How to stay motivated when starting a blog

There are many reasons you may wish to start a blog. Maybe it is something you want to do for a hobby, or maybe you are looking to build up a media empire and start monetising when it gets popular. Whatever the reason you want to start a blog, staying motivated when it comes to posting, writing and sourcing content can be hard work. Many people start their blogs around a full time occupation, so it is little wonder that any downtime you get from work you want to spend relaxing rather than writing. When you do crack the process, it can be a very rewarding experience, as well as profitable if you can get it right. Whether it is early days, or quite a while down the line, there are things you can do to stay motivated.

Make a schedule, and stick to it

There are benefits to sticking to a schedule, not only for yourself, but for your readers as well. If you are realistic with them about how often and when you can post, they will be more willing to not only just read your blog, but also wait for the blog posts when they come out on certain days. Try to give yourself a word count for each blog article so that you can try and gauge how much time is going to be spent on each one. Also, think about if you are writing about a subject that is a bit weird and may take you longer to source pictures for.

Another reason you need a schedule or a turnaround time, as when brands want to start working with you, you will need to be open with them about how long it is going to take you to be able to get the post live. Most brand will not mind if it is a while – as long as you warn them in advance.

Have ‘back up’ posts

Inspiration can hit anywhere. Some weeks you may have thousands of ideas rolling around for blogs in your head, and some weeks you may have literally none. This is where having back up posts will come in really handy. If you have a little bit more free time one week, and you have had a great idea for a post, write it, and save it. Do not get too over excited and post it as well as other posts. Now that you have built an audience, they will feel a lot worse about you not posting more often some weeks than not posting at all when you have said you have. Keep all of these in a file, and if one week you are super busy or just do not have any inspiration, you can just post one of these live instead of writing a new one. Remember, this will only work with content that is timeless and can work any time, as news content will get old very quickly and you will not be able to use it.

Think outside of the box

Having a blog that caters to a specific niche is great – especially if you know the subject really well. But if you are only going to concentrate on one niche, you’ll box yourself in a bit and struggle for content. Try and keep the blog on brand, and think about ways that you can make posts that are more generic to you. Perhaps you write a blog about money saving, but you want to make the most of the traffic that is going to be driven to the internet during events like the Oscars. Well, this would be a great occasion to find out cheaper alternatives to all of the Oscars outfits.

This is also the best way to stop it getting boring for you. Writing about the same thing day in and day out can become very monotonous. If you give yourself the chance to change it up now and again, you will enjoy it more.

Essential tools

Make sure you have all of the essentials setup for your blog. Nothing is more frustrating than bad broadband or a template that simply won’t work in the way you want it too, and it can be easy to ‘give up’ and lose motivation if these simple things are not seen to.

5 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry

5 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry

Becoming a thought leader, an individual who drives innovation and new ideas in a given industry, is an objectively valuable path for any professional. Thought leaders are popular, well respected and connected enough to drive real value to their respective businesses. They’re charismatic institutions, revered both by customers and workers within the industry.

But getting there is neither easy nor straightforward.

You can’t go to school to become a “thought leader,” nor can you complete a one-off program and earn some kind of certificate or formal recognition as such. Instead, you must implement a series of ongoing personal branding strategies, refine your skill sets and expand your professional connections consistently. On top of all that, you have to introduce new ideas on a near-constant basis, and make sure your name gets recognized by people both in and out of the industry.

Related: 4 Ways to Establish Yourself as an Influencer Online

All this might seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into a series of steps, it’s much easier to grasp.

1. Establish a personal brand.

Personal brands rest at the heart of many marketing strategies, and thought leadership is a natural extension of the ability to build a reputation. Start out by enhancing or restructuring your existing social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, with detailed descriptions of your credentials and career accomplishments. You’ll be using these as foundations of your strategy and key channels for social networking.

Then, establish your own blog or blog on your company’s site and start writing on a regular basis. You’ll want to establish a nice archive of at least 30 posts before you go any further, and make sure you’re updating your blog at least once a week. Syndicate your blogs on your social networks and get involved in groups and chats as you see fit.

This is a preliminary step, so don’t go over the top at this point. Instead, focus on laying a foundation.

2. Work with mentors and influencers.

Once you’ve established a baseline reputation, start reaching out to potential mentors and other influencers in the industry. They should be relatively easy to find if you’re pushing your content socially, and some of them might find you naturally without you lifting a finger.

Once you find a handful that are willing to work with you, stand back and observe. Talk to them about what’s on their minds. Watch how they operate their own businesses. Read what they push to their blogs. The goal here is to learn from them, and to learn to think how they think. After all, you’re going to be emulating them by step five.

Related: How to Build Up Your Willpower Muscle

3. Network like your life depends on it.

Continue working with your influencers and mentors — that should never fully go away — but once you’ve become more familiar with the territory and the quality of your blog posts goes up, you can start networking with a heavier hand. Get involved on as many social media platforms as possible, and reach out to new people regularly. Attend in-person networking events and seek out speaking opportunities at live events.

The more people that are in your network, the more authority you’ll have, and the weightier your words will be.

4. Get published — often.

Your blog is only the beginning. By this time, you should have a steady stream of regular readers who occasionally comment on and share your blogs. It’s time to take things to the next level. Start publishing guest posts on other industry-related blogs, and once you’re comfortable, start seeking publication on wider, more authoritative sources.

For example, you could get yourself published in an industry magazine or on one of the leading publication channels online. You’ll want to get work published on a wide range of different sources, and the more often you do it, the bigger your audience will grow.

5. Make bolder claims and drive newer things.

At this point, you’ve established your reputation as an authority in the industry, and there’s only one more step to take: you have to become a leader, and to do that, you have to do new things. Start making bolder claims in your articles, and making bigger predictions about the future of your industry.

Drive change and innovation in your own business, and publicize those efforts. With your authority already established, people will immediately begin to see you as a bona fide thought leader.

Don’t try to follow all these steps in a day. Developing a personal brand and becoming a thought leader is a process that takes years, even if you put your full effort into it. No matter how much it might seem that way, nobody becomes a success overnight. You’ll have to work hard, and consistently, if you want to attain the coveted yet unofficial title of “thought leader.”

4 Simple Reasons Your Blog Still Isn’t Getting Traffic

4 Simple Reasons Your Blog Still Isn't Getting Traffic

Here’s the number one complaint after starting a new blog: Why aren’t we getting traffic?!

I’ve heard this complaint once. I’ve heard it a million times. Eager blog writers get burned out, discouraged, and quit. The decline is simple: They start a blog. The traffic does not materialize. The blog fizzles and dies.

The why-am-I-not-getting traffic question basically sums up the entire industry of SEO, so that doesn’t provide much of a focus for a helpful article. Instead, I want to focus on one angle.

This is my angle: Why isn’t my new blog getting any traffic?

New blogs are the ones at the greatest risk for vanishing in a puff. Without a sturdy understanding of the blog basics, a business’s content marketing may get derailed.

Let’s set a few things straight for the record

In the interest of setting expectations, let’s deal with a few common misconceptions. Having a long-lasting blog doesn’t just require just the teeth-gritting endurance of writing something every day. To have an enduring blog, you need to understand a few principles.

Just because you have a blog doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get traffic.

Blog does not equal traffic.

Here’s what a lot of people think will happen after they launch a blog:

easons-blog-isnt-getting-traffic

Source

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

In reality, there may be no increase in traffic or a gradual increase in traffic.

You don’t simply need traffic. You need the right kind of traffic.

And what if you do get traffic? Life is good, right?

Yeah, sort of. But what’s the point of having a blog? Is it really just traffic?

I’d argue that the answer is no. Most of the time, a business starts a blog in order to serve a higher purpose — marketing, brand visibility, more clients, higher conversions, etc. A blog does not exist for the sole purpose of publishing more content. The web doesn’t need more content.

A blog exists for conversions, revenue, information, etc. Traffic is simply an indication that your blog may be achieving its real goals.

Gaining traffic is not a good thing unless your blog is also achieving its other purposes. What if you’re getting traffic from all the wrong sources? That traffic is not going to convert, and your blog becomes essentially useless.

Did you know? The Kissmetrics Funnel Report allows you to segment your traffic so you can see where your highest converting traffic is coming from. For more info, check out our blog post or sign up for Kissmetrics today!

Instead of frenetically grasping for traffic, you need to be pursuing the right kind of traffic. What is “the right kind of traffic”? Look for it in point two below.

Maybe a blog isn’t the best strategy for you.

I’m writing this as a die-hard content marketer. I get content marketing. I do content marketing. Heck, I helped write the most extensive and detailed guide of advanced content marketing techniques that exists today.

In spite of this, I’m willing to admit that content marketing may not be the solution to your woes.

Every business is different. Most of the time, content marketing works. That’s why more than 90% of B2Bs and B2Cs use content marketing as part of their overall strategy.

The lingering 10% who don’t utilize content marketing may be doing so intentionally and strategically. There are plenty of other ways to do marketing, and even to do so effectively. Some of the businesses that are doing content marketing might be wasting their time and resources.

I didn’t write this article to help you diagnose your business’s particular situation. I’m simply raising the question. Is content marketing really the best strategy for you?

You have to decide.

Now, let’s dive into a few of the specifics. Remember, we’re asking the question, why isn’t my new blog getting any traffic?

Here are the answers.

1. You Aren’t Sharing it Socially

Issue: Social Signals and Visibility

We’re in the era of the social web.

The social web refers to the fact that the Internet is a place of social interaction and collaboration. As proof, consider this: 74% of all American adults use a social networking site.

reasons-blog-isnt-getting-traffic

Source

When people “go online,” they are likely to do several things — research, email, etc. — but increasingly all these activities are integrated socially.

For example, someone doesn’t simply read an article. They share it, comment on it, tweet it, etc.

It naturally follows that an online strategy devoid of social sharing is missing out on the vast and viral potential of the social web.

Solution: Promote your content

Writing content is only half of content marketing.

The other half is spreading that content. Don’t expect the traffic to come flooding in after you click “publish.” Publish your content, and then promote it.

Here are some tips:

  • Add sharing buttons to your blog article.
  • Share content at the peak times for your audience’s social activity.
  • Share your article on Twitter with images.
  • Share content multiple times on every social site.
  • Keep up with your content as it circulates on social, and be sure to participate in the conversation.
  • Encourage blog authors, contributors, and team members to use their existing social networks to share the article.

2. You Aren’t Focusing on Any One Keyword or Subject

Issue: Keyword Optimization

Much of SEO is fairly common knowledge by this point. Most people are at least aware of keywords, and title tags, and have at least a vague idea of how it all works together.

But in spite of the widespread knowledge, it can be hard to strategically apply it to one’s own blog.

Keyword optimization is one such shortcoming.

Often, a blog writer starts by assembling an editorial calendar, which is basically a list of blog articles with dates. She may select these article titles based on the fact that they are interesting or perceived to be relevant to the target audience.

Solution: Research and target long tail keywords

This approach described above is misguided. Content marketing should not start with articles. It should start with research.

  • Understand your marketing persona.
  • Understand what they are searching for.
  • Understand the intent behind their queries.
  • Understand the keywords that would gain traffic from these queries.

At this point, you can come up with a list of longtail keywords.

From the list of keywords, you can develop a list of articles. Using the list of articles, you can create your editorial calendar.

Each article should use the selected longtail keyword in the 1) page title, 2) article title, and 3) one or two times in the article itself. Be sure not to stuff the article with the selected keyword.

3. It’s Boring as Heck

Issue: User Experience

I’m convinced that user experience is the sine qua non of Internet marketing. It trumps all other marketing techniques, and stands as the supreme methodology for gaining and retaining customers.

Obviously, user experience is an extremely broad subject. It effectively encompasses nearly every other aspect of digital marketing — from conversion optimization to search engine optimization.

Content marketing falls within the broad realm of user experience. When a user goes to visit your blog and read your content, what is he experiencing? Does it satisfy his needs? Does it answer his questions? Is it easy to read? Does it match his expectations?

One of the reasons why user experience in content marketing is such an issue is because Google says it is.

According to the document, the Quality Rating Guide, Google rates content based on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Human raters review selected content on the blog in order to refine and streamline the algorithmic formulae behind content quality grading.

Low quality content gets downgraded. High quality content gets upgraded.

Only high quality content will get the ranking improvement that will produce higher traffic levels.

Solution: Improve quality

This is why the quality of your content matters. I’ll point out a few of the issues that are considered low quality — i.e., boring.

  • It’s all about you. Content marketing should not be exclusively about your business, your products, your awesome sauce, and your employees. It should be about subjects that are relevant in the industry. For a great example of B2B content marketing for a company not tooting it’s own horn, check out TopTal’s blog.
  • No images. If your blog doesn’t have some sort of visual engagement like pictures, graphs, charts, or videos, it’s boring. Sorry.
  • Not relevant. If you are producing articles that aren’t relevant to your target audience, you lose. No one cares about content that doesn’t answer a question, solve a problem, or meet a need. For example, on the Kissmetrics blog we aren’t going to write any articles about parenting. Would it get traffic? Probably, but it doesn’t target our audience. And it would alienate our readers.

What happens when you commit these content marketing mistakes?

Your bounce rate rises, your dwell time drops, your clickthrough rate sinks. Google measures these metrics and reduces your site’s rank accordingly.

Read up on what Google views as quality content. It’ll only take 2 minutes to read, and you’ll have a good set of guidelines to follow. You can also read up on what Bing views as quality content.

The better your quality, the better your traffic.

4. Your Blog Design is Horrible

Issue: User Experience

Another user experience issue is blog design. Why does it matter? The way your blog looks, feels, and functions affects how users engage with your blog.

If the design is awful, then your users will not engage with the blog.

Solution

Based on my research and analysis, here are the ingredients of a great blog design:

  • Your website should be responsive. If your website is not mobile optimized, it won’t be featured in mobile search results. Use this tool to see if Google views you as mobile-friendly.
  • Feature blog snippets on your main blog page. Snippets are brief excerpts of a main article that people can skim through at a glance.
  • Make your main content prominent. Place it on the left side, where users are most likely to look first.
  • Use scrolling social buttons to encourage social sharing at any point in the article.
  • Use an 11px font or larger for the body text.
  • Use a 17-25px headline font.
  • Use a sans serif font.
  • Use a light colored background with dark colored text.
  • Use headers and short paragraphs to break up the content.
  • Use plenty of images.
  • Use headers, bullet points, short paragraphs, and easy vocabulary.
  • Include the name and possibly a brief bio of the author.
  • Provide a CTA for users to subscribe to the blog.

Improving your blog’s design can dramatically improve your blog’s quality, readability, and traffic.

Conclusion

If you want your blog to not die, you may need to make some improvements. The reasons your blog may not be getting any traffic are pretty simple. Thankfully, the solutions are relatively simple, too.

Keep in mind that traffic may be slow in coming. Content marketing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. If traffic doesn’t spike overnight, don’t be dismayed.

Be patient. Give it a few months; things will improve. If not, read this article again.

8 Ways That Blogging Will Kickstart Your Startup

8 Ways That Blogging Will Kickstart Your Startup

As the number of sites on the Internet floats around one billion, the challenge with every new startup is to be found and stand out. More important, if someone does find your site, the content better be enticing enough for them to come back. Blogging is one of the best ways to do this and build a brand, even before you have a product or service.

In this age of relationships, you, the entrepreneur, are a very important element of your new brand, and it’s never too early to start marketing the value of your expertise, insights and ideas. A great solution is necessary, but not sufficient, to build a great startup. Thus I recommend that every entrepreneur start blogging in parallel with solution development for the following benefits:

1. Get customer idea feedback before you commit resources.

Every entrepreneur should count on at least a couple of adjustments or pivots before they get it right. The challenge is to spend minimal time and money learning. After a few blogs about your concept, the comments better match your passion, or it’s time to rethink your idea.

 

2. Blogging will improve your site search engine ranking.

New and relevant content on a regular basis is a major driver in search engine optimization, as well as the inbound and outbound links that blog comments generate. If you post on industry sites, or get syndicated to popular sites, your scores and visibility will go up even more.

3. Develop an efficient and effective writing style.

A good blog is a short and tightly-written message, which is key to every business communication. I see too many investor pitches, and even executive summaries that ramble on for many pages without a clear message. Practice makes perfect, and feedback will tell you quickly if you are on target.

4. Let that ideal co-founder find you.

Blogs are a great way for potential business partners to find each other, and build a social media relationship before getting into the hard negotiations of who gets how much. Your reach with a blog is much broader than traditional business networking channels and industry conferences.

5. Demonstrate thought leadership to potential employees.

In small companies and startups, people seek out leaders they want to work for, in lieu of a big company with more job security. From your perspective, you want team members who are taking the initiative to stay current by seeking out new ideas and leaders from blogs on the Internet.

 

6. Start building your customer community early.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, but marketing is all about building excitement and suspense. It is never too early to start collecting leads and building a brand. You may even find alternate revenue streams, including speaking engagements and consulting, to bridge the gap to product rollout.

7. It’s the first step to full use of social media marketing.

Every blog entry needs promotion through social media, so you will learn how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites. From there it’s a short step to podcasting, YouTube videos and Instagram. Customers these days expect to find your information where they are, not where you are.

8. Establish visibility and attract funding sources.

Be assured that the best investors are actively scanning blogs for new entrepreneurs and new ideas. It’s far more satisfying and fruitful to be approached by potential investors, rather than cold-calling a list of people who never heard of you. Investors invest in people as much as the idea.

All of this is possible on every entrepreneur’s budget, since the major blogging platforms, including Tumblr, WordPress and Blogger (Google) are free. Each can be linked directly into your site domain name for maximum SEO impact. In fact, WordPress can also provide a simple base website through static pages, thus even eliminating standard site hosting fees.

Never forget that blogging is most effective for “pull marketing,” and should never be used push your product. If you provide value to your audience, they will be pulled to you and your website for related solutions. That’s a win-win situation for you and your customers, and puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. Start today.

5 Steps to Take to Start Your Small Business Blog Today

5 Steps to Take to Start Your Small Business Blog Today

You know you need to be blogging for your small business, but you have no idea where to start. Sound familiar? If so, read on, for exactlywhat you need to do to start a small business blog today.

Related: 6 Epiphanies I’ve Had Writing Explosive Content

If you already have a WordPress website for your business and simply want to add a blog, you can do this through your their dashboard. Here is a good primer on how to do this.

To add a blog to your existing non-WordPress site involves a more technical process that may require the help of a web designer or developer.

But if you’re starting from scratch, here is a step-by-step process for starting your own small business blog today.

1. Decide on a blogging platform.

This is an important decision. Choosing the wrong platform may not make or break you, but it can make things more difficult than they need to be.

There are many different blogging sites you can use, but the most versatile and user-friendly platform out there is WordPress. There are two types of WordPress sites and it’s important you choose the right one. There is WordPress.com, which allows you to set up, in minutes, a blog and its domain (e.g., www.yoursite.wordpress.com). For reasons that go beyond the scope of this article, I do not recommend using this version for your business blog.

I do recommend using WordPress.org to create your own self-hosted blog. This site is simple to use, although non-techies might need a bit of help with the initial setup.

Both versions are free. Hosting and registering a domain will cost a bit, but more on that later.

If you’d like to explore your options, there are several other platforms that are completely free and give you the ability to set up your site in a few steps; they include Weebly, Joomla and Drupal.  However, you should be aware that most of these sites won’t work for a business blog in the long run. Restrictions in terms of design, functionality and SEO will make it very difficult later on to have a successful business blog.

Related: How to Turbocharge the Launch of Your Corporate Blog

2. Choose a WordPress theme.

One of the best features of WordPress is that it allows you to easily customize the look and feel of your blog, using themes. There’s a large list of free themes available in the WordPress Theme Directory, or try checking out premium (paid) themes at a site like ThemeForest.

When choosing a theme, keep in mind the following:

  • Is it responsive? Does it display properly on a variety of devices, including desktop, tablets and mobile devices?
  • Does it come with some level of customer support and/or a support forum?
  • Does it allow a level of customization (e.g., changing colors, navigation menu, buttons, widgets, etc.)?

3. Register a domain name.

Once you’ve decided which blogging platform you’re going to use, choose a domain name. This will be the URL used to access your site (e.g., www.yoursite.com). You can do this through a domain registrar like NameCheap, 1&1 or GoDaddy.

Your domain will cost you around $10 a year; the price goes down if you’re willing to pay for more than one year up-front. Try to choose a .com domain (as opposed to .net, .biz, etc.), if possible, and use your trademarked business name if it’s available. Make sure your domain is easy to remember yet specific enough to differentiate you from sites or businesses with a similar name.

4. Purchase web hosting.

While your WordPress site is free, you’ll still need to pay to have your blog hosted, which costs more than the domain rental. You can purchase your web hosting service through a number of different companies, but some of the more popular are GoDaddy, Hostgator, Bluehost and 1&1.

5. Make a plan, and get writing!

This is the fun part, the reason you decided to get a business blog in the first place. Before you dive in, however, it’s important to think about the purpose of your blog.

  • What is your main objective? Is it to get leads, build your email list or become an expert in your field?
  • How often will you commit to blogging? Two to three times a week is ideal, but blogging once a week is better than nothing.
  • What’s the “voice” of your blog? Casual and fun? Authoritative? Academic?
  • How will you get your readers to take action while on your blog? An email opt-in box? A link to a sales page? Or a call to action to fill out a request for a quote?

Once you have a plan in place, go ahead and write. Focus on topics where you have unique insights to share, or where you can really add to the conversation. Don’t just rehash what everyone else is saying. Be original and write about topics that are of value to your audience.

6 Keys to a Positive Online Presence and Reputation

6 Keys to a Positive Online Presence and Reputation

Most entrepreneurs assume that a lack of an online reputation is a good thing. In reality, it’s negative, because people who can’t find you or any mention of your startup anywhere on the Internet assume you are not savvy or have something to hide. At the very least, with no positives for balance, it’s very risky, since the first negative mention of you or your company will kill your reputation.

The simple solution is for you to define your online identity early with positive content, starting with a business website with the right domain name, and an “about me” page with pictures that paint a positive image of your background, accomplishments and current mission. In addition, there are many other proactive ways to expand that positive presence, including the following:

1. Claim your identity on social media before someone else does.

You may not think it’s important to have a Facebook or Twitter account, but once you and your business get some traction, others with less scruples will be quick to grab your name and use it against you. Identity theft can be as devastating to a business as it is to a person.

Related: 5 Ways to Take Control Over Your Startup’s Public Image

2. Actively contribute to common business and personal profile sites.

Just the act of registering on these sites sets a positive reputation. Occasional engagement and visibility in forum discussions and industry activities establishes positive content to offset the random negative comment that every passionate entrepreneur is sure to generate.

3. Add new blog content to your site on a regular basis.

Blogging is an ideal way to express your positive values, show your expertise and establish yourself as an influencer. If done well, this will get you a wealth of positive comments, as well as provide real “Google juice” to push negative content out of view on any search engine results.

4. Monitor the web for negative comments and address them directly.

Any not-so-positive reviews or comments can be found with Google Alerts or a similar free tool, and should be answered quickly in a non-defensive manner, ideally pointing to other previous positive content. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring negative comments or reviews, hoping no one will notice.

5. Actively work to remove irrelevant and unwanted content.

It is always worth contacting a site owner to remove unflattering content, but you may not have much leverage. You can delete comments on your own site, or articles you have contributed. Expert sites, such as BrandYourself, have proprietary techniques to help remove bad content.

Related: 10 Straightforward Techniques That Can Boost Your Personal Credibility

6. Live the reputation you want to see online.

These days, everything you do or say, even in a moment of weakness or in private, ends up online. It’s impossible to live one life and project another, so remember your current or future business before posting that provocative picture on Facebook. The Internet sees the good, the bad and the ugly.

If you have slipped a couple of times in the past, it can be helpful to reach out to friends and supporters to attest online to your newfound focus on the business. They can provide links to additional positive or neutral content, which will help to displace and minimize the offending content.

In case you are not yet convinced that these efforts are worthwhile, note that online reputation damage now heads the list of top 10 business risks in Aon’s 2015 Global Risk Management Risk Ranking, from a survey of 1,400 risk-management professionals in 60 countries. They project an 80 percent chance that your company will lose value within five years due to this problem.

The good news is that a positive online reputation is the best lead-generation approach you don’t have to buy, if you are proactive and do it right. Don’t assume that it will happen by default. It pays to be street smart, stay out of the back alleys and be prepared for the road ahead. Your reputation follows you, and can be your salvation or the cause of your downfall.

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from a Bestselling Writer About Creating Compelling Content

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from a Bestselling Writer About Creating Compelling Content

Entrepreneurs are increasingly embracing ‘content marketing’ — seeking leads by creating blog posts, videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers and more. But in a world where 500 million tweets are sent each day, it’s challenging to attract customers’ attention. That’s why business professionals may want to take a few lessons from Steve Alten, who has published 16 books (15 thrillers and a comedy), has cracked the New York Times bestseller list four times and has sold millions of copies of his books. Alten’s giant shark thriller MEG is even being made into a major motion picture by Warner Bros.

I met Alten recently at the Readers Legacy Conference, where he was promoting his new thriller Vostok and I was speaking about my business book Stand Out. His key piece of advice for aspiring writers, including business bloggers, on how to be successful?

Related: 8 Ways That Blogging Will Kickstart Your Startup

Don’t follow the adage of “write what you know,” he says. “What’s more important to me is writing what people want to read and making yourself an expert on it. When I sit down to write a book, it begins with a concept: What if X were to happen? In the case of MEG, it was, What if a giant shark was still alive from ancient times?” For entrepreneurs writing business blogs or articles, he says, “What’s important is that you pick an aspect that you know people are going to be enticed to read, and you do the research necessary and put your own creative spin on it.”

For instance, you can use Alten’s technique to pick a forward-looking topic and imagine ways it’s likely to come true, like “5 Ways the Apple Watch Will Improve Your Productivity” or “How Mobile Apps Will Change the Way Every Sales Professional Does Business.” Most importantly, his strategy doesn’t allow us the excuse that we don’t have anything interesting to say or we don’t know enough about a topic. The only answer is to go out and research it. Says Alten, “Some people equate it to writer’s block when you’re trying to write something based on the limited knowledge you have in your own brain. That’s why you’re stuck: You don’t have enough information. But if you decide on a topic people would be interested in, when you do research it, it will seed other ideas and you won’t be stuck anymore.”

Related: 9 ‘Cheats’ to Make Your Content Go Viral

Alten also emphasizes the importance of reading widely to gain new ideas and insights. “Ideas come from everywhere,” he says. He developed the idea for MEG after reading an article about the Mariana Trench. “Some other ideas have come from articles or things I’ve watched on TV. Even dreams have spurred different ideas; you never know where it’s going to come from.” Make sure you capture your ideas as soon as they arise, whether on your smartphone or a pad of paper, to ensure you don’t lose them.

Finally, because entrepreneurs are pressed for time and content creation can easily be pushed to the backburner, it’s important to create habits and rituals that encourage you to write. For Alten, that’s exercising and handling email first thing in the morning. “Sometime around 11 o’clock, I’ll begin editing the work I did the day before, and I’ll try to write between three to six pages a day.” Of course, that doesn’t always happen because, like any entrepreneur, Alten sometimes faces emergencies that arise. But having a clear goal helps him stay focused. Setting your own goals, such as writing one blog post a week, can help ensure you stay on track and create a body of work that gets you noticed.

10 Smart Ways to Earn or Build Backlinks to Your Website

10 Smart Ways to Earn or Build Backlinks to Your Website

“Backlinks,” meaning sites that link to your site, are, for most search engines, the supreme ranking factor. So is getting more organic traffic.

Related: Don’t Trust Your SEO Company Until You Can Verify Everything They Tell You

Because that traffic is directly related to the quality of the backlinks your website has, the more authoritative websites that link to you, the better rankings and traffic you’ll get.

And of course you want to keep an eye on your Google rankings. When crawling the web, Google looks in particular for your website’s backlinks, to understand how your pages are connected to one other and in what ways. Certainly there are hundreds of ranking factors. But backlinks represent the most important metric for SEO.

Now, needless to say, quality backlinks are hard to get, but they shouldn’t be. In fact there are smart ways to build or earn backlinks, to get authoritative websites to link to your online business. Here are ten:

1. The broken-link building method

I love the broken-link building method because it works perfectly to create one-way backlinks. The technique involves contacting a webmaster to report broken links on his/her website. At the same time, you recommend other websites to replace that link. And here, of course, you mention your own website. Because you are doing the webmaster a favor by reporting the broken links, the chances of a backlink back to your website are high.

So, to use the broken-link method, first find relevant websites in your niche that have resources pages. Find them by using these search queries in Google:

  • your keyword + links
  • your keywords + resources
  • keywords inurl:links

For example, if I have a parenting website, I’ll search for parenting + links.
To easily find broken links on those pages, download and install the Google Chrome plugin called Check my Links. Using this plugin, I quickly discovered all 404 links from this page:

Now, back to that webmaster: When reaching out, be friendly and introduce yourself. Tell this individual that he or she is linking to some resources that are no longer available. Always provide the exact location of the broken links, so they can be easily found. Give some alternatives to replace those links, including your own website. Try to be helpful, not greedy to get a backlink. Often, this method will work, but there will be cases when the webmaster will refuse to link back to you.

2. Backlinks through infographics

Infographics are one of the most popular methods for bringing traffic to your website and gaining valuable backlinks. They’re also great because they’re easy to understand and share. Everyone loves visual data, right? That’s why the demand for infographics has increased considerably. Consider that influential online publications like Mashable publish numerous infographics from all over the Internet.

Now, choose your infographics carefully: Each one should include a unique and interesting story for your audience. To make your selection, follow currently trending topics and see what people are looking for, then create your infographic using statistical data.

To get started, research and gather data for the content. Then find someone to make your content visual.

There’s a misconception that creating an infographic is expensive; that’s not always the case. Figure on an average price between $150 and $300. Assuming you may earn 10 backlinks per infographic, you’ll be paying $15 per link. For five backlinks, the price will be $30 per link. That’s very cheap for backlinks earned through webmaster moderation. And if your infographic goes viral. you win even more.

Try using Dribble to find designers with good portfolios. Contact them directly by upgrading your account to PRO status, for just $20 a year. Then simply use the search filter and type “infographics.” After finding someone you like, click on “hire me” and send a message detailing your needs and requesting a price. Fiver is another place to find great designers willing to create inexpensive infographics.

Next, once the infographic is ready, you need to make it easy for others to share it. To do this, create your own embed code using Siege Media generator.

Once everything is in place, and your infographic shines on your website, it’s time to distribute it. There are numerous infographic directories where you can submit yours. For example, here is a list with more than than 100 places to submit your infographic.

Last but not least, do email outreach to people who have previously linked to similar infographics or have shared them on social media. Ask for feedback on your infographic, but never ask for a link directly. If they like your infographic, they’ll know what to do.

Related: 17 Safe Places to Build Links for SEO 

3. The advantage of guest articles

Guest blogging is the most effective way to reach new audiences. By publishing articles on other popular websites, you’ll get your content in front of new readers and win more exposure. Sometimes, it’s not just about the backlink, but about increasing your online reputation or your social media followers.

Guest blogging helps you leverage your relationships and expand your audience. In case you have doubts about guest posting, consider that even Google accepts guest contributors on its Google Analytics blog. Here’s a tweet from Google showing this:

Use Google search queries to find blogs accepting guest contributors:

  • your keyword + inurl:write-for-us
  • your keyword + guest-posts
  • your keyword + inurl:guest-post-guidelines
  • your keyword + become a contributor
  • your keyword + bloggers wanted
  • your keyword + submit an article
  • your keyword + want to write for
  • your keyword + contribute
  • your keyword + become an author
  • your keyword + guest post by
  • your keyword + now accepting guest posts

Find influencers publishing guest posts on a regular basis and try to contribute on the same websites they’ve had in the past.

Consider the example of a profile by freelance writer Kristi Hines. From her Google Plus profile, click on “About,” then scroll to the contributor section, where you can see a list of all the websites she has contributed articles to.

Repeat the process with other influencers, and you’ll find endless opportunities to publish content on third-party websites.

Use social media to discover other options.

On Twitter, search for “guest post,” “guest article” or “guest author.” To automate the process, use Topsy to set alerts for the keywords you want to track.

When publishing a guest article, always make sure you are linking to your social media profiles. If someone enjoys your post, he or she can easily follow you for similar future articles.

4. Spy on your competitors.

If you are serious about getting more organic traffic, staying up to date with your main competitors’ online marketing strategies is mandatory. You have to spy on your competitors on social media and look for their link-building or earning techniques, as well as their content-marketing methods. Here are some tips:

Set yourself up for alerts when competitors are publishing new content on their websites.

Subscribe to their email newsletters or follow them on social media. Another smart way to catch up with their new content is to create a Google alert for the keyword “site:yourcompetitor.com.” For example, if my competitor is TechCrunch, I can set a Google alert using the keyword: site:techcrunch.com

Know when and what backlinks your competitors are building or earning.

This will help you replicate their best backlinks and better understand what methods they are using to promote their website. If they are getting links through guest blogging, try to become a guest author on the same websites. If most of their links come from blog reviews, get in touch with those bloggers and offer them a trial to test your tool. Eventually, they might write a review about it.

My favorite tool to spy on my competitors’ backlinks is called Monitor Backlinks. It allows you to add your four most important competitors. From then on, you get a weekly report containing all the new links they have earned. Inside the tool, you get more insights about these links and can sort them by their value and other SEO metrics. A useful feature is that all the links my own website already has are highlighted in green, as in the screenshot below.

Using this technique, I can easily determine new link-building opportunities. With Monitor Backlinks, I can keep track of all the backlinks my website is earning. Each time my link building campaigns are successful, I can see all the new backlinks I’m getting in my dashboard.

5. Build internal links.

Internal links are a key factor for running a successful blog. They are passing link juice, and you can use your anchor texts. With a good internal linking structure, you can help users easily navigate through your website and increase the overall user experience.

There are tools that can automatically create internal links on your blog, especially if you are running WordPress, but you should do this manually. Microsoft’s Matt Cutts has recommended that webmasters keep their number of internal links per page below 100, for both usability and SEO.

6. Promote your content.

Great content won’t get you backlinks unless you know how to promote it right. You have to get out in the world and do email outreach to promote your best articles.

One of the best strategies to do this is to contact bloggers or websites running weekly or monthly roundups. Again, you can use Google and search for queries like “keyword + roundup.” Make sure you choose, in order to see results only from the past week or month.

Then contact the webmasters and give them a quick introduction to your website. With your message, send a link to one of your best tutorials or guides. If they find your resource useful, they may link back to you in their next weekly roundup.These bloggers are constantly looking for great content, so they definitely want to hear from you.

As with the other techniques, make sure you do not abuse your relationship with any webmaster by asking for a link directly.

7. Write testimonials.

An easy method to earn quality backlinks is to write testimonials for websites you are using. You’ll spend only a few minutes, and you can earn a link from the homepage of an authoritative website. As long as you are a customer of that product, there’s a high possibility you can get a link in exchange for a testimonial.

List all the tools you are currently using and reach out to discuss the likelihood of featuring your testimonial on a desired website.

8. Contact journalists and important bloggers.

To get links to your website, you have to spread the word about your business. And what better way to do this than email outreach to journalists and influencers from your niche? Fnding someone’s email address can be challenging, but there’s no reason to be discouraged. Here’s how to find anyone’s email address:

  • Over 90 percent of the email addresses at publications and websites are formatted like this: john@website.com or sjohn@website.com or smith.john@website.com. So, try sending your pitch to these emails directly.
  • If the above formats don’t work, use tools like Voilanorbert,Thrust.io or Emailfinder.io. Just enter the name of the person you are trying to contact and the website he or she works for.
  • Alternately, you can send your message using social media, with Google Plus or Linkedin.

Also consider that every pitch should be short and to the point. No one has time for long and boring emails from strangers.

9. Donate.

Yes, you can earn backlinks by donating to nonprofit organizations. This method is quick and straightforward. All you have to do is find websites in your niche that accept donations and link back to sites that have donated. Simply submit the amount of the donation you want to make and write your website URL.

Finding these websites requires some searches in Google. These are some queries that usually give good results:

  • contributors page + donate + your keyword
  • donation + contributors + your keyword
  • contributors page + your keyword

10. Get interviewed.

Online interviews are hot right now, and a great and easy way to earn backlinks to your website. Once you become the authority in your niche, you’ll get lots of interview invitations, but until then, to get started, you have to make the first step. Look for websites that are running interviews and tell them you would like to participate and what knowledge you can contribute.

Conclusion

Earning quality backlinks can sometimes be challenging, but you can easily find link-building opportunities by using the right resources and methods. Finally, remember that keeping your backlinks is as important as building them. So, keep track of the backlinks your website is getting, by using tools like Monitor Backlinks, Ahrefs or Majestic.

Numerous ways exist to find websites that accept guest articles. Here are three::

5 Copywriting Hacks Designed to Give Your Business a Boost

5 Copywriting Hacks Designed to Give Your Business a Boost

Having incredible copy is one of the fastest ways to increase your conversion rates and sales, yet so many companies are terrible at it.

Recently, I decided to improve my copywriting skills, so I talked to my friend Neville Medhora, who is a copywriter. The reason I trust his judgement over others is that besides being the most popular copywriter I know, he actually does client work four days out of the week. He rewrites copy every day, then sees it in action through every industry (online, offline, ecommerce stores, software-as-a-service businesses, etc).

I immediately saw a 20 percent boost just by using Neville’s tips to rewrite the sales copy for my recent real-estate-investing book. (I’m split-testing the page now — visitors might see one of several versions.) I don’t know about you, but a 20 percent lift overnight is pretty darn awesome!

(Maybe I should have stated this first: If you don’t know what copywriting is, it’s the rearranging of words so they sell better.)

Related: 7 Ways to Ensure Your Readers Don’t Get Bored and Bail (Infographic)

For the purpose of helping those in the Entrepreneur.com world achieve incredible lifts in sales conversions, I probed Neville to get answers about the biggest “wrongs” people make in copywriting and what they should do instead. Here are his top five copywriting “hacks” in order:

1. Sound like a human.

You. Are. Not. A. Robot. Affirmative.

Please don’t talk like one. When we talk face to face, we have no problem saying things in a casual tone. But whenever people sit down at a computer to write copy (for webpages or emails), they tend to go all formal, like this:

All of that could’ve been much easier said (and easier to understand) if it was written more casually, just like the way you speak. In different industries, the tone of voice for your copywriting may vary. However keeping things slightly casual reduces confusion and is more efficient than long-winded and vague language.

2. Don’t bore your cold-email prospects.

Bob likes football, telling dirty jokes and drinking beer. However, when a salesperson tries to cold email Bob, he or she ends up sound like a boring robot. This leads to unread or deleted emails.

The problem is a lot of salespeople tend to formalize their emails to look professional. Neville tells me that he actually tested this in many industries (including banking and business-to-business sales), and found that a “casual tone” always outperforms boring emails.

For example, in these B2B email templates from inside Yelp, two versions were sent out to potential customers: A boring email and a casual-sounding one.

Yelp boring template email results:

  • 50 sent
  • 33 opened
  • 1 response
  • 3.33 percent response rate

Personalized template results:

  • 50 sent
  • 35 opened
  • 4 responses
  • 11.43 percent response rate

Whoever says “I can’t write casually because I’m in a market that doesn’t tolerate it” should just look at those results. It was initially worrisome to have salespeople sending out such “casual sounding” emails, but when results went from 3.3 to 11.4 percent, everyone changed their minds.

What would happen to your business if you tripled your response rate overnight?

3. Don’t try to sound like a behemoth company if you’re not.

Neville tells me that in the hundreds of cases of consulting he does, one of the funniest patterns he see is people trying to create a company tagline that sounds like a big company. Since he told me this, I can’t stop seeing this across the web. According to Neville, it actually ends up backfiring.

What a lot of businesses fail to see is that the cliche taglines come from billion-dollar companies that have been around for decades. What I learned from Neville is that you don’t need to be clever, you need to be clear. Neville showed me how to create a tagline using a three-step process for creating one that sound more descriptive:

  1. Dump out your entire business in a few sentences.
  2. Trim it down.
  3. Trim it down some more.

For example, using this three-step process, here’s how Entrepreneur.com would make a tagline:

  1. “Entrepreneur.com creates articles, videos and other resources to help motivate, teach, celebrate and put entrepreneurs on the path to success in the business world. We have been doing this in various formats since 1973.”
  2. “We create media for entrepreneurs to help teach and celebrate them and showcase other entrepreneurs. We’ve been doing this in various formats since 1973.”
  3. “Inspiring, informing and celebrating entrepreneurs since 1973.”

This “trimming down” process works with all your copy. Whether in an email, a webpage or a magazine, it’s always helpful to not try to be too clever. Don’t try to “sound big” because it always results in vague and boring copy. Trim your copy down to it’s basic elements, and remember: Copy that’s simple and casual sounding is simple and easy. Copy that’s too clever is bad and confusing.

Related: 10 Steps to Effective Copywriting

4. Don’t write headlines that are “clever.” Write headlines that actually sell.

Legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman would talk about headlines like a “slippery slope”:

  • The job of the first line is to get them sucked into the second line.
  • The job of the second line is to get them sucked into the third line.
  • The job of the third line is to get them sucked into the fourth line.

In this article about headlines that sell, you can see samples of how to make headlines such as this, including this easy headline formula:

[End result they want] plus [time period] plus [address the objections]

A simple formula such as this can help you write much better headlines. Even for “boring” topics, this formula can really spruce up a headline. For example, if we’re making a case study for a seller of concrete:

[Get your concrete poured for under $45/yard] [in 3 days] [without it cracking]

Try applying this formula to something you’re selling. Use it as the title of a webpage or an email subject line.

5. When you sell, disguise it as an “advertorial”:

No one likes being explicitly sold to. It turns people off. That’s why you should sell by using this formula:

  • 70 percent: Giving good information
  • 30 percent: Selling

This way the person gets awesome information from you, plus you get to pitch them a small sale. This is much like how you would write an advertorial.

Typically, people don’t like reading a sales pitch, but if it contains a ton of great information, they won’t mind. This style of mixing great info with the sales pitch is one of the best ways to make people pay attention to your sales pitch without getting turned off by it.

Hopefully, some of these tips get you writing differently, and leads to a boost in sales.

Are You a Real Entrepreneur or Just a Fake?

Are You a Real Entrepreneur or Just a Fake?

Merriam-Webster defines “entrepreneur” as “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.” In a broad sense, that might include every small business owner and perhaps even those who are self-employed, or roughly a third of our workforce. Fair enough.

In my experience, there are two distinct kinds of entrepreneurs. There are entrepreneurs that fit the classical definition and then there areEntrepreneurs. Those in the latter category take financial risks by creating businesses that attempt to disrupt the status quo of existing markets.

Why the distinction?

While I accept the broad definition, I don’t quite understand why those folks wouldn’t just say they’re business owners or self-employed and call it a day. Throwing around a word like “entrepreneur” strikes me as self-aggrandizing. If you’re not at least attempting to disrupt the status quo, I’d lay off the fancy labels and get back to work.

If, on the other hand, you aspire to become the latter kind – a trueEntrepreneur who is courageous enough to challenge the status quo and take some real risks that might result in significant rewards – let’s talk.

If you boil it down, true entrepreneurship is essentially the business version of the Socratic Method. Named for the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, it’s a method of questioning common wisdom or beliefs to determine their validity or to seek a better solution to a problem.

 

The Socratic Method is also synonymous with critical thinking, the essence of the scientific method, and the basis for how court cases are argued. In other words, it’s fundamental to modern civilization. Without it, society would digress thousands of years. And without it, there would also be no Entrepreneurs.

True entrepreneurs question things. They question common dogma, how things are done, how people behave, and even their own closely held beliefs. The reason they do that is simple. That’s how you change things. That’s how you disrupt the status quo. Otherwise, you’re pretty much just following the crowd.

That’s what’s missing from today’s entrepreneurial movement. Nobody’s questioning anything. The cultural conformity is off the charts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the least bit surprised by that. Since the beginning of civilization, the overwhelming majority of people have been followers of the status quo.

What does surprise me – and distinguish today’s entrepreneurial craze – is how many of those followers have somehow managed to delude themselves into thinking they’re leaders. They’re certainly notEntrepreneurs. Most aren’t even entrepreneurs. They’re wantrepreneurs. Amateurs. Fakes. Phonies. Posers.

The problem is the massive amount of self-serving groupthink flooding the online world with illogical nonsense that would make Socrates and Plato turn in their graves. What I’m referring to is all the fads and myths that have everyone marching to the same drumbeat like a horde of social-media drones.

 

What’s remarkable is that none of those people are questioning whether the path they’re following makes a bit of sense. If they did, they would ask themselves some reasonable questions:

  • Does personal branding really matter? How will I know that it’s actually having a material effect on my career or my business? What’s the metric?
  • Have those who write the blogs and books I read actually accomplished something more than just generating feel-good fluff to get me to click or buy?
  • Are virtual personas accurate reflections of people’s real accomplishments or overinflated facades?
  • Do inspirational quotes and speeches have any lasting effect on my behavior, or are they just superficial missives that feel good for a moment? Besides, shouldn’t my work inspire me?
  • Does emotional intelligence actually correlate with business success or leadership performance? How can it when its sole measure, emotional quotient, is a self-test that any narcissist can manipulate?
  • Is it logical to assume that a successful person’s habits or hacks would work for me? Besides, if folks like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs found their own ways of doing things, shouldn’t I do the same?
  • Where is the evidence that social media delivers a return on investment that makes it worthwhile, or am I just addicted to the attention and instant gratification?
  • Am I wasting my life with my eyes glued to a screen when I should be out in the real world working, learning from experience, and gaining exposure to new opportunities and successful people?

Look, I’m not asking you to follow or even listen to me. I’m not trying to get you to click or buy anything. I’ve got no skin in this game. I’m just telling you to quit following the crowd and challenge the status quo. If you want to become a true entrepreneur, a real business leader, learn to question things. That’s what separates real Entrepreneurs from the pack.