Tag Archives: blogging

Part III Blogging Tips: Blogging with Consistent Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y

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With your blog now tuned to target audiences and focused on capturing their attention, a remaining step is to ensure your content is backed by consistent quality

Quality Content

Quick and to the Point

As described earlier, the use of a conversational style and visuals makes a blog more scannable. But much can be done with writing structure to make it even quicker to digest. That is why expert bloggers spend considerable time on the first few sentences. This opening must spell out why the topic benefits your audience and what you plan to say.

The first point implies that the fewer points made the better. The concept works much like an ad. You have a limited number of seconds to convince your readers that the one pain point or passion they have will be well covered in your post. And there will be nothing else to distract them.

The second point means you have to “tell them what you are going to tell them”. Then “tell them” in the body of your post. And then “tell them what you told them at the end of your post”. Progression of the post should be quick and to the point if you want today’s reader to stick around.

To accomplish this, leading bloggers like Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman offer the following advice:

  • Use bullets and lists to edit out unnecessary words
  • Make sentences and paragraphs short (< 6 lines paragraph)
  • Break up text with headings and subheadings
  • Highlight key points in quotes or bolded phrases
  • Use easy to read fonts

Unbiased Content

What distinguishes true journalism from the average blog post is the information vetting process used to validate findings. Few would argue that traditional journalism is based on far more rigorous standards for source accuracy than what is found in the blogosphere. This does not imply you shouldn’t express an opinion. But it does suggest that readers appreciate content that is unbiased and backed by either well documented evidence or well respected insights.

So for content to be considered high quality, the information offered in your post has to be accurate and reliable. Among the best ways to accomplish this is through empirically tested results or the insights offered by recognized experts in the field. This is why leading bloggers regularly post interviews with leading authorities often in the form of a playbook of insights from many experts.

Survey results from your own client sampling can also remove this biased perception especially if the sample is large, representative and empirically tested with at least a reasonable methodology. This can be done without laying out the entire testing procedure in the base of the post. It merely requires a brief explanation or reference to the study background.

As an example, I released fifteen blog posts on ways to create entertaining content from a study conducted on viral videos. Each post made reference to the study posted on SlideShare and included the following closing paragraph on the study background. 

A total of 3351 high performing videos (> 50K views) were examined in this ranking of top YouTube videos. These viral videos included re-casted television commercials that were posted on YouTube as a social media video back channel. Statistics were then recorded on the number of likes, dislikes, comments and views, where an exploratory study was subsequently published with the Academy of Marketing Science and 2013 Cross-Cultural Research Conference.

Quality Content example

Actionable CTAs

Blogs are used primarily as top-of-funnel content. This makes them ideal for capturing audience attention at an early awareness stage. But much of that blog traffic may not return unless readers are encouraged to take immediate action after reading the content.  This requires that your blog content host actionable calls to action (CTA) such as:

  1. Registering for free webinars
  2. Downloading white papers, case studies, reports or eBooks
  3. Joining live events
  4. Following on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest
  5. Sharing with friends
  6. Subscribing to newsletters and blogs
  7. Offering comments
  8. Posing questions
  9. Requesting demos or more information
  10. Buying through shopping carts

These CTAs not only provide an avenue to maintain engagement, they help escort your prospects through the sales funnel. A compelling CTA, for example, represents an opportunity for you to analyze data from the downloaded content or subscriptions and measure which topics had the greatest impact on conversion. And by encouraging your prospect to take the next step, you stay in the loop. This allows another opportunity to demonstrate your trustworthiness while keeping the prospect from researching elsewhere.

Link-worthy Content

As blogs invite far more interest than websites for an audience to link their content to yours, it is important to make your content link-worthy. This goes beyond a desire to share your content. There must be something of value that adds to their own content.

This value could include a source of validation for some of their expert claims or positions taken on a subject. This is why the display of study results in your blog post from new empirical research can attract links. The same applies to ratings, top rankings and reviews that validate someone’s credentials. Finally, audiences often link to their own guest posts on someone’s blog as a way to validate their expertise or popularity.

Linkworthy Content

Image Intensive Content

A clear drawback of predominantly textual content in a blog post is its often overwhelming and impersonal appearance. Graphical and photo based imagery not only require less mental processing, they strike an emotional chord that even the best of written poetry cannot accomplish. Moreover, imagery allows you to mix up your content as a diversity tactic. Audiences often appreciate the change up.

It is no secret that images are the most shared media on the likes of Facebook. That in itself is testimony to its appeal as a content element. But the rise of photo messaging apps (e.g., Snapchat), mobile photo-sharing services (e.g., Instagram) and visual discovery tools (e.g., Pinterest) attests to how dependent social media users are on viewing something over reading something. Pinterest, in particular, has become one of the leading drivers of traffic to websites. Your benefitting from this traffic, however, assumes that your blog post accommodates photos to be pinned.

Besides photos, SlideShare decks can be embedded into your blog both as a site traffic builder and a preview of deeper content.  Notice from this example on my own blog where an embedded slide gives you a preview of the content from SlideShare right on the blog. A downloaded eBook, on the other hand, would not give you this built-in preview.

Slideshare Content

Talk-worthy Content

For blogs to engage with your audience, they have to invite a dialog. Some refer to this tactic as making your content REMARKable (by inviting remarks) or Talk-worthy.

This may not be the same incentive they have to share or link to your content. Share-worthiness and Link-worthiness have more to do with leveraging your bragging rights or backing your story. The intent of making your content talk-worthy, on the other hand, is to stimulate a conversation or invite feedback as a method to keep your readers involved.

Some of the most popular techniques for accomplishing this is to include open ended posts that fuel a debate. Rather than solving the problem, you could engage in a series of points and counterpoints enlisting your reviewers to share their own thoughts. More reputable bloggers often engage their viewers for crowdsourcing (i.e., the process of gathering content by soliciting contributions from a large sample of followers). But even a simple request for feedback or response to a poll can often spur a dialog.

Talkworthy Content

Your Voice

One of the most common responses offered by blogging experts on tips for drawing in an audience is to be authentic and enthusiastic. This starts with writing about something you are passionate about; but, more importantly, doing it in a voice that best reflects who you are. As leading blogger, Michael Hyatt, points out, many bloggers attempt to be someone that are not when building a blogging platform.[ii] Instead, he prescribes one of three possibilities (authority, empathy or transparency) to examine in defining your own authentic voice:

  1. The Sage. This is a recognized expert in the field who can speak with authority.
  2. The Sherpa. This is the trusted guide who has learned from their mistakes and who speaks with the voice of confidence and empathy.
  3. The Struggler. This is a fellow traveler who merely shares their own successes and mistakes as they embark on their journey. They have the voice of transparency as they tell it like it is.

Once you determine your role as Sage, Sherpa or Struggler, you have a clearer path as to how you want to solve your target audience’s problems. The Sage may entertain an interview or FAQ format while the Sherpa chooses a more talk-worthy approach where the two-way dialog permits more shared experiences. The Struggler, on the other hand, may elect to be more visual in their approach so the reader gets a more intimate look at what works and what doesn’t.

Regardless of the chosen role, upholding this authenticity requires that you stay consistent with the voice. Too often we read blogs written by someone with a low key blogging tone only to hear a motivational speaker when they are interviewed in a podcast. By resorting to these pumped-up impersonations, you run the risk of tarnishing the connection your readers, listeners or viewers may have had with your candor and personality.

Finally, consider how you will impart this voice. A great way to set the stage is to get personal with your audience. That is why the world famous Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has achieved astounding results on her blog. She started with a personal story.

So what are some of your additional suggestions for focusing your blogs on audience attraction?

Part II Blogging Tips: Blogs F-O-C-U-S-E-D on Audience Attraction

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This second of a three part series on blogging tips deals with audience attraction. Now that the blog strategy and selected topics are tuned for the right audience connection, another critical exercise is to ensure that your blog efforts are F-O-C-U-S-E-D on capturing the attention of your audience.  The next part of this series deals with creating quality content.

Social Content Focusing

Frequent Postings

Content consistency is paramount. That is why it is important to blog at least twice a week especially when starting out. If there is nothing new for readers to see, they will quickly lose interest and see you as disengaged. But beyond the retention of repeat visitors, the frequency of posts impacts the number of new visitors to your site as well. Each new post, for example, adds to the number of indexed pages recognized by the search engines. Fresh content also signals to the search engines that your authority on the subject is backed by frequently updated information.

This not only improves the chances of target audiences simply finding the content, a study conducted by Hubspot revealed the following impacts on lead generation as well:

  • An average company will see a 45% growth in traffic when increasing total blog articles from 11-20 to 21-50 articles
  • Companies that increase blogging from 3-5 x/month to 6-8 x/month almost double their leads.

Optimized Content

According to Lee Odden, author of Optimize, “Blogs are one of the most powerful publishing platforms that integrates the best of SEO, content marketing and social media optimization” (p. 147). As the centerpiece of content marketing, blogs can serve as an aggregator of all your content while exploiting the power of its search potential and social outreach.

Search is greatly enhanced by its text-rich content and ability to attract links. But this requires attention to the following opportunities you have to boost search results.

  1. Optimizing your blog domain URL, titles and page construction descriptions around key phrases relevant to your target population and the benefits you provide.
  2. Optimizing each blog post around keyword phrases you are targeting for persona pain points.

This last point refers to visible text opportunities as well as the hidden HTML text used in tagging and page construction. Each post provides an opportunity to exploit key phrases in the visible body of text where special attention should be given to the titles, headers and the first paragraph of the post. In addition, bloggers have ample real estate in their HTML meta tags for describing their content through title descriptions, tags, anchor text, and image alt text.

The key is to tag and categorize everything but without overdoing the process. If the algorithms sense that you are engaged in keyword stuffing, you can get heavily penalized in search results. Instead, focus on simply being the best answer to what your target audience repeatedly asks. The latest of search algorithms (e.g., Hummingbird) will likely credit your content to a popular search query and reward you with high search results.

This also implies, however, that your content cannot be too short as it provides few opportunities to demonstrate your authority on the subject. So despite the pressure to keep blog posts short due to overcrowded content, blogging experts suggest that posts exceed 500 words for searchability.

Cross-Platform Promotion

Blogs lend themselves well to hosting mid-of-funnel content often through registration pages, download links and embedded presentations. For example, you can make an audio version of your blog post for an upcoming podcast show.  This cross-promotion not only boosts the exposure of your other content (e.g., podcasts, webinars, videos and apps), it allows a top-funnel to mid-funnel connection with your target audience.

Cross Platform Social ContentThe same applies in the outbound direction. You can make you posts social by abbreviated them for microblogs, newsletter digests, weekly roundups, social media posts or social networking group discussions. A link to the more comprehensive blog post could then provide detailed information if needed.

In addition to cross-promoting, blog posts should be crafted with an intent to create multiple pieces of content often in the form of a blog series. Turning blogs posts into podcasts, slide decks, eBooks or white papers are just a few of the many ways to repurpose your posts. This saves on resources while providing an avenue to mid-funnel content in the process. An additional blog post – remember this for search potential – can then be used as an introduction to the deeper content. As an example, see how this is done on my own blog for showcasing eBooks and by the Content Marketing Institute for their podcast introductions.

Unique Content

But in order to deliver something of value to your target audience in your post, you need to offer something unique. If not, your audience will merely see you as a curator of others’ ideas. A great way to start is to look for original content. This could include recently surveyed information or breaking news.

But as blog experts will point out, unique content does not always have to be original. You can write about your unique strategies or experiences as well. Many bloggers merely provide a unique angle to widely discussed topics. If not their own, they invite experts to share their thoughts. Either way, by providing a unique perspective, you help your audience with interpretation and judgment.

I applied this to my own field when evaluating social media books to read. There are plenty of practitioners who rate their Top 10s; so I reviewed, rated and ranked the Top 25 social media books from an academic perspective. As acknowledged by bestselling author, Jay Baer, the countdown offered something new to the social media community.

Social Content Perspective

Another approach to making your content unique is to play the role of the contrarian or devil’s advocate. Readers then benefit from the counterpoints often giving you the credit for having a fresh perspective. And by building controversy into your argument, readers will often become more engaged as they feel compelled to share their own perspective.

Ironically, a fourth way to make you content unique is to back off on over addressing audience needs and focus more on injecting your own passions. After all, it’s how others respond to your ideas that count the most. Social media author, Jay Acunzo, puts it this way: “If you only think about your audience, you’ll likely start to sound exactly like all your competitors.” Ideally you want to blend you audience’s interests with your own. This can best be accomplished with a personal story relevant to your audience. 

Shareable Content

The key to making your blog shareable is to first make your posts easy to share. Most blogging platforms allow you to accomplish this very easily through plug-ins that include sharing across dozens of platforms. At minimum, your posts must be reach where your target audiences hang out. This could include relevant LinkedIn groups, Google+ communities and Twitter chats.

The more emotion felt from your post, the greater the opportunity to be shared. This could include the use of humor, heartfelt moments, feelings of astonishment or inspirational stories.

Another inducement to share is based on the passing of bragging rights. This is why articles on breaking news are key. Readers are often anxious to share what they believe to be an exclusive discovery.  

Shareworthy Content Marketing

To ensure your content is shareable with a relevant audience, it’s important to syndicate it through an RSS feed or through the many blogging listing directories, social bookmarking sites and news aggregators. Finally, you can post the blog outside your domain with the intent of creating a new audience. This can be done by featuring your posts as a guest blog on a high traffic site as well as posting on social networks like LinkedIn.

Eye Catching Title

Without a doubt, headlines are the most important part of your post. And to craft one effectively, you have to pique your audience’s curiosity. One way to do this is to distract them with a message that seems out of sorts. When asking my students what advertisement they remember on a highway sponsoring over 50 signs, they invariably recall two of them. One says “You Wife is Hot”. Reading further, the sign says “You Better Fix Her Air Conditioning”. The other says “We Buy Ugly”. Both represent anomalies that capture our attention.

Asking a question – especially if it’s provocative – can also pique your audience’s attention. At minimum, curious readers may enjoy the insights from a contrary position like “Will Instagram Disappear”? Leading blogger, Jeff Bullas, often uses negative terms in his titles. His post on “The Top 15 Social Media Marketing Strategy Mistakes to Avoid” has amassed nearly 3K tweets.

Documented Content

The fast growth of video for content marketing has undoubtedly created the most powerful means of attracting and engaging target audiences.  A challenge at this point, however, is to make the video searchable. One way to accomplish this is by transcribing the audio and posting the script along with the video. This will help the content get found by search engines. Once transcribed, the scripted version could be embellished with slides, diagrams, infographics and photos to make it more appealing as a blog post.

The same could be accomplished for audio podcasts and conference presentations. Recordings can be spelled out into scripted versions with embedded slides and audio takes. This not only provides an additional opportunity to release another blog post, it captures the attention of search engines recognizing the embedded link s potentially from high page ranking sources as well as the keyword rich text in the script. If permitted by the podcaster or presenter, the script could be optimized around additional search terms that further boost the page rank. 

So what are some of your additional suggestions for focusing your blogs on audience attraction?

Part I Blogging Tips: Blogs T-U-N-E-D for Audience Connection

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Are you wondering what it will take to stand out among 400 million registered blogs? By now, you have likely heard how the latest in visual storytelling, entertainment and inspirational content can set you apart. But there are a lot of basics to blogging that we often neglect. This blog series  describes what it takes to ensure your blogs are tuned to target audiences (Part I),  focused on attraction (Part II) and backed by consistent quality (Part III)

blogging

Getting your blogs T-U-N-E-D for audience connection implies that you are writing on burning issues relevant to your hyper-targeted audience. It also means that the content is new and easy to digest since the average time to decide on blog reading is under ten seconds.

Trended Topics

So one of the first questions to ask when researching topics for your blog is whether the topic is new and trending upward. To help in this effort, there are many tools you can use to gain insight about the latest Google and Twitter search queries. For example, I selected the domain name “blog.socialcontenmarketing.com” to host my blog based on what I found on Google Trends for search popularity as well as what Topsy revealed on the level of Twitter engagement for this term. Based on the results, it made sense to use the long tailed term as a common thread throughout all of my posts.

Trending terms for SEO

But tuning your blogs to trends goes beyond a mere search for SEO queries. Another way to ensure high trending is to tie their posts to current events. Just witness the many ways bloggers attempt to tie in Mother’s Day or the Super Bowl into their blog post storylines.

User Generated Questions

The second question to ask in tuning your content is whether the post is too focused on your own offerings instead of answered a user generated question. One of the best ways to have your content resonate with an audience is to address an issue that keeps them up at night.

For Marcus Sheridan, this meant preempting his target audience’s questions like:

  • What does a fiber glass pool cost?
  • Who are the best suppliers?
  • What are some of the shortcomings in pool life and installation?

To his pleasure, no one else seemed willing to address these issues for fear of competitive exploitation or the risk of creating a premature expectation with the prospect.

Like Marcus, a common practice followed by leading bloggers is to actually survey their customers on what they are most anxious about when considering a solution the blogger can address. Others examine the FAQs logged over time from their field sales force or customer support teams. 

Another approach is to observe the questions that come up in discussion forums like those found in LinkedIn Groups. Ideally, you want to answer aggravating questions that cost your readers time and money. This will further help in search results since questions on cost and aggravating pain points get searched very day.

Niched Audiences

Based on the exploding number of registered blogs, the route often taken by successful bloggers is to hyper-target their content with long-tailed topics. For example, to connect in today’s overcrowded blogosphere, you have to offer more than advice on ladies footwear. You have to offer tips specific to elderly athletic women’s footwear.   

Ideally, every post should be mapped to one of your target audience personas along the lines of the residential realtor example shown below. Starting with four targeted audiences identified by their spending motivations (sunbelt retreats, wealth management, life transition and temporary accommodations), sixteen personas were identified based on their unique habits and aspirations. This led to a clearer understanding of pain points that would not be recognized without dissecting the audience into distinct personas.

Pain points and personas

Persona Pain Points Identified for Residential Realtor Bloggers

The mistake made by many is to assume you can write for everyone. But imagine the interest an ROI Maximizer persona would have in first purchase handholding or the interest a Mobile Crew persona would have in high society acceptance. By targeting as niche an audience as possible, realtors have an opportunity to address a target audience’s biggest pain point by tailoring everything to help only them. And by writing the post as though it were solving a specific problem for a single person (i.e., singlecasting), readers will likely credit you with empathy, helpfulness and expertise. 

Evergreen Content

Once a blog topic candidate is considered, it is important to ensure it doesn’t date quickly. Known as evergreen content, some blog posts can be written once and re-run in the future without it being rendered obsolete. This is why blogs on how-to’s or foundational topics are more effective than news stories. Writing a blog on conservative politics, for example, could remain perpetually relevant. But a story on “Top Tea Party Members Likely to Shake Up the Republican Party” would not likely have any value two years from the post.

The timelessness of this content gives it a high search ranking and great potential for accumulating links over time. As a result, traffic to the blog will improve over time as the evergreen content continues to gain traction with its target audiences.  

Digestible Content

The final question to ask when tuning your blogs for audience connection relates to how easy it to digest. Blog readers like posts that are concise and to the point. This starts with putting aside your writing formalities and using a conversational tone. If you write like you speak, your content more often stays on topic.

Consider the use of visual components as much as possible provided that they are self-explanatory.  As discussed earlier, visual components like infographics are mentally processed much quicker than text. 

All this assumes that the reader caught the gist of your topic from a well-crafted title and an opening sentence question that sets the stage for what is to come. The title itself has to let the reader know how the post will benefit them. And if the title includes a numbered sequence like “5 Ways to…” or 7 Steps to …” readers gain an expectation for and sense of accomplishment from completion. 

So what are some of your additional suggestions for T-U-N-I-N-G your blogs for audience connection?