Tag: blogs

12 Elements of a Great Blog

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Hmm…there is so much that makes a blog great that I am challenged to fit it all into 700 words or less.  That is not to say you have to incorporate a lot of elements to create a great blog but there are so many easy, intuitive things you can do that I want to share them all with you.  So no more preamble, let’s get to it.

    Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Be consistent with personality and voice. What do you feel passionate and knowledgeable about that you wish to share?  How conversational do you want to be while still remaining professional?  Your visitors should get a very good sense of your personality while they spend time with you online.
  2. Stay focused. The reader should be able to get a quick sense of what to expect from your blogs.  If your posts are about random topics and rants, you will not keep a steady readership.  Topics among blogs should vary to keep your reader interested but your overall blog site should have a clear theme.
  3. Identify your target audience. Who is your reader? Who is your ideal client?  Write about topics that are important to them.
  4. Provide original content. Make sure you don’t just rehash what is already online in order to create a blog, speak from your own wisdom and experience.  You can always add an additional tip or two from what you have read, but use it to enhance your content.
  5. Address your audience. Write for your reader, not at them.  Use “you” more often than “I”.  Blogging should not be a lecture, a keynote, or a monologue.
  6. Create scan-able formatting. Long paragraphs and big blocks of text turn visitors off.  Instead work towards short introductory paragraphs, lists of tips, bullet points, action items, etc. and then finish with a quick round-up.  If a particular blog does not lend itself well to lists, find a way to highlight key points or elements within the paragraphs that break up the text so that the reader can find the gems easily.  Incorporate subheadings or separate the blog up into a series of posts rather than try to fit it all in one long blog.
  7. Invite a discussion. Your topic does not need to be controversial to create a buzz.  Elicit comments and ask for feedback.  Readers like to share their views but sometimes unless you create a clear call to action they may just read, enjoy and move on.  Clearly ask for comments or opinions.  Go back to your post and respond to their comments.  Answer questions and thank people for engaging with you.
  8. Support others. Linking to other sites and blogs is a great search engine strategy but it can also be a wonderful way of adding even more value to your reader and supporting the efforts of your colleagues.  For instance, Arielle Ford makes some great points about why (and how) authors should champion their competitors in a recent blog on The Huffington Post. Check it out.
  9. Limit Self-Promotion. It is certainly understandable if you want to share valuable content and then do a soft sales pitch for your services or products, but this should not be a regular occurrence.
  10. Edit…Edit…Edit. Reread your blog draft and cut unnecessary and irrelevant pieces.  If your initial word count is 850, challenge yourself to get it down to 600.  Your writing will improve and your readers will thank you for it.
  11. Write a great title. Make the title of your blog interesting, descriptive and accurate. It is fun to come up with clever headlines but if you are interested in the general public finding you sometimes you have to be simple and clear. Think in terms of the keywords someone might use in a search engine.
  12. Integrate pictures. Your blog will be more visually appealing and give a relevant clue to your readers about its content if you add photos.  Look at Flickr for available photos and just make sure you link back to the original.

What have I missed?  Please share your wisdom!

How to Keep Your Blogging Mojo

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Has it been a while?  Are you plumb out of ideas?  Can’t find the time?  Don’t feel like making the time?

As I step into the confessional I bow my head and say, “Forgive me visitors, for I have sinned, it has been one month since my last blog post.”  Now I could use the logical explanation (excuse) that as a collaborative writer I create dozens of blog posts for my clients every month and yet I can not keep up with my own.  (i.e. The cobbler’s children have no shoes.)  But when it really comes down to it, I struggle just like you do in thinking, What new content can I share?  What questions can I answer?  What can I teach?  How can I best serve? Even with good ideas I still struggle sometimes in finding the time to create and publish the blog, and then drive traffic to it via social networking outlets.

So let’s look at ways to keep our mojo.

Need Topic Ideas?

  • In the past week, what questions have you answered for your clients?  Why not share your answers with the rest of the online world?
  • Have you seen an article in a trade magazine or online that you think needs some clarification or you want to show your clients how they can adapt it for their business?
  • If you were asked to write a How to… article as an expert for an industry publication, what would you write?  Now think in terms of breaking up that content and perhaps elaborating on each subject for a blog series.
  • Use your Facebook profile or Fan page to pose a question and ask for advice, comments or ideas.  Write your next blog on their contribution and your observations.
  • Think about the last speaker presentation you went to.  Are there any thought-provoking gems you want to highlight and relate to your visitors. (Remember to always give credit where credit is due and link back for proper etiquette.)
  • What interesting time saving or business-building concept did you just discover?  By all means, share your excitement and your findings.
  • What are people talking about on the social networking sites?  How might that apply to your audience and your brand?

Need Time Blocking?

  • Knowing that the high click through rates and prime retweeting times are Thursday and Friday afternoons (EST), you should plan to publish at least one post on Wednesday or Thursday morning and schedule your status updates and tweets accordingly to get the most impact.
  • With this deadline, commit to writing a blog draft at least two times a week at the same time each week.  Set that routine and block out that time.  Schedule it like a meeting or conference call and stop making up excuses. (That last part was more of an internal dialogue!)
  • When your creative juices are flowing, don’t step away from the keyboard until you have two blog drafts written.  You know the way you feel when you have written great content?  Keep that adrenaline going by pounding out another one.  (The Real Housewives of Fakeville and their constant bickering will just have to wait!) Can you feel the sense of accomplishment already?

Need Motivation?

  • Because we want to learn what comes so naturally to you.
  • Give us even just a glimpse of your talent so that we too can grow our businesses, our lives and our loves.
  • Share it all! Enough said.

If you still need a nudge, a push, a kick…..a collaborator, I would welcome the opportunity to help you grow your brand.  Creating content and writing comes naturally to me and I want to share it all!  For specifics about my programs, check out:

www.YourVoiceInc.com/BloggingYourBrand and

www.YourVoiceInc.com/StrategicBloggingPlan

Do I Really Need an Editorial Calendar for My Blogs?

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I create them for my blogging clients, I brainstorm about them with my strategic planning clients and yet I am slipping when it comes to keeping on top of my own Editorial Calendar.  Why?  Because the cobbler’s children have no shoes?  I am continuously thinking of new ideas, concepts, and resources for other people that the writing of my own steady stream of blogs has fallen off my project plan.  That is really not a good enough excuse so I am back on the wagon and planning my next set of blogs.

So why am I preaching about the importance of an Editorial Calendar?  Simple – because it is an essential way of maximizing the profitability, effectiveness and efficiency of your blogging.

Yes, and here’s why…

Purposeful Plan – An editorial calendar provides a blueprint for consistent themes throughout a 30, 60 or 90-day plan.  You are less likely to publish posts willy nilly if you have a set plan for the creation of your content.  This will give your blogs a sense of flow and rhythm.

Variety is Not an Accident – To expand on this notion of a rhythm to your writing, plan to add a bit of variety to the type and style of your blogs.  You may want to alternate between a How to…, Interview with…, Top 10 Tips for….., etc.  As you start to gain traction and followers you will want to make sure there is something for everyone each week.  You don’t want to have two or three How to… blogs in a row.   Depending on how you have branded yourself and your content, you may want to consider adding a video blogs into your plan to shake things up a bit.

Accountability – The sheer guilt of missing a deadline.  It’s not easy to ignore the fact that a week has gone by and you haven’t been able to check off these entries on your calendar.  Once you start down that slippery slope, be careful – you may find yourself playing catch up because you are behind by  4, 6, even 8 blogs.  Ay, the guilt.  The shame.  The overwhelm.

Antidote for Writer’s Block – By brainstorming multiple topics at a time, you reduce the possibility that you will sit down at the computer with the time running out to post a new blog and no good ideas floating around in your head.

Write it and They Will Come – Consistently writing quality blogs will secure a larger following because you are viewed as a steady and reliable source for valuable content.  You will see your RSS subscriber numbers increase as well as the number of Comments, Facebook Shares and Retweets.

How to Implement a Solid Plan

Visualize it – (Vision Board not necessary!) When you are looking at a blank monthly calendar, start picking and committing to particular days for each published blog.  Consider the following:

  • Will holidays be a factor for either content or blog release dates?
  • Are there any travel plans or breaks that should be integrated into the schedule?
  • Are there industry-specific events that should be considered or written about?

Brainstorming – Begin to list subjects you want to cover in each blog.  Some of these might be bigger topics that will require a series of blogs to address therefore knowing that ahead of time will help you pick the right time and intervals for publishing them in sequence.  Take into consideration the Categories you have set up on your blog page – those you have already posted about and those that still do not have a corresponding blog post assigned to them.

Plug and Play – Now that you have the days set up, start taking your subjects and inserting them into the pre-planned days.  As you do so, you will likely come up with more concepts and decide to move them around based on a logical sequence.

Let’s Get it Started – While you have your list of topics at hand, write out at least a paragraph or bullet points of the direction you want the blog post to go so that when you return to your list you don’t have to search your memory for what you originally had in mind.

It’s Not All About Me
-  If you are planning to commit some of your blogs to promoting your services or products, make sure you limit the number of these marketing pieces to only a couple of times per month.  You want to add as much value to your visitor as possible without it looking like you are always engaging in self-promotion.

Timing is everything – When you decide to advertise your services and products, maximize your conversion rates by scheduling these on the days that have proven to have the highest Click Through Rates when using Twitter to drive traffic to your blog.  For instance, a great resource for these statistics is Dan Zarella’s blog entitled Weekends and Afternoons Show the Highest Twitter CTRS.

If you want to develop a stronger following for your blog, increase conversion rates for sales and reduce your blog anxiety, commit to creating at least a 30-day Editorial Calendar.   It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Use a spreadsheet, your e-mail calendar program, Google calendar or a day planner.  It really doesn’t matter how you record it, just start playing with the concept and filling in the gaps.  You will be thankful that you did.

If you get stuck, ask your friends and colleagues for ideas….or call me!