August 8th, 2013

Seven Secrets of Successful Bloggers

Blogging Tips

Have you ever wondered what makes some blog posts sizzle while others fall flat? Or have you ever wondered why blog posts by Brian Clark, Chris Brogan and Sonia Simone rise above the rest?

You might be surprised to learn that Brian, Chris and Simone all follow specific techniques that make their blogs some of the best in the industry. Admittedly, they each have a sense of tone and style that makes their writing unique, but they also write their blogs using tested techniques that you can use, too.

What follows are seven different approaches that will improve the quality of your writing and the effectiveness of your posts. If you re-visit these techniques each time you start to write a blog post, eventually they’ll become habit. And habits (the good ones, anyway) often lead to success.

Ready to learn more about what works? Here we go.

1. Start by Thinking Backwards

A mistake a lot of writers make is that their posts don’t take the reader’s needs in mind. In other words, some bloggers believe that an eager audience is waiting to read their pontifications about industry trends and events. But the truth is, blog readers don’t care about those things. What they care about is information that can help improve their business, their careers or their lives today.

The trick here is to always keep your reader front-and-center as you write your blog posts. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to pretend that the reader is sitting across from you as you write — it’ll help you stay focused on their needs and their desires.

Which leads us to the second tip.

2. Write Like You’re Drinking Coffee

A sure sign of a young and inexperienced writer is someone who writes as though their college professor is going to grade it.

Remember the style you wrote in while in school? Don’t do that. In fact, do the opposite.

What readers want is conversation, not copy. They want to hear your personality in the words you write. And they want to get an understanding of who you really are — beyond what your job title or LinkedIn profile says about you.

The trick here is to write things the way you’d say them if you were having a cup of coffee with someone. For example, you wouldn’t say, “What follows are seven best practices verified by industry case studies.” Instead, you’d say, “Ready to learn more about what works? Here we go.”

In essence, I’m suggesting that you make friends with the reader. By doing so, you’ll ensure they come back for another cup of coffee.

3. Use the First Few Sentences Like a Welcome Mat

Blog tips

The first few sentences are essential because it’s when people decide whether or not to keep reading. A technique I use (that I stole from Brian Clark, by the way) is to start with, “If you’re like most people, you’ve probably noticed that (fill in the blank).” It’s a great way to telegraph the reader what the post is about and to say, “C’mon in and join the conversation.”

Here’s another example of that technique along with some variations:

  • “If you’re like most marketers, you’ve noticed that tracking social media ROI can be difficult.”
  • “Many businesspeople believe that traditional marketing is dead. Do you agree?”
  • “Have you ever wondered why check-out buttons on e-commerce sites are red? The answer may surprise you.”

The opening sentence should be designed to draw the reader into the rest of the post. You can accomplish that by imagining someone at the front door of your house. What would you say to welcome them in?

Use the same technique with your blog posts.

4. A Blog Post isn’t Finished When You Can’t Add Anymore Words. It’s Finished When You Can’t Cut Anymore Words.

Jerry Seinfeld says that one of the secrets to his jokes is that he tries to communicate as much as he can in as few words as possible. When you trim excess fat off your copy, you communicate more effectively and more quickly with your reader. The more information you share, the better for the reader. In other words, the better your data to words ratio, the more effective your communication.

I’ve found that most of my writing can be trimmed by 15% to 20% without sacrificing any content or data.

5. Follow the Rule of Threes

For reasons I don’t quite understand, the human brain process information most effectively when it’s batched into groups of three. I’m not sure why this is the case, but here’s an example to show you why it’s effective:

  • We traveled north, then northwest, then south, then east, then northeast, then west.

Or…

  • We traveled north, then northwest, then south. And then we traveled east, then northeast, then west.

By breaking the directions into groups of three, we’ve allowed the brain to pause for a moment, catch its breath, then process the additional directions. It’s important to give the reader’s mind a chance to catch up to the flow of your writing. The Rule of Threes helps you do that.

6. Spoon Feed the Finish

This is a trick I learned from Chris Brogan who pointed out that most bloggers provide information, but then don’t provide actionable advice at the end of the post. In other words, they simply write a short conclusion and leave it at that.

The best blog posts spoon feed actionable information to the reader at the end of the posts. This technique closes the circle on the information you provided and gives them a sense of what to do next. Best of all, it encourages them to come back for more advice next time.

7. Write Your Headline Last

In most cases, your blog post will evolve a bit as you write and edit it. Because of that, it’s often a good idea to write the headline last.

When writing your headlines, think about why people are visiting your blog in the first place. The odds are, they’re not interested in your vision of the future, your strategic insights or your perspective on industry trends. What they want to know is how to get stuff done. As a result, the most effective headlines communicate that information quickly and effectively.

Here are some examples of some of our most recent headlines. These should give you a sense of how to write headlines of your own:

Action Steps for You.

Okay, now that you’ve read a post about writing posts, what should you do? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Jot these tips down on a yellow sticky and put them on your computer. Re-visit them next time you write a post
  2. When you read a blog post you like, bookmark it and read it again a day later. Write down four techniques the blog post used. Borrow those techniques next time you write a post of your own
  3. Share the blogging tips and techniques you use in the comments section below. Having a dialogue with other people about what makes certain blog posts sizzle is a great way to keep your writing skills sharp

A Final Thought — Crossheads and graphics like the ones used here are an important feature of a good blog post. I’ll write more about why in the future. If you want to know when that blog post is live, just fill out the e-newsletter form at the bottom and you’ll be notified.

P.S. If you like what I’ve said here, feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Pinterest buttons on the side. By doing so, you’re letting your friends and business associates know that you’re ready to take your blog posts to the next level!

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with well-known brands and organizations. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

 

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July 31st, 2013

How Savvy Bloggers Use Social Media To Create A Successful Blog

Social Media Globe

Savvy bloggers understand how valuable social media is to the success of their blogs. But, how exactly do these bloggers use social networks to interact with their target audience, and how do these interactions help to create successful blogs? Well, we’re here to tell you.

9 Social Media Tips for Successful Blogging

  1. Post to your social media profiles using feed tools. Twitterfeed and other feed tools give you the ability to publish links to your blog posts on your social networks. All you have to do is simply configure your profiles in the feed tool settings. If you’re using WordPress for your blog, you’ll find plug-ins for automating this as well.
  2. Add social media tweeting, liking and sharing icons. Make sure your to give your readers a simple, one-click method for promoting your content. Your blog should include social media icons, which invite your readers to connect with your through your networks. Your icons can be added to the sidebar of your blog, or placed on each individual post.
  3. Link all of your social media profiles to your blog. Make sure that every single one of your social media profiles includes the URL of your blog. That way, no matter where your audience is social networking, your blog is always one simple click away.
  4. Include the URL of your blog in forum signatures. Savvy bloggers like posting in various related forums. They know that this creates valuable backlinks to their blogs, which search engines love. Forum posting can also get your blog more exposure within your target market. To ensure that users can reach your blog quickly, include its URL in your signatures.
  5. Make sure your post publishing is automated. There are some really cool tools that allow bloggers to automate posts. Some of these tools include TweetDeck, HootSuite and SproutSocial. Using these automation tools allows you to schedule your social media posts. This is a great way to spread the word whenever you publish new blog posts.
  6. Make sure all of the content on your blog is syndicated. Savvy bloggers use syndication programs and software to syndicate their blogs. You can find syndication companies online that offer these services for absolutely free. Syndicating your content allows your posts to be published in multiple areas. These blogs get more online exposure than others.
  7. Use the various widgets and tools offered by your social media sites. Many of the most popular social media sites offer free widgets and tools. These can be placed on your blog to help promote your social network profiles. They also help with getting more exposure for your blog content. You’ll find these widgets and tools directly on the various social media websites, including Twitter and Facebook.
  8. Include your blog’s URL in comments you make on other blogs. Savvy bloggers are really great at leaving comments on other blogs. You should be, too. Whenever you read an amazing, interesting blog post that’s relevant to your niche or industry, leave a comment. This helps to keep the online conversation going. And, if the blog allows it, be sure to include the URL of your blog in your comments. This creates a valuable backlink to your blog, while making it simple for readers to go directly to your blog.
  9. Every one of your published blog posts should include sharing links. It’s very important to give your readers a simple, quick way to share your content with their own social media networks. Adding tools like the WordPress Sociable plug-in or the Tweetmeme button gives your audience a one-click method for sharing your blog posts.

Are you a savvy blogger? If so, how have you used social media to make your blog successful?

UnknownThis content was written by Chad Goulde for TheBlogBuilders.com. They teach beginner bloggers how to blog successfully. Click here to see what The Blog Builders can do for your blogging skills today.

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October 28th, 2011

How to Tweak your Website Copy to Make the Most Out of your Online Traffic

Did you know the average conversion rate on a landing page is between about 2.2% and 2.5%? Given that, the odds of converting a prospect to a customer are not very high.

But if you incorporate some of the tips outlined below, you’ll be able to improve your landing page conversions by 10% to 50%. Imaging that — increasing your revenue on each landing page by 10% to 50% by simply fine-tuning your website copy.

Read on:

Focus on what the buyer wants, not what they need. Consumers listen to their cravings and desires far more than they pay attention to their needs. Have you ever gone into a grocery store and left with nothing that you planned on getting in the first place? Buyers are impulsive purchasers. When you tap into humans’ natural tendency to be impulsive, you can increase conversions on your website (and at the point-of-purchase).

Before you write a word of copy, you should get inside the mind of your consumer and find out what their hidden motivators are.

Identify your target market’s hidden motivators. Your website has an end purpose to drive consumers to action whether that is to buy a product, join an organization, or donate money. By analyzing your customer’s hidden motivators, you can ask the all important question — what drives them to action? For example, people don’t buy Rolex watches because they tell time accurately. They buy Rolex watches because they want to look sophisticated and wealthy. That’s their hidden motivator. (Why do we say it’s hidden? Because if you ask Rolex owners why they bought their watch, they would never say “Because I want to look sophisticated and wealthy.”)

The aesthetics of your copy can be just as important as the wording. The fastest-selling websites consist of a one-page sales letter with a single column of text occupying half the screen width and a maximum of 2 or 3 linked pages. The paragraphs should be kept short to make the page easier to read. Emphasizing certain keywords by bolding or highlighting can also be useful by drawing your reader’s attention to your benefits.

“Test everything…assume nothing!” There is always room for improvement, so you should test, test, and test some more. It is the only way you can point out your strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn’t. No matter how much you research and plan the strategy, you can never know for sure what the outcome will be. Remember that practice makes perfect and lucky for you, copy on the internet is always tweakable.

Many ads today include a URL, leading the potential customers to a landing page in hopes that they will take some kind of action. They may ask for more information, sign up for the newsletter, or make a purchase. By improving the sales copy, you can lead the consumer to make a move.

The take away:

Attention: Grab the buyer’s attention with your headline copy

Interest: Know the target you are addressing so you can capture their interest

Desire: Take advantage of your customer’s wants and desires

Action: Lead the customer to the action you want them to take

If you are eager for more tips on improving your copy, check out this article from Moving Ahead Communications.

Brittney Leigh Smith is a marketing analyst and contributing writer for the 60 Second Marketer.

October 27th, 2011

A Failsafe Way to Write Website Copy That Converts

People frequently overlook the content on the pages of their own websites – and it’s easy to do. Unless you’re constantly updating your products or overhauling your services, once the landing pages are up, they’re quickly forgotten about. But when you rely solely on the words on the page to turn browsers into buyers, you should be spending a decent amount of time evaluating, tweaking and then re-evaluating your content. Think of your web copy as a member of your sales team, and make sure it’s working as hard for you as any of your other employees.

Take a look at your current pages and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do they properly describe the products and services you offer, highlighting the unique features and benefits of each (all while staying true to your brand)?
  2. Do they have distinct calls to action (that don’t sound cheesy)?
  3. Is there enough content on the page so that Google will notice it for the right search terms (without seeming “keyword-stuffed” to human eyes)?
  4. If a complete stranger saw your page, do you think they’d trust your site enough to make a purchase or follow up for more info (would you give your credit card info to a website like yours)?

If the answer to any of these questions is “negative, Ghostrider,” it’s time to reconsider your content. You can hire a pro or, if you’re looking to save some money, you can do it yourself. Whatever you do, you should have your final pages edited by somebody who has experience with web copywriting.

Website Copywriting Tips

It's important to write copy that draws the reader in. But it's even more important to write copy that converts prospects into customers. Here are some tips and techniques you can use for your own website or landing page.

Writing is a lot like singing: everyone thinks they can do it. You don’t want your landing pages to look like the written equivalent of a bad American Idol audition, and that’s why it’s important to have a web content specialist take a look at your finished copy. This option gives you extra control of your message, and it costs about a third of what you’d pay for a pro to write it from scratch.

The Pre-Writing Process

If you’re going the DIY route, there are a couple of things to consider before you start writing. First, make sure your foundation is solid by double-checking that the back end of your website is properly optimized for search engines. If a keyword had high search volume and low competition three months ago, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should still be targeting that keyword today. So get your keyword research on. It’s time well spent.

The other thing to consider is the amount of content you’re putting on each page. Most people agree that 250 words (about a half page) is a good start, but if you really want to catch Google’s eye you should hit 650 or more. Is that reasonable for all pages of content? Not always. So use your best judgment, and if you find that it’s possible to use more words without overcrowding the page or looking like you have too much time on your hands, go for it.

The Content Itself

There are several tricks you can rely on to ensure that your content will be, at the very least, above average. Hey, even if it’s not perfect, chances are it’ll still be better than your competition’s. And speaking of competition, looking at your competitors’ websites is a great way to get ideas about what to emulate, as well as what not to do.

In general, you’ll never go wrong if you:

  1. Hook ‘em from the beginning. An attention-grabbing first sentence or headline guarantees that the next line gets read. Once the reader is halfway through sentence two, they might as well finish the paragraph. Unexpected statistics, cultural references and scenarios are a great way to accomplish this goal.
  2. Create a problem. Then, solve it with your products or services. In some cases, this may be a problem your potential customer or client doesn’t even know they have. For instance, were you questioning your web content before you read this post? I don’t know if you realized it or not, but my company writes web content!
  3. Watch QVC. If you want to see sales pros in action, watch QVC. Those hosts don’t just sell gaudy holiday sweaters to old ladies, after all. They run a 26.2-mile word marathon on a daily basis, and they can teach you a thing or two about writing copy that is engaging and that converts. When you’re faced with writing fifty 250+ word pages of unique content, it’s easy to run out of things to say. The QVC hosts never do. They talk about the same product for five minutes at a time, nonstop – and yet it never sounds desperate or overly salesy. Listen to how they present products and companies and try to incorporate similar styles and ideas into your content. If it works for Quacker Factory it’ll work for you.
  4. Keep your tone readable and consistent. There’s a reason people read the copy of a Groupon and ignore a terms of service agreement. Groupon has a great tone that’s enjoyable to read, and terms of service agreements are boring legalese. You don’t have to be out-there wild and witty to produce content that people actually want to read. You just have to be interesting.
  5. Put a call to action on every page. Many of the product and service pages that you’ll find on the Internet don’t contain enough of them, but calls to action are important, and you’ve got to have them. Incentives are sort of like built-in calls to action, so throw them around liberally. “Order today, and we’ll split the cost of shipping with you.” Better yet, offer to ship it free. Remember, using the same line over and over again is cheating, and it’s annoyingly redundant when you’re browsing through multiple pages of content. It’s important to vary your verbiage.

But Wait! There’s More!

Just because your web copy is written and posted to your site, that doesn’t mean your work is done. Make sure that each page links to at least one other page on your site, preferably using SEO-charged anchor text.

And the last step? It’s a simple one: don’t forget about your new content. Tweet links to your new content-rich pages on occasion, then post a notice on Facebook too. Watch your Google analytics to see what your time-on-site and conversion rates look like. If these numbers are not where you want them to be, make adjustments until they are. After all, it’s an art, this stuff. Musicians have their overdub buttons, sketch artists have their erasers, and an artist isn’t happy until the work is done. Web writers? You’ve got your delete key and, sometimes, you’ve got a better idea.

Kari DePhillips is the owner of The Content Factory, an online PR company that specializes in web content writing and social media management. Give her a shoutout on Twitter @ContentFac.

June 23rd, 2011

Top 10 Indispensable Tips on How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

Blogging is a great outlet to provide information, promote your business and establish relationships with your readers. Whatever the reason you have a blog, it’s important that your blog has a purpose and is written for a specific audience.

So, how do you take your blog to the next level? Avid bloggers, Chris Brogan and Michael Pollock have identified some great tactics to get you there. I’ve broken down the top 10, so check them out: 

1.  Write with purpose: First and foremost you must have an objective for your blog. It’s important to have a focus and think about what you want your readers to get out of it, what you can do for them, and what you want them to do after reading your blog.

2. Give them a purpose: Okay so you’ve provided your readers with all of this information, now what? Extract the insights for your readers and let them know what to do next. It’s better to provide your readers with content that’s helpful versus thoughtful. Give them a reason to read your blog and a reason to come back for more.

3. Know how people read: Put your best information first. If they like what they read, they’ll keep reading. People want information fast, so make it easy for them to get through your post. Bold the first sentence of paragraphs and lead with a strong sentence. Break up the post and make it easy for your readers to skim through and understand what they’re going to get out of it.

4. Be Brief: The key is to keep your blog short and simple. No one wants to read long complicated paragraphs. They want the facts, so be short and direct.

5. Ask Questions: This is a great way to get your readers thinking and involved in what you’re talking about. It’s important to make the question relevant to the reader and to ask thought-provoking questions, not just ones with yes or no answers. Make sure you check back and see if people are commenting, if so respond. Another great tactic is to start your post with a response to one of your reader’s questions.

6. Be human: It’s okay to sometimes let your personality shine through. Find a way to connect with your audience on a deeper level, if it’s appropriate.

7. Learn from others: Some of the best blogs are a compilation of others ideas. See what people are talking about and what people are reading. This might give you some inspiration or help you go in a different direction. You’re in the blogging business now, so get out there and see what’s going on in the blogging world.

8. Join the conversation: Start commenting on other blogs and provide a link to your blog in the comment section. This is a great way to not only learn from others, but gain possible new readers as well.

9. Build your audience: Want more readers? Try promoting your blog. There are many ways to do this, but one is to run your RSS feed through a service such as FeedBurner. This allows you to extend your feed and gain more exposure. Your URL is the ultimate link, so make sure it’s everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, company website, back of your business card, a part of your email signature, you name it, just get it out there.

10. Don’t overstuff your post with Keywords: Keyword search tools are great ways to figure out the terms most commonly searched by your audience. But don’t over-do it. Google, Bing and Yahoo will discount your blog post if they feel that you’re trying to game the system. The best approach is always to simply write good content that your target market will share with others.

For 5 more tips on blogging, check out the 60-second video below:

Posted by Rebecca Wilson, marketing analyst for the 60 Second Marketer.