Category Archives: blogging

A Simple Blog Post Process Blueprint

From conception to promotion, there’s a lot of effort that goes into a single blog post. New bloggers might be wondering how to get started with blogging and maintain a process that works for them. Remember that blog posts, like any online content, are much easier to produce and promote when there’s a system in place for you to work within. Chris Ducker has created a blueprint for the blog post process, which covers the four main stages of blogging: Creation Research and write the content Decide on a keyword-rich title Add sub-headings so that readers can scan easily Do a Continue Reading »

The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post

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Even though we all are crunched for time, spouting off a mediocre blog post for the sake of hitting a deadline isn’t worth it. Considering our audiences have access to countless other articles, it’s unlikely that they’d settle for a half-baked attempt.

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We get it, though: It can be difficult to keep track of all the right blog components when you’ve got a full plate of projects. There’s a lot to remember when crafting a solid blog post — which means there’s also a lot to forget.

To make sure nothing slips through the cracks and every one of your blog posts is both comprehensive and useful to your readers, we’ve created a rundown of everything you need to remember when you start writing. Bookmark this blog post, and make sure you’ve completed this checklist the next time you press “publish.”

How to Write a Perfect Blog Post
1) Headline

Every great blog post starts with a headline that grabs the reader’s attention, and compels them to click and keep reading to learn more. Internet readers have very short attention spans — around eight seconds in length — and the headline is one of the critical first elements that help readers decide if they want to click and stay on your site. In fact, 60% of readers don’t read past the headline, which presents a big opportunity. Here’s how to write a great headline:

Brainstorm a Working Title

Start with a working title in mind and brainstorm how to make the angle as interesting as possible. This is the phase of blogging where you start with a general topic and narrow down exactly what you want to write about that topic.

For example, if I want to write about the topic of “blogging,” I need to come up with a more specific working title first. And those working titles depend on the format of my blog post. Whether you’re writing a listicle, an explainer article, or a how-to guide, brainstorm a few titles to guide your research. Here are a few ideas:

The Guide to Business Blogging
How to Get Started with Blogging
10 B2B Blogging Strategies We Love (and Why)

Once you have an angle you want to pursue, it’s time for keyword research.

Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research will help you create a headline that will perform well on search engine results pages (SERPs). Your headline is one of many factors Google considers when ranking results on SERPs, and an optimized title will help people find the information they need more easily.

Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and HubSpot’s keywords tool can help you determine exactly which terms people are searching for, and which will be easier or more difficult for your new blog post to rank for.

“Blogging” is a broad search term, and when I dropped it into SEMrush, more than 75,000 keyword results were returned. We recommend targeting long-tail keywords that are more specific to the exact audience you’re targeting — which you can learn more about by creating buyer personas.

When I searched for “business blogging,” on the other hand, I found keywords with lower search volume, but would be more specifically targeted to the audience I’m trying to reach.

Once you’ve nailed the keyword you’re targeting, you can create your final title, as well as your headers (more on that later). For the purposes of this example, I chose, “The Definitive Guide to Business Blogging.”

Craft a Title

When it comes to the art of the perfect blog post, we’ve done some analysis and looked at how our own titles have performed. Here are the consistent principles we found:

The ideal blog post title length is 60 characters.
Headlines between 8 and 12 words are shared most often on Twitter.
Headlines between 12 and 14 words are liked most often on Facebook.

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We also found that headlines ending with a bracketed clarification — for example, “The Definitive Guide to Business Blogging [New Data]” — performed 38% better than titles without that clarification.

If you’re having trouble trimming down the length of a title, run it through SEOmofo and Twitter to see how the title will appear on SERPs and when it’s shared on social media.

2) Meta Description

The meta description doesn’t live on your blog post — it lives somewhere different that’s just as important.

The meta description refers to the HTML attribute that explains the contents of a given web page. Basically, it’s a short description you see on a SERP to “preview” what the page is about. Check it out below:

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The headline, URL, and meta description work together to convince searchers to click on a link to read the entire blog post, so you’ll want to put thought into what to write for this piece of your blog post, too.

In our analysis, we found the ideal meta description length is under 155 characters.

3) Featured Image

Featured images usually sit at the top of a blog post and are another element to draw readers in to learn more. The image should reflect what the story is about, intrigue readers, or provoke them. It shouldn’t be too literal or obvious, and it can simply be aesthetically pleasing, too.

Here’s an example of one of our featured images. It features a mobile phone and a bright yellow color — fitting, considering I was writing about Snapchat:

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Make sure you choose featured images that you’re legally able to edit and distribute. Here are some of our suggestions:

The Free Stock Photos You’ve Been Searching For
Negative Space
StockSnap.io

4) Introduction

The introduction needs to quickly hook your reader and convince her to read the rest of your blog post. It also has to let the reader know what your post is about, so she knows what she’s getting. Nobody likes clickbait, so you want to make sure your post is about what the headline says it is.

Whether your approach is humor, interesting and surprising facts, or asking a question, find a way to make the first lines of your blog posts as attention-grabbing as possible. Write an introduction that would make you want to keep reading an article — a quick few paragraphs to draw the reader in and let him know what he’s about to read.

Here’s an introduction my colleague, HubSpot Staff Writer Aja Frost, wrote that does this effectively:

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Frost uses a cliffhanger approach here — and now I want to read more to learn about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. For more introduction inspiration outside of HubSpot Blogs, I recommend reading posts on Medium and Buffer.

5) Sub-Headers

Sub-headers are another on-page SEO element that helps your blog post to rank in Google Search. Sub-headers organize and break up your blog post into different sections to signal to Google (and your reader) what the post will cover.

Sub-headers should be written with H2 tags or smaller — never H1 tags, which signal a title. Use sub-headers to split up sections of your blog post — making sure to integrate the keywords you’re using this post to target.

In this particular post, I’m targeting the keywords “perfect blog post,” which I’ve used in my title and the first sub-header.

6) Body 

The meat of your blog post — separated by various sub-headers, of course — is where your readers will undoubtedly derive the most value. In our analysis, the ideal blog post length is roughly 2,100 words, but that will vary depending on your topic. Medium found that posts that took seven minutes to read earned the most engagement and attention, and serpIQ found that most of the top-10 Google results are between 2,032 and 2,416 words.

7) Data

Whenever it’s possible to use data and numbers, do so. Numbers written as numerals (23) instead of words (twenty-three) have been shown to attract reader attention when they quickly scan what they’re reading online. Additionally, numbers represent facts — which are unimpeachable and most trusted by your readers.

If you’re using numbers or data in your blog post, add [Data] or [Research] to your headline for additional impact, as we discussed earlier in the post.

8) Multimedia Elements

We’ve told you a few times that your reader is having trouble staying focused, so wherever it’s possible to use multimedia content to break up the blog post and re-engage your reader, add images, videos, audio recordings, and social media posts. Changing up the format of your blog post will provide additional value to your reader while making sure their eyes are focused on what they’re reading and seeing.

 

This pic sums up our #Mondaymood. What’s yours? ??☕️

A post shared by HubSpot (@hubspot) on Mar 27, 2017 at 5:12am PDT

Works, huh? 

9) Conclusion

When you’re ready to wrap up and sign off, make sure to let your reader know the article is closing. Your conclusion doesn’t need to be lengthy, but it should serve to recap the blog post the reader just finished and provide more resources and guidance, if wanted. More on that next.

10) Call to Action

Finish your conclusion with a meaningful call to action (CTA) for your reader — whether it’s advice, a content offer, or a link to another related blog post. Use the last lines of your post to leave the reader feeling like he or she learned something from you — and like there’s even more to learn from you, creating the desire to click a link or CTA image and read more.

For more ideas on how to write a killer blog post, learn from our analysis of 175,000 B2B and B2C blog posts.

What’s your go-to blueprint for a blog post? Share with us in the comments below.

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The Simple Test That Doubled Leads in One Week

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We’ve talked about the best practice of matching your offer and blog post topic as tightly as possible many times on the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But just in case you haven’t heard of this best practice before, I’ll give an example.

Let’s say you have a post explaining different types of commercial cooling systems that gets a steady amount of organic traffic each month. The best fit offer for this post would be a quiz to determine the right cooling system for your business, or a cooling systems pricing comparison sheet.

Because the offer closely aligns with what brought the visitor to your blog post in the first place — an interest in learning about commercial cooling systems — it’s natural for visitors to want to consume this additional content and convert on a lead form. On the other hand, an ebook on ventilation best practices probably wouldn’t convert traffic as well, since it’s not as well-aligned with the topic of the blog post.

A few years back, we did an audit of our highest organic traffic posts on the HubSpot Blog to see if our offers were as optimized for conversion as they could be. We found several areas to more tightly align blog post topic with offer topic, and saw CVRs climb. For example, conversions from this post increased considerably when we swapped a generic marketing offer for a press release template.

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The bottom of the post CTA

Fast forward to today. It had been a while since we took a look at those posts. After all, all of the optimization work that could be done had been done, right?

But then I started digging into the conversion rates of the offer landing pages themselves … and discovered a whole new gold mine of opportunity.

Here’s the quick and dirty of how I doubled leads from 50 of our top-performing blog posts in one week by analyzing landing page CVRs.

Gathering the Data

First, I created a massive spreadsheet that included data on:

Blog post traffic
Leads generated from blog posts (HubSpot customers, you can do this via attribution reports. Learn how here.)
Conversion rate of offer landing page

Here’s what that looked like (this snapshot features some of our worst-converting blog posts — clearly, there’s some work to be done):

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Blog data: URL, views, leads attributed, and CVR

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Separate tab with offer LP submission rate data

Then, I sorted by highest number of blog post views and highest number of leads generated, and started comparing to offer landing page CVR. This helped me prioritize my optimization efforts so I could see where the potential to move the needle was the greatest — i.e. an offer with a 70% submission rate but 800 monthly views wouldn’t be as good an opportunity to increase raw leads as one with a 45% submission rate and 15,000 monthly views.

The sweet spot was high blog post views + low number of leads generated + low landing page submission rate.

Auditing the Offers

Then, for the top 150 viewed blog posts, I manually audited and noted the URL of which offer LPs were being used. I found that some offers were tightly aligned to the topic of the blog posts while others were not. I also found that some of the offers we were directing visitors to were out of date — not the best experience.

Next up? Some VLOOKUP magic to match offer landing page submission rate to the blog posts that offer was being linked from. It quickly became clear that some of our best-performing blog posts were pointing to some of our worst-performing offers. I also spotted a few trends in subject matter among our lowest performers, such as social media, career development, and content creation.

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Finally, I went through our offers library and identified the content offers with the highest submission rates, and sorted them by topic category. These would be the replacements for the laggards.

The Results

After all this number crunching, I was able to identify 50 blog posts that represented our lowest-hanging fruit. I went through and swapped out these posts’ CTAs (or created new ones from scratch) for the most tightly-aligned offers with the highest submission rates.

The results were even better than I expected. After one week, these posts generated 100% more leads than average — even while post traffic was down 10%. This seemingly small tweak made a big impact on our leads.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how this pans out long-term. But in the meantime, here are a few takeaways and lessons learned I hope will be as valuable for your team as they were for ours:

When deciding what offer to pair with what blog post, don’t neglect to check the submission rate of the offer landing page. As we found, this is an easy way to quickly increase the number of leads you’re generating from your best-performing blog posts — especially if you have multiple offers on the same or similar topics.
Regularly audit your offers to ensure the content isn’t out of date. Outdated content will create a negative visitor experience and hurt your conversion rate.
Regularly audit the conversion paths of your top blog posts. Set aside time for optimization every few months so you can ensure you’re using your content to generate the most possible leads. Optimization isn’t a one-and-done thing.

Have you ever done a similar optimization project? Comment below with your best experiments and hacks to increase conversion rate below (and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog).

HubSp

Side Projects: How to Start (and Finish) One

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It might be an unpopular opinion, but I do believe that having tons of great ideas isn’t always a good thing.

There just isn’t enough time in a single day to tackle all of them — let alone while also doing your day job. So how do you choose just one — and once you do, how do you make time to work on it, and see it through to the end?

That, my friends, is why we get search results like these:

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We get it: Finishing a side project is really, really hard. After all, when you put in long days or weeks at work, the last thing you want to do is, well, more work — even if you have a remarkable idea. Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

But it’s not impossible. In fact, with a few changes to your outlook and approach to your side project, it might actually be what you had originally imagined — fun. That’s why we compiled this list of tips to complete those side projects that you’re determined to see through to the end.

6 Tips to Start (and Finish) a Side Project
1) Make sure the novelty isn’t going to wear off.

Many moons ago, I was having a career chat with my then-editor about some business ideas, when she introduced me to my favorite term: “shiny object syndrome.” I use it to describe my tendency to think of a great idea, jump into it with full force and excitement, and after a month or two … lose interest.

From what I’ve observed, it’s a common phenomenon among creative people, which makes it that much more difficult to actually finish a side project before you think of another one that’s, well, “shinier.” So to prevent that, we’ve established a few steps to follow:

Make sure you’re really excited about the idea — really excited.
Give it 10 days, and see if you’re still excited. If you are, proceed to the next step.
Acknowledge just how difficult this project will be. How much time will it require? Are you actually going to be so excited about it that you still want to give it your attention after a terrible day at work?
Give it a trial run. For one work week, schedule an hour each night to do research on the project.

If your responses to each step are pretty much affirmative, then that’s a good sign. Proceed — but not without caution.

2) Be respectful of your employer’s time.

Sometimes, your employer might encourage you to execute a side project on the company’s behalf. It might be an experiment with new types of blog content, or starting a branded podcast. But never forget about your “day job” — you know, the thing you were hired to do because of its ultimate impact on the product and customer.

In other words, even if the side project is something your manager signed off on, be respectful of the company’s time and resources. Here at HubSpot, we approach everything we do with a general formula:

customer > team > individual

If your instincts tell you that you might be neglecting your “normal” work for the sake of your side project, they’re probably right — and that can have a negative impact on both your team and the company. Until you can provide evidence that your side project will have equal or greater impact, always give priority to the job you were hired to do. After all, it’s called a side project because it’s something you do on the side.

If the project isn’t being carried out on behalf of your employer, then it’s best not to give it much, if any of your attention during work hours. Many times, employees are required to sign documents agreeing not to use company resources — like computers or other supplies — to work on anything other than the work they were hired to do, so it’s better to be safe than sorry, and work on your project during your own time.

3) Wave your “nights and weekends” white flag of surrender.

If you really want to see your side project through to the end, be prepared to lose the vast majority of your nights and weekends to it. Of course, watching another episode of “Orange Is the New Black” might be easier and more enjoyable — in the moment. But is it going to lead to something that’s ultimately fulfilling in the long run? Probably not. Sorry, pal, but step away from the Netflix.

But even that might not be enough, and you might have to treat your nights-and-weekends dedication the same way that you would treat anything with longer-term benefits, like a healthier lifestyle, or saving to buy a house.

“If you’re planning to work on your side project ‘whenever you get a chance’,” says Dmitry Shamis, HubSpot’s senior manager of web development, “you’ll never touch it.”

It might mean that you have to stay up later or skip happy hour, but build time spent on your side project into your routine. If you go to the gym after work, schedule an hour after you get home and make dinner to work on it. Or maybe you’re an early bird — I am, and I’ll be the first to admit that the hour I spend each morning drinking coffee and scrolling through Instagram could probably be spent more productively.

In any case, make your side project part of your day-to-day activities. It’ll feel less like a burden, and more like something that you just naturally do.

4) Tell other people about it.

A few years ago, researchers at Dominican University conducted a study to see if writing down goals or sharing them with a friend correlated with a higher rate of meeting them. In short — it did.

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Source: Sid Savara

Notice how the groups that wrote their goals down and committed them to a friend outperformed on accomplishing them, compared to the groups with unwritten goals. Putting our ideas on the record, even if just by writing them in a notebook, gives them life, and makes us that much more likely to follow through on them. Plus, by telling a friend, you’ll avoid those awkward moments of stammering for a response when she asks you how your project is going.

“Hold yourself accountable by telling other people about your project,” says HubSpot ‎Senior Marketing Manager Lindsay Kolowich. “Better yet, tell other people about the smaller parts of it you’ve vowed to complete by a certain time. I always find a little external pressure to be a helpful motivator.”

5) Join an industry community.

Depending on the category your project falls under, there’s likely an online community or Meetup group for it. Let’s say I wanted to find a meetup where I could talk about an SEO side project. Even with this fairly narrow search criteria, I still managed to find three relevant groups:

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Much of this goes back to the idea of accountability through others. And by sharing your side project with a community of others who are interested in the same topic, not only are you getting the motivation of external pressure that Kolowich mentioned — you’re also improving your chances of getting objective insights and feedback on your ideas.

6) Reward yourself for progress.

Finally, if you’ve followed the above five steps, it’s okay to independently recognize your own hard work. External praise is great, but sometimes, it’s nice to reward yourself for your accomplishments.

“I pay myself in cookies and mozzarella sticks for completed tasks,” says Niti Shah, a senior growth marketing manager at HubSpot.

Hey — whatever it takes.

Whether it’s a nap or a special treat, sticking to your resolve to see a side project through to the end deserves recognition.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to finish a side project? Let us know in the comments.

Take me to Projects

How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can’t Resist

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It’s one thing to write great content, but it’s another thing to get it read and ranked — which is where nailing the title comes in.

Titles are what sell the content. They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the most common questions we get concern crafting titles.Download this free report to get even more data-backed tips on writing catchy  titles and headlines. 

How long should my headline be? What words should I use? What words should I avoid? Should I optimize it for search, or for social? Or both?

Luckily, we’ve come up with a simple formula for writing catchy headlines and blog titles that you can reference from here on out. So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

A Foolproof Method for How to Write Catchy Headlines and Titles
1) Start with a working title.

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of coming up with a perfect title, start with a rough draft: your working title. What is that, exactly? A lot of people confuse working titles with topics. Let’s clear that up:

Topics are very general and could yield several different blog posts. Think “raising healthy kids,” or “kitchen storage.” A writer might look at either of those topics and choose to take them in very, very different directions.

A working title, on the other hand, is very specific and guides the creation of a single blog post. For example, from the topic “raising healthy kids,” you could derive the following working titles:

“How the Right Nutrition Can Strengthen Your Kids’ Bones”
“A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Your Child’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being”
“X Recipes for Quick & Healthy Dinners Your Teenagers Will Gobble Up”

See how different and specific each of those is? That’s what makes them working titles, instead of overarching topics. It’s also worth noting that none of those titles are perfect — they should just be specific enough to guide your blog post. (We’ll worry about making it clickable and search-friendly later.)

2) Stay accurate.

Accuracy is critical when trying to finesse a title, because it sets clear expectations for your readers. While I’m sure lots of people would love to click into a post that said “10 B2B Companies Killing Facebook So Freaking Hard They Don’t Need Any Other Marketing Channel” … it’s a little bombastic, no?

Unless, of course, you truly did find 10 B2B companies rocking Facebook that hard, and you could confirm that all 10 of them had stopped using other marketing channels. First and foremost, your title needs to accurately reflect the content that follows.

One way to ensure accuracy? Add bracketed clarification to your headline, like we did in this blog post:

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In a study of over 3.3 million paid link headlines, we found that headlines with this type of clarification — [Interview], [Podcast], [Infographic], etc. — performed 38% better than headlines without clarification. Again, it’s all about setting clear expectations. Thanks to the brackets, these readers knew exactly what they were getting themselves into before they even clicked.

So if you remember nothing else from this blog post, let it be this: The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience. If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust.

Accuracy encompasses more than just hyperbole, though. With the example working title above, you’d also want to confirm all of the examples are, indeed, B2B. Or even that they’re all companies — instead of, say, individual bloggers that target B2B audiences. See what I mean?

3) Make it sexy.

Just because you have to be accurate doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your title pop. There are a lot of ways to make a title sexier.

Of course, all of this hinges on understanding your core buyer persona. You need to find language that resonates with them, and know what they find valuable. (Haven’t created or refined your buyer personas yet? Download this free template to create your own buyer personas for your business.)

Once you’re armed with knowledge of your buyer persona’s preferred style, try testing out some of these tips for making your headlines a little sexier:

Have some fun with alliteration. The title and header in this blog post, for instance, play with alliteration: “Foolproof Formula.” It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.
Use strong language. Strong phrases (and, frankly, often negative ones) like “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant” pack quite a punch. However, these must be used in moderation. As one of my coworkers likes to say, “If everything is bold, nothing is bold.”
Make the value clear. As we mentioned above, presenting the format and/or contents to a reader helps make your content a little sexier. According to our research, templates tend to be particularly powerful for CTR: We found that adding “[Template]” to our titles got the most average views of all bracketed terms.
Make it visual. Is there an opportunity to include visuals within your post? Make that clear in the title. Our research revealed that headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
Focus on the “whos,” not the “whys”. Want to intrigue your audience? Focus on the “who”: Headlines including the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR than headlines without it.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a post titled, “15 of Our Favorite Brands on Snapchat.” How might we punch up our accurate-but-boring working title? Here are some options:

15 Brilliant Brands Who Are Killing It on Snapchat
Snapchat Success: 15 Inspiring Brands Who Just Get It
15 Must-Follow Brands That Are Seeing Snapchat Success

4) Keep it short.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long or short your title should be. It depends what your goals are, and where your headline will appear.

Do you want this post to rank really well in search? Focus on keeping the title under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.

Are you trying to optimize your title for social sharing? According to our own analysis at HubSpot, headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12 or 14 words received the most Likes.

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Additionally, headlines with eight words had a 21% higher clickthrough rate than the average title, according to the folks at Outbrain.

The lesson? It’s always a good idea to run a few tests to see what works best for your particular audience.

Let’s say I was writing this blog post: “Think Social Media Is Just for Kids? Here Are 10 Statistics Guaranteed to Prove You Wrong.” To shorten it, I would simply try to rephrase it and cut out extraneous words. For instance, I might do something like this:

Before: Think Social Media Is Just for Kids? Here Are 10 Statistics Guaranteed to Prove You Wrong
After: 10 Stats That Prove Social Media Isn’t Just for Kids

See? It’s that easy. Try sounding out the title in your head to make sure it’s easily digestible for your readers. The less of a mouthful you can make your titles, the better.

5) Try to optimize for search and social.

I say “try” because, sometimes, trying too hard to optimize for these things can make your title sound strange. Remember: You want to optimize your title for your audience above all else, but if you can optimize for both search and social, that’s great.

The secret to thinking about all three at once? Focus on keywords that you know your audience is already searching for, then look into the search volume for those keywords.

Once you have a keyword in mind, you’ll want to be sure to place it as closely as possible to the beginning of your headline to catch your reader’s attention. (Again, you should keep your headline under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.)

Another important consideration? Make sure your headlines are tweetable: “The 120-130-character range is the sweet spot for high clickthrough rate, according to an analysis of 200,000 tweets with links,” explains my colleague, Senior Marketing Manager Lindsay Kolowich. “This leaves enough space for people to include a short comment if they choose to manually retweet and cite you.” 

Here’s an example: Let’s say I’m writing a post titled, “X B2B Companies Using Facebook in Cool Ways.” Looks like there’s some wiggle room to optimize it without compromising clarity, right?

If the goal is to rank for the term, “Facebook Marketing,” I’d recommend something like this:

“New to Facebook Marketing? Here Are 10 B2B Companies Doing It Right”

This new title works for a few reasons:

It’s 56 characters long. This means that it’s short enough to not be cut off in search engines and it’s short enough to be retweeted.
The keyword is in the beginning. By moving “Facebook Marketing” to the beginning of the title, we’re ultimately increasing the odds that we’ll grab our audience’s attention.
It’s human. I wasn’t kidding when I said you should focus on optimizing for your audience first. This title presents both a pain point and a solution all wrapped up in one.

(Download this ebook for more data-backed SEO strategies we recommend.)

6) Brainstorm with someone else.

Once you’ve refined your title using the tips above, it’s time to come up for air and connect with another human. Title brainstorming is an essential part of the process.

Here at HubSpot, we spend a decent amount of time and brainpower coming up with our titles. The final step before scheduling a blog post is pulling another member of our team into a back-and-forth title brainstorm in a chat room. One member of the duo will post the title they recommend into the chat pane window. The other person will then refine that title even further, or suggest other angles. After several back-and-forths, the duo will agree on the title that’s accurate, sexy, concise, and SEO-friendly.

Only when both parties agree on a title do we schedule our post for publishing — which can take as little as five seconds and as long as ten or so minutes. While that seems like a long time, it’s essential to put our best feet forward with each post we publish.

What’s your process for crafting titles? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

hubspot blogging trial

5 Killer Ways To Repurpose Old Blog Content For More Traffic

5 Killer Ways To Repurpose Old Blog Content For More TrafficWe see a lot of spin-offs and reboots on the TV and at the movies these days.

So why not apply the same logic that what was popular once will probably be popular again to your blog?

Spin-offs, sequels and adaptations have always been prevelant.

Take The Andy Griffith Show, for example. This 1960’s gem churned out not one but two spin-off series: Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D. The insanely popular M*A*S*H also spawned two spin-offs. Happy Days, which was itself a spin-off, then spawned a whopping seven spin-off series, including the hugely successful Laverne & Shirley.

Don’t even get me started on how many spinoffs we’ve been subjected to in order to keep up with the Kardashians.

So how do you make your own spin-off?

Well, first of all you stop thinking about it as a spin-off and start thinking of it under the the following marketing term: repurposed content.

Each of the TV spin-offs listed above retained something from their parent series – usually one or two popular characters – to offer audiences something similar but at the same time slightly different to the original content that they loved so much. These spin-offs not only stood on their own, they notched huge ratings for their parent companies and helped contribute to the lasting legacy of their parent shows.

So let’s apply the same thinking to your blog. You’ve probably produced some really great content in the past, stuff that brought you lots of traffic and engagement. But that content is just sitting there now. Gathering dust.

Just as TV executives found success by creating spin-offs of their most popular shows, you too can drive new traffic to your website by repurposing blog content.

Let’s take a look at five distinct ways in which you can repurpose content and get new value out of those dusty old blog posts.

1. Syndication

You’ve probably been told countless times over the years that any type of duplicate content is bad news, but that’s just a myth.

Duplicate content isn’t going to penalize your site, and when you take advantage of other sites that are willing to publish non-original content, you can quickly and easily attract a new readership for your blog.

Also, you can usually add a link to your original post in your syndicated article.

Here are some great sites where you can share your high-quality syndicated content:

Medium
Entrepreneur
Business Insider
Mashable
LifeHacker
Social Media Today

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. By syndicating your top posts to these sites (and others), you can share your content with brand new audiences and even gain an SEO boost.

Simply ensure your original post has a canonical tag, and you won’t need to worry about the syndicated version being perceived as the ‘original,’ either.

2. Spin-off articles

Listicles are all the rage in content marketing these days – think ‘5 Ways to Get the Most Beautiful Yard in the Neighborhood’, ‘7 Tricks to Master PPC’ and ’21 Reasons Why The 90s Were The Best Decade Ever’.

The thing is, a lot of the individual items in these types of posts have more than enough substance to be turned into their own full-length article.

Expanding on items allows you to go more in-depth on a particular topic that you’ve merely touched on – and better yet, since you know the original post was popular with your audience, you can also have confidence that they’ll be intrigued by a ‘deep sea dive’ into one of your main points.

Another option is to use what DigiMar calls the ‘evil twin’ post – when you take the content from your original article and turn it on its head.

For example, if your original article discussed ways to succeed at PPC marketing, your new spin-off could look at how people mess up when attempting these best practices.

These spin-off ideas offer a quick and easy way to produce new content for your own blog or to create an original piece that you can submit as a guest post.

3. Videos, infographics and podcasts

Not everyone loves to read. I know this may sound like blasphemy to a lot of people… but it’s an important point to consider when repurposing your content for a digital audience.

Thankfully, you have plenty of visual and audio methods at your disposal.

Take infographics., for example. Infographics are a great way to visualize key data points from your blog post or illustrate a how-to guide – plus they’re hugely effective. Hubspot notes that these ‘information-carrying images’ get three times as many social media likes and shares as other content.

As for video, according to Wordstream, one-third of online activity is spent watching video. So it makes sense to repurpose your content into a video for YouTube or Vimeo.

You don’t have to dive as deep into the facts and statistics as you did in your original post – rather, briefly summarize your post’s content or share a few highlights before directing users to the post itself.

Don’t forget about the power of podcasts, either. You could simply have someone narrate your blog post or you could gather some of your team members together to discuss your post’s themes.

Podcasting is experiencing steady growth so there’s ample opportunity to reach new audiences through this medium.

4. Get social

I’m guessing you’re always on the look-out for new ways to craft engaging social posts. So why not pluck a few highlights from your old posts to use on social media platforms?

They’re ripe for the picking, especially stat-heavy posts and how-to guides. You could pull out your interesting statistics on your blog itself for a series of promotional tweets. Or, you could create a social media infographic illustrating the main points of one of your most popular blog posts.

Alternatively, just keep it simple and reshare an old post.

By providing interesting, helpful content, you’ll be able to improve your social media engagement and gain new blog traffic at the same time. It’s a double win.

Quora is also a great option for repurposing your blog content. Users ask questions on thousands of subjects, ranging from solar energy to video marketing.

By providing information from your blog posts (and referring to your link as the source for your answer), you can help users on this platform recognize your site as a great source of niche information.

You could also do this through your email subscription lists. Rather than force yourself to always come up with new content for your bi-weekly email blasts, why not occasionally re-send one of your ‘classic’ posts instead? This can expose new subscribers to content they might have missed the first time around, while also reducing your own workload.

5. Create an ebook

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you’ve probably written multiple posts on similar topics – be it social media marketing, driver safety tips, or even a series of movie reviews. So why not combine these blog posts into a single ebook?

Creating an ebook is easier than you probably imagine – after all, most of the content has already been written.

All you need to do is add some introductory and concluding content, and maybe rework a couple of your old blog posts, to tie it all together.

The big bonus is that this provides you with a new content pillar that you can spruik as a free download on your site or even as a self-published Kindle ebook.

Using a bit of marketing know-how, your ebook can quickly gain traction and serve as a powerful representation of your brand.

Parting thoughts

Sure, not every TV spin-off has been a hit – and not all of your blog repurposing efforts may succeed or come close to the level of success you enjoyed when you first published your post.

But if you make a conscious effort to rework your dusty old blog content into something engaging and worthwhile, you’ll be able to attract new audiences and get more out of those old posts than you ever thought possible.

Re-runs, distribution on Netflix and DVD sales have made it a trend to celebrate the classics – so do a similar thing with your blog posts today!

What methods have you used to effectively repurpose old blog content? Are there any tactics that you like to use that I’ve missed? Let me know what you’re doing to deliver your message to the masses!

Guest Author: Lucas Miller is a Freelance Copywriter and Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, tweeting or attempting to play pickup basketball, he’s working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the “World’s Greatest Pompadour.” To get more tips on how to start your own six-figure freelance copywriting business, join his free newsletter.

The post 5 Killer Ways To Repurpose Old Blog Content For More Traffic appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.


Snapchat Isn’t Going Away: How to Cope, and Enhance Your Marketing Campaigns


While Snapchat is wildly popular with individual users – it reached the 100 million daily active user mark at the end of 2016 and has ballooned to 161 million since then – businesses are only now catching on to the potential. Until last year, it was still Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn which got the most […]

The post Snapchat Isn’t Going Away: How to Cope, and Enhance Your Marketing Campaigns appeared first on Marketing Insider Group.

A Huge Guide on How to Write Effective Post Titles

Ever wondered how to consistently write effective blog post titles? It’s one of the most important skills to have in the online world. Let’s look at a graphic summary and then jump into some big details below:

blog post titles

An introduction to blog post titles and headlines

An entertaining and eye-catching headline can help a blog post (that might otherwise have gone unnoticed) get thousands of social shares, hundreds of comments, and a boost in Google rankings.

Write a boring title, however, and even the best blog post will get skipped.

Now, I’m not saying that I always write effective titles for my blog posts – I still have so much to learn and there are countless websites that do them a whole lot better than me. But, I’ve been asked about my methodology a few times now and thought it might be something a few of you might like to read.

So here we go!

A question about titles from Frank

In a post about mailing lists I got a question in the comments section from Frank which got me thinking about this topic some more:

question

Now, Frank’s question is primarily about email subject lines and crafting them so that people open up your emails. But seeing as there is a lot of similarity and crossover between email subject lines and blog post titles and so I am going to talk about it all in one post.

What makes for an effective post title?

Let’s start this post by talking about what makes a title effective.

To my mind there are a few things we can talk about here – each one slightly more challenging than the last:

It should catch their eye
The very first thing a title needs to do is catch someone’s eye whether they see it in an email, Facebook feed, Tweet or whatever. Cutting through noise is hard.
It should get a click
The next thing you need to do is get them to click through to read it. This is much more difficult than it sounds – some formats only have 0.5 to 1% click through rates.
It should cause an engagement or action
Some people will share or like an article simple based on whether they think their friends will like the article’s title. More likely, however, is that your title encourages someone to read your excellent content.
It should assist your longterm Google rankings
A good title not only gets people interested in the article but also helps you to rank well on Google. More about this later.

You might write a title that you really love and think is clever as hell but unless it is leading to these types of responses you will be wasting your time.

How to write effective post titles

Okay so writing a good title is not easy.

We all know that.

It takes a lot of practice and it also requires a lot of testing to see what works and what sort of tiny variations you can make to elicit a big change in performance.

But there are some things you can do every time, sort of like a routine, to ensure that you get the best possible chance of success.

Today’s post is not going to be a formula that you can follow – mostly because I don’t follow one myself. Rather, what I want to do is just give you a few different things that you can think about and do each time you sit down to write.

Hopefully that helps you get results.

1. Always consider your target audience first

Before you write a title for a blog post you need to think about your target audience.

Who are they? What do they do? How old are they? These are all important questions that can have a big impact on how your titles form.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the question: what problems do they have?

If your title can tap into that anxiety (and perhaps solve it!) you’ll find yourself getting a much better engagement rate.

Always know who you are writing for and what issues they are having. Successful websites that are aimed at professional corporates “feel” completely different to music sites for teenagers. That’s important.

2. Think about where they are reading the title

This point relates heavily to Frank’s question about email subject lines because when your title is designed to be read in an inbox you need to factor in things like mobile screen sizes.

phone screen

Here’s a screen shot of two emails that I sent to myself using some pretty lazy examples of my own headings. You can see how on my iPhone the subject gets quite cropped and the text underneath plays a really big role. If you have a large percentage of people reading your emails on their mobile you’ll need to pay careful attention to how much fits.

3. Know exactly what short and long-tail keywords you’re targeting

Keywords are a vital part of blogging success.

You need to know exactly what keywords your blog as a whole is targeting, and you need to know what keywords each individual post is targeting and how that helps to create a big blog-wide picture. To do this well you need to know a little bit about short and long-tail key phrases and how they all work together.

Here’s an example if you aren’t sure:

Short-tail: grow a blog

Long-tail: how to grow a blog in 2017

As you can imagine, short-tail keywords are extremely competitive and difficult to rank for. What most people now do is try to rank for a series of longer-tail alternatives where you add an extra bit of information on the end to target a smaller group of people.

I’ve written a bit about keyword research for blogging before so I won’t go over it again in too much detail. At a minimum, you want to spend 20 minutes to an hour researching and making sure you can compete and are targeting the right things.

4. Pick a post title strategy and work your keywords into it

So now we are up to the bit where you actually start to draft some titles.

This is where it gets lengthy!

It’s at the point where we have to communicate our ideas to our readers, show them what we want to achieve, generate some curiosity, and also add in the key phrase for the benefits of Google SEO.

Each thing that you leave out makes for a less effective title.

So how do you do that?

Well, the best bet is to use some kind of title strategy that gives you a little method or guideline to follow.

Here are some examples:

Shock value
Two titles that have worked really well for me personally are Why I Hate Copyblogger which was published on Copyblogger itself and an email I sent with the subject Goodbye Old Friend about switching to my new responsive theme. Both caused a big stir, but had the downside of a bit of negative feedback for scaring people! Note that these don’t address all of our criteria.
Scarcity
Human beings are hardwired to minimise loss and as such using a title that indicates that readers are already losing something, or that there is a limited amount of something available to them can be incredibly effective. My most effective example of this is probably Why Blogging is a Waste of Time because so many of the readers were already heavily involved in blogging.
Time sensitivity
Time sensitivity is closely related to scarcity – if there is a limited amount of time available people will be more likely to act. My favorite example of this is from Glen who actually uses that phrase in the title Time Sensitive: How to Reach 100,000,000 Unique Visitors in Just 6 Months. If you don’t feel compelled to click this link you might actually need to see a doctor. Another big example from this week is the article Google Search is About to Make a Major Change.
Exclusivity
Sticking to our biological needs, humans really love being part of something exclusive. We can see this awful ego in action all over the place with premium memberships; the clubs and groups you join when you buy a Porsche, for example. Even just hinting at something exclusive can be very powerful as I was happy to see in my post REVEALED: 19 Things to Know Before You Start a Blog which has been a big post for me.
Fear and anxiety
Marketing is normally about solving a need that someone has (although we could argue that these days marketers create artificial needs to sell us crap…). If you can incorporate a fear or anxiety into your title you’ll generate immediate interest. The title How a Single Guest Post May Have Gotten an Entire Site Penalized by Google does that extremely well because we’ve all done guest posts and we’re all kind of scared of that penalty. Note: Please only do this is you feel the fear is necessary and your post has some answers. Don’t just aim to scare people.
Extraordinary value
Titles that communicate an extraordinary amount of value often do really well, especially if the article itself actually follow through with the promise. I tried to do this with a post called My 9,381-Word Guide on How to Start a Blog and Dominate Your Niche. It took a long time to write but the results have been pretty good. In my opinion Glen is the king of these types of titles with examples like How 3 Guys Made Over $10,000,000 Last Year Without a Single Backlink.

These are just some very basic examples. I’ll try to give you a few more tactics towards the end of the post in case you want to go deeper on how to work these motivations into your title and headline writing.

5. Keep your title in view and constantly tighten it

When I was in university someone told me to read the essay question every few minutes to stop myself going off track.

It was very good advice.

I like to keep my title in view and read it again and again as I type each paragraph. This helps me stay on track, but it also forces me to review the headline and tighten it up as the post evolves – which it always does.

On average I would say that my titles get re-written at least 20 to 40 times before I publish.

Sometimes the title will change because you realize that there is a better topic/angle for your overall blogging strategy, other times you just figure out better and better ways to say what you want.

The main iterations of this post’s title went:

How to Write A Blog Post Title
Why My Blog Post Titles Take Hours to Write
My Method of Writing Effective Blog Post Titles
How I Write Effective Blog Post Titles
Why Writing Blog Post Titles Can Take Hours
Why My Effective Titles Take Hours
How I Write Effective Post Titles (and Why it Can Take Hours)
How I Write Effective Titles (and Why it Takes Hours)
Etc.

(Dear Google, I am not keyword-stuffing here. ? )

Each one of these variations also probably had two or three versions that I toyed with. Sometimes I will sit there and do this until I feel solid about it, other times I will revise the title as I write the article itself in order to get the whole entity flowing together.

6. Publish your post and tweak for different versions

Okay so this is where the “art” of title-writing starts to turn more into the “science” of title-writing.

Once you’ve finished writing the perfect blog post you hit publish and then start to take care of all the other versions of your post title that need to be addressed.

For example, the way your title appears on Google, Facebook, your blog itself, and your mail out can all be completely different if you so choose.

I touched on the mail out above with the iPhone sizing so let’s talk more about the appearance in the search engine rankings here.

With a plugin like All in One SEO Pack or Yoast’s WordPress SEO you can actually change the title of your posts so that they appear different in Google.

For example, here’s a result from Blog Tyrant:

search result

As you can see, the blog post title is too long and gets cut off. The tricky thing about this, however, is that the title length that Google shows will be longer depending on the key phrase that was searched. In the old days it was around 70 characters and so we could easily cater for that. Not anymore.

So it’s important to think carefully about the main key words you want to rank for an ensure you have a good appearance for that main target.

ctr

You can track all of this in Webmaster Tools and a bit with Clicky.

Here you can see a post where I’m getting a 46% click through rate from Google for the displays where I rank in the first position. This could be better but depends on lots of things like the type of search people are doing (how-to’s vs general info), the number of ads around it, etc.

One thing that’s good to note here is that you don’t want to change your title too much on Google (or anywhere else…) such that people get mislead when they arrive on your post and see the actual title. That will cause a big increase in your bounce rate.

If you want to test the effectiveness of your subject lines for mail outs it’s a good idea to segment your list and split test different versions and see whether you can get any meaningful results that you can learn from and replicate next time.

Some more tips for writing effective post titles

Now that I’ve kind of gone over my own process for writing effective titles, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a few miscellaneous tips and resources that I have found useful over the years.

In other words, here are some things that I couldn’t figure out how to fit into the main content:

Jon Morrow’s free eBook on writing headlines is probably the best resource on the internet for headline development. I regularly refer to it to “borrow” ideas. You’ll need to submit your email to get it.
Write a lot. There’s a story here that Brian Clark made Jon Morrow write 35,000 headlines in one year in order to help him become the best at it.
Copyblogger has an absolute boatload of headline material that you can get all in one place. Man I really hate these guys.
Find people to learn from. I regularly look at ViperChill and ViralNova to see whether they have any super-successful post titles that I can adapt to my own blogging formula.
Study your real results. Learn to look at your data and see what is getting the actual results that count. That could mean subscribers, sales or some other metric important to your blog. Once you know, copy those posts.
Be scientific. Tools like AWeber, VWO, etc. can help you use different testing methods to see what is working most effectively.

In the end, writing effective titles is just like any other skill that you want to develop – it takes study, practice and a lot of testing to get it right.

What is your most effective title?

I’m really kind of curious to see what kind of post titles the Tyrant Troops have come up with. If you know what your most effective title has been please write it out below in the comments. We might all learn a thing or two from your success!

Forget Memes. Here’s What Blogs Can Really Do.

no bloggingBlogging has long been an effective way to share ideas and information, but it hasn’t always been something that the cool kids embrace. Should that worry us?

Last week someone kidded with me by saying that “…only idiots blog, so don’t do it”.

Don’t worry, they were joking and I had a good laugh! But it did get me thinking about all the positive things that blogs can do, and how they’re really not just for selfies and re-sharing memes.

A good blog can change the world. Maybe not everyone knows about that.

Today I want to show you some of the most inspiring and effective blogs on the net (like, way better than Blog Tyrant) and why I think this medium is still one of the most powerful forms of communication around.

My own feelings about blogging

Blogging has quite literally changed my life.

It’s allowed me to build a career where I can work from home, travel with my partner, and even donate a little bit of money to some charities that I really love. And while I honestly don’t think Blog Tyrant is anything special, I feel so lucky to be able to work on a website with such a great community of friends and fellow web entrepreneurs.

I don’t say any of this to make myself seem good, I just feel it’s important to show examples of how blogging can really impact both the blogger and the reader. For me it has been an absolutely fantastic process, and something that I will always evangelize in the hope that it will spread little chunks of goodness around the web.

Blogging isn’t for idiots, it’s actually very important

As the world becomes more deeply digitized, websites and blogs are going to play an extraordinarily important role in education, modern thinking, culture and, as we saw last year, how effectively our political systems work.

I’m also convinced that blogging will play an bigger role in our economy as artificial intelligence and robotics steps in and takes over more and more traditional job roles. Millions will turn to the Internet to look for supplementary income opportunities.

So, what I thought I would do now is go above and beyond this little blog and show you some examples that have had a significant impact on their community, the Internet itself, and maybe even the whole world.

1. GiveWell – Charity reviews and research

give well

GiveWell describes themselves as “…a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities through in-depth analysis. Thousands of hours of research have gone into finding our top-rated charities. They’re evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded.” The idea is basically that they help you donate to charities in the most financially effective way. You know that every dollar that you donate is having an impact.

But the interesting thing is how much their blog shaped my own ideas about charity. Their articles are brilliantly researched and really help to open your eyes to new ideas. This article on whether to give now or later is a good example.

This is one blog/website that is read by thousands of people and organizations around the world and is having a very direct impact on things like getting kids healthy through de-worming, and by making charities more effective and transparent.

2. Gates Notes – The blog of Bill Gates

bill gates blog

We all know Bill Gates as the man behind Microsoft. But, for me, the more important thing is that Bill has used his wealth to make the world a better place through extensive and effective charity and things like The Giving Pledge where he, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet have encouraged dozens of billionaires to donate their wealth to philanthropy.

This particular blog is important because it shows Mr. Gates leading by example. It is exciting to see a billionaire technology giant writing about topics like How Foreign Aid Helps Americans and How You Can Be a More Effective Donor, and so on.

These articles are shared and read by millions, including policy-makers, those with money to burn, and, perhaps most importantly, the younger generation who will one day take the reigns

3. Wait But Why – A new post every sometimes

wait but why

Wait But Why is one of the only blogs where I have sat quite literally for the whole day and read. That is such a rare feeling and something that I really value.

This is the type of long-form content blog that makes you think about things in an entirely different way. The posts are meticulously researched and, best of all, it’s written in a way that is so approachable and warm that you just want to keep going deeper and deeper. I can’t help but imagine how many people have had breakthrough moments reading this stuff.

Articles like this one (where he interviewed Elon Musk!) must have inspired so many people to study science, and this one to make people read more books because, actually, you only have about 300 books left before you stop reading for the rest of eternity. I’d avoid the article on A.I. though, it actually caused me to lose sleep!

4. I Used to Be a Human Being – New York Magazine

human being

This one is not a whole blog but a single article that originally appeared in a print publication and then was syndicated online. The article I Used to Be a Human Being is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read online, and made me genuinely re-think the way I work, live and interact with the world around me.

To me, this is a fantastic example of how a blog format can take an amazing piece of writing and spread it to the masses. While the New York Magazine print edition has decent circulation numbers, it’s online presence reaches far more people and allows articles like this to be shared with people who might otherwise have never purchased or subscribed.

One has to wonder whether Andrew Sullivan would have had the opportunity to publish articles in magazines like this one without an already exceptional and popular blog of his own.

5. Dooce – I like babies but I couldn’t eat a whole one

dooce

A genuine cultural icon. Dooce, written by Heather Armstrong, was one of the first and arguably the most successful in the niche of personal bloggers (and that awful term “mommy bloggers”). She started back in 2001 and was even fired from her job for blogging about a bad experience – that lead to the term “Dooced” which has been used by people all over the world. For a long time Heather was considered one of the most influential women in online media.

The thing that really stood out to me about Heather’s blog was how openly she wrote about depression and the difficult sides of parenting. These articles were read by millions of people around the world and, as you can see on this post, the comment threads fill up with people sharing stories and opening up about their own struggles.

Heather really inspired a whole generation of bloggers who started writing and sharing their stories. While I know not all of them went on to Dooce’s level of fame and fortune, I have no doubts that this genre has helped a lot of people deal with day-to-day existence.

6. Tree Hugger – Sustainability with Sass

tree hugger

Tree Hugger is a well-established blog that is aiming to make sustainability and green-technology more mainstream. To me, this is a perfect blog as it combines approacability with a very strong brand and ethos. You know exactly what it’s about and it can be something that you bookmark and read regularly to discover new ways to be a contributing human being.

For example, this article on whether our own personal lifestyle choices help the environment in a meaningful way is a really good method for introducing people to more political thoughts about green technology changes. It’s a warning but also quite hopeful. With the current climate emergency, this type of blog is essential.

7. Students for a Free Tibet – Transformation through non-violence

free tibet

I sit here and write this article from a comfortable office. Many of the bloggers behind Students for a Free Tibet, however, are often quite literally risking their freedom in order to share information that tells the world about what is going on inside a Chinese occupied Tibet.

Social media has played an increasingly important role in modern times. During the Arab Spring, for example, we saw how risky it could be to be a blogger, but also how important it was to get truthful information out to the world when a dictatorship might be blocking news access. I can’t imagine how terrifying this must be, and I feel really quite inspired at this very brave use of the blogging format.

8. LGBTQ Nation – World’s most followed LGBTQ news source

LGBTQ news

The Internet has probably done a lot for making LGBTQ issues more mainstream. For example, it’s provided forums and private chat rooms where sexually confused teenagers can get support and seek advice.

Sites like LGBTQ Nation go a long way to ensuring that issues like sexism, homophobia, LGBTQ suicide and depression, etc. don’t go unnoticed. It also shines a light on news that specifically affects a large but often under-represented portion of our population. Here’s a recent example.

9. Medium – Share stories that matter

medium

I was pretty skeptical about Medium when it first came out. And while I still don’t think it’s the best choice for a blog host when you want to build a business or a long term career, the quality and power of this blogging platform is undeniable. They have truly created a place on the net where people come to write good stuff.

For example, there’s the article where the CEO of GoDaddy stopped by to talk about how A.I. will replace jobs, or this article with 12k shares about how quitting a corporate job ruined a life, or this wonderful story with advice from a 30-year-old to his younger self.

So many bloggers are now using Medium to share ideas or get feedback on topics they aren’t sure about. I regularly find myself clicking through to links containing the medium.com URL because I have come to associate much of the work their with quality research, progressive thinking, and helpful communities.

How does your blog affect the world around it?

If you are thinking about starting a blog soon, or already have one in operation, it’s important to think about the impact that you’ll have on those that read your stuff. I often think about this quote when it comes to the Internet:

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. – the Dalai Lama

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be perfect (I’m certainly not), and we can’t all have blogs that change the world, but in a global society where your writing can reach all countries, and kids have near unlimited access to everything, our blogs play a bigger role than ever.

So that just leaves us to wonder: what impact are we having?

Don’t Put Ads on Your Blog

ads on blogs

Ads are still the primary way that bloggers try to make an income online. But is it really the best solution? Probably not.

There seems to be a common perception (among newer bloggers in particular) that the best way to make an income with a blog is to write content and then put some kind of advert in the sidebar or at the top of each post.

I regularly hear from people who want to know how to get more AdSense clicks, or where to find advertisers to pay them for a prime piece of website real estate.

In my experience, this is one of the worst ways to make money online.

Today’s post will take a look at why ads are not the best way to make an income from your blog, and what alternatives are available to us in the short and long term.

Note: I’m always happy to be wrong and learn new things so make sure you read to the end if you’ve got a different point of view!

Why I don’t like ads on blogs

Let’s start this post by jumping right in and looking at why advertising and programs like AdSense aren’t the best fit for blogs.

Lack of quality control
One of the first things you notice when you sign up to a program that delivers ads on your blog is that you often don’t have much control over the ads that are then displayed on your blog. I often find it a bit sad to see a high quality magazine, for example, displaying ads from questionable products that they would otherwise never approve.
Site load time
If you run a speed test on any website that uses an advertising network you can almost guarantee that it will be slowing down their site. As we know, a fast loading blog is essential for good Google rankings and, as such, we should be a bit careful about installing anything that affects this negatively.
Low earnings per lost reader
When you think about it, a program like AdSense is sending readers away from your site for a few cents (or maybe a few dollars in a good niche). While this can add up to a lot, it’s still a relatively cheap way to lose readers that are quite difficult to acquire through content creation, SEO, networking, etc.
Intrusive display options
From an advertisers points of view, they are going to want to maximize the amount of coverage they get on your blog. But from your readers point of view, that represents an annoying intrusion or a big break in page momentum. This can have a huge effect on bounce rate and subscriber conversion rates.
Lack of trust
In some extreme cases, ads can cause readers to lose trust in the site. For example, there are some blogs that have so many ads and pop ups that I no longer visit them (even with a pop up blocker) because I don’t like the scripts and cookies and some of the nasty things they can do to your computer.

We’ll take a look at the flip side of all this in a minute, but these are the main reasons why I don’t think bloggers should consider ads as a main source of income for their long term careers.

A quick example of the problem with ads

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I thought it would be good to look at an example of how advertising might have a negative effect on a site. Please keep in mind that this is me talking personally as a user/reader of a site. I don’t have any data on this particular example.

The above is a screenshot from News.com.au which, at the time, had at least five ads on the homepage for well-loved painkiller, Panadol. For many web users this makes it extremely difficult to determine where the news ends and the advertising begins. I think there would be a lot of accidental clicks, which, to me, doesn’t do any favors for the advertiser or the seller.

I acknowledge that news sites in particular are in a difficult position at the moment as revenues fall, fake news gains popularity, and budgets are tight. But I can’t help wonder whether this is doing more harm than good over then long term, as opposed to sites like the New York Times and New Yorker which are adjusting quite well with subscription models.

Note: This is also why I don’t recommend free blogging platforms where ads are often a non-negotiable part of the user experience.

So, what’s the alternative?

At this point you’re probably wondering what a good alternative is. That’s where it gets a little bit tricky and we have to start thinking from a more long term perspective.

Develop a strategy for the future
The first thing we need to do is develop a long term blogging strategy that factors in all the different goals and ideas you have for your blog over the next five or so years. This really helps to make the next stages more focused, and gives you ideas about where to go next.
Explore temporary sources of income
In my guide on how to make money from a new blog we go into some better details about what is possible for short term income sources that enhance your blog instead of detracting from it. For example, using your blog as an Internet business card to sell services to businesses in your area, freelancing, etc. This really helps while you’re getting established.
Build a mailing list around a particular niche
Throughout all of this, we should be focusing the majority of our efforts on building a mailing list that is very closely targeted to the area that we want to monetize in the future. For example, if your blog is about Bonsai growing you could set up a mailing list with a weekly Bonsai expert tip and, throughout this process, introduce people to some affiliate products that you use with your own Bonsai garden at home.
Create a product that appeals to your mailing list
The majority of bloggers who have gained some level of success have created a product that they then sold to a mailing list that was primed for the sale. Examples include ViperChill opening an SEO training course after writing about Google for months, Darren Rowse selling photography guides to his enormous community at Christmas, Pat Flynn building a podcast player while also having the best how to podcast guide on the net, etc.
Reinforce these systems with more traffic
Once you have a good system of email list > affiliate products > original products set up then your main job is to drive relevant traffic to those posts and pages that promote the funnel. This can mean getting more traffic Google and then exploring things like advertising, guest posting, instagram marketing, etc. as a way to ensure that you get a continuous and reinforcing flow.

One of the main reasons that I like this style of monetization is that the whole process, if you so choose, can be of value to your readers – the content that originally lands them, the email course, the products – all of it can solve problems and help people in their daily lives.

A quick example of this being done right

There are so many places to see this type of strategy but I thought I would just show you one that I really like in the hope that it’ll give you a few ideas for your own blog. This example is from The Chess Website.

chess example

This is a fantastic demonstration of how to use free content as a way to encourage people to sign up for a highly relevant paid product – in this case the unlocking of further strategies.

The Chess Website is also prolific on YouTube and its videos get millions of views to its free training and strategy videos.

Once you visit the website to practice more chess openings or strategies you see that you can get many more tutorials unlocked by paying a small membership fee. This is a really flawless transition from free to paid content and gives them so many opportunities for further promotions as they already have an active and very engaged customer base.

When are ads on blogs a good idea?

I couldn’t end this post without taking a look at the inevitable situations where ads are a reasonable idea.

This mainly occurs where traffic is relatively large but the time on site is relatively low because readers are getting the information they need quite quickly, or the information doesn’t require much analysis.

For example, product review sites where the products aren’t that interesting (think fridges, vacuums, etc.) are going to really struggle to get people subscribing for a mailing list. It’s different when the product has a cult following (think iPhones, video games, PC hardware, etc.), but where someone is just looking to see if a thing is good or bad based on others’ reviews then there isn’t much more you can do than ads.

Another situation might be where you site gets a lot of traffic but is about a very generalized group of sub-topics. Some magazines and newspapers run into this issue – while one reader might like to see articles on climate science updates that doesn’t mean they’ll want to read about elections in New York. In this situation it’s still preferable to use affiliate product where you can, but some advertising might be necessary.

The last option I wanted to throw out there is when an advertiser approaches you directly and wants to place ads on your blog exclusively. They might buy naming rights, or sponsor your site for a period of time. This could happen, for example, if your blog is about a new movie or video game that is coming out. In that scenario you have complete control over the ads and the price.

Do you use ads on your blog?

I know that a lot of you gals and guys use ads on your blog and I’d really like to know whether you disagree with my assessment, or whether I’ve missed any important point. Have ads worked well for you? Or have you found another alternative that you think bloggers might like to know about?

Please leave a comment.

Top photo © Danomyte Scared Man.