Blogging

8 Formats To Produce Highly Engaging Web Content

Yes, we know… blogging is extremely useful for expanding your brand presence, improving your visibility in search engines and growing your web traffic. There is also a strong correlation between blog post frequency and customer acquisition.

However, with the big amount of blogs populating the blogosphere, it’s getting harder and harder to make your blog stand out the crowd. So the question is how small business owners can produce high-quality content for their blogs and websites to differentiate themselves? And how can they produce this content in an inexpensive way?

When we talk about producing high-quality posts, written content is not the only way to deliver your message. There are other dynamic and creative ways to present your web content that will engage your readers much better and make your blog or website stand out.

As I explained in this other post on how to write for blogs, the process to write a good blog post can be summarised in three simple steps:

  1. Identifying a common struggle of your target market (choosing the topic)
  2. Writing about a possible solution to that problem (crafting the content)
  3. Presenting this solution in the most visually appealing way (adding value)

In today’s post I’ll focus on this third step, by introducing 8 different ways to create highly engaging content to add value to your blog. By utilising any of these web content formats you will give your readers something to take with them - to save, print or share - after visiting your website and reading your posts.

1.    Infographics

They are a visual representation of information or data. They can be very useful to explain technical information or to quickly convey the key points behind complex data. Infographics can make your post more visually appealing and easier to understand.

Infographic formats include timelines, flow charts, annotated maps, graphs, etc.

A good infographic is an excellent SEO tool that can generate high-quality natural back-links. A well-designed infographic on a hot topic can be also shared across many social media platforms.

How to produce your own infographics

If you don’t have design software such a Photoshop or Illustrator, or simply don’t have design skills, you can still create infographics with the help of some free web-based tools like Infogr.am or Easel.ly. In this post published by Creative Blog you can find other 10 free tools to make your own infographics.


2.    Podcasts

They are audio-content that your visitors can download and listen in their own time. For many internet users, podcasts are a more convenient way to consume your content, as they can be listened while the user is performing another task, like driving, walking, commuting to work, etc.

Podcasts are a more dynamic way to present educational content or blog interviews. The interview can also be transcribed or summarised in a post.

How to produce your Own podcast

A great tool to produce podcasts is Audacity, an open-source editing and recording program that’s compatible with most operating systems and works well for beginners. To find out more about how to use podcasts to grow your business read this other article by Digital Trends:


3.    Video

Video formats are another way to produce visual and interactive content for your blog and website. Studies have shown that posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts.

They are great ways to present how-to and DIY posts or tutorials.

Within the video formats, you can also find webinars. These are live, interactive online meetings. Viewers can attend live sessions and participate by asking questions or can watch recorded video after the session at anytime.

How to produce your own video-tutorials and webinars

Although this option seems difficult to produce, current technologies allow everyone to easily record videos from any device (including smart phones) and upload them on to YouTube. Also, screen-recording tools, like Camtasia, can help you easily produce video-tutorials on software or digital tools.

Here is also another great post on How to Do a Webinar Using Free or Inexpensive Tools, published by Right Mix Marketing.

4.    Slideshows

Online presentations are another way to share knowledge in a visual way. The advantages of using online presentations are:

  1. Any company produces presentations on regular-basis, so they may be a material that is already done and you just need put it online.
  2. They explain a topic in-depth combining text, images, charts, embedded videos, sounds and other interactive elements.

How to produce and share your slideshows

MS Powerpoint is the most popular tool to create slideshow and pretty much everyone who knows how to use a computer, know how to use this tool. Another alternative to create presentation is Prizie (from $10/month)

Once your presentation has been created, platforms like SlideShare allow users to easily upload and share their presentations and PDF documents.


5.    Case studies

Case studies are short explanations of a project your business has worked on for a client. They describe a problem, show how you implemented a solution and detail the achieved results.

Case studies are a very effective piece of content marketing, as well as a great way to build your business credibility and position yourself as an industry expert. They allow your business to share its success and prove potential clients that you have experience resolving their problem.

Case studies can be presented in a dedicated blog post or web page, like I do in the Featured Projects of my website, or in a PDF document than people can download, print and read on paper. The length of the case study will determine the format. If it contains more than 1500 words is better to put it on a PDF document.


6.    White papers

White papers are reports on one specific topic to sum up research done by your company on the topic, discoveries from a customer survey, or statistic information collected by digital tools or technology.

White papers are typically short in length, and people can download them from your website in PDF format.

White papers are great to create back-links. Also industry publications or any other media outlets could be interested in publishing your work, which would give your company an excellent free promotion.

How to produce your Own white papers

A white paper usually a very professional document that has to be created with design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. To know more about how to how to write an effective white papers and use it to promote your business also read this other article by OC Search.


7.    EBooks

eBooks are an essential part of any successful inbound marketing program. However they can be also time-consuming and more difficult to produce. eBooks are more extensive in length, and not only they need good content, but also a good design. For that reason, they are not usually available for free.

However, when they are given away as a freebie, they are a great way to build your email list. To do this, ask the visitor to subscribe to your list before downloading the document.

How to produce your Own eBooks

If you have a collection of interesting articles or blog posts on a similar topic, you can compile them in an eBook. To format your document you can use MS Word, but if you intend to sell the eBook I’d recommend leaving the layout and formatting to a designer, who can professionally do it with InDesign.


8.    Downloadable templates and free tools

When you write a how-to post, it could be a good idea to give your readers a downloadable template to put into practice what they just learned in your blog.

Like ebooks they are also a great way to grow your email list, by asking the reader to subscribe your newsletter to download the template.

In this other post on how to create a professional style guide for your blog or website you can see an example of downloadable workbook or template to implement what the post explains.

How to produce templates

Depending on the template they can be simply created in MS Word or PowerPoint, or professionally done in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.



Your turn

When visiting a blog, what's your favourite way to access the content?


How To Promote Your Brand In Third Party Blogs

Every day there are more companies that trust bloggers to build their brand reputation. Blogs are a powerful tool to connect brands with their target market, by introducing and recommending products or services to their readers.

Since online advertising is becoming more ineffective every day - 80% of people totally ignore paid ads on search engines and websites – blogs are now a very popular and cost-effective way to promote any business online.

A few years ago, third party blogs used to be a great way to promote a business for free. However, as blogs started to grow in popularity, and became more professional and effective as marketing platforms, bloggers’ inbox got inundated with press releases, content submissions and many other requests.

Today it’s harder to get your brand featured by a popular blog than what used to be a few years ago. It’s also not so common anymore to get those features completely free.

If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur looking for ways to collaborate with blogs, in today’s post you can learn the key benefits that external blogs can bring to your brand as well as the most common collaboration ways.


How blogs can benefit your brand

I’ve been a blogger for over 7 years (through my other blog), and have worked with hundreds of brands. Although blog collaborations have been widely used by many brands all around the world for many years now, people is still unsure how blogs can benefit their brands.

Here are the key benefits that collaborating with third party blogs can bring to your brand:

1. Reach - Lead traffic to your site can be hard. Your business may have its own blog to increase traffic and leads. You have probably written more than a docent of posts already and still have noticed no improvement in your stats.

Many popular blogs receive thousands of visitors every day and can connect your brand with large audiences in a faster way than your business blog.

2. Search Engine Optimisation - Getting featured by blogs is an effective way to increase your link popularity, which can also improve your position in the search engine rankings.  

Many blogs have already been online for a while, update content on daily basis, have a well-targeted readership, good online reputation and are pretty adept at getting near the top of search engine result pages. A link from a popular blog can be a gold coin for your business website.

3. Influence - According US research 81% of blog readers trust their favourite blogger’s advices, and 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on the recommendation of a blog post.

Bloggers can try products and make recommendations based on their own experiences and opinions. Those recommendations are read by thousands of readers, and the majority of them will trust the blogger’s advice.

4. Content Marketing - Good bloggers can turn their blog content into effective marketing materials, creating content that is relevant, valuable and interesting to their readers. When the content is good chances are that readers comment, like or share the blog post.

 


Effective ways to get blog features

1.    Quality visual material

In today’s visual world, beautiful images are your best advertising. Unless the blogger is a good photographer – or works in conjunction with one - professional and styled photographs are difficult to get by bloggers. However, every blogger knows good visual content can set a blog apart. So if you can produce those high-quality images, bloggers will be delighted to feature your brand.

Although producing that visual material will have a cost for the brand, this is a good way to be featured by blogs at no cost. Bloggers may find your photos in your website, blogs or social media channels, and approach directly to you to ask permission to publish the images.

Those photographs can become a great marketing investment if they can also be used in your website, your marketing collateral, press releases and social media. Articles with images get 94% more views over those without an image.


2.    Sponsored content

A sponsored post is when a blogger receives payment to publish an article that includes at least one contextual link to the sponsor's website.

According to a recent report from Zig Marketing, 67% of bloggers say paid sponsored content is their most profitable revenue generator. Fees range from $25 to $500, depending on their Google PageRank, traffic, link popularity and keyword strength.

When approaching blogger always ask for their media kit. In this document bloggers provide information on fees and blog stats.

While some bloggers may accept an article written by the company – or a guest post - I only accept sponsored posts in my blog if I write them myself, for two reasons:

  • I want to a keep consistent style and make sure that my blog is written in my own voice.
  • Articles written by inexperienced bloggers may end up being boring, low quality or overly sale content. If they’re written by an agency it could be even worst, as they may try to include links to several of their client’s websites, even if they aren’t relevant to the blog audience.


To know more about how much bloggers charge for sponsored content, also read this article published by Marketing Profs.

 

3. Product reviews

Bloggers usually write about things that they have experienced, discovered or learned. So another efficient way to get some links back to your website is by sending one of your products for them to try and write about it.

While the main topic of a sponsored post doesn’t necessary has to be the brand or its products – it could be any other related topic that gives the blogger the opportunity to include a link to the sponsor’s website – in the reviews the blogger has to talk directly about your product.

Blogosphere study 2.jpg

Before approaching a blogger to ask for a product review take into account that:

  • The product has to be relevant to the blog readers.
  • Ask the blogger first; don’t send your product without knowing whether the blogger will be interested in reviewing your product.
  • Many bloggers might also have a minimum value of product to accept reviews or they may still have a fee (see chart above).


4. Giveaways

Bloggers can run giveaways on their blogs, and call their readers to participate in the competition by commenting the post, or liking or sharing it on social media.

Although, giving something for free seems like a great way to build up your social media base and lead traffic to your website, it's not always easy to make people participate. To run a giveaway through a third-party blog take into account that:

  • The prize must be relevant to the blog audience and worthy enough for readers to participate.
  • Participation process must be simple and easy, just following the brand in social media, sharing a post or leaving a comment will be enough effort for readers.
  • Giveaways also take time and a lot of promotion efforts so bloggers may still have a fee to run the giveaway through their blogs.

To know more about running giveaways also see read this article published by Today Made.


5. Events and Meet-ups

If you are organising an event to promote your business, you can also invite some local bloggers to attend. If the blogger attends and likes your event she/he will also write about it.

Before you approach a blogger to invite them to your event, take into account that you need to give a good reason to the blogger to take the time and effort to attend your event by:

  • Offering an exclusive event for the bloggers, like a free workshop on an interesting topic relevant to bloggers.
  • Offering something in return to thank them for their attendance, like a free subscription on a valuable online tool or industry magazine or a gift bag.
  • Having built a previous relationship with the blogger – by previous collaborations with their blog – to give a blogger a reason to attend

In this article by Bonjour Blogger you can learn more about how to organise an event for bloggers, or you can also read my article on event marketing for small business, to learn to plan and host a memorable event.


6. Affiliate Marketing

The reason why this is a favourite way for many brands to advertise in blogs is because they only pay for it when a sale has been made through the adv. Through affiliate advertisement the blogger will get a percentage of the sales lead through their blog.

Popular affiliate sites in Australia are Commission FactoryLinkShare, Clix Galore or DGM, or you can also use popular sites like:

If your blog topics are more diverse, you might consider a program such as VigLink.

To know more about affiliate marketing in blogs you can also read this article by Amy Lynn Andrews.


Wrap Up

Now that you know how bloggers usually collaborate with brands you can use what you learned in this post to design your own marketing strategy to promote your brand in blogs. even though these ways to collaborate with blogs are not the only ones, they are the most common and widely use.



A Simple Formula To Write A Great Blog Post

Everyone knows blogging, when done right, can be a very powerful marketing tool at no cost for any business. The problem is finding the time to blog when you also have a business to run, and do it right. Unless you're one of the few people who like writing and are actually good at it, we can agree that blogging is hard.

In today’s post I’m sharing my 6 step formula to write blog posts. Knowing this formula can bring clarity to your own blog, improve the quality of your posts and save you time blogging, so you can spend time growing your business.

 


STEP 1 - CHOOSING THE TOPIC

Write for a niche

The start point of any of my posts is to think that most of those who read my blog are small business owners who have a question or problem about marketing, branding or design. They visit my blog to find an answer to their question or a solution to their problem.

Your blog content must be aligned with your target market interests to make it worthy for your business. Write about topics that will be useful to your niche.

The ultimate goal of every post must be helping people with struggles, making their lives easier/happier or their business/career more successful
CLICK TO TWEET

In a previous post published in my blog on how to resolve common problems of marketing design services, I explain the importance of finding your niche and focusing your marketing efforts on it, that includes blogging.

 

Identify typical struggles

Now you know your blog posts must be useful to your niche, the next question is how to identify challenges your target market faces in their day-to-day lives. The answer is simple. To identify areas of design, marketing and blogging where people usually struggle and talk about them in my blog, I take notes of questions commonly asked by clients, blog readers, social media followers, forum participants, and even comments in other blogs.

 

Create lists of topics

My blog is organised in six simple categories that I need to fill with content on a regular basis. With the help of Trello, a project management system, I create lists of topics by category and plan my editorial calendar to bring a variety of content in an organised way.

 

STEP 2 - OPENING LINE

In the first couple of paragraphs of your blog post you must create a connection with the reader and give them a reason to keep reading your post until the end.

Describe the problem

My blog posts always start with a common marketing or design problem that creative businesses and small business owners may be facing. For example, you may want to start blogging to help your business grow but don’t know how to align blog posts to business profit (that could be the problem here).

This first sentence is not only an introduction of what the post is about, it’s also a good way to create a connection with the reader by describing one of their possible challenges that they would like to overcome.


Highlight the post benefits

I then describe the purpose of the post, which is usually how to resolve the problem and how the solution will help my readers improve their work/lives.

For example, how your business can benefit of a good blog post? A good post can:

  • improve your website SEO,
  • help you promote your business in social media,
  • lead traffic and get repeated visits,
  • start conversations with your target market, and
  • convert visitors into customers/clients

(those could be the benefits of reading this post)

In another post found in Coschedule.com on How To Write Irresistible Blog Post Introductions, Julie Neidlinger gives us another six good ideas to use in your blog post introductions, and keep your audience reading until the end.


STEP 3 – ORGANISING THE BODY CONTENT

Outline the post

To develop the content you may want to start by organizing your thoughts through a post outline: break up the topic in main points and each point in a few main ideas.

TIP: don’t start writing directly in front of the computer. Plan you post with pen and paper to come up with as many ideas as you can, without being distracted by Google research, post formatting, etc.

Research the topic

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to say in your post you can research the topic to fill blanks or find data that can back-up your ideas.

I usually read other blog posts on the same topic to find out how I can add new insights or different perspectives to what has already been said by other bloggers on the same topic. A good tip for this is to also read their blog comments and see where you can fill the blanks.

TIP: Do not research the topic just to collect ideas from different websites and do a collage of ideas in your blog post. Research to find out what has already been said, and therefore is redundant or less relevant for you to say in your blog post.


Content formatting

You have put your ideas on a piece of paper and they probably look messy and confusing at this point. Now it’s time to bring your ideas on to the computer and start drafting and giving shape to your content.

As I explained in this other post on how good copywriting can impact in the conversion rate of your business, the keys to make your content clear and easy to read are:

  • Place your key ideas at the top
  • Use headlines and sub-headlines
  • Keep the content simple with short sentences and paragraphs
  • Include bullets and numbered lists
  • Choose familiar words and avoid jargon
  • Use active voice


STEP 4 – ADDING VALUE

There are millions of blogs in the blogosphere, so let’s be honest, to make your blog stand out, you’re going to need a bit more than just clear and easy to read blog content. That’s why it's important to add a few more extras before taking your blog post online.


Add valuable sources

Add supporting evidence and data to back up your points and increase credibility among your readers. Link to valuable sources and provide proper credit to external sources.

You can also use real life examples to make the content easier to understand and also to prove experience and knowledge. For example, in many of my blog posts I try to use real client examples to take the reader through the problem and the solutions put in place.


Add visual appearance

Illustrating your post with images and infographics will help your readers understand easily your points. Also, posts with images and graphics are also more likely to be shared in social media than others with no visual elements.

Play with content styles to make the text more dynamic and easy to read, and add quotes and boxes with links to Twitter to make the content not only more visually appealing but more sharable too.

A Must-read: Great post with a simple 6 step formula to write blog posts, by @GrafikaStudioAU
CLICK TO TWEET


Close with a call to action

A good blog post is also actionable, that means that its content must inspire people to do something or encourage them to take action.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, write with the intention of helping people somehow. If they can learn from your blog posts they will keep on coming back, and some of them will ultimately become customers.


STEP 5 - CRAFTING A TITTLE

Leave the title for the end of the process, as it’s easier to come up with a good headline for a post once the content is ready. The title must be engaging for readers and descriptive for search engines.

The heading of the post is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. It must be keyword rich and marked up as H1 in html.

TIP: Google prefers 65 characters or fewer before it truncates it on its search engine results pages.


STEP 6 – POLISHING & OPTIMISING

Readability Check

Once you have finished writing your blog post, don’t hit the “publish” button just yet. Read and re-read your text and ensure the content flows from point to point. Make sure the ideas are clear, the sentences are short, the content is easy to read and there are no redundant parts or confusing ideas.

TIP: Take a break and come back to your post later to do a second and a third review.


Grammar check

Before publishing your post check grammar, spelling and punctuation. If it’s necessary ask someone to proofread your text, as sometimes, no matter how many times you have read your post, there may be some things that have been missed.

To make sure you don't forget anything you can use this editing checklist.

 

Optimise for Seo

To optimise your blog posts you can use these helpful writing tips base on what Google likes*:

  • Google likes text
  • Google likes formatting
  • Google likes freshness
  • Google likes accessibility
  • Google likes outbound hyperlinks
  • Google likes you to tell it where you are
  • Google likes experts

* Source: The State University of New York at Plattsburgh

Part of your search engine optimisation work will be adding the right html format to titles (H1) and subtitles (H2), test your links to ensure there are no broken links, rename images to add keywords, add ‘Alt’ text and optimise image sizes.


Wrap up

Now you are ready to start righting great blog content that can increase traffic to your website, engage your audience and help to find customers/clients to make your business succeed. Download my infographic by clicking on the button below and use it as a reference guide for your next blog post.


How To Turn Your Blog Into A Profitable Business

There are two ways to blog: for fun, having your blog as a hobby, and for money, treating your blog as a business.

The fact that you’re blogging for fun doesn’t mean that you cannot make any money with your blog; and if you blog for money doesn’t mean that you cannot have fun blogging. The difference between having a blog as a hobby or as a business is that different rules apply to blogging depending on the main objective of your blog.

If you treat your blog as a business there are two major things that you need to consider:

1.     Investment

Investment is a scary word for many of us; it means that you have to spend money out of your own pocket without knowing for sure whether you will get it back. It’s almost gambling. However, no business can work without investment and blogs are not an exception. To make money with your blog you have to spend money first.

But it’s not just money that you need to invest on your blog. Time is another important expense. If you treat your blog as a business you need to dedicate time for it, plus look after many other areas of your business.

Another important investment is expertise. When you run a business you won’t be able to do everything yourself. You will need to hire people with the right experience to help. You can also take courses to learn or improve different skills and save money in hiring help, but then again, you still need to invest money and time in getting that knowledge.

2.     Profit

When you’re blogging for fun you don’t need to worry about audiences, statistics, advertising, client management, etc. When your blog is your business you need to worry about everything that can have an impact on your return on investment. Surely you won’t want to lose money you've invested in your blog, neither waste your time, so you need to focus on making your blog profitable.

I blogged for fun for over four years and three years ago I quit my day job to become a full-time blogger and make money with my blog. How did I manage to make my blog a way of living? Here is my checklist which I consider to be the essentials to turn your blog into a business.

1.     Sell stuff

Your blog is a great promotion platform to sell your own products or services, not just to promote others. Define clearly what you sell through a ‘Hire me’ or ‘My services’ page on your blog, or have an online shop to sell your products. The majority of my income comes from selling design services and digital products in my online shop.

The money made blogging can come from direct and indirect resources:

  • Selling advertising (Google AdSense, banners, affiliate programs, etc)
  • Selling sponsorships (sponsored content)
  • Selling knowledge (webinars, seminars, workshop, e-courses, etc)
  • Selling services (design, consulting, etc)
  • Selling physical or digital products (like ebooks, content subscription, etc)
  • Selling expertise (books, speaking opportunities, media contributions, etc)

2.     Allocate a budget to invest In your blog

As I said before to make money you have to spend money first. How much is up to you. I usually allocate a percentage of my total earnings during the previous month to promote my blog the following month. The more money I make the more I can invest the next month.

3.     Set a marketing strategy

Identify who your potential (or ideal) client would be, and what they may find interesting, useful or inspiring in a blog. Write content for that specific client type and find the right channels to reach your audience (email subscriptions, social media posting, search engines, etc…) A marketing planner can help you set a clear strategy for your blog in an easy and effective way.

4.     Hire help

You cannot be an expert in everything. Identify the areas of your blog where you need some help. They typically are design, marketing, accountability or legal advice.

5.     Brand your blog

Find a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else in your market and create a brand that talks about what makes you unique. Design a blog consistent with your brand and organise all necessary stationary (like business cards, tax invoices or media kits). To do this you may need some help from a graphic and web designer.

6.     Organise your finances

Invoice your clients and keep records of your expenses and earnings. To keep your finance under control you can use some free tools. I use Easy Books App and Grafika Studio Finance Planner.

Know your tax obligations for your country. You may need some help from a taxation accountant.

7.     Create a client database

When you run a business it's important to look after your clients. For example, I make sure that everyone who has worked with me along the year gets a Christmas e-card in December. To keep records of your clients and their activities you can use free CRM software. I use Really Simple Systems to manage my client database.

8.     Connect with your community

Whether they are clients, advertisers or other bloggers, staying connected with my community has been a key factor of my own success as a full-time blogger. The best way to be in touch with so many people and on a regular basis is through social media. Following people, blogs and brands, as well as participate in their conversations, has been a fantastic way to build relationships with my industry and to amplify my market.

9.     Acquire relevant expertise

The more you learn to do by yourself the more you can save in hiring specialist help. For example, taking a basic course on web design will allow you to do simple updates in your blog template without having to hire a web developer for it.

10.   Track results

To measure my business success I pay attention to two main aspects:

  • Statistics – the more visits I have the better my blog becomes as an advertising platform for external brands. But also statistical information helps me to understand my audience, refine my marketing strategy and improve my blog performance.
  • Return on investment (ROI) - that is the money that I make minus the money I spend.