5 Expert Promotion Tips to Rock Your Blog

You’ve crafted a great blog post. Now what?

If you answered “promote it” — which of course you did — then you’re absolutely right! As you know, all the time and effort you’ve poured into your creation amounts to zero if it’s not reaching your intended audience. No visibility, no engagement, no social sharing, no Web traffic, no conversions. And all that nothing can be…um…discouraging.

So we asked five of the sharpest content marketing minds out there to share their insights into how to promote your blog, via this two-part question:

Digital content writers and marketers read a lot of tips about how to promote their blog posts. In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Their candid answers are illuminating, often amusing, and rich with details. Enjoy!

arnie-kuenn

Arnie Kuenn (@ArnieK), CEO of Vertical Measures

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? 

It all starts with creating useful, valuable content that people would actually be willing to share and promote. Assuming you have that, the one thing I still see most bloggers miss is focusing on the actual title of their post.

Many bloggers spend hours creating this fantastic post and only minutes on the title. In today’s world, the title is everything. It typically becomes the title tag and H1 (main header) that search engines love. The title tag then becomes the text that social media displays when posting. So the title is your best chance to get the world’s attention – which is where the sharing all begins.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

In a word – Facebook. Our paid search team continues to find creative, cost-effective ways to promote content on Facebook. It almost always seems to work and sometimes there are some pretty big payoffs.

gabriella-sannino

Gabriella Sannino (@SEOcopy), President & Founder of Level 343

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? 

Let’s face it – most bloggers focus too much on traffic and not enough on retention — keeping visitors coming back. Traffic is only as good as visitors’ staying power, and staying power is only as good as the relationships you build.

Look for your most successful content (analytics, anyone?). Keep it updated. Repurpose it. Pay attention to the headlines and content that brought them in. Do more of that.

At the same time, look at relationship building. Build relationships with influencers and your target market. Work to earn social shares and backlinks from influencers and brand advocates.

A great outreach program is to do competitive research and work on building a tribe with them. Just because you’re competitive doesn’t mean you can’t work to gain mutual satisfaction. For example, we can only handle so many SEO projects. So what do we do when we’re overfull? We refer them to the competition. We look good, the competition looks good – it’s a win, win.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Sending out muffins to people. :)

I’d have to say that my favorite secret strategy sauce is inviting your sources to read, share, and link to your content. Sometimes it’s a blatant invite, but most of the time it’s a notice that you’ve written about them, quoted them, or otherwise brought them some exposure. It’s a “hey, I like you enough to talk about you, hope you don’t mind…”

In the process, it brings exposure to you from the people who visit to see what you said about them.

And if that doesn’t work…. there are always the muffins.

lee-odden

Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO of TopRank Online Marketing

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)?

One of the most important blog content promotion strategies overlooked is to consider promotion at the content planning stage, versus after the content is already created. You’d think this would be obvious, but in the case of corporate America, it’s definitely not.

This is a timely question because I just received an inquiry from a company chock full of content – original content from the content team, influencer content, user generated content amongst their community and still – the issue of content distribution and promotion was problematic. Why? Because they focused so much on content creation and on-page SEO, the importance of audience development, syndication and distribution only came as an afterthought.

Successful marketing content creators understand the value of developing channels of distribution for their content whether it’s through an email list, an active community on relevant social networks, forums and groups, or through co-creation that inspires participants to help promote the content to success. In the case of content co-creation, a significant part of content promotion is factored into the planning – from topic to publishing channels to activating the influencers involved.

However, keep in mind there’s a big difference between lazy “listicles” with famous industry pundits and actual co-creation that inspires influencers to help you promote your content.

What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

Secrets cost money :)

It would be easy to suggest a behind-the-scenes network of mutual content promotion groups, but I still think one of the most effective blog promotion tactics is the content itself. Understand what motivates your readers and give it to them – better each time. Nothing inspires sharing of blog content like anticipation of what’s next and your content delivering as promised.

Many bloggers don’t have the patience to grow a community and subscriber base in their search of shortcuts. As a result, they overlook things that can take more work with a bigger payoff a little further out.

mark-traphagen

Mark Traphagen (@marktraphagen), Senior Director of Online Marketing, Stone Temple Consulting

 In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

I could share a lot of high level strategies, but your audience has probably heard most of them, so let me instead share an easy tactic that gets us a lot of traffic and extra shares of our content we might not have had otherwise.

The tip is: create “click to tweet” quotes from your content. Choose a few of the best takeaways or quotable moments from your post, and make it one-click easy for readers to tweet that quote to their followers. The easiest way to do this is with a service such as ClickToTweet. Compose the tweet quote in ClickToTweet (don’t forget to share a link back to your post!) and the tool gives you a shortlink. We usually turn the quote into a simple graphic inserted into our post, with a “Click to Tweet!” call to action included. We then make the graphic a clickable link, using the ClickToTweet-provided short link.

When a reader clicks the graphic, a Twitter composition window opens, with the prepared quote already in place. The visitor just has to click “Tweet” to publish the quote to their followers. If you included a short link back to your content when you did the setup on ClickToTweet, the quote should drive more traffic to your post.

Every time we include these in one of our posts, we get far more Tweets and traffic from Twitter than when we don’t.

kristi-hines

Kristi Hines (@kikolani), Freelance Writer & Blog Marketing Strategist

In your experience, what’s the ONE strategy most bloggers don’t utilize (and the most successful bloggers do)? What’s your favorite secret (or overlooked) blog promotion strategy?

I’m not sure that a lot of others do this, but one of the things I’ve found most helpful in promoting content long term is setting up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for keywords that people would use when asking a question that my post answers.

For example, I had alerts set up for Thesis versus Genesis for a while to promote a post I had written on the differences between those two WordPress theme frameworks. That post ended up being my most successful in terms of affiliate earnings as it helped anyone asking about the two and, no matter what they chose, they would get them through my affiliate links.

So now the ball’s in your court: do you have any blog promotion strategies that have worked well for you? Please share them with us in the comments below! And thank you :)

3 signs that your SEO copy is over-optimized

Greetings!  Today’s SEO copywriting video tip addresses the three telling signs that your SEO copy may be over-optimized.  Yes, there is such a thing, and it happens when you’ve geared the copy so heavily towards the search engines that you’ve forgotten about the user experience.

Join Heather as she discusses the three telltale signs that your web content is over-optimized, and the three ways to fix the problem:

1) Too Many Keyphrases on the Page

  • Pages like the one shown are easy to spot: it is pretty obvious that the keyphrases are New York City and gift baskets.  But for the folks who are trying to read the page, and determine whether or not they want to work with this company, it’s flat-out bad copy:
  • User experience = bad. Too much emphasis on SEO: There’s nothing in the copy for the reader, and there’s nothing that speaks to benefits. Plus, the copy is so hard to wade through that anyone reading the page would be tempted to bounce out and find another site.

In trying to achieve ranking, the writer has created a user experience that is so bad that it’s actually hurting conversions.

  • The fix?  Reduce keyphrases: You have to pare down the keyphrases in the copy.  In some cases, this might mean that you have to re-write the page altogether.  But when you do that, and bring focus to what you’re doing, you’re going to see a huge jump in sales.

2) Too Many Hyperlinks on the Page

Sometimes copywriters pepper the page with hyperlinks for the perceived SEO benefits, thinking all those hyperlinked keyphrases will automatically get the page top ranking.  Others overdo it with the hyperlinks because they want to give their readers lots of choices, so they end up giving them all the choices and assume the reader will pick one.

  • Again, the user experience = bad.  Too many choices cause overwhelm.  Plus – what’s in it for the customer?

From the search engine perspective, hyperlinking users all over the place is not going to help you in your SEO ambitions – it’s not going to help you increase your rankings. From the users’ perspective, they are overwhelmed with too many choices and they find it difficult to make a decision.

  • The fix?  Focus on your conversion funnel

What you want to do in this case is to think about what’s in it for the prospect — the customer benefits – and then focus your copy around that.  On a landing page, narrow down the decisions facing the reader and hone it to a few educated choices.

In removing the “overwhelm” factor for readers, you’ll see a higher conversion rate as you help move the prospect along the conversion funnel:  you’ll achieve an increase in ROI.

3) “Fluffy” SEO Copy

  • The content is longer than it needs to be, so it loses conversion flow
  • Local pages and e-commerce product pages are typically the worst offenders

“Fluffy” SEO copy is often a result of the writer or site editor being instructed to conjure 500 words for a web page in order for it to be recognized by the search engines.  This 500-word rule has never been true – it’s a tenacious misconception.  So the writer ends up trying to say something in 500 words that may ideally need only 250 words.

The result is that the content is not only too long, but that it really isn’t written for the readers.  Instead, it’s stuffed with fluff to meet a mythical search engine word count.

  • The fix?  Write great sales copy and weave in the SEO elements.  Not the other way around.

This requires a change in thinking.  Approaching your web page copy this way, you’ll have really good, tight, benefits-oriented copy that will not only help folks to take action, but you’ll have what you need for the search engines too.

 

Hat Tip to Blog Promotion: Interview with The Social Media Hat’s Mike Allton

bullhorn_by_lemasneyIf you’re not already familiar with Mike Allton, there’s no better time to get to know him.

Mike is the CMO for SiteSell and lead “Content Marketing Practitioner” at The Social Media Hat, which only last week was voted one of the top ten social media blogs to follow in 2016 by Social Media Examiner.

For our part, we featured his article on blog promotion in the second of our series about conversions-driving content. In fact, so impressed we were with Mike’s guide – and The Social Media Hat blog – that we asked him if he’d agree to share his expertise with us.

Here, Mike offers his insights into strategies and platforms for promoting your blog, as well as for building your business with blog content.

Enjoy!

Before we delve into questions about blog promotion, would you briefly share with us why you refer to yourself as a “Content Marketing Practitioner”?

Sure! While many businesses will use content marketing as an approach to reach and educate their audience, I don’t just use content marketing. I teach it. Experiment with it. Study new tools and techniques. Therefore, I’ve come to refer to myself as a practitioner, someone who is constantly learning and evolving in the study and use of content marketing, and sharing the results with my audience.

That evolution in my thinking has been mirrored in my writing, as I’ve worked to provide more and more detailed articles that reflect my own experiments and findings.

Your relatively recent article on blog promotion describes your most thorough social media sharing process. What would you recommend as an absolute minimum, core promotion strategy?

That’s a great question. At a minimum, every business needs to have at least one social profile and an invitation for site visitors to subscribe to their email list, so that new content can be promoted to at least one social platform and email list. And of course on the content itself, visitors should be able to easily share it to whichever platforms and networks they’re active on, regardless of which network the business selects.

So you begin to drive traffic to your site through a social channel and email marketing, and you allow your readers and prospects to share to other networks, increasing your content’s reach.

Of all the social media platforms you leverage for blog promotion, you clearly favor Google+.  Could you share with us why you prefer it to the other main social networks?

First, let me say that my preference is a personal one. While there are reasons why I enjoy Google+ so much, that’s not to say that other businesses can’t find equal or greater success on different platforms. That truly depends on the business and target audience.

For myself, I found Google+ to be a refreshing place to connect with and engage with my peers. That’s not just lip service. It’s been truly amazing to grow relationships with fantastic people who have helped me and my business tremendously.

Based purely on referral traffic, Twitter is currently my top social platform, yet Google+ remains my favorite, and where I spend the most quality time. That further illustrates to me how important it is for businesses to have a presence on multiple networks, and to develop an understanding how each platform fits into their overall marketing and business plan.

Besides Google+, you’re also a strong proponent of Twitter. How effective is Twitter for blog promotion, relative to the other main social media platforms? 

Twitter is one of the best platforms for blog promotion overall, at least in my own niche and experience. There are far more tools available to help with sharing and resharing, connecting with your targeted audience, and analyzing the success of your efforts.

That said, it’s all about your audience. If you’re targeting a demographic largely comprised of work-at-home moms, you’ll likely find that Pinterest is your best choice, followed by Facebook. Every blogger and business must do their own research and analysis to determine where their audience is active and approachable, and then develop ways to become organically part of their conversations.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Twitter expanding its character count. What do you think about it? Do you subscribe to the argument that it may “ruin” the platform?

Nope. I generally have a more open view when it comes to platform changes and development. Facebook’s newsfeed changes. Google+ going back into beta. Twitter expanding character counts… other than the occasional brief annoyance at losing a feature I found personally valuable (i.e. Google+ Ripples), I recognize the fact that platforms need to change and develop for a variety of user and business reasons. Those reasons sometimes won’t be immediately understood or universally accepted.

But with rare exception, I find it extremely unlikely that any modification to an existing platform could ruin it. A platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every month doesn’t fall out of favor overnight. It takes time and generally a series of poor decisions.

What are your thoughts about syndicating content on LinkedIn to increase its reach? 

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but tend to avoid actual syndication too often. I prefer to push visitors to my original content on my own website, and instead like to use those platforms for original content.

However, as with everything else in digital marketing, opinions can and should easily change with exceptional testing and analysis. This topic, specifically, is one I plan to test this year. However, measurement of success is going to be elusive. As Mark Schaefer has pointed out, it’s next to impossible to measure how much visibility your content gets when it’s published on external properties.

You mention that you use Pinterest (even though your content, as a rule, is primarily text-based). Does it drive significant traffic to your blog?

Pinterest is great for bloggers. And the more niche and specific you can get with your content, the better platforms like Pinterest may prove to be for you.

And while I don’t create a lot of image content, I do make sure that I have at least one branded, feature image for each and every blog post. And for those articles that are more important to me (for any number of reasons), I’ll take the time to create an image specifically for Pinterest (900 x 1100). I’ve added a custom, hidden field to my new blog post form so that I can upload a Pinterest image that the share buttons will see so that anyone can pin it.

What would you say is the more effective blog promotion strategy overall: email or social media?

Email.

Social media is outstanding for creating and developing relationships, and it’s a necessary step toward moving interested people into your email marketing.

But let’s do some basic math here:

Let’s say you’re a small business who has been working on their marketing for 6 months. You’ve created a nice lead generation resource to collect email addresses, which you’ve shared to social media and other distribution channels routinely. With all of the other content you’ve created and your marketing efforts, you’ve built up 1,000 Facebook Page fans and 1,000 email list subscribers.

The average open rate for email marketing is about 18%, with an average click rate of 1.8%, which means that out of 1,000 email subscribers, 180 will likely open the email and 18 will click through to your latest blog post.

Share the same blog post to your Facebook Page and your post will see the typical “Organic Reach” on Facebook which is about 2%. Click rates vary from 0.22% to 2% depending on the page and audience. But no matter how you slice it, it’s likely that a mere 20 of your fans will see that post, and probably half of them will click through.

Facebook is brilliant for reaching a targeted audience in a number of ways, not the least of which is paid advertising, which is the most cost effective in the world. But for promoting a blog post, email is clearly more effective.

What are the top strategies you’d recommend for building a business using blog content?

You’ll read dozens and dozens of different ideas on how to use and promote blog posts to build and promote a business. But there are two things in particular that you can do that are far more effective than anything else.

First, you have to create long-form content. That means really long blog posts… at least 1,500 words, and preferably more than 2,500. Sound like a lot? It is, but don’t let that scare you. You don’t have to write that much every week. In fact, most successful businesses will create one of these posts, what I call a “Pillar Post”,  per quarter on average.

The pillar post isn’t just long, of course, that’s just a byproduct. It’s long because it extensively and exhaustively covers a topic of particular relevance to the business, and of interest to the target audience. It has to be something that thoroughly answers a question, yet is positioned so that it’s likely readers will want more information or assistance even after they’ve read it all.

These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.

The post should, of course, have a strong call to action for readers to proceed to the next logical step (call you, read about your services, another article, whatever).

But here’s where the second top strategy kicks in.

With a post like this, let’s assume it’s 5,000 words about how to do something integral to your niche. That’s a long post, and would make for a great PDF download. You can put the entire article on your site, and then let interested readers grab a PDF copy for reference. Better yet, come up with a supplemental resource, like a checklist, that boils the topic down into a one-pager and make that available.

To get the digital download, they just complete an email subscribe form on your article and you set it up to auto respond with a link to download. They’re then part of your email marketing (which is an entire topic for discussion another day… how to leverage email automation to create a series of emails, regular newsletters, and more, to lead prospects down a sales funnel).

There are many other tactics and strategies for building and using blog content, and a lot can stem out of these two. So start there!

Connect with Mike on Twitter  & LinkedIn

Image thanks: ID 160597642 © lemasney / deviantart.com

3 Business Blogging Tips for Beginners

Welcome back! Today’s video offers three actionable business blogging tips for beginners, as well as for those of you who may be a bit “rusty.”’

Heather thought business blogging would be a timely topic, as many business owners resolved to either start blogging or do more of it this New Year. They’ve seen the stat’s showing how blogging can increase leads, boost conversions, and drive more traffic to their site – and they want a piece of that!

And while that’s a wonderful goal, it can be a challenging one for beginners. So tune in as Heather shows you the ropes and shares bonus tips to help reduce the “frustration factor” of getting started…

 

Tip #1: Make a list of possible blog topic ideas

One of the big mistakes all online writers make – even those who are experienced bloggers – is to assume that the blog topic will come to them once they sit down to write.

Unfortunately, the blogging muse rarely strikes so spontaneously.

It’s easy to feel pulled in a million different directions, so what happens is the deadline you’ve set creeps closer and closer and you panic – realizing you have no idea what to write about.

Here are some starting points to help you plan your topics and avoid the blog deadline panic:

  • What questions do customers ask?
  • Can you offer any DIY (do-it-yourself) tips?
  • What are some “hot topics” in your industry?
  • Research other blogs in your space. What are they talking about?
  • Looking for local customers? Can you tie a local issue back to your business?
  • Is there a list of blog posts/sites that you love?

These are just brainstorming ideas. You don’t have to worry about creating a formal framework or outline at this point – just put your ideas down on paper.

  • Tip: Don’t copy posts from another blog. Link to it instead – and discuss why you think the blog post is a good one.

Besides the obvious copyright violation issue, copying from another blog doesn’t showcase your expertise. So if there is a blog post that you really love, link to it and tell your readers why they should check it out.

Discussing and linking to another post is a far more valuable strategy for positioning you as an expert, as opposed to randomly pulling resources from other sites and having no original content of your own.

Tip #2: Loosen up!

If you’re new to blogging and online writing, it can feel really weird to start. You may flash back to high school or college, conjuring teachers and professors and that red pen inking up your work. You may second-guess every word you write.

  • You’re not in high school English class anymore.

Relax. You’re not writing some sort of “paper” for grading. Try to write as you would talk – it will help the copy flow more easily and naturally.

  • Write with personality! A good writing style can make the most technical subjects approachable and fun to read about.

This is especially true when writing about a technical subject. Your writing doesn’t have to be dry and boring, even if the topic may seem so. Infuse it with personality and it will be far more readable and enjoyable!

Tip #3: Work with an editor

This is a really important tip for everyone, no matter how experienced they may be.

  • Typos happen.

Have an editor to check your writing for typos, grammatical errors, and to ensure that your message is coming through as you intended.

It’s so easy for all of us to get too close to our own stuff that we miss these nitty things. So if you start uploading unedited blog posts to your site, with typos, bad grammar, or rambling, unfocused copy, it just makes your company look bad. And you don’t want to do that.

Also, having an editor is one of the easiest ways you can reduce the stress of writing – just knowing you have a second set of eyes that will catch those common writing errors.

  • If your editor also knows SEO copywriting, he/she can help your post get better search rankings.

A bonus is to have an editor trained in SEO copywriting best practices. Then you have an ally who can not only edit your copy, but also optimize it for search engines to achieve better rankings and drive more traffic to your blog.

 

photo thanks to Jhayne: Foxtongue

Blogger’s Block? Time Crunch? 5 Easy Ways to Reuse Your Blog Posts

Crunched for time? Uninspired? Suffering blogger’s block?

Or maybe you just need to take a break. Maybe even – dare you say it – a vacation?

You’re not alone.  Many bloggers struggle with the occupational hazard of being chained to creating exceptional content on a regular basis – even if their muse, time, and sanity are suffering.

So, in today’s video blog, Heather shares five easy – note, easy – ways you can reuse your hard-labored, older blog posts to produce new, fresh content!

Interested? Thought so. Tune in as Heather delineates five specific ways you can repurpose your older blog posts, so you can take some well-deserved time off and recharge your blogging mojo!

Heather was inspired by a recent post by Chris Brogan on just this topic, in which he discussed how recycling blog posts wasn’t only good for you, but also good for your readers in that they appreciate seeing older blog posts presented in a new way.

So here are five ideas to help you make that happen:

1. Group Similar Content Together in a Guide-Like Format

  • The advantage? You’ve created a fantastic resource, and the post is easy to write!

The example that Chris Brogan used was that he could include all of his blog posts on Google+ and voila – have a complete guide to Google+ : it would do very well in the blogosphere and be easy for him to pull together.  All he’d have to do is write the introduction, include the links, and he’d be good to go!

  • Create a download-ready PDF: As an aside, you can also do the same thing –but rather than putting it online as a guide, you could create a PDF for your readers to download as a way of lead generation.

So there are a lot of ways you can play with grouping content together, if you have the type of content that lends itself to a guide-like, themed format.

2. Look at Your Analytics

  • Share your top 5 or 10 most popular blog posts

When you’re just stuck, look at your analytics and consider writing a blog post around the five or ten most popular posts of the quarter or year.  You see these types of posts a lot near year’s end.

3. Look for Similarities Among Your Posts

  • List the posts with the most comments, the most controversial, or even the most “under appreciated”…

You might not be looking at a guide necessarily, but you can play with ways that your posts may lend themselves to grouping, and you can have a lot of fun with it!

4. Look for Differences: Do You Have a New Perspective?

  • Include snippets from your “old” blog post and discuss your new opinion

If you work in an industry that’s moving quickly, chances are that your mind has blown a number of times!  So the perspective you shared a couple of years ago – or, in some industries, even six months ago – may have shifted somewhat.

This is a great opportunity to share with your readers your new take on a given subject from your older post.  You can include snippets from your older blog post and then indicate your change in thinking about the topic.

This would make for a more personal post, and one your readers most likely would appreciate.

5. Use Past Blog Posts to Inspire Video Content

  • Ask yourself:  “Can I take something from an older blog post and create a video around it?”

Chances are, you most certainly can! This is something a lot of folks forget to consider. It is so, so easy to think that you need to hammer out a new, exceptional and wonderful blog post every day/week/what have you, when you can repurpose content from an older post into a video post.

So instead of looking at how much you need to write, consider recycling an older blog post into a video. You can use your past blog posts to inspire video content!  You can simply take a snippet from just one point of a blog post then use that to create brand new video content.

You can still have a blog post wrapper around the video, of course. But also consider that video reaches people in a different way, and it’s yet another way for folks to find in Google.

 

photo courtesy flickr: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital

5 Steps to Great Content for Readers and Search Engines

Kristi Hines

One thing that has become evident in the post-Google Panda world is that if you want to ensure that your site doesn’t lose rankings, you will need great content!

Not simply search engine optimized content, but content that both search engines AND visitors will enjoy alike.

Everyone’s content development process is a little different.  Today I’d like to share mine with you, particularly when it comes to writing.

1.  Figure out your target keywords

Sure, most people know a few keywords that define their site.  But chances are, they are not enough keywords to generate writing topics around.  In some cases, your keywords might be general enough that you can narrow them down into more specific topics of focus.  In other cases, your keywords may be so specific that you need to broaden your horizons in order to find topics to write about.

Keyword suggest tools are the best way to go for finding keyword phrases that people search for often. When you start typing in a keyword on Google, for example, it will start suggesting related search terms:

Google isn’t the only suggest tool out there though – be sure to check out Bing, Yahoo, Ubersuggest, and YouTube for additional keyword ideas.

The best part about the latter four is Topsy and Wefollow will tell you what keywords are popular on Twitter, Delicious will tell you what is popular in articles that are frequently bookmarked, and YouTube, of course, will tell you what is popular in video content.

2. Generate some content ideas based on those keywords that people will want to read

Once you have a great list of keywords, the next step is to create headlines that will appeal to readers.  The best way to generate some great content ideas is to use proven headline formulas, such as those given in the free guide, 102 Headline Formulas by Chris Garrett of Authority Blogger, and plug those keywords into the headlines in which they fit best.

For even more ideas, don’t miss Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines, which is an 11 part series on writing better headlines in no time.

3. Forget the SEO and write your content

Here’s what I consider the fun part.  This is where you forget about SEO for a while and just write your content.  Instead of thinking about optimization, think about the content – articles, blog posts, magazine pieces, etc. – that you have really enjoyed reading and write your content in that manner. Make it enjoyable, valuable, and exciting for readers!

I would also suggest during this writing spree to hold off on the editing as this can slow down your writing process. Let the ideas flow from your mind to your keyboard, then take the editorial run through to check for spelling and grammatical issues.

4. After your article is written, then you can work on the search optimization.

Now that you have a great piece of content that people will love to read, you should go back through and add the optimization features that will make the content easily searchable and targeted for your keyword phrase.  This includes the title tag and meta description, header tags (H2’s and H3’s especially), and optimization of your images (including the  ALT description), and a proper file name with keywords.

5. Get out and promote it!

Last, but not least, once that awesome piece of content is written, optimized, and published online, you will need to go out and promote it.  Content is not something where you create it and your audience will just naturally flock to it (unless you’re Mashable and already have a monster audience).

You will need to promote your content through social media, your mailing list (for those especially awesome pieces), instant messenger, forums, blog comments, and any other form of getting the word out in which you can participate.  Only then will your content be a success!

I hope these steps help you balance the fine line between SEO friendly and reader friendly content development when it comes to your blog posts, articles, and page content.  What additional tips would you like to give writers who have to develop content for both worlds?

Kristi Hines is a blogging and social media enthusiast.

SEO Keyword Density: Lose This Relic and Adopt Best Practices

Greetings to you! With today’s video post, Heather hopes to put to rest that chronic, persistent “keyword density” question: “What’s the best keyword density for my site?”

Having been around the block a time or two for nearly 14 years, Heather has encountered this question time and time again.  Her short answer: there is no such thing anymore!  Here she expounds on why this is so, giving her insight into the history behind the whole stubborn keyword density concept, and how to move beyond this antiquated mindset to relevant SEO copywriting best practices for keyword and keyphrase use:

What’s the best keyword density for your site?

From the beginning of SEO time, this question has refused to go away.  The reason that people think that keyword density is important is because they believe that it is the key to good search engine rankings.  While this was once the case, circa 1999, it is no more.

But before getting into all that, for those who are unfamiliar with the “keyword density” equation:

How to calculate keyword density?

Count the number of keywords/keyphrases on a given page, then divide it by the total word count.  Voila:  keyword density.  For example, a 500-word page with 10 keywords/keyphrases =  a keyword density of 2-percent.

You can party like it’s 1999, but don’t write SEO copy that way!

Back in the (pre-Google) day, that 2-percent keyword density would have been shy of the 5.5-percent we were all striving for to get the top rankings via the (now extinct) Alta Vista search engine. It’s an understatement to say that much changed since then (i.e., Google arrived), and search engines of the day are now looking at other ranking factors and signals, such as social and links.

So there’s a whole host of other things going into the search engines’ algorithmic soup, and far more important things to focus on both for search engine relevancy and user experience.

What you want to do instead – SEO copywriting best practices:

Hope this helps clarify the whole keyword density question for you: in short, it’s no longer a viable question!

 

Should You Kill Your Blog?

I know this will sound weird coming from the SEO content chick. But I’m going to say it anyway.

Some companies should give up on blog writing and kill their blog.

Here’s why.

SEO content marketers (myself included) agree that blogging for B2B and B2C companies is a smart SEO and customer engagement move.  Blogs are great for marketing and lead generation. Google and Bing reward strong resource sites. Sounds like a win/win – right?

Well, not always.

We’re pushing the blog, blog, blog mantra so much that we forget a rarely talked-about fact: Not every company should blog. In fact, blog writing could be taking budget and time away from things that drive more revenue. Here are five times when folks should back away slowly from their blog – and never look back.

  • The “no time, no budget” scenario. Too busy to blog? It’s easy to say “outsource it” except for one little thing – outsourcing costs money. If you can’t find a quality writer for your budget and your team doesn’t have time, put blog writing on the back burner.  It’s better to have a top-quality blog that you’re proud of than a crappy blog that doesn’t help you (and you’re ashamed to show people.)
  • The “hate to write, no budget” scenario. Some folks can’t stand to write. And it shows. If this is you – and you honestly have no other available resources – please do yourself a favor and let your blog go. Instead, focus your energies somewhere else. For instance, I know a few ex-bloggers who love sending tweets. There’s not as much pressure to write the “right” thing when you only have 140 characters to work with.
  • PR insists that the blog should always promote your product or service. Blog writing is different than sales writing. You’ll allowed to be a little more casual and a whole lot less sales-y. If PR (or someone else high up on the food chain) insists that all posts should push your product or service, it’s time to reconsider your blogging fantasies. Yes, blogs can certainly help soft-sell what you offer. Sure, you can throw in the occasional sales message. But your main blog writing goal should be to engage your readers and keep them coming back for more. Not hitting them over the head with another sales message.
  • A blog doesn’t support your conversion goals. If you’ve built a sales or lead generation-oriented microsite, a blog would actually detract from your conversion goal (getting people to buy from or contact you.) Blogs are great for folks in the “research” phase of the sales cycle. If you’re only focusing on folks who want to take action now, stick to writing conversion-oriented copy.
  • You’ve tried – you really have. But you aren’t seeing a ROI. There are scads of articles about what to do if people don’t like your blog content. By all means, see if you can “fix” your blog – an outside perspective can provide some fantastic ideas.  But if you’ve given it a solid shot and it’s still not meeting your goals (and yes, that means that you have to set marketing goals for your blog) consider saying “buh-bye” to your blog. Especially if other marketing channels are making you more money.

Are there any other times when a company should walk away from their blog? What would you add?

Blog About It! A Smart Content Marketing Strategy

Greetings!  Today we’re picking up our discussion of content strategy, specifically, how to develop and leverage our content by writing blogs.  As you’ve surely noticed, blogging is big and is only getting bigger, and with good reason:  besides helping to build search rankings and an online brand, blogs present a fantastic content marketing venue!  And because they’re relatively simple to set up and publish, blogs lend themselves well to providing new content on a regular basis.

As covered in some detail in the previous two posts (“Are you leveraging these content strategy opportunities?” and “Content Strategy: building out your content with articles”), the smart SEO content strategy seeks to capture prospects while they are actively searching for information and resources on our product or service.  This research phase of the buying cycle is where we meet them with fresh, useful content that (hopefully) leads them back to our site.  Blogs are an excellent platform for doing just!  So let’s look at building out and leveraging our content with blogs.

Blogs:  Pros, Cons, and Community

Blog Pros:

  • Blogs are highly malleable, allowing you to write about any subject you choose in as many words as you choose.  You’re not beholden to a word count – whether less than 100 or over 1,000 words, the only “rule” that applies is what works best for your target audience.
  • If you have an inflexible site template that doesn’t lend itself to adding new content, such as an e-commerce site, a blog gives you a forum to do so.  Similarly, if you’re dealing with a site that feels a bit “uptight” or you find yourself bored with its “corporate” tone, a blog allows you to unleash your personality and express your bad self!
  • Blogs allow you a rapport with your readers, and real-time feedback via comments: good, bad, and spammy.  Your community of loyal readers can help you with your business; their comments can guide you in making product or service decisions, and provide insight into what your target market is interested in.  As for spam, it can be deleted.  And negative comments can also enlighten you: even if it stings, it’s better to receive such comments directly than have them circulating beyond your radar.  You can at least deal with them when they’re right in front of you.

Blog Cons:

  • Blogs require consistency and commitment.  And they are work, make no mistake.  Writing a blog can feel especially burdensome when you’re crazy-busy, but it’s critical you stick to your editorial calendar and publish your blog regularly.  It doesn’t have to be daily, but then again, if you’re only posting once a week, you need to be sure that it is substantive:  it has to count!
  • Blogs require monitoring and attention.  You need to be responsive to your readers’ comments; it’s bad practice to publish then forget it.  It’s a certain blog-killer when your readers find their thoughtful, well-considered comments ignored.

Voice and Community:

  • If you plan to delegate your blog-writing to another, you need to provide a very clear outline of your editorial guidelines:  what’s okay, what is not, and what specifically is expected of them.  Not to advocate smothering their creativity, just underscoring the importance of being reasonably clear and ensuring consistency with your “voice.”
  • Whether it’s you or your delegated blog-writer, networking with other bloggers within your “circle” is an integral part of effective blogging.  Blogging is about community, and while simply blogging for the sake of it is okay, sharing your input with others via guest blogs, commentary on other blogs, linking out, and mentions will encourage others to help you with the same: linking out to your content, mentioning your work, promoting your offerings, etc.  You have to earn your blogger love!

How to Structure a Blog Post

Structuring a blog post is much like structuring an article.  You can check out Twitter and Google Insights to see what folks are discussing, as well as what they want to know.  As with articles, you’ll want to use the same keyphrase and linking strategy:  use your main keyphrase in your headline, and whenever it is possible and makes sense, hyperlink the keyphrases.  Smart blogging will also link seamlessly to your site’s product or service pages – again, when it makes sense to do so.

There, the similarities end.  There are several ways blogs differ from articles, notably:

  • Unlike the monologue of an article, a blog post encourages discussion and seeks to build a rapport with a community of readers.  It provides an ideal venue for soliciting feedback, running interviews, and offering your (informed) opinion.
  • Blog writing is personal, real-time, and spontaneous.  And a great way to measure your blog-writing success is by the number of people commenting on your posts.  Ideally, you want to get folks discussing and sharing your post with others in their network.  It follows that if you’re looking at having to run every word by the corporate legal department or are otherwise stymied, a blog is not going to work for you.
  • As opposed to articles, it’s perfectly okay to write short, snappy blog posts interspersed with longer, in-depth ones.  (This actually can be a highly effective strategy, as evidenced by Seth Godin’s success with this style).  Another perk of this kind of flexibility is that you can give yourself a break every once in a while!  It’s not easy to conjure 500 words about such-and-such topic every day; grinding them out regardless of your muse invites a slow and painful burnout.  Here’s where the editorial calendar comes in to save your sanity:  setting it up around your schedule, going easy on the blog posts on your busiest days, is a great strategy.

Well, folks, that’s a wrap for today.  Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to leave a comment :-) Next week, we’ll discuss the art of writing news releases in our ongoing series on savvy content marketing strategy.  See you then!

What You can Learn From Starbucks Coffee’s Blogging Boo-Boos

Oh Starbucks. Why are you walking away from the conversation?

As an every-day SBUX addict, I was researching their latest loyalty program – the Starbucks Gold Card (which, apparently, is black – not gold. Um…?)

For $25, I would get 10% off most purchases, free wi-fi for two hours, access to exclusive sales and what they call “member recognition” (strike one: I have to pay $25 on top of my daily coffee purchases to be “recognized?”).

So, like a good social media chick, I went to the Starbucks Blog where they posted a “sneak peek” of the Gold card (note: this blog post is gone and wasn’t even redirected to a custom 404 page. Bad Starbucks!). Although the tone and feel is a little too…corporate…for my taste, the original blog post did a good job outlining the benefits.

But then the problems began…

Comments started rolling in. People were (understandably) confused.

Did they need to combine their new Gold card with their regular Rewards card to get maximum discounts?

Why does someone need to pay to get a discount?

What kind of cool insider “member recognition” benefits will they recognize?

And why did the official Starbucks blog post specifically say, “so don’t be surprised if your barista isn’t up-to-speed yet!” (Great…so that means I have to pay for a discount AND educate my barista?)

So, let’s examine where Starbucks went wrong.

  1. There were 128 comments about the initial post. Starbucks responded twice. That’s it – even while there was a whirl of controversy going on. If you read through the comments, you’ll notice one customer who was incredibly excited about receiving a Gold Card get more and more discouraged with the Starbucks customer service process.  At no time did anyone step in and address his concerns. I would venture to say that the process basically turned a would-be evangelist into a cynical detractor.
  2. The official Starbucks response made it seem like a very elite group of people received a free card – and the rest of the registered Starbucks card users didn’t count.  Saying “Those that received the Gold card early were among our most dedicated and consistent registered card users,” is a slap in the face to people who (according to comments) spend thousands of dollars every year with Starbucks.  Heck, even I was miffed that I didn’t get a free offer – I’m in a Starbucks every day, sometimes twice a day.  It would have been much easier (and less offensive) to say that people were “randomly chosen.” People won’t argue with random…but they will feel cheated if they don’t feel “special” enough.
  3. They should have had a chart (or some kind of visual) showing the potential savings.  The big objection Starbucks needs to overcome is “I don’t want to shell out $25 for a loyalty card.” For many people (me included) that is a big enough stop sign to halt the consideration process in its tracks. If people are in coffee-buying mode, they probably aren’t in number-crunching mode…especially for early-morning Starbucks visitors who need that first cup to wake up. It would have been more effective to show in dollars and cents how the card would pay for itself in less than three months.
  4. Saying that I, as a Gold Card member, would have to “educate my barista” is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  From a corporate communications standpoint, you’re basically saying that either (1) Starbucks can’t get their act together to train their baristas properly or (2) their baristas are too slow to “get it (which is not the case – I heart my Starbucks baristas!) Either way, way to make the corporation look bad.  If I’m paying $25 for a loyalty card, I shouldn’t have to tell my barista how to give me my discount. I’m typically hitting my store at 6am sharp – that’s not exactly the time that I’m eagle-eyed and in the mood to fight for an additional 10% off.

Unfortunately, this isn’t new behavior for the coffee giant. Lisa Wehr discussed how Starbucks didn’t update their 2007 holiday podcasts, calling it a clear sign that “Starbucks was falling out of touch with their customers.”

I congratulate Starbucks with trying new forms of marketing to connect with customers. They have a loyal following (me among them,) great brand recognition and their partners are awesome.

However, just as Starbucks would never let a barista walk away in the middle of a conversation with a customer, they should frequently check their blog posts and keep the conversation (or “connection” in Starbucks-speak) flowing – NOT walk away from a post just ’cause it’s posted.

Additionally, Starbucks should carefully consider their blog post wording – as experienced copywriters know, how you say what you say is exceptionally important. An innocuous phrase like “our most dedicated and consistent..customers” can actually alienate people if used the wrong way

Part of Starbucks new mission statement specifically focuses on “our customers” and “our neighborhoods.”  Now, it’s time to redefine “customers” and “neighborhoods” to encompass online communities and provide the same level of communication you’d find in any retail store. THAT would keep with the customer-service oriented Starbucks corporate culture…and it would help their online customers feel heard.