.

The White Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs are based on hard data and facts. This can be information that you personally know, or links to articles, research, and literature available in published sources.

This is important because:

  • You tend to read and learn about key data and facts before you can blog about them
  • Sometimes the data itself can alter your and others views, comprehension, opinions, judgments, perceptions, and conclusions on a subject
  • you have logged this data for your future reference, and also the reference of your readers
  • you build credibility when you support your views and opinions with hard facts and data
  • readers place more value on the content you generate, since your blog is not purely based on your thoughts and feelings
  • the chance that you’ll be quoted or referenced in other places is significantly higher than if you never wore the White Hat.

The Yellow Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs gives a positive, bright and optimistic view. This is important because:

  • when you write positive stuff, you tend to think and feel positively
  • when anyone reads your blog, they take-away a positive thought, message or emotion
  • readers are more likely to share a positive post in their sphere of influence—the positivity just spreads and magnifies along the way! And it all started with your blog!

The Black Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs highlights the difficulties, challenges, risks, dangers, and negatives of your topic. This is important because:

  • this is the reality of life and it needs to be reflected in your blogs; otherwise, you may appear to be in your own dream world, far from reality
  • having all positive, data-driven content does not give the real holistic picture for any topic, hence it is imperative to wear this hat.

The Red Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs articulates your feelings, hunches, and intuitions. This is important because:

  • it makes you think, introspect, and feel
  • it also gets your readers to think, introspect, and feel
  • it makes you connect within—to draw from your creative imagination
  • it makes you acknowledge, recognize, and appreciate the power of your sixth sense.

The Green Hat

Ensure that some content in your blog is creative, innovative, novel, and radical. This could present your own views or thoughts or something you’ve read and would like to share with your readers. It’s important because:

  • when you read and hear such things, they transport you to a different plane—a different world in which you are able to view the world through a very different lens; this usually gives you a radically different perspective on any topic, and on life itself
  • when you immerse yourself in creative, innovative, novel and radical readings, thoughts and ideas, you tend to dream and visualize beyond the realm of the known.

The Blue Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs is about processes. This is important because:

  • it makes you clear in your own mind about processes that should be followed
  • it gives you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and understanding on subjects which you are aware of and strengthens your own personal brand.

Do you wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog?

You can wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog for many purposes:

  • to choose a topic that you will blog about
  • to write the title of your post
  • to create the actual blog content itself

You can wear one or many hats in a single blog post. But ensure that over a period of time—a month, for example—you wear at least four of the hats in your blog. We all wear the different thinking hats at some point, so the more you wear, the more likely you’ll be to meet the varying needs of your readers.

Do you wear all six thinking hats in your blog? Tell us in the comments.

Nischala Murthy Kaushik currently works at Wipro. She blogs at VERVE: The Quintessence of my Life, Nischala’s Space, Thoughts & Expressions, 12Most.com, PaulWriter, Wipro & Mindblogs. She has completed her MBA from IIMB, one of the premier Business schools in India. She takes pride in being a mother, philosopher, writer, scholar and guru of life for life. You can follow her on Twitter @ nimu9.

Whose Blog First?

This guest post is by Shakirah Dawud of Deliberate Ink.

Writing for three blogs on a regular basis, with the odd request for a guest post elsewhere, my writing plans are already tight. But because I write for overlapping fields of interest, my  plans can also tangle. The most common:

  • Snag A: The topic could be of use to any blog I write for. Should I send it to my friend’s blog, where the people know me better, or let it air at the writing forum where it’ll snag more eyeballs?
  • Snag B: If I don’t write about this topic I’m gonna bust wide open, but it’s not appropriate for my audience’s needs, my friend won’t be able to post it till it’s no longer relevant, and I don’t think enough people will see it over a the writer’s group.
  • Snag C: I have one blog topic on my mind right now, and only one. But I have three blogs to post to this week.

Whose blog first?

It might seem obvious the answer is my blog, but that’s not always the case. Depending on who the audience is, what the post is addressing, and the characteristics of the other blogs, it can be tough to decide.

Look at the post. When you have a post that may fit more than one blog, the post itself can sometimes tell you which blog it belongs to. What level of the industry or topic are you addressing? What point are you making? What image are you projecting?

Look at the blogs. Each of the blogs you write for may lie within the same area of interest or industry. But the reason you chose to write for them is because of their differences. What are those differences? Community size, reach, posting schedule, and general atmosphere often make your pieces self-selecting.
Look at the audiences. Think of one reader from each of your blogs. Don’t make one up. Literally find the readers who interact most often with comments and shares. Ask yourself which piece each person would most enjoy reading, and don’t hesitate to give it to him.

Readers have rights. It’s unfair to try shoehorning a post into anyplace it doesn’t belong (at least, not without a good excuse). That’s why you should look at the other factors involved when deciding where to post what. But what happens if you have something valuable to share, and nowhere to share it? Network with your fellow bloggers and find the right fit for a guest post.

Plan ahead. Do this only if you want to avoid getting into any posting snag in the first place. Create a chart including each of your blogs and the dates you’ll be posting. Fill in each date with more than one topic idea. This way there’s no worry about topics that overlap because there’s always an extra. Pick one and start writing, tangle-free.

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.