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Why Your Blog Isn’t Growing and How to Make It A Success

How To Build A Successful BlogThis is a guest contribution from Gary Dek from StartABlog123.com.

If your blog is dependent on Google search engine rankings like most websites, you should know that one record month of traffic can easily be followed by a record low. Growing your blog’s traffic and revenue requires leveraging traffic and design strategies to build and retain visitors, eventually converting them into loyal readers and followers. Otherwise, you risk the chance of starting from zero after an algorithm update.

Here are some possible reasons your blog is failing to capitalize on its current readership, and what you can do about it.

The Cornerstones of Building A Following

You are not actively seeking growth. If you update your blog regularly with comprehensive, high-quality content and are not seeing growth in terms of traffic from returning visitors, then you are doing something wrong. Chances are, your traffic is comprised of one-time visitors who forget all about you after they’ve exited your blog.

What can you do to maintain a connection?

  1. Collect emails. If you don’t collect email addresses from your readers, you can’t get those readers to come back to your blog on a regular basis. You can use these emails to send a message each time you publish a new post. Alternatively, you can send a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter highlighting your best posts within that period. A mailing list can even offer a targeted audience who may be interested in a new product or service you’ve developed, leading to a higher conversion rate than a general blog post. Whatever your reason for collecting emails, doing it will keep your readership updated and constantly interacting with your brand. Word of caution: make sure you ask for permission before you add an email to a newsletter or mailing list. Like you, I absolutely hate it when blogs add me as a subscriber when I input my email for another purpose. The last thing you want is to be labeled or even reported as a spammer.
  2. Build a community. Blogging has always been all about people interacting on a more personal level compared to traditional news outlets. If your blog is not growing, then you may have issues with engagement. Are you getting comments? Are you responding to comments? Do you have a group of people who talk to each other through your blog? Do you ask for user input at the end of each blog post? Is your comment system intuitive and easy to use? Is your content original, personal, and addressing the needs and wants of your readers? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when building a community around your blog.
  3. Get on social media. People spend more time on social networking platforms than other sites. In 2014, Facebook reported that the average user spends 17 minutes on the site every day. If you want to get a reader’s attention, then you need to have a social media presence. Start with one or two platforms – Facebook and Twitter – and build your presence there. Share your posts. Ask your readers for their opinions or experiences. Pose a question. Share other experts’ guides. You don’t even need to stay on your own Facebook page – interact with other blogging authorities in the niche and build relationships. If your contributions are insightful, you may even be invited to guest blog. The traffic you build through your social sharing can never be taken away from you by Google’s algorithm.

Are You Insecure About Your Knowledge or Blogging Skills?

You lack conviction. Some of the most common indications that you don’t believe in yourself or your ability to offer value through your blog content include:

  • You don’t think you’re a writer because you didn’t major in journalism or creative writing.
  • You question your authority to write about a certain topic.
  • You think, “Who am I to express my opinion strongly to the public?”
  • You’re afraid to let your personality shine in your writing.
  • You’re a perfectionist and afraid to post anything but a 10,000 word “masterpiece” that covers every angle, argument, or consideration.

If you consistently feel self-doubt, then you need to take a step back and remember why you started blogging in the first place. The barriers to entry when starting a blog are so low that you could have written about anything, but you chose this niche for a reason.

Either you had first-hand experience and knowledge in the industry and you believed you could make a difference or you were passionate about learning something new and wanted to document your research and journey.

The former is common in the SEO industry, where online marketers who worked for agencies or themselves building and selling sites decide they want to finally share all their SEO knowledge with the masses. The latter is common in the personal finance niche, where individuals document their own troubles managing money and share their journey to financial independence.

If you do not have that confidence and passion anymore, you can do all the research you want and spew thousand-word posts, but your writing will not resonate with your audience.

Blogging Isn’t Just About Writing. Remember, you don’t have to be a poet to create a useful article. As the respected author E.B. White said, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” You need to find that confidence and believe that you have something to offer your readers. Don’t let your lack of training as a writer bring you down. All things can be learned, but passion can’t be faked.

This lack of self-belief can also lead to the next problem.

Your blog is bland. Tepid. Has no personality. There are millions of blogs out there and the number of online visitors is finite. You need to have something unique to attract readers and grow your audience. Since more than one person is ever writing about the same topic, you must add your own unique touch or contribution.

Some ways to do this:

  1. Inject your real-life personality in your writing. If you’re outspoken and unabashed, then write that way. If you aren’t, force yourself to be and share all the things you’ve always wanted to say but didn’t.
  2. Don’t shy away from controversy. Even though you may not have a confrontational personality, discussing controversial issues can help your blog get attention. People like controversy, and they like discussing it. Whether they agree with you or not, it doesn’t matter. What counts is that you get them reading, sharing, and commenting. However, always think before you “speak” and don’t make a fool of yourself.
  3. Talk to your readers as if they were right in front of you. Much like letting your personality shine through your writing, you also need to remember that your readers are real people and not just numbers in your analytics report. Write as if you were having a conversation with one of them. Create something that you yourself will want to read and share.
  4. It’s okay to be weird. Let’s be honest – we’re all weird. I’m OCD about cleanliness and organization. Everything on my desk is parallel or perpendicular to each other. Everything on my laptop is titled a certain way and saved for optimal convenience and efficiency, including my music and movies. When setting my thermostat or the volume on the TV, I prefer even numbers or ones ending in 5. Those of you who share my “weirdness” may feel an instant connection with me because we share the same “problems” ;). Weird is definitely more eye-catching than bland.

Treat Your Blog Like A Business

Everything you offer is free. There is nothing wrong with giving away free content, products, or services. But if you want to grow a blog and make money online, you need to train your readers not to expect everything for free. Sometimes the most valuable information or tools require an investment of your time and money to develop, and you will need to take that into consideration.

Nevertheless, you should understand that “paying” doesn’t always involve money. Many readers have an aversion to shelling out money for content, especially if you are not a big name yet or have given everything for free up till now. Fortunately, you can achieve growth in other ways.

One way is to show only a snippet of a long-form resource. Make sure that the preview is interesting enough to make readers want to read the entire resource. Here comes the caveat – in order for the reader to see the whole article, you ask them to tweet or share the URL on Facebook. Not only do you provide something of value, but you also get something in return: more exposure. Similarly, you can require an email address for your mailing list.

This strategy isn’t innovative and new for 2014, but it does work and can provide a way to constantly keep in touch with your readership, as discussed earlier in this post.

You’re not taking things seriously. You most probably started blogging as a hobby. Then one day, you installed AdSense on your blog and started making a couple dollars a day. Several months went by and that part-time income started growing to an amount that made you realize the potential of your blog.

The problem is that some bloggers who want to succeed still don’t take blogging all that seriously. They think that it’s just writing and publishing whenever they want. And when they analyze their websites, they are subjective and passive instead of being honest and critical with themselves.

Here are some things you can do to take your blog to the next level by taking it more seriously.

Be consistent. Consistency is vital to your blog’s success. You should maintain an editorial calendar or simply choose to post Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Consistency means being in it for the long haul. Don’t rest on your accomplishments for the past month – set new goals and keep working.

Manage your time well. If you want blogging to be a source of income, then you need to run your blog like a business. That means you need to learn to manage your time and have a good work-life balance. Set work hours, and set aside time to spend with your friends and family. When you know you have all day to accomplish a task, you will likely procrastinate. Alternatively, when I’m feeling burned out, I like to go on vacation or visit a nice part of town. Having fun or observing other successful people motivates me to get there too.

Always Hold Yourself Accountable

I feel this is where a lot of people fail, whether they are bloggers, entrepreneurs, or employees. Do you want to appear to be or feel successful, or do you want your dreams to be a reality? You can blame your blog’s stalled growth on Google, Facebook, competing bloggers, or your hosting company, but ultimately, you are the boss.

You are the master of your own fate, and that is one of the best feelings in the world. Except for extenuating circumstances, your blog’s success begins and ends with you. This can either empower and motivate you or cripple you.

As a final thought, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twight:

“Modern man is conditioned to expect instant gratification, but any success or triumph realized quickly, with only marginal effort, is necessarily shallow. Meaningful achievement takes time, hard work, persistence, patience, proper intent and self-awareness. The path to success is punctuated by failure, consolidation, and renewed effort.”

Author Bio: Gary Dek is the founder of StartABlog123.com, which provides a free step-by-step tutorial on starting and growing a blog. He is passionate about helping new and professional bloggers build sustainable online businesses via content and social marketing.

ProBlogger Event 2014 – Wrap Up

It is hard to believe but the 2014 ProBlogger Training event is already last month and if I’m honest with you – I’m still reeling from it a little.

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What an amazing two days!

This was our second year of holding the event on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia but it was the first time we’d had over 500 attendees all in the one room.

When I came up with the idea for the first PBEVENT back in 2010 I envisaged a small group of bloggers gathering around a board table in a meeting room somewhere but had no idea of what would happen to the event – or the Aussie blogosphere in the following five years.

Both have exploded – in a good way!

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This year’s event took a good 11 months to plan for – with the help of an amazing team. We had 550 attendees, over 30 speakers (four internationals and the rest from around Australia), three new niche networking events, three new ‘accelerator’ workshops, a special partner event with Aweber, and one crazy networking party (with a nautical theme).

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Our international speakers this year were amazing. Pat Flynn, Rand Fishkin, Geraldine DeRuiter and Chris Ducker all made the big trip down under and all completely brought it to their sessions – delivering high quality presentations and really practical advice.

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Our Aussie speakers also blew our socks off with their storytelling, advice and generosity.

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The Australian blogosphere has continue to grow and mature in the last 12 months and the spirit in the room over our two days of training was incredible. This year almost two thirds of attendees were with us for their first time, most of whom were in their first year of blogging. Something is happening in Australia!

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Surprise and Delights

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This year we did a few of surprise and delight moments through the conference. Virgin Australia gave three attendees a total of 800,000 velocity points, Olympus Australia gave away their amazing OMD camera, and Tourism and Events Queensland gave one attendee the cost of getting to and attending our conference back to them. Oh – and then there was the free massages and coffee from Bupa and the networking events from L’Oreal (where I got made up with smokey eyes – see below), Annie Sloan and Pure Harvest.

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We also surprised those attendees who have been to all five PBEVENTS with free tickets to next year’s event, a couple of attendees with a trip to Melbourne to spend the day with the ProBlogger team to help take their blog to the next level, and another with a date night for her and her husband at a hotel in Perth along with free tickets to next years PBEVENT in Perth and next year’s main event.

We also had opportunity spend time with The Reach Foundation and hear from one of their wonderful young crew members to tell us about the work they do with thousands of Aussie young people.

I also had a few moments of surprise – one being on the last night when my team all appeared at drinks with Darren Rowse Tattoos!

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Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

PBEVENT is fast becoming the highlight of my year each year – I love seeing the progression in our attendees from one year to another. Numerous bloggers who I met back in 2010-11 as brand new bloggers are now full time bloggers and launching amazing projects.

The theme of my opening keynote this year is that blogging is something that enables normal, ordinary people to do extraordinary things. In the Aussie blogosphere (as it is around the world) this is something I’ve seen hundreds of times.

In the last 12 months alone we’ve seen bloggers launching books and eBooks:

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Launching businesses and training courses:

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Experimenting with Kickstarter and Pozible campaigns:

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Developing Apps and running events:

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And that’s just scratching the surface.

Bigger than One Direction and Football

Our attendees certainly like to use social media!

PBEVENT this year knocked AFL football, Rugby and the birthday of one of the OneDirection group off the number-one trending perch on Twitter for two and a half days nationally in Australia.

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Over the two days of the event the #PBEVENT hashtag had around 15,000 tweets with over 47,000,000 impressions (over the month around the event this is closer to 80,000,000 impressions), over 3000 instagrams and since the event we’ve seen more blog posts written about the event than we can keep up with.

Following are just some of the blog posts we’ve found that give you a speaker/attendee perspective on what it’s like to attend a PBEVENT.

But before I get to those posts – I want to say another huge thank you to the team who helped run this year’s event. To Jasmin, Nicole and Laney who returned this year to form our core team. To those around them who put in many hours including Caroline, Liz, Shayne, Stacey, Yvonne, Cheryl, Jade, Brooke, Grove, Nathalie, Martine, Louisa Claire and to the many others who pitched in and lent a hand throughout the event.

Here’s just some of the team behind this year’s event pictured int he Olympus booth at our nautical networking party (yes, that’s me as Jack Sparrow). See more shots from this Photo Booth here.

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All our speakers and panelists – thanks so much for your time and generosity.

Also a huge thanks to our sponsors (all mentioned above) who helped to keep our event as what I hear over and over again is one of the most affordable and value-packed events in Australia.

Lastly to our attendees this year and to the wider Australian Blogosphere – your support and encouragement drive us on to keep improving PBEVENT. As I said in closing this year’s event we’re already planning the 2015 events (yes there will be more than one).

We’re hoping to run a full day event early in 2015 in Perth and another multi day event at a similar time next year (location to be announced) as well as some smaller meet up events in other capital cities early in the year.

What Our Attendees Thought About this Year’s Event

As promised above – here are just some of the blog posts we’ve found about this year’s event from attendees and speakers. Thanks to Jade Craven for helping me get this list together! Enjoy!

 

From Presenters:

5 Unique Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic

5 unique ways to increase your blog

This is a guest contribution from SEO expert Zach Radford.

Today, you don’t gain blog traffic by paying for backlinks or by swapping them like the old days. Instead, you need to focus on creating quality content that is beneficial to your visitors.

We know that. But how do you do it? And do it consistently?

The content should solve main problems faced by your reader. It should be actionable, specific and relevant to the audience. If you do this, your audience will come to trust your site, and visit it regularly looking for new content. They will also engage with you, which helps you to improve your blog.

To that end, here are five new ways of looking at increasing your blog traffic.

Create quality content and mention other bloggers

Your blog is the main avenue for communication with your audience. While your main purpose for the blog may be to promote your business, yourself, or some other product or service, you need to focus on providing quality content to the reader. Just focus on providing information that readers will find interesting to read, without trying to be overly strategic about it. Look for trending topics in different areas and create amazing content on those topics. Your audience will not only keep coming back for more if they find your posts interesting, they will also share your posts with their friends. You also need to mention other bloggers that you follow in your posts. You can quote them if you feel the information is interesting to the reader or just mention their names in the post. This will create good relationships with the bloggers and they might return the favour. Lifting each other up has the added benefit of leading to increased traffic.

Share your blogs on social networks

This is a no-brainer, but cannot be ignored. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin are where your readers are. Give them your posts. After creating your post, you can share a link of the post through Facebook or Twitter and then ask your friends or followers to comment. This will expose your blogs to thousands of social media users and eventually lead to increase in blog traffic.

Syndicate your posts

Syndicating your blog posts will expose them to more readers. You can use RSS feed or syndicate the blog to applicable high-traffic sites. RSS feeds allow your audience to keep track of your blogs without having to bookmark it. The readers only need to open their RSS reader and all your posts will be displayed there. Syndicating your blog to high traffic sites will also popularize it. This will also give your post more credibility, which could lead to high traffic.

Involve your readers

After posting to your blog, you need to ask your readers to leave a comment after reading the blog. Research shows that people will do (mostly) what you ask of them, and will comment where they might not have before. Read the comments that are left and try to reply all of them. Readers feel more valued if they are treated well and respected by the bloggers they engage with. They will keep on visiting your site to look for more content and to engage you as well. This will also build trust with your readers.

Use Pinterest Individual or Group Board

Pinterest allows bloggers to post on individual board and collaborate by posting on contributor boards. The main benefit of pinning your blog on contributor boards is that your blog is exposed to other contributors. Those contributors also have followers who will also see your post, leading to increased traffic.

The bottom line

Your blog will attract more readers if it is of good quality. Above all, this has to be the main aim. Therefore, it is important that you focus on quality more than selling your products or promoting your business through the blog. You also need to network with other bloggers and create good relationships with them. This will help you gain new ideas of increasing traffic to your blog.

Zach Radford is an SEO content expert, working as an SEO consultant and Sales manager for the past 10 years. He strives for success in everything he sets out to do. He believes that high-quality keyword-rich content is the key to running a successful online business. Currently starting his own venture: an SEO Content Company, aiming to provide quality SEO content to the masses.

Q&A: Your Social Media Strategy

There’s not much Darren hasn’t tried in the way of social media, and using it as a complement to his blog.

In this webinar (available in full to ProBlogger.com members), he outlines his method for success, as well as answering your questions about how to make the best use of this media.

Darren covers:

  • Where social media fits in your blogging journey
  • What hierarchy of importance social media should go in (because you can’t be across everything!)
  • How to find readers
  • How to build a presence
  • How often you should update your social media channels
  • Hints for scheduling your content
  • How much time you should invest in it
  • What your status updates should say
  • Case studies of status updates that really worked

And questions sourced from the ProBlogger.com forums as well as your inquiries on Facebook and Twitter. One not to be missed!

Case Study: My Experiment with Starting a 2nd Facebook Page for My Blog

Regular readers of ProBlogger would know that over the last 18 months, I’ve put a lot of effort into Facebook – particularly by building up the Digital Photography School Facebook page.

I’ve worked hard in that time to grow both the reach and influence of the page and while there have been ups and downs along the way, it has paid off in a fairly major way – with Facebook becoming the second-biggest referrer of traffic to Digital Photography School on any given day.

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In the last year and a half I’ve developed a publishing rhythm on the dPS Facebook page that works really well. I publish five posts every day – two posts link to new tutorials on the dPS blog, while the other three link to posts from the archives (all from at least a year ago). Occasionally I throw in a discussion-related post but almost every post links back to quality tutorials on dPS.

Facebook seems to like what we do, as they seem to reward links to useful content. But more importantly to me, our readers seem to like what we’ve built with the page (which in turn helps Facebook like it too) and I’m hesitant to change up the rhythm too much.

I have experimented with more posts in a day from time to time, but five seems to be about right. When I’ve gone with more I get reader complaints that we’re posting too much.

Two Other Strategies Bloggers Are Using to Good Effect

At the recent ProBlogger Conference here in Australia, I had conversations with a number of Aussie bloggers who were also doing very well with Facebook and was interested to hear that my approach is not the only way to grow an effective Facebook strategy.

In fact I heard 4-5 bloggers say that they’d noticed that their page did best when they did a couple of things different to what we do:

  1. they post more frequently – while we post five times a day, some of the other bloggers I’ve been talking to publish up to 10 times a day (spread evenly through a 24-hour period) with little pushback from readers.
  2. they link out to other sites regularly – while at dPS we only really publish links to our own site, these other bloggers see increased reach and engagement with mixing up where they link to other people’s sites.

While I’m wanting to mess with the approach I currently have on the dPS Facebook page, I’ve been wondering since our conference how I could experiment with these approaches.

Why Not Start a Second Facebook Page?

Just over a week ago I was pondering the issue and wishing I had another site to experiment with Facebook on when it struck me – why don’t I just start a second Facebook page that relates to my site?

Most bloggers have a Facebook page dedicated to their blog – but what is to stop us from having more than one? Facebook don’t seem to have a problem with a user owning more than one page – so I began to wonder if there might be a benefit from having a second one to experiment with and potentially support my blog in a different way.

On the spur of the moment I decided to start one and quickly did so. I didn’t put a heap of thought into what to call it and impulsively decided to call it Do You Like Photography?

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The idea was to brand it as different to ‘Digital Photography School’ but to be up front about the connection to the site.

I quickly set it up and began to post to it. This is what I’ve focused upon doing:

  • posing 6 posts per day – while only up by one on my regular page and not really much higher a frequency, I decided not to go with too many yet as we’ve been recovering from our conference and on a family holiday. I do plan to increase it gradually but will probably cap it at nine a day and watch how the frequency impacts the page’s effectiveness.
  • to this point all posts are ‘link’ posts that link five times per day to other people’s photography tips/tutorials. The 6th post a day links to an old dPS post. I want this page to be tied to dPS but to be more of a place to curate content from other sites. This has the benefit of being useful to followers but also build relationships with other sites.

Note: in many ways this second page is similar to what we’ve been doing on our dPS Pinterest page for a year now (it’s largely just us highlighting great content that we find on the web with a few pins to our own stuff too).

I linked twice to the new page from our main dPS page just to let our regular readers know it existed. I shared it with them saying that the page is for those who want more photography tips and tutorials in their feed that come from beyond just dPS. The response from these two shares was fantastic – I had many readers thank me for creating the page.

The new page has grown faster than I anticipated. It took just six days to hit 50,000 followers! Things have slowed down a little since then but we’re well on the way to 60,000. Obviously many of the initial likes came from our main dPS page but since those initial shares I’ve started to see other pages sharing our finds and there’s been some nice organic growth too.

I don’t have any real firm goals for the page at this point but really see it as a great place to:

  • experiment with a different strategies on Facebook
  • growing relationships with other bloggers in our niche by sending them traffic
  • expanding our own social reach/influence which will in turn send us some more traffic too
  • sharing different types of posts to see what I can learn that might inform our own content strategy down the track

The only cost of the experiment is the time it takes to update the page. At this point it’s taking about 15 minutes each night to schedule the next day’s posts. I’ve also seen some nice engagement and sentiment coming from followers and it has already sent some nice little spikes in traffic to my blog so for now – it’s an experiment worth continuing with.

Do You Have a Second Facebook Page?

I’d love to hear whether others have experimented with different Facebook pages? I’d expect that it won’t suit everyone but do wonder if there might be some benefits for some to do it – particularly for those with bigger followings who might have lost traction with Facebook in the last year? Maybe having a second page with a very different strategy might unlock some learnings for you!

Four Ways to Crush Your Email Challenge and Build the List

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This is a guest contribution from Luke Guy.

I support building your email list more than any other thing. It’s the building block to any platform-building. You should be collecting emails before you even build the blog or write the book. I Wish I did it this way to begin with.

Why?

Collecting emails has got to be the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to build a community. You can approach someone and more likely get their email than a “like” on Facebook. Email is about discovery. Facebook is about liking what we already like.

You know this though. You know that email is the way to build your online presence. You know the benefits and have heard it plenty of times. But like anything though, everything has it challenges.

Challenges With Email

1. Collecting the Emails

2. Providing Content For Those Emails

3. Keeping Your Email Open Rates High

4. Keeping Unsubscribe Rates Low

You’ve probably read the “8 Reasons Why Your Email Open Rate is Nosediving” that I wrote for Problogger a while back. These points listed within that post will give you insight on how to format those emails. It was mostly about format, and how Google sees your email campaign.

Either as spammy or as friend, you’re one or the other with Google.

Today isn’t about the technical side of things though, it’s about your performance in content. You can do all the things mentioned in the previous post, as formatting goes, and still miss potential readers and customers because the content was horrible.

How To Crush Email Challenges

Okay, so you have these challenges looking at you like a ban of ugly monsters and not sure how to tackle them. You’ve tried everything and no one wants to join your email list, your open rates are low, and the few that have joined are unsubscribing just weeks after joining.

I want to solve this for you. If you focus on this one thing, it will make your email list explode, Connecting with Quality Information.

Here’s four ways to Make This Happen:

1. Making your list a secret club

Let’s think about this for a second. What’s in it for them when they join your list? If you think they’re joining so you can punch them every week with a pitch, you’re wrong.

You’ve got to offer benefits. Make them feel part of a secret club. People love feeling like they’re “in”, you know? To feel connected with someone they look up to is one reason why they join.

Here are some other things you could be offering to your list:

  • Offer instant contact when they join your list
  • Give your list exclusive opportunities like when your product launches
  • Let your list be the “beta testers” with any new software, program, app. Get their feedback and make them feel like they created the product with you.
  • Skype with them individually. Pick out five a month and just email with them back and forth. Do it as a surprise though. This makes things exciting.
  • Offer free courses on the email list, get their feedback, improve the course based on that feedback, and then sell it on your site. They feel special because they got it free, and they just made it huge because of the amazing feedback. Then on top of that, you’re making money on a product that was formed by a community. Isn’t that cool?

2. Only send emails that are useful

Make sure every time you send out an email it gives them a feeling. A good feeling. A feeling of hope, inspiration, and success. An email, that when they’re done, makes them feel like they’ve walked away with something valuable. Don’t just send an email that reminds them you’re still alive. It should never be like that. Send an email that is worth a lot and makes that reader a raving fan. If that means one email instead of two a week, then let it be. How To Find CONTENT For You To Write About is a great post if you’re stuck on how to create more valuable content.

3. Offer something of value to push them over (like a contest).

You remember all those benefits I mentioned in the first section? List it on the signup page. Make it feel like a free membership with benefits, because if there is no benefits, you’re not getting many subscribers. Advertise the benefits on that page creatively.

But on top of that offer something that is enticing to new people who haven’t experienced those other things yet. Offer a product, service, ebook etc, that you know is something they would crave. Something that would make them sign up today! Make sure it’s relative to what you do. Offering an iPad is not a good idea by the way.

Then start a contest and offer this prize. Your list will grow quickly, but understand it takes a lot of energy and can’t be done too often. You’ll lose the buzz.

I’m offering the Kingsumo contest plugin ($594) here free in my contest. You have to be in it to win it!

4. Don’t be like other bloggers. Be available

Make your email list about connectivity. Offer your list more availability than anywhere else. I don’t care if you have 100k readers on your list, answer every email in a timely manner. This is a major problem in the blogging world. You can email most bloggers, and you’re lucky to get a reply. The ones making the money though, many of those will.

Is there a connection? Yes.

I’m not saying all millionaire bloggers respond to email, because they don’t, but more of them will. It’s why they’re making money, they respond to every question or at least most.

Why? You never know where this conversation could be going.

Besides, you should want to reply. It’s exciting! To think, someone is reaching out to you and wanting to hear from you. It should thrill you. When you get to the point that you feel like your readers are a nuisance though… You won’t be in business for long. So make it #1 priority and answer every email.

Apply these and your list will grow within time. Hope you have walked away with some fresh ideas and spark some more creativity within your tribe.

Did I forget something? Comment below with your ideas on how to build your list and beat the email challenges. 

Don’t forget to join my contest and win Kingsumo ($594). This plugin is essential in growing your list. 

Luke Guy blogs at Lukeguy.com. He researches email marketing and how to grow businesses doing it. He talks about other things but usually it involves emailing. If you need further help with your email challenges, you can join him here!

 

Creating and Selling Ebooks Webinar

This webinar (available in full for ProBlogger.com members) features ProBlogger Marketing Ninja Shayne Tilley outlining the strategy for getting the best return on your efforts creating and selling eBooks.

It covers:

  • Sell Sheets: Do you need one? What is it? How to make a good one.
  • What content to have in your book – what shouldn’t you miss?
  • An effective book outline
  • Thinking about your audience
  • Your review process
  • Writing tips – not only to get content written, but also tips about format, consistency and even mindframe mid-book
  • The editing process
  • Adding visual elements
  • What your final draft should look like
  • The design – DIY or outsource? How to do it thriftily
  • Which format is best – PDF, ePub, Mobi, audio?
  • Sales pages – what should they contain
  • Gearing up for your launch, and what you should do to prepare
  • How to plan your launch month
  • How to manage the book and sales once it is out there.

ProBlogger.com is home to to the ProBlogger Community, featuring regular webinars on all kinds of content, forums to connect with other bloggers, along with discounts, and free plugin downloads. You can join here. See you there!

How to Craft a Blog that Attracts Customers and Converts Like Crazy

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Natalie Sisson.

So, you want to turn your blog into an online business?

Congratulations, so does every other person with wifi.

Now, I don’t mean to to bust your buns right off the get go, but if I’m being honest (and I always am!) then you need to know one thing:

A blog that doesn’t make money is a hobby, and a hobby is not a business.

The truth is, many of us don’t know what we’re doing when we’re first starting out online. Learning how to create a website, identify your ideal customer and convert them into sales will be a process, one that I am here to help you with though.

First things first; when you think of your website does it make you proud? If you are uncomfortable sharing your url with friends and family because it looks horrendous, then chances are your audience will be thinking the same thing.

Have you ever heard the theory that when shopping, if you hold an item for 10 seconds or longer you are more likely to buy? Well, the same principle goes for websites, but you have far less time to convert them – you have four seconds, to be exact.

A lot can happen in four seconds, which is why you need to make the most of it. If your viewer can’t find what they’re looking for, then they will surely go elsewhere. So how do you grab their attention and keep them on your site? It all starts by building a connection.

Every great relationship revolves around feeling a fundamental connection between two people. In this case, you need to build the foundation between your website and your audience. One of the best ways you can do this is to ask yourself what the primary goal of your website is.

Since your website is a platform to introduce yourself and your products to the world, knowing exactly what you mean to sell or achieve from having the site will help you target the ideal target audience.

The easiest way to convey this message is by creating a crisp, clear homepage. Your homepage is basically a landing page for any and all visitors. It will be the first thing they see, so capture them in those four quick seconds.

A few key tricks for ensuring a stellar home page is to:

  • Choose a clear web design – the more hectic your layout, the more likely your visitor will bounce
  • When asking your audience to opt-in to a free mailing list or free download, create one simple, to-the-point call to action
  • No one likes getting lost, so make navigating your site simple. Have a clear menu at the top so visitors can easily find their way around
  • Selling a product or service? Make it evident on the homepage. The harder they have to look for it, the more likely they will go to your competition
  • Outline what it is you’re all about. I’m not talking a novel, but one clear paragraph about who you are, what you stand for and what you’re offering

Now, to really start converting your audience you’re going to want to check off these next five steps from your to-do list.

1. Determine what it is you are selling

What do you feel jazzed about making money from? Whether it’s a product or a service you are are going to want to make this particular item forefront on your homepage.

Many people make the mistake of offering several different service on their homepage and it only confuses their visitor. For example, if you really wanted to sell business coaching, but offered website design coaching and business coaching on your homepage, how would they know which to choose?

Besides the fact that these two products sound beyond similar, why would you offer something you aren’t keen on doing yourself? Take away the option by simply promoting one service on you homepage.

2. Keep it clean

Some people just don’t know when to call it quits when it comes to web design. If you’ve ever happened across a site that seems to be hoarding widgets, images, links and more, then you know how unappealing and distracting that is to the eye.

Too much distraction will confuse and deter your visitor from becoming a sale. So here’s what you should do:
Remove any external links from your homepage that take them off your site
Choose social widgets that allow them to like your content without leaving your site
Avoid flashy text or image that takes their attention away from the product you want them to purchase

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

3. Implement a sales funnel

Your sales funnel should start on your homepage. That little chunk of screen you see when you land (referred to as ‘above the fold’) there should contain everything you need to compel your visitor to buy what you are selling.

Using your best copy, image, video or what-have-you to convey the many benefits of your product should all be visible here. To further resonate with your audience, feel free to direct them to your About page so they can get to know you and strengthen your bond together.

4. Make buying simple

You may have convinced them to buy, but if you make it difficult to pay that is a surefire way to lose a sale.

The easiest way to rectify this situation is to have a “buy now” option on your landing page; and be sure to make them feel safe when buying from you. To do that make sure you use and advertise a secure shopping cart option, like Paypal. A money back guarantee always helps solidify the sale as well.

5. Make sure your new landing page is working

I have no doubt that if you managed to follow the first four steps you will have created one heck of a landing page. Now that it’s there, it’s time to find out if it’s converting, which is where analytics comes in.

  • Set yourself up with a free Google Analytics account and add in the tracking code to your website. Every few weeks head back to that analytics dashboard and see:
  • How many unique (read, first time) monthly users are visiting your site
  • Where they are coming from, aka. traffic source
  • Your average bounce rate – how long they stay on your site before leaving
  • Which page exactly your visitors tend to exit your website from the most – visitor exit

You don’t need to be a geek to be able to read this data. For example, if you’re traffic is mainly mobile then make sure that you are using a mobile-optimized web theme. On the other hand, if your visitors continually exit on your product sales page, it’s time to think about doing a redesign.

With these five strategies, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be able to turn your current website into a cash converting sales machine.

Now tell me; what is the biggest change you need to make to your website after learning these steps? Share your thoughts and progress in the comment section.

Natalie Sisson is a Kiwi entrepreneur and adventurer who shares creative ways to run a business from anywhere. To start your very own lifestyle online business be sure to check out her new program, The Freedom Plan. And don’t be shy, – drop her a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Hypnotic Writing | 5 Effective Strategies To Put Your Reader In A Trance.

This is a guest contribution from Thai Nguyen of Wantrepreneur Journey.

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You are getting sleepy…very sleepy…

That’s typically what comes to mind when you think of hypnosis—a stage show with some unfortunate soul doing the chicken-dance. However, those who practice hypnosis are quick to give a proper explanation.

Here’s the textbook definition: The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person becomes highly responsive to suggestion or direction.

We enter into hypnotic states on a daily basis; completely absorbed in an activity and losing track of time. It happens when you drive, when you watch movies, and—when you read.

Hypnosis feeds off the psychosomatic power of words. An intriguing study in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink highlights the mind-body relationship inherent in words. Subjects were lead into a room, asked to describe how they felt. Then, they were told to read a list of words: “worried,” “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “grey,” “sentimental,” “bingo,” “withdraw,” “forgetful,” “retired,” “wrinkle.”

Afterward, subjects not only described feeling slow and sluggish, but physically walked out of the room slower than when they entered. In psychology, it’s referred to as Priming, in hypnosis it’s synonymous with “embedding a command.”

This fascinating link between words and physiology is often exploited by the advertising and marketing industries. Words are carefully crafted to evoke powerful emotions and a state of higher suggestibility.

Exploitation occurs because something is so effective. That effectiveness can certainly be applied to the article you’re about to write.

As you write, here are five hypnotic strategies to put into place:

1. Poetic Meter

Ever wondered why Shakespeare’s work is so mesmerising? He uses iambic pentameter heavily throughout his plays and sonnets. Pentameters indicate the rhythm of spoken words; iambic being the most common in English poetry. The rhythm of poetry captures us, and can be applied to writing.

Think of the da-DUM rhythm of the heartbeat and the tic-TOCK of a clock. The unstressed syllable followed by the stressed syllable is the iambic pentameter. It’s not only our feet, but also our minds that cannot help tapping to the beat. Here’s the first line of Shakespeare’s 12th Sonnet:

When I / do COUNT / the CLOCK / that TELLS / the TIME

Let’s be clear, this isn’t a challenge to try and turn all your articles in poetic pieces, but if you are able to bring more of a rhythmic and poetic flow to your writing, you’ll certainly be more engaging.

2. Active Voice VS. Passive Voice

Research and academic writing is general done with the passive voice—hence they’re so tedious to read. The focus is always placed on object—the evidence, findings, and results, rather than the subject—the person doing the research.  Hypnotic writing is all about the subject; always use the present active voice when structuring your subject and verbs.  The “now” engages people much more than the past or future.

Notice the difference between:

The brakes were slammed on by Stacey at the red lights.

and,

Stacey slammed on the brakes at the red lights.

3. Personal Stories

Everybody loves movies. Great stories are universal across all cultures because they allow for human empathy. When you share a personal story or experience in your articles, people respond with, “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened to me!” Or they can at least imagine what that’d be like.

A story brings you into a different setting. You’re suddenly detached from sitting on a chair and looking at your laptop to immersed in the scenario presented. Studies show that when we engage our imagination, the lines between what’s mentally constructed and what is real gets very blurry. A person who imagines practicing piano experiences similar neurological effect as one who physically does.

Use stories in your writing to activate your reader’s imagination and immerse them into hypnotic experience. Simply starting off a sentence with “Imagine…” will get the ball rolling.

4. “You.” Yes, You.

“You” makes readers feel as though your article is directly speaking to them. Although you’re writing articles in hope of having it read by millions, you certainly don’t want to sound that broard and generalised. That create a canyon of disconnect. You want to sound as though you’re having a personal one-on-one conversation with your reader.

There’s a psychological principle called the Fundamental Attribution Error—you’ll be furious and disgusted when you see someone texting and driving, but oh-so forgiving as you drive and text away. Our critical factors are on high alert when we analyse others, but take a break when we analyse ourselves.

If you write as though addressing a broad audience, you’ll have to fight through the critical factor, the more you are able to be personal, the more engaged your uncritical reader will be.

5. Explanations.

“Why is that so?”

“Because” is your key word here. Humans have curiosity hardwired into us, we’re always searching for answers and justification. Addressing problems and creating curiosity in your writing is crucial, but even more so is providing a resolution and explanation.

The classic “Xerox copy” study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer demonstrated the power of simply giving an explanation. The set-up was a student attempting to cut in line for the copier:

In the first scenario, she asked “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% allowed her to cut-in line.

The second scenario was more specific and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” The numbers shot up to 94%.

The third scenario is the most surprising: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” The numbers stayed about the same at 93% even with a redundant and ridiculous explanation.

A well written and hypnotic lead-in will create enough momentum for the reader to come to a climactic “Why?” But as the study shows, we’re profoundly responsive to explanations, and not presenting an explanation is like switching off a movie before the big ending.

The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Previously a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian LifeFacebook or Twitter.

The 5 Step Voyage of Creating Awesome Content

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

Image via Flickr user na.harii.

This is a guest contribution from James Scherer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Step #1 to Creating Awesome Content: Grab their Attention

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

Unfortunately, I can’t do that for you.

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

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

Content Title Formulas that Work:

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

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

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

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

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

Optimizing your Content for Readership:

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

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

Optimizing your Content for Engagement:

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

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

Optimizing your Content for Conversion:

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

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

No. No there’s not.

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.41.26 am

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

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

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

 

Step #4 to Creating Awesome Content: Incorporate Awesome Images

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.43.35 am

I know. It’s awesome.

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

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

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

I mean, c’mon:

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

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

 

Step #5 to Creating Awesome Content: Be Unique

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

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

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

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

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

Tell a Story:

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

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

Be Honest:

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

Consider articles entitled something like:

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

Be Yourself:

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

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

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

A few recommendations to set your content apart:

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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