Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Top 7 Twitter Imperatives For Bloggers

Many bloggers accustomed to dealing with topics in 400 to 600 words are finding concentrating their messages down to a mere 140 characters to be extremely challenging. Twitter can be a minefield and the slightest error can cost you readers and reputation, so follow these top 7 blogger imperatives for Twitter and rise to the level of a whiz tweeter, not a whizzing twit.

1. Wach ur Spelink & Gramma – Your Twitter content represents your blog and if you’re illiterate in your tweets then the reader can expect more of the same in your blog. Even though you only have 140 characters to work with, abbreviations are generally frowned upon, so it’s best to state what you have to say very concisely but in perfect English.

2. Ice your head first – The CEO of the leading company in your field has done something so profoundly cretinous that they’re making Steve Ballmer look like Albert Einstein, so your first temptation is to fire off a tweet calling him a moron and a bozo. You shouldn’t insult anyone on Twitter ever as it can come back to haunt you and will alienate many of your followers. You’re best off to criticize the factual policies, without engaging in ad hominem attacks.

3. Thicken your skin – One of the most frustrating things about being on Twitter is how many of your followers will not hesitate for a moment to call you a moron and a bozo. Just like you shouldn’t engage in vulgar tweeting about industry figures you have to restrain yourself from engaging in an exchange of expletives with instigators. Just ignore them and they’ll go find some other playground to engage in their silly games.

4. Just the facts ma’am – Twitter is a factual communications medium, so you’re best off to reserve your editorial ruminations to your blog and provide information and links which are both relevant and valuable to your reader. They read your blog to obtain the latest happenings in your industry, whether it be the specs on the latest 128GB SSD or what Lindsay Lohan has done now. “Just had a great Mocha Frappuccino #starbucks” is not really either relevant or valuable to anyone and it verges on…

5. Shill Shill Hurray (Not) – The great dirty non-secret of Twitter is that influential tweeters can cash in bigtime. When a major celebrity movie or sports star makes an offhanded remark about how great their shoe/car/watch/whatever is you can bet that their motivation is not altruistic sharing of a great customer experience but a real big check.

As a blogger you have a responsibility to remain unbiased and balanced, so ranting on about how fantastic a specific product is will communicate to your readers that you’ve succumbed to payola and your opinions can no longer be trusted to be your own.

6. Politickmeoff – Are you writing a political blog? Then feel free to engage in all the political wagging your heart desires. If your blog is not related to politics in any way then your tweets should never broach the subjects. If your readers are seeking information on your industry’s latest news, they really couldn’t care less if you’re voting for or against Obama. You can make an exception when political maneuvering affects your industry, such as the Keystone XL pipeline being momentous for the oil business or the Stop Online Piracy Act shaking up internet providers.

7. No laughs for gaffes – We all laugh uproariously when a major twitter makes a boneheaded mistake, such as Ashton Kutcher railing against Penn State Coach Joe Paterno’s firing before learning it was due to a molestation scandal, Kenneth Cole connecting the violent Egyptian uprising to his new spring fashion collection, or Gilbert Gottfried making jokes out of the Japanese Tsunami.

So… what have learned, Dorothy? Don’t repeat their mistakes! You should be lighthearted in your tweets but not ever broach the limits of insensitivity or make factual errors. The wrong 140 characters can wipe out years of work building up your blog!

Hal Licino is a successful author, award-winning freelance writer, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, an email marketing service for small businesses.

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How to Add a Call to Action to Your Post

You might have written your best post ever — but without a call to action, it’s not going to get you the results you’re hoping for.

A “call to action” is a copywriting term. It simply means asking or telling the reader to take a specific action. That might be:

  • Subscribing to your blog or newsletter
  • Buying your ebook
  • Sharing the post on Twitter or Facebook
  • Downloading a free report
  • Trying out a particular technique or idea

… or almost anything that will benefit you and/or the reader.

Your call to action should be clear and specific. Don’t simply link to a post and assume that readers will get the message: tell them “click here to read…” or “find out more by clicking this link” or similar. If you’re asking for comments, give them a specific question to think about.

There are two places to put your calls to action:

#1: At the End of Your Post

The final line of your post is a natural and effective place for a call to action: you’re helping the reader decide what to do next. It’s crucial you don’t leave this to chance. After reading a post, the reader has lots of options open — including leaving your site altogether.

Some great closing lines are:

  • What do you think about [topic]? Let us know in the comments below.
  • If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Twitter by clicking on the “Tweet” button to the right.
  • To find out more about this, read [link to another post on your blog]

#2: Throughout Your Post

You don’t just have to put calls to action at the end of your post. By including them earlier, you prime readers to take action, and get them thinking.

For instance:

  • To introduce a list post: See what you think of these ten ideas (and add your own in the comments).
  • To sell an ebook: I’ve just launched my new ebook, [title of ebook]. I’ll be saying a few words about that at the end of this post, but if you want to find out all about it now, you can click on this link [link to sales page].

Now, it’s your turn. Think about your blogging goals (e.g. growing your subscriber base or your newsletter list) and come up with a call to action for your next post.

Bio: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, and has a weekly column on content creation for DailyBlogTips.

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The Two Biggest Guest Blogging Mistakes You Can Make

I receive around 20 guest post submissions per week. Usually I let them pile up and once a month I go through all of them, replying to the ones I think would be a good fit for the blog.

There are two types of submissions I discard right away, though, without even taking a look. I also consider those the two biggest mistakes you can make while trying to guest post on some blog. They are:

1. Not including the name of the blog owner

If by opening your email I see something like “Dear Sir” or “Dear Blog Owner” I’ll send it to the trash bin immediately. Why? because it tells me that this is a generic guest post offer, and that you probably sent the same post to dozens of other blogs.

The least you can do is to visit the site where you want to guest post and to discover the name of the owner.

2. Not including the post itself

Many of the guest post emails I receive are only asking if I would be interested in having a guest post written. Something like this:
Dear Daniel,
I have been your blog for a long time, and I was wondering if you would be interested in having me to write a guest post for you. I was thinking to write something about Facebook marketing or email marketing.
Please let me know and we’ll get moving.
John Doe
My thoughts when I see such emails: “How on earth can I know if I would be interested in having your guest post if I don’t know how you write or what ideas you have?”.

Sometimes the person will include the title of the guest post. Same deal. How can I approve or reject a guest post just by looking at the title?

Sure, I could reply explaining this to the person, but why waste my time?

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Monday, February 06, 2012

6 Actionable Tips to Really Improve Your Blog in 2012

Enough of the quasi-motivating “New Year posts” which promise you the world but show you no actions to take.

This post is just gonna give you the facts; no B.S. about “taking charge” of your blog’s success, just stuff you need to get done to rock it in 2012.

So, how about you stop reading the intro and start taking notes, and after that, don’t go check Twitter, start implementing them right now!

1.) Take Your Email List Seriously

It’s time to start taking your email list seriously, because building it is the “do or die” component of your blog that simply cannot be ignored  ;-) .

By the way, if you haven’t started an email list for your blog, I can personally call you up and yell at you for motivation if needed .

First things first, nailing the right spots for opt-in forms.

There are 3 main spots where opt-in forms are essential and can really be considered not optional, and they are:

  1. Sidebar opt-in
  2. End of post opt-in
  3. Opt-ins on important pages (about me, etc.)

Two “bonus” places I would greatly consider are the above the fold feature box (like I have on my site) and the dedicated subscription page (which also lists other ways to subscribe, such as via RSS).

The other two things you need to do are:

  1. Try new email collection techniques
  2. Make your newsletter worth subscribing too

As for the second, you need to start creating newsletter exclusive content just for subscribers, in the form of free guides hosted on your site or elsewhere (such as Scribd) or just with plain text emails that provide a lot of value.

Your email list is everything, time to make it count.

2.) Branch Out to New Content Mediums

Time to stop with the boring text posts all the time.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the classic blog article (you’re reading one now!), but in 2012 you need to embrace the change in how people interact with content, and that means getting involved with audio and video.

This is the year where you need to start “Being Everywhere”, and this starts with learning the benefits of using video and also how to start a podcast.

I wrote a post hear on DBT specifically about how to increase your blog traffic with SlideShare, and I have a quick update: I was able to make the SlideShare homepage, get over 18,000+ views on my presentation, and attract over 2000 unique visitors to my blog!

But I’m not hear to talk about my successes, I’m here to prove a point: new content mediums work, and you are missing out on tons of traffic if you stick to your regular old text posts.
It’s time to start engaging in:

  1. Video
  2. Podcasts
  3. Slideshows
  4. Infographics
  5. Unique images
  6. PDF & documents (guides)
  7. Webinars

All of these forms of content not only help you stand out, they will also help you attract more visitors and become known as the blogger who dominants all content forms in your niche.

3.) Start Guest Blogging With Purpose

No more of the “spray and pray” strategy of guest blogging.

In my post on creating a funnel with your guest posts, I talk about how a blind guest post (with no real purpose), while it might bring over some traffic/subscribers, is far from being as effective as a guest post that relies on “priming” readers for something on your blog.

Your goal as a guest blogger should be as follows:

  1. Create amazing content (that’s a given, “price of admission” as it were)
  2. Prime readers for something on your site (we’ll get into that in a minute)
  3. Stand out from other guest bloggers

We’re not going to go over how to create awesome content, there’s plenty of info on that.

As for priming readers, as I stated in my post above, you need to write a guest post that does one of the following things:

  • Relates to your unique selling proposition
  • Relates to your opt-in freebie (e-Book or otherwise)
  • Relates to whatever you are selling

The reason you need to do this is because people who have read your post all the way through will be interested in learning more (since they obviously enjoyed the topic of your post).

This is why ‘priming’ work so well, after reading an article of yours about “taxes” on a personal development site, they head over to your blog where you write about taxes and, guess what, have a free e-Book on how to get your taxes done fast.

They’ve been primed by the guest post to your specific topic/niche, and now your blog caters to that topic.

I guarantee you’ll see more sign-ups to your list, try it out and if it doesn’t work, I encourage you to visit my blog and leave me an angry comment

4.) Stop Wasting Time on Social Media.

Okay, before you draw out the fire and pitchforks, hear me out…

As tremendous of a resource as social media can be for creating connections, it pales in comparison when it comes to networking influential people in your niche.

That’s right, email is the greatest “social network” of all.

Staying in touch with people who blog about the same or similar topics as you as the obvious benefit that they will likely support your new posts a projects, sharing them to a whole new audience for you.

Reciprocation generally leads to people willing to help you out back, this is where social media can come in handy (sharing the work of others on Twitter will usually lead to them doing the same).

However, email is where all of the magic happens: guest post submissions, project discussions, debates & private chats, interviews, collaborations, all of the interesting things about your business are going down via email, with social media as the ever present “face” or icebreaker for new contacts & business relationships.

Email is also how you can “chase” traffic rather than sitting around and waiting for it: don’t spam, but for new posts that really push buttons, shoot an email to a few influential people who might be interested in your content, and ask them kindly if they would mind sharing it to their audience (stating plainly that you think their readers would enjoy it).

You’d be surprised at how much a polite email can get done when sent to the right people.

5.) Optimize Your Site Design & Speed

If you recall from this research study on web design, it’s scary how much your site design can effect people’s perception of the quality of your content (and how trustworthy you are)… before they even read any of it!

Did you also know that you only have an average of a few seconds (that’s single digits) to capture someone’s attention before they “bounce” off of your site?

Point is: site design and site speed matter, a lot, and in 2012 it’s time for you to start taking them seriously.
When it comes to site design, you need to think about the end goal of your site: are you trying to get email subscribers? Are you trying to get affiliate sales? Are you hoping people will buy your products?

If you are the typical blog, you are going to want to focus on building your list, and if that’s the case, you need to focus on having a clean, uncluttered site with plenty of reading room and an emphasis on opt-in forms.

Not those annoying opt-in forms that won’t go away when clicked, but natural forms at prime locations, as discussed in section #1.

You are also going to want an easy to navigate site: don’t have a ton of options on your navigation menu, don’t have a search field unless absolutely necessary, and don’t include useless links in your sidebar and other sections of your site (example: get rid of links to categories under your post’s description).

When it comes to speeding up a WordPress blog, there are a few things that will always apply to your site’s speed:

  1. Choose a good host (cheap is fine at first, but good hosting matters if you want to grow)
  2. Keep your homepage simple and clean (KISS – Keep it simple, stupid!)
  3. Optimize images automatically with WP SmushIt
  4. Optimize your database with WP-Optimize
  5. Consider using a plugin that utilizes LazyLoad
  6. Pick a good CDN service and host files there (I suggest MaxCDN)
  7. Turn off non-essentials (like pingbacks/trackbacks, default Gravatar images, deleting useless plugins, etc.)
  8. [Advanced] Replace PHP with static HTML where you are able (check out this great post on how to do just that)

Lastly, if you are running a WordPress site without running a caching plugin, you are doing things wrong, so make sure you have either WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache installed right this instant! (I like W3 better, and integrated with CloudFlare)

6.) Create Content With Deliberate Practice

In a recent post of mine of the psychology behind a successful blog, I noted a research study that aimed to address why certain violinists went on to become world reknowned musicans, and why others didn’t (even though they were still talented at the violin).

Their findings?

It was due to the amount of deliberate practice that the world class students engaged in, not the amount of practice.

The thing was, the world class students had a tendency to practice in long, deliberate sessions were they worked on addressing their weakpoints and refining their strong points, ie, practice with a purpose.
This is akin to doing drills in athletics, rather than just “shooting the ball around”.

If you hope to create a blog that gets noticed and makes a difference, you need to take on this mindset when you write.

Write for your blog (and for your guest posts) when you really have time to sit and focus, when you have time to concentrate on creating a post that accomplishes what you set out to do from the very beginning, no matter how many edits and rewrites it takes to do it.

A lackluster effort will produce lackluster results, so if you want to become known for having word-class content, practice like a world-class blogger.

Gregory Ciotti writes about WordPress and online marketing at Sparring Mind (make sure to check it out). He also writers a weekly column for Daily Blog Tips.

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