As a marketer, have you ever wished you had a resource with all the essential and advanced information about blogging in one place?
You know…from information about how to write a viral post to information about where and how to position your comments to get the best results?
Well, I’ve tried to do my best in giving you everything I’ve ever learned about blogging in the ten years I’ve been doing this in one giant post.
Now, I’m sure I might be missing a few facts…but that’s where you come in. I need you to provide that information in the comments so I can keep updating this post to make it as comprehensive as possible.
Are you with me? Let’s get started.
Why blogging is still important
First, let’s deal with an issue that might be on some people’s minds.
- Foundation for all your social media activities – Think about it this way: a blog provides a headquarters for all of your social media efforts. It’s where you drive readers to content that expands on who you are and what you are trying to do.
- Build your brand as an expert – In the last ten years, a blog has become the conventional way to show that you are an authority on a subject. Successful bloggers like Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod are great examples.
- Build trust – A well-designed blog with in-depth articles delivered with consistency will help create a bridge between you and your potential readers. That bridge is called trust.
- Exercise your creativity – If you are a writer, a blog is unlike other social media in that it gives you plenty of room to work out ideas you might have.
- Growing stream of organic search traffic – Because of your steady stream of content, a blog will get a ton of traffic from both SEO and the social web. There isn’t really a proven method that can do better.
- Consistency is the key – You can become famous with a blog…as long as you are consistent and hang in there for at least two years. People like Fred Wilson and Rand Fishkin have proven it works.
- Proven business model – We will discuss the monetization of a blog in a section below, so, for now, it will suffice to say that a blog run right will make you profit, which is important to running a business.
Great blog content is made of these 3 things
Great blogging attracts attention because it delivers good content over time, which gives you regular exposure to an audience with whom you build trust…
…and who will eventually buy from you.
But there is something you have to do before you can sell.
Let me ask you a question: do you buy stuff from people you don’t know? It could be a salesman showing up at your door or a guy you meet in the used car lot.
I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t!
You and everybody else only buy from people they trust. The more you are asking someone to invest in you, the more trust you are going to need.
Fortunately, blogging will help you build that trust through a relationship.
You have to do this with a clear and compelling content that is broken down into three elements:
- Cornerstone content – What is your blog most known for? Is it psychological tricks to help people get attention on the social web? Are you an expert on web analytics? Whatever it is…this is what defines you. And it is what you will write about for most of the time. The Marketer’s Guide to the New Facebook Pages is pure cornerstone content.
- Personal content – After generating content on your area of expertise, you can start to share some personal stuff that helps you get vulnerable with your readers, leading to greater credibility and trust. A good example of personal content was my post The 10 People Who Led Me to Success.
- Spicy content – After the personal content, you’ll definitely want to write some posts about controversial issues. It could be a rant or an argument about a popular figure you don’t agree with. My post Do Business Like a Prostitute is definitely spicy!
In the end, you never want your content to become a high-pressured sales pitch, where every blog post tries to sell something to your readers.
You will drive away readers!
You’ll never be able to use blogging to grow your business if you don’t focus on building trust first. You have to provide high-quality content that makes your readers anticipate every single post you write.
Then and only then will you be able to sell.
6 steps to monetizing your blog
The reason most marketers decide to start a blog is to make money from it. Well, if you’ve had any experience with it, you know it’s not easy.
However, it’s not impossible.
In an article on Problogger called What’s the Secret to Monetizing Social Media?, I answered that question with these six steps:
- Step 1: Build brand awareness and traffic – When it comes to monetizing your blog, your first step is to drive traffic to your site. Fortunately, according to the The State of Inbounding Marketing in 2012 by HubSpot, producing consistent content is the best way to increase traffic.
- Step 2: Build audience engagement – The next step to monetizing your blog is to start engaging that traffic to turn it from visitors to subscribers.
- Step 3: Monetize with online advertising – Once you develop a loyal following attracted to your interesting content, you will have earned the right to start displaying ads on your blog. But that’s not the only way to make money from your blog.
- Step 4: Monetize with applications – You can also build software products and then sell them to your loyal audience. This is exactly what Copyblogger did.
- Step 5: Create a book – Finally, you can take all of your content and turn it into a book that you can sell on your blog. Here are some examples:
- Step 6: Retain customers through social media – Just because the sale is over doesn’t mean that the selling is done. You can now use your blog to respond to customer feedback.
Follow the above steps and, with time, you can make money from your blog.
How to make selling WAY easier
Keep in mind, even though you want to monetize your blog, you are not trying to get a sale the first time you meet your reader.
You don’t want to come off as a snake-oil salesman who pressures you so much that you decide to buy so he’ll get off your back. Slow down…put a ring on it and stop hunting for immediate monetization.
The blog posts you are writing are casting a net that will capture future sales through permission marketing and trust.
That net will allow you to do several things:
- Answer objections – Write blog posts that answer potential objections that your readers may ask about you, your products or your blog. In a way, you are clearing away the objections WAY before they are truly brought up.
- Tell stories – Your blog posts will read faster and people will love them more if you tell stories instead of communicating dry information about your product and service. Tell stories about how people have changed using your products…or how you changed. These include testimonials and reviews.
- Solve problems – Finally, one of the best things you can do for your readers is solve their problems. If you don’t know what their problems are, you should ask them.
People need to know you, love you and ultimately trust you before they will ever buy from you. There are no shortcuts. Effective blogging gets people to love, trust and buy from you. They will be happy to exchange their money for what you got!
Great blogging boils down to these things
Your simple and straightforward goal when it comes to blogging is simply to get your readers’ permission to send them more stuff. Your blogging will fail or succeed depending on how many people you can get to subscribe to your blog via email or RSS reader.
Topics are everything
As a marketer, you need to write great content around great topics. If you don’t, nobody will read what you wrote.
But it’s hard to come up with a lot of great topics even if you are creative. So, you have to develop a process to get those ideas on paper and published on your blog. Here’s how I do it:
- Step 1: Visit competitor blogs and check out what they are publishing. Pay attention to those posts that are popular and got a lot of comments and a lot of social shares. Put those headlines in an Excel spreadsheet and input the number of Facebook shares and tweets each post got.
- Step 2: Visit a trending site like Tweetmeme to see what hot topics have been dominating the web for the last couple of days.
- Step 3: Look at what is trending at Google News and Google Trends. Take those topics and input them into your spreadsheet.
With this list of hot topics, start playing with different ideas. I like to write down a bunch of headlines and start mixing and matching them to come up with something unique but also compelling.
There is something you need to know about blogging: if you want to make sure that your blog grows over time, you need to blog consistently.
Consistency is the difference between getting a lot of traffic and not getting traffic or even getting a decrease in traffic.
For example, when I first started Quick Sprout, I was blogging every week. My traffic naturally grew over time. But when I got really busy and stopped blogging on a consistent schedule, my traffic dropped.
Your blog will only grow consistently as long as you blog consistently. There is no shortcuts. Like John Chow said, “the most important aspect of a blogger who makes $50,000 a month from blogging is that he does it consistently.”
Timing is everything
Just posting consistently, however, is not enough. You have to start timing your posts so you can get them in front of an optimal size audience and maximize their viral potential.
In one recent survey, Dan Zarella found the best times to read blog posts. The answer was first thing in the morning.
That means if you want to catch as many readers as possible, publish those posts before breakfast.
If you are only posting once a week, try posting on Mondays and Thursdays. This is according to Hubspot, which looked at over 170,000 blogs.
Time your social promotions
The next step in growing your traffic to your blog is to time when you promote those posts on the social web.
According to KISSmetrics infographics, more than half of the people who use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are on the East coast. In other words, to get the most tweets out of a post, try to tweet it at 5 PM EST.
Interestingly enough, most of Facebook traffic is at noon on Saturdays. So, share during that time, and you will get more exposure to your content.
Keep in mind, depending on the social site, the right time to promote your content may vary because the optimal times are not always the same.
Time your emails
Maybe you’re following the advice above and posting early in the morning on Mondays or Thursdays…that doesn’t mean you should send out those emails at that time!
In fact, email has the highest open rate over the weekends…at about 6 AM EST. Isn’t that strange? Who would have thought that?
On the other hand, you need to control the number of emails you are sending out since if you send too many, the number of complaints will go up.
Ask your readers
Finally, great content comes from asking your readers what they want to read about. This will get more and more important as your blog grows. It will get easier, too, since all that traffic means you will get some great responses that will help you create even more great of content.
Make sure you survey your readers consistently. It will definitely improve your blog, and at the end of the day, it’s not about what you want…is it? It’s about what they want, right? Focus on making your readers happy, and you’ll have a great blog.
Use the 89/11 rule
You are probably going to be promoting a product or service on your blog. If you are, then you need to follow a simple rule that says that most of the time you should be creating content that is practical and useful for your readers.
And just a fraction of the time should be spent creating content that promotes your product.
I like to call it the 89/11 rule. In other words, 89% of your energy should be geared toward creating content that encourages people and builds trust so that your readers get to know you better.
Then the other 11% of the time, you can invest in crafting promotions for your product. (I fashioned the 89/11 rule after the 80/20 Pareto Rule, but I wanted to make it different enough so that the two are not confused.)
Focus on a niche you can dominate
One mistake I see lots of bloggers make is trying to compete with big sites like Mashable and Gizmodo. It would be great if you could compete with them, but you probably can’t since you will have to compete against professionals paid to find and break stories. Instead, pull a Jack Welch and focus on the niches that you are certain you can dominate.
In the end, these strategies will work because people will see how much time you are spending with them as readers…how much you care about them. When you show them that you are trying to meet their needs, then they will naturally start thinking about your products too.
How to write a popular blog post
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of how to write an actual blog post. Here’s how I do it:
- Use simple words – Make it easy to read by not using big, fancy words in your blog post. As a rule of thumb, keep the vocabulary at a 5th grade level. If you use SEO WordPress by Yoast, you can check the reading ease of your copy in the advanced features.
- Use the word you – Avoid using we, them or I when you write your blogs posts. Instead, use the word you a lot throughout your copy. This is the word that people love and like to hear the most. It makes them feel like the blog post is written just for them.
- Write how-to posts – One of the most important lessons you should learn about writing blog posts is that people want useful information. They want practical advice they can apply immediately. How-to posts are a great way to deliver this kind of content. I built my first blog into a Technorati top 100 blog by writing a ton of how-to posts.
- Write detailed posts – I do need to warn you: don’t write simple how-to posts. Make them advanced and detailed, providing a ton of information, statistics, graphs and images. I learned this lesson when I first started Quick Sprout. My first posts weren’t very detailed, and my traffic suffered. It wasn’t until I started writing detailed posts that the traffic shot through the roof!
- Hook your readers – You only have a few seconds to capture the attention of the readers, so you need to do that with compelling headlines that create a sense of urgency or curiosity that your readers won’t be able to resist. Study blogs like Problogger and Copyblogger. They use all the tricks, including putting in stats, which hook readers big time.
- Create a conversation – There’s noting worse than having someone talk at you rather than with you, don’t you think? That’s why it’s so important to create a conversation as you write. Ask questions, use the word you and genuinely care about your readers. Then they will care about you. The number of comments you get will jump dramatically!
- Prove your points – The best way to build credibility in your posts is to back up all of your claims. I did that above, where I said that half of Twitter users are on the East coast. I provided the proof for that claim. That builds credibility and proves you can be trusted.
- Show your authority – Because the competition among blogs is so stiff, it is super important to make sure you show people why they should read your posts and not someone else’s. I’m not saying you need a PhD or something. No, it’s easier than that! You just have to be an expert on a subject, which, in the world of blogging, you can fake until you make it.
- What do you like learning about? Whatever interests you, pick up as many books as you can about it and start reading. Read blogs on that topic, listen to podcasts. Totally immerse yourself in the subject.
- Once you start to write about the topic, you might not be naturally good at it. In fact, a lot of your first posts will be crappy and weak. But don’t worry. You are like a baby just learning to walk. What do we know about babies? They fall a lot but eventually get up and walk without falling.
- With time, you will start to develop a very clear and compelling voice when it comes to your topic. You’ll be writing confident posts that show people you are an authority. The cool thing is people will start coming to you for advice!
Your readers are waiting for you to lead them. What are you waiting for?
- Care about your readers – Like I’ve alluded to above, caring for your readers will be the single greatest factor to your success…or failure. Blog because you have a mission to help people, not because you just want to share your thoughts. Respond to people’s comments, reply to emails and write posts that make people feel like you care.
- Write posts anywhere – I’ve found that some of the most effective and productive times of blogging come when I shut down everything online and focus on writing. I don’t check email or hop on Facebook. I just focus on writing. A great tool to accomplish this is to use Writer for iPad (a steal at 99 cents!). It helps you focus on nothing but the words on the page. The results will surprise you!
How to write an SEO-friendly blog post
As a marketer, you will not only want to create popular blog posts, but you’ll want to create posts that the search engines like too.
How do you do that? Amit Singhal at Google thinks you should think like a Google engineer. The 12 questions below are designed to help you do that so you can create quality articles that your readers and search engines will love.
- Is what you wrote original? People get tired of the same old, same old. They hate redundant content. So, each post you write should reflect new ideas or old ideas viewed differently.
- Can you provide practical advice or relevant research? In the same way that people like original content, they also love information that solves their problems. And if you can do that with original research, then you will have created unique, viral-worthy content.
- Did you correct any spelling, grammar or factual errors? You may not be the best writer, but you’d better be the best proofer. If you aren’t, hire someone to help you. Why is this so important? Well, pages with low rank had worse spelling than the pages that were ranking high. In addition, the quality of the reading level is a signal to search engines: the easier to read, the higher the rank. Use the advanced search function in Google to find out your score. One of my goals is to write like a fifth-grader, so it seems like my strategy is paying off. I try to do it even with complex information, so it seems like I am succeeding!
- Does this topic interest a reader or a machine? There was a great piece written by Greg MacFarlane at Problogger called Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft on bad SEO techniques. As the title shows you, amateur copywriters will write to the search engines, but what they write makes no sense to the human reader!
- Is the article well edited? Like proper grammar and spelling, pages that are edited well tend to be more reputable…thus ranking higher. The reason for this is probably that people like to read clear and concise articles. Here’s my editing strategy in a nutshell: research, write, edit and then put it away for an hour or a day. Sit down and edit it again; then have someone else look at it.
- Do you write for the interest of your readers or for what rankings in search engines? Strange as it seems, writing content that interests your readers will also make a big impact on the machine readers. It’s because the content that readers care about tends to be the content they share the most. The more the content is shared, the higher in the rankings it will go.
- Does your site have authority? The simplest way to think about this is this way: is what you are doing adding value to the web? What you create should add value. Value leads to authority and that authority leads to relevance, links and quality traffic.
- Are you providing insightful or interesting information beyond the obvious? A post won’t be SEO-friendly if you don’t provide fresh content. For instance, I wrote an article called 7 Habits of Highly Successful SEOs, where I went beyond the obvious like page optimization or managing PPC campaigns. Instead, I wrote about creativity and risk taking, explaining the intangibles that SEOs need.
- Would you bookmark your article? You may want to rethink your article if you don’t think anybody will take the time to save it. What kind of content am I talking about?
- A detailed report with credible sources on a current event.
- A compelling story with believable characters.
- A thorough “how-to” article on a topic that has never been covered before.
- A long list of sources like The Social Media Handbook-57 Resources for First Time Entrepreneurs.
- Does the article distract with call-to-actions, ads or promotions? A blog that is buried in ads and 2nd party content signals may not confuse a search engine, but it will definitely cause problems for your readers who may bounce off your page. And don’t think that search engines aren’t looking at those bounces.
- Would a magazine or journal print your article? Just because you don’t have to hassle with the typical gatekeeper that stands between you and publication in big media doesn’t mean you can publish crap. When you write, you need to make sure you are producing exceptional articles that gatekeepers might want to publish if they had the chance.
- Is your article short, weak and useless? While there is no magic number to the length of a blog post, you will want to create long, powerful posts. This might mean that you publish only two times a week, but it’s worth it if the search engines like what they see.
Give your readers more than just great blog posts
In the end, you readers want more than just blog posts. They want connection, passion, personality and trust.
When you are in-tune with your readers, you will answer comments within minutes. If you take days or weeks to reply, it will signal to the readers that you really don’t care if they comment.
See, people are taking the time out of their busy days to leave a thought or comment for you. They are giving you their attention, and you need to thank them for it by replying to their comments.
Don’t waste that attention. Spend it wisely by responding quickly to comments and by engaging readers.
Any successful blogger will tell you that he or she invested a lot of time and energy into responding to comments to continue that conversation and to build the community.
Sure, it can be time-consuming, but you need to return the favor since they took the time to comment, and it’s your job to turn that comment into a deeper relationship.
Are you funny and happy or dull as a cardboard box? If you are dull like a cardboard box, then you will definitely struggle to gain an audience.
See, writing a blog is not like writing a Wikipedia article. These articles are rich in information, but they are impersonal (as they should be).
Because they lack personality, you can’t tell who wrote them unless you look at the change log. You, on the other hand, must inject a ton of personality into your blog.
Think of people like Redhead Copywriting, who’ve built an audience based on their strong personalities.
I try to do this by sharing articles on the ROI of fashion or partying. The way I see it, I’m trying to be somebody other than Neil Patel…so feel free to be yourself!
Another thing that makes Wikipedia a bad example of a blog is that there is no passion behind each article. There isn’t supposed to be because of the policy of the website.
It’s supposed to be neutral.
You, on the other hand, don’t have to be neutral. You don’t have to be cool and emotionless. You can be passionate about what you do.
Your readers want to see your enthusiasm for your subject. They want to see that you love what you write about!
Don’t be afraid to blog if something makes you mad or excited. Rave about a new opportunity or a gadget. And please, don’t try to make everyone happy. It can’t be done. And it’s okay to make enemies. If you don’t, you probably aren’t passionate enough.
This falls under the category of authority, but I want to bring it up here since it is so important. See, if your readers don’t have confidence in you, they are not going to trust you.
So, the goal is to start building trust by following these simple rules:
- Don’t lie – Tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts. And if you are caught lying, confess as soon as possible. You will stop the damage from the lie instead of letting it spread when you eventually apologize.
- Deliver on all your promises – My rule of thumb is to under-promise and over-deliver. That way I know I can always deliver on what I promise.
- Understand your readers first – Keep your readers front and center and always learn as much as you possibly can about them.
- Always say “thank you” – Take every opportunity you can to let your readers know you are grateful. This is a great way to build trust!
- Write clearly and honestly – Use words that are easy to understand and always be honest about what you are writing about. Readers can tell when you aren’t being honest.
- Give proper credit – Make sure to acknowledge those who gave you your ideas with a link to them. Never mention something without giving credit where it is due. If people find out, you will lose trust.
- Admit it when you are wrong – People hate arrogant people who always think they are right.
So, readers want connection, personality, passion and trust. Are you giving those things to your readers? If not, you are slowing the growth of your blog.
Guest blogging: A guide to your first guest blog post
You can’t really talk about being a marketer and developing a blog without talking about guest blogging. Guest blogging is really the hot way right now to drive tons of traffic to your site.
But maybe you’ve got questions about how to do it. Let me show you how it is done with the following steps.
- Develop your guest writing strategy – There are two ways you can approach guest blogging. The first is slow and methodical. The other is fast and furious.
- Slow and methodical is a process where you churn out one guest post a month. You do a ton of research, find the right blog and then create content for it.
- The fast and furious approach is the opposite. You offer to write as many blog posts as possible for as many blogs. You have to be a special human being to do this because it’s a little bit like running a marathon, but it will lead to immediate positive results.
- Brainstorm for fresh, relevant guest posts – Now that you have a writing strategy in place, you actually need some ideas, don’t you? These techniques can help you generate new and fresh ideas:
- Mind mapping – Using a tool like FreeMind will allow you to make connections between ideas that will generate more ideas…and so on!
- Time Machine – Pretend like you are in the future and ask yourself how you would solve a particular problem. Then, pretend like you are 200 years in the past and ask yourself the same question. You should get some interesting ideas on blog posts.
- Push the envelope – This technique will push you past your boundaries as you explore how far you can take an idea. And when you think you’ve taken it far enough, keep pushing.
- Role playing – This is something you can do alone or with a friend. Think of an idea or a problem you want to solve, let one of you play the devil’s advocate and start churning out ideas. Write down all the ideas.
- Hot potato – With a group of people, timer and a ball, start an idea and start tossing the ball to different people.
- Build a social media presence – Whether you use the slow and methodical approach or decide to get fast and furious, it’s great to have already laid the foundation with potential blog owners by engaging them on the social web. There are three areas you want to focus on:
- Comments – Spend a significant amount of time leaving and replying to comments on a blogger’s site.
- Forum – If the blogger has a forum, join and try to be helpful to new members by answering questions and generating dialogue. The blog owner will definitely notice.
- Email – Once you’ve participated in the comments and forums long enough, send the blog owner an email and ask that person if you can write a blog post for him or her. Some will have a contact form specifically for guest posting. Use it.
- Master the components of a guest post – Because writing a guest post is different than writing a post on your site, there are a few rules you need to follow:
- Links – Never write an article that doesn’t have any links in it! Make sure you pepper your article with links to external sites and to pages within the blog, which the blogger will especially appreciate, seeing that you’ve taken the time to understand and get to know his or her blog.
- Advanced blog posts – While the jury hasn’t quite decided whether you should share your best stuff or not on guest blogs, my view is that you do give them the best.
- Know the audience – Make sure the post is geared to the audience and actually answers a question they might have. Remember, it’s not your readers…it’s someone else’s readers….so you have to understand who they are.
- Show them you are an authority – Because you will be new to this audience, it’s important for you to spend some time establishing your expertise, so plan your post accordingly.
- Hook them with headlines – You’ll fall flat on your face if you write a great article but don’t display a stunning headline. Spend a ton of time on this because you’ve only got one shot at making a huge impression.
How to optimize your blog for social media
A great blog is optimized for the social web, making the content easy to share, discuss and interact with.
Group and display social accounts’ icons in a prominent location
Position all the buttons for your social networking sites on the right. Further, depending upon your own tests, determine where exactly: at the top, middle or bottom. I’ve found that the best place to position these buttons is toward the bottom of the items on that sidebar. There are more important things above like the subscriber box:
In addition, although I belong to a lot of social networks, I only display three: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest:
Make sure you display these buttons in the footer to get further exposure, but change the size and style to create a different look that doesn’t feel like a copycat of the others.
What’s nice is that you can download a wide variety of styles for these buttons. Make sure that these buttons open in a new browser. Don’t let them take your visitors away from your page.
Make the subscription options obvious
Delivering consistent content is done best when using RSS or email. Make these options as visible as possible and don’t forget to point out why people should subscribe.
Keep the search box and the subscription form separate so people don’t confuse the two. I’ve been personally guilty of trying to search in the email box on some blogs. Whoops!
In addition, experiment with the best copy on your “subscribe” button:
Both Feedburner and Aweber work well as content delivery engines.
Display your social network proof in your sidebar
You can use some great widgets that allow you to display the testimonials people are sharing on their social networks. Plus, when it comes to these social network buttons, you can display different sizes, follower counts and recent activity.
The follower count is a pretty persuasive way to get people to follow you as it provides a ton of social proof:
This naturally encourages more people to follow you with a simple click, building your credibility.
Show off the best content in the sidebar
By displaying which content is most popular on the day of the visit and over time encourages users to visit that content. It’s a really great way to entice new visitors to stay on your site.
Display your Twitter activity
This may seem to clutter your design, but there are some advantages to sharing your Twitter activity for you to consider:
- Snapshot of your activity can give users an idea of the content you share on Twitter…which may prove persuasive when it comes to them following you.
- It makes your branded retweets more visible to your users so they can see how much traction your brand is getting.
- It gets you more shares so you can increase your social sharing influence with your other posts.
- Obviously, you’ll get more click-throughs.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, social sharing is a great way to help you rank. So, use every advantage you can get.
Create multiple tweet options to increase sharing
One of my most successful innovations I have implemented when it came to increasing the sharing of my content was creating individual tweets for different parts of the content.
I did this on an article on being an entrepreneur:
It’s worked equally well when sharing statistics, like we do over at KISSmetrics on a blog post on page loading time.
Below, I have pointed out only three of the “tweet” action calls so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about:
Display author name and date posted
You can drive click-throughs by posting the date of a piece of content. If it’s significant to some day or it’s recent, people are more likely to click on it.
Also, display the name of the article since writers tend to generate a following after posting for a while. This is another way to drive click-throughs as you can promote the author of the content. This will allow the readers to follow a link back to more articles by the same author.
If you can fit it into your theme, include a picture of the writer. Readers like to see the writer. It raises credibility.
Don’t make users guess when content was published. The posted date indicates recency and relevance to other events around the posted date, e.g., conferences or holidays.
Tip: Publish articles very early in the day. Most users are more likely to share content recently published, and this lengthens your window of opportunity.
Include a thumbnail for the article image
When it comes to drawing attention, an image always does the trick. That’s why it’s so important to include a high-quality image to drive click-throughs.
Some sites create an image thumbnail for each article. It’s also a good idea to include the title in the image too, like the KISSmetrics blog does.
If you decide to use an image, make sure it is relevant to the article.
Display the social proof for each article
There are a number of ways you can show an article’s social proof. You can do it by votes or the number of shares across the web.
I wouldn’t provide too many social buttons as that will confuse your readers: they won’t know which ones they should use.
Keep it simple…
…and I would also recommend only using those social buttons that get a lot of shares. In other words, you might have a Google+ account, but if you are only getting 3 or 4 +1s, then I probably wouldn’t show it off until you can get those numbers higher.
Because there are so many options out there when it comes to what to read, people tend to gauge an article by how many social shares it has. The more popular ones will naturally persuade people to check them out.
Tease readers with a shortened version of the article
To make sure that your readers can tell the difference between your blog’s home page and the page an article sits on, make the articles you display on the home page shortened.
This also teases readers to click through. Don’t forget to include the “continue reading” link:
Try to leave enough room so there is more than one article your visitors see on the home page above the fold.
You can use your Google analytics to test screen size and resolution.
Include a descriptive author bio
Another important element of a successful blog is the author bio. This should be a thorough account of the author’s life and work that demonstrates you are an authority.
I’ve found that the longer the bio the better, which is why I start my bio all the way back to my birth. Don’t be afraid to include things that are not related to business like hobbies.
You definitely want to come across as a human being. Including your failures will make you look very vulnerable. This is also a great place to share your success story, detailing how you started down in the pits and how you climbed out.
Embed links to your recent articles
If you are guest-posting, position links to all of the articles in a prominent place on your bio page.
If you are prolific and have appeared in many different publications, embed logos of each publication like Mens with Pens did:
This is a great way to promote your authority on your subject matter.
Write a compelling headline for each article
Believe it or not, a reader will not only decide whether he or she is going to share an article based upon the content but based upon the headline too.
Remember, however, that the title tag needs to be 60 characters or less if you want it to show up in Google SERPs.
You also need to think about how the headline will appear on Twitter. For example, when the article is tweeted, you want there to be room for at least 11 characters so someone can retweet it.
Those 11 characters will allow enough room for your twitter handle. You don’t want the headline character count to go beyond 98.
Some Twitter users will change the title to accommodate the way they want to share it by either adding to the title or removing from it.
Don’t forget a meta description
While it may not score a high mark in the SEO factors realm, a great meta description relevant to higher conversions from the search standpoint. So it’s really an issue about click-throughs than it is about SEO. So, think keywords in the title and meta description, but not for SEO purposes.
Keywords are important to inducing click-throughs as these are the words that are highlighted on SERPs:
If the keywords that someone is using to search show up on the SERPs, they are going to stand out to the searcher.
In addition, the trick to writing a great meta description is to write a cliff hanger. What do I mean by a cliff hanger? It’s a promise designed to seduce the reader without revealing much. They have to click through to get the promise delivered.
Another reason it’s important to write a great meta description is that services like StumbleUpon and Digg allow users to enter a meta description. Once submitted, it cannot be edited. Never leave it to someone else to write your description.
If there is no description or it’s poorly written, then readers are less likely to click through.
End with a call to action
At the end of the article, you need to ask your readers to do something. This is your call to action or CTA.
It could be as simple as asking them a question to help jumpstart a discussion in the comment sections, which is how I end all of my posts:
Or it could be a call to your readers to go and support some cause or subscribe to your email newsletter.
No matter what it is, never waste the opportunity to request something from your readers. And get this: if you do this early and often for small requests like asking a question at the end of a blog post, then you will train them to respond when you ask for a slightly larger thing.
And that’s the key…progressively ask for a little bit more and more…and eventually they won’t notice that you are asking for something big!
Everything you need to know about blog comments
In a nutshell, what separates a blog from a website are the comments. This is the place where the community gets built…where all the discussions take place…and you build a loyal following of readers.
But you have to get the comments right.
Provide quick links to the comment form
Readers should understand immediately where they can comment. Give them a link at the top of the page…
…and at the bottom of the page so they can get to the comments quickly.
Comment section should follow after social share buttons
On the actual page of the post, your social share buttons should come first.
The comments section should be next. It should be easy to notice, so don’t bury it under a bunch of other stuff.
Plus, you don’t want to distract your visitors from the comments section. Lead them directly to it by making it easy to find.
And like I mentioned above, make sure you include a call to action that encourages them to leave a comment.
Some people are deciding to use Facebook as their default comment section. There are pros and cons. For one, all those comments are Facebook comments. On the other hand, you increase social sharing.
Put the form at the top of comments
Never bury the comment form down at the bottom of the comments. That’s a huge pain to get to, especially if there are a lot of comments.
Make it easy to leave a comment
The last thing you want to do when it comes to generating comments is make it hard by asking for too much information.
Instead, minimize the amount of information you ask for. At the minimum, you will need an email address and name.
I would also recommend you use a service like Open ID that makes signing in fast and easy.
Disqus, for example, has the functionality built in.
Include commenter’s “website” link on posted comments
Give the option, but don’t require it, for your readers to leave a web address too.
Allow readers to rate comments
If you have a loyal audience, then this is a great way to increase its activity. These simple actions will help push up the good comments and push down the bad ones.
Check out how SEOmoz does it:
And don’t forget to include a “flag” option that will help in moderation of the spammy or inappropriate comments.
Provide an option for users to subscribe to the article’s comments
Allowing readers to subscribe to comments will help your discussions in the comments section grow. You can give an option to subscribe either by email or RSS.
If you use a service like Livefyre, the system can encourage people to comment by letting people “listen” in on the conversation.
Make the comment count visible
Readers will often use the number of comments on an article to help them decide if they are going to read it or not. An article with a high number of comments suggests to the readers that there is a lively discussion going on about this article and that it may prove worth their time to read it.
Along with making the comments visible, you may also think about including the average reading time count at the top too.
Studies have shown that longer articles tend to get more reads and shares and articles that are less than a minute in reading time get less. The thinking is that there is more quality behind a longer article than a shorter one.
Produce content that’s worth sharing
I wanted to end this guide on possibly the most important part of blogging: creating great content.
Heck, it might be a cliché, but it’s true and utterly important. When you create content that people can’t resist reading or sharing, then you create an exceptional marketing blog.
So, to help you create this type of exceptional content, here are five blog posts you must read:
- Neil Patel’s Guide to Blogging
- How to Write a Blog Post
- The Neil Patel Guide to Writing Blog Posts
- Forget Blogging as Usual: 5 Outrageous Tips for Super-Sized Attention
- Your How-To Post Will Fail If You Don’t Use These Techniques
Listen, blogging is still one of the best digital tools in the marketer’s arsenal. And whether you are a one-person shop or a Fortune 500 company, you can use it to brand your business, build a predisposed-to-buying following and generate revenue…and so much more!
So, what other advice would you give to a marketer about blogging?
P.S. If you want help growing your blog click here.