Writing Tip – Performancing http://performancing.com Tue, 13 Feb 2018 03:14:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 What is Cornerstone Content And Why It’s Important http://performancing.com/what-is-cornerstone-content-and-why-its-important/ http://performancing.com/what-is-cornerstone-content-and-why-its-important/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 11:45:04 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=14055 Making your website accessible and easy to navigate can be the difference between retaining visitors and losing them to other sites. Strong, well-designed cornerstone content is a major factor in keeping traffic on your site and improving your customer experience. This content can also help you improve your SEO, which will boost your place in […]

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Making your website accessible and easy to navigate can be the difference between retaining visitors and losing them to other sites. Strong, well-designed cornerstone content is a major factor in keeping traffic on your site and improving your customer experience. This content can also help you improve your SEO, which will boost your place in search results and bring more viewers to your site. If you don’t already have well-written and designed cornerstone content, start today so you don’t miss out on the benefits it can bring to your business.

What is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content is the foundation of your website. It’s the most important, well-written, and explanatory information that you have to offer in your niche. You’re building your entire website on the basic fundamentals of your niche. It might include things like introductory blog posts, frequently asked questions, or other important information like instructions or warnings. Anything a new visitor might need to understand the content of your website or content area can be a cornerstone.

Cornerstone content should help a person get familiar with both your website and the most important topics that you’re covering.

Another reason it’s called cornerstone content is because it should be the best content on your site. This is the content many people will see when they first navigate to your website. Plan to make a good first impression with strong and relevant pieces. One way to increase the number of returning visitors to your site is actually to have a series of helpful or introductory posts linked on the welcome page.

How Many Cornerstones Should I Have?

There is no hard and fast number for the amount of cornerstone content you need, but look to have a minimum of four or five pieces of content. They should be well-researched, clear, and informative. Depending on your topic area, you may need more cornerstone posts. Don’t be afraid to branch out and create additional pieces. Few undertakings are done overnight. Update your website with cornerstone content as you grow and you’ll eventually have a wider, more solid foundation.

How to Decide Which Posts are Cornerstone Content

To decide what is cornerstone content, load your website and pretend you’re a viewer interested in your niche but unfamiliar with your business. Imagine that you’re not an expert. Try to figure out which articles or pages you’d want to look at first. What information are you seeking? The posts that a new visitor would attempt to find are cornerstone content. It’s the most basic and important information your website has to offer.

If you’re creating cornerstone content for the first time, decide what issues will be most pressing for a person searching for content in your niche. If you’re selling doghouses, for example, an article about how to choose a doghouse or the different types of doghouses would be good choices. They’re helpful articles that will appeal to many people, and bring them to your site. Once a person associates you with knowledge, they may be more likely to trust you and use your products or services.

Why is Cornerstone Content Important?

Cornerstone content is important for several reasons. The first is that it’s the information someone needs to determine whether your website is useful. If you’ve ever been to a site that lacked a clear structure, you understand the need for cornerstones. They guide a new viewer into your site and help them come to trust in the product or service you’re providing.

Cornerstone content also acts as a hub for all the posts, articles, or content you have about one topic. It’s an introduction instead of a deep, nuanced discussion of one particular aspect of an issue. Think of it as an excellent overview of topics that matter most in your niche.

How Does Cornerstone Content Help Me?

To get a better idea of how cornerstone content can improve your website, look at how Brian Clark of Copyblogger expanded his audience.

When his site started in 2006, he only had two pieces of cornerstone content that were of interest to his target audience. They were pieces about fundamental concepts in copywriting and blogging. These drew people into his site and his regular blog updates helped keep visitors around and encouraged return visits. Derek Halpren says, “The cornerstone content gave Brian instant credibility.”

More than a decade later, Brian has more than a dozen cornerstones on his site that draw in new traffic and help a viewer become accustomed to the topic. Those original cornerstone resources are still helping Copyblogger rank for strong keywords and pull in new viewers today. For Brian and others who use cornerstone content successfully, it helps them rank for high-visibility keywords and positions them as topic authorities.

 

 

 

Cornerstone Content and SEO

 

“Sites don’t rank: pages rank. If you want to rank for a keyword, you’ll need to determine which page is going to be the page ranking for that keyword”

Joost de Valk, Yoast.com

 

So what SEO benefits are there and how do you get them from cornerstone content? One of the biggest positives is that writing cornerstones can help you rank for popular keywords. These can be difficult to have a strong position for otherwise. Since cornerstone content topics will come up in other blog posts, it’s important to make sure you’re presenting your pages the right way for Google to understand which pieces are cornerstone content and which are supplementary.

Cornerstone Content and Linking Structure

Think of your site content as a graph with the homepage at the top. All the less important articles appear near the bottom, filtered down from more important pieces. Your cornerstone content should be near the top of the graph, preferably linked on the homepage.

As you discuss the cornerstone topics in other posts and places, link back to the cornerstone articles. It will make Google’s crawlers interpret them as more important than the other pages, ideally. For example, if you’re writing a post about marketing as a cornerstone piece, link back to it from articles like “Marketing to Students” or “Tips for a Great Marketing Strategy”.

Cornerstone Content and External Links

If you’re able to get high-value links from an external source, consider having it link back to one of your cornerstone articles. Since cornerstone content is ideally competing for the most competitive keywords, it’s important to give it some priority.

High-value links from great sources can boost your SEO. Point them at your cornerstone pieces to help them rank for those more difficult keywords. Keep that in mind when you’re doing content outreach with other sites.

Cornerstone Content and Customer Engagement

Since cornerstone pieces are your strongest and most relevant content, they increase customer engagement. People who enter your page looking for answers should be able to find them easily and not have to search through your site. When a customer finds a site useful, they’re more likely to return and recommend the site to friends.

Presenting the cornerstone content up front also offers the benefit of keeping someone on the page. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people leave webpages in less than 30 seconds in large numbers, but more slowly after the first 30 seconds. If you can keep a viewer on your page for 30 seconds, you have a better chance to retain them.

Since cornerstone content is interesting and relevant, it can hold customers past that crucial 30-second mark. Keeping someone on the page lets you get a chance to wow them with what you’re offering.

 

“You need to go out and learn something about your industry before you make something for it”

Rand Fishkin, Moz

 

Crafting Cornerstone Content

cornerstone content

An important skill is creating great cornerstones that stand as guides to newcomers. The strength of these cornerstones is what drives traffic to your site and sets you apart as an authority. So it’s important that everything you present is well-researched. Make sure that you’re providing clear information for a reader who isn’t as familiar as you are with the topic.

Doing research in your niche before you start the process is essential. Knowing what’s out there gives you an idea of what ground there is to cover, what’s old news, and what will catch a viewer’s interest. It can also help you find good links to include in your content.

If you already have a lot of content, select the strongest pieces that best represent and elucidate your area of expertise. If you don’t have content yet, write a list of questions that most people searching for the keywords you’re targeting would have. Start writing your first cornerstone piece to answer the one that seems most important or compelling.

 

7 Tips for the Best Cornerstone Content

  • Figure out what keywords to use. To do this, ask yourself what search someone would perform to find your page. Once you know what keywords you’re targeting, focus on making your page respond to a search for that keyword as best you can.
  • Focus your metadata with your keywords. Remember that your title and meta description may appear on your Google result. Make sure it’s eye-catching and references the content of the page.
  • Consider the competition. If your competition doesn’t have strong cornerstone pages, it improves your chance of gaining return visitors through great content. On the other hand, strong content from competitors means you must set yourself apart. Consider setting up a tutorial or cornerstone pages that link together. It could help you stand out.
  • Draw your reader’s eye to your cornerstone content with an explanation of what you’re providing, an intriguing story, or some kind of offer. Getting attention can be difficult, so try to lead with something strong.
  • Use bullet points and subheadings to break up your content and increase visual appeal.
  • Include videos, images and other media to help illustrate your points and expand on them.
  • Read over your content regularly and update it as needed. Google favors pages with content that’s updated over those where it isn’t.

 

Cornerstone Content and Marketing

One way to create effective cornerstones is to think of them as a product. They’re entries to your brand or answers to questions, for example. Everything you do to attract customers to your page is marketing. In that same way, effective cornerstones are marketing too. But don’t write cornerstone pieces the way you would an advertisement. Instead, think of them as teaching tools.

Consumers often block out marketing, but respond positively to educational pieces. Write your cornerstone pieces with the intention to teach the reader something. Since you’re providing positive and free resources, people will be drawn back to your site. If you do an exceptional job, you also improve your chances of social shares. These strategies should help you create stronger content that resonates better with visitors.

Presenting Your Cornerstone Content

A landing page is one of the best ways to present your cornerstones to a new website viewer. It creates a roadmap that showcases your best content and helps people find it immediately. One way to do this is by linking it to your landing page.

Make your cornerstone content visible and easily accessible. It shouldn’t be a struggle for a new visitor to find it and read it. If the cornerstone content links together, be sure to provide a way for a person to navigate from one piece to the next.

Link back to cornerstone content in future articles or blogs.

 

Cornerstone Content and a Call to Action

Since one of the reasons to have cornerstone content is to increase customer engagement, include an appropriate call to action on your pieces. This will help a person to know where to go to utilize your products or services. In the same way cornerstone content should be easy to find, so should the content you want to point people at.

Cornerstone content provides viewers an entry point to your website and can help retain a first-time visitor. It showcases the knowledge that you have; it helps you gain the trust of a potential customer. Craft strong cornerstone pieces and present them properly for the best result.

You don’t have to start from scratch, since you can fix up old posts or content and make them good enough to be cornerstones. Don’t be intimidated. Cornerstone pieces are an essential part of your website and will help you retain customers and improve your SEO. The time you spend creating great content will pay off in the end as cornerstone content draws new visitors to your site.

Do you have any cornerstone content on your website or blog? Feel free to show us in the comments!

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4 Methods To Revitalise Your Content Marketing Today http://performancing.com/4-methods-revitalise-content-marketing-today/ http://performancing.com/4-methods-revitalise-content-marketing-today/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:31:55 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=13249 If you have found recently that your content has taken a nose dive and isn’t converting your audience into members & customers or that you are generally stuck for ideas then here are four methods to help revitalise your content marketing and breathe some life back into it. Spend More Time On Your Titles This […]

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If you have found recently that your content has taken a nose dive and isn’t converting your audience into members & customers or that you are generally stuck for ideas then here are four methods to help revitalise your content marketing and breathe some life back into it.

Spend More Time On Your Titles

spend time on titles

This may seem obvious but these days being able to stand out from the noise within a reader’s content stream whether that be on Facebook or in an RSS feed is essential. The average reader is exposed to a huge amount of articles, Tweets, images and videos when browsing the web and according to data from last year 211 million pieces of content are created every minute. If you aren’t spending time on brainstorming at least five different titles for any piece you are planning to write then you are doing it wrong my friend. Think 5 is a lot? Then check out Upworthy’s editorial process they come up with twenty-five, that’s right, twenty-five titles for every single piece of content they produce. That’s a lot of brainstorming!

For your content to stand out and get that all important click you need to be putting out titles that are edgier, take more risks and different from your competitors or that evoke emotions & curiosity from your audience.

Tell Stories

tell_stories

Alex Turnbull the founder of the helpdesk support software Groove published a post detailing his company’s journey to try and get their monthly revenue up to $100k per month back in 2013, the article was a huge success as it gave insights into how his company worked and he was sharing his teams journey with the audience. Being able to tie in an article related to your industry in with professional and personal experiences, struggles that you may have overcome or anecdotes is a great way of humanising yourself and your business. James Altucher’s book ‘Choose Yourself’ is another great example, although it could be considered a self-help book it really is just a collection of stories and anecdotes from his business and personal life which any reader that’s looking to start a business or change their life can learn a lot from.

Use Data

stats_blackboardalter

You should always be using your websites (and other platforms) data to see what content is performing well and how your visitors are interesting with it but that is not what I’m referring to here. What I mean here is quoting data within your content to validate your topic and points. This is one of my favourite posts by Neil Patel, see how he uses data throughout the article to validate all his points and also provide deep insights into what does and doesn’t work within the industry, he also puts this data forwards using excellent visuals to keep the reader engaged.

Turn It On It’s Head

upsidedown

If you have stuck to the same style of writing or type of posts then it might be worth throwing your old methods out the window and trying something entirely new. I often speak to business owners who complain that even though they are updating their blog daily it isn’t getting any traffic and/or isn’t getting any likes, shares or conversions. In these situations, it can be worth doing the complete opposite of what you have been doing to that point. Publishing short, daily news pieces Monday to Friday? Start doing a single weekly round-up of the week’s news instead, or start writing long-form opinion pieces on something related to your industry. Changing your publishing times and days can often bring surprising changes too. We all know that Monday to Thursday is the peak traffic days but often putting out an article on a Sunday evening can get more views and interactions than you might think, many professionals will review articles and other industry-related content on a Sunday evening before the working week ahead and we have deployed this tactic ourselves on many blogs with great success.

If you have been struggling with your content recently then applying just one of these tactics can help invigorate it and give it a new lease of life, if you have any other ideas for re-positioing your content then let us know in the comments 🙂

 

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Four Online Tools to Help You Be More Productive Online http://performancing.com/four-online-tools-to-help-you-be-more-productive-online/ Thu, 20 Dec 2012 17:21:35 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=12265 When you are a social media marketer or just spend a lot of time on the internet, there are several tools you can use to make the work you do much more productive. In some cases, if the tool is saving you a lot of time and energy, it is worth paying for. Peace of […]

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Four Online Tools to Help You Be More Productive Online

When you are a social media marketer or just spend a lot of time on the internet, there are several tools you can use to make the work you do much more productive. In some cases, if the tool is saving you a lot of time and energy, it is worth paying for. Peace of mind and higher output levels are usually worth the cost, especially if they are going to be used every day.

Buffer

Buffer is a social sharing app that is so easy to use. They have a basic account that is free, but then an “awesome plan” that allows you to add up to 12 social media accounts to post on for $10 per month. This includes  Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Buffer picks times that most users are on social media (the morning, lunch time, afternoon, and after dinner) and then sends your message out then. You build up a buffer queue that only sends out the messages at these chosen times (which you can change). It makes sharing painless, quick, and easy, especially since they have browser plugins and a mobile app.

SoundGecko

SoundGecko is a FREE content transcribing service. Simply enter in the URL of the blog post, article, or other piece of content that you want to transcribe, and SoundGeck then emails you a link to the MP3 of the content. You can either stream it from the website (they only host it temporarily, however) or you can download the MP3 to listen to it in your car, iPod, or turn into a CD. This is a great way to consume content when you don’t have the time to read it on a screen.

Brosix

Brosix is a simple instant messenger that has both a free public version and a paid enterprise version, which allows companies to have their own private instant messaging network. Both versions have most of the same great features, including a collaborative whiteboard that lets you draw out ideas with other users in real-time and a co-browsing feature, which lets one user browse the internet with another. Other features like secure file transfer and screen sharing make this a great secure instant messenger. It is available for Mac, PC, Linux, and iPhone.

Evernote

Evernote has been recommended by hundreds of people online, and with good reason. It is a great way to write blog posts, take notes, or save other content and then access it via another computer, tablet, or phone. Having a central account that stores your documents on the cloud makes it easy to collaborate with other users or get your documents from almost anywhere. They have a premium version that is $5/month or $45/year.

 

Whatever your favorite online tools are, the internet is constantly providing great ways to be more productive without breaking the bank.

What are your favorite online tools?

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How to Curate Content without Regurgitation http://performancing.com/how-to-curate-content-without-regurgitation/ http://performancing.com/how-to-curate-content-without-regurgitation/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 07:44:11 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=11826 As a webmaster, coming up with creative, interesting and original content on a daily basis is no easy task. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how hard you try to beat other bloggers or webmasters to post great content first, because you somehow always manage to fell behind in Google rankings or page views. […]

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As a webmaster, coming up with creative, interesting and original content on a daily basis is no easy task. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how hard you try to beat other bloggers or webmasters to post great content first, because you somehow always manage to fell behind in Google rankings or page views. This can be a huge frustration, especially when you are all reporting (or regurgitating) the same content, and only some sites can take it further than others. There are, however, several ways to re-think the way you curate content to come out with, not only better posts than the rest, higher web traffic in the long run. You simply have to focus on the best ways to source what’s available.

Search first.

The absolute first thing to do when you see a story that you would like to report on for your website is to search it in Google. Check out how other sites are reporting on the content. Look at their titles, tags, and images. The most important thing is to figure out what everyone else is doing before you craft your own content.

Take note of similar content.

When you are doing a quick search on your topic in Google, your main goal will be to take note of similar content. Look out for titles that seem redundant or articles that contain nothing more than a photo and a blurb. Figure out what line of thought the majority of other sites are using to report this piece of content.

Find an original angle.

Once you have a general idea about where other sites are taking the content, it’s time to differentiate yourself in an appealing way. You can take the same exact content that everyone else is using and give it a unique spin to capture people’s attention and garner more clicks.

There are tons of ways to spin re-used content to put your own original mark on it. For example, instead of taking a news story and simply rewriting it, try writing a quick blurb sourcing the  original publisher of the article and then spend the rest of the post writing about your opinion on the news. You can also use trending content to create controversy. Instead of regurgitating the same story about a politician’s sex scandal, try combining opposing sources to paint a new picture. For example, you could curate all the public statements given by his supporters and his opposition about the subject.

While curating content is nothing more than copying, re-writing, and posting for some websites, the truth is, without a creative spin on your content, that technique will not get you far. By using simple methods to re-structure your curated content, you can win more immediate clicks and have more interesting and evergreen content on your site for the long run.

Nadia Jones is a freelance higher education blogger who specializes in all topics relating to traditional and accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.

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How to Write a Good Blogging Bio http://performancing.com/how-to-write-a-good-blogging-bio/ Fri, 30 Mar 2012 13:10:49 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=11032 As an introduction to someone who may know nothing about you, it just happens to be the most important aspect of any guest post you’ll write. Without a good bio, you risk losing credibility and significant traffic. Consider this your elevator pitch. As such, it should be short and to the point. There are three […]

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As an introduction to someone who may know nothing about you, it just happens to be the most important aspect of any guest post you’ll write. Without a good bio, you risk losing credibility and significant traffic. Consider this your elevator pitch. As such, it should be short and to the point. There are three details you don’t want to miss.

 

  1. Spell Out The Specifics

First and foremost you want to introduce yourself, and briefly explain what you do. “Your most important details should go in the first sentence,” according to Brand Yourself.

You want put it forward with intention and a strong sense of purpose. Your goal should be to move readers, and engage them so they’ll be compelled to click through to your site. Consider using phrases such as:

  • The first in his/her field
  • Blog Owner
  • CEO of… even if it’s only a website, it is technically the truth.
  1. List Your Accomplishments

Once you’ve explained who you are and what you do, you should include your important accomplishments. These will give your previous statements credibility and intrigue. You won best business blog of 2011? Get readers curious enough to want to find out why.

  • Choose the most prestigious award/honorable mention, etc. Make the most of the little space you have to work with.
  1. Involve Readers With Links

This might be the most important aspect of any good bio – in fact, it’s the reason you write a bio in the first place. When you guest post, the goal is to get an influx of traffic back to your site or social media platforms. If you don’t include links, you’re missing out on the whole point.

  • Blog – Link to your blog or your best blog post. You can link to your blog or website in general or send them to an enticing page such as your “about me.”
  • Contact info – Next to your site, linking to your social media outlets is crucial in inviting others get into contact with you or become engaged with your work.

Don’t Forget…

Buzz Words

Most websites prefer it to be no more than 2 sentences. Thus, when putting together a robust, yet minimalistic bio, it’s important that you make the most of the few words you do have.

  • Keywords – Your bio should be filled with keywords to increase your potential for SEO.
  • Bold language – You want to use words that will make your bio stand out – award winning, leader, pioneer.

Personal Touch

When all is said and done, you want to be relatable. While you’ve accomplished much in your career, you’re a human just like everyone else. Use your first sentence for professional accolades and the second for a personal mention. There are a number of specifics you could include here:

  • Hobbies: Other than blogging, what do you enjoy doing? Hiking, swimming, collecting old coins?
  • Family: Are you inspired by your wife and small child? Readers can relate to this emotion, perhaps more than a great accomplishment you’ve achieved.
  • School: Are you taking classes? Expanding your career? Do you have future aspirations?

Next time you sit down to tweak your existing bio or pen a new one, be sure to include the most important information; with only two sentences, you have to attract each and every reader. Be bold, short, and concise because it’s your one shot and it needs to be enough.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is an avid small business writer touching on topics from social media to telemarketing. She gives advice on various topics for lead generation resource, Resource Nation.

Finished creating a bio for your blog and have a great resume? WritersDepartment.com is looking for experienced writers and bloggers to join their team. Become a writer today and make a living doing what you enjoy the most!

Image credit: Notifyworks.com

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Tapping industry players for relevant, timely content http://performancing.com/tapping-industry-players-for-relevant-timely-content/ Tue, 11 Oct 2011 14:49:04 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=10473 Improving blog traffic means hooking visitors to your blog and giving them something that will make them go back again and again. One way to do this is to providing relevant, up to date information on topics related to the general theme of your blog. Blogs are about information; it is one of its key […]

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Improving blog traffic means hooking visitors to your blog and giving them something that will make them go back again and again. One way to do this is to providing relevant, up to date information on topics related to the general theme of your blog.

Blogs are about information; it is one of its key elements. Providing good, relevant information takes work and dedication on your part. For example, providing relevant and up to date information means knowing where to go online to get the latest news and information. To do this, a good idea will be to identify the major players in the field you are writing about and follow their own feeds.

Go to the communication venues where these industry players an top industry sources provide their information. This could be their web sites, various social media accounts like Twitter, or podcasts. Subscribe to their RSS feeds so you’re sure to get new information or the latest news as it arrives. This ensures that you’re always on top of the latest happenings in the industry you write for in your blog.

So you’re already in the loop. You have the latest information at your disposal. How do you make your blog content unique from what is being generated by these industry players and sources? Simple. Give your own unique take on the hottest topics. You can make a critique on the issue, an op-ed piece or talk about the issue from a different perspective. These are unique ways of presenting a topic that is popular and sure to get the hits you need to increase blog traffic.

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Is Your Blog’s About Page About the Right Stuff? http://performancing.com/is-your-blogs-about-page-about-the-right-stuff/ http://performancing.com/is-your-blogs-about-page-about-the-right-stuff/#comments Wed, 25 Aug 2010 09:29:37 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=9923 When was the last time you read your blog’s About page?  It’s easy to forget that page when you’re busy writing fresh blog posts, but your About page is one of the most important destinations on your blog.  When visitors land on a post in your blog, they’re likely to read the content, possibly click […]

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When was the last time you read your blog’s About page?  It’s easy to forget that page when you’re busy writing fresh blog posts, but your About page is one of the most important destinations on your blog.  When visitors land on a post in your blog, they’re likely to read the content, possibly click through to read some more posts if they like what they found, and then what do you think they do?  They check out your About page to see who is behind all of this great content!

Therefore, you need to make sure your About page is always current and tells your story in the best way possible.  The About page is not the place where you should be modest.  Instead, use this page to truly promote yourself, your experience, your skills, and your expertise.  Sell yourself so anyone who reads your About page understands why you are the person to be writing about your blog topic and the vast value and knowledge you bring to the online conversation.

With those tips in mind, following are few elements your About page must have if you want people to believe you’re an authoritative source for information:

  • Your background and experience: Try to stay focused on experience related to your blog’s topic.  Lead with your strengths and your biggest accomplishments that prove why you’re capable of writing about your blog’s topic.  You can always include personal details at the end of your About page if you want.
  • Links to your online content other than your blog: Demonstrate the reach of your online presence and let people get to know you better by providing links to other websites and blogs that you own or write for.
  • Links to your social networking and twitter profiles: Invite people to get to know you better and communicate with you further by providing links to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking profiles.  Make it clear that you welcome new followers and connections.
  • A contact form and/or your contact information: Make it easy for people to get in touch with you by providing a way for them to communicate with you in a manner other than leaving a comment on one of your blog posts.
  • Your picture: Don’t be shy.  Including a picture of yourself on your blog’s About page makes you seem more ‘real’ and allows people to feel like they know you as a person not just as a bunch of words on their computer screens.

What do you have in your blog’s About page?  Are there any other elements that you think are essential to creating a great About page?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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How to Find Expert Sources or Be an Expert Source for Blog Stories and Publicity http://performancing.com/how-tofind-expert-sources-or-be-an-expert-source-for-blog-stories-and-publicity/ http://performancing.com/how-tofind-expert-sources-or-be-an-expert-source-for-blog-stories-and-publicity/#comments Mon, 02 Aug 2010 09:26:21 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=9816 Did you know there are free resources that bloggers can use to find experts and professionals as sources for blog posts?  Did you know that these same free resources also allow you to offer your own services as an expert source, which gives you a great way to promote your blog both online and offline? […]

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Did you know there are free resources that bloggers can use to find experts and professionals as sources for blog posts?  Did you know that these same free resources also allow you to offer your own services as an expert source, which gives you a great way to promote your blog both online and offline?

Consider this scenario — you’re writing a great blog post, but you need an expert to help you get the facts straight or provide a quote to take the post to the next level of authority.  Where do you find an expert?

Consider another scenario — you want to increase exposure for your blog, build your authority and your blog’s authority, and boost awareness and traffic to your blog by providing quotes and interviews to journalists, bloggers and publishers.  How do you do it?

The free online resources below can help you find experts and become an expert source for other publishers:

1. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is a free tool that journalists, authors, publicists, businesses, and more use to find sources and offer services as topic or industry experts.  You can submit your requests for sources using the form on the HARO website.  Each day, members are sent emails listing requests for experts and sources.  You can respond to any request that you’re qualified for.  Just follow the individual response instructions published with each opportunity.  Follow the link to learn 5 tips to help bloggers maximize HARO.

2. ProfNet

ProfNet is a service offered by PRNewswire.  You can register for a free ProfNet account and then browse through submitted requests for experts and sources or publish your own requests. You can follow the link to learn how to create a ProfNet opportunity.

I have used both of the free tools listed above and recommend both to bloggers who want to find expert sources and promote themselves as expert sources.  For example, many of the real-world stories and case studies included in my book about social media marketing come from ProfNet and HARO calls for sources.  Through those requests, I met people and heard stories that I wouldn’t have found on my own, and I broadened my own online network in the process!

Have you used HARO or ProfNet?  Leave a comment and share your story.

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Avoid Legal Trouble by Knowing Copyrights Matter on the Social Web, Too http://performancing.com/avoid-legal-trouble-by-knowing-copyrights-matter-on-the-social-web-too/ Wed, 14 Jul 2010 08:30:05 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=9444 Bloggers and online publishers have to follow copyright laws just as any traditional publisher must.  However, there is a gray area of copyright law, called fair use, that many online publishers refer to when their content is called into question. So what are the copyright laws and fair use legalese that you need to know […]

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Bloggers and online publishers have to follow copyright laws just as any traditional publisher must.  However, there is a gray area of copyright law, called fair use, that many online publishers refer to when their content is called into question.

So what are the copyright laws and fair use legalese that you need to know as a blogger so you stay out of legal trouble?

First, understand that claiming ignorance is not a viable excuse in a court of law.  The onus is on you as a publisher to know the laws that apply to you.

Second, understand that every piece of written content, audio content, video content, image content, and so on is owned by someone.  Whether the person who created it owns it or the piece is owned by someone who purchased it or derived ownership in some other way — the bottom-line is the same.  Someone owns it!  Therefore, the owner holds the rights to that piece of content and that piece of content is automatically protected under copyright law in the United States (laws might differ in other countries, so if you live in another country, be sure to do your research and learn the laws that apply to you).  That means, the owner holds the copyright to that piece of content.

Third, understand that you cannot re-publish another person’s work without their permission or acceptable compensation per copyright laws.  Permission can be written and compensation could be monetary or another form of payment that the owner agrees to.

Wait a minute!  You might be wondering – “does that mean that I have to get permission to use every image I publish on my blog that I didn’t create?”

Technically, yes.

But don’t freak out yet!  This is where fair use comes into play.

Fair use is that gray area of copyright law that says you can republish another person’s work for the purpose of adding commentary, criticism, education, research, or news reporting.  However, that’s a pretty vague description that just about any online publisher could hide behind.  And that’s exactly why fair use is so gray.  If someone accuses you of copyright infringement, you could defend yourself claiming you republished the work under the guidelines of fair use.  However, that’s not a solid defense, and you might not win.  Again, it’s a gray area of the law that is not cut and dry.

So what’s a blogger to do?  You need images to add some visual appeal to your blog, and you want to be able to refer to other content that you read online and want to discuss on your blog within your posts.  However, these copyright laws are really limiting your creative flow.

Don’t worry.  There are several ways to get around strict copyright laws, which I’m going to discuss in more detail in my next couple of posts on Performancing. 

In a nutshell, here’s the gist of what you should avoid if you don’t want to get in trouble with the law:

  1. Don’t plagiarize.  It’s okay to quote a snippet of another person’s content, but don’t republish the entire piece and pretend you wrote it.  That’s breaking another law entirely!
  2. Always attribute your sources with a link to them within your blog posts.
  3. Don’t use an image on your blog unless you have permission to do so or it has a copyright license attached to it that allows you to use it.  (I’ll be writing more about this next week).
  4. Find images, audio, and video content to publish on your blog that you’re actually allowed to use.  (I’ll give you some good sources in a post next week).

So there you go — copyright laws for bloggers and online publishers condensed into approximately 500 words and devoid of legal jargon.  Stay tuned for lots of additional copyright help here on Performancing!

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The Most Powerful Characteristic of Successful Bloggers http://performancing.com/the-most-powerful-characteristic-of-successful-bloggers/ http://performancing.com/the-most-powerful-characteristic-of-successful-bloggers/#comments Fri, 25 Jun 2010 21:14:18 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=9098 Undeniably, we can’t help but admire the legends who came before us; who set the trends and standards that many aim to achieve and maintain. Financial success and fulfillment of life are very attractive goals but require the dedicated, passionate and sometimes lucky soul who will dare to venture and claim the prize. In the […]

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Blogging CharacterUndeniably, we can’t help but admire the legends who came before us; who set the trends and standards that many aim to achieve and maintain. Financial success and fulfillment of life are very attractive goals but require the dedicated, passionate and sometimes lucky soul who will dare to venture and claim the prize.

In the world of blogging, this is no different and still there is only a small percentage of bloggers, in comparison to the entire blogosphere,  who actually achieve huge success through blogging. After taking note, you will find that there are a few key characteristics that most probloggers possess like persistence, focus and passion but there is one more requirement to the mix. That ingredient is the ability to change and adapt.

The Only Thing That Remains Constant Is Change

In the early 20th century, the US patent office was thinking of closing down because they felt that all inventions were developed and all discoveries were made that they thought could ever exist. Yet even today, 100 years later, each day there is a new product, service or idea being launched. This is the dynamism of life and if we are blogging to provide for an info-hungry audience then we will need to stay in tune with changes in their expectations as well as the changing details and standards on the web.

Stay In Tune With Your Audience

Depending on your niche, the extent of  changes and development may differ. However, rest assured that your audience will be expecting useful cutting edge information and services from you. So if you’re launching a technology news blog, you need to be prepared to meet the demands of finding the latest buzz and deliver it on time and when your audience will be most interested about it.

Maintaining a dedicated readership requires that you adapt to changes in your niche as well as their needs and expectations.

Overcome The Hard Times

On your blogging journey, it is guaranteed that at some point you will experience various problems that will challenge your abilities and your success. Cherish these moments and never succumb. These are the golden opportunities to learn and become a stronger blogger. Adapt to difficult situations by thoroughly rethinking and adjusting your blogging strategies to something that solves your present problems and achieve more.

Primary Key To Blogging Success

In an ever changing marketplace it is vital that you learn to adapt and change for the better. Whether it be marketing strategies or simply changing annoying or harmful habits. Your ability to adapt and change within your blogging niche places you above the average blogger who copies everyone else and follows and never lead. Take Mashable.com for example; they consistently provide cutting edge information and services relating to social media and technology news and because of their superior stance on developing new strategies and adapting to changes in the marketplace, they are among the best worldwide. An achievement that could not be possible if they wanted on the go ahead from someone else. Instead, they chose to be a cutting edge leader in their industry.

Conclusion

I know that many of us feel stuck and molded in our ways and outlook, and find it difficult to keep track; but if we lack the things our audience crave then be prepared to be left behind in an ever changing world.

So right now, take some time to asses where your blog is and where it could be. Your readers’ comments are not for decoration but can provide insight into what they need and are looking for. Dare to excel!

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The Secret to Creating Shareworthy Content http://performancing.com/the-secret-to-creating-shareworthy-content/ http://performancing.com/the-secret-to-creating-shareworthy-content/#comments Wed, 23 Jun 2010 20:39:15 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=9082 I often refer to the term I use to describe amazing content that people want to share online as shareworthy, and today, I’d like to dive a bit deeper into the concept of creating shareworthy content, so your blog and online reputation can benefit from the compounding effect of blogging, attract more visitors, and grow […]

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shareworthy-contentI often refer to the term I use to describe amazing content that people want to share online as shareworthy, and today, I’d like to dive a bit deeper into the concept of creating shareworthy content, so your blog and online reputation can benefit from the compounding effect of blogging, attract more visitors, and grow organically over the long term. In other words, shareworthy content leads to sustainable growth, and I’m going to tell you how to do it.

What is shareworthy content?

It’s simple. Shareworthy content is amazing content that people like enough to want to tell their friends about it and share it with their social media connections. They can share that content by blogging about it on their own blogs, tweeting it on Twitter, linking to it on Facebook or LinkedIn, and so on. Therefore, shareworthy content is not necessarily viral content that explodes across the Internet. Instead, it’s a tangible form of the world-of-mouth marketing of the social web that businesses covet.

How do you create shareworthy content?

Creating shareworthy content takes more effort than simply publishing a quick blog post about a hot topic that’s trending on Twitter or a breaking news story. Instead, creating shareworthy content takes a passion for your subject matter, an authoritative and unique voice, and a consistent attention to detail. In other words, you need to speak from the heart with confidence, being sure to add your own personality and view points, but be sure to add value to the online conversation at the same time. Also, take the time to proofread your posts, check your sources, and provide accurate attribution and appropriate linking.

Of course, there are examples of shareworthy content that don’t follow all of the guidelines suggested above, but if your goal is to grow your blog, your online presence, and your reputation across the social web, then you need to focus on consistently publishing shareworthy content. That doesn’t mean every one of your blog posts has to be Pulitzer Prize material, but it does mean that your blog is a direct reflection of the time you put into developing it, and that includes the time you put into developing shareworthy content.

Think of it this way — no one is going to want to share a blog post that simply regurgitates an existing story, is filled with typos, or lacks a confident voice. Would you share the blog post that says, “I am a dermatologist, and I tell my patients that to avoid getting sun burn, you must apply sun block at least 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun,” or the post that says, “I think to avoid getting a sun burn, you have to put on sun block about 20 minutes before you go out in the sun, but I’m not sure. I can’t remember where I read that,” with your online connections? Alternately, think of the type of content that makes you want to share it with your own online connections or write about it on your blog. What makes that content valuable enough that you want to talk about it and share it?

People who share content are betting their own reputations on that content. They don’t want to lose their own followers and connections because the content they share is terrible. Just like you, they share content that is a direct reflection of their own online brand and reputation. Give them something shareworthy, and they’ll come back for more.

What do you think makes a blog post or piece of online content shareworthy? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: stock.xchng

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Writing Inspiration: Blogging the Intersection http://performancing.com/writing-inspiration-blogging-the-intersection/ http://performancing.com/writing-inspiration-blogging-the-intersection/#comments Mon, 24 May 2010 19:30:11 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8727 You’ve heard the term “thinking outside the box,” but how do you actually do that? How do you go outside of a niche and produce inspired thinking? Answer: you combine two or more disciplines, like Frans Johansson suggests in his recent book, ‘The Medici Effect.’ Johansson puts forth the idea that the really interesting, innovative […]

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You’ve heard the term “thinking outside the box,” but how do you actually do that? How do you go outside of a niche and produce inspired thinking? Answer: you combine two or more disciplines, like Frans Johansson suggests in his recent book, ‘The Medici Effect.’ Johansson puts forth the idea that the really interesting, innovative and inspired concepts come from the intersection of two or more disciplines. This is true for architecture, music, art, mechanics, and pretty much anything including writing and blogging — something you can learn to apply.

Ever since Johanson’s book came out a couple of years ago, I’ve been more conscious of finding the intersection of niches as a source of writing inspiration. It’s really nothing I haven’t been doing as a writer for years, and coaching other aspiring writers to do, but it took his book to make me really conscious of the possibilities.

His book is named after the Medici banking family, who were the driving force behind the Italian Renaissance. They funded various arts, architecture and finance in and around Florence, Italy, in the 15th century, and the net result was a mingling of disciplines as people in these disciplines made their way to the epicenter of the Renaissance movement. I won’t get into the book here all that much, except by way of providing some examples of how you can combine two or more niches into inspired blogging. But even if you don’t write, Johansson’s book is highly recommended. You can still get the ebook free (link at bottom), or buy a print copy from your favorite bookstore.

Self-Improvement

Some niches just lend themselves to crossovers, and many bloggers already blog at the intersection of disciplines. Seth Godin is one such blogger. Can you guess at the niches he covers? Business is one, marketing is another — but you could say that marketing itself is all about applied psychology and how to stir up the desire to improve our lot in life, ourselves. The desire for self-improvement is a constant target of marketers — though their approach is to tell us we’re “not worthy” if we don’t buy product A. This desire was probably always part of the human psyche, but with two powerful mediums, radio and TV, for leverage, it’s become an even stronger desire in us, whether we know it or not. That means there’s a market for self-improvement blogs which help us find awareness in the non-superficial aspects of life.

The problem is, self-improvement blogs are all over the place, and lot of them dish up the same suggestions self-help books have been saying for decades (having read many dozens of them since the early 1980s, it’s easy for me to say that). If you want to jump into this busy and competive niche (and feel you’re genuinely qualified), there are a number of ways you could go, to stand out. One way is to crossover with celebrity news. If any group of people have their personality flaws and quirks front and center, it’s probably celebrities. They’re popular and successful, or they’re “aspiring”, and they got there “above” us despite all their flaws. It’s easy to pick on them or feel jealousy towards them, but the fact is that they are human and they do have neuroses, image disorders and illnesses. With a little bit of work, you could intersect celebrity news with either self-improvement or health and fitness.

How you do this really depends on your objective. If you want to write pure celebrity news, fine. But if you want to write self-improvement blog posts with a difference, consider some sort of intersection. It does mean more research; however, it could be an approach that makes you stand out. Think it can’t be done? Michael Gray’s SEO blog Wolf-Howl talks about a different kind of improvement: that of websites through search engine optimization. He regularly injects celebrity references into his content, and he does it well. Figure out a way to do the same for personal improvement.

Another direction is the learning niche. Learning is of course a type of self-improvement. On one of my older blogs, I unwittingly combined learning and education with self-improvement topics. While I haven’t put much effort into the site, it is my most-commented blog. It struck a chord with a number of people. If I had more hours in the day, it’d be a site I’d put more effort into, but until I found the inspiration for it, I didn’t want it to be yet another self-improvement blog saying the same old thing.

Personal Finances

Depending on how you define self-improvement, there’s another direction you could go to find a blogging intersection. One of my earliest self-improvement blogs, Rich Man, Poor Man, cast a philosphical eye on personal and societal prosperity. It was an outgrowth of my old PunkMonk “tough love” blog of 2002 — a time when my life and career was in total upheaval and I was trying to “find myself.” While the posts required a lot of emotional energy to write, typos aside, they were amongst my most inspired writing ever. I occasionally re-read those posts simply to see if I can recapture the incredible feeling of inspiration I enjoyed while writing those posts.

Prosperity is tied with attitude (self-improvement) but it’s also tied with personal finances. Your finances dictate your entire life, even your style. Marketers would have us believe that we’re not worthy or stylish if we don’t wear certain clothes or drive a certain car. While we may have our car preferences and desires, and while some people may go into debt just to have the car they really want, the more financially practical citizen buys the car they can afford. There may already be a lot of car blogs out there, but one which offers practical tips on saving money on the purchase, care and general ownership of a vehicle potentially has an edge over general car blogs.

Caveats

Now the concepts in ‘The Medici Effect’ is really nothing I haven’t been doing for years. I’ve always coached aspiring writers to learn as much as they can about everything and anything. Unfortunately, that way also lies a lack of focus. Reading books and magazines, watching TV, movies, theater shows is easy. The hard part is focusing on just a handful of niches, and what you pick is dictated by a few factors:

  1. Your current skills.
  2. Your interests.
  3. Niche profitability.

If you can combine all of these factors, fantastic. Writing about current skills gives your writing confidence. If your current skills are something you want to get away from, then your interests are key because writing about them generates passion. Confidence and passion are two key ingredients of the best writing, and what really attracts loyal readers. Profitability really should be secondary; if it’s your focus, you’re more likely to forget the other two ingredients and will thus lose readers.

Of course, writing an “intersected” blog might take more effort, since you have to stay on top of two or more niches. On the other hand, if you combine multiple interests, it will not feel like work. If the effort inspires new ideas or viewpoints on topics that everyone and their proverbial brother are writing about, then it means you’ll stand out, primarily because of the inherent passion it takes to pull off an intersected blog.

Does your blog intersect topics? Tell me about it in the comments.

Notes: The Medici Effect [PDF, 224 pages]
Image: Flickr.

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Wear a Mask, Cut Loose Your Inner Blogger http://performancing.com/wear-a-mask-cut-loose-your-inner-blogger/ Fri, 21 May 2010 19:31:16 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8716 Don’t or can’t use your real name when you blog? You can still build a personal brand, albeit around a fictitious character. Or maybe that character doesn’t have to be all that fictitious, and can be based on your interests, reveal a facet of you. Thus, it may be worthwhile choosing a Web moniker and […]

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Don’t or can’t use your real name when you blog? You can still build a personal brand, albeit around a fictitious character. Or maybe that character doesn’t have to be all that fictitious, and can be based on your interests, reveal a facet of you. Thus, it may be worthwhile choosing a Web moniker and building a persona around that.

Why a Web Moniker?

Blogger “Johnny B. Truant” is obviously a real person using a fictitious name. He discusses on Copyblogger today what prompted that choice, and how “Johnny” is just as real as the person behind the name. While in some blogging circles it’s believed that blogging is very personal, one on one, and real names should be used, others believe differently. I’m of the belief that if there’s no moral or legal hitch to using a moniker, then why not — except possibly when a business executive writes on a company blog? If blogging involves telling stories, as so many bloggers have written, then cutting loose a persona based on a moniker might free you up to say what you’d really like to say, without the concerns you might have about being judged by friends, family, or colleagues.

A moniker and Web persona, as Johnny B. suggests, lets you loose to write real copy, and gives you the freedom to stop censoring yourself. The moniker gives you the license to create a persona that you want to be known as, and thus gives you the confidence you need for blogging.

I’ve coached many aspiring writers over the years, and confidence is one of the fundamental roadblocks that stops people from just writing. Cutting loose with a few monikers also lets you explore different writing styles on an ongoing basis, letting you naturally choose one to build a persona around. This is the number one reason I’ve cultivated different monikers since I first started blogging in 2002, though I’ve essentially tried to build only one persona.

Picking a Moniker

Unlike Johnny B. and others — especially the Fake Steve Jobs types — my monikers were not intended to stay secret; nothing stays secret online for long. Rather, when I really started blogging seriously in 2005, with the intent of making it part of my career, I was not sure how widely blogs would be read, nor what topics would be popular. I have always had multiple interests — a fact that sometimes means I have a hard time deciding where to put my efforts. (There’s also a fear that I’ll pick the wrong niche.) As a result I’ve ended up with multiple monikers over time that revealed a different facet of the real me. But as far as a persona goes, I’ve usually tend towards favoring just one, Talespinner — though as of late, that has morphed into the UltraGeek.

In choosing your moniker to build a persona around, brainstorm off of your niche as well as your personal interests. Maybe you have a nickname you’re know by, or an interest you’re known for. Try word games that combine your interests, your nicknames, the names of celebrities, rhyming words and so on.

For example, I’ve had a long-standing interest in food from a cultural standpoint. It just so happened that in my Toronto days, I went through a long hybrid Rockabilly-Punk phase and thanks to my Elvis Presley hairstyle and the clothes I wore, I used to be known by some friends as the Punk Elvis or Elvis Parsley. The name is a double play on words. First, parsley is a common ingredient in East Indian cooking. Second, Parsley is a play on Elvis Presley’s name. Result: my “Curry Elvis” persona for my cooking blogs, when I was still pursuing the idea that I might launch a Web-based cooking show. (During my computer career hiatus, just before I started seriously blogging, I went to cooking school and worked in a dozen or so restaurants for a few years.) So this persona potentially suited me, but in reality it didn’t suit my ultimate online objectives.

Building a Persona

I never built up the Curry elvis persona, mainly because publishing cooking blogs didn’t seem capable of paying the bills, but also because it gets hard to maintain an Elvis-like persona as you get older — something that might be necessary were I to appear in video. My subsequent monikers were due to my personal interests morphing through different niches, including self-improvement, music, writing, etc. For example, Curry Elvis became Punk Monk.

I don’t want to or need to bore you further with my other monikers and personas. They’re not that hard to find, if you’re interested, but the gist is that you can use a similar approach to choosing a moniker and building your Web persona as I did. Though decide on your online objectives before you pick your moniker.

Once you’ve picked a moniker that you like, you can build a “personal” brand, a persona, around it through blogging, creating new jargon, and promoting the persona through social media — just like you would do for the “real” you. I wouldn’t recommend trying to build more than one persona; it just takes too much effort. Brainstorm a few monikers, even use them for blogging different niches, but ultimately focus on just one persona. Johnny B. suggests that you should actually become your persona, at least online — which is difficult to do if you fragment yourself into too many personas. Fragmentation, as far as I’ve experienced will hold back your blogging success.

Caveats

Now, some niches — such as entertainment, design, photography, writing, music, marketing and anything else creative — are well-suited to having a blogging moniker because they can and do often involve storytelling as well as “personalities.” The choice of a blogging moniker might not suit if you’re blogging for clients, though you never know. It really depends on the client and their niche; just ask your clients.

Image: Flickr.

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7 Tips for Writing Effective News-y Posts http://performancing.com/7-tips-for-writing-effective-news-y-posts/ http://performancing.com/7-tips-for-writing-effective-news-y-posts/#comments Thu, 20 May 2010 22:25:48 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8707 Even if your blog is for a business, there’s still a possibility that it covers the news in your industry. If so, it’s also likely that you don’t get exclusives and therefore are mostly rehashing topics. However, there’s still a purpose for doing that, and you should be armed with a few tips on the […]

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Even if your blog is for a business, there’s still a possibility that it covers the news in your industry. If so, it’s also likely that you don’t get exclusives and therefore are mostly rehashing topics. However, there’s still a purpose for doing that, and you should be armed with a few tips on the most effective ways to write news-y posts for your niche.

  1. Variety. There are tons of generic idea sources: aggregators, portals, microblogs, social media. E.g., Google News, Yahoo News, Technorati, Google Reader, Google Alerts, Alltop, YourVersion, Digg, Stumbleupon, Mixx, Propeller, Reddit, Neatorama, Twitter, Facebook and many more. For tech, there’s Techmeme and Megite. For celebrity, WeSmirch. There are many for business, sports and an increasing number of other niche portals. Choose a site relevant to your niche, and monitor the top news sources for breaking stories, but don’t ignore the smaller sites, which may offer a different perspective. (Hint: big sites often earn advertising revenue and are not always as edgy in their opinions.)
  2. Frequency. If you’re covering news in multiple short posts every day, you probably want to publish at least 3-5 posts. If you’re in a competitive niche, you might need even more. For example, celebrity and political blogs might require 10-15-20 posts per day to really make a dent in market share.
  3. Schedule. Spread out blog post publishing time frame during a given day. If your blogging platform or CMS allows it, you can write all posts at once and then schedule them to publish automatically at intervals (no less than 15-20 minutes). However, writing a day’s quota of posts at once, say every morning, means you miss out on any afternoon or evening news. In some niches, there’s news all day, and if you can work it into your schedule, writing 1-3 posts for each of 2-3 time slots (from morning, afternoon, evening, night) might serve your site and readers better. It really depends on the niche and your readership. The more global your readership, the more valuable it is for readers if you’re posting to multiple slots, provided it’s not all rehashed news from earlier in the day.
  4. Summary. Sometimes you want to cover several tidbits of news that don’t warrant their own post, searching for images, etc. The best way to do this is a roundup post, with a maximum of one per day, unless that your blog covers distinct sub-niches. Don’t forget to put the date in the title. I’ll do something like this on Performancing: “Performancing Blogosphere Roundup — May 20, 2010.” Sometimes I’ll precede such a title with some unique keywords relevant to the news tidbits: “Blogs, Hard Drives, and iPads — Blogosphere Roundup, May 20, 2010.” Brainstorm different titles before picking one; don’t be afraid to get creative, unlike me.
  5. Uniqueness. It’s not enough to rehash the news. If “everyone else” is doing it too, then why would you retain any regular readers? Add your own voice and value to the mix. Inject your relevant opinions, reference 2-3 other sites, say more than what the articles you’re summarizing say, and say it succinctly. Or add visual content such as images, video, web slideshows.
  6. Balance. If you are blogging for a business, one of your objectives is probably to establish expertise and be a thought leader. It’s hard to do this in newsy posts. So balance these by mixing them with regular posts and longer resource lists (e.g., 11 Ways to use the iPad to Run Your Business).
  7. Inspiration. Inspiration for blogging regular posts is a bit different than for newsy posts, but some of the rules still apply.

Image: Flickr.

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5+7 Tips to Spark Blogging Inspiration http://performancing.com/57-tips-to-spark-blogging-inspiration/ http://performancing.com/57-tips-to-spark-blogging-inspiration/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 12:32:03 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8688 If you’ve written or blogged for at least a few months, you know that inspiration comes and goes. It’s not always lack of ideas that stop you from getting that next blog post out — often it’s having too many ideas and having doubts about what to write. Here are a few tips to spark […]

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If you’ve written or blogged for at least a few months, you know that inspiration comes and goes. It’s not always lack of ideas that stop you from getting that next blog post out — often it’s having too many ideas and having doubts about what to write. Here are a few tips to spark some blogging inspiration, that have worked for me in the past.

Scanning For Ideas

The first step is scan for sources of ideas. Yeah, I know that I said you might have too many ideas, but we’ll take care of that in the next section.

  1. Scan the blogosphere. The first thing I usually do to start a blogging day is check my favorite aggregators and portals. I like to use Techmeme, Alltop, YourVersion, Google Reader. Depending on the niche that I’m blogging, I might check other similar tools or have my own custom aggregators that I’ve built in WordPress.
  2. Look at your archives. Ok, maybe it’s a slow news day. Don’t forget to look at your archives. Maybe you wrote about something before that needs correcting, updating, or some sort of followup. This is also an opportunity for you to deep link to your own content, to help build your site’s search engine profile.
  3. Write for yourself. If you’re trying to establish expertise, you need to cover topics relevant to your niche. Ultimately, you’re probably a rich source of ideas, and writing about what interests you is what gives you motivation and focus in blogging. Unless you’re doing it to pay the bills, why bother blogging about something in which you’re not interested? Look within yourself for ideas. It’s okay to get ideas from readers, but if you’re always wondering what your readers want, you’re asking for trouble. Blog readers are fickle as well as transient as a whole, and unless you’ve been posting a lot of cornerstone content and following a regular publishing schedule, your readership on any given day will change. That’s especially true for a new blog whose bulk of Web traffic comes from search engines. So it’s more important to decide what you want to write about, then promote your content to attract interested readers. They’re out there; you just have to attract them.
  4. Mine your web metrics. Now while you do still want to write for yourself, as your readership grows, the value of your site’s keyword searches grows. Your site metrics will show search terms used to visit your site from search engines. If you see any trends, they might be worth exploring, provided they’re related to your blog’s niche.
  5. Mine your comments. You don’t have to have a high-traffic site to enjoy regular commenters and loyal readers. If you’ve been promoting your blog content through your Twitter or Facebook networks, you might find you have regular readers sooner than if you didn’t use social media. Comments can be a rich source of ideas for future blog posts, either because of a direct query or some idea that gets triggered by a comment.

Filtering Suggestions

Now that you’ve bombarded yourself above with lots of ideas, what’s the next step? Filtering, to narrow your interest to one or two topics. Inspiration strikes when you’re focused. Believe me on that. I’ve been using inspirational writing and productivity techniques for a couple of decades, and whenever I’m distracted by too many ideas and thoughts, my writing isn’t my best. It’s also far tougher to write at the pace that most blogging requires, compared to non-blog writing. So filtering ideas for focus is a crucial step to getting inspired. The key is to use some sort of mechanism to, real or mental, to narrow down your topic choices.

  1. Topic themes. Some bloggers have a different weekly or monthly theme for posts, which helps to focus. Usually that’s something you can plan for in an editorial calendar.
  2. Editorial calendars. Create an editorial calendar ahead of time and use it. Of course, newsy topics aren’t always something you can plan for, but you can for evergreen content that’ll be relevant long-term on your blog. How-to tutorials, guides, and resource lists are often good candidates for editorial calendars.
  3. Random choices. If you’re fortunate enough to be blogging in a niche that allows you a lot of different sub-topics, then sometimes picking something at random suffices. This works for newsy sites where you’re publishing lots of short content daily. E.g., news, celebrity, politics. That doesn’t mean what you write will improve your site, only that you’ll have something to write about, to help get the creative juices flowing.
  4. Trending topics. If you’re uncomfortable with randomness and want maximizing your blogging efforts, check for trending topics. For example, the Twitter trending list that you’ll see on your profile page, right hand sidebar, might give you some ideas of what the Twittersphere is microblogging. There’s also Google Trends, which gives you a longer-term historical view and a plotted graph to boot.
  5. Visual input. While I’ve long ago realized that unless I’m live blogging a TV show, watching TV while while blogging is a major distraction. My productivity is sometimes zero DURING watching TV. However, a short break to watch something relevant to your niche, or to view some video, or even just browse some totally unrelated photos at Flickr might spark a post idea to help you focus.
  6. Change your environment. If working at your desk is not working for you at the moment, trying moving into another room. Some people like to take their blogging outdoors. A netbook works well for that, if you don’t want to lug around a laptop. If that’s not viable, sometimes moving to another room works. I like to lounge for a while on the couch and use my iPad for some planning and notetaking. I find it’s easier to focus on an iPad.
  7. Sleep on it. If the blogging inspiration you’re seeking is for publication the next day and you can’t come up with anything, there’s no harm done in literally sleeping on some ideas for the next day. Your brain needs some “alone time” to sort through and parse other ideas that you may have accumulated. I often find that if I’ve prepped suitably, I wake with a couple of clear ideas or possibly even a full post in my head. Alternately, a nap or just a short break away from your computer can make all the difference. (Take a notebook, netbook or iPad with you, but don’t use it unless an idea sparks while you’re on break.) A long break can paradoxically increase your productivity. For example, in the past, I’ve gone off to watch an afternoon movie then come back home and productively written material for novellas or a book. This works for blogging as well, but I usually try to finish any daily client blogging obligations before I take long breaks.

Controlling the Flow of Ideas

If you use the above tips regularly, you might find days where you get over-inspired. Ideas start flitting through your head; blog posts start writing themselves for you, waiting for you to type them up. Because I’ve enjoyed this sort of idea flow for many years, I’ve long used mind mapping as my tool of choice for capturing ideas and breaking them down as far as I can go without writing posts right there and then within a mind mapping application. The problem is, you still end up with too many ideas, thus hampering inspiration for writing a post right here, right now. You still need to filter, as discussed above. (Note: mind mapping is more suited to developing longer content, not short newsy pieces.)

More on finding blogging inspiration, in the near future. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: I have share options in YourVersion and am an unpaid tech evangelist for this real-time discovery engine.

Image: Flickr.

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3 Quick Tips for Improving Your Writing Skills http://performancing.com/3-quick-tips-for-improving-your-writing-skills/ http://performancing.com/3-quick-tips-for-improving-your-writing-skills/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 00:48:56 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8678 One of the best ways to improve your writing, at least in terms of succinctness, is to write reviews. While I’ve been doing technical writing for a couple of decades and writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for even longer, I cut my teeth on non-fiction by writing articles, interviews and reviews for weekly local […]

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One of the best ways to improve your writing, at least in terms of succinctness, is to write reviews. While I’ve been doing technical writing for a couple of decades and writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for even longer, I cut my teeth on non-fiction by writing articles, interviews and reviews for weekly local and college papers in the 90s. The latter efforts, especially review writing, proved most beneficial to my blogging skills. If you’re looking for ways to improve your writing, I’d highly recommend writing reviews.

Here are some review writing tips:

  1. 150-250 words is a perfect review length. Start by reviewing something without a word limit. Then edit down, to 1000 words, 500 words, 250 words, etc. Write enough reviews and you’ll eventually find your writing to be more succinct — often a necessary skill for effective blogging. The shorter your review, the more effort it actually takes to write well.
  2. Learn to be your own editor. Copyediting seems to be a foreign concept in blogging, partly because of the crazy pace we bloggers sometimes have to maintain, no matter how well-intentioned we are. My own frequency of typos increased drastically when I started blogging. However, you still need to edit for meaning. Here’s a simple rule of thumb, to learn how to be succinct: When you’re editing down, cut out every other word, and if you lose the meaning, put some words back. I’ve forgotten the source of this advice, though I think it was from William Zinsser‘s classic On Writing Well book, but was a paraphrasing of a tip from an American novelist.
  3. Keep publication off the objectives list. If one of your review “exercises” is of high quality, you could spin it off into a blog post for publication, but that is not the objective. You’re writing these reviews to hone your skills. Think of them as analogous to the pencil sketches that an artist might do before a detailed illustration or painting. Leonardo da Vinci was a master painter because of the many thousands of sketches he did in his lifetime, which helped him understand structures and give his painter’s hand confidence. You can give your writer’s hand confidence in a similar manner.

Don’t stick to one type of review. When I published my monthly print magazine back in the early to mid-90s, I was reviewing everything out of necessity: music, movies, books, comics, restaurants. Those were pre-Web and Mobile Web days. Nowadays you can also review mobile apps, web games such as those that you find on Facebook, and Web-based services, websites, smartphones and much more. Some types of reviews are going to be harder to keep short, such as books and movies, but that’s fine. The objective is really to learn to be as succinct as possible, not to always write in the 150-250 word range.

What tricks have you employed to refine your writing skills? Feel free to share in the comments.

Image: Flickr.

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Lacking Inspiration? Read A Blog to Write A Blog! http://performancing.com/lacking-inspiration-read-a-blog-to-write-a-blog/ http://performancing.com/lacking-inspiration-read-a-blog-to-write-a-blog/#comments Wed, 07 Apr 2010 13:11:47 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=8371 This is a guest post by Cori Padgett, the creative brains and dubious brawn behind the blog Big Girl Branding. Alright, sometimes blogging isn’t easy. One day you get stuck and at a loss as to what to write about. Another day you feel like what you’re blogging about is just dull, dry and boring. […]

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This is a guest post by Cori Padgett, the creative brains and dubious brawn behind the blog Big Girl Branding.

Alright, sometimes blogging isn’t easy. One day you get stuck and at a loss as to what to write about. Another day you feel like what you’re blogging about is just dull, dry and boring. Still another day rolls along and you feel you wrote something spectacular, but the rest of the world doesn’t happen to see it that way.

Wind meet sails. Sails… meet deflation.

It happens.

But it doesn’t spell doomsday for your blogging career. It just means you need a little inspiration. You need a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to get your creative juices flowing, to unblock those clogged neuro-pathways and unleash your inner blogger rockstar.

One of the best ways I know of to do this is… ta-da!

Read other blogs.

Yep, it really is that simple. You literally have a WEALTH of information right at your fingertips each and every day. A lack of inspiration from this day forward should be a thing of the past. Seriously.

Bloggers and writers are doing their thing each and every day and publishing their content all across the web. People just like you with amazing stories to tell, smart wisdom to impart, and laugh out loud humor to tickle your funny bone.

In a word?

Inspiration!

Does this mean I’m saying go out and plagiarize the crap out of someone else’s blood, sweat and tears?

Um. No. Re-read please.

Do NOT plagiarize and steal other people’s content. That is just plain wrong and will catch up with you at some point. Most likely in the form of reader disengagement because they find out you’re a flake and a decrease in your traffic due to duplicate content issues.

What I DO mean is to read what others who have gone before you have written and get inspired already! See a blog post about Twitter that strikes you as informative but somehow incomplete? Think you can write one even better, with even MORE helpful ideas for readers to capitalize on? Then write it!

Write it in your own words, in your own voice, and make it uniquely yours with your own stories, opinions, and helpful advice. There is nothing wrong with using others work as a springboard for your own ideas. In fact this is often where some of your best posts might just happen.

Want to write a post about the new iPad because you know it’s a popular topic? Do it! It doesn’t matter if 10 other bloggers have already done it, what matters is what YOU have to say on the subject.

Write it out, and give your readers something informative, engaging and compelling to read. Make YOUR blog post all about the iPad become the most Tweeted iPad post in the bloggersphere.

Really, there is no reason whatsoever to feel stumped for ideas or feel like you’re lacking in the inspiration department. There are opportunities to get inspired all over the WORLD. The Internet is just a tiny piece of that little inspiration pie.

Need more ideas to get inspired? Instead of reading a blog to write a blog… why not read a book? Read a magazine? Read the newspaper? Heck, why not go for a walk? Get some coffee at your local coffee joint? Chat with the bum on your street corner?

The more reading you do the greater the opportunity to be inspired. The more you get out in the world, the greater the opportunity to be inspired. Words are inspiring. People are inspiring. Life is (or should be) inspiring. And if none of those things get you excited about life and thinking up things to share with your readers… then I’m sorry, but perhaps blogging just isn’t for you.

Or you need Prozac.

No judgment here, but either way… figure it out and allow yourself to get inspired again. You’ll thank me later!

Warm regards,

Cori

Cori is a wildly hire-able freelance ‘ghost’ and the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. She’d also like to note that ‘big’ does not mean what you think it means. It was meant to indicate being a grown up. Sigh… Of course you probably didn’t get that, and it totally loses its effect when she has to explain it. So I guess she’ll just have to put her ‘big girl’ panties on and deal with it. She’ll feel better about the whole misunderstanding though if you stop by and say hello. Don’t be shy!
Follow Cori on Twitter.

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5 More Common Distractions to Bloggers and How To Deal With Them http://performancing.com/5-more-common-distractions-to-bloggers-and-how-to-deal-with-them/ http://performancing.com/5-more-common-distractions-to-bloggers-and-how-to-deal-with-them/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2009 03:25:08 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7889 Last year, James Mowery posted about five common distractions that bloggers face in the course of a writing/blogging workday. James cited TV, games, mobile phones, social networks and even the web as top distractions. There are a host of other things out there that can get your focus out of writing. Here are a few, […]

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Pencil on paperLast year, James Mowery posted about five common distractions that bloggers face in the course of a writing/blogging workday. James cited TV, games, mobile phones, social networks and even the web as top distractions. There are a host of other things out there that can get your focus out of writing. Here are a few, and some tips on how to deal with them.

1. Chores

Most probloggers and writers I know work from their home offices or from their homes. While you get to save a lot on daily expenses when you work from home, one big challenge is managing your time between work and domestic life. Face it–there are just a lot of tasks and chores that one might need to take care of while at home. You might have to do some cleaning and organizing. You might need to prepare food for lunch or dinner. You would inevitably find some pressing task to do. Even when you’re not actually doing these, the mere fact that these are on your mind can take your focus off blogging and writing work.

One way to deal with this is to finish quick tasks as soon as you can, so they don’t accumulate and overwhelm you. As for the bigger ones–like cooking–you can perhaps schedule a thirty-minute break. Hey, you need to eat, too! Then, perhaps, you can relegate the big, time-intensive things to the weekends, like grocery shopping, washing the car, and the like.

2. Kids

One of the reasons I chose to run my work and business from home is so I can keep tabs on my kids. I bring them to school in the mornings, and fetch them before lunch–that way, I’m assured of their safety, the paranoid dad that I am. But as my kids are only starting to learn independence (they’re in their early primary grades), I find myself being asked to do this and do that every so often. Kids need snacks, after all. Kids need their bath. Kids need their afternoon nap.

A good way to deal with this is by blocking off a few minutes of your workday to spend quality time with your kids. This way, they don’t feel left out, and you get to do things together without distractions (yes, they need your focus, too). But make sure they understand that you need to work for a living, and that you shouldn’t be disturbed while on the job. Another good way to deal is by giving them activities to do while you’re at work. Let them play. Let them do their homework. Or how about assigning chores to them, if they’re big enough (distraction #1 and #2 solved!)?

3. Problems

Everyone has problems. These could be money problems, family problems, health problems, or such. Thinking about these big things can take your mind off your concentration. How could you write great blog posts, after all, if you’re constantly thinking of how to pay off a big debt, or if you’re coughing and sneezing all the time.

Why not focus on solutions, instead of the problems? This way, you might be more inspired to work. Money problems? Then being more productive would probably help solve that in the long run. Health problems? Do something about it–rather than worry, why not be proactive? Family problems? Talk!

I can classify problems as those that can be set aside for a later time, and those that need to be addressed urgently. If you have some serious illness, then you have to take care of it as soon as you can, especially if it’s debilitating and if it can sap you of energy you need to be productive. Some problems can be set aside for later. If you need money, why not just focus finishing your work now, so you can get to bill your client earlier, for instance?

4. The temptation to slack or sleep

Another big problem faced by home-based professionals and entrepreneurs is the allure of the bed. And I don’t mean this in a naughty way. When you feel sleepy and tired (and unfocused and uninspired, as well) there’s always the temptation to just sack it out. It’s not just the bed. There’s also the couch, the recliner, and even your desk.

Here lies the importance of dedicating a certain room–or at least a space–just for work. Don’t work in the bedroom. Keep it sacred: just for sleep, rest, and those other private things. Set your environment such that it’s conducive to work, and that it’s not too relaxing. Avoid dim lights, very soft furniture and boring environs. I sometimes find my office chair too comfortable, that I move to a less comfortable seat, so I don’t fall asleep.

However, sometimes, you just have to succumb to your tiredness. If you feel you’re too tired to be productive, then why not take a nap? After fifteen to thirty minutes, you’d feel refreshed and full of ideas to work on. If you’ve spent all day working, then you do deserve a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. When you wake up, take note of dreams or ideas you might have had, as these might be valuable later on. Early mornings are conducive to writing, in my opinion.

5. Work

Many multitaskers would agree with me that work can also be a big distraction. When you juggle a lot of tasks, every other ongoing task can take your mind off the important thing you want to focus at the moment. If you’re a freelancer, you might be working on more than one client or project, and you just can’t give 100% to just one at any given time. If you work for someone, then you might find yourself working on an ever-growing task list, that you’re confused with which item to address first.

This can be best addressed with GTD solutions, or at least by organizing your workflow. Keep a task list, and keep it prioritized. More importantly, try to keep it short. Why not get the small things out of the way early on? Those things that can be done in two minutes or less should only take two minutes or less. And once these are out of the way, you can spend big chunks of your time on the bigger stuff.

Dealing with other distractions

Sometimes, distractions are not all that unproductive, though. For instance, online discussions, forums and social networks can be great breeding grounds for great ideas and for connecting with the right people. Even downtime can be productive if you know how to make the most of it. For a writer, you can use this time to observe your environment, and take stock of current events–things that can help give you ideas on what to write about later on.

The best way to deal with distractions is identifying these, and knowing the best way to deal with them. It’s a matter of managing your time and resources such that you are productive in those things that matter.

image credit: flickr/tomsaint

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How to Maintain Focus When Writing http://performancing.com/how-to-maintain-focus-when-writing/ http://performancing.com/how-to-maintain-focus-when-writing/#comments Sun, 01 Nov 2009 15:00:34 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7733 As a blogger and writer, I must admit that there are days when I’m just on a roll. I’m able to achieve significant output. I’m able to manage my time wisely, and I’m generally productive. But then there are also those days when I uselessly stare at the computer screen for hours on end, never […]

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QuillAs a blogger and writer, I must admit that there are days when I’m just on a roll. I’m able to achieve significant output. I’m able to manage my time wisely, and I’m generally productive. But then there are also those days when I uselessly stare at the computer screen for hours on end, never able to come up with anything sensible enough to publish.

The difference between these two scenarios is focus. I’m that kind of person who needs to really concentrate in order to accomplish what I start.

Most of the time, I can best focus when there are no outside distractions. This is mostly attainable very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep. However, just being alone in silence is not an assurance that one can focus. I, for one, often have a lot going on in my head. Sometimes it’s the internal distractions that are the bigger deterrents to focus, and not the external ones.

When producing content, such as blog posts, articles, contributing to online discussions, and the like, here are a few things I like to do, which oftentimes make it easier to focus and concentrate on writing.

Research beforehand

I must admit that a lot of my blog posts have been based on information that I happen to have chanced upon. These are more difficult to write than content that I’ve been able to do prior research on, though. This is because I tend to open too many windows and links when I simultaneously write and look for information. I tend to navigate away from the main task at hand, and before I know it I’ve already forgotten to finish what I’ve started writing.

When one gets all the information ready before even starting the first word in an article or blog post, then all that’s needed is to refer to the source information every now and then, which will not take time because these are already available readily. So when you find something interesting to write about, you should already spend the next few minutes learning all about it, before even saying your own piece.

Have all your tools ready

Just like a soldier marching into battle without ammo, writing without the proper tools would require you to keep marching back to base for supplies. You would never accomplish anything this way, though. So it’s best to have your tools ready. And I mean anything that’s related to your writing, and anything that helps you along the way.

In my case, I like having a freshly brewed mug of coffee beside my keyboard while writing, so I can take sips while I compose thoughts and sentences in my head. It’s one of those habits that one cannot do without. If I find myself without a very hot (or very cold, depending on the weather) beverage beside me then I find myself rushing to the pantry to prepare something. Along the way, I would’ve already lost focus and the drive to finish my piece.

These tools could include your favorite word processing software, your favorite browser, and any other tool that you directly or indirectly use when writing. If you often write on a portable computer, make sure you have enough battery power for your writing session. If you need to publish a blog post, you’d better have a live Internet connection. It just isn’t the same saving a post offline and publishing only when you get the chance to connect.

Maximize

One of the more popular posts I’d written on in the years past is about maximizing windows. Some people prefer maximizing the current window so they can focus on the document or whatever application they are working on. This definitely helps reduce sources of distraction. Among other things you can do are turn off your IM client, switch your phone to silent mode, and generally try to reduce distractions in your periphery. Also, try to resist the urge to check your email inbox every two minutes or so.

Take a break

Sometimes, maintaining focus requires taking a break, too. Marathon writing sessions are great as long as you can keep the energy and focus up. But standing up and stretching every thirty minutes or so can surely help with circulation. Try to do breathing exercises, too. Or just walk around for a couple of minutes. These can help clear the cobwebs up in your head. If all else fails, sleep on it. You might be able to develop on your ideas better in the morning. Sometimes, you will realize it’s an idea not worth building upon at all.

Everyone has his own preferences, and his own notion of a productive environment that’s conducive to creativity. The common denominator here is that one often needs to be in the zone to be productive. For a writer, that’s where the magic happens.

image credit: flickr/b1gw1ght

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How Long Does It Take to Proofread a Blog Post? http://performancing.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-proofread-a-blog-post/ http://performancing.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-proofread-a-blog-post/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2009 13:28:54 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7478 Justin recently wrote a post about proofreading tool After the Deadline. True enough, it makes sense to check your draft for misspellings, and mistakes in grammar and punctuation before hitting the publish button. If you’re using web markup, it also makes sense to check the draft for any unclosed or misplaced tags. But aside from […]

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Magnifying glassJustin recently wrote a post about proofreading tool After the Deadline. True enough, it makes sense to check your draft for misspellings, and mistakes in grammar and punctuation before hitting the publish button. If you’re using web markup, it also makes sense to check the draft for any unclosed or misplaced tags.

But aside from these simple mistakes, it takes more time to actually check a post if it does make sense. First, you have to check if your argument is reasonable. Then, you have to check if you got your facts straight. Then you need to check if your sources are valid, and if your post does point to the original (or at least the best quality) source of information. And there’s also a host of other things I’d like to check before hitting publish. Here would be a short checklist.

  • Check spelling.
  • Check grammar.
  • Check for clarity. I like using precise language. For instance, “hard” can mean many things. So I prefer to use “difficult.”
  • Check for conciseness. Usually, during proofreading I remove unnecessary sentences and even paragraphs.
  • Check for readability. I like to divide my posts into easily-digestible paragraphs. Better yet, I use headings, for easier scanning.
  • I do a logic check. Does my reasoning really make sense? Sometimes I rearrange paragraphs for better buildup.
  • Check categories and tags.
  • Check the site URL. With the many blogs I write on, I might be writing on the wrong site!
  • Preview the post to see how it looks like as a finished product.

I often find myself reading and rereading a draft before finally publishing. If it’s a feature post, proofreading often takes about 150% to 200% of the time I spent drafting the actual thing (or even longer). If it’s a news post, I’m more concerned with the timeliness of the article, so the time spent editing could be significantly shorter.

I think I may be too much of a perfectionist that sometimes i even scrap a draft if I think it won’t cut the grade in terms of quality and applicability to a blog. Sometimes I decide to move the draft to another site altogether, if my writing and editing results in straying away from the original intent or idea.

Either that, or perhaps I’m afraid of criticism.

My point here is that for me, I think readers deserve shorter, clearer blog posts that make an impact, rather than a post that just rambles and rambles and isn’t even clear on what the author wants to say. It’s more difficult to edit than write. But with more effort put into editing a post, it makes it easier for your readers to understand what you want to say, and this makes for better writing.

How long does it take for you to edit and proofread a blog post?

Image credit: flickr/data_op

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A Proofreading Tool For WordPress http://performancing.com/a-proofreading-tool-for-wordpress/ http://performancing.com/a-proofreading-tool-for-wordpress/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2009 17:22:23 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7404 You’ve just finished typing up a great post for your blog and you’ve made sure all your links work. You’ve also made sure to break up the text using various heading sizes so the readers can easy scan through your document. Now you’re ready to click the publish button and send it out to the […]

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You’ve just finished typing up a great post for your blog and you’ve made sure all your links work. You’ve also made sure to break up the text using various heading sizes so the readers can easy scan through your document. Now you’re ready to click the publish button and send it out to the world. But wait! Did you proofread your post?

And I don’t mean scanning through it using the spellchecker to make sure all your spelling is correct. Did you actually go through and make sure your sentences make sense? Did you use the proper instance of every word (there, write, etc.)?

Proofreading Is Important

While spending a lot of time reading blogs, one thing I often notice is poor grammar. It can make the best post in the world seem less credible. Luckily, there is an awesome tool for WordPress that can help you. After the Deadline is an easy to use plugin that will scan through your post and look for any spelling or grammar mistakes. If it finds any, it will underline it with the appropriate color.

Here’s a screenshot of the plugin in action:

After the Deadline

As you can see, it’s easy to use. Simply click on an underlined word and it will give you recommendations.

It doesn’t catch everything, but it definitly helps find things you normally would overlook. I highly recommend using it on your WordPress powered blog. If you blog with WordPress.com, you already have the tool built in to your blog. You just need to click the green check mark to start using it.

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5 Ways to Make Your Blog Timeless http://performancing.com/5-ways-to-make-your-blog-timeless/ http://performancing.com/5-ways-to-make-your-blog-timeless/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2009 14:30:28 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7257 Blogging is immediate, particularly for niches that rely on breaking news realtime. Thus it’s easy to forget that readers will visit your blog and read posts months, years, and even decades after they were written. Here are five ways to keep visitors engaged with your content, and prevent them from bouncing after they scratch their […]

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Blogging is immediate, particularly for niches that rely on breaking news realtime. Thus it’s easy to forget that readers will visit your blog and read posts months, years, and even decades after they were written. Here are five ways to keep visitors engaged with your content, and prevent them from bouncing after they scratch their heads in confusion over your outdated blog posts.

Clock dial of the French Revolution, Photograp...
Image via Wikipedia

Cite Specific Dates

Yes, most blog themes specify the date of publication, but as most readers zero in on your content, skimming over the headline and post information for their convenience, you’ll need to be very specific about events and deadlines that are time-sensitive.

“Watch out! The workshop is on September 22, only two weeks away!” is definitely better than just “the workshop will start 2 weeks from now”. Speaking of the post date, another reason why readers would rather see the date information as they read it is their lazy refusal to scroll up just to see the post’s date.

Provide Context

This is definitely easier than it sounds, especially if you’ve written a series of blog posts on a particular topic. Nothing provides great context to future readers than a throw-away link to an older post that explains a particular aspect of a topic in greater detail.

No doubt, this is also an excuse to backlink to previous posts, a practice that’s always good from an SEO perspective, helping search engines identify your authoritative content and direct searchers to more parts of your blog. It’s easy to spend hours on Wikipedia, as it does a great job of providing compelling context that entices users to click on links so that they can learn more about terms that pique their interest.

Techdirt was a great example of this principle in action, as they liberally linked to previous posts to provide context for new developments. Such useful (from a reader and SEO standpoint) backlinking seems less prominent on the blog nowadays though.

Write in a Classic Tone

My pride as a writer notwithstanding, it’s sometimes very tempting to write in the so-called language flavor of the month. It’s easy to see how online dialects like lolcat, l33t, and self-depracating snark managed to become popular and start emulating such an informal style when writing your blog posts.

Consider however that most of these dialects are fads that slowly or abruptly lose prominence, to be replaced by the latest “in” lexicon. Worse, it’s reasonable to assume that readers of the feature will encounter “Oh hai thar!” posts, wonder what’s going on, and go someone else.

Writing in a simple and classic tone facilitates the comprehension of your posts, regardless of when they’re read. You don’t tie your content to a specific period, and make it easier for future visitors to decipher your perspective, literally keeping the door open for repeat visits.

Update Popular Posts

On most blogs, several posts enjoy their status as major attractions. Thanks to a timely mix of sudden relevancy, online attention, and search engine friendliness, these valuable units of content are literally the gateway of new readers to your blog. If they have nothing to follow once they’re done skimming for your message, chances are they won’t bother visiting other parts of your website.

If providing context is a good excuse to backlink to earlier posts, then updating popular posts is a great opportunity to link to later content. Just like how Wikipedia links to articles written at a later date, so should your blog direct readers to more recent items that update your coverage of a particular topic.

Back Up Your Blog Frequently!

A lot can happen to a blog’s database, and it’s personally frustrating to find out about a potentially interesting blog, only to find out it’s no longer available since it fell victim to data loss or hacking (Exhibit A: Ellen Simonetti’s Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant). The lesson? It makes sense to back up the content of a well-established blog regularly. If you don’t know how to do this (like me), it’s easy to hire someone knowledgeable to do this in his or her spare time.

By ensuring that duplicates of your hard work are stored in a safe place, safe from the potential pitfalls of an online presence, you protect your hard work from accidents or intentional acts. My most successful blog is nearing its second birthday, and I definitely wouldn’t want my 1300+ posts to go to waste.

A successful blog is the result of months or years of hard work, experimentation, and focus. That’s why any serious blogger should take steps to ensure their efforts pay off not only in the present, but for the long haul as well. How do you make your blog timeless? Comment away!

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5 Things Your News Posts Should Cover http://performancing.com/5-things-your-news-posts-should-cover/ http://performancing.com/5-things-your-news-posts-should-cover/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2009 16:01:09 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7238 A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post detailing what every news article should cover. I unfortunately can’t seem to remember where I encountered it (if you know what I’m talking about feel free to leave a link in the comments), but the tips shared there make a useful foundation for writing news […]

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A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post detailing what every news article should cover. I unfortunately can’t seem to remember where I encountered it (if you know what I’m talking about feel free to leave a link in the comments), but the tips shared there make a useful foundation for writing news posts that are very useful for your readers—regardless of topic or niche.

Martyn Lewis presented the first One O'Clock N...
Image via Wikipedia

In order of importance, here’s what I think every news post should include:

What Happened

Reporting on what happened is a given in any kind of news reporting, whether formal or not. In fact, the point of the source article was how all news articles cover this, but not the following.

Who Was Involved

Another given: no event is free from the influence of personalities or entities, nor are people or companies totally free from its influence. Yet with tight deadlines and lack of pertinent details, it’s easy to overlook this crucial requirement. Many events are significant enough to overshadow those who are involved, or those with the potential to be affected, but forgetting to include the who may leave readers wondering why the news you report is relevant to them.

How it Happened

Amazingly, most news reporting is content with fleshing out only the what and who, failing to mention how things happened in detail. The easiest way to cover this base is to zero in on a significant cause, and discuss how that led to a significant effect. Again, this is another way of making the news relevant to your readers, ultimately making it more relevant. People have an easier time relating to events when they understand how things happened.

How You Found Out About It

The source article said that journalists usually leave this out, based on the possibility that revealing their methods and research will diminish their “institutional authority”. Yet detailing how you found out about the news not only adds flavor to your post, it also helps convince readers of its accuracy. What would you believe more, a post based solely on the opinions and perceptions of the writer, or a compilation of perspectives and insights from various sources?

Background

It’s easy for a blogger to assume that readers automatically know everything about a given event or topic, especially if a blog enjoys a large regular readership. Yet detailing the background—the history and long-term implications—makes it easier for the reader to understand the news and put it into context. This also provides opportunities to link back to previous posts covering a particular topic or event. That’s always a good way to attract the traffic that authoritative sources enjoy, as the links lead visitors back to older posts.

It’s necessary to include all of the above when sharing news with your readers, if you want to establish your blog as an authority that people can rely on for detailed and updated news. The best part? Only your creativity limits how you can present these. Got any tips on how to represent current events to your readers? Hit the comments below.

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5 Ways to Quickly Generate Blog Posts http://performancing.com/5-ways-to-quickly-generate-blog-posts/ http://performancing.com/5-ways-to-quickly-generate-blog-posts/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2009 15:38:05 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=7215 Image via Wikipedia All of us have deadlines, post quotas, and traffic targets to meet. Whether self-imposed or an employer’s requirement, these goals all rely on producing content on a regular basis. Here are five ways to keep the content coming, specifically catered for use during limited time or dry idea spells. The Blockquote Bonanza […]

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A jack-in-the-box
Image via Wikipedia

All of us have deadlines, post quotas, and traffic targets to meet. Whether self-imposed or an employer’s requirement, these goals all rely on producing content on a regular basis. Here are five ways to keep the content coming, specifically catered for use during limited time or dry idea spells.

The Blockquote Bonanza

Someone else has written a post or article you love or hate, and you just want to add some commentary to make your own points. The Blockquote Bonanza involves writing a short intro to set the context, then zeroing in on the important points of your subject, following each blockquote snippet immediately with your own perspective. Like so:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi rutrum laoreet dui ac dapibus. Nunc at tincidunt dui. Morbi est augue, vehicula nec elementum vel, tempus sed odio. Mauris elementum congue risus, sed tincidunt augue.

Ut mi nulla, commodo non rutrum at, feugiat non elit. Sed mollis, odio id molestie lacinia, dui tortor convallis mauris, sed adipiscing massa risus vel ligula. Integer non lorem arcu. Etiam lectus nunc, dignissim eu.

Sed sollicitudin ligula eu erat porta semper. Cras ipsum libero, faucibus vitae semper quis, congue quis arcu. Sed arcu metus, pellentesque sit amet consectetur eu, tempor nec tortor. In vitae augue turpis. Donec sed nisl.

Integer nunc arcu, pulvinar ac consequat id, tincidunt at sapien. Donec et dui ut lectus adipiscing viverra. Duis rutrum vulputate urna. Mauris tempus aliquet volutpat. Phasellus felis nisi, elementum et suscipit a, pulvinar id mauris.

In posuere semper justo sit amet luctus. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer id sem libero. Donec massa turpis, facilisis et dignissim vitae, consequat id elit. Etiam at sollicitudin ipsum. Maecenas at.

…and so on and so forth. Remember to end with a paragraph summarizing the citations and your overall stance towards it!

The Summary List

Similar to The Blockquote Bonanza, The Summary List also involves adding commentary onto someone else’s content. The difference is in the structure, which usually involves citing a specific sentence and expounding on it in your own special way. Like so:

In posuere semper justo sit amet luctus. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer id sem libero. Donec massa turpis, facilisis et dignissim vitae, consequat id elit. Etiam at sollicitudin ipsum. Maecenas at.

  • “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.” Morbi rutrum laoreet dui ac dapibus. Nunc at tincidunt dui. Morbi est augue, vehicula nec elementum vel, tempus sed odio. Mauris elementum congue risus, sed tincidunt augue.
  • “Ut mi nulla, commodo non rutrum at, feugiat non elit.” Sed mollis, odio id molestie lacinia, dui tortor convallis mauris, sed adipiscing massa risus vel ligula. Integer non lorem arcu. Etiam lectus nunc, dignissim eu.
  • “Sed sollicitudin ligula eu erat porta semper.” Cras ipsum libero, faucibus vitae semper quis, congue quis arcu. Sed arcu metus, pellentesque sit amet consectetur eu, tempor nec tortor. In vitae augue turpis. Donec sed nisl.

…and so on and so forth. Again, end with a useful summary!

The Lone Picture

Take an awesome picture you’ve found online. Whether you precede or follow it with a one-phrase description is up to you. Just remember that you can use the post title to convey everything, to use pictures with the owner’s permission, and to credit the source.

The Witty One-Liner

You may have difficulty turning your awesome insight or perspective into a full-blown blog post. Maybe it’s because you’re too tired to explore all angles, you’re simply too lazy, or you think brevity is the best presentation called for. So go with The Witty One-Liner

The Celebratory Post

Oh wow, it’s Christmas, and you forgot to pre-schedule a post for the day. Why not just go with the one-liner or lone picture, and greet your readers? Celebratory posts also apply to blogging milestones like the nth post, nth comment, or nth visitor.

Try it Out!

Having difficulty coming up with a post? Need to close out this week with a post to keep your readers engaged? Why not try out any of the methods above (except the 3rd and 5th, I guess), using this post as content fodder? You are, of course, welcome to suggest your own methods in the comments below.

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Blogging Fear: Just Start Writing http://performancing.com/blogging-fear-just-start-writing/ http://performancing.com/blogging-fear-just-start-writing/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2009 01:20:09 +0000 http://performancing.com/?p=6370 Recently, I was consulting with a business owner about starting her own blog. Darren Rowse, Problogger, referred her to me, and so I was excited to get started. One of my biggest passions is to teach, and there is nothing I love more than to see a business jumping into the blogging world. She was […]

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Recently, I was consulting with a business owner about starting her own blog. Darren Rowse, Problogger, referred her to me, and so I was excited to get started. One of my biggest passions is to teach, and there is nothing I love more than to see a business jumping into the blogging world.

She was very hesitant though. She had looked at many blogs and was awestruck by their high quality content, amazing editing, striking use of images, and she felt like competing would be hard. Then I told her that the blogs she was comparing herself to were years old. Both bloggers had already done hundreds of posts, and had refined their writing style, use of images, and editing over that period of time.

She was just starting out and like anything, blogging requires time, effort and practice to do amazingly. She begrudgingly started writing a post, and saved it as a draft for me to look over. Other than a few stylistic things like making some text bold and italics, the post looked great. She looked it over again and was finally ready to publish it. Nervously, she wanted to take it back.

We all have those doubts, those questions. “What if others think it is horrible? What if it doesn’t make sense to them?” In the end though, while the blogging is about helping build her business and brand, it is also an archive of her life as a businesswoman and should cater to her own desires first.

Quickly, the “bug” of publishing content online grew, and she was always thinking about what to put on the blog next.

This whole experience made me wonder if the issue with blogging is that too many people expect to be experts on day one. When you had your first day of school, did you know everything in the text books? When you started your first real job, were you the number one expert in your field? No! So why should blogging be any different? Be it as a hobby, career, or a promotional tool, blogging is like any other task from riding a bike, to building a business: it takes practice to do well.

Don’t let your fear stop you from producing content. Even if it doesn’t appeal to everyone, I highly doubt that with over six billion people living on the planet, that you won’t make a connection with at least one of them, and if you are really shy about your content, don’t promote your blog, just post what interests you. Use your blog as a tool to express yourself, and let come what may. It is your island, you control the design, content, comments, and more. Fear nothing, and get blogging!

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