5 Ways to Make Your Blog Better

Blogging and other forms of content creation doesn’t always come easily. It’s hard enough when writer’s block attacks and your posts feel a dry spell. Besides consistently and actively trying to create quality content, there are some other technical aspects of blogging that you should also keep in mind:

1) Optimize for Mobile Devices: Mobile is the future, we get that. But do you really understand the importance of having a mobile-friendly blog? 87% of American adults own a cell phone and 29% of Americans say their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day. (Check out more stats here.)

Using WordPress, Tumblr or a custom CMS, makes it easy for mobile users to land on the mobile version of your blog. Where necessary, it’s also helpful if you let visitors go to the desktop version of your site if they need to.

2) Interlink On and Off-site: Linking naturally within related blog posts is a great way to keep readers on site. Linking to other relevant, authoritative sites shows that you’re providing helpful information. Often times, people are afraid to “link out” but this is a natural part of writing and sharing quality content. The only problem comes when you go overboard on the amount of links and anchor text used. Nobody likes to read keyword-stuffed content, it’s 2013!

3) Integrate Social Media: This doesn’t mean just auto-posting to Twitter and Facebook. The next “wave” of social networking sites are Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and others. The benefits to using these social networking sites is their ease of use and casual it can be just to be active. The content is fast, easy and fun to digest.

Even if you’re sticking with the basic sites like Twitter, there are new features that you can use such as embedding Tweets and even conversations.

4) Optimize Images: Learn from those who do it best. Sites like Gawker, Jezebel and other celebrity gossip sites thrive on bringing the “best” celebrity pics and candids. But these things don’t just happen out of nowhere. Their success comes from proper optimization, labeling and use within content… not to mention saving and compressing the right files so that load times aren’t driving visitors away.

5) Don’t be Afraid of Tools: When used correctly, the right tools can help you in the pre and post stages of writing your content. Keeping a writing calendar can help you stay on track and not fall behind on updating your blog. Tools like Evernote are extremely helpful in keeping notes so that you can capture the moment when inspiration or an idea pops into your head.

If you’re feeling especially lazy or uncreative, Zemanta can help suggest relevant content and pictures. And for getting read to publish, WordPress tools like Yoast’s SEO plugin helps you be more efficient in optimizing your posts. Ta da, just like magic!

Beat Your Blogging Blues

Do you have a case of the “Mondays”? Well, you don’t have to… at least when it comes to blogging. If you’re feeling bored, frustrated or uninspired, there are plenty of ways to get that excitement going and brain stimulation going on. But that takes work… so we’ve done it for you! Check out 5 tips you can use right now to beat your blogging blues.

1) Think in hashtags: Everyone on Twitter, Instagram and Google + is doing it. So, why aren’t you? Using words or phrases you would hashtag may help you think of something funny, insightful or interesting you can relate back to your topic. You can always search said hashtags and get ideas. As annoying as they can be, hashtags can get your creative juices flowing again. Besides, #YOLO.

2) Think of an abstract connection and make it happen: Want to connect a certain topic to lessons learned from your favorite movie or lyrics to your favorite song? Just do it! Sometimes, you just need an ending and you can fill in the cracks a long the way. If you need more catchy title ideas, check out our previous post on Cracked.com

3) Freewrite and brainstorm: Give yourself 10 minutes to write whatever comes to mind on a certain topic. You might have words, whole phrases, ramblings or even doodles written down. The purpose of these exercises is to think without restrictions and gather your thoughts up so that you can convey them in a meaningful fashion later.

4) Keep a journal: Everyday objects, tasks and people watching can give you ideas for writing. Sometimes, a good idea will come to me and I might forget it in passing. The best way to keep these points of inspiration is to write them down, whether it’s in a journal, on your phone, or even on your hand! It’s like waking up from a strange dream, it’s hard to remember unless you actually put it down on paper!

5) Keyword research: As boring as it sounds, Google’s Keyword Tool is a safe but sure way to gather ideas for writing. When you input a word or phrase, it will generate different phrases that you can specify to your needs. This will also give you synonyms and related phrases to use so that you aren’t repeating the same thing over and over again.

Have other tips you think we should know about? Let us know what you like to do when you’ve hit a writing slump.

7 Signs That Your Company Blog Sucks

Judging by analytics, social engagement and other metrics, there are plenty of ways to tell if your blog sucks. If you’re indifferent or oblivious, it’s time for a wake up call! Take a look at some ways that your blog content strategy isn’t up to par:

1) You never link to others – ME, ME, ME… is this all you ever talk about? This is definitely not a good sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to link to your direct competitors but spread your links out to give readers credible resources or recent news stories that are interesting and relevant. Not only are you being helpful but it shows that you’re keeping up with reliable sites in order to provide them with the best information.

2) Write solely for search engines – If your blog topics seem to be repeating themselves it might be a sign that you should start writing for people instead of robots. Thin content is not a way to win readers. Another tell-tale sign is always using exact match anchor text, scheduling several posts at once and not updating consistently.

3) Your topics are not focused - If your blog is bouncing from topic to topic without a relevant connection, it’s time to stop. There’s a place for that… your personal blog, Tumblr or social media accounts. For niche industries, it’s easier to stay on track but for others, it can be easy to stray away from your main industry if you’re suffering from writer’s fatigue. The cure? Rest, read and write more!

4) You don’t deliver on what you promise – Nowadays, there are many ways to come up with well-written headlines that are destined for link bait fame. But make sure not to skimp out on the content. If you’re going to promise readers something grandiose (like effective li

5) You’re lacking in the spelling and grammar department – Skipping spell check isn’t a good idea and there’s always a chance that a competitor or client will catch it and question your qualifications. Remember, the grammar police do exist! I’ve seen one message recently from a site visitor (pointing out a slight misspelling) with a note that it “takes away from the professional feel of the site.” Yikes.

6) You’re dishonest – Examples include rating a product that you’ve received for free or for compensation without disclosing it. Another example might be a marketing company writing about top marketing campaigns and including one of their clients, also without disclosing it. Also, spewing out facts and statements without proper citations. Trust me, readers aren’t stupid and all it takes is one sentence disclosing your association so that it doesn’t look like your company has something to hide.

7) There’s no clear call to action – Your blog posts must have a point for existing. Are you providing free information, entertainment, resources or offering to help solve a problem? Don’t forget to encourage some action either in the beginning or at the end of your posts.

Do you have any other pet peeves that you’ve seen company blogs succumb to? Comment and let us know or join us on Facebook to continue the conversation!

Are Your Business Blogs Too Boring?

boring contentBlogging is an important part of a content marketing strategy but sometimes, it’s hard to get around the fact that your business is “boring”. Whatever you do, don’t get into this train of thought! Remember, there’s always a way to give your content a boost. It just takes a little self-analysis and adjustment to see how you can make your blogs a little more interesting!

Things to Ditch

Information That’s Way Too General - Are your blogs just written to take up space? Content that’s too general isn’t very interesting or helpful to anyone. Spun content is also a red flag for spam, which can lead to penalties. Instead, you can focus a post on one specific topic or question. This gives you an example to showcase your expertise and will hold real staying power. This can lead to followup questions and related topics so you’ll never run out of things to write about.

Detailed, Jargo Filled Content – At the end of the spectrum, detailed content can be just too much for a reader to digest. It’s important for a business to remember to use terms and topics that are easy to understand. At the very list, make sure to explain confusing topics and not to assume that readers know as much as you do. Finding a balance between being too general and too detailed can be tricky, but this is what practice is for – and blogging is the best way to get there.

Long Blogs – Have you ever scrolled past a long blog post that failed to hold your attention? Some companies may feel that quantity means quality. Long content doesn’t necessarily mean that readers are taking something useful away from your blogs. Remember, you don’t have to cram content in a small post. Take some time to organize your thoughts in more concise bullet points. The goal of business blogging is to effectively and efficiently get your message across and length isn’t necessarily a requirement.

Cold, impersonal language – The appeal of blogs are that readers can find out more about the personality and culture behind a business. Every once in awhile, it helps to update about company news, employees, neighborhood events, to show the human side of your business. These blogs will stand out and your words won’t feel as clinical and emotionless.

These are just a few problems that business blogs can encounter. Feel free to share your pet peeves and make sure to stay tuned for our next post on what you can do to improve your business blogs.

Are You Using Link Bait to Attract Readers?

Sometimes, I think the term link bait has a connotation because you’re using it to “trick” others to link to your article. With that said, there are legitimate ways to link bait properly, especially if you have useful content to back it up. Link baiting is a great way to attract readers and bloggers who are willing to share your content. Here are some techniques you can apply to different content (blogs, articles, on site content and even social media posts)

The Shock Factor – Remember all those crazy Jerry Springer episodes? ” Something ridiculous like I Married a Horse” comes to mind. Having a shock factor can come from many ways: rants, critical reviews and debates are many ways you could bring people to your post. But remember, these extreme techniques can threaten your online reputation, so use with caution! There are also ways to use the shock factor without being over the top, such as building on surprising factor of interesting statistics that others can relate to.

Industry News – When there’s a breaking story, it’s crucial to post it and put your take on things as soon as possible. This way, you’re establishing yourself as being a reputable source by showing that you’re aware of the changing industry. For example in the legal industry, you’ll want to keep readers informed on the latest product recalls and dangerous products. In the fitness industry, you may want to comment on the latest diet and exercise trends.

Contests – Ideally, you won’t just give away a random product in order to have people link to your site or fan page. Instead, you can build customer loyalty by having customers participate in some way – even if it’s small. It can start with taking a photo or sharing a story or build to something big like having a logo contest. Have I mentioned that Facebook has changed things up for Pages? If fans don’t engage with your Page, your posts will no longer appear in their default News Feed! But that’s a topic for another time… The more fans invest into your contest, the more interested they will be in your brand in the long run.

Guides and How to Guides – Wiki, forums and Q&A sites are so popular because people always have a problem that they’re trying to solve. Creating step by step guides on a topic that you’re well-versed in will help establish your business as an authority figure. If you’re worried about giving too much away, you can start with a popular general topic. For example, if you look up a fettuccine alfredo recipe, there are SO many ways to make the same thing. It’s important to put your special take on the topic. You can do so by also adding helpful pictures, video and other forms of media content.

Creating quality link bait that’s also effective is NOT an easy thing. Not to mention that most successful methods require a creative spin. Every once in awhile, it doesn’t hurt to break out of the cycle and create something innovative within your SEO content. What’s your take on link bait and techniques that really work?

Just Attended: Social Media Club

Last night, we braved the rain and made it to join, “Social Media: Getting it Right in 2010”, with the Social Media Club of San Gabriel Valley. Moderated by Sally Falkow, the panelists included: Dana Chinn, James Macpherson. and Jessica Gottlieb. With good people and good fudge, what more could we ask for?

In about 2 hours, a wide array of topics were covered. It started out with what’s changed in the media. Nowadays, you small businesses can take advantage of bloggers to monitor your brand and listen to what customers want. No doubt, the theme of the night was to measure your efforts and adjust accordingly. Just because we’re talking about social media marketing, doesn’t mean that you should throw the basics of marketing out the window!

Useful Tips and Takeaways
- When it comes to social media, you don’t necessarily need to be everywhere. Utilize the right platforms that will work with your overall goals.
– Make use of location-based review sites: Foursquare and Yelp. Listen and be nice to your customers!
– Don’t forget to be engaging. Leave comments and interact with your fans and friends frequently.
– Communicate your passion. Chances are, there are many readers out there who share your enthusiasm for certain topics. Even if they don’t, your excitement is a great way to bring them in.

All in all, it was a fun and informative night. Looking forward to more of them in the future!

Just Attended: Writing for the Web in 2010

We love TopRank Online, so I was thrilled to catch a webinar with Lee Odden this morning. The topics were of new strategies to make better use of SEO tactics in online press releases and vice versa. So much to absorb in 1 hour and there was little time for questions at the end. Anyways, here are some important things that I took from the presentation:

Starting out with SEO Basics
As Lee puts it, “If content can be searched on, then it can be optimized for better performance in search”. However the definition of SEO is changing nowadays. You can make the most of your resources and you can also optimize your video, images, and even audio. As always, we emphasize that this is possible through relevant content and links. They are your friends and don’t forget it!

More SEO Tips
– After you have compiled a keyword glossary, use a keyword tool to target your audience more efficiently.- Keyword placement is up for debate, but Lee recommends that the important ones are placed upwards towards the top
– Optimize your content for your readers first. Then, you can go back and make adjustments to make it more search engine friendly. (Doing it the other way around!)
– Don’t overlook the importance of using keywords in the title, subheading, and text body. The title is the most important place for your keywords to be. At the same time, you don’t want your content to be overflowing with keywords. It helps to use variation and synonyms to make your piece more visually appealing and easier to digest. In a normal 500 word press release, you’ll want to use a targeted keyword around 2-4 times.

Making a Press Release Work
Traditionally, you may think that a press release is just a type of announcement. An online press release is so much different, in that you can do more than just pitch a message or event. You’ll want to inspire a call to action, whether it is having readers click through to your website, add you on Facebook, or make a call. You can direct them to a landing page for optimization analysis. Think of a press release as more than a one-time thing. A credible piece may be passed along by journalists, readers, and bloggers. With your links in place, a press release can be a very valuable investment and asset.

Blogging Tips & Helpful Blogs to Follow

I’m currently putting together a presentation for an event we’re hosting in Los Angeles on November 12th in a few weeks that will discuss blogging, local search engines, social bookmarking, and how to monitor your business and was inspired to post this blog about blogging. If you’re new to blogging these links will be very helpful. I’d sign up to follow these blogs so you can see some successful bloggers in action.

You might also want to follow a few blogs that relate to your business so you can see what others in your space are doing.

Here’s a list of what to look out for when you’re observing these bloggers.

  • Use of catchy headlines
  • Links to other sites and blogs from within content
  • Free downloads and how they capture your email
  • How often they post
  • Comments – post a link back to your blog if you can in the comments field (Start commenting on other blogs!)
  • Ad-ons (what else do they have on their blogs that add value to the user experience – twitter feed, list of users, advertisers, links to other social media sites such as Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon)

And lastly I’d start putting together a list of ideas for your own blog. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to post some blogs you’ve found helpful.