Zuckerberg has been seen looking pretty chummy with the President. For the majority of Americans who oppose Trump, this is alarming. A reason to boycott the platform. So Facebook refuses to monitor Trump’s hate speech, and Trump stops dragging Zuckerberg in front of Congress to testify.
I’m a pretty creative person, so I’m always mulling over new topics for blog posts and other content for my website. But let’s face it. Sometime the well just runs dry. This is the time of year when you’re trying to get the most out of Labor Day weekend, get your kids off to school or take a long-overdue fall vacation.
One more thing: If you’re not subscribing to newsletters and publications that provide industry updates, start now. This is not only a critical part of your job, it’s the inspiration for endless blog topics.
Here are some ideas for fun, inventive blog topics when the well runs dry
- Trends. Look for trending topics on social and comment on these trends. Analyze, agree, disagree and share a relevant experience.
- Time travel. Drill down through your post archive. I have something like 300+ blogs. Which posts can you revisit and repurpose, update and/or refresh? Add a new introduction and conclusion to give it a facelift. Evergreen content endures.
- Share a presentation. Have you given a presentation lately? Turn it into a blog post. Identify the major bullet points, the biggest takeaway and audience reaction. Think about also adding this to SlideShare for additional SEO value.
- Presentation/workshop/seminar/event. What have you attended that would make a great post? Profile the speaker and that person’s expertise. Who was the audience and why was this important? Provide a testimonial or quote from the presenter. Link to the presenter’s website.
- Showcase a member of your team. Or a colleague, leader, someone in your family or community who’s making a big difference.
- New applications. Have you discovered a great application that’s ridiculously easy to use, free and saves you time? Share this with everyone you know! I’m delighted with my latest discovery. I’m currently working on newsletters using five different email applications. Besides the old standbys—Constant Comment, MailChimp and Vertical Response–I’m using Square. My client’s using Square for his payment system, so their proprietary newsletter app integrates with this data. It is by far the easiest to use of these five applications. I’m also using MailChimp’s MailerLite, a drag-and-drop-based application that’s very easy to use.
- Discuss an issue. How about this? Will Congress regulate big tech? This may happen, but not with this generation of legislators. From The Washington Monthly: “Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful people in Washington,usesa flip phone. The kind of phone with a tiny screen and real buttons, designed for making actual phone calls, not writing emails. But then, the Senate minority leader rarely emails, he sends about one every four months. In case manufacturers stop making his favorite flip phone, Schumer has stockpiled ten of them.”
- Knowledge sharing. Love free stock photo sites. These images are edgy, arty, stunning. Look for Pexels, Unsplash, Nappy.com. A drawback: If you’re looking for photos that are business-specific or with people over the age of 30, keep looking!
Not a great writer? Not a problem. These cool free tools will help you become a better writer. They’ll help improve the quality of your writing and make it more accessible.
Grammarly. Upload an article and this impressive app picks up potentially embarrassing editorial mistakes. Grammarly highlights grammar, punctuation, spelling and subject-verb agreement issues. It gives you a score—mine was in the high 90s. Good. It also told me that my article could be read by those with at least a ninth-grade education. Not so good. In an earlier blog I mentioned that we should be targeting readers at a fifth-grade level.
Hemingway. This cool, free tool is named after novelist Ernest Hemingway who was all about crisp, efficient writing, the Hemingway app is an excellent tool for sharpening your writing. Paste your work into the editor, and it will automatically highlight sections of your writing; each color suggests a different type of improvement you could make.
- Yellow–Shorten or split sentences.
- Red–Sentences are too dense and complicated.
- Purple–Overly complex words. Hover over them and Hemingway will suggest simpler alternatives.
- Blue–Use of adverbs, which come across as weak.
- Green–-Use of passive voice, which is less engaging. You should be acting rather than being acted upon.
Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer
Once you get past the name, and you’ll find that this tool is something you’ll want to be using on a regular basis. It’s based on the premise that we want to be reaching our audiences on an emotional level.
If no one reads your headline, nothing else matters. Here’s how this works: EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) words have “sounds tones” which produce stronger “emotional” reactions and are thus better at reaching the reader on an emotional level. The Analyzer givesyour headline a score based on the total number of EMV words relative to the total number of words it contains. The higher the percentage of EMV words, the better your headline is likely to perform.
Buzzsumo: Cool, free and a a rich source of blog topics
One of our biggest challenges is coming up with blog topics. I love Buzzsumo. Scroll through this site and you can view a year’s worth of topics in your interest area that were most popular on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. You want to be targeting those topics for where there’s a significant amount of interest. Another good place to look for ideas? SlideShare. Spend some time perusing these topics and you’ll emerge with lots of good ideas.
Don’t count on this cool free tool: Microsoft’s spellcheck
If you’re relying on Microsoft’s spellcheck, keep in mind that while it’s a really good start, it doesn’t begin to address things like subject-verb agreement or the gazillion words that no longer need to be hyphenated. Language evolves at a faster rate than what Microsoft can deliver.
None of these tools is going to write your blog for you
It’s hard to beat cool and free. But you still need to sit down and write. Make it a commitment and own it. And use these apps to help you become more attuned to good writing.
Need help developing your content marketing program?
Is content still important? Are you kidding?
Think about this. Google ranks your online presence according to keywords. The operative word is, well, “word”. Without a steady infusion of quality content, there’s nothing to help you show up in search engines, to increase your Google authority.
So how to increase your readability? Keep it simple
Explain things as clearly as possible. Shockingly, the average American reads at an eighth-grade level. It’s time to start dummying down our delivery. Long sentences, long words, buzzwords, acronyms and industry jargon are going to confuse some readers, so they quickly move on.
Here are some guidelines for increasing your readability
1. Create a customer focus that:
- Is genuinely useful to the reader. Provide information that helps readers do their jobs.
- Has a practical application. This isn’t just about you. Think about how your readers can benefit. People should be able to relate to this.
- Answers aquestion or solves a problem.
- Informs, entertains or educates.
2. Revise to determine readability level
- For maximum comprehension, think of your target audience reading at an eighth-grade level.
- If you haven’t created a persona, this is a good time to do it. Identify your target audience by developing comprehensive demographic information—not necessarily your existing audience, but those clients with whom you’d liketo be working.
3. Shorten sentences
Break ‘em up. It’s easy for readers to get lost in a sea of phrases, clauses and complex punctuation. Digital devices have created new usage standards.
4. Reduce the number of long words
Unless you’re in a highly technical industry or have a very sophisticated audience, avoid/limit multisyllabic words. Edit your content and find words that are more accessible.
5. Scrub your copy of buzzwords, geekspeak, jargon and acronyms
While these words may be old hat to you, they can be totally foreign to an industry outsider. If you must use challenging terms, carefully explain them.
6. Avoid overusing adverbs
We all overwork adverbs, leaving a swath of muddled sentences. Not sure what an adverb is? They’re words like reallyand very. They answer questions of how, what, when, where and why. (My mom was an English teacher.) These words frequently don’t add value.
7. Create a balance between formal and conversational
Create your own style, but a conversational approach makes the experience more personal, even for B2B audiences. Don’t be afraid to interject your own personality and opinions—those who love and agree with you will love you more. Those who don’t? Well . . .
8. Get feedback and proofread
As writers, we become too close to our work. If you have the luxury of another person who will check for mistakes and areas of improvement, you’re lucky. Alternately, I’ve found it helpful to write an article one day, then come back to it at a later time—it gives me a new perspective. This requires planning ahead, but it helps me streamline my writing and correct mistakes.
Marketing experts these days recommend incorporating video into your marketing program for a very good reason. Millennials, the new go-to demographic, love this communication channel. Videos are also an excellent way to increase your Google authority, helping you show up in search engines. Pay-per-Click (PPC) is another hot marketing trend. Google is making a stunning $100M/day from Google Adwords—which means that millions of people around the globe are using PPC to help grow their businesses.
The question inevitably surfaces: Is blogging still necessary?
With the hype around sexier marketing trends like video and PPC, you may be wondering if you still need to be blogging. The answer is a resounding “yes”. Blogging is and will remain an essential strategy for reaching your audience. A few stats from Hubspot:
- You have a 434% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines if you feature a blog.
- Businesses using blogs as part of their content-marketing mixget 67% more leads than those who don’t.
More reasons to keep writing and posting high-quality blogs to your website
- Blogging is still the most critical content marketing tactic for 2018. In a recent content marketing survey, 52% of respondents agreed that blogging is their most critical content-marketing tactic, followed by email newsletters (40%), social-media content (40%), then ebooks, in-person events, and webinars. Only 30% of respondents considered video to be vital.
- Blogging—not video–is the place to provide in-depth information. Long-form content (2,000 words or more) performs systematically well. Forget the trend towards minimalism. To rank well in search engines, a page should be at least 300 words. My rule of thumb: Provide enough information to answer your clients’ questions; frontload information so that the reader is getting the most important information in the first paragraph.
- People trust blogs. Think of your blog as your very own platform. This is where you can create your online personality. It’s here where you can differentiate yourself.
- Blogging drives web traffic. I love this one: The SEO industry couldn’t survive without words. Your blog is where your words go. One more thing: Your website’s landing pages should also be at least 300 words. More is great, but 300 words is the target.
- Blogging spurs inbound links. Companies whoblog receive 97% more links to their website than those who don’t.
- Effectiveness. An estimated55% of bloggers report that they get positive results from blogging.
- Blogs have evolved. Today’s readers expect transparent storytelling and great, accessible content. Avoid promotion; provide information that helps people do their jobs. Keep it lively, and don’t be afraid to share your opinions.
- Your blog works in tandem with social media. Without a blog to promote on social, you’re missing an opportunity to drive high-quality engagement.
Having trouble committing to a blog?
Create an editorial calendar and line up topics a few months in advance. Calendar time each week to write. Don’t be afraid to steal ideas.
It’s been more than a year since the mighty Microsoft purchased Linkedin, and there have been many changes, including the interface which now resembles that of Facebook for a reason—it’s this interface that more than 2 billion active monthly users are familiar.
Earlier this year, Digiday reported on how business publishers were seeing growth in referrals from Linkedin.
- August seems to have been a banner month on Linkedin, with more than 50 million shares of new articles during that 31-day period.
- LinkedIn engagement is beginning to rival, or even surpass, their shares on Facebook.
- According to Executive Editor Dan Roth, Linkedin had 3M writers and around 160,000 posts per week at the end of 2016.
- LinkedIn claims that 87% of users trust the platform as a source of information, making it an important destination for attracting attention.
But what sort of messaging works on LinkedIn, and how does it get distributed?
Unlike Facebook, there isn’t a whole lot of discussion about the influence of LinkedIn’s algorithm on what their users see when they log on. As with most algorithm-based newsfeeds, the reasons stories go viral is divided into two sections.
- Analyze the actual substance, tone and presentation of the stories themselves.
- Consider the distribution particulars of LinkedIn, the role of its algorithm, and the influence that a writer or publisher can have on that process.
An emphasis on the jobs marketplace
LinkedIn is fairly explicit about the types of stories that are likely to go viral. They like articles that share professional expertise, suggesting titles such as these:
- What will your industry look like in 5, 10, or 15 years and how will it get there?’
- What advice do you have for career advancement?
Career advice ranks well on LinkedIn
Career advice and professional development insights are extremely popular—because LinkedIn is a huge marketplace for both recruiters and those looking for jobs. The problem is that for those of us who are in the trenches actually doing our jobs, offering advice for career advancement is simply not a likely topic.
LinkedIn attempts to distinguish itself for its higher quality content
LinkedIn discourages the use of listicles (an article format that is written in the form of a list—popular because it’s easy to scan and digest), and obvious clickbait. Linkedin recommends that writers keep articles appropriate for the LinkedIn audience—avoiding that which is obscene, shocking, hateful, intimidating or otherwise unprofessional. Notice that LinkedIn is rarely mentioned in discussions about the spread of fake news, and It’s not known as a place where viral publishers expect to thrive.
LinkedIn articles avoid being overly promotional
It’s fine to mention your work or the project on which you’re working, but endless self-promotion may result in spam status and a visibility downgrade. To its credit, LinkedIn has carved out a niche; it isn’t trying to compete with Twitter for breaking news or Facebook for mass appeal. Rather, it’s become a powerful platform for thought leadership, where users share content relevant to their careers. Becoming recognized for a particular expertise on LinkedIn is an excellent way to build an audience on this platform. LinkedIn recommends that articles be at least three paragraphs long, and to rank well in search engines, an article really needs to be at least 300 words—besides, you need some substance to make your point.
Distribution: The algorithm at work
Distribution of content on LinkedIn is an algorithmic process, and that algorithm is designed for engaging, interesting stories to go viral. In this sense, the algorithm isn’t all that different from the type of stories that the bigger platforms employ, but aimed at a more niche audience. LinkedIn deploys a man+machine approach to classifying content in real time based on signifiers such as early engagement, previous reaction to content from the page, etc.
LinkedIn has a three-stage process for identifying and dealing with low quality content
- As the post is being created, a classifier bucket posts as “spam,” “low-quality,” or “clear” in real time.
- Next, the system looks at statistical models based on how fast the post is spreading and people are engaging with the post which helps determine low-quality posts.
- Human evaluators review posts flagged by users as suspicious.
Each of us has a LinkedIn community
Stories are shared with a subset of our connections and followers. The bigger our community, the better chance that a large number of people will see our articles. This is determined by connection strength, your connection’s notification settings, and notification state (i.e. number of unread notifications). Members who aren’t in your network can choose to follow you, and by doing so, they will receive your articles and posts in their feed. Followers may receive notifications when you publish an article. Your articles may be available in their LinkedIn homepage feeds and can be included in news digest email.
It is LinkedIn’s editorial mission to provide timely, professional content to its users. Want your articles to reach a wider audience? Provide well-written, quality content that addresses the needs of your community.
Blogging is tough. Like a potato chip, you can’t do one. One means that you tried blogging and gave up. It was too hard. It makes you look like a quitter. If you can’t sustain a blog, don’t start. I blog every week, then post the blog along with an image to my website, Linkedin page, Blogger and 4 social media sites. It’s a commitment, but if you make it a habit, you can do it.
Your blog becomes the workhorse of your content marketing program
Quality blogs will drive your whole content marketing program. Not only will you be providing fresh content to your website, increasing your SEO value, but you can repurpose that content to your newsletter and use extracts on social media. A blog is a workhorse. Set aside time to work on your blog and own it.
Here are 8 blogging mistakes—reasons why so many people fail.
- Setting an unrealistic publishing schedule. There are actually people who promise themselves they’re going to blog 3-4x/week or more. Forget it—this is a recipe for failure. If you can do one blog/week, you’re doing really well. Cut yourself some slack and try two blogs/month. You’ll soon find this is an aggressive goal.
- Not using headers to break up text. This one kills me. When I see a big 6-inch block of text on my computer screen, there’s no way I’m going to tackle this. It’s a fortress. Break it up into manageable bites. Use subheads that guide the reader through the copy. Use bullet points to further delineate key points. Seduce your reader.
- Using “Click Here“ in links instead of real keywords. The days of “check out our new website” and “click here” are over. Audiences have gotten a lot more sophisticated, and by using your keywords and inserting a link instead, you’re getting a lot more SEO bang for your buck.
- Not Answering Your Comments. When someone takes the time to comment, you owe him/her a response. Remember that you’re doing this to build relationships.
- Not Using Images. Big mistake. You may be an inspired writer, but the stats tell us that the average visitor will read just 20% of your content. The use of really good images that are relevant to your topic not only enhance your blog but draw in your audience. An estimated 67% of users say that images are more important than descriptions when making a purchase—and the whole purpose of your blogging is to grow your audience and get new clients, right?
- Not Adding Social Media Sharing Options. I see this all the time. Time to integrate your messaging across all of your marketing channels. Make sure your website, social media sites, newsletter, business card and any other print collateral are all branded, integrated and connected. We’re looking for consistency of messaging.
- Not Using Analytics. Do you know which posts your readers liked best? Do you understand how people are finding your information—what sites they’re coming from and if they’re clicking through your site? If you haven’t installed Google Analytics on your site, do it. Start using this to see what kinds of posts are getting the most attention. (Your comments will also be an indicator.) If you find that you’re getting a lot of response to one topic, you may—or may not—want to write more blogs on that topic and really promote them. Build a niche.
- Not Showing Recent/Popular Posts. New visitors are often curious, so give them something to look at! If you’re clever about displaying your blogs, they’ll stick around to see what else you’re writing about. If there are places on your site to call attention to your blogs, by all means leverage them, such as a homepage banner with a title and a link to the blog. Many of the new website designs have tiles and other callout areas where you can post an image along with a message and a link—these are great places to showcase your blogs. On my site’s blogpage, in the righthand column there is also a list of my last eight blogs with their links.
I began working with California Document Preparers more than a year and a half ago to develop and execute a content marketing program. At the time, they were doing a weekly blog–working an anonymous blogger in the Midwest; they knew these blogs were neither relevant nor topical.
He wasn’t making any particular effort to stay on top of industry news or local headlines that translated to timely blog topics for our community.
Our program is based on consistency and a weekly blog
We are doing a weekly blog, a monthly newsletter and we’re posting to 4 social media sites 2x/week: Google+, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. We post our blog to our website and Linkedin and we just began posting it to Blogger–it’s a Google product, and they own the search space, and it’s ridiculously easy to use.
We follow best practices
I do the small things that enhance SEO value–I always include our name in every social media post, I label every image with our company name and I include alt tags with our images. I identify keywords and metadescriptions. These are small things, but they’re cumulative and they make a difference.
In less than a year, our reporting showed that our web referrals were up 60% over that time last year, which translated to $95K in revenue. This is a significant increase for a small company, and we continue to increase our visibility. In mid-February 2016, our web referrals were up 50% over that time last year.
Quality, well-written content that’s topical and relevant
It’s the steady posting of quality, well-written content that’s enhanced my clients’ web presence. We’ve noticed other things. We’re not killing ourselves on social media. We post religiously, rotating through our services, always including an image. We used to get 15-20 views on our FB posts. Now we’re consistently getting 90-150. It’s all part of our steadily increasing presence.
We’ve made other changes. We’re a company that provides a high level of customer service—we’re about our people. So we did a photoshoot, and we featured a team member each month in a profile. We want people to get to know us, and these have proved very popular.
A new website and a new approach
After a heroic effort to rehab our old website to make it more accessible, we had a come-to-Jesus and realized that rather than try to beat this old site into submission it was time to bury it and start fresh. We wanted a new, modern site that was straightforward and attractive, with significantly streamlined navigation.
Content that reaches people on an emotional level
We’d gone through a complete catharsis and knew that we needed to dump our old content. We’d been laboriously trying to educate people about the legal services we provided, yet metrics showed that people weren’t reading these pages. Our new approach is based on simpler content and good images; we want to reach our clients on an emotional level. Our message is that we’re there for them to help them through their uncontested divorces, living trusts, probates and other legal matters. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.
Need help with your content marketing program?
If you’re blogging just to be filling space, you’re wasting your time and effort. I’m working with several clients who have blogs on their websites, yet for neither of them is her blog working—no followers, no traction on her website, and it’s easy to see why.
Client #1: Original mediocre content: missed opportunities
Client #1 writes her own blogs, but they’re haphazard. They’re neither thoughtful nor well-written; it’s clear she hasn’t put much preparation and effort into her posts. There are no compelling or funny stories, no case studies that they might share. No opinions shared on what might be going on in her industry. She also doesn’t take advantage of posting her blog on Linkedin to reach a whole new marketing channel.
While she uses images, they’re poor, and she’s not adding a caption, which can be an additional keyword source. She misses the opportunity to use alt tags with her images and doesn’t write metadescriptions. Most of her blogs are short and lacking substance—good blogs should be at least 300 words. The results are entirely predictable: she’s neither deriving any SEO value from her blogs nor positioning herself as an industry expert.
Client #2: Content curation: nothing personal, insightful or compelling
Client #2 has a huge volume of blogs on her site, but none of them is hers—they’re all repurposed from a range of industry sources. No metadescriptions, no alt tags on images. Google Analytics shows that she’s driving almost no traffic from these posts.
If you’re simply reposting whatever you can find that is vaguely related to your business, you’re wasting your time. It can be challenging to come up with a snappy blog every single week when you’re drowning. This is why many bloggers become derailed.
Here are 9 ideas to jumpstart your blogging program
- Buzzsumo is my current favorite—a wonderful source of shared content on a wide range of topics.
- SlideShare is another great source of ideas. Read a few articles/presentations and you will come up with ideas of your own.
- Still struggling? Use the premise of someone else’s blog and do your own spin on this. Make it personal—provide an example or personal experience.
- What’s going on in the news in your industry? Talk about this—share your experience or opinion. Share some stats or data.
- Showcase a deserving colleague or highlight a recent workshop or seminar
- Be mindful and think about what you could be blogging about each week as you interact with your clients; set aside a regular time every week to write your blog.
- Look for occasional guest bloggers—it takes the pressure off and gives your colleagues some exposure. Ask them to reciprocate.
- Delegate—identify someone on your team to help share the blogging responsibility.
- Develop an editorial calendar to take advantage of key industry events.
Blogging can be the workhorse of your content marketing program; make it work for you.
I’ve never been a big fan of best practices—they’re right up there with mission statements for me. They’re usually boring, self-righteous and way too general. I’m a very pragmatic person, and I want information that’s actionable.
I did, however, come across some blogging best practices that I love—mainly because they reinforce what I’ve been telling my clients for a long time! First of all—do start blogging. It provides significant SEO value—you need fresh content on your website, and blogging WILL raise your search engine rankings. Sharing quality information that helps people do their jobs also positions you as an industry expert. Get some mileage out of your content. Repurpose it to your monthly newsletter; extract parts of it for social media posts. Make your content work for you.
Blogging best practices
- Forget quick-hit blog posts: A tiny blogpost doesn’t do you or anyone else any good. If you’re writing just to reiterate your keywords, you can’t outsmart the almighty Google—it knows the difference. Do think of crisp thoughts, but these need to be thoughtful, useful and fully fleshed out: 300+ words is the rule for a website landing page, and I just read that they’re recommending pages much longer than that—up to 1,000 words or more.
- Avoid self serving comments: Don’t make comments including a link to your website. You can be reported to Google for spammy comments. In fact, sometimes Google puts out a blog post of its own asking for reports about comment spammers.
- Link exchange for higher search ranking: If you link to another blog because they’re a referral partner or the people in your networking group get together and create a Resource page to host links to the group’s websites, that’s fine, but it probably won’t improve your rankings—unless these are very influential, high-traffic and/or high-authority sites.
- Directory listings: Don’t submit your business to mass directory or listing services. They provide irrelevant links that make you look bad. Syndicating articles for links leaves you with a lot of duplicate content online—another search engine no-no. Besides, this takes forever—sometimes these lists have hundreds of sites on which you could hypothetically list your site. You have plenty of other things to do.