Why I’m Recycling My Old Content (And You Should Too!).

Have you ever pulled out an old pair of pants from your closet, and found money stashed inside?

It doesn’t matter if you found $1 or $100, the reaction is always the same. You get a little thrill from the experience. Your heartbeat quickens.

And a thought pops into your head like, “Woohoo! Found money! Score!”

I’ve been feeling the same way about my old blog posts. Here’s why.

I’ve talked before about the importance of performing an SEO content audit. There are many SEO advantages to doing so — for instance, you can find and fix posts with bad Titles, get rid of “thin” posts and change any bad links.

But there’s also another huge advantage that will give you a “woohoo” moment.

Chances are, you have a bunch of old posts (maybe 20…maybe 100 or more) you can tweak, update and repost as new content.

And it’s easy, too!

This idea hit me square in the noggin when I was running my own content audit. I constantly run reader surveys, so I know my readers are looking for SEO copywriting 101 tips, freelance business tips and how to increase leads with SEO content.

I’ve blogged about these topics many times before. So many times that I forgot about some of my old posts from seven or eight years back. They may occasionally receive some social media love — and many of them position well — but they are basically “forgotten.”

That’s when I had my brainstorm.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing brand new posts, why not make my existing posts better?

Woohoo!

Here are the steps I’m taking:

– I’m combing through every post on my site. Yes, every page. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming. Every couple days or so, I find a winning post I completely forgot about. A post that makes me think, “Ooh, you are like finding money in an old pair of jeans!”

– I note the URL in the “pending” section of my editorial calendar. I know that I’ll be sprucing the post up eventually — I just have to decide when.

– A week before I make an old post new again, I review the post and look for new writing opportunities. What are “new writing opportunities,” you ask? It depends on the post. They include:

  • Updating out-of-date information. This process can take a few minutes — or much more time. For instance, an SEO copywriting 101-type post can require a lot of editing. A general tips post may take an hour or less.
  • Checking the links to make sure they’re still live and relevant.
  • Adding (or heavily editing) the introduction. For instance, I may have an experience that is relevant to the post and be good to add. I did this for the post 5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs.
  • Adding or deleting graphics.
  • Including a quote, tweet or other relevant information.
  • Linking to new resources.
  • Rewriting bits of the content. My inner editor always kicks in and forces me to rewrite something — even if it’s just a paragraph or two.
  • Changing (or adding) a call-to-action. For instance, I can add a CTA for my Copywriting Business Bootcamp to many of my freelance business posts (and no, I have no idea why I didn’t do it before.) Adding a CTA obviously helps me from a sales perspective and also lets my readers know other ways I can help them.
  • Revising or testing headlines. Seven years ago, I didn’t have access to KingSumo Headlines, which lets you test different headlines. Now I do, and I LOVE trying new headlines. Side note: I like to make a bet with myself and guess which headline will pull better. The results are often very surprising.

Once the post is ready for prime-time (again), I set the post to publish. To do this, simply change the “Publish” settings in WordPress.Change publication date

 

If I wanted to revise this post, I’d change the publication date and click “OK.” Voila! That’s all there is to it!

Here are the most common questions I receive about repurposing old blog posts:

Wait — isn’t this cheating? Shouldn’t I write a brand-new post?

You certainly can, especially if you feel like writing a new post would be more valuable to your readers. However, if you already have a super post, and you can make it even better, why reinvent the wheel?

When is recycling an old post NOT a good idea?

If the post was “thin” or poorly written in the first place, the revisions would probably take too much work.

But what about SEO? Won’t this change the post’s rankings?

Possibly, but just be smart about it. You’ll want to see how the post is currently positioning and how (or if) it’s driving traffic. In fact, if your revisions are extensive enough, it’s possible that your “new” post will position even better than the original one. This is especially true if you ignored keyphrase research the first time around.

Won’t people notice?

Maybe. But if you’re offering great value — who cares. Besides, you’ll still be writing new content in addition to repurposing your old stuff. Right? 🙂

Do I have to disclose “this is a recycled post?”

You could. There may be a story behind why you’re recycling the post, and sharing the story would add to the post. But you don’t have to.

How often can I get away with this?

There’s no rule of thumb that I’m aware of — and it also depends on your publication schedule. I feel OK recycling one old blog post a month.

Ready to get started with your blog? Go for it! And let me know how it goes. Feel free to leave a comment (or ask a question.)

Now it’s time to check out some other old blog posts…after all, my next woohoo moment may be right around the corner.

Photo credit: © CrailsheimStudio | Dreamstime.com

5 Experts Share How They Create Killer Headlines

As an online writer, you’ve surely come across many a post about how to create a stellar headline. And you’ve likely found that it’s not as easy to do as prescribed.

Should you go for the sexy headline that invites clicks? Or for the one that is sure to position in the search engines with optimization? Or perhaps the one that is choice for social sharing?

But…what if you could accomplish all of the above with one headline?

We called on five copywriting wizards to share their strategies for writing an amazing headline, posing this question:

Obviously, a “good” headline should clearly convey to readers what they can expect from a post and serve their interests. Given that, what is your strategy for writing a headline that captures clicks, leverages SEO and invites social sharing?

Their illuminating responses are as brilliant as their headlines…

larry-kim

Larry Kim (@larrykim), Founder & CTO of WordStream, Inc.

 I optimize for insanely high social sharing that in turn, generates the links that will make this asset rank very highly. Months later, after the links have been acquired, I can revisit the content and do some on-page SEO tweaks. Take this recent article about working mothers, for example:

larry-kim-example

This thing got 23 thousand shares in just a few days – why? Child rearing is an INSANELY powerful emotional trigger. You can bet that every mom that saw this thing wanted to confirm or defend their life choices by sharing this thing. You really do only get milliseconds to grab a reader’s attention and convince them to share or click through and read the rest of your article.

Do your research. It’s totally pointless to spend an hour or more writing something and then slap whatever title you came up with off the top of your head on it. I do the opposite: I use BuzzSumo to see what else is most popular right now and research a topic that I know will do well. From there, I just fill in the article. Meaning, the title comes first, not last.

Leave a “knowledge gap” to pique the curiosity of your readers; this is why those crazy “You Won’t Believe What Happens…” titles work. You need to find your hook — that unusual, different, original take on it that makes your content really awesome — but then don’t forget to highlight that in your title.

Of course, you want to use relevant keywords, but watch the length, too. Keep it short and punchy. If there are any unnecessary words, cut them out. Resist the urge to be too descriptive; you don’t want to give away the whole article in the title. Most importantly though, make sure your content delivers on the promise of your title so you can keep that engagement and sharing high.

Take a look at this tweet that leverages the curiosity gap idea and got over a thousand retweets, which then generated hundreds of thousands of pageviews:

larry-kim-twitter

 

See how that works? Boom!

 

ian-lurie

Ian Lurie (@portentint), CEO of Portent

Here’s my shot:

  • I start by writing a headline that’s fully descriptive. It has to tell the reader exactly what they’ll see when they start reading.
  • Then I work to provide a ‘hook.’ That may mean including one of the basic power words: What/how/win/lose etc.
  • Then I think about my audience. This sounds backwards, I know, and I don’t mean that I ignore my audience at step 1. I mean I look for inside jokes, hot buttons, pet peeves, etc. that might help me connect more directly with them.

That’s it. I try to keep things simple. But I do quite a bit of work tweaking and changing. I believe the content matters a lot, but the headline is the entry point into the larger piece, so I really want to get it right.

 brian-massey

Brian Massey (@bmassey), Founder of Conversion Sciences

 Headlines are hard because they are burdened with great responsibility. We think a great conversion-oriented headline must do the following:

1. Keep the promise. Whatever was promised in the ad, link, email or social share should be reiterated in the headline. If the page is receiving organic traffic, the keyword is the promise. Be sure your headline contains the right words for searchers.
2. Chase away the wrong visitors. Writing a great headline means knowing who you want to draw in to the page. By definition, this means letting go of almost everyone else.
3. Include the phone number. If you want visitors to call, including the phone number in the headline is a great way to entice that.
4. Test and retest. You will be surprised by what works for you.

Questions?

glenn-murray

Glenn Murray (@divinewrite), Founder of Divine Write

 Headlines are a creative thing for me. So it’s hard to describe how I craft them. I don’t follow rules or even have a conscious strategy. That’s not to say I don’t have a strategy at all; I’ve just never tried to articulate it. Indeed, I wasn’t even able to answer this question without deconstructing some of my old blog headlines. You may as well see that deconstruction…

Here’s a collection of some headlines I’ve written that seemed to drive traffic and prompt people to comment on the headline itself. Along with each, I’ve written a quick description of why I think it was successful.

  • Why I prefer ass – This would be confronting for a lot of people. And it’s completely unexpected in a copywriting context. Some people will click on it because they want to see what it’s really about. And some will click because they’re hoping against hope it’s sexual.
  • The second-most important copywriting rule – Everyone talks about the number 1 rule for things. Rarely about the number 2. So that’s kinda unexpected. It also suggests that the post will be understated (people get sick of overselling and sensationalism).
  • For 13 years my website was missing one critical ingredient. Is yours missing it too? – Even after running my copywriting business for 14 years, I still make mistakes. Some of them quite big. And I’m more than happy to admit it when I do. People are engaged by self-effacing headlines or headlines that expose your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It draws people closer. Plus readers might worry they could be making the same mistake themselves.
  • I’m no Don Draper. So am I still a copywriter? – I think every copywriter has wondered this. I just voiced their insecurity. So they’d be curious to hear my answer. And again, they could be drawn closer by my vulnerability.
  • Some writing that’s so good it made me cry – All copywriters love good writing. So curiosity will get the better of a lot of people here. And again, there’s the vulnerability thing.
  • Kate Toon & Belinda Weaver asked what my copywriting fetish is. Bet you can’t guess the answer… – Like the ‘ass’ headline, this one is sexually suggestive. Especially if you know Kate and Belinda. Some people will be drawn to it for that reason alone (that often works on me!). Others will be curious to get an insight into a copywriter they see as an old dog of the industry.
  • If working with your copywriter was a breeze, you just wasted your money – This is counter-intuitive, which will intrigue readers.
  • Get off your high-horse. You only hate clickbait headlines ‘cos you wish you wrote ’em – Confrontational. Many copywriters have a thing against clickbait headlines, and I insulted them for it. They’ll click through to see how I could possibly justify that insult and maybe even argue with me (if only in their heads).
  • Dead scribe a-thinkin’: How Missy Elliot’s hips cured my writer’s block – The incongruent elements here are a bit surprising (intriguing). How could Missy Elliot’s hips even be relevant to copywriting, much less cure writer’s block? Also the sexual innuendo will get a few people curious.

So if distill the summaries above, here’s what I end up with:

  • confronting
  • unexpected
  • sexual innuendo
  • unusual headline approach
  • understated
  • self-effacing
  • expose your weaknesses / vulnerabilities / insecurities / private personality
  • imply the reader might have the same weaknesses as you
  • curiosity
  • counter-intuitive
  • confrontational / invite argument
  • incongruence

Obviously you can’t just treat this list as a recipe. It has to be appropriate for your audience (even if confronting) and it has to match your personality. Perhaps a good litmus test is to ask yourself if you’d say it at a party with friends and kinda-friends (for me, that’s a party with the other parents from my kids’ school). You have to be able to shock / intrigue / engage without sounding like that sleazy bloke who always snickers about boobs and threesomes.

kate-toon

Kate Toon (@katetooncopy), Founder of Kate Toon Copywriter

I firmly believe a click-worthy headline beats an SEO-optimised headline every time.

Many readers will share a post simply based on its headline, and many won’t have read the rest of the article. Ogilvy had it right when he said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

Of course, we all want to please the Google gods. But it’s people who truly drive the Internet, so if we can suck them in with a winning headline then Google will most definitely follow.

I like to use a mix of slightly odd, quirky headlines and more straightforward no-nonsense approaches.

So one week I might try:

“How my vagina helps me write better copy”

And the next:

“How to write a copy deck in five easy steps”

I follow up the headline with a sub-header. If the headline is quirky, the sub will be more focused. And if the headline is practical, the sub-header will be more conversational.

But whatever headline I choose, I always make sure my article delivers on that headline quickly and comprehensively. Because I don’t just want readers to click. I want them to read, like, comment, share and link, link, link!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Influence? Eric Enge Talks Influencer Marketing

How do you influence an influencer?

How do you influence an influencer?

Today we’re happy to feature Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. As a recognized, wicked-smart digital marketing and SEO expert, he brings a lot to any table. He’s served up many delightful and insightful dishes to our readers over the years, and his latest spread concerns influencer marketing.

Feast on his insights into this latest online marketing buzz!

There’s a lot of online chatter about “Influencer marketing” of late, as you well know. In your recent Stone Temple blog post, you outline a “script” with 7 steps for building a relationship with an influencer. Of these, which would you consider paramount, and why?

Focus on building a relationship. You need to view this as a give and take situation. Think of it as you are approaching them for purposes of benefiting them. Once you get this part right, the rest of what you need to do becomes much easier!

Most copywriters – both in-house and freelance — likely approach influencers either for their company or on behalf of their clients. As an influencer yourself, you’re likely inundated with requests to connect, help with something, or help promote something. So what makes you take notice of a request, as opposed to filing it in the “I don’t have time” pile?

In keeping with the prior answer, do some hard work up front. Read lots of their content. Read lots of their social posts. Find out what makes them tick. Then add value and engage them in a way that interests them.

Then, start slow. Don’t stalk them, don’t send them 10 messages in 2 weeks, or anything like that. Just take it a step at a time. Retweet their Tweets. +1 their blog posts. Add comments to their posts, these types of things.

Wait to you start to get some acknowledgement of your activity. Then when the time is right take another step forward in the relationship. Whatever you do, don’t ever ask them to share your stuff or link to you. That’s just plain offensive. Take your time with it, and let it develop, just like you would any other relationship.

This is essential. It’s not about you (at all). It starts, begins, and ends with them. Once you learn to approach people this way, they will start taking some of their energy and making it about you.

That’s how you create that magic win-win that you are looking for.

Related to the previous question: in your experience what is a completely original approach that worked really well? And what is your “horror story” of an approach that failed miserably?

The positive:  I left a Red Sox game one day, and noticed a famed baseball writer standing on a street corner, as he had just left the game as well.

I went up to him and the first thing I said was “Has anyone ever done what Koji Uehara almost did today?” (which was strike out the site in the 9th inning of a game to clinch a playoff series).

He warmed right up to me and we spent 15 minutes talking baseball like little kids. All the while, lots of other people were coming up and fawning all over him, and he more or less ignored them, while he and I just kept talking about the game.

Now this was not a content marketing based reason for my approaching him, I did it just for fun, but it still illustrates the point of how it’s done.

The negative: For a long time, people would simply generate mailing lists of people and blast messages out to them. Gradually, they got more sophisticated and cut down the volume, and added a very basic level of personalization. However, this still doesn’t work.

I know of one case where someone built a list of targets and robotically went through the process of getting emails sent out. They didn’t notice that one of the email addresses was donotspam@somedomain.com. The site owner submitted to a variety of services for tracking spam email accounts, and got their email account blacklisted. Ouch!

About a year ago, Barry Feldman (Feldman Creative) posted “30 Action Items to Get Serious About Influencer Marketing”. One of the items he emphasized is to “make LinkedIn your social center.” Do you agree with that? Or is there another social hub you’d recommend?

I don’t think that LinkedIn is necessarily the right social center for everyone. Yes, it’s a powerful network, and it has ways to contact people, and tons of people have LinkedIn accounts.

But, I think the right hub for you is probably where you have the largest audience related to your products. If you are into photography for example, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ would probably be better picks than LinkedIn.

All of these approaches assume that an influencer will eventually contact and build a relationship with you. However, what about those influencers who won’t give you the time of day? Maybe they’re too busy. Maybe you’re not part of their “in” crowd. Maybe they just don’t care to build a relationship. When do you walk away and figure it’s not going to happen?

You can’t force it. Some people won’t want to connect, no matter how hard you try. But, it’s not about connecting with everyone on day one. You should have multiple people you are trying to build a relationship with. Do the hard work, do your best.

If you approach five, and you start to make a connection with one, then great! Move on with the others. And, as I noted below, with each one, take it slow, and let the relationships develop naturally.

To play Devil’s Advocate here…what would you say to people who think “influencer marketing” is one-sided — that is, someone is trying to ride on an influencer’s coattails/get help from them, and that’s the only reason they’re approaching that person? After all, don’t influencers have better things to do than help everyone who asks?

This pretty much feeds into everything else I said. Don’t let it be one-sided. If you are looking for someone to use, then influencer marketing is not for you. If you are looking to form real bonds and establish mutually beneficial relationships … now we’re talking.

How much time do you personally spend on influencer marketing? How much time would you recommend people spend on it?

Honestly, I am not quite sure. It starts with my deciding that someone is of great interest to me, not just because they have influence, but because they see things in a way that’s very similar to how I see them, and I think we could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Then I start reading their stuff, both in terms of articles/posts and social media posts. I will start interacting with them. I might be working on a few of these at a time. Or I might only be pursuing one at that moment. If I had to guess, it’s anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour per day for me.

If you are just getting started on this, then you might want to spend a bit more time on it. But probably not too much more. You need to spend some time on producing your own great, original content and doing your regular work as well!

Connect with Eric on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn 

Photo credit to Ryan McFarland | Flickr.com

 

 

Rock Your Blog With 5 Expert Promotion Tips

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 (https://clicktotweet.com/). 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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Heard of These 5 Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas?

dreamstime_s_30606781

Need blog post ideas? Try these tips!

Let’s face it. Magically coming up with blog post ideas is grueling. Sure, you can schedule time to brainstorm post ideas (here’s how to generate over 3,000 a year!). But what about those days when the ideas don’t come, you’re on deadline, and you feel like you’ve written it all before?

Don’t get stuck – get inspired, instead! Here are 5 ways you can generate blog post ideas.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

How could I have not written about this gem before? This tool is brought to you by the good folks at Portent, run by Ian Lurie (if you don’t follow Ian Lurie, do it now. You’re in for a snarky treat.)

Simply type in your general post idea and let the Content Idea Generator do all the work. For instance, I typed in one of the most boring topics I could dream up: screw compressors. Years ago, I used to handle the marketing for a company that made flash freezers for fishing boats. I often had to  come up with sexy press angles about screw compressors.

Yes. Pity me.

Here’s what the Idea Generator came up with:

Content Idea Generator

The verdict? Not bad. If you’re in an industry that makes, needs or sells screw compressors, you could easily come up with a list of 18 things. Well done, Content Idea Generator!

Use forums for fun and profit

Some people think forums are old school. I mean, aren’t all the cool kids hanging out on Google + now (OK, OK…I had to make that joke.) Seriously, it’s amazing how many people forget about forums as great idea generators. Plus, all you need to do is some quick Google searches to make it happen.

Simply type [forum:your topic] into Google and see what comes up. In this case, I used the search term [food cart]. Us Portlanders really love our food carts.

 

forum_food_cart_-_Google_Search

Voila! You’re rewarded with a plethora of post ideas! If this is too overwhelming, you can search inside the forums. Try using search terms like:

  • I hate it when
  • can’t find
  • need advice
  • question about
  • can anyone help me

(H/T to Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income blog for the search terms tip.)

Check out industry conference topics

Conference organizers spend hours figuring out the best session topics for their events. Why? Because they know the right session topics (read: the ones that people want to know about) will drive ticket sales. Plus, many conferences now crowdsource their session ideas and ask people to vote on their favorites – virtually guaranteeing that the topics are spot-on.

For instance, sensory deprivation float tanks are all the rage right now (heck, I was even interviewed for a piece in The Nation about float tanks!) The float industry has an annual conference held in Portland, OR for float enthusiasts, float tank center owners and people in the industry. One of the days is an intensive workshop geared towards owners:

Float_Center_Workshop

This page alone provides scads of blog post ideas, from, “how to soundproof your float tank room” to “how to use social media to promote your float business.” If you’re stuck for topic ideas, conference pages will shake loose some great ideas.

As a side note, I’ve never read any other post discussing this tip (although one may be out there.) So, by using it, you may have an inside track on your competition. You’re welcome.

Webinar Q & A sessions

Here’s another idea I’m surprised isn’t utilized more. You know how you’re tempted to boogie out of a webinar session when the Q & A kicks in? Yes, I know you have things to do, and you’ve already learned what you want to learn…

…but by walking away from the Q & A, you’re missing out on a bevy of blog post ideas.

dreamstime_14382654

Think about it. People in your target audience are asking questions. Some (if not most) of those questions could turn into a blog post idea. Heck, you could even write the title like a headline, for instance, “How can I find float tank regulations for my city?” That’s SEO copy gold, baby!

Plus, if you include the webinar presenter’s answer in your blog post, you can send them a note and let them know you cited her. BOOM, now an influencer may tweet your post to the masses.

You can use this blog post idea hack during conferences, too. While other people are filing out of the room, you can smile knowing you have enough blog post fodder to last you for a long time.

Podcasts

“I don’t have time to listen to podcasts!” I get it. I love the idea of podcasts, but I don’t always have the 10-20 minutes to listen to them. Fortunately, this tip is less about listening to a podcast (although you certainly can) and more about learning from their descriptions.

For instance, Jeff Goins includes show highlights on his site (where you can also listen to his podcast.) Just look at all these tasty topics:

How_to_Write_Fiction_for_a_Living_with_Stacy_Claflin

Look – there are 11 bullet points you could transform into a meaty blog post! What are you waiting for? You should start writing right now!

Granted, not all podcasters post their talking points on their blog. In that case, even checking out iTunes provides some good information. Do a keyword search for what you want to know more about and check out the podcasts that come back. For instance, if I search for [make money blogging], the ProBlogger Podcast pops up. Here’s a screen shot:

Podcast

If the podcast titles don’t birth a brainstorm, the podcast descriptions will. Just hover over the “information” button in iTunes to get the scoop.

Plus, this technique is a great way to find podcasting influencers you may not have heard of before. I hadn’t heard of some of the [make money blogging] podcasters that iTunes returned – but now they’re on my radar.

Blogging day in and day out can be a chore. Hopefully, these five tips will help expand your topic horizons and make the generating blog idea process a little less painful.

Inspired? Let me know in the comments! Or, feel free to post a tip. I’d love to read it!

 

5 Branding Tips for Building Your Biz: The Chicken & Egg Strategy

Your brand and audience are inextricably linked.

Your brand and audience are inextricably linked.

by Tracy Mallette

Your audience — meaning your combined readers, as well as potential and current customers — and your brand are inseparably linked.

Your audience builds your brand and your brand builds your audience.

Like the chicken and egg, it can be hard to know which came first – and which should come first when building your business.

The truth is: in the brand or audience question, neither comes first. They both feed each other.

The following five brand-building tips can also be used as five consecutive steps to building your audience.

1. Tell Your Story and Define Your Culture

Share Your Brand Story

Every brand has a story. What’s yours?

Why did you start your business? What led you on the quest to create your business? Was something missing in your life that you couldn’t find an existing solution for?

Chances are that’s the same problem your audience is having.

Help them relate to you and your brand by sharing your story with them.

Write up your story without your editor’s hat, then spruce it up with editing, and create a blog post or an “About” page that shares the story with your readers.

As I type this, my cat’s freaking out over a thunderstorm, and it reminds me that I should get her a ThunderShirt – a vest invented to help pets stay calm during storms.

It also reminds me of the ThunderShirt About page, which tells the story of the company’s founder Phil Blizzard and his dog Dosi. Dosi’s thunderstorm stress led Phil to invent the ThunderShirt.

Other pet owners can relate to that story and will likely trust his solution will probably work for their pet, as well.

Define Your Culture

Along with sharing your brand story, you should define your company culture.

Tell your audience exactly who you are, who you aren’t and what you stand for. Let them know what they can expect from your site.

The Bloggess does this really well. She has built an audience that loves her style and offers a warning to others: “If you are easily offended, you’re in the wrong place.” Her tagline is “Like Mother Teresa, only better.” You like her or you don’t. You’re a member of her tribe or you’re not. You fit in or you don’t. There’s no wondering if the site’s right for you.

Key Takeaway: Your story combined with your company culture will help build your true audience. Your audience will love you because you “get” them. You know what they’re going through and you share their beliefs and ideals.

2. Tell Your Audience How You Can Help Them

Spell Out the Benefits of Your Product or Service

If you’ve crafted your perfect story explaining how you’ve solved a problem with a solution that fills a need in the market, you expect your audience to realize that it’ll work for them, too.

Well, that’d be great if they just got the point and leapt over to your purchase page immediately. And some precious customers actually do that.

But you can’t assume they will.

Always spell out the benefits of your product or service to potential customers – even if you’ve explained all of the glorious ways your solution helped you in your brand story.

Specify Your Competitive Advantages

Not only should you list all of the benefits of your offer, but you should also detail the benefits of going with you over the competition.

If you’ve defined your culture, you can (and should) personalize your benefits and competitive advantages.

For example, there are a lot of copywriters out there. Why should someone choose your copywriting business over another?

If you’re Pam Foster, the answer is simple. She’s the pet copywriter – as in, she writes exclusively about pets; you don’t get to keep her. (Although that’d be cool. I’m sure there’s some copywriter out there who’s offering themselves up as your pet. Now that’s a unique audience!)

Anyone in the pet industry who’s looking for a copywriter and is overwhelmed with where to begin, can type “pet copywriter” into Google, and BAM, there’s Pam’s PetCopywriter.com website in first place.

Key Takeaway: Spelling out the benefits of your product or service, along with specifying your competitive advantages, further defines your audience and endears them to you. Not only does your company “get” them personally, but it also understands what they’re going through and how it can help them solve their problems.

3. Make Them Heroes

This goes along with the benefits you’ve highlighted via tip 2.

Don’t just solve their problems. Go above and beyond by telling your audience how your product or service will help them help others – and the accolades they’ll receive from their success.

Are you on the marketing team for a company that offers same-day plumbing services? Let your reader know that by hiring your company, your customer not only solved his/her leaky-kitchen-sink problem but became a hero to their family.

Can you just hear their spouse now? “Wait, we just discovered the kitchen sink’s leaking this morning and it’s already fixed? I thought we were gonna have to wash our dishes in the bathroom sink for a week! Whew, such a relief.”

Heather does this really well with her B2B SEO copywriting certification page. She opens with: “Over 69% of B2B marketers don’t have time to produce SEO content. Now you can help …”

She lets you know that you can be the hero to all of these crazy-busy B2B marketers – and that there’s a huge market for B2B content creation services.

Key Takeaway: Making your audience the heroes gives them a bonus. Your company solves their problem AND lets them feel extra good about helping others. When your audience feels that good about your product or service, they’ll come back for more and they’ll bring friends, which is an audience-building bonus for you, too!

4. Personalize Communication with Your Audience

This goes beyond just autofilling your subscribers’ first names in email messages.

When you really know your audience, you can put extra care and attention into communicating with them.

Heather creates and sends an email to all of her SEO Copywriting Certification graduates. In this email, she actually includes job opportunities, which I’ve never seen someone do in a newsletter before.

She knows that a lot of her certification grads are looking for freelance writing opportunities. She also knows that because they’ve taken her course, she can vouch for their skills to her business connections. She provides personalized value for her audience while also building trust and gratitude.

When you give your audience something extra, they want to give back to you.

Key Takeaway: Personalizing communication with your audience lets them know that you care about their success and happiness. They’re not just a sale to you. This will pay off for your brand through customer loyalty, repeat sales and brand evangelism.

5. Foster Your Community

When you build a brand, you’re building a community.

You’re like Irving Bacon in The Marriage License episode of I Love Lucy: You’re the mayor, the hotel owner, you run the gas station and the fire department, among other duties in your small town. (See 13:32 in the episode to get the idea.)

Here are some ways to build your audience and brand through nurturing your own online community.

  • Facilitate discussions with your community by starting a forum or LinkedIn group. Copyblogger offers a paid membership group with an online marketing forum called Authority.
  • Educate your community with a blog and content offers. Marketing automation platform HubSpot offers a marketing academy, a marketing library, an inbound marketing conference, a marketing blog, a sales blog, certifications and more to educate its audience.
  • Entertain your community through social media. Porch, a network connecting homeowners to home-service professionals, offers design-inspiration eye candy on its Pinterest page.

Here’s what Corey Eridon, managing editor of HubSpot’s blogs, had to say about its growth through audience education:

HubSpot’s cofounder Dharmesh Shah started blogging before there was even a piece of software to sell – educating the community about business, marketing and tech. Now, almost a decade later, HubSpot’s educational marketing blog has become almost inseparable from the HubSpot brand. While we’ve started to write about other subject matter over the years, what keeps people coming back to the blog is the marketing how-to articles – the pieces that answer marketers’ most fundamental questions about how to do their job every day. Those articles are how people discover HubSpot, and then rediscover it over and over as they grow in their marketing careers.

Key Takeaway: Become like a parent to your own online community by helping your audience learn and grow. Interact with, educate and entertain them. Encourage them when they’re feeling down or stressed. Offer a little tough love when necessary. Love them and they will love you back. This is the real community that comprises your brand.

Build Your Brand, Build Your Audience and Help Each Other Thrive

By defining your business story and culture, you attract and hold the interest of your audience.

Take that further a few steps further by telling that audience how you can help them, even making them heroes, and you can convert that audience into fiercely loyal customers who’ll share your brand with others.

From there, you take it over the top with personalized communication and building a warm and fuzzy community for your now tribe, and they will pay you back as brand evangelists, who can’t stop gushing about you on social media.

This cycle feeds itself as your brand gets stronger and your audience grows.

Enjoy it!

What do you think? What other brand-building techniques have been successful in also building your audience? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo credit to ©Raising Chickens.org

Going Beyond Shareable Content with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson

children-sharing-milkshakeToday we’re happy to share our interview with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson. As BuzzSumo is a relatively new company, we asked Steve to talk a bit about its founding before answering the seven specific questions we had for him. You’ll want to be sure to read his intriguing take on the future of social sharing. Enjoy!

When was BuzzSumo founded?

The first version of the free product was created in 2013 by James Blackwell and Henley Wing. This tool allowed people to search for the most shared content published over the past 6 months.

At the time they were employed and developing the product in their spare time. I was so impressed by the tool that I approached James and Henley about developing a paid product, creating a company and working on the product full-time.

We first met face to face in December 2013, where I agreed to invest to allow James and Henley to work full-time on developing BuzzSumo Pro as a paid product.

We established BuzzSumo as a company in March 2014, with the three of us as directors. The first paid product, BuzzSumo Pro, was launched in September 2014. The paid version includes content alerts, reports and influencer analysis. We have continued to add to the product, including our latest trending features.

What was the inspiration for its creation?

In essence it was about searching for content that was resonating with people. Google is great, but it is based on authority sites. Thus if you search for, say, e-learning, it will start with Wikipedia. We were interested in the content that was resonating, e.g., what was the most shared content during this week or that month.

We were also interested in how content gets amplified, meaning who shares and links to the content and why? Our tool will show who shared an article and who linked to it so you can understand how it is being amplified. I think promotion is a much neglected area — people should spend as much or more time on promoting content as researching and creating it.

We are a small team so we tend to cover lots of bases. I tend to focus on marketing and strategic development, and relationships with partners. We have recently done joint webinars with Cana, Hubspot, Uberflip and Wordstream. On any given day I can be doing anything from researching new feature ideas and talking to customers about what would be helpful to them, to writing articles and answering support queries.

Any milestones in BuzzSumo’s growth that you’d like to share?

We recently passed 100,000 subscribers to our free product and more importantly 1,000 paying customers.

The key to any successful SaaS (software as a service) product is minimizing churn, which is the turnover of paying customers. Thus you want to make sure you have a product that provides value and that people use as part of their daily work.

You need to track things like active daily users and your ongoing churn rate, as well as your monthly growth in revenues and users.

It is important to focus on customer service as you grow and help your customers to get the most out of the tool. They are also your greatest asset in that they can help you identify features that will be really valuable to your audience.

BuzzSumo was once described as a “fusion of human intelligence and digital intelligence”. That seems to be a good descriptor – can you talk a little about that?

I am not sure where that came from but I understand the sentiment. It is difficult to define “good content” but we can define content that is resonating with audiences as we can see people share it and link to it. We can draw insights from this data.

Thus we can see that posts with images get more shares than posts without, that infographics are well shared in some areas, that list posts get more shares than other content formats, that quizzes get well shared, etc. We can then improve our odds of producing content that resonates by understanding this data.

We have found that the best content formats depend a lot on the topic and the audience. It is important to research what works with your audience.

Tracking content trends is also important. A BuzzSumo top content search will show you the most shared content in the last month or last 24 hours so you can see what is resonating. The BuzzSumo trending section will show you today’s most shared content for any topic, providing real time insights into the content that is engaging your audience.

We are fundamentally about helping people create better content: content that resonates and gets shared. We hopefully do that by providing insights through data such as what is working in your area or for your competitors.

Many companies push out large volumes of content to “please Google.” How can big data streamline a company’s content marketing efforts and gain better results?

I think you need to start with content research and produce a content plan. I think one of the most important aspects of content marketing is being consistent. You need to consistently produce content as the benefits accrue over time. You need a schedule, whatever that is — e.g. one blog post a week — and you need to stick to it.

Data helps you to focus on creating content that works, and getting a balance of content to support the various stages of the sales funnel. Here are some examples below:

sales-funnel-content

 

 

 

 

What matters as much as the content itself is distribution and promotion, which we come to below.

Some experts believe that it’s better to write one really good piece of content a month (that’s properly promoted,) than multiple pieces of content with little or no promotion strategy. Have you seen data that supports this?

All content should be “good” and it can be better to produce one really good, well-researched article than four poor pieces of content. The key is that you are producing something of value to your audience. If you have limited resources you need to be realistic about what you can produce.

Sites like the Harvard Business Review produce good content but it doesn’t mean they only publish one blog post a week. In fact they average 50 blog posts a week. They do this through guest authors. Guest authors and curation are one way you can seek to increase the volume of content.

The key is that you promote your content. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, people will simply not find it if you don’t promote it. My view is that you need to spend as much time, if not more, promoting and amplifying content as creating it.

You need to think about this before you write your post. For example, can you involve influencers in the research or interview them? Be clear how you are going to promote the post – which social channels, how many people will share it for you, which forums are you going to submit your content to, what paid promotion you will use, etc.

From your research, how does the underlying emotion of a blog post impact its shareability? What can this mean for, say, B2B content that’s typically considered “boring?” Is there an opportunity there?

Emotion can help improve shareability. Last year we analyzed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web, and mapped each one to an emotion, such as joy, sadness, anger, amusement, laughter, etc. Here is how the breakdown of how the emotions looked:

popular-emotions

 

 

 

 

 

However, I don’t think you need to focus on emotion to get good shareability. In B2B, people are time pressed and want to do their job better and faster. Thus if you can produce content that is helpful, people will value it and share it.

So you can identify the key questions people are asking and produce good answers. The aim really is to be the best answer to the question. The top ten thousand “how to” posts this year were shared more than 19,000 times on average.

You can also experiment with list posts and picture lists. List posts provide a promise, such as “5 steps to improve your landing page”.

Posts that are well structured and skimmable also do well. Below is a good example. This post has clear numbered steps, links to further resources, good use of images to explain points, and top tips to make the post actionable.

skimmable-content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images work well because we process images much faster than text and they help us to skim articles faster. They also work well if you are taking someone through a process, telling a story or making comparisons. One post format I think will continue to do well is a picture list post, i.e., a curated series of images.

You conducted an interesting interview with SEMrush where you outlined how BuzzSumo and SEMrush go hand-in-hand for competitive intelligence efforts. Are there other tools you’d recommend for writers?

I use tools like BuzzSumo and Feedly to keep on top of new content and to generate content ideas.

On BuzzSumo, I use top content searches to find new content ideas, but what works better for me personally is setting up content alerts and custom trending feeds. I then turn each of these into RSS feeds that I pull into Feedly. I then get a constant stream of posts on specific topics such as data driven marketing.

For trending content, I will also use Hashtagify to see related trending hashtags.

Many smaller companies are direct competitors of large brands with big followings. What are some competitive intelligence steps their writers could take that could build authority faster and increase their content’s shareability?

There has never been a better time for small companies. They can move faster than larger brands and can achieve reach through web publishing combined with promotion and influencer marketing. They can really punch way above their weight.

Smaller companies can also jump on trends much faster and engage in relevant discussions.

They can build a personal voice, as well. I feel social is very much about people. I rarely follow someone unless they have a face; I don’t like to follow logos. When you think about whose articles you want to read on the web it is normally a person not a corporation.

If you peer into your crystal ball — where do you think social sharing is headed?

I think it is interesting that more people discover content now via social than via search. Social overtook search for the first time last year — in fact the volume of Google searches fell last year for the first time. A recent research project published by the American Press Institute found that young people get most of their news from social channels.

Social media’s role as a content discovery platform is only just beginning. I think people will become more sophisticated in how they build personal learning networks using social media and how they mine social data for trends.

social-and-search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn

How to Avoid Boring Blog Interviews

Want to avoid boring guest interviews? Are you new to interviewing experts and need a process?

Running expert interviews is a nice win/win for all parties. Your expert gets exposed to a new audience and you get awesome, thought-leader content that drives links and gets shares.

Sadly, it’s not always as easy as that. Your expert may not be available. Your interview may come across as boring or  downright awkward. If this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone.

Fortunately, weird situations can typically be avoided.

There’s a method to the guest interviewing madness.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

Do send a good pitch.

A good pitch makes all the difference. If you want your email to get trashed, send something that says, “Hi, my name is Bob and I run the XYZ blog. Can I send you some interview questions?”

Ain’t nobody got time for a pitch like that!

Most guest experts are happy to help, but they also need to make sure that it’s worth their time and fits their audience (which sounds harsh, but it’s true.) If you want a fast yes, you’ll need to send more details. Consider adding information such as you blog’s readership numbers, your target audience and a brief idea of the interview topic. This information will help. Trust me.

Don’t get offended if someone says “no.”

Even the best pitches get rejected. Maybe your guest expert is traveling and doesn’t have time. Maybe your readership doesn’t fit their target market. Maybe she’s just completed six interviews and doing one more seems daunting. Whatever the reason, take it in stride and don’t bash the person on social media. Heck, I’d keep the interview door open – I’ve said “no” to some folks only to say “yes” a few months later.

As a side note: If you send an email and don’t hear back, send another “check in” note. I recently missed an interview opportunity because I accidentally trashed the original message. My bad. But had the person emailed me back, I would have been happy to help.

Do research your guest, read their bio and check out their site

It goes without saying that you should know your guest’s work, their background and what their site offers. Believe it or not, this doesn’t always happen. Especially when there is one person handling “guest acquisition” and another person runs the interview.

From the interviewee’s side, it’s really weird when the person who is interviewing you seems to know nothing about your work. Yes, it’s happened. Yes, it’s awkward – especially during a podcast. And yes, this is a great way for that guest expert never to talk to you again.

Don’t ask “how did you get started?”

“How did you start your career”  is a valid question. But I promise you unless the expert is brand new to their field, there are already 10+ interviews with him or her that outlines their career trajectory. That information is already out there.

Over my career, I have answered that question at least 100 times (and I’m probably estimating low.) Unless you can put a different spin on the question, asking about the expert’s past will do nothing but bore the audience and your guest expert. Try another lead instead – you can always summarize your guest expert’s achievements somewhere in the interview.

Do ask thought provoking questions.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, why let your post blend in when it can stand out? The key to conducting a really good guest interview is asking the questions nobody else has thought to ask before.

James Altrucher is the master at this. Whether he’s interviewing Coolio or Tony Robbins, he throws in a question (or more) designed to make his guest think. It’s obvious that James isn’t looking for a canned, “this is what your handler said is OK to say” response. He’s looking for something deeper. And his interviews are fascinating because of it (this is from a person who hates listening to podcasts.) You don’t need to make the entire interview sound like a therapy session. But a couple of deeper questions is good.

Planning a podcast? Do send the questions ahead of time.

Want your guest to love you? Send your questions a few days in advance and ask for feedback.Sending the questions early ensures the questions you’re asking are in the interviewee’s “sweet spot” and your guest can provide great information. Otherwise, you may ask them about a topic they aren’t as comfortable with and the interview will take a very weird turn.

Conducting an email interview? Work out the deadline ahead of time.

You’ll want to confirm with your expert prior to sending the questions that he can meet your deadline. If you’re on a tight deadline, tell them immediately – and promise only to send a few fast questions. Otherwise, you may slave over your interview questions only to learn that your expert can’t meet your deadline. I’ve been there and the situation is no fun for either party.

Don’t lay out a strategy question and then ask,”Can you outline what you would do, step by step?”

I’ve received some very detailed emailed questions that have made me think, “Is this person asking for their readers, or are they asking for their site?” Strategy questions take a long time to answer. There are a lot of moving parts that make providing a specific answer impossible. Certainly, your guest can provide an overview of the process. But asking them to “dig into” a site and figure out how to handle something is consulting, not an interview.

Give your guest expert a lot of social love.

Now that the interview has posted, it’s time to promote it to the masses. Let your guest expert know that the post is live. Tag them on Twitter and Google+. Re-promote the post to your followers. This technique not only drives more traffic to your site, it also gives your expert a lot of well-deserved social love. Plus, your expert will (hopefully) promote the post on her network and drive more traffic to your site.

Say “thank you.”

It’s amazing how rarely this happens. Thank your guest expert for their time. You don’t need to send a long email. Just a short “thank you,” just like Mom taught you. It makes all the difference.

What tip would you add? Please leave it in the comments below!

Your Content Marketing Guru Could Be Wrong. Here’s Why.

Do you engage in a content marketing strategy because your favorite guru wrote about it in a blog post?

It’s time to stop.

Let’s face it — we all do this from time to time. We have our content marketing expert favorites. We read their success stories, case studies, and in-depth blog posts. We feel like we’re part of their tribe.

But are they really giving us the advice we need?

I thought about this as I was reading an article in Marketing Prof (this article requires a PRO membership to read the whole thing.) One of the writing tips that struck me was “Stick to 1,500-3,000 words; you’ll balance effort with traffic, and you’ll be golden.”

I understand the writer’s point. He backs up his “longer posts are better” statement with stats from BuzzSumo, CrazyEgg and Marketing Experiments. The research is sound.

However, I’d have a hard time believing that this “rule of thumb” metric is true for every business across every vertical. Some audiences may prefer and share shorter posts. Maybe even your industry. In this case, writing a 2,000-word post may be counterproductive. After all, why bother putting all that work into a post if your audience won’t read it?

Instead of thinking of your marketing guru’s opinion as fact, stay open and be curious instead. Maybe their suggestion would work on your site. Maybe something else is a better approach.

You won’t know until you try and measure the results.

Testing assumptions is also for combatting the “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. If you feel like you’re not making the marketing gains you want, reviewing your assumptions is a very smart move.

Think about all the assumptions you can test. Here’s just a small collection I’ve collected from industry gurus:

  • Your business must blog every week for maximum impact.
  • You must blog multiple times every week.
  • You must provide a value-added giveaway to increase your newsletter subscribers.
  • Pop-ups are bad, and you should never include them.
  • You must create an online course to capture leads.
  • You must run free webinars.
  • Your business must start a podcast.
  • You must create a Title tag using X format.

I’m sure you can name some assumptions too.

Be aware that some colleagues may find “testing assumptions” extremely threatening. Although you may be pumped to throw pop-ups on your site, someone else may hate the idea. They may resist it. They may tell you no.

That’s OK. Instead of an all-or-nothing scenario, offer to run a small test and report on the results. The more you can confirm your assumptions (or blow them out of the water,) the more on-target your marketing.

Why did the MarketingProf’s article hit home for me? It’s because I’ve been questioning my assumptions and looking closely at my own gurus’ advice. I’ve been in business a long time, and it’s easy to fall into the “this is just the way I do it” trap. Sometimes, it’s easier to listen to others rather than being 100% sure a strategy works.

However, just because I’ve been doing it a long time doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. It just means I have a process.

I’ll be making some small tweaks here and there (some you’ll notice, and some will be behind the scenes.) When I discover a tasty morsel of marketing knowledge, I’ll share it here. Not because it’s something you should do too. But because it will give you something to think about – and an assumption to test.

What about you? Did you follow a guru’s advice only to have the situation end badly? What “we’ve always done it this way” processes do you want to test? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Are You A Content Strategist or an SEO Copywriter?

Hmm, maybe I’m an SEO content strategist after all!

Are you undervaluing your work — and selling yourself short?

I’ve talked to many freelance and in-house copywriters who claim that they’re “just” a writer. Sure, most of their time is spent writing copy. But they’re also setting the editorial calendar, using tools like BuzzSumo to find new topic ideas and even explaining Google’s latest updates to their clients or team members.

To me, it sounds like these writers made the leap from “writer” to “SEO content consultant.” They just may not know it yet.

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