Good Bloggers Read - How To Hunt Down Quality Content To Inspire & Motivate Your Writing
Good Bloggers Read – How To Hunt Down Quality Content To Inspire & Motivate Your Writing

Content discovery is an important part of what we do as bloggers and marketer. Finding great content that inspires can make you a better writer, a better marketer and a better curator. But where do we start?

Small business bloggers face a problem. A good writer should read, a good marketer should curate content but how do we find content to read and curate?

A few things happened over the Christmas break. If I didn’t know better I’d have said it was a cosmic sign.

I finally got to read Stephen King’s book “On Writing”. In it he talks at length about the importance of reading if you are going to write.

Then I got an email from Chris Brogan titled ‘Fill The Jukebox’. In it he suggests amongst other things:

“1.) Unsubscribe (in all forms) from anything that’s not moving your goals forward. “News” is stupid. “Keeping up” is stupid. Pushing yourself forward is the real work. Growth.
2.) Subscribe to newsletters (and blogs and sites) that grow your mind IF they are pushing you toward your goals.”

If you’re not subscribed to Chris’s emails, why aren’t you? Sign up here.

The third thing wasn’t really a happening at all. I finally got so annoyed with the disruptive ads on one particular site that I subscribed to that I unsubscribed. It felt great.

Whilst I was there I decided to have clear out of all the sites I subscribed to that no longer or rarely published anything worth reading.

It felt great.

Stephen King is right, you have to read to become a better writer and I read a lot, I read books, every morning I read the blogs and news sites I subscribe to. Reading helps me write.

I also know that Chris is right. The low-quality content from the blogs I subscribe to was getting in the way. After my clear out I’d open up my Feedly (more on that in a while) and instead of hundreds of new stories there were less than 50. It was much easier for me to find what I wanted to read.

But there was a hole. Now I’d cleared out the rubbish I wanted to fill the space with more, better quality content. So I went hunting.

I thought I’d share my content discovery process with you today.

How can you find interesting, inspiring and valuable content, not just articles but videos, podcasts and what should you do with it when you do?

Content discovery – How To Find Content That Rocks



When I started putting this post together I realised that it could quite easily end up being a long list of tools. I’ve collated quite a list. I’m going to highlight my favourited below but after the meaty bit of the post I’ll add the full list.

Before you start looking for content you need to ask yourself a few questions.

1. What do you want to read/watch/listen to?

  • Content that will enhance your life?
  • Are you a news junkie who needs to always be up to date? (Whatever Chris Brogan says this is important to some businesses)
  • Motivating, inspiring and really useful content?

You might want be looking for all three of these types of content, just one type or something completely different.

The purpose of this exercise is to define what you are looking for before you start searching.

2. What are you going to do with that content you find?

  • Are you just looking to read and be inspired?
  • Are you looking to up-skill and learn?
  • Are you looking to break out of your bubble and find content that challenges your ideas and opinions?
  • Are you looking for content that you can curate and share on social media sites?
  • Is it something else?

Armed with the answers to these questions we can go hunting and know exactly what we will choose to follow and what we don’t

Google Alerts & Feedly

Google Alerts has been my starting point for finding new blogs and content creators for as long as I can remember.

If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a tool from Google that sends you search results relating to a specific keyword or phrase every day.

Go to the site, enter a keyword of phrase that you are interested in and it will send you a daily email with a list of articles and webpages that it has found.

Google Alerts
Use Google alerts to find stories relating to the topics you are interested in

This is handy but you’ll find your email inbox fills up pretty quickly and you’ll stop looking.

To get value from Google alerts you should pair it with an RSS reader. Enter Feedly.

Feedly lets you subscribe to the results that Google alerts finds. Instead of having to wade through all those emails you can visit the Feedly site, or access the results via their app.

Find out more about Feedly & Google Alerts here.

Google Alerts will find a lot of results, it’s your job to find the gems.

And once you’ve found a gem, a blog or website that produces consistently good content you can subscribe to that blog in Feedly.

I recommend setting up separate folders in Feedly for Google Alerts and the blogs you want to read on a regular basis. This way you can filter the results to just the cool blogs if you are overwhelmed with stories from the alerts.

Create different folders for different content in Feedly
Create different folders for different content in Feedly

That’s the problem with Google Alerts, the sheer volume of results. What you need if you want to retain your sanity is a tool that can help you discover the really good content.

A tool with an algorithm that understands what you want.

Let’s start with the obvious one

Facebook

Our Facebook feeds are designed to show us the content that is most interesting and relevant to us. We can subscribe to as many business pages, blog pages, and news pages as we like, Facebook will only show us what it considers the best.

Even if our feed is full of amazing interesting and inspiring stories we don’t always have the time to read them. We’re often taking a sneaky look at Facebook when we should be doing something else, or passing the time whilst we wait in a queue. We are already feeling guilty about spending time on Facebook when we’re supposed to be doing something else so we scroll by.

But don’t. Before you scroll use Facebook save. When you sit down to read your quality content it will be there under the save tab.

Save links from the Facebook feed
Save links from the Facebook feed

 

Find saved links in the save tab
Find saved links in the save tab

If you find a site producing consistently valuable content add it to your Feedly account so you don’t have to rely on Facebook showing you content from that site again.

Pocket

Twitter doesn’t have an inbuilt save function but ‘Pocket’ will integrate with your browser and phone and allow you to bookmark links from Tweets and other pages you visit to read later.

The browser extension for the web adds a Pocket icon under your Tweets, just click it to save a tweet containing an article to your Pocket.

Use Pocket to bookmark articles from Twitter
Use Pocket to bookmark articles from Twitter

 

I love this tool, whenever I have a spare moment I can dip into the content I’ve saved either via their website or the mobile app and know there is something worth reading.

Pocket isn’t just for bookmarking, it’s recently added an explore tab that lets you find articles that are of interest to you.

I thought I’d give it a try. When I told it I was interested in ‘Blogging’ it found me a bundle of articles, some were quite old but many were well worth the read. I think I may have found some new content sources already.

Use Pocket 'explore' to discover articles related to your interests
Use Pocket ‘explore’ to discover articles related to your interests

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a surprising source of interesting reads. Because users can now effectively blog on LinkedIn using their publishing tool you’ll find a lot of content there that doesn’t appear elsewhere.

Click the list icon to the left of the search bar and then type your topic into search. You’ll get a list of posts relating to your search term.

Find LinkedIn posts related to your topic of interest
Find LinkedIn posts related to your topic of interest

LinkedIn automatically orders results by relevance but this can show you some out of date results. You can change the filter to recency if you want to see more.

If you find someone who is posting good stuff you can follow them or add them to your connections.

Medium

If you haven’t discovered Medium yet take a look at it now. Medium is a cross between a blogging platform and a social network.

You can search results by topic and you’ll find some interesting stuff. When you find something you like you can read it now, share it on Twitter or Facebook or save it to read later.

Here are a couple of the stories it found related to blogging:

Medium results for 'Blogging'
Medium results for ‘Blogging’

If you are on the look out for something completely random ‘Reading Roulette’ in the sidebar offers random selections from the site.

If you find someone producing consistently good content you can follow them and see their content in your feed when you log in.

Nuzzle

Nuzzle is a content discovery tool that hooks into your Twitter and Facebook accounts and identifies articles that are getting shared by your friends there.

The idea is that these stories will be more relevant to you because your friends are recommending them.

Results are prioritised by the number of friends sharing those stories. I was surprised to discover the popular stories I was missing.

Here’s what it has for me this morning:

Nuzzel finds articles your friends share on social
Nuzzel finds articles your friends share on social

You can broaden your results by selecting stories from friends of friends or narrow it by selecting a Twitter list.

Making time

That’s just a small selection of the content discovery tools available. I’ll link to more in the show notes. But the sheer volume of tools presents us with another problem.

How do you find time to log into all these websites?

The first thing to remember is that we are using these tools to help us identify the blogs we want to subscribe to on a more regular basis. Once you’ve found the good ones you can add them to Feedly. Your Feedly account will become your daily content newspaper. I read mine over breakfast.

Now you need to decide how often you are going to look at the other tools and sites. It doesn’t have to be daily, if you looked every day you’d have little time for anything else!

I recommend allocating time once a week or once a month to look through these sites.

Once a month…

When I cleared out my Feedly account after getting Chris’s email I found blogs I’d been subscribed to for years, that had been uninteresting to me for years, whose content I’d scroll through and tut as I’d pass.

Avoid making my mistake and schedule a monthly clear out. We wouldn’t let a pile of old newspapers fill our homes, we wouldn’t keep the junk mail that comes through our letter boxes so why do we allow our digital feeds to fill up?

Find time once a month for a clear out and find new and interesting content to add to your feeds.

What should you do next?

Well obviously you should read the content you find. Don’t feel like you have to read it all, just the stuff that appeals to you the most. Allow yourself to be inspired by it, if Stephen King is right you’ll become a better writer.

If you’re generous you might want to share the good stuff too. Show your followers that you find and read good valuable content that they might like.

And finally, if you are short of blog content why not start a weekly roundup post, sharing your top reads of the week.

I hope I’ve inspired you in the same way Stephen King and Chris Brogan inspired me. In fact I’m hoping you’ll add me and this podcast and my blog to your Feedly so you don’t miss an episode or post.

Your Challenge

As I was preparing to record this I saw a Tweet from Rebekah Radice, it linked to the results of a survey they’d done over on Post Planner that discovered that

“29% of respondents said that finding and sharing quality content” was a challenge.

Use the tools I’ve outlined in this podcast, in the show notes and of course Post Planner to help you overcome that challenge.

Content Discovery Tools

As promised, here’s a long list of content discovery tools recommended to me.

Pocket

Drumup

Scoop.it

Medium

Bloglovin

GetCrate.co

Flipboard

Grapevine6

ContentGems

PostPlanner

Nuzzel

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

Good Bloggers Read - How To Hunt Down Quality Content To Inspire & Motivate Your Writing
Good Bloggers Read – How To Hunt Down Quality Content To Inspire & Motivate Your Writing

 

How To Build Your Blog Audience By Interviewing Experts
How To Build Your Blog Audience By Interviewing Experts

Interviewing experts for your blog is easier than running a guest blogging programme and you’ll see similar results.

A few weeks ago we talked about running a guest blogging programme. There were lots of advantages. It would help you add expertise outside your knowledge base to your site, help you reach a larger and different audience and help you build relationships.

But allowing others to write for your site also came with some pretty hefty disadvantages. Organisation, follow up and that’s just two of them.

There’s an alternative that delivers many of the same advantages with less of the headaches. Interviewing experts.

I’m going to put my hands up and say, I’m not the best interviewer in the world but I’m getting better and learning from every interview I do. What’s more I know my listeners and readers enjoy my interview posts, they always get good traffic and good dwell time.

I’m going to share some of the things I have learned about interviewing people for my podcast and blog.

Your Guide To Writing Expert Interview Blog Posts



The two types of interview

There are two ways you can choose to interview experts for your blog. You can send a list of written questions by email or you can interview someone in person, by phone or skype and transcribe it.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Text interviews

These are the easy option, you don’t have to sync schedules with your subject. Just send a list of questions by email and edit the replies when they come in. The disadvantage is that you’re stuck with the questions you send. If the interviewee touches on an interesting topic that you’d like to explore more you’ll either need to send a new email or not explore it at all.

In person interviews

There is a lot more work involved in this type of interview. Not only do you have to sync schedules, set up some sort of recording mechanism but you also need to transcribe and edit the interview to a readable length, in person interviews can span thousands of words.

The upside is you’ll get a far more natural response, a far better picture of the expert you are interviewing. The spoken word is full of quirks and that can help bring your subject to life. You can also entice your interviewee to expand on topics that come up during the interview.

Doing the research

Now you’ve chosen a style make a list of people you’d like to interview and do the research. You are looking for people that will enhance your blog, add expertise and appeal to your target market.

The real key to any good expert interview is to research. You should allocate a big chunk of time reading about your interviewee and the content they have created. If possible listen to podcasts and videos they have appeared on so you can get a better idea of how they speak and what they look like. It can be quite surprising when you hear someone’s voice or see what they look like for the first time.

Look for the things that are important to your subject, you’ll find they will talk about these with passion, their words will flow freely.

What  stories do they tell online? Make a note of them so you can refer to them or use them to spark good conversation.

Think about what the benefit for them is to appear on your blog, will it expand their reach or personal brand? Will the inbound link to their site be valuable? And make sure you are following them on their social media platforms. There’s nothing worse than interviewing an expert and then finding out you aren’t following them on Twitter. You can hope they don’t notice when you click the follow button but you’ll always feel embarrassed.

Getting in touch

Now that you know about your expert, it’s time to approach them and ask for that interview. Use your research to send a personalised email. Your email subject line is important here too, try and make it something interesting enough that the recipient will want to open it when it appears in their inbox.

Sinéad Burke who blogs on Minnie Mélange publishes amazing interviews with powerful women and inspirational celebrities. I saw her speak at Bloggerconf in Dublin last year. She described how she approached her subjects and shared some of the subject lines she uses in emails. One started with the words “Totally chancing my arm…” I loved this approach, I’d definitely click and open an email with that headline.

But don’t copy her ideas, your headlines need to ooze personality too but it should be your personality. Ask yourself if you would click it if it landed in your inbox?

The questions

Interviewing isn’t easy. As I’ve said I’ve got a lot to learn. But we’re all amateurs when we start out and some interviews we do will be better than others. Even professional interviewers have tough interviewees sometimes. Look at Michael Parkinson’s famous exchanges with Meg Ryan.

One way we can ensure a better interview is to prepare good questions.

All your questions should be open. These are questions where there is no set answer. They could spark a variety of responses. Some interviewees will be more verbose than others but you don’t want to end up with a bundle of ‘Yes’ ‘No’ answers.

Start with some easy questions and build up to the longer ones.

Getting your expert to tell their story at the beginning of the interview will put them at ease and give your readers some good background information.

Then it’s time to get into the topics that you have researched. Focus on the topics that you know will appeal to your audience. Will they be looking for tips and expertise or are they more interested in the expert and the stories they want to share?

Try to keep your questions to a minimum, somewhere between 5 and 10. If you are conducting an in-person interview keep a notebook at your side and jot down questions that are spurred by their answers that you can refer to later.

Introduction paragraph

I find that it’s not until I’ve conducted an interview that I know what the key theme is. Sometimes it goes in a completely different direction than I expected it to.

For this reason, I leave writing the introductory paragraph until last. In it I’ll include some information about the expert and talk about the key learnings that we can expect from the interview.

Transcribing and editing

You may find that you need to edit the words that come from your subject. Maybe it’s a little long or maybe you want to edit for clarity. If you are changing your subject’s words it’s important that you are not changing the meaning of their words. For written responses send your edits on to the interviewee so they can approve them.

For recorded in-person interviews editing is harder work. You’ll need to remove the umms and ahhs and in some cases neaten up the text so it flows well when being read. Don’t be too heavy-handed though, let their personality and quirks shine through. Again, if you are changing their words significantly you should send the edits on for approval.

Conclusion

You’ll want to wrap up your expert interview with some conclusions and a bit more information about your subject. It’s totally up to you how much you promote your interviewee in your post. I like to add a paragraph linking to their online presence and other resources they mention in the post. Remember, these links will be one of the reasons they will agree to the interview.

Now you are ready to hit publish. Don’t forget to tag your interviewee when you share it online and email them a thank you message.

Interviewing experts is a good way of expanding your audience, the knowledge base of your blog and it can help you build relationships with your subjects. They are less time consuming that guest blogging and can offer real value to your audience.

Blogging challenge

  • Make a list of experts you’d like to interview on your blog
  • Research each one in full
  • Send an email request
  • Write a list or questions for your interview

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

How To Build Your Blog Audience By Interviewing Experts
How To Build Your Blog Audience By Interviewing Experts
Beat Imposter Syndrome With STOP SWAP SCRIBE - An Interview With Frederique Murphy
Beat Imposter Syndrome With STOP SWAP SCRIBE – An Interview With Frederique Murphy

Do you have imposter syndrome? That niggling voice in the back of your head telling you that you aren’t good enough? Does it get in the way of your blogging and business?

Until 2016 I didn’t understand the term ‘Mindset’ it seemed a bit airy fairy to me. But something happened in 2016. I had a mindset change. I didn’t engineer it, I didn’t even realise what it was until much later on but it gave me a new perspective on life, blogging and business.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have hang-ups or anxiety though. I’ve quashed some demons but there are some that persist. For example, I suffer, as I know a lot of bloggers do from Imposter syndrome. The thought that actually I haven’t got a clue, I’m a fake, a fraud a flake.

Enter Frederique. I’ve known Frederique offline for about seven years. We met because we were both blogging for ‘Bloggertone’ now Tweak Your Biz and we’ve stayed in touch online. We finally met in person last year at a Sage Business Expert meetup and it was then that I realised she had a lot of advice for bloggers. We discussed some simple things you can do to banish your imposter syndrome and the nagging voice that just wants to tell you you’re rubbish.

Listen to Frederique’s tips for banishing imposter syndrome



Hi Frederique, tell the listeners a bit about yourself

I’m a mindset strategist, I help leaders and work with business leaders. I inspire and equip them to move through extraordinary change. What really stops us from change is the limits we put on ourselves our inner dialogues that we have, procrastination. All of this has to do with mindset.

One of the things I like about your stuff is you make it simple

We tend to make things more complicated than they are. We need to remember that simplicity is our friend and how empowering it is and I think that’s something that makes me quite unique. Even though I come from a scientific background I think my audience never feels like it’s going to be complicated to listen to me or think ‘oh gosh she’s going to start talking about the brain and I’m not going to understand’.

Let’s talk about ‘Impostor Syndrome’. I wanted to talk about it because it’s something that hits me a lot and I think it hits others a lot too. Particularly at this time of year when there’s less light and we start looking at the goals we set.

Everyone can have imposter syndrome.

We all have this little voice. The first thing that anyone listening to this podcast should know is that they are normal. Having this little voice, telling us things we probably don’t want to share, that goes with us wherever we go and just nags at us is normal.

There is nothing wrong with you. The voice just shows up when we have the tiniest doubt, the tiniest figment of fear, the smallest insecurity. As you said it could be the light, it getting a bit darker or it could be a tweet we receive, a comment we get, an email we receive. Anything that is going to spark our insecurity, doubt, fears and suddenly it just goes full on. What’s important is to really leverage our mind so that we can control it instead of letting it control us. And remember that it is an ‘it’ and we have power over ‘it’ unless we don’t do anything. When we do nothing ‘it’ powers us.

The 3 S Process For Banishing Imposter Syndrome

Strategy 1 STOP

The first thing we can do is to realise how powerful we are. We need to command it and know that it’s going to work.

So say to yourself STOP, STOP IT. You can say something less PC if you wanted to whatever command is going to work for you.

I really talk from experience. I wouldn’t want anyone listening to think ‘she has it easy’. All of my stragtegies come from really deep personal experience. There were times when I’d have to use them ten, twenty, thirty, forty times a day because that’s how strong my inner dialogue was. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Should you say it out loud?

It depends, if you are in the tube or a busy environment you will not want to say it out loud but if you feel that you can, by all means go for it. I would mutter it or strongly think it. Whatever we think of the brain picks up on.

By saying stop we are stopping ourselves spiralling into that chain of thought?

Yes, because you are interrupting a pattern.

Strategy 2 SWAP

The brain, as amazing but it doesn’t like to multitask. It can do it but it doesn’t like it as it’s not being as efficient as it could be. Your brain is dedicating energy and focus to that little voice. If you then suddenly say ‘OK I’m going to put on a song and dance for the next five minutes like no one is watching’ or ‘I am going to go out for a small 3k or 5k run or walk’ you are interrupting that activity.

The worst thing you could do, and we’ve all done it would be to go into a room, switch off the light and put on one of the worst depressive song and just continue listening to that voice. So swapping is a great thing and if you use music is really powerful.

I always recommend to my audiences to have a playlist of 3 to 5 songs ready. These are the songs that are going to revitalise you, energise you, make you really happy. It’s easily accessible, just grab your phone, if you are in an environment with people around you put your headphones on. If you are not, dance.

The reason I’m saying not just to listen but dance is that this makes it even more powerful because your brain has to send some energy for you to start moving your arms and your legs.

When we do this inner voice thing we tend to be sitting and we stay sitting and actually standing up increases the oxygen flow in your brain by 20%. That amazing 20% makes you feel so much better. It’s interesting, when we have a problem we tend to sit down which is quite illogical because we want our brain to be the best so we should be standing up.

Are you a fan of those standing desks?

Yes I am, I have one, that’s how I’m recording this interview with you right now. They are based on that fact that I just gave you. When we are standing up there is an influx of oxygen in our brain, it makes it perform best.

Strategy 3 SCRIBE

All the strategies are how to take control of ‘It’. When we don’t do anything and ‘it’ is in our head it tends to get messy, it’s a jumbled mess. Take a pen and paper and start writing down what the voice is telling you. What is overpowering when it’s in our head would actually just be laughable when we write it down.

It’s like when we read a joke, it could be funny on paper. But if someone actually says it to you, they are moving their arms and delivering it to you it’s much funnier. This is a little bit like what your inner voice is doing. Your voice is delivering the joke in a clownish way and it has quite a lot of power. If you start writing it down you’ll start not believing it.

Is that something you’d recommend doing just when you hear the voice or is it something you should do more regularly to keep our heads clear?

The techniques are pattern interrupts so they work really well as soon as your little voice comes in.

The first one, STOP, takes a second. SWAP and SCRIBE can be done in addition if it’s still going on and you just want to get through it. Those ones are for when it’s happening.

For general wellness it’s great to have bullet journaling or mindful journaling, there are so many journals out there. For example, you could keep a gratitude journal that makes you focus on what you are grateful for and the positive of your life. This helps towards your inner dialogue and that little voice of yours. It will have less stuff to say because you will be more focussed on the good things. So having a journal as a maintenance for your overall wellbeing is a great thing.

I’m also a fan of visualisation. I talk a lot about visualisation on the blog, the podcast and from stage. When we spend time visualising it’s just really, really powerful. As business owners, solopreneurs, executives anything we achieve has to start in our mind. When we visualise and give ourselves the time to see it happen in our mind first then we can make it happen. So both would be ideal.

One more thing

My platform is called Mountain Moving Mindset. When your mindset is strong enough to move mountains your mindset is strong enough to do anything. We call it ‘M3’.

The full M3 process is:

  • Stand up
  • Look up
  • Smile and think of one major achievement you have already accomplished.

That takes you about 30 seconds and really boosts you for that next hour, then do it again.


Talking to Frederique is always inspiring. I’m going to share some links in the show notes so you can find out more about her techniques but it’s simple really. That inner voice needs taming, so tell it to stop, swap it for some crazy dancing… or something more sedate if you prefer and get it out of your head and onto paper so you can see how irrelevant it is.

More about Frederique Murphy

Specialising in Inspirational Leadership, Frederique Murphy is a mindset strategist who inspires and equips leaders to move through extraordinary change. With her Mountain Moving Mindset (M3) platform, she equips you with scientifically-based strategies to take your life, career and business to a whole new level. With strong business acumen (15+ years of experience in corporate change), science expertise (positive psychology, neuroscience, and behaviour change), and strategic vision, she makes change happen! Frederique is a passionate and charismatic speaker, who captivates audiences – when she takes to the stage, sparks fly and beliefs, attitudes and behaviours will be instilled to create lasting change.

Website www.frederiquemurphy.com

Twitter @irishsmiley

LinkedIn

ARTICLE: 7 Strategies To Control Your Thoughts (and not the other way around!)

PODCAST: The M3 Mile podcast

EPISODE: M3 1-07 | Do You Make This Mistake with Your To Do List?

VIDEO: The Success Formula to Drive Extraordinary Change | TEDx Talk (9min)

 

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

Beat Imposter Syndrome With STOP SWAP SCRIBE - An Interview With Frederique Murphy
Beat Imposter Syndrome With STOP SWAP SCRIBE – An Interview With Frederique Murphy
Get Your New Year Into Gear - The Ultimate To Do List
Get Your New Year Into Gear – The Ultimate To Do List

Are you bubbling over with ideas for the new year? What have you got on your list for the day you get back to work? This week we’ll look at how to get that stuff done in 2017.

Time off can be a wonderful thing for a small business owner. You get to sleep you get to meet up with friends, you get to have hobbies.

The Christmas holiday break is one of the most refreshing holidays. I take two weeks and that’s two weeks that I use to totally indulge myself. In food, in hobbies, in anything that isn’t business.

But something weird happens towards the end of week one. Once the Christmas festivities are out of the way and I’ve caught up on lost sleep the ideas start flooding in. There, invading my relaxation times are lots of tiny and large aspirations. Things I want to do, put straight before the new year comes. My mind, once unleashed on all things non-work related becomes hyper-motivated to make a start on the new year.

Perhaps this feeling is what sparks new years resolutions. There is a problem with this. When day one in the office finally arrives we’ve either forgotten all our resolutions or we’re sitting looking at a list of work that simply has to be done and our new ideas get pushed down the priority list.

This year it can be different. Getting your new year in gear is what we’re going to talk about in this week’s podcast.

Listen – How To Get Stuff Done In 2017



Capturing your ideas

Have you ever had a wonderful idea just as you were dropping off to sleep? In that moment, snug and comfortable in your bed you’ll try to convince yourself that you’ll remember it in the morning. You invent lots of ways that you’ll get your brain to tell you the next day.

You’ll fight with your half asleep brain until you get up and write it down, hopefully. If sleep wins out it could end up forgotten forever.

The same goes for the ideas that flood you over the holidays. If you are anything like me your head will be full of ideas that excite you.

Unless you wrangle the ideas as they come, you are in danger of losing them.

So stop reading now, grab something, a device a notebook and jot them down. I’ll wait.

Dealing with the volume of ideas

I remember when I was a kid I’d go OTT with my new year’s resolutions, I’d want to refresh everything, become a better person in every conceivable way the following year.

I’d want to eat healthier, get more exercise, cook more from scratch, expand my vocabulary, keep a diary, take more photos, learn how to… the list would go on and on. Having such a packed agenda meant I was setting my self up to fail.

It’s simply not that easy to change every aspect of your life in one big chunk.

I’ve stopped making resolutions like that but It’s easy to make the same mistake when it comes to business.

So now you have your list of ideas I don’t want you to go straight at them, at least not all of them at the same time.

Prioritise

Now you have a list of ideas it’s time to prioritise them. I use a spreadsheet for this.

Create a row for each idea and two columns for scoring them.

The first column is to score it on size. Give it a score between one and 5. 1 = a large time-consuming task 5 = a small task.

The second column is for how important it is for your business. 1 = tasks that will have the biggest positive impact. 5 = those that will have the least.

The tasks you need to do first are those with the biggest impact on your business. If you have a lot of large tasks in this category you’ll need to spread them out.

I recommend taking on one big task a month and prioritising these by which will have the biggest impact.

For example:

One of my new year tasks is to create a new page for my website advertising me as a conference speaker. It’s quite a big job, I need to get some landing page software, design graphics, get testimonials, write the copy. I’m giving that a 2 on scale. It will also have a significant impact on my business as one of my goals for 2017 is to get more speaking gigs so a 2 for importance too.

A second task is a home page redesign. The current one isn’t selling me or my services as well as it could. This scores 2 for scale and importance too.

If I tried to do both of these tasks at once at the beginning of January the chances are neither would be completed.

Instead, I’m scheduling the speaker page for January and the home page in for February.

Work through your big tasks allocating a month of the year for each one. For a really big job like a website redesign you may need to allocate more than one month.

Use a spreadsheet or a calendar to map these out. This will help you stay on track and you’ll start anticipating each task as you start a new month.

Breaking it down

Looking at a big task can be scary.  Unless you break them down into simple achievable steps they often don’t get started.

Make a list of all the things that need to happen in order to get the task completed. Now allocate how long it’s going to take to complete each stage of the task.

I’m a devil for underestimating how long each stage will take so I tend to add some extra time on top of my initial estimate.

Dealing with smaller tasks

The small tasks that scored 5 on size can be gotten out of the way quite quickly. It can feel quite liberating to get a big bundle of them done at once.

I’d recommend getting some of these out of the way on your first day back in the office. Start the day with a step towards one of your big tasks and consider the small ones a treat for when you finish. Tackle them in order of priority, those you gave a score of 1 & 2 for importance should be done first.

Depending on the number of small tasks you have you could complete these within a month or less if you tackle 2 or 3 a day.

Add them to your calendar or spreadsheet next to the date you want to complete them. But be aware, these small tasks have a habit of multiplying, you’ll find yourself constantly adding to this list.

Mid-level tasks

Mid-level tasks are those that scored 3-4 for size. You could aim to get one of these done every fortnight. Prioritise them according to importance and choose a day and time each week that you’ll devote to them. Add them to your calendar/spreadsheet.

You should now have your year mapped out for big tasks, your month mapped out for small tasks and a number of mid-level tasks scattered across your schedule.

Your weekly to-do list

We’re on to the final stages of your plan now. You’ve scheduled your tasks now it’s time to add them to a to-do list.

If you only have a daily to-do list it’s time to switch it up. Weekly and even monthly to-do lists can be far more effective. Seeing your week mapped out and knowing what needs to happen will help you stay on track or at least help you know how far behind you are.

Start by adding the work you do that makes you money into your weekly list. For me that’s client work, meetings, training days and course planning.

For you it could be the things you need to do for the day to day running of your business.

Now look at your daily and weekly tasks. This will include reading and responding to email, social media updates, researching and writing your blog post content, doing your book keeping. Add these tasks to your to do list.

The time left over is the time you have to work on your tasks. If possible allocate the same day and time each week to complete these. Remember, try and get the big tasks started first and then reward yourself with the small ones.

For more on goal setting read/listen to episode 45.

Your challenge

If you are still in holiday mode all you need to do for now is write down the ideas as they come. Before you go back to work map out your tasks following the method above. You’ll be surprised how many of your resolutions you fulfil as a result.

How To Win At Twitter

If Twitter is part of your 2017 strategy take a look at the course I’m running with Digital4Sales. In it I take you step by step through building a Twitter strategy that will drive results.


Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

 

Get Your New Year Into Gear - The Ultimate To Do List
Get Your New Year Into Gear – The Ultimate To Do List

 

Instagram for Bloggers: How To Get Noticed On Instagram
Instagram for Bloggers: How To Get Noticed On Instagram

Is Instagram a good fit for your business blog? How can you make yourself stand out? Is it a good platform for promoting your blog?

Sue B. Zimmerman is a serial entrepreneur, she started her first business when she was 13 and had her first $1 million at the age of 22. In total she’s built 17 businesses but these days it’s Instagram and educating others on how best to use it for their business that’s her passion.

She was also one of the 10 expert contributors to my post on blogging mistakes.

Listen below as she tells us her story. How she discovered that Instagram could be an effective tool for business and how we as businesses can be successful too.

How To Get Noticed On Instagram – An Interview With Sue B. Zimmerman



Some of the highlights from our conversation:

How did you get started on Instagram?

Sue started using Instagram for her seasonal store on Cape Cod @suebdo.capecod

Instagram came my way mainly because I pay attention to my twin teenage daughters and particularly their mobile habits. I believe teenagers set the next mobile trend, they were on Instagram and I had my store on Cape Cod. My revenue grew over 40% after using Instagram and empowering my employees to do it too.

Because of that great success and because off-season I was teaching and coaching people with social media I decided to make the shift to do more teaching and specifically Instagram. I knew that so many businesses struggle with which platform, the how and why, the distractions, the overwhelm.

A little over 4 years ago I decided to shift completely into teaching and I was lucky, I got interviewed on some great podcasts. Because of the podcasts, I got asked to speak on many different stages.

For the last two years I’ve been travelling around the world speaking internationally, speaking here in the US and getting paid to speak and that wasn’t even in the plans, it just happened because when you are good at what you do and you give value, people want to pay for that value so I’ve been able to create a whole new business teaching Instagram marketing going all in, staying in my lane and having great success and I’m having a lot of fun.

Your seasonal store was a B2C business now you’re in a B2B business. Is it possible to get those great results with a B2B business?

Every business has a story to tell and every business can visually tell that story. It doesn’t have to be literal. People think you have to be literally showing in the photo or in the video exactly what you are talking about in the description but if you look at a lot of successful Instagrammers there’s a story that relates to the emotional pull of the imagery and often it’s not related to the product or service that they sell.

Think of Instagram as your digital magazine. When someone follows you based on your bio and who you are the content you share in your feed represents a magazine. When you purchase a magazine you purchase it because of the content you expect to see. If there was a disconnect, say the magazine is all about Yoga and you started to show me images about travel there’s a disconnect unless you are a travelling yoga instructor.

So you’ve got to make sure that it’s congruent, that there’s a theme, that there’s a story that’s cohesive. Everyone’s biggest mistake that they are trying to go down too many lanes and be too many things and it’s confusing. If you confuse someone on Instagram you’re not going to get those follows or that engagement that you are looking for.

How do you create that theme?

Take a step back and have a strategy around the business that you are in. More importantly, you have to know what your customer, your client is interested in. That requires time, time spent on their Instagram account, their language, their posts and what makes them tick. Too many people spend time thinking about what they think they should be posting for themselves when it is what is your ideal customer or client looking for that matters. How can you inspire, educate, entertain or give value in a profound way every day?

Can you blog on Instagram? And how do we get people over from Instagram to our blogs?

Instagram just announced a new feature. You can now bookmark posts on Instagram. Now you don’t want people to just click the link in your bio, you also want them to bookmark your posts, especially if you are giving a lot of content.

We just released our top 10 most popular and controversial blog posts of 2016. That’s my latest blog and I am driving traffic to that blog now from Instagram, from my personal account @SueBZimmmerman and from my business account @TheInstagramExpert because then we can re-target them with Facebook ads.

Now with the new update, you can encourage people to bookmark your post as well so that they will be able to go back and read it later, especially when it is a micro-blog post like I typically do on Instagram.

How do you make the time for Instagram stories?

I love doing it, you make the time to do what you love. Look at the post below.

#BusinessTip – You have to create your own happiness! Here’s one truth – when you focus on what makes YOU really happy everyday and work towards doing those things you will feel more alive a grounded. I know it can be hard & overwhelming with all the choices you have to “Go Live” and connect with your target audience especially if you aren’t comfortable on camera. If you are struggling in your business and need someone with sound advice you can click the “contact button” here >> @theinstagramexpert and send me a text… YUP being accessible and available to talk to those who need your gifts & services is great way to listen and learn more about the needs of people you are meant to serve. Try it go ahead send me a text :: #suebsays #instagramtip #2017goals #2017isyouryear

A photo posted by The INSTAGRAM Expert is #Sue (@suebzimmerman) on

 

I give a call to action, I make myself accessible. Every time I get on the phone with someone my success rate is 95%. When I say success I don’t mean I’m making money every time I do that. I’m connecting with someone, learning from them, sending them where I need to go.

Do they need to go to my YouTube channel and listen to all my free videos over there? Do they need my Instagram for business free Facebook group? Or do they simply need to talk to me further and book a free 15-minute call. I make myself really accessible and I think that’s different to a lot of people. That’s me, that’s authentically being me.

You use video a lot on Instagram but I’ve struggled to get views even though I get likes. Is there anything we can do to get more views?

I think you have to make sure it aligns with the visual elements in your ‘magazine’ so there’s no disconnect and you have to be consistently giving value. I know what people want from me so I am able to deliver it. A lot of it is trial and error.

I am trying to consistently post my blogs the same way on The Instagram Expert at the moment. I use Phonto to overlay the link to my blog suebzimmerman.com/blog at the bottom of the image. Then I upload it to Legend which does the text overlay of the title as an animation so that it’s not sitting on the photo as I’m not a fan of text overlay.

I’m able to choose the cover photo for a video and the cover photo I use doesn’t have the text on it but if you tap it you’ll see the overlay

BOOK MARK THIS (#NewBlog ) Our 10 Most Popular & Controversial Blog Post of 2106 If you are serious about upping your game on Instagram then this blog post is for you! Here are just 3 of the 10 blog post you can learn from …. ✔️#1  My First Interview With @marieforleo ✔️#2 How to Use Instagram On Your Computer – if you are a desktop user this is for you ✔️#3  Instagram Stories: 7 Tips For Improving Viewer Retention – one of my favs Tap the link in our bio then circle back here & LMK which post was your favorite Cheers to YOU! The @sbzteam appreciates every like, comment, DM, and repost. 2016 has been a year of listening, learning + ♡… •
•
•
•. #instagramtips #instagramblogs #instagramforbusiness #communityfirst #collaborationovercompetition #yougotthis #marieforleo Sent via @planoly #planoly

A video posted by Instagram Marketing w/ #Sue (@theinstagramexpert) on


Because I get more views on my videos this is better for me.

On Instagram you need to make stuff obvious, blatant and a little bit out there. You cannot read people’s minds. If they are scrolling on Instagram and they can’t see it’s a blog post they might think of it as just an image so you need to make it clear.

You’ll see on my Instagram account that the last 3 blog posts are all with this process, whilst the process works you should keep doing it. But a process can get stale, you need to shake it up. Go back and listen to what your audience is appreciating, commenting on, liking, reposting.

Instagram live, how should we be using it?

I’ve not pressed Instagram live yet because I want to be intentional, I want to have a plan. I think so many people jump the gun and just do it and then it’s not special so you lose your audience.

I want to make sure that when I go live [the audience] say ‘I wanna tune into this every time Sue goes live’ I want it to be so good you guys don’t miss one of my live broadcasts.

Everything you do with your business should be done with intention, not because someone else is doing it. You have to think about what’s best for you. I think a lot of people copy other people who they think are having great success without thinking about if it makes sense for them.

And I notice with marketers that they don’t seem to have the creativity on Instagram. They post a lot of text overlay and quotes, they just don’t know how to position themselves.

Challenge

Create a post on Instagram of anything whilst you are listening to this episode (or reading the post). Then use the tag #suebmademedoit so Sue can see you.

Look at the tag on Instagram for inspiration from others.

You can grab Sue’s free 2017 strategy guide for Instagram here.


Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

Instagram for Bloggers: How To Get Noticed On Instagram
Instagram for Bloggers: How To Get Noticed On Instagram

 

 

Are You Ready To Publish Your Next Blog Post? 26 Things You Might Have Forgotten
Are You Ready To Publish Your Next Blog Post? 26 Things You Might Have Forgotten

Do you hit publish on a blog post then remember something you were supposed to do before you clicked? Do you do this more than once on each post? If so, this is for you.

Listen below to find out what you should check before you publish



Download your checklist here

The Problem

I don’t know about you but I always forget to do something before I hit publish on a blog post. As soon as I hit that button I remember that “Oh yes, I was supposed to put that into the podcast category” or “argh I didn’t add a Pinterest image”. In fact, I do this more than once when I publish.

If you do this too you’re in luck. I’ve created a little Christmas gift for you. A checklist that you can download and print, it will help you remember everything you need to do before you publish.

Here’s what’s included and some more info on what you need to do and why.

In an ideal world

In an ideal world you will have written your post at least one day before publication. This gives you enough time to read it through, edit, redraft and  ensure everything is optimised. The checklist works best if you look the day before. But even if you’ve just written a post and you are itching to hit publish take 10 minutes to go through the list and make sure you’ve covered everything.

Topic

One thing

When you write a blog post decide on what you want people to gain from reading. This makes for a better, more concise post. Make a note of the one thing you want people to get from your post before you start writing and when you finish make sure that that one thing stands out.

Keyword research

Chose a keyword that you would like to rank for in search. Spend some time researching this to maximise your chances of ranking. We talked about this back in episode 30.

Write it down, we’ll come back to this later. 

Title

Is your title emotionally charged?

Did you write your title in a hurry? If so it’s worth checking it with the Emotional Value Headline Checker. This assesses how emotionally charged the title is. Ideally, you’re looking for a score of over 30. If you’re nowhere near 30 try re-writing it.

Listen back to episode 18 to find out more about writing effective titles. 

Title length

Is your title under 60 Characters? Google only displays the first 600pixels of your headline. This equates to approximately 60 characters. If you want your whole headline to show in search results it should be 60 characters or less (according to MOZ), that includes spaces and punctuation.

Keywords

Is your keyword included in:

  • The title of your post?
  • The opening paragraph?
  • At least once in the body text?
  • A sub-heading

The Yoast plugin will help you assess if your keyword is included enough.

Your Opening Paragraph

This is one of the most important parts of your post, if you’ve managed to get people to click into your post the opening will reassure them that they are in the right place.

Read this over again. Does it tell people what to expect if they read on?

Post Content

Conculsion

Did you let your blog post tail off or have you included a strong ending? This could be a summary of the post, a list of takeaways for your reader or conclusions you are drawing.

Discussion cue

Have you included something that might provoke discussion? Blog post comments are gold dust. If you want them you’re going to need to ask for feedback. I’m often surprised which questions provoke comments and which ones don’t.

Call to action

Have you included a call to action? As a small business owner this is crucial. You don’t want readers to just read and leave.

Give them something else to do that will push them further down your sales funnel. This could be to sign up for a content upgrade or to buy. Listen back to episode 44 for lots of call to action ideas.

Category

Have you added your post to the correct category on your site? This is something I often forget and have to go back and fix. Categories make it easier for readers to find what they are interested in and can help you set up pages on your site. For example the ‘Podcast’ link in my navigation brings you to my Podcast category.

Internal links

Have you included internal links to your own relevant content? This is a good way to keep people on site. It’s also thought to be good for SEO.

Look at your post, is there a link to another page on your site? If not is there an opportunity to add one?

Outbound links

Have you included outbound links to relevant content? If you researched your post are there articles you can direct visitors to for further reading? Linking out makes you look generous and gives your readers a fuller picture of the topics you cover.

Images

Name your images

Did you name your images to include a keyword before uploading? Naming your images properly and separating words with a dash makes them easier for search engines to read and could help your on page SEO.

Include shareable images

Have you included at least two images, one that will work for Twitter and Facebook sharing and one that will work for Pinterest?

For Facebook and Twitter I use an image 1200 x 628 pixels and for Pinterest 735 x 1102

Image captions

Have you included captions on your images? This text that sits below an image is an opportunity to tell people a little bit more about it. You can also include your keyword if relevant.

Alt tags

Have you included alt text on your images? Alt text displays on some browsers if the image doesn’t load, it’s also readable by search engines. The Alt text should describe the image.

Listen back to episode 13 and episode 48 for more on enhancing your posts with images.

Sharing

Now you’ve checked off your list the post is ready to go. The next stage is to get sharing.

Sharing buttons

Are your sharing buttons are working? Is it easy for a reader to see the buttons that they need to click to share your post?

Test the buttons by checking them yourself. Does the Twitter share button include your Twitter username when it shares? Do the rest of the buttons work as they should?

If you don’t have sharing buttons on your site and are a self-hosted WordPress user take a look at Sumome and Social Warfare. These are currently my favourite sharing plugins.

For sharing I use Co-Schedule. It ensures that I share it everywhere I need to when I need to. I also use AgoraPulse for additional sharing.

Set up a sharing schedule. Here’s the process I follow when I publish a post.

Share on Twitter

Make sure you are sharing each post on Twitter. I tend to share once a day for a week, a month later and then I put it back into my rotating schedule.

Share on Facebook

I share to my business page, to relevant groups including my own and to a selected audience on my personal profile.

Share on LinkedIn

Share to your personal profile and your company page if you have one. You may also want to investigate groups that allow sharing and are active.

Share on Pinterest

It’s well worth creating rich pins for your articles on Pinterest. This just adds a bit of branding to your posts when they are shared. And of course, you should be sharing to Pinterest too.

Share on Google+

I know what you are thinking. Does anyone use Google+ anymore? I actually still get quite a bit of valuable traffic from Google+ and I find some of my Google+ posts will rank on Google even when the posts themselves don’t. When you share on Google+ try and get your keyword into the description.

Now you’ve published and shared don’t let your post die off. Have a plan for the future sharing of your articles. Make sure you have alerts set up for when people comment and always go back and respond to the comments you get.


Challenge

It’s an easy one this week. Now I’ve talked you through what you need to do before you hit publish go and download the checklist and implement it. You’ll find yourself getting it right the first time more often as a result.

Download your checklist here

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

Are You Ready To Publish Your Next Blog Post? 26 Things You Might Have Forgotten
Are You Ready To Publish Your Next Blog Post? 26 Things You Might Have Forgotten
How long should a blog post be
How long should a blog post be?

How long should a blog post be? Is long form content better? Should you write thousands of words? Or are short, to the point posts better?

In this week’s podcast, I’m going to attempt to answer the question. How long should a blog post be? I’ve been seeing a lot of comment saying longer is better so I was inspired to look closer.

My own blog posts are getting longer as my content is getting more in depth. Is this a good thing?

How long should a blog post be? Listen below?



Neil & Seth

Neil Patel is an internet marketing genius. His in-depth posts on all things digital marketing are mini-training courses that take you through a lot of processes and tools that can help enhance your business. His posts are long, very long.

Seth Godin is a marketing genius. To many, he’s marketing royalty. He publishes to his blog daily and his posts are often short, 100 words or less. His wisdom is widely shared by his loyal fans. He’s one of the few people in the marketing world who you can refer to by their first name and people will know exactly who you are talking about.

Two popular bloggers whose approaches couldn’t be more different.

The trend for longer content

In recent years there has been a trend towards longer written content. Studies continuously show us that posts over 1,000 words perform better. They get more shares, more inbound links and they rank better in search.

Unsurprisingly many content creators have jumped on this trend. As we fight to get our content ranked and seen anything that gives us a perceived advantage has to be worth a try.

The length of my posts has grown over the years too. My first blog post was just 79 words long, these days they can be anything from 500 – 2,500 words long.

The statistics

Track Maven’s 2016 report ‘2017 Blogging Report’ suggests that posts 1,200 – 1,400 get the most shares.

Hubspot’s analysis of their own blog in 2015 suggests even longer posts. They found that posts over 2,500 words got the most shares and inbound links but posts between 2,250 and 2,500 ranked better in search.

Even anecdotally people tell me that their long posts do better. The statistics don’t lie but are we missing something?

I think so, it can be easy to get caught up in statistics, reports and algorithms and forget about our readers. Both Neil and Seth have very different online personas. Seth has a loyal audience that will pay attention and spread the word about his words for him. Neil is known for his in-depth, valuable content that we can learn from.

The length of their content represents their brand, their online persona. It speaks to their readers. Both approaches work.

The problem with long content

As you can probably tell by now I’m a Neil Patel fan. But I rarely read his content. Why is that?

When I see his posts pop up in my feed I know they need a time investment, they need my full attention and it’s rare that I have that time to give. So I scroll past. All Neil’s posts are very, very long and he blogs frequently.

And it’s not just me. When I mention Neil Patel to people the reaction is almost always the same. The sigh, they sigh because they can’t keep up with his content either.

If I was Neil I’d be devastated that so many of the people I wanted to reach weren’t actually reading. All those shares and inbound links make for good brand awareness but what is that worth when people don’t even want to click to learn more and travel further round your sales cycle.

People don’t want to read it all

If you can convince people to click through and read many will just scan through your post. When I asked my non-marketing friends on Facebook, many admitted to skipping through long content quickly. Those who stayed and read the whole thing would wait until they were in the right environment. One person actually printed off long articles to read on his commute.

Their overall comment was that if something was academic, or something they could learn from they’d read longer content. For opinion pieces, they’d expect shorter posts.

If we are going to write longer posts I think we need to consider when we publish and promote them. Could capturing someone who wakes up early on a Saturday morning be the right time to promote those pieces? Is commuter time, when people are stuck on public transport the best time? It’s worth experimenting with these times to see if you can keep people reading longer at these key times.

My Facebook group which consists of small business bloggers and marketers were more likely to read longer articles but relied on subheadings, images and bullet points to keep them interested. For more on layout listen back to episode 40.

Long content is scary

Let’s compare long form written content to video. When you see a video online that interests you what is the first thing you look at? Is it the timestamp? Do you want to see how much time you have to commit before you hit play? If your answer is yes it’s not alone.

Whether we watch a long video will depend on the context. When we see one in our social news feeds we will only be tempted to press play if it’s short. When we search for an answer to something and find a long video we might click if we think it will be a comprehensive answer even if it’s long.

We also make time in our schedules for longer video in the form of live video. If we prepare ourselves to watch a weekly show online we will take time out to do so.

Written content is similar.

My instinct is that people will read longer content when it suits their schedule or when they seek it out. They are less likely to read it when they stumble upon it.

One solution to this is to add an ‘estimated reading time’ caption at the top of your post. A long post may only take 5 minutes to read, knowing that this is all the commitment required may encourage visitors to read on.

Use wordcounter.net to get an estimated reading time for your posts.

The temptation

The problem with any algorithm is that we are tempted to hack it. Yes, it seems Google are favouring longer content at the moment but that doesn’t mean we should stuff our posts with irrelevancies, go over the top with detail or over-extend our writing just to reach the recommended 1,500 words.

Search engines will become wise to this and use other signals to understand the value of your posts to their users.

If all your posts are long form and if you are writing frequently you may find that a lot of your audience are switching off. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them.

Shorter blog posts

Shorter ‘snackable’ posts can work well particularly if you are targeting a time-poor audience. If you post regularly, shorter content could be the key to keeping people coming back and reading more frequently.

The downside to shorter content is that people are on site for less time, you have less time to make you and your brand memorable.

To combat this you need to focus on making your shorter posts memorable. Try and centre them around one key point that will stick in the memories of your reader.

So how long should a blog post be?

The answer is a blog post should be as long as it needs to be. But that’s not the answer you came here for.

My recommendation is to mix it up. Create some comprehensive, evergreen ‘cornerstone content’ that will establish your expertise and rank in search engine results.  Create shorter, more frequent content to engage with your audience and help build their loyalty.


Blogging challenge

  • Copy and paste your last blog post into Wordcounter and look at the ‘estimated reading time’
  • Decide on the best time to share that post to your audience. When will they have time to read it?
  • Plan some ‘cornerstone’ content, long form posts for your site.

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

How long should a blog post be
How long should a blog post be?
How To Grow Your Audience, Your Reach, Your Content With A Guest Blogging Program
How To Grow Your Audience, Your Reach, Your Content With A Guest Blogging Program

What if I told you that you could reach a whole bunch of new people with your blog, people who hadn’t heard of you before? What if I told you there was a way to expand the range of relevant topics you cover on your blog? Well there is. A guest blogging program may be hard work but it can help you grow your blog.

Listen below for my guide to putting together a guest blogging program



A few weeks ago in episode 51 I talked about guest posting and how you might go about submitting your own guest posts to other sites. Today I want to flip that and look at why it might be a good idea to allow guest posts on your own site.

Why is a guest blogging program a good idea?

If you are a small business or organisation the chances are that you produce all the content for your blog. This is great as it gives your brand a unique voice and you have complete control.

However, being a single author can be limiting. By inviting guest posts from a handpicked group of quality writers you can expand your reach, drive new visitors to your site and those writers will lend their authority to your business.

It seems like a bit of a no brainer, get other people to write content and you’ll save loads of time right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Choosing the right writers, ensuring they submit quality content on time and editing that content is almost as time-consuming as writing your own stuff.

The first question you need to ask yourself is, does the value of getting people to write for you outweigh the time and effort it takes to manage guest submissions?

If the answer is yes read on.

Setting Goals

The next step is to define your goals. What will allowing guest blog posts do for your blog and your business?

  • Do you want to reach a new audience? If so who do you want to reach?
  • Do you want to increase traffic to your site? If so what type of traffic is relevant to you?
  • Do you want to build brand awareness? If so how will you measure this?
  • Do you want to share information that is outside your knowledge base but will benefit your readers and customers?

The answers to these questions will help you choose your guest bloggers and topics.

Choosing writers

Now you know what you want to achieve start looking for people who you would like to contribute to your site. Remember, ideally you are looking for people who have a good social presence that reaches an audience that you want to target.

Before you approach anyone, remember you are looking for people who are already in the habit of writing. I made the mistake early on in my blog of approaching people who had knowledge but didn’t write on a regular basis. This resulted in deadlines being missed and a lack of quality in the submitted posts.

You should be looking for people with blogs, who write regular posts for other publications or who write lengthy LinkedIn posts.

Finding value in your existing connections

Start with your own network, who are the other bloggers that you know? Does their content and style fit your blog? Whose content do you share on a regular basis? If it’s good enough to share with your audience a contribution from them will also add value.

Who are you connected to on LinkedIn that uses LinkedIn publishing? Are they publishing content that would appeal to your ideal reader? If so put them on the list.

Looking beyond your network

Now it’s time to look beyond your network. Search Google for people blogging in niches that will attract your target market.

When we talked about looking for guest posting opportunities on other sites, I recommended looking for blogs that have a higher DA (domain authority) than you. When you are looking for contributors for your own site you can flip that. If you find quality writers with a lower DA than you you have something valuable to offer them, an inbound link from your site.

You’d be mad to turn down posts from bloggers with a higher domain authority but you will have less to offer them than those with a lower ranking.

Create a wish list of bloggers you’d like to contribute. Use Google sheets or excel to keep track of their names, their blog or website, their social channels their email address and the dates you’ve made contact. This will help you manage contributors later on.

Making guest blogging an attractive proposition

You can approach the people you know straight away but you’ll need to build relationships with those you don’t know already. using Twitter, LinkedIn, blog commenting and other social networks.

Now you have selected your writers it’s time to approach them. You may choose to contact your LinkedIn connections via LinkedIn but for the rest, email is the best approach. In some cases, you might send a direct message on Twitter or via their Facebook page but be ready to follow up with an email.

Remember, someone who writes for your site is spending a lot of time creating a post for you. You need to make it look like an attractive proposition. Think about what is in it for them.

  • Does it offer them exposure to an audience they don’t already reach?
  • Will it help establish them as an expert?
  • Will an inbound link from within the content be valuable to them and their site

Think of your offer like a business transaction. In exchange for a blog post, this is what your contributor will get in return. And don’t forget to appeal to their ego. You should know enough about your prospects now that you can compliment them on content they’ve created and tell them how you and your audience have found it useful in the past.

Make a note of the date that you send the request in your spreadsheet and set yourself a reminder to follow it up if you don’t hear back from them.

Create a guest bloggers pack

When someone agrees to post for you, it’s a good idea to send them a short document or link to a page on your site that outlines the basics.

This should include

  • What types of posts you are looking for: Include examples of the types of posts that you want and what they contain that makes them relevant. Also, let people know what posts aren’t relevant to your blog.
  • How to submit your post: Will you give them a login for your site or do you need them to send it as a word document?
  • What you require: How many words long do you need the post to be (minimum and maximum)? Do you need the writer to submit their own images? If so what is the requirement?
  • Bio: Do you need contributors to submit a bio? If so what should be included? Do you need a photo? How many words are included in the bio? Can this include a link to their site?
  • Inbound links within content: Are people allowed to link to their own sites from within the post itself? If so what sort of link is acceptable and make sure they know that you have editors discretion to remove links.

I love Hubspot’s guest blogging guidelines, they’d make a great template for anyone wanting to create their own.

Creating a guest blogging schedule

All going well you should now have a list of bloggers that are ready and willing to contribute to your site. Now you need to create a schedule.

How many guest posts per month do you want to allow on your site? Depending on how frequently you blog, and how much time you want to put into your guest posting programme you may want to include one guest post per month of one per week.

Set up publication dates in a calendar (I use Google calendar for this). When you have identified a blogger offer them a submission date. This date should be at least two days before you are planning publication as you will need to edit it, format it and add images. You may also build in extra time in case they are late submitting.

Keep in touch with the blogger in the run up to their submission date. Check in with them to make sure they are on track and ask if they need your help in any way.

 

An alternative to guest blogging

All this work may put you off the idea of accepting guest posts altogether. But there’s an alternative. Instead of inviting guest bloggers, interview them.

Although the process for finding interviewees is similar to finding guest bloggera you will get a far better response. Participating in an interview seems like less work than writing a post from scratch. It’s a more appealing prospect. 

The standard way of conducting a blog interview is to send out a list of questions and ask the interviewee to reply with their answers. Although this is a quick and easy method you might find that the answers are a bit stilted, it also robs you of the opportunity to delve further into their answers.

To get a more natural interview record it either in person or via Skype. This will add a more conversational tone to your post and you’ll get fuller responses.

The problem with this method is that you’ll need to transcribe these interviews and this can be a time-consuming process. If you aren’t a great typist REV is a service that offers transcriptions for an affordable price. Thanks to Ian Cleary for pointing that service out to me.

Should you do it?

Getting people to write content for your site could be a good way to broaden your audience. The people who contribute are lending you their expertise and authority but, it’s a lot of hard work. If you embark on a guest blogging programme make sure you are regimented in your approach and allow enough time for finding, chasing and editing guest bloggers.


Blogging challenge

Is a guest blogging program for you? If so here’s your challenges:

  • Start building a list of possible contributors to your site
  • Write a guest post starter pack
  • Create a schedule for your guest posts

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

How To Grow Your Audience, Your Reach, Your Content With A Guest Blogging Program
How To Grow Your Audience, Your Reach, Your Content With A Guest Blogging Program
10 Christmas Blog Topics To Help You Get Ahead With Your Seasonal Content Schedule
10 Christmas Blog Topics To Help You Get Ahead With Your Seasonal Content Schedule

What do you do with your blog at Christmas? Do you put it on hold for a week or two? Do you carry on as normal or do you create seasonal content?

If you want to create seasonal content but don’t know where to start I’ve got 10 Chirstmas blog topic ideas that will help you get started.

If you write a post as a result of reading this post I’d love to see it. You can leave a link in the comments section or join my Small Business Bloggers group on Facebook and share it with us there.

Listen below for my 10 Christmas blog topic ideas



Today as this Podcast goes live it’s Thanksgiving, tomorrow is Black Friday, the day when Christmas shopping starts in ernest in the US and the rest of the world.

In Ireland we have just over a week until ‘The Toy Show’, a special Christmas edition of the popular ‘Late Late Show’ that traditionally marks the beginning of Christmas. With time racing by and Christmas just around the corner I thought it was time to address the seasonal content issue.

If you are winding up or winding down for Christmas you may be tempted to put your blogging on the back burner. But don’t! Plan and create your content now and you’ll be able to kick back over the holiday knowing that the content is being published and updated it as you munch into your mince pies.

A Challenge

Today I’ve a challenge for you. I’m going to give you a bundle of content ideas for your seasonal content and I want you to start writing, vlogging or podcasting now. Get your seasonal blog posts out of the way now so you can put your feet up when Christmas comes. Don’t forget to share your results and I’ll give them a shoutout on my social media channels.

Old Content

Before we get into creating new posts take a look at your old content. What did you write this time last year? The year before? Is it seasonal? Is it still relevant?

If the answer is yes, take a look at it, update it if necessary (here’s my guide for updating old content) and then promote it over the Christmas season. It’s a simple way to get new readers to your site without havign to write something brand new.

Now you’ve updated your seasonal content take a look at your Google Analytics (or other measurement softward) to see what content performed well last December.

For me, amongst the usual popular posts I found that my Facebook contest advice posts performed well. I need to spend time updating and promoting these over the Christmas period.

Themes

The type of content you create over Christmas should depend on the audience you want to reach. A post on the best children’s party games to play over the break would look out of place on my business to business blog but would sit well with businesses serving a family audience.

That doesn’t mean I can’t write about family though. Business to business brands just need to handle it differently. A post titiled ‘How to make time for family in the midst of the Christmas rush’ could suit a blog targeting small business perfectly. I might even write it myself.

Family is one theme you could tie into for the holiday season but there are many others. Themes are great for focussing your attention and that of your reader.

Here are some Christmas season themse you could consider:

  • Cold
  • Family
  • Gifts
  • Food
  • Decorations
  • Celebration
  • Relaxation
  • Loneliness
  • Religion

Of course, you don’t have to stick with a theme. Perhaps you just want to throw a few Christmas posts into the mix.

10 Christmas blog topics

1. Christmas gift list

We’re all desperately trying to decide what to buy our friends, family and our customers this time of year. There may be hundreds of gift guides out there but if you can create one that is hyper-targeted at your audience you could attract lots of readers.

Think about the type of gifts your customers want to buy. Will they want to buy local? Are they looking for the ideal corporate gift, Are they looking for the top bargins?

If you sell Christmas gifts yourself don’t be tempted just to write about your products but include them with others in your review. I did this last year to help sell copies of the We Teach Social, 365 Social Media Tips book.

2. Feature a charity

Christmas is a time for giving and that includes giving to a good cause. What charities align with what you do? Which ones are you customers interested in?

Get in touch with the causes you want to support and see if there is someone available for an interview or if they have information or statistics for a specific campaign they are running.

This makes you feel good and helps your readers see you as generous. You could end up driving some donations too.

3. How To

How to posts make highly shareable content, they always feature highly in my top posts of the year.

Make a list of how to posts you can write. Maybe you can create a series of posts on how to eat healthily over the holiday period, show people how to gift wrap using recycled products or give them a cheat sheet on how to manage their budget.

When you create a how to post be as detailed as possible. Take a step by step approach, become a resource that people will return to again and again.

4. Things to do

Tap into the family audience by giving people a list of activites they can participate in over the break. This could be games they can play on Christmas day, events they can attend locally or films to watch on Netflix. Maybe you can inspire someone to take up a new hobby, start a project or simply have more quality time with their loved ones.

Last year I created a post showing people how to take more interesting Instagram photos over Christmas.

5. Review post

What products or gifts can you review? I thoroughly enjoyed Conor Bofin’s post about shop bought Mince Pies last year.

If food isn’t your thing, what about a book people can read? A film they can go and see in the cinema? Automation software that will help the office keep working when you aren’t there?

Take time to create a full and honest review, your readers will trust you more if you point out the good and not so good.

6. Nostalgia post

Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion. if you tap into it, you could attract lots of readers and shares. What was Christmas like for you as a child? What Christmas gifts did you get that your audience might remember? What ads do you remember? What bizarre foods did you eat in the 80s.

Go and have a rummage in the attic, have a look at old social media posts and find something that will provoke a shared nostalgic moment with your readers.

7. Storytelling

In Ireland, after the Toy Show the Barry’s Tea ad is the next milestone in our Christmas calendar. It’s the story of a father (or grandfather) reminissing about a train set he recieved as a child. The story encompasses nostalgia, sentiment and a good cup of tea.

It’s a wonderful tale and it’s been running since 1994. I look forward to hearing it every year. That’s the power of a good story.

As humans, we are fascinated by stories. What story can you tell? Maybe it’s the story of your first Christmas in business. The story of a customer (real or imagined) that you have helped, or the story of what inspired you to start out in business. A story keeps people reading until the end, they will want to know what happened.

As it’s a Christmas story you’ll need to add a huge dose of sentiment. Think Dickens, think Barry’s tea.

8. Trivia – Did you know…

Collect a series of quirky seasonal facts relating to Christmas and your business.

For example, did you know that Christmas Day hasnt’ always been a day off? Delve further into that story for a B2B post.

Gift providers might focus on the cost of the 12 days of Christmas. If you bought all the items in the song it would cost you $1.3 million apparently.

If you are in the romance business what about delving into the origins of kissing under the mistletoe?

You’ll find more facts like that here.

9. A Naughty & Nice list

Imagine you are Santa? Which industry related topics, people or themes are on your naughty and nice list?

For example, I might put Twitter on the naughty list for getting rid of share counts and Facebook on the nice list for delivering so much traffic to my website.

This could be a fun post to write.

10. All I want for Christmas is…

What industry changes would make your life better? What struggles do you share with your customers that you can write about?

If you are a tourism business in Ireland you might wish for a warm summer, if you are a farmer it could be a rise i milk prices. If you are an online marketer you might just want a bucket of Facebook reach.

Make a wish list for you and your customers. You could even crowdsource your answers by posting the question in a Facebook or LinkedIn group or run a Twitter Poll.

So that’s 10 ideas for you. Which one will you take on? I’d love to see any posts you write as a result of listening so leave your links in the comments or join my Small Business Bloggers group of Facebook.

I’ll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

 

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

 

 

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

 

10 Christmas Blog Topics To Help You Get Ahead With Your Seasonal Content Schedule
10 Christmas Blog Topics To Help You Get Ahead With Your Seasonal Content Schedule
Mick's Garage: Using Your Blog To Turbo Power Your Marketing Message
Mick’s Garage: Using Your Blog To Turbo Power Your Marketing Message

What makes a business blog successful? What type of content makes the most sales? How can working with other bloggers help you grow?

The name ‘Mick’s Garage’ suggests a local garage, the garage round the corner where you bring your car for a service. In fact, it’s a large organisation supplying car parts that has expanded from its Irish base to serve the UK and Poland.

The thing is, when you read the blog you still feel connected to the business, it doesn’t feel like a large business but a collection of people passionate about motoring and cars.

I spoke to Rob King from Mick’s garage about the blog, how it’s evolved over time and how they are managing to keep it personal.

Listen to the interview with Rob King from Mick’s Garage:



Summary

Rob started with the company six years ago. At first he worked in the customer service department but he soon moved on into marketing. When he arrived the blog was hosted on Google’s Blogger platform and it’s moved twice since, once to WordPress and a sub-domain of the website and when I interviewed Rob they’d just started the process of moving it into their main domain.

How important is it to know your subject?

If you know about a subject yourself and you read an article written by someone who doesn’t have good knowledge it’s immediately apparent.

When you read one by someone passionate it makes you passionate.

Why did you decide to focus on the blog?

It’s an avenue to get across the companies personality, to get across our passion and teach people something useful. But everything comes down to numbers and revenue at the end of the day. SEO was also a big part of it.

We like to market ourselves as the car part experts and I think in the main site doesn’t enable us to get that message across and that’s where the blog was able to come in. To provide useful content that would educate and inform our customers.

Your blog posts are full of personality. Did you set yourself guidelines for your tone of voice?

Not written rules but we try and write with personality and a personal tone. We avoid news and click bait and focus on trying to provide value with useful content. We write so that our customers will get knowledge and be able to educate themselves. We try to write the way we talk.

Is there really a Mick?

Yes. Michael Crean and his brother Kieran twins from County Mayo. Mick started Mick’s garage in his bedroom on his laptop.

How do you turn readers into sales?

Our most popular article is about track days, that’s when you bring your car to a race track. It’s not something we sell but it’s something I do. That is our most read article. That brings in a huge amount of traffic but not sales.

We have a set of buying guides that help people buy parts for their car. Those are the posts that really bring in the revenue.

I think you need to ask yourself what ‘conversions’ mean to you. Traditionally it’s sales but we’ve started counting collecting email addresses as conversions.

Do you use CTA’s or how do people travel from the blog to site?

We include call to actions within content but we try to make our posts non-salesy. We might have a link within the text but that’s the size of it. There’s absolutely no hard sale. No banners no ads.

It’s all about answering customers question. We use Live Chat on our site and record queries, then we tailor articles based on those queries.

You’ve been doing a bit of blogger outreach. Recruiting bloggers to create video for you. How is that working out?

It’s in its infancy but I’ve been very impressed with the results that came back. I know how hard it can be to create video content so I’ve been impressed. We’ve got a core group of 5 people who we’re working with. We’re sending them out products to review and they send us a video in return.

As far as return [sales] I don’t know yet.

How did you approach them?

We selected these guys because we ran out of in-house resources. We wanted to scale things up and reaching out to bloggers seemed like the obvious way.

Initially, I was looking for examples of what they’d done previously. We were less keen if they didn’t have examples.

Because I’d seen examples I was pretty confident I’d get back something half way decent and I did. You can see them on our YouTube channel.

It just makes our product that more believable, it’s one thing me, an employee telling you about this great thing I want you to buy. But using bloggers makes it more believable.

It adds another layer of personality as well I think. All these guys had very different approaches and I think it makes our content that much richer.

What if they don’t like the product?

I suppose what we ask them to do is review it with a price point in mind. For example, we sent out hair straighteners you plug into the plug socket in your car. They cost was €12 so we asked them to review the product with that in mind. And yes if they thought they were crap they should say they were crap.

If you were to start your blog again today what would you do differently?

I’m doing a new website ‘Trackdays.ie‘ at the moment so I’d tell myself too! I believe if you’ve got all the technical stuff in order then write passionately and knowledgeably I don’t see how that could fail in attracting traffic and visitors to site.

if you enjoy what you are writing about it doesn’t seem like hard work.

Do you work a content schedule?

We do have a schedule, we use google docs. We have an ideas dump where we throw ideas throughout the year and then we can pull from that whenever it takes our fancy. Sometimes we’d create a series of articles based on a theme. it’s pretty loose, we do have an annual plan but it’s flexible.

We tend to plan at the end of the previous year, we come up with a heap of ideas then one will spin off to another. There never seems to be a shortage.

Your building a new website. Is it harder working on your own?

It’s harder in a way because you’ve nobody to bounce ideas off. It’s great to have that safety net sometimes but it’s also great when you are a one-man band, because you don’t have the same restrictions.

Working on your own means that when you have an idea you can just action it immediately.

You can find Mick’s Garage at:

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Youtube

 

Before You Go

Do you believe in Karma? If so I recommend that you go over to iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review on this podcast. You never know what wonderful things might happen in return.

Here’s how to review a blog using iTunes:

Join the free community for Small Business Bloggers On Facebook, meet other bloggers, share and learn.

“Small

Mick's Garage: Using Your Blog To Turbo Power Your Marketing Message
Mick’s Garage: Using Your Blog To Turbo Power Your Marketing Message