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can make it far easier and more efficient when you do sit down to write, or if you decide to outsource.
However, some topics are time sensitive and a good blog will always remind readers on occasion that you are a real human being with a sense of time who is writing these posts. So, keep an eye out for new developments in your niche that can be written about at any time. If a new dog training book comes out that you want to review, stay on top of it and have an early review – the traffic from early posts on hot topics is always good for your site’s performance.
Along those same lines, subscribe to the lists of any product creators that offer items in your niche. When they have new product launches or special sales, you can then write a blog post about it immediately – one of the hardest parts of being an affiliate marketer is getting the drop on your fellow marketers. If you are ready to write a post as soon as you hear about an opportunity, that extra day or two can have a huge impact on your sales.
tHe fIrst Posts At some point, you’ll need to sit down and write a post or two. I say just go for it. Don’t spend days preparing or researching. Just sit down, write something out and post it. Yeah, you’ll want to fine tune, optimize, and eventually boost your posts with heavy doses of fresh content, but for now, it’s all about motivation.
Those first few posts are designed to start building the content on your site and should be useful and timeless because the odds are that you have no readers yet and a time-sensitive post will be severely out of date by the time you actually do have readers. So, instead of writing about an upcoming convention for dog owners, write about the top 5 ways to potty train your new puppy.
The tone of your blog should remain casual and personal and eventually you’ll want to develop a rapport with your readers, but in early posts, building a baseline of expertise is even more important. In fact, I’ve seen some affiliate marketers who will outsource 10-20 articles to contractors on Elance and post all of those articles over the course of 10+ days to populate their blog with fresh content to start.
This makes it so your first visitors see a prepopulated blog, don’t assume you have no knowledge and will read multiple pages of content. Just be sure not to post too much of your content all at once. Google loves blogs, but when dozens of posts are put up at once, red lights start to go off in Central California and they assume there is something fishy going on. Make it natural and use the scheduled posting feature to choose future dates for your posts.
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writing for a Blog All the technical details, research and formatting in the world is meaningless if you don’t have a solid background for how to actually write posts for your blog. That’s where we’re headed next and in my opinion, it’s the single most overlooked part of the process. Why though?
Content is vital to a good website – no one argues that point anymore. Google is seeing to that with each successive update.
And yet, blogs are still churned out with alarming frequency lacking original content or any sort of well balanced approach. They are loaded with rewrites, copy/paste jobs, or just plain poor writing and no one wants to read them.
I’m not pointing fingers here, just telling you what I see whenever I start researching a new site. It’s not pretty and as a result, a lot of people are missing some pretty major opportunities to make money.
So, consider this your crash course on writing. Even if you plan on outsourcing every scrap of text you have on your blog to a trained writer, it’s vital you understand exactly what that text should say and how it should be said.
How a Blog Post sHoulD sounD Blog posts are not informal journal entries that you jot down in your spare time to “get out of the way”. They are important pieces of text designed to entice readers to perform a certain action. In a number of ways, a well written blog post is very much like copywriting for sales and landing pages.
The goal may not be exactly the same. The sale isn’t imminent when you write a blog post about the Top 10 Ways to Craft Model Cars, but it is the same intention. Your goal is to convince your reader to perform a specific action – in most cases to comment, click on a link, or sign up for an email list or RSS feed. You’re building trust and capitalizing on that trust when the time comes to throw out your call to action.
So, your post needs to be polished, well written and most of all personable. It’s not a wiki. You’re not teaching your readers through an invisible shield. You need to create the feeling that everything is hands on – that you’re up there with them making changes and adjusting their perspective on the niche in general. Mostly, you’re making yourself look good by showing off how much you know in a helpful, funny way. Win-win for everyone.
For most people, this tone isn’t very hard. You talk to your friends all day like this. You tell someone you saw something interesting on TV last night without laying out a five paragraph essay. You describe a movie you just saw with jokes and your personal reactions to certain scenes. There is a direct connection between you and your readers and it only exists when you take the time to treat them like friends instead of a distant third party.
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The only time I’ve seen writers really struggle with this is when they spend a lot of time writing more formal text. If you use article marketing or your day job was content writing, you may find it tough to loosen up your inner voice and have fun with things.
The easiest advice I can give is to pretend you’re describing the topic to your mother. Would you ever sit and talk to your mother like a 12 year old in a class room? Of course not. You’d tell her how the topic affects you and why she should be interested. Unless you have a very tense relationship, it should be pretty laid back.
The same should be true for your blog posts and with a little practice, shouldn’t be an issue after the initial handful of posts.
tyPes of Blog Posts This brings us to our next and maybe most important section – the types of posts you’ll be writing. So many blog writers get caught up in one form of content or another that they forget just how many opportunities there are.
For example, if you write only opinion pieces without interjecting enough content to help people actually understand what you’re trying to teach them, you look more like a ranter than an opinionated reviewer. Your site needs to provide value in those opinions – something you can do easily by interspersing value rich posts like news updates, articles, videos or images.
In general, if you can integrate a little bit of everything into your blog, you’ll draw a regular, interested audience to your site – one that can consist of a much wider range within your niche.
One of the most common blog posts for an affiliate marketer is a review – something that we use to convince readers to click on over to our affiliate offer so we can make a sale. They’re great, they work, and if you’re really quick with a new product you can nail a high Google position early on. But, there are some things a lot of review writers do wrong, including the following: • Too Many Reviews – A review is a good way to draw attention to a product that can make you money, but if you don’t frame them with trust building content, readers will assume all you have to offer is product recommendations so you make a few bucks. That’s not good.
You need to build trust and then capitalize on that trust when you write your reviews. Even on a heavy review site, it’s a good idea to minimize reviews to 1 review per 5 pieces of other content. The one exception is if you are writing a “review only” site that focuses entirely on providing advice on a set of products. In that case, read the following tips carefully.
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• Imbalanced Reviews – A review is only useful if it appears to take an impartial view of a product. If you appear to have an agenda going into your recommendation, your readers may not trust you to know whether the product is best for them. There are a few ways to avoid this. First, tell the truth.
Don’t just say “this product is awesome” if it’s really not. Second, make sure you actually read or use the products you review. If you have not used them, you’ll need to disclose that, so it makes sense to give it a shot. Finally, be sure to offer both positive and negative points about the product. Even if it’s the best you’ve ever seen in the niche, frame your praise with some shortcomings. Nothing is perfect. • Copying the Sales Copy – I’ve seen a lot of reviews that simply copy and paste sales copy from the product website and make a few small changes. This doesn’t work a few reasons. Not only does that create duplicate content that will hurt your blog in the SEO race, it presents content that reads like a sales letter. No one wants to read sales copy on a blog. They come to your blog for your voice, which is supposed to be impartial and knowledgeable. If you supplant that with a strong salesy presence, it can undermine whatever level of trust you’ve built with past posts. • Too Short – A review should be more than 200 words. Most blogging gurus advise you to keep your posts short and to the point, but when it comes to a review, you need to offer a comprehensive look at the product – at least 400 words. People are still impatient, however, so use some simple tricks to make the review scannable. Bullet points of pros and cons, a star rating, and a “summary conclusion” can all be very effective in presenting your entire opinion in easily captured data sets without reducing your blog post to nothing. • No Context – Context is important. If your blog is about dog training and you write a review of a guide about raising lizards, you’re missing the very important context that goes with that review. You need to present knowledge and experience in the field you’re reviewing. Without that experience, your readers won’t know whether to trust you in the first place and then when the topics don’t match, they’ll wonder what you’re thinking.
A review on a blog can be extremely powerful – much more so than on a static site without any returning readers. However, you need to be careful of how you review the product, maintaining the trust you’ve developed and being completely honest throughout your reviews.
Not every niche can facilitate this, but there are quite a few that can and it makes for easy blog fodder if you’re in a hurry. But, there are a few limitations that you need to take into consideration. First, it’s vital not to just take someone’s news posts and repost them on your site. Yes, it’s legal to quote them and repost a news story, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it helps you when it comes to your Google ranking.
The best course in my experience is to aim for comprehensive coverage of a news topic. For example, if you worked on a car blog and a new model was announced by Ford, you might post a sentence or two from their press release, but you could also post images of the new car, links to conversations about it, a video of
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the car in action, and a short post of impressions that highlights your own thoughts on the car.
Personalize the news that you do post and you’ll be much more successful in generating repeated readers. If you think of it, it’s pretty simple. Those readers are interested not just in getting news from you. They’re interested in finding opinions and breakdowns of that news from an expert in the field.
By presenting those opinions, you create a position for yourself as the expert with their ear to the ground.
By far the most common and, in my opinion, valuable blog posts you’ll see on any site are the articles. This is content that provides direct value to your readers in a way that a review or news piece never could. I know you’ve read a few of these yourself (they appear on Affilorama all the time). Examples include:
• Top 7 Ways to X
• X Newest Tools for Your Y
• How to Do X
This kind of content is popular because it provides a specific set of valuable information to your readers in a format that is easy to read, easy to scan, and easy to repeat to other people. They feel like they are learning, and if you’re a good writer, they should actually learn something.
The goal of this type of post should be to provide valuable, informative content. It should be to the point, scannable, and interesting to as many people in your niche as possible. These posts often provide an opportunity to land some solid keyword associations as well. If you’re writing about dog training, having posts like “10 Ways to Potty Train Your Puppy “How to Stop Dog Barking in 5 Easy Steps” will load you up with backlinks and Google hits.
When I say opinions, I don’t mean reviews – I mean general opinions within the niche. This might fall into the category of an editorial or a rant on a given topic. For example, if you wrote an article asserting that you don’t believe in bark deterrents, that’s an opinion piece.
The reason opinion pieces are so high on the list is that they are generally very effective in eliciting comments from your readers. Notice how I put Controversial Pieces down a couple spots as a separate category? That’s because I like to think of my opinion as non-controversial most of the time.
There are situations when you’ll say something that others will honestly disagree with. But, most of the time, with a niche blog, if you write something based on a simple opinion, you won’t elicit that kind of dissent out of the box. Controversy for the sake of controversy is something else entirely.
If you do have a strong opinion, keep a few things in mind. First, not everyone might agree with you. So,
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don’t denigrate anyone in your posts. Don’t discount anyone who disagrees and never say anything negative for the sake of being negative. You might alienate more people than you expect by doing this.
Videos are awesome because they’re easy and they’re popular. People like video content and you don’t have to write anything. However, you still need to come up with the video, and that can, at times, require you to sit down with a camcorder and create new content. Linking to other videos on YouTube is an option – one that I’ve seen many bloggers use effectively to generate interest in posts.
However, keep in mind that modern search technology doesn’t reward you for embedding videos into your blog with no text to accompany it. Even if you find a good video that sums up your point wonderfully, it’s a good idea to write up a short post of 100-200 words to accompany the video.
If you’re creating your own videos, I still recommend you post them to YouTube or Facebook and link back to your blog. Most hosting accounts are not designed to handle the bandwidth requirements needed to upload and broadcast videos to a wide readership.
This is a fantastic option, but it does require you to get out there and network with your fellow niche experts. Just having someone else write on your blog does not automatically constitute a “guest post”. Generally, a guest post is when you get someone with specific expertise in one area of your niche to write about that expertise. This way, you don’t subvert your own status as “expert” – you just supplement it and maybe even add to it by having the wherewithal to find an expert to share with you.
When it comes to finding guest posters, you should start by building a relationship with fellow bloggers. Even as a new blogger, you can build your credibility in the niche by creating valuable, original content and then sharing that content with other bloggers. Comment on their posts, email them directly and contact them on Facebook or Twitter. These gestures can help build a rapport between you and other bloggers.
Most bloggers are happy to provide guest posts to people they respect. It builds their readership too because your readers will follow links back to their sites. And if you can build a strong mutual respect, you might potentially post guest posts on their blogs as well, increasing the volume of traffic you can get from niche related blogs.
Images shouldn’t necessarily be a post to themselves, but they can add quite a bit to your blog if you know where to put them and how to use them. WordPress makes it very easy to add images directly from your hard drive, as we went over earlier, and you should take full advantage of the opportunity when you can. Here are some notes on the use of images to spice up your blog posts:
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• Not Vital – Images add a lot to a post, but they are not 100% vital to the success of that post. I like to use images whenever it fits the post, and always if there is more than 300 words of text, just to break it up a bit, but make sure those images actually add value to the content as a whole. • Use Creatively – Images shouldn’t just be tossed onto the page for the sake of being there. Yes, they add some creative energy to the page, but if it’s just pretty colors for the heck of it, why? I like to think of a creative way to integrate imagery into a post, preferably with something interesting or funny when possible. If it’s an informative post, use images that show the information alongside your descriptions. Some people are visual learners and this can help them get involved. • Get Permission – If you don’t own the image yourself, get permission from the rights holder to repost it. You’d be surprised how many people will gladly say yes when you ask. However, when you don’t ask and just steal images from other website, that’s when you get in real trouble. • Use Captions and Descriptions – When you upload an image to WordPress, the interface will ask for a caption and a description. If the image adds value to the post, create a caption to showcase what in it. However, if it’s a purely creative supplement to the post, captions might be unnecessary. However, still fill in the description tag – this is a highly useful tag for search engine optimization. • Link Out if they’re Big – If the image is large, such as a map or a multi-subject shot with text, you should use a thumbnail and link out to a larger version of the image. WordPress does this automatically, so you don’t need to worry about any coding. However, you do need to remember to change the image size to smaller dimensions when posting.
Images are great and should be added as often as possible to your blog posts. They break up text, make them more visually arresting, and generally drive the reader’s eye down the page. Just remember to follow the rules and ensure each image has a purpose on the page.
Okay, so here’s one that I generally avoid, but can’t keep from talking about because of how often it is utilized. The idea of using a controversial comment or topic to generate interest isn’t new. After all, “all publicity is good publicity”. In reality, however, you have to be careful when treading down this path, if nothing else for your own sanity. You don’t want to end up spending more time moderating comments and chastising readers than you do actually making money.
So, controversial topics should be handled with care. I tend to avoid them completely, not openly, but at least actively. What that means is that I don’t go out and look for a topic that I can use to rile people up on purpose and generate more readers. I might accidentally touch on a controversial topic and not realize it, and if I do I’ll stand by my opinions and have a discussion with anyone that can be civil. But, I don’t intentionally attempt to anger my readers.
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But, if you have thick skin, don’t mind moderating dozens of comments, and can win an argument, controversial topics can drive comments faster than anything else you’d write. After all, only 1 in 100 people will actually leave a comment for something they read. That number jumps up to 1 in 15 if they have a strong opinion about the subject.
When I say intentionally controversial, I generally mean things like politics, religion, social issues, and ethics – topics that two people could disagree on and never come to a conclusion about due to differing world views. These are the real prickly ones because you can’t really debate a topic like this with someone who completely disagrees with you and you’ll likely generate a bit of malice from some of your readers if you push the envelope.
So, if you decide this is your cup of tea, keep a few things in mind. First, don’t intentionally push people’s buttons. Be nice about how you handle the issue and always encourage civility. Additionally, if someone starts saying horrible things about you or anyone on your blog, call them on it and ban them. Don’t allow that kind of behaviour to continue or you’re simply condoning it.
Authority Pieces and Viral Content
An article is a piece of valuable content that your readers can learn from, share with others, and bookmark for later use. However, when you take that idea to the next level, you create something entirely different – a piece of content that bloggers, news agencies, and readers alike will turn to as a central source of valuable information. These are called authority pieces or, in some cases, link bait, and they are extremely valuable to you as a blogger.
So, what does it take to turn a simple article into an authority piece? Volume. To be sure, quality is important but all of your articles should be of the highest quality, but when you make them longer and include huge volumes of content that can be accessed by anyone in your niche, you generate a resource that no one else has.
For example, you could write an article titled “10 Common Dog Personality Traits”. It would be interesting and many people would learn something about their pooch. But, it won’t go viral because it doesn’t offer anything that can’t be had from a dozen other blogs with similar posts.
But, if you pad that article out with a LOT of information and create the “101 Most Common Dog Personality Traits”, you have just generated an authority piece that will draw interest from every corner of the niche – from new dog owners, prospective dog owners, dog writers, and other bloggers interested in finding a source of information for their next post. You might even draw requests for guest posts from people who need that area of expertise represented on their site.
The key here is that you’ve just created a central source of information on a very specific topic that anyone can find on the web and that will be linked to multiple times by other sites.
A site I like that has made a habit of generating Authority pieces over the years is Mashable. Mashable generally focuses on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but over the years has expanded to cover pretty much everything that has anything to do with the two including technology products, business news, and much more.
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But, what really drives traffic to the site is their collection of guides and lists like “60+ Awesome Android Apps”, “20 Essential Social Media Resources You May Have Missed”, “13 Essential Tips for Landing a Job on LinkedIn” and more. Their lists are huge and they have a LOT of them. So, when someone Google’s “top android apps”, Mashable shows up on page one along with tech sites like Gizmodo and Techland.
How to Create Viral Content
There is no formula that turns standard text into “viral” content. It’s more of an idea and the more you blog, the more of a feel you’ll get for how it works. Most viral content is written with the sole purpose of providing the end-user with a highly valuable or highly entertaining product. Some corporations and small businesses pull out viral content on purpose, but most of the time it’s a fluke and it’s because real passion and interest went into the creation of the product.
You need to tap into that passion and generate content that isn’t “good enough” but is excellent and adds something entirely unique and never seen before to your niche. A list of 101 dog personality traits would be huge, just as a list of the top 60 Android Apps is incredibly useful to anyone who just bought an Android.
Blogs look for content like this and link to it, and readers bookmark it to come back to later. Do you think a review of a new affiliate product or your opinion on a news story can do that? Not unless you’re extremely funny and can turn your blog into an entertaining hot spot rather than an information hub.
As you can see, there are a LOT of different things you can post on your blog, and this list is only a start list – the content pieces that I have seen in the last 72 hours or so. There are dozens more out there that creative, interesting bloggers put together on a regular basis. Use your inner artist and think about what you’d like to see in the niche if you were a reader. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with.
struCture of a gooD Blog Post A good blog post is written to entertain and educate. It shows your readers that you are an expert in your field and that you have something unique to offer that no other blogger in your niche could provide. However, it also needs to have some important technical elements to succeed.
People are impatient. They want information now rather than later, so if you write a 1,000 word post without any subheaders, they’ll leave your site before they even start reading, if only because your content looks too intimidating. So, you need to be sure each blog post maintains a handful of important elements: • Catchy, Keyword Rich Title – The title is important for a dozen reasons. It shows up in search engines, gets indexed in RSS feeds, and is used for SEO in your URL. In short, it needs to describe your post, use keywords and be enticing. Oh, and it can’t be too long. • Sub Headings Throughout the Text – If you write 500 words, make sure to break it up with headings and sub headings. This makes the text scannable, plus it tells the search engine what each chunk of your page is about, valuable for indexing.
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• Paragraph Length and Post Length – The length of your paragraphs should be less than 4 lines. A good paragraph can be digested in less than 10 seconds by someone reading the entire text. Use the white space to your advantage to avoid driving away readers who are in a hurry or intimidated by walls of text. The same can be said for the post. Unless you’re writing something that calls for a lot of text (like our 101 dog personalities), keep it short. • Bullet Points and Numbered Lists – Bulleted lists break up text and make for easily digestible chunks of text. As you can see from this magazine, I’m a huge fan of lists – both bulleted and numbered. Use them whenever you’re listing off content or ideas. • Images Every 300 Words – Images are useful to create anchors in the text for antsy readers. I like to use the 300 rule. For every 300 words of text, toss in one image. This ensures nothing looks too crowded, but that you create a visually arresting post. • Tags and Categories – Use the tagging feature of WordPress liberally to relate posts to one another. The more tags you use for each post, the more often readers can find related posts that will keep them on your site longer. Categories are also important for proper indexing of your pages. • Attractive Social Media Buttons – These days, having buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Google and everything in between is considered a must. It adds depth to your site, an interactive option for happy readers, and a chance to invest additional time into your page.
I know it may seem like there are too many things to remember when putting your blog together, but keep one thing in mind. It gets easier. Sure, when you get started, there are dozens of types of content to write and tasks to remember, but once you’ve been writing for a month or two, it will come like second nature.
How to outsourCe Content CreatIon Content creation is time consuming. And as a marketer, you probably have a dozen things you’d rather be doing than sitting there writing up a new blog post. But, don’t forget that there are quite a few ways to get around the time sink. Like most marketers, I’m a huge fan of outsourcing – finding skilled workers to take on the tasks I either don’t like or simply don’t have time for.
If you’re interested in making a living online doing this type of work, you need to start considering how to outsource as many of your tasks as possible. Yes, it costs money, but the time you save and the overall volume of content you’ll be able to produce as a result is such that you can generally produce far more traffic and revenue while doing less work.
I won’t turn this magazine into a treatise on outsourcing (there is all sorts of content on Affilorama if you’re interested in the topic), but I will tell you that it is a great way to save yourself time. Even if you like to write your own posts, you may consider outsourcing tasks such as link building, commenting, or article creation.
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If you decide you need someone else to help produce the content for your site, don’t be afraid to look around a bit. There are thousands of writers out there, and despite what you may have heard from other marketers, a lot of them are fairly well trained in what they do. You just need to be willing to spend more than $3 for an article and have a keen eye for what makes a good writer.
You’ll also need to find the right website to contact and manage writers for your site. There are quite a few sites out there, but my favourite three for outsourcing in general are: • Elance • Odesk • RentaCoder
Each site has between 20,000 and 50,000 writers available at any given time to write your content. Right now, of the three, Odesk has the best project management tools in place and the best filtering options to help you avoid anyone that has low feedback or poor English skills. On Elance, you have to trust that your writer can produce content that meets your criteria. Both sites offer time tracking too if you prefer to pay by the hour.
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RentaCoder is also a very well developed site with a solid corps of trained writers. It is best known for its programmers, but you can find contractors for any position here. I don’t have a specific preference at any one site. Usually, if I need a static amount of content for a relatively straightforward topic, I’ll go to Elance due to the higher response rates, and if I need something hourly I’ll head to Odesk due to their superior implementation. RentaCoder is good if have trouble finding someone on the other two sites.
Who to Hire
I hear a lot of marketers getting upset out there because their contractors “don’t get it”. They receive poor quality work, content that doesn’t match what they requested, or run into writers without proper English skills or poor time management abilities. But, in my experience, if you are careful about who you hire and how you vet them before setting up a project, you can avoid many of these issues. Here are some of the factors I keep in mind when hiring contractors for my own projects. • Be Sure of What You Want- The number one issue I see when someone requests bids on a project is that they don’t know what they want yet. Go to Elance and post a project for “10 blog posts”. You’ll receive bids, but they will be general and it’s impossible to know if the writer would have the expertise or experience in your niche needed to write that content. When you write a project description, know how much content you need, how much you’re willing to pay, how long you are willing to wait, what keywords you need, what style you like, and what titles you prefer. • Ask Someone to Review Your Request – Sometimes it can be hard to know if you’re being specific enough, especially when you’re knee deep in the content yourself. So, instead of sending out a half-written request, have a friend or colleague read through it and comment on anything you might be missing. • Have a Deadline in Mind – Know exactly when you want the work and tell the writers up front. I like to set a deadline at least 3-5 days before I need something to give leeway if they fall flat. But, make it very clear that you’re not tolerant of delays. If they come in late, don’t hire them again and leave according feedback. Many contractors fail to take their jobs as seriously as if they had a real boss. Make sure they understand that you won’t put up with that.
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• Set a Realistic Budget – Budgeting is a big deal for projects like this. We all want a good deal so we can spend money on other things, like advertising. But, if you aren’t willing to pay for something, you shouldn’t expect it to be very good. In my experience, anything less than $0.02/ word will produce suspect quality content. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a new writer who is willing to prove him or herself for a lower rate, but eventually you’ll need to pay them more or hope to get lucky again. • Review Writers Accordingly – If someone produces low quality, late, or simply poorly planned work, don’t be afraid to leave feedback that reflects that. It’s not your responsibility to apologize for someone who doesn’t provide what they’ve promised. But, at the same time, be fair. If you weren’t clear about what you wanted and the end result doesn’t match your mental image, be realistic about whose fault it is.
When you hire someone to do something for you, there is some responsibility on you to be sure you know what you mean and that you relate those needs to your writers. At the same time, however, you shouldn’t expect that “just because they’re contractors” you have to put up with lower quality work. They’re taking your money, so be willing to ask them for quality in return.
CreatIng a Blog wrItIng sCHeDule Eventually, you’ll want to sit down and map out a schedule of your time, deciding how many hours a week you can spend writing and when your most productive hours are. We’re all built to do something, and for a lot of us, that thing is decidedly not writing, so don’t feel bad if you put it off or loathe those moments when you sit down to write. The goal is to find a time that won’t upset you too much and that will allow you to maximize your creativity.
To start with, you should decide how often you want to post. I recommend at least 3-4 posts a week. For the sake of the search engines, I’ve found that posting at least once in a 48 hour period will keep your site fresh in most indexes. Now, keep in mind that I’m talking about a bare minimum here, not optimal performance. Posting every other day is a good way to make sure you don’t start to drift down in the listings and that your regular readers come back to see what you’ve produced.
But, if you take a look at most top blogs, they have even more content – usually posts once a day with one writer, or multiple times a day if they can afford to outsource content to staff or contractors. It really depends on how much content you have on your site and what your traffic generation plan is. For a straight blog with no other marketing strategies attached, you will want as much content as possible as quickly as possible – hence daily posts.
After your blog has been up and running for some time, it becomes more feasible to reduce your posting frequency to 3-4 times a week.
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When to Blog
I’ve found that blogging first thing in the morning is best. But, I’m a morning person, which means that I can hop up, take a shower and be creatively energized for the day. It only weakens as the day goes on – by the time the sun goes down, I’m ready to plop down on the couch and relax.
A lot of you are night owls though. With families, day jobs, or a late night sensibility, you might like to relax during the day or wake up late, then work in the middle of the night when you have time to yourself. It’s entirely up to you when you post your blogs, but I recommend you set aside a specific chunk of time each day when you can do it.
Simply trying to “fit it in” will lead to procrastination and rushed posts that don’t read as well as the well plotted, planned ones. So, sit down and create a plan that can be followed weekly.
Queuing Blog Posts for Later
If you’re unsure you’ll be able to devote a single time to your blogging each week, you do have alternatives. WordPress has a handy scheduling feature that we discussed back in the section on how to use WordPress. With this, you can write as many posts as you want weeks ahead of time and schedule them far out. I know multiple bloggers who hire contractors to write 15 posts a month and then schedule them on the 1st to run through the end of the month. They don’t have to worry about the posting – it’s all automated.
If you either outsource or simply don’t feel that you’ll be able to sit down multiple times a week to write, this can be a great option for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you schedule ahead of time, you’ll need to avoid topics that are devoted to current events, lest the subjects be out of date by the time you post them.
ftC regulatIons The last thing I want to touch on in this section is a very important set of regulations that went into effect last December from the Federal Trade Commission in the United States. The new FTC regulations effectively make it illegal to create “fake blogs” or reviews that are designed to entice people into buying something when the information used to entice them is false.
More specifically, you need to disclose where you get your information, make truthful endorsements, and admit if you’re sending someone to a product that will pay you for the referral. Additionally, if someone has abnormal results from a product – like losing 100 pounds with a dieting guide, you must disclose that the results are not typical.
Another thing to look out for is the potential for fines and penalties if you affiliate yourself with programs that do NOT follow these new regulations – something that takes a bit more foresight on your part.
The majority of the focus from the FTC is being placed on advertisers but you can expect that affiliates are equally under the scope and could be hit with massive five figure fines if they don’t follow the new rules.
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And if you’re thinking that just because you’re outside the US you won’t need to worry about these new rules, think again. If you do business in the US – including advertising or simply hosting your site there – you’ll need to follow the FTC guidelines. Plus, most countries tend to adopt similar guidelines or enact treaties to follow along with the trade regulations of the US due to the nature of international commerce.
What Do You Need to Do?
So, what does this specifically mean for your blog? It means you need to very clearly disclose the nature of the statement. Endorsements and testimonials (such as a review you write to make a sale), should use generally expected results (as should all testimonials), to the point that you clearly outline what those results are. If you have exceptional results with a product, you have to say what normal results are.
You might be thinking “I don’t have any testimonials”, but it doesn’t matter. If your entire blog is FTC compliant and you link to a vendor site that is not, you’ll still be held liable for directing consumers to a violating site. It’s important to check all of the sites you affiliate with before putting yourself on the line.
Additionally, you need to tell any readers that you stand to gain monetarily from the review or testimonial you just wrote. Even if you don’t get paid for something and just got a free copy of it for making a mention, you need to say “I got this book for free to write this review”. So, to summarize: • Check Your Affiliate Programs • Actually Use the Products • Tell the Reader You Will Get Paid for the Recommendation • Outline Generally Expected Results • Plainly State When Something is an Ad
If you do these things, you’ll be fine. Since 99% of affiliates are legit and honest anyway, this just adds a couple of extra steps to your content creation – not a big deal for most of us. However, if you were using or were planning to use marketing tactics that circumvented these new guidelines, think again. It could seriously hurt your business.
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How to get More readers Everything we talk about in this magazine is pointless if you don’t have readers on your pages, digesting your content and clicking your links. So, I want to look closer at what it takes to get, keep, and grow your reader base – from the first post to the 1000th.
Readers on a blog come in a few different forms. There are the casual readers who might find your blog through a search engine or an article directory and skim through a post or two. They likely had a single question in your niche and are looking for an answer. Then, there are the people who add blogs to their RSS feed readers and return daily to catch up on what you have to say. And finally, there are the readers who interact with the writer, adding comments, bookmarking your posts on social media sites, and sending links to their friends.
As a blogger, your job is to use marketing tactics to generate as many Reader As as possible, then use your writing skills to convert them into Reader B and eventually Reader C. Too many bloggers are content to have 200 readers a day, never thinking that they should try to upsell those readers into becoming loyal followers and commenters. Traffic is traffic, right?
It is if you gain something from raw hits, but with a blog you don’t. You don’t make money if people just show up on your site. They need to be actively engaged with your blog before you make a profit through AdSense clicks or affiliate sales and that means you need to both generate good content and entice interaction.
gettIng CoMMents Comments are the secondary currency of most blogs. While some bloggers will outline their success in terms of raw hits, many high end bloggers will do so in terms of subscribers and commenters. The more people you can get to comment on your blog, the more effective you are at converting raw search into interactive readership.
But, when you first start a blog, it might seem next to impossible to generate comments. People will stop by and read your content; some might even stick around and read a few pages or subscribe, but why aren’t they commenting?
There are a few reasons for this. Foremost, commenting is a very uncommon activity. Know that less than 1% of active blog readers ever really comment on a post. If you see a post with 100 comments, you can wager two bets. First, half of those 100 people are likely repeat commenters, and second, that blog post probably got 10,000 or more hits to generate all that conversation.
This isn’t a set rule of course. Some bloggers can facilitate a conversation with a 200 word post that only gets 30 readers, but most blog posts will sit stagnant until someone drops by to say something.
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What Makes People Comment
Before we can generate more comments, I think it’s a good idea to look at why people comment in the first place. It’s actually a very unnatural reaction. Most people simply absorb and digest information on the Internet. Very few every actually contribute to the conversation. But, with the right tactics, you can get even the digital wallflowers to toss in their two cents. • Strong Opinion – If someone has a strong opinion on something, they are nearly 10 times more likely to post a comment. Your job is to generate strong opinions without generating unnecessary controversy. Our post about bark deterrents from earlier is a great example of this. Many dog owners and advocates are very much against debarking and shock collars and would gladly add their two cents in a conversation on the topic, with few readers taking offense to the subject matter. • Peer Pressure – If someone feels part of a community and the community is involved in conversation, they will feel pressure to represent themselves. This can be hard to generate in a blog post, but if you hit the right buttons, it will work. Your goal needs to be remind people of their social role in that niche and why you need their input. • Existing Comments –Few people want to be the first person to comment on a blog post. However, someone who might have a comment will gladly add it if another voice has already been voiced. This is where subtle comment building strategies like Twitter, Facebook, or trackbacks can come in handy. • Specific Expertise – If someone has knowledge in your field they will generally want to share that knowledge with other people. This comes about from getting lots of backlinks and general traffic. The more people see your posts, the more likely one of them will have an expert opinion to share. • A Question Asked – Some readers simply have questions. Don’t forget you’re putting yourself out there as an expert in your field. For this reason, you need to be willing to respond to questions that your readers have. Scan your comments daily and look for questions you can answer. By interacting with comments, you will facilitate your readers to ask even more of the same. • In Search of an Answer – As I mentioned earlier, a blog post is very similar to a sales page in how it drives actions out of your readers. As a result, you should finish every blog post with a call to action. It could be a call to think on the subject, click on a link, or to sound off in the comments section about the topic. In almost every case, that call to action will relate to interacting with your blog post.
As you can see, there are quite a few reasons why someone would leave a comment. Your job then is to tap into those urges and force those readers to release their opinion – something many of them hold very close.
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InCreasIng your CoMMent Counts There are quite a few ways to actively increase your comment counts once you get working on your blog. Some bloggers I know will only use a handful of methods, but I personally like to use as many as possible to generate new backlinks for my sites.
The key to getting comments lies in producing content that is worth reading and generates a rapport with your readers that encourages them to add their voice to the conversation. As we already discussed, there are a number of reasons why someone might have something to add, and many times, if you can get someone to comment first, the rest of the hangers-on will follow suit.
After all, with only 1 in 10 people actively engaging, you need to get every potential commenter you can as quickly as you can to generate that kind of ongoing readership.
The Easy Way
The easiest way to get comments is to ask for them. Simple, right? Not always. I’ve found in many of my blogs that if you just write a “please comment” at the end of a post, most people ignore it. It’s a standard part of most blogs and people tend not to read it.
That’s not really too surprising. People zone out a lot of things. So, your goal as the writer needs to be to integrate your call to action with the rest of the content. This is done by asking prescient questions. Here are two examples of the final 100 words of a blog post:
Dogs are, after all, animals. They have expectations based on their animal instincts and you need to train them with that in mind at all times.
Share your thoughts. Please comment below.
Dogs are, after all animals. You have probably seen it a hundred times in your own pets, that sudden urge to do something strange that would make perfect sense in the wild. I’d love to hear what all of you have encountered while training your dogs – whether a goofy behaviour or a confused look because of their animal instincts. Comment below with your personal stories.
In Example A, I end my blog post with a thought of my own and then ask people to comment. There’s nothing wrong with the end of the post – I make my point and a lot of readers will likely respond. However, in Example B, I actually engage those readers by turning over the story to them. I flip it around by saying “you probably see it”. But giving the story to the reader, I open them to make a response, as you would in a real world conversation. When I then ask them to comment, they are likely far more primed to do so.
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Another very important aspect of blog comments is remembering to interact with the ones left on your posts. If you want more people to respond to your posts, you need to respond to them when they do. The same goes for social media like Twitter and Facebook, so it’s great practice as a marketer to get out there and respond whenever possible.
The problem with this method is not the interaction – most of us are perfectly happy to defend our posts or post answers to questions. The real issue arises when you start getting 10+ comments a day and need to respond to them regularly. How do you decide which ones to reply to and how often to do so?
The key is in remembering that not every comment needs a response. If someone says “nice post”, you don’t need to say anything. It’s a compliment but it doesn’t need a reply. However, if someone adds a counterpoint or simply states something you don’t agree with, you should absolutely reply and offer an extension of your original point. If you write a post about why bark deterrents are inhumane and someone disagrees with you, it’s important to defend your opinion or your readers will think you lack conviction (and fail to respond to comments).
Keep it Simple
Another thing that I see get in the way of many blogs when it comes to comments is how hard it is to comment. This a tricky one for a few reasons, because you do need to have boundaries and you do need to moderate to some degree, but you need to have limits to your control. • Avoid Moderation on All Comments – Here’s what I do. Every time a new user posts a comment on the blog, I require moderation. Once someone has passed moderation the first time, additional comments are automatically approved. Every now and then someone gets through and says something crass or tosses out spam in the second post, but usually if they are good the first time through, they maintain that decorum going forward. This makes commenting much easier. • Avoid Login Systems – Don’t require your readers to register and login to comment each time. Luckily, WordPress turns this off by default, but don’t get tempted to turn it back on. • Place Comment Forms Next to Posts – Place the comment box directly beneath your content. This will make everything easier when it comes time for them to decide whether to reply to your content. If you hide the comment form or require multiple clicks, they might give up before they get that far. • Post Simple Rules Up Front – Often, having a few basic rules about what goes into a comment can help encourage commentators. It alleviates the worry that they’ll be made fun of, and tells them exactly how to format their comments. However, keep those rules simple and to the point. Too many complicated rules and you’ll scare away borderline participators.
Overall, commenting should be simple and straightforward. If you get the urge to make it complicated, you’ll lose whatever interest you had from them after the post has been read.
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return reaDers Commenting is probably one of the single most powerful ways to get someone to return to your blog multiple times. Once they have invested their intellectual energy into a post, they want to know what other people think of their comment and if your blog changes direction or responds to it. With that said, hoping someone comments is not a good plan for getting repeat readers to your blog. Here are a few methods I use to generate long term readership and maintain interest from current readers. • Easy Subscriptions – Every blog should have built in RSS feeds that make it possible to subscribe to the blog and get updates directly delivered to any number of other devices like netbooks, PCs, macs, or phones. Your blog should already have an RSS feed on it since you’re using WordPress. Just make sure the button is prominent and up top so they can subscribe without having to hunt for it. • Regular Posting – The easiest way to maintain return readership is to post on a regular basis. If you write 10 posts one week and then skip the next 9 days, people are going to forget about you, not because they are not interested; just because you don’t bother. It’s a bad precedent to set and it hurts your blog’s overall performance in multiple ways. • Wide Range of Content – Integrate as many forms of content into your blog as possible. This will attract different readers in your niche and keep them coming back on a rotating basis. If you write only about training techniques for small dogs, the big dog owners will quickly decide to go elsewhere. If you mix it up, they’ll all return to see if you write anything they can use. • Integrated Social Media – Get people to signup for your pages on Facebook, Twitter and more by adding buttons to your blog. Additionally, have each new blog post updated to your social media profiles (more on this later), so your friends and followers can see when there is new content to read. • Ongoing Series – Create series of content that your readers can keep track of. Having a Part 1-10 series on a very important topic can keep even casual readers following your syndication as they wait for the next chunk of useful information. • Following Popular Content – Spend some time each week reviewing which pages on your blog are popular and why they are popular. If you find that, despite the content you enjoy writing, something else is doing very well, write more on that topic. Always give the people what they want. The traffic you generate because of it will make up for not getting to write what you want.
Repeat readers are huge. They generate more comments, help boost your position in the search engines, and represent a chunk of people who may click on review links and sign up for your newsletters when you start monetizing.