Category Archives for Blogging

The counter-intuive way to writing faster

You have a meeting to go to. The car needs fuel, you haven’t had lunch yet and you’re worried about the sales aspect of your business. You know you should be marketing your business more, but if you haven’t got the time for fundamentals like living, then how the heck are you going to find time to blog?

Sure you could get up an hour earlier to make time, but that would mean getting up at 3 am, an hour after you’ve gone to bed… There has to be a better way to get your blog posts out of your head, down your arm, and onto the keyboard.

And there is: Outlines and Mindmaps

Outlines, or outlining is a fantastic way of being able to create your content faster. Your outline can be the structure of a blog post or a loose script for a video. The outline provides the structure for your content and you can fill it in over and over and over again. What’s not to love about that? It’s working smarter, not harder. To make things even faster for you you can download your free outlining roadmap here:

What do you need to create outlines?

I outline in two ways, but there’s also a third way which we’ll cover further down in this post. For the first way, you’ll need a pen and paper or you’ll need a Word (or Mac equivalent) document,

You know roughly how long your blog post will be; roughly 500 words and the standard outline will have five paragraphs made up of an introduction, a body of three paragraphs, and then your summary or conclusion.

Of course, the outline itself will vary but when you’re starting out or in a rush the outline described above is perfect.

And this is exactly what you type or write:

Headline Here:

Introduction – One Paragraph containing

  • Hook to capture your reader’s attention
  • Introduction to your general topic
  • Your point of view about the topic

Three Paragraphs in Body

Each of these three paragraphs should concentrate on a different aspect of the main topic.

Each paragraph should open with the idea of the coming paragraph. The rest of the paragraph should support that statement with statistics, stories, quotations, or supporting ideas. And where you use these, you need to add in your sources too. I make a note like *research here* as I write my outline.

Remember to transition between paragraphs so that the words flow from one paragraph to the next. The quickest way to do this is with bridging or transitional phrases like

  • on the other hand
  • another example is

I use this post here as an inspiration for my transitional words; you can never have too many in my opinion.

Conclusion

An effective conclusion ties up what you’ve said, and when it’s well written, it leaves the reader with something to remember along with the feeling of closure.

The Call To Action

This is where you encourage your reader to take action and I tend to write in big letters “CTA”. It’s quicker.

The second way to do this is to create your outline using Mindmapping software.

Decide on whether you will use an app (yes there are heaps of mind mapping apps) or some software. You can use a pen and paper if you’re not experienced with mind maps, and you may just prefer to hold a pen in your hand. I know I do. If you’re an experienced mind mapper you already know about outlining as it forms the framework for your map!

Freemind is software that allows you to organize your ideas and reorganize them as you go along. You can get the software for free at http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.You can use Freemind for things like product creation, webinars, ebooks, etc., but here we’ll use it to organize ideas for a blog post.

The topic, for the purpose of this article, is outlining with ideas for an introduction, three paragraphs in the body, and a conclusion.

 

With a mind map, you can add topics and subtopics, move them around, or delete them on the screen easily. Mindmaps are flexible and easy to use.

The third way… If you’re familiar with PowerPoint (like I am) then you can use that to create your mind map.

If you’re a writer, you sit down and write. If you’re a blogger then you sit down and blog. And sometimes you just can’t find the time to either write or blog. Mindmaps and outlining will speed up the entire process. Have you tried it?


PS Want to join us in the blogging challenge? Join up here – it’s free. Everyone is welcome from Fitness bloggers to business bloggers.

Create Your Attention Getting Content Series

Attention. We all want it. We all have it.

We consume all and every kind of content about attention from how to get it to how to stretch it to how to get more of it. And in consuming this content we absorb some lies

  • Attention spans are getting shorter – No they’re not. They just won’t tolerate boring, bullshit content any longer
  • Video is the only way you can gain popularity – Nope. The most popular piece of content online is a quiz.
  • You must be slim, young and attractive to get attention – No, another big fat lie. Remember Chewbacca Mask Lady? She was 37 at the time of recording and she holds the record for the most viewed livestream ever.

The truth is that these lies fuel the narrative that says we’re not worthy of attention. That our content is not worthy of attention.

Ouch.

Think to your attention for the moment.

  • Do you binge-watch a boxset or TV series?
  • Read a trilogy of books?
  • Read a series of books AND watch the box set? A Game of Thrones anyone?
  • A series of films?
  • Seinfield re-runs?

Attention spans are not getting shorter. The threshold for bad content has got higher. This means your content needs to be better, faster, stronger especially if you’re going to create a content series.

Does this mean you should never attempt to create content series?

Hell no. It just means you will need to plan strategically and focus your energy. The good news is, the more frequently you create your content the better you will become.

The Content Series

The 30 Day Blogging Challenge is a series. It’s 30 blog posts, videos and roadmaps shared via email for 30 days. That’s a lot of attention-holding.

The 30 Day blogging Challenge works so well because it’s evolved since it was first delivered online in 2007. The value shared in the blogging challenge is worth more than blogging courses sold at £997.

The blogging challenge content series takes you from bystander to participant to champion. It feels strong and powerful and attracts those that want power pulsing through their own content.

There are 5 steps to planning your content series, and plan it you should. It’s not an easy post, like a list post, to pull together. You need to get your ducks in a row before you create and share. This free roadmap and 5 steps will help you get your content series done!

Step one: Your Content Series Goals

Common goals for web content are

  • Collecting email addresses
  • Increasing traffic to your website
  • Increasing brand awareness

Your content series will also position you as a leader in your field or industry.

Decided your content series goals and write them on your roadmap.

Step 2: Decide Your Series Theme

When putting together the blogging challenge the theme was simple; what does someone need to know in order to no longer be a beginner with content?

All the content in the blogging challenge is aimed at growth. There’s also the secondary theme of encouragement.

Decide what the theme of your series is, and what sub-themes (if any) there are.

Step 3: Structure Your Series

George RR Martin didn’t wake up one morning and decide he was going to write 8 books describing the worst of humanity and throw in a dash of wolves and dragons.  He started with a structure and grew it from there.

You can read a Game of Thrones, the first book, or start with A Clash of Kings. Although they’re a series they also stand alone.

Each post in your series needs to be good enough to stand alone and yet be part of a bigger whole.

Each post in your series needs to be structured the same. You also need to balance the length of the posts. Will it seem weird if you open your content series with a 10-word post and finish it with a 3,000-word post?

  • Will the series have a similar headline?
  • Will there be a visual connection?
  • Will you link to the first post in the series?
  • How will you connect the series together?
  • What will the cliffhanger be?
  • Will you encourage people to optin for just this series of content?
  • Will you write one post in your series at a time or write in a batch?

The Blogging Challenge was originally written one post at a time. We made it up based on feedback from the participants as we went along.

The Blogging Challenge 2020 was written in a batch over 3 weeks. The 13 years of experience means that we were able to go from one post at a time to batch writing. You may have the experience to write a batch, you may prefer one post at a time.

Add your answers to your roadmap

Step 4: Calls to Action

Calls to action in a content series can be complicated. The calls to action in each piece of content will lead to the next post. But what happens when you finish the series? Where will your readers be guided?

Add your answers to the roadmap.

Step 5: Publishing & Promoting Your Series

Pressing publish is a big step for your content series. You might want to announce it on Facebook or with a livestream. You might want to create some promotional videos.

You will also want to create a landing page for the series and add the links as they become published. Whether this is for your internal use, or for everyone to see is up to you.

Your content series isn’t limited to blog posts. You can also edit them into a book. People pay for convenience. The Blogging Challenge Book has been around since 2014. The emails are free, but the book is not. It now has a companion guide, and a planner and a course that’s part of it. All of these additions have taken time.

The companion guide didn’t even exist until February 2020!

Your content series will require ongoing promotion. Tools like MissingLettr and Promo Republic make this easy. We use a combination of these tools to promote our content.

Decide on how you will publish and promote your series. Add the details to your roadmap.

Now you have your content series plan… All you have to do is create it!

How to Format the Perfect Blog Post

Formating your blog posts doesn’t have to be a painful experience. But if you choose not to format your content it becomes a bad experience for your reader. The average person visits a website for 15 seconds! So, if you have a high bounce rate in your Google Analytics, and you want to keep your readers on your site longer, then formatting your posts is the first step! In this post, there’s a 10 step How to Format the Perfect Blog Post checklist, as well as this detailed post. By the time you’ve finished reading you too will be able to format your blog posts with ease.

1. Add headers and sub-headers

Readers don’t read the way you think they do! They skim the content, and then they may go back and read it fully. Their eyes read web content in a Z-Pattern. And an F shaped pattern. And probably some other patterns we’re not aware of.

By adding in headers we help draw the readers eyes down the content so they consume more of it, and hopefully stop skimming and start to read properly.

How to Add Sub Headings in Your Content

Adding subheadings to your content is really easy. You can do it in 3 clicks!

  • Highlight the text you wish to make a subheading
  • Click the arrow where it says paragraph
  • Select the header you want to use. I’ve used Heading 2
  • That’s it!

2. Eliminate the wide walls of text!

When someone reads a wide wall of text, their eyes tire quicker. There’s a lot of eye moment that goes into reading. Create narrow columns of text so your reader is pulled deeper into the content.

Newspapers use this technique to get you to read a triple page spread. Their narrow colomns with just 80 characters across mean there are a lot of narrow columns to read rather than one huge wall of text.

We recommend that you add an image to your blog post and align it to the right to create a narrow funnel of text. On a mobile device, the image will appear above the text, and on a desktop, you will have the narrow column for easy readability.

3. Highlight words and phrases so they stand out!

I know your content is important, but there’s no need to make it all bold, or all italics… or all bold italics!

But highlighting a phrase here and there will help your content get read. Some SEO experts say you should make your keywords bold or italics. Readability trumps SEO, so highlight your best sentences.

4. Add Images

The days of a perfect blog post being text only are long gone. You need to add a visual that aligns with your content and your brand.

We recommend creating a template on Canva.com for speed and ease of use.

5. Use Lists and Unordered Lists

Creating an unordered (bulleted) list makes things easy to read

  • Create a list
  • Use Bullets
  • Your content is easier to read

If you create a post with a number in the headline used a numbered list. Because there are  people who will count your list to make sure you’ve given them what you’ve promised in the headline. Yes, really.

6. Use Callout Boxes/Pull Quotes

Or coloured content boxes.

I’ve created these using Thrive Architect. I also used it to create columns in tip 2.
Thrive Architect is a fantastic tool that will help you also create content templates.

Don’t overdo the callout boxes as they can be disruptive to the reading experience. 

Traditional media use pull quotes all the time. The name tells you that the quotes pull people in!

Try pull quotes in your content to draw the eye to important things.

Remember that print media uses the pull quotes sparingly. Perhaps only one per page.

7. Shorten Paragraphs and Sentences

Where possible, use short paragraphs and sentences. In fact, it’s best to vary sentence length or this happens:

Remember to add a caption. People read captions on images. Smart captions can be a call to action. If you like this, please pin it to your quotes board on Pinterest.

This can be formatted so that it reads better:

This sentence has five words.

Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine.

But several together become monotonous.

Listen to what is happening.

The writing is getting boring.

The sound of it drones.

It’s like a stuck record.

The ear demands some variety.

Now listen.

I vary the sentence length, and I create music.

Music.

The writing sings.

It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.

I use short sentences.

And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

Gary Provost

Don’t drone. Don’t bore. Shorten your paragraphs and sentences. Wherever possible create music with your words.

8. Add Captions to Images

If you have an image, remember to add a caption. A caption can even be a call to action, a quote or a link.

You can see this in action in the images above.

9.  Mobile-Friendly Content

Make sure your content can be read on a mobile device. If someone has to move the page left and right (with their finger) in order to read it… It’s not mobile-friendly.

Your site may be mobile-friendly, but social media sites might wrap a frame around your content so that it’s no longer easy to read.

Image A is a link opened on Facebook.

Image B is the same article opened in a browser.

Where you share your content can impact its mobile friendly-ness.

10. Add Your Signature

Is your content important? Then sign it!

You can use Canva to create a signature, or, you can just type your name and hyperlink it to your about page.

 

 

Create Your Own Branded Template For Blog Posts

We eat with our eyes, as the saying goes. If food doesn’t look appealing then we don’t want to eat it. The same applies to content – if it’s not visually appealing then we don’t stop scrolling to take a further look. This post will help you create a branded template to use in your blog content (and other places). It’s a big post, with bonus materials so, you might want to bookmark it or share it so that you can find it later.

Start With Your Brand Elements

The first place to start when it comes to visual content is your own brand. This means knowing the following

  • The hex colour codes of your brand colours
  • Your main font
  • Your secondary font
  • Where you keep your logo (ideally a transparent version)
  • Brand icons

You might want to include a mood board if you have one.

Having this in one place speeds things up when comes to creating your branded template.

Creating Your Own Branded Template

We love Canva. We’ve used it since it launched, and have recommended it as part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge since 2012. The small monthly fee for additional features is well worth it. However, as a small business owner, you may also prefer to use Photoshop or similar. For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to use Canva as most people can access the free version and create a gorgeous branded template in no time at all.

Step 1 – Create Your Account on Canva and login, or sign in if you have an account already.

Step 2 – Create Your Branded Template

Once you’re logged into Canva.com you will see the home screen:

You want the area that says “create a design” (arrow 1). Go to arrow 2 and click until you see the option for Facebook post (arrow 3).

Click Facebook post.

You’re now ready to start creating your branded template.

Arrow 1 – Click to change the template name from “Facebook Post Untitled” to your website’s name and the word template. The ones for this site are called “Business Success Dojo Template”. This makes it easy to remember.

Then choose a template that you like the design of. Remember, we’re going to change the colours and the images, so don’t focus on these.  Click on the template and it will appear in the white space where arrow 4 is.

If you find the visual is too small to see, click the number with a percentage next to it (arrow 3) this increases the size so you can see better.

If you get stuck, just click help (where arrow 5 is).

It’s now time to customise your template!

As you can see from the image above, my branded template needs some more work so that I can use it.

Click where arrow 2 is, and I can change the beige background to my brand blue. I do this by clicking the box where arrow 3 is pointing.

This opens the pane where arrow 4 is. Here I can add my brand colours, or if I have them there already select the colour that I want.

Each element on the image is clickable and can be changed to reflect your brand.

To change the font click the text (arrow 1) and then click the text where arrow 2 is. This will open a pane where you can choose your font. If you have a specific brand font you can upload this to Canva.

By clicking where arrow 3 is you can change the colour of the text.

I change the text at arrow 4 to the url of this website. Next, I click the image where arrow 5 is, and swap the photo of muffins to an image in my brand style.

Finally, I change the coloured bars to fit my branding and added my logo. Here’s my finished visual:

As you can see it’s very easy to adapt one of Canva’s many templates to fit your own website and visual branding:

As you can see only the design structure remains the same as the original and I have a branded template that I can now use in every single blog post.

But Where Do I Get The Images to Add To My Branded Template?

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot just take someone else’s image and use it. You cannot go to Google Images and choose anything from their either.

Images and visual content are protected by copyright law. The person who created the image has to be contacted and give their permission (preferably in writing) before you can use it.

  1. Shareasimage Pro supplies you with images each week, plus you can make your own quotes
  2. Unsplash will send you 10 gorgeous images to use how you like every 10 days
  3. Graphic Stock is $99 a year and where I get the majority of my images
  4. Yay Images is great for images you don’t see everywhere else and if you have a tough niche.
  5. Free Digital Photos is a good source of internet marketing images
  6. Canva – a great tool for creating your own images and I highly recommend it, it has a range of free and paid images. The paid images cost $1 each.
  7. Dreamstime have a free and a paid section for images
  8. Free images used to be sxc.hu and I’ve used this extensively in the past
  9. Free stock range also has tutorials as well as a good range of images you can use
  10. Free photos bank has a range of gorgeous nature images
  11. I’m free shares a stunning range of pictures from icons to nature
  12. Pixabay has a cool range of images that can be run through Canva to be branded for your own site
  13. Can Stock Photo has an interesting range of images and a range of pricing plans
  14. Pexels has some stunning images that would be perfect for blog posts.
  15. Deposit Photos is becoming incredibly popular with each image costing less than $1. If you like the cute dogs then you’ll find plenty of these here!
  16. Morgue File is another site popular with bloggers, again, these images can be used in a too like Canva to give them a unique edge
  17. Shutterstock is brilliant. They used to sponsor the images on Birds on the Blog and they have everything from celebrities to topical images.
  18. Fotolia has a free pic of the week range, and they’ve a very diverse range
  19. Nappy has a huge range of photos of black people. There’s no excuse not to be diverse.
  20. Stockvault has some beautiful images again, these would suit lifestyle bloggers really well.
  21. CreateHerStock has images of black female entrepreneurs.

Many of these sites give away images or charge as little a dollar for a great quality image.

Going forward, as part of the blogging challenge, your aim is to add your branded visual to each blog post you publish.

You see, people don’t only type in text to get answers… They also use sites like Pinterest to find great content and they bookmark it by “pinning” the image in your post to one of their boards. This not only sends you more traffic, but it helps your SEO and overall visibility.

 

P.S This post contains affiliate links. These links, if you click and purchase,  may earn us a small commission. This is just one of the many ways bloggers get paid when they create content.

Should you cook up controversy in your blog posts?

When I published our annual list of female bloggers to follow, I wasn’t expecting controversy to come my way. It wasn’t a controversial blog post. One person on the list took umbrage to what she thought was the wrong one of her sites being listed.

She’s decided to be on that list was a bad thing as the post only mentioned one of her sites. Instead of seeing it as a tribute, she saw it as a slur and trashed me across social media.

Her one-woman moral outrage sent me another 2,000 visitors and 200 new subscribers.

Controversy gets attention, there’s no doubt about it

It fires up conversation on a normally quiet topic and generates conversation all over social media. Your shares of that particular post go through the roof and you’ll be tempted to write a controversial post again.

According to Neil Patel when you create a controversial blog post you’ll also increase your unsubscribe rate, and the amount of negative email responses from your reader.

The good news is your open rate will remain the same if your blog posts are delivered by email,  this indicates to me, you’re only alienating a percentage of your regular readers.

This means your controversial blog post may attract in a bunch of new people to your blog and your email list. What’s not to love about that?

So what is controversy?

Controversy = difference of opinion + emotional investment.

You can see how easy is it is to write a controversial blog post using the above formula. It’s almost too easy to write one and that’s where it becomes dangerous.

You don’t want to be known as “that controversial blogger” by only writing that style of post. It will be hard to monetise a site like this, and the novelty will wear off quickly. That said, Katie Hopkins seems to be able to make a living at saying things that get people’s backs up and gets paid to say controversial things, so perhaps I shouldn’t dismiss it?

Can controversy actually win you business?

Smart pharmaceutical marketer, Dr Sally Church, proves that it can.  Dr Church published a controversial interview with another doctor. What was controversial about it? No one else had considered the drug might fail, and if they had they weren’t saying it.

The post generated a lot of intensely negative responses  and flack from investors and the company in question. Everyone else was hailing a wonder drug, and they were flying into controversy by daring to say something different (editors note: the post has since been removed).

Ultimately the Doctors were proved correct in their analysis.

What does Dr Church have to say about the controversial post? “What I learned is that you have to be true to your opinion and not go with the herd just because everyone else does.” The post although controversial meant that hedge fund investors and other experts now have increased trust in what Dr Church shares.

good call from @MaverickNY on $EXEL, remember discussing the potential outcome with her and she nailed it.

Can controversy cost you business?

It’s possible.

It will most certainly cost you friends and generate a lot of comments on your post. The backlash can be intense as Kimberley Hall found out when she publicly shamed teenage girls for their posing and pouting in photos on social media. Unfortunately the original post has been removed.

The post generated outrage as Hall’s blog allegedly contained photos of her sons shirtless and doing similar things to the girls.

Looking back on it a week later Hall says “I heard the frustration and the hurt of some readers who felt unfairly judged. They were not wrong to point out the self-righteous tone of my post, the log in my own eye. There was too much assumed on my part, and not nearly enough explained to the world with care.

Hall is clearly a well-balanced person who saw the impact of her words, reflected upon them and saw the need to put things right in the form of another post (here). You’ll note there’s no apology, just reflection and understanding that comes with hindsight.

What are the ingredients for a controversial blog post?

First things first. If you’re an employee, you might like to find out your employer’s policy on this type of content and run it by them before you hit publish.

Yes, you can add a “these are my own thoughts and mine alone” style disclaimer, but if the fallout goes global and the company doesn’t share your views, then you’ll be fired.  Getting fired  may launch your career into the stratosphere or you may never work again.

If you’re an entrepreneur seeking investment, you should also be similarly cautious. With the be careful out of the way, let’s look at what the actual post needs.

The best controversial posts are polarising in their view

There’s no sitting on the fence, it’s an all out show of your position. There’s no playing of the “Devil’s Advocate”, it’s emotional and connects with a certain type of reader, ideally the one that’s your perfect customer.

It’s going to contain controversial information or opinions and you’re going to have go out on a limb and say that your post is all opinion or you’ll have to find facts and fingers to support your opinion. Opinions can be inflammatory as Kimberly Hall found, and burn your blog to the ground.

Or it can generate a buzz and spark hundreds of conversations as Mark Schaeffer’s Content Shock did earlier this year.

If you say something and say it in a way that isn’t clear, like Matt Cutts did in January, that too will create controversy. You’ll see at the end of the post (link), there’s clarification of specifics, but not before hundreds of blogging experts declared guest blogging was dead.

Evidence and supporting statements further what you’re saying

If you’ve taken a look at Matt Cutts’ post above, you’ll see how the post has several videos in it. The videos are evidence to support what he’s saying in the post; Guest blogging for SEO purposes is dead. When you support your statements you add an extra dimension to the post.

In Dr Sally Church’s interview the post is backed up with analysis with another doctor, it doesn’t just look at the clinical evidence.  In Mark Schaeffer’s post he shares his own anecdotal evidence.

Know that the controversial blog post will never be forgotten

For the post to be truly controversial you need to leave room for the opposition to argue their case. You need to know who this post is for, and it isn’t always your regular readers.

You need to leave some breathing space for the fire to take hold. Without the breathing space you’ll just be another crazy ranting on the internet.

Oh and just so you know, I’ve never ever mentioned that person in my first paragraph anywhere on any of my sites again. I stopped visiting the sites where she whined about me, and I no longer send potential clients to her.  I doubt she’s even noticed, or even remembers. But as the author of that so called controversial blog post I’ve never forgotten.  The comments that are left behind will always remind me that to be controversial takes courage.

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