Want to Make Money Blogging? Build An Email List

A lot of people want to start a blog and make money. If you ask people, they will tell you that the blog market is saturated, and you can’t make money. Lies.

“If you have a blog about smurfs, smurf if up.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

As funny as that sounds, it’s true. You can make money talking about anything online. There are niches and communities for everything.

For ideas on what type of communities you can create, check out the subreddits on Reddit.

Check out this list of the top 200 subreddits categorized by topic. Remember there are thousands more.

So how do you make money blogging? Simply build an email list.

If you focus on this and this alone, you will be able to make money online.

Why Email Marketing is Important…

EmailMarketing

Because people check all day long. Someone giving you their private email is like someone giving you their home address and saying “yea send me stuff. I like what you have to offer”.

Email gets viewed way more than social media. You can post stuff on your Twitter timeline or Facebook fan page, and your viewers can completely miss it. But with email they have to act on it. They will view it and choose to open it, click it, archive it, spam it, or delete it. They have to take action with it.

Other mediums have a high probably of being completely missed or overlooked.

Email Pays Off

To put it in perspective, let say that you have a blog about fresh organic, eco-friendly DIY projects. You have been active in creating content for the site, guest blogging, and outreach. You are capturing emails and have a list of 1000 people.

You send out relative information to your list, and they look forward to your emails. One day you announce that you are creating an ebook or video course on how to do some advanced DIY projects that will save your readers 100s of dollars a year in energy bills.

Let’s say 5% of your email list buys the video course at a price $49 each. You just made $2450 from your email list.

Keeping this same conversion rate, let’s say in one year you grow your list to 5,000 people. Now you introduce an expanded version of your course with interviews, a private community, etc. for $97. You sell 250 (5%) at $97 each. You just made $24,250. Imagine if your list was 10k or 50k?

Growing a list can be profitable.

Proof That It Works…

I have a course called the Import Crash Course that I created after validating it online in a couple different forums. I was able to build up a list of 1,200 interested people and sell 300 copies of the course when I launched it.

I grow the email list by giving away awesome content like recorded webinars or case studies of people who have succeeded or failed at importing. I get their emails and after providing value, I offer them the full course (which is more valuable than any free content they have received).

How to Get Email Subscribers

SubscribeStamp

There are are a couple ways to get subscribers. Most people think that just creating great content will attract people to your site. The “build it, and they will come” approach doesn’t work unless you write something super amazing or have an established brand. People like Neil Patel can just publish and get 1000s of views and hundreds of comments.

Guest Posts

I always thought this was a waste of time. Write something for someone else’s blog and let them have it? What the hell? Blasphemy!

Well, countless entrepreneurs have created 6 figure businesses doing this. If you don’t have an audience in a particular niche, write for a bigger brand who wants content and drive traffic back to your site.

It’s no secret that this guest post will drive many visitors back to my website.

Interviews

Interviews are easy and fun. Find people who are influencers or experts in your industry and request to interview them. For the Import Crash Course, I wrote about my experience importing from China. It was good buy itself. But I increased the value of my product by interviewing seven people who have been importing for a long time.

This strategy increased the perceived value of my product.

Now your guests share their interviews with their audience, and you get traffic and email subscribers.

You can use these interviews to grow your email list. Sites like Mixergy and Entrepreneur on Fire are prime examples of how you can use interviews to build up an email list and create a large revenue stream. John Lee Dumas has over 14,000 subscribers and according to his last month’s income report, generated $282,353.16.

This flow summarizes what I have talked about plus a couple other methods.

Grow Your Email List 2

Tools You can use

There are a couple tools that you can use to grow your email list.

Sumo MeThe best free option is Sumo Me. It is a suite of marketing apps design by the guys at AppSumo. They are designed to help you grow your blog traffic. List Builder, Smart Bar, Leads, Scroll Box, are all apps in the suite designed to capture your email subscribers.

Here are some great paid options.

There are many others. Your goal should implement an email capture tool on your blog in some fashion to capture emails.

Give Value

This is the most important part of the entire process. People will only give you their email address if you can give them something of value.

What can you give? Video courses, checklists, blog posts, presentations, or guides. Keep it simple.

Closing Thoughts…

Every time I ask an entrepreneur if they had to do it over, how would they start, they always say through email. Relationships for through email, the deal can close via email, and you can build a brand and audience through email.

Build your list and you will grow your business.

How are you using email marketing in your business? Let me know in the comments below.

How I Became a Guest Writer On One of the World’s Most Popular Blogs

Note From Matt: LearnToBlog.com has a thriving private Facebook community for members. Recently, one of the members, Jenish, told us of a success story where he was featured on the popular site, ProBlogger. This story peaked the interest of our members, and we asked Jenish to write an article with his story on how he was featured by such a well-known blog.

Enjoy Jenish’s story, insights, and action steps for getting seen on one of the world’s most popular blogs…

Enter Jenish:

Imagine yourself as a blogging newbie, only blogging for 6 or 7 months, and the first ever guest blog post you write gets published on ProBlogger (one of the largest blog on the subject of blogging).

Think about how excited you would get… What it would mean for your blog… How much extra traffic you would receive… And most of all, how many other doors it would open for you…

You may be thinking that it’s impossible, but guess what? That’s exactly what happened to me. A post that I wrote titled “ProBlogger in Perth: 10 Things Darren Wishes He Knew About Blogging” got published on ProBlogger (PB) and here is the story of how I got featured.

Before I tell you the whole story, I would like to remind you that “ProBlogger is not currently accepting any unsolicited submissions at this time”. So please keep that in mind before you get any crazy ideas.

Perth Mini ProBlogger Event

Jenish Pandya and Darren Rowse ProBloggerIt was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Perth on the 23rd of February and the time was around 1:45 pm when I entered the venue where the Perth mini ProBlogger event was being held.

This was the first time Darren Rowse had come to Perth and the event had sold out within hours of the tickets going on sale.

Upon entering the venue, I spotted a few people chitchatting near the main hall entrance and decided to join them. One of them was Darren himself. We began talking about blogging and his journey around it.

I was quite surprised by how down to earth and honest this guy was. My respect for him increased ten fold after meeting him.

In the presentation, Darren covered two topics “10 things he wished he knew when he started blogging” and “7 Quick Blogging Tips“.

After the presentation, we went for drinks where I continued to build upon my initial conversation with Darren. We both shared a few interesting stories, and I also met quite a few other business owners.

The Blog Post “7 Quick Blogging Tips”

Darren Rowse's 7 Quick Blogging TipsDarren was a celebrity in my mind and in the “I can’t believe it’s him” excitement, throughout his presentation, I was taking photos of him with his slides. The photos were meant as simple “memory joggers” for my personal use.

On the way back home, a brilliant idea hit me. I could convert these photos into a blog post! This would not only help me, but it would also provide an inside look for those who weren’t able to attend the event.

Once back home, I was so excited that I started putting the blog post together. I quickly realized that it was going to be a very long post if both topics were put together. Then another genius idea struck me. Why not publish one of the posts on ProBlogger and the other on my own blog?

After another 4-5 hours, and not getting to bed until around 2 am, I had finished a draft of the post that I was going to publish on my blog.

On the 24th, after returning from work, I reviewed and tidied up my post and hit the publish button.

The Magic Email

After Publishing the post, I contacted Darren through the contact form on ProBlogger and sent the following email:

Hi Darren,

Cheers for coming down to Perth and sharing some awesome tips.

I know you have stopped taking guest bloggers but was wondering if you would accept me publishing a slightly different post than normal about the main presentation you did at the Perth Mini PBevent.

I have published the 7 tips you talked about at http://jenishpandya.com/darren-rowse-7-quick-blogging-tips/ and would like to do a similar one about the “10 things he wished he knew about blogging” on ProBlogger but with more detail and linking to all the old PB posts that talk about each specific thing.

What do you say Darren?

Regards,

Jenish

I was aware that ProBlogger wouldn’t be taking new guest bloggers (especially newbies) but I gave it a shot anyway, relying on these three things:

  • The rapport I had built with him in person.
  • The uniqueness of my content.
  • The example of what it would turn out to be.

The Green Light

After waiting for three days for a reply, I thought that’s it, no one is going to reply to me, I’m not at high enough standards to get published on ProBlogger. Silly me!

On the morning of the 28th I received an email from the editor of ProBlogger saying:

I love the idea of the topic you’d like to write about, I think it will work well. The sooner you get it through, the sooner we can look at getting it up!

I jumped up and down a few times and probably would have shouted like crazy if there weren’t people staring at me already.

I was super stoked to receive such a reply, I just couldn’t believe it. They liked it, and they wanted to feature it on ProBlogger. I read the email another four or five times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

The 2,500 word Epic PostScreen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.13.47 PM

After realizing that I was really invited to guest post on ProBlogger, it hit me; I had a lot of work in front of me and I wanted this to be something that would stand out and provide incredible value to the readers. I did not want to disappoint Darren or the editor in thinking that they made the wrong decision.

The other important thing was that I had never written a guest post before. So think of that for a second. A guy who has never published a guest post has to write for one of the leading blogs on the topic of blogging.

I was nervous and happy at the exact same moment. It was a weird feeling but in a good way.

It took me roughly three days (a long weekend) to get the post ready.

First day: I researched how to write guest posts (lol), wrote a draft, added all the images, formatted it and made it look pretty.

Second day: I spent time researching ProBlogger for all of the articles that were related to this post and then did a bit more editing and reviewing.

Third day: I called in a favor from a friend to review the post and advise me on any mistakes. Then I reviewed it once more.

The Scare

Stressed businessman at computer

Once I was happy with the final version, on March 3rd, I sent it to the editor for review and then waited…

After waiting a few days and receiving no reply, I was concerned that they hated the post and that it was so bad that they wouldn’t even spend the time to reply back.

You know that feeling that you get after deciding to do something and then once complete everything starts going pear-shaped, and you start asking yourself “Why did you even bother?”. That is exactly what I was going through.

But I pushed through that feeling and decided to continue following up. I knew the whole ProBlogger team was busy with the launch of their membership site so I didn’t want to be too pushy about my post. I followed up every other week through email.

I didn’t hear anything back the entire month of March. Imagine that… Here I was, I had spent three days meticulously crafting this post and I had no idea what was going to happen with it. The uncertainty is tougher than rejection.

Finally, in the first week of April, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I received a reply from the editor.

The Waiting Game

We went back and forth a few times due to some technical issues with the viewing of my draft but, after everything was sorted, I was told to wait for it to get published. Their calendar was quite full and my post would need to be slotted in somewhere.

Everyday, I waited eagerly for the post to be publish with no such luck. After May, I just stopped worrying about it and patiently waited. Lesson learned from the Scare I had received in March.

After a long wait of almost three months, without any knowledge of when the post would go live, it finally popped up at the end of July.

All is Well that ends Well.

Lessons Learned (Action Steps)

This whole guest post experience was an emotional roller-coaster filled with very important lessons along the way. I would love to share my top 5 lessons learned:

Go to live events and meet/network people

Anyone who has gone to an offline event and networked properly can guarantee you that it is one of the best ways to grow your business. In my case, if I had missed that event, I would have never been published on ProBlogger and I would have never written this blog post. You never know what opportunities might come up.

Create Unique content

One of the most important reasons that I think my post was published was that it was unique. The post was nothing like previous posts published on ProBlogger and it also borrowed some credibility from Darren himself.

The other part that was unique was that I had added my own takeaway on each point. It was not just a recap of what happened at the event, it was from the angle of how I saw it. ProBlogger readers found that really useful.

Have Samples

Since I had a similar post already published on my blog, the editor could see my writing style along with an idea of what my guest post would be. This helped me overcome the typical guest post barriers of whether “I am good enough or not” in the eyes of an editor.

So make sure when you are approaching people that you send them your samples along with your email.

Follow Up

Popular blog editors are busy people. It is possible that your guest post might get missed due to their workload. It is your responsibility to remind them about it. Following up is key!

Have Patience

This would be my biggest lesson learned through this whole process.

Things never happen the way we want or at the time we want them to. It took roughly four months to get the post published but, once it got published, it was all worth it.

Never give up and be patient.

Get those guest posts cranking and you never know what opportunities will pop up.

Just keep in mind “Even if all the doors are closed, there is a chance that a window is still open – Jenish Pandya“.

5 Content Publishing Models For Your Blog — Which One Are You?

Maybe you love to write. Maybe you hate it…

Or maybe you are brand new to blogging and you feel like you lack credibility.

Whatever your situation, the truth is that it’s still possible for you to build a wildly successful blog.

Let me explain…

By focusing on the right publishing model, you may feel reborn with passion to finally share your voice with the world.

This article will show you how to identify the right publishing model for you and why this is a critical part of your blog strategy.

A publishing model is the format you use to produce your blog content.

And not all formats are created equal. These different models show you that there are many ways to create content.

It can be done yourself, by others, co-created, ghostwritten, or even “borrowed” for free from others.

Whatever the path you take, there is a model for you.

So, let’s dive into the 5 publishing models…

 

The Journal

The journal model is pretty straight forward.

It is primarily a way to express yourself and/or document your journey.

You could already be successful or you could just be getting started, and the topics may be all over the board.

Self-expression and inspiration trumps blogging for business or to make money.

Example of the journal blog Unfiltered.me by Brian Gardner

I admit. I should journal more.

When I am consistent with it, I have exceptional clarity and achieve more of my goals since they are in writing.

Even when it comes to problem solving.

I just open to a blank page and write. Usually by the time my hand gets tired, the solution appears to me.

But, what is even more powerful about the journal model, is the self awareness it brings from public accountability.

Let’s say you have a goal to lose weight.

By openly sharing your goals and documenting the process, you become a source of inspiration for your readers. They are there to support you, hold you accountable, and celebrate your victories.

I truly believe when you have nothing to hide, you become more committed to the process.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden

This can be a great way to start collecting content to one day publish a book. Or, how Crossfit gyms post the workout of the day for their clients.

You probably fit the journal model if…

  • You share random thoughts and maybe you are just doing it as a hobby
  • Your motivations are purely self expression
  • You want to document experiences and thoughts in your life
  • You are not as concerned in monetizing your blog
  • You may be building your email list, but you use it just to update your readers
  • Most of all the thoughts come from you and you don’t care to have guest bloggers

Examples: Unfiltered.me, Mark Cuban, Crossfit Defined

 

The Expert

The expert model differs from the journal when money becomes the motivator.

In fact, many blogs that start out as journal blogs evolve into expert blogs when they realize they can easily monetize their efforts.

But, being an “expert” can be a controversial topic.

If you have kids or you pay any attention to pop culture, Macklemore is responsible for making it cool for your kids to shop at the thrift shop.

Macklemore recorded a song entitled “Ten Thousand Hours”, where he sings about is journey to success as an artist. One verse from the song that always hits me is where he says, “10,000 hours, I’m so damn close I can taste it”.

The song continues…

I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot

The whole song is based on a theory by Malcolm Gladwell from the book Outliers, where it takes 10,000 hours invested into a subject to become an “expert”.

Countless times I have held back at expressing my opinions because of a internal dialog of not knowing enough; worrisome of being judged and criticized by other “industry leaders”.

What helps me move past that every time is my intention. I’m not writing for them; I don’t care what they think and I don’t care to be a thought leader of my industry.

I’m writing this for you in hopes that this helps you and that is all that matters.

If Macklemore was paralyzed with fear of judgement from other rappers, he would not have changed the face of hip-hop with his positive music; voicing his opinions on topics of gay marriage, materialism, addiction and religion.

So, before you say “well, I am not an expert in anything”, realize that you likely already know more than your readers about a subject.

And in any scenario vulnerability will beat the “fake it until you make it” experts any day. And it brings you closer to your readers because they feel they can relate to you.

This means you don’t need 10,000 hour level mastery in order to build around the expert model.

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. ― Denis Waitley

You can become that “thought leader” of your niche by being the guinea pig much like Tim Ferriss does.

You probably fit the expert model if…

  • You prefer to write everything yourself
  • You are a wealth of information
  • You can talk about a topic all day long
  • You get fired up about teaching others
  • You enjoy the spotlight and telling your story
  • You want to turn what you know into a business

Examples: Kris Carr, Chris Mccombs, Tim Ferriss

 

The Host

On February 17th 2014, Jimmy Fallon ended Jay Leno’s 22 season run at the Tonight Show. Many including myself feel he knocked it out of the park with his humble opening monologue.

But, I want you to just put yourself in Jimmy’s shoes for a moment.

Imagine YOU are the one sitting behind that desk. Imagine it were YOU interviewing some of the most talented, dedicated and successful people in the world. Imagine it were YOU bringing laughter and inspiration to the world.

If you had the Tonight Show as your “platform”, what kind of connections and opportunities would open up for you?

The possibilities are endless, right?

Well, this is exactly what the host model is…

You get to leverage talented people for content by doing interviews like you would if you had your own talk show.

Sure, at first you must gain traction and credibility with your site, but once you do it will be a privilege to get on your show because who doesn’t want more exposure?

One of our Learn To Blog Insider students, Navid Moazzez, decided when starting his blog that the host model was right for him. He went from nothing to producing tons of traffic-pulling interviews with the top names of his industry in less than one year.

Example of the host model

Here’s what Navid told me about choosing the host model:

“I started doing interviews with successful entrepreneurs because I wanted to connect and become friends with the influencers in my field. It’s also a fantastic way to build your brand by association, since you’re surrounding yourself with many successful people. I’ve found it’s one of the most powerful ways to build authority when you are starting out with no experience.”

The host model is a great way for you to create a lot of content fast.

Let’s say you decide to do use the host model. You can do a video interview, post the video on YouTube, create a transcript for a blog post, and strip the audio for a podcast.

This gives you three different traffic sources for your blog; all without having to be the expert on any topic.

You probably fit the host model if…

  • You are great at interacting with people
  • You are great at listening and asking questions
  • You are genuinely interested in other people
  • You enjoy spotlight, but don’t really need it
  • You prefer to showcase others talents

Examples: Entrepreneur On Fire, Mixergy, Navid Moazzez

 

The Publisher

When you have others writing for you like a magazine, you are in a publishing model.

This is easiest achieved if one already has an audience or traffic. Since you are the “distribution channel”, the main motivation for people wanting to write for you is exposure and credibility.

The publisher model is one that is more scalable than the previous two if done correctly.

After six years of blogging, I have seen many blogs evolve. I have seen some evolve from journal to expert. Then from expert to publisher. Then even from publisher back to an expert model.

Miscues of the publisher model

In the publishing model (and every other model for that matter), quality trumps quantity. There’s so much content on the web for people to filter through, that you are much better off focusing on fewer higher quality, research driven posts.

Rather than having a cattle call for guest writers, consider cherry picking writers by reaching out to them and telling them an idea of a article you are interested in, why they are perfect for it, and what’s in it for them.

You know what your readers want…

So, when you do your research on a guest writer, it’s much easier to get a response from someone when you plant the idea in their head, rather than making them think of the idea of an article that is going to fit your audience.

Your intent is to get a response like “oh, I could totally crush that topic”.

But, not all people do the publishing model right correctly.

I’m sure at some point you’ve asked Dr. Google about a health related topic and chances are that you’ve run across an article on the Livestrong blog.

You know, the little yellow bracelets from Lance Armstrong?

I don’t support a lot of the decisions he has made, but I do love the mans courage and ability to overcome adversity.

Sadly, he went from being the face of his sport to the black eye of it when he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, was stripped of 7 Tour De France titles and banned from cycling for life.

The whole Livestrong brand has become another dent in his image as it has become greedy content farm.

Their goal is to publish articles that rank for every health term possible, so that they can get tons of traffic and and ad revenue.

But, if you actually read the articles you will see the are lackluster at best. There’s a reason that the articles have no comments on them.

This is a perfect example on what not to do with the publisher model.

The smart move is to post fewer articles of higher quality and spending more of your time marketing those articles.

You probably fit the publisher model if…

  • You are a networker and connector
  • You like working “behind the scenes”
  • You put experts to teach on your platform
  • You have great ideas for content that spreads
  • You’d rather promote guest writers
  • Traffic generation comes easy to you

Examples: TechCrunch, Copyblogger, Young and Raw

 

The Curator

Picture this…

You are scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.

You are curiously stopped in your tracks by a post shared by one of your friends.

The catchy headline reads something like, “This guy was cut off in traffic and you won’t believe what he does next…”.

It’s accompanied by an irresistible image that makes it too compelling not to click on.

Greeting you on the other side is a two-minute video that provides immediate gratification to your curiosity.

You, my friend, just experienced the curation model.

Curation is finding content that is freely available around the web and repurposing that content for your site. This model has flourished with the popularity of video sites like YouTube.

For example, you find a video on YouTube, embed it on your site and write a quick review on them.

So, is it a sketchy way to get traffic or is curation a legitimate model?

Pawan Deshpande from the Huffington Post says that “curators are subject matter experts who have a knack for finding, organizing, and sharing the best and most relevant content on a given topic.”

Curation is not anything new. Deshpande says that “museums and art galleries have been doing it for centuries”.

But, the barrier to entry is just so low for anyone to start publishing content online.

With so much noise out there, it is hard to cut through it all to find what really matters. So, naturally there will be more of a demand for curators as more content is published online.

Recently, our team at Learn To Blog have been testing this model as a experiment by launching Riseable. The goal is to help small business owners cut through the fluff and find the best free content online that will help them grow their business.

Riseable

With only a few hours invested into the project, we generated 17 new email subscribers who joined the list for updates.

It’s nothing to scream about from atop the mountains, but the only cost was the purchase of a premium theme. We are growing our email list from free content and free social traffic.

We’re documenting the process of growing this site, so I encourage you to follow along so that you can learn from the experience.

You probably fit the curator model if…

  • You are good at finding great content
  • You want to quickly build a brand
  • You are okay with not “owning the content”
  • You are a great copywriter
  • Traffic generation comes easy to you

Examples: Upworthy, GodVine, Book Cover Archive

 

So, Which Publishing Model Are You?

Now, if you made it this far, I can predict exactly what you are thinking right now.

“Do I have to choose just one model?”

Absolutely not.

The goal of this article is to help you pick a path that you feel inspired by, not be limited by a box.

I suggest that if you are going to combine models, that you focus on a primary model and compliment it with a secondary model.

For example, most of your content is expert and every once in a while you sprinkle on an interview under the host model.

Like I mentioned before, many blogs also evolve over time. Maybe you want to start with a journal model and crossover to the expert and eventually to a publisher model.

It all depends on the vision for your blog. The canvas is blank and ready for you to create your masterpiece.

But, I’m very curious of your thoughts on this topic.

1. What publishing model do you fall into?

and secondly…

2. Why did you choose that direction?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

A Simple Strategy To Make Money From Blogging

In this post, I want to teach you one very simple strategy that is the easiest way to make money with your blog. Actually, I shot you a video that gives you a live walkthrough.

No, it is not through clients, ads, or selling your own products on your blog.

It is through affiliate marketing. Yes, getting a commission through selling related and proven products and services.

And if you watch the video below, you will learn how we use affiliate marketing as an income source on our blog.

 

 

Crank Up Your Copy: Ideas to Improve Your Content

If you’re blogging for business – or running a blog for a business – you need to have stellar copy. The best ideas, arguments, and offers won’t get you any new clients or convert readers into loyal followers if they are conveyed poorly. The quality of your copy matters when it comes to determining your blogging success.

You may be an incredible speaker, a wise consultant, or an inspiring teacher. But if you’re blogging, all this could be lost on your readers if they don’t like your way with words. Writing is the primary medium when it comes to selling ourselves online. Even podcasts or YouTube videos require captions or short introductions to help convince your audience to listen or watch. Your writing is your delivery, your execution, and if that fails, so does a large part of your ability to be persuasive, compelling, and engaging.

The truth is, your writing could probably be better. Everyone’s writing could stand to improve (and yes, I’m including myself and this post in that assessment). If you want to crank up your copy and start producing standout writing, consider these ideas and tips to improve your content.

Find and Maintain Your Passion

The first rule to amazing copy is to make sure you are passionate about your subject. Your enthusiasm and delight will shine through your words, and these positive emotions are contagious. You need to believe in your subject, service, or ideas. After all, if you don’t feel strongly about them, how will you persuade other people to feel the same?

This is why it’s crucial to understand you can’t start blogging or creating copy that converts readers into followers or clients with the sole purpose of making a profit from your endeavors. That’s where that sleazy car salesman vibe comes in, and most people are incredibly adept at picking up on that – and running in the opposite direction once they sense it.

Good copy starts with a belief in the content you’re creating. You don’t have to be a writing wizard to lay down some fantastic blog posts that people will get behind, because your passion is going to do a lot of the work for you.

Mentally Revisit Your 8th Grade Grammar Lessons

Keep in mind passion won’t do all the work, however. You can’t expect your copy to be outstanding if it’s barely readable. Temper that wild enthusiasm and tighten up your writing with a touch of formality and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

Remember those years in school where all you did was learn about the “right” way to write? Think back to the classes in which you were endlessly drilled on grammar rules and the way words were supposed to be formally composed (if you immediately started humming “Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses..” yes, you’re on the right track).

Although it might be tedious, good writing often follows basic rules of grammar. Here are a few common trouble areas in grammar that plague even the best of writers:

  • Subject-verb agreement and verb tense agreement
  • Sentence problems: fragments, run-ons, and comma splices
  • Overusing pronouns
  • Using weak words, including just, very, a lot, really, and like
  • Using passive voice (and avoid combing this piece for passive voice please, as it’s my biggest vice as a writer).

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should work to make every piece of content you produce extremely stiff and formal. Rules were made to be broken. Sometimes. It’s important that you write in your own natural voice and let your individual personality shine through. But you also need to remember that excellent copy by and large sticks to the fundamental rules that govern language. This makes writing easy to read and comprehend. Using three punctuation marks after every other sentence is obnoxious. Adding in a little flair with a brief sidebar (perhaps in the form of a parenthetical!) might be appropriate.

Excellent copy is a balancing act between your own style and generally agreed-upon rules about what makes a piece of writing great.

Other Rules to Follow and Tips to Consider

Grammar creates only some of the guidelines good writing typically follows. There are additional “best practices” that you can utilize to improve your content. In order to create standout copy, keep the following in mind as you write:

Create a Hook

Your introduction can make or break your copy. You need to immediately hook your readers with something compelling that encourages them to continue consuming your content. Don’t use up three lengthy paragraphs of text before you get to the engaging line. You need to…

Get to the Point

Avoid being extremely wordy. If there is a simple way to say what you mean, always choose that straightforward delivery over something full of jargon or a sentence stuffed with adjectives. Be specific and be precise.

Be a Storyteller

Some of the best, most compelling copy is content that tells a story. Spitting out dry facts left and right may make for accurate writing, which is certainly important (always be honest) – but it gets dull fast. Craft a story for your audience to delve into and explore.

Format Your Copy Properly

Once you’ve got the actual content figured out, you need to dress it up in a pretty package if you want your readers to pick up what you’re laying down. Format your copy in a way that is easy to read.

For the internet, this means easy to scan and easy to consume. Using headings, subheadings, numbered or bulleted lists, and break up paragraphs so that chunks of text are balanced by white space. It’s intimidating to open up a web page only to be confronted with a massive wall of text. Make your copy inviting to readers by breaking up long sentences and paragraphs into smaller pieces.

Include a Call to Action

Great copy won’t rock back and forth on its heels, shyly waiting for an audience to engage. A compelling piece of copy will leap up and flat-out say what readers can do next. This is a call to action, and it means that you wrap up your content with a next step. Ask a question to encourage comments or provide a click to tweet link for a great quote from the piece.

Try Some Actionable Techniques

If you want to crank up your copy, then take action!

  • Practice. Apparently, it makes perfect. The more you write, the more adept you’ll be at working with words.
  • If you get stuck or don’t know where to start when creating new copy, resort to word vomit. It may get a little messy, but that’s what editing is for. Sit down and literally put pen to paper if that’s what it takes.
  • Brainstorm. You can’t write excellent copy if you have zero excellent ideas. You might have to let the word vomit fly here too until you make brainstorming sessions a habit, but simply getting everything out is a great way to unearth amazing ideas.
  • Do research if you need to. Be able to admit what you don’t know, and strive for accuracy.

Once you’ve created your copy, there are a few hoops you can make it jump through to find its weaknesses, figure out how to improve it, and determine whether or not it’s ready to be published.

  • Read your copy out loud (or have a friend read it out loud to you). This technique is a great way to fish out sentences that are clunky, confusing, or need clarification. This will also help you identify areas where you’ve been overly verbose.
  • Also plan on making multiple revisions. There’s a reason your teachers required you to submit rough drafts and final drafts. A quick read-over of something you’ve recently produced is not a great way to edit; because your ideas are so fresh in your mind, your brain tends to automatically correct any mistakes as you read or discrepancies in the text. Before you edit, go do another activity or let a significant amount of time pass. Sleep on it if you need to, and come back at your copy with fresh eyes and a clear head.

Now, Get Out There and Crank Up Your Copy!

With these tips, ideas, and actionable steps, you should be ready to attack your next copy challenge and crank up the quality of the content you’re creating. Don’t let your incredible ideas and important message get lost in poorly written copy. Instead, work to improve your writing so you can provide your audience with intelligent, persuasive copy.

How to Start a Content Curation Blog

In a recent post, we took a look at what content curation can do for bloggers as well as the audience you’re intending to reach. In today’s post, we’ll give you a blow-by-blow on the basics of curation in order to teach you how to start a content curation blog.

To begin with, it’s important to note that curation is a time-intensive activity which should be done consistently for weeks at a time if you’re ever going to see any results. You should use it as an adjunct to your content creation efforts to ensure that you’re giving your readers a variety of media to maintain their interest in your blog.

There are 3 major steps to start a content curation blog:

  1. Seek
  2. Sense
  3. Create and Share

We’ll take a look at the three more extensively shortly; however, let’s first outline a few things every blog curator should have or know.

First of all, it’s important to know your audience. You could have a blog that’s visited by a specific group of people but not know the details behind these people. Things you need to find out include the following:

  • The median age of the people reading your blog.
  • The gender makeup (do more males than females read your blog?)
  • The peak times when it comes to blog traffic.
  • The socioeconomic makeup of your audience.

One of the ways you can find out this kind of information would be to use the Google Analytics tool found here. A good analytics tool will give you real-time information regarding your blog audience makeup which will in turn help you target them in such a way that they’ll feel as if you really know them as well as understand their needs. This is, in essence, content marketing at its best.

Here are a few other analytics tools you can use in conjunction with Google Analytics:

  1. Crazy Egg
  2. Performancing Metrics
  3. Enquisite

Once you have your data ready, you can start curating your content.

The next step is to identify sources for curated content. The internet is a living organism with thousands of pieces of content of varying types being produced every minute. Your responsibility is to identify valuable and relatable content pieces and place them in your content box so you can sift through them. This discovery process is known as seeking.

Here’s a screenshot illustrating how to discover more niche ideas as a pastry blogger:

curation 1

By searching for the term ‘pastry blog’ via www.google.com/blogsearch, she’s able to find out what the trending topics are as well as the industry leaders as far as pastry blogs are concerned. With this in mind, she can check out various blogs to see what kind of posts are eliciting major reactions and stimulating conversation. This blogger can then copy these post links and put them in a spreadsheet for future sifting.

At the same time, you can use Alltop to look for trending news items. What’s great about Alltop is the fact that you can personalize your content search feature by using my.alltop.com.

Here’s what the MyAlltop signup page looks like:

Alltop

All you have to do is sign up, agree to the terms and you’re all set.

Twitter is also a great way to find trending topics which can, in turn, help you curate timely content pieces. The almighty hashtag is a godsend for all content curators. However, you should use the hashtag in combination with tweets to find the meat and not just the bones. You can also use Twitter Search which is essentially Twitter’s Google.

When collecting your sources, you should always be careful to pick only high quality ones. Additionally, you should scan more than you capture, and you should make it a habit to define topics and organize sources as you go along. Seeking should generally be done for 15 minutes at least twice daily.

When used in a synergistic manner, you’ll be able to collate and collect content from all parts of the Internet in order to successfully move on to the next stage of the curation process: sense.

After collecting your articles and placing the links and relevant clips in a central place, you can begin to sift through them and find meaning and relevance in most of them and then discard any that might not be relevant for what you’re trying to communicate.

For example, if you have a blog which focuses on celebrity style and fashion, you could figure out how to tie that in with current trends and draw parallels in order to come up with an interesting pictorial conversation with personal commentary added in to give it a bit of your personality.

Making sense usually involves distilling and condensing information in order to streamline it into one theme.

Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself to help make better sense of collected content:

  1. Will this content add value to my reader’s lives? Curated content has to appeal to your readers from an emotional standpoint. Whether your blog covers accounting or new developments in interior design, you need to make sure that each curated post is identifiable and if possible applicable to your audience’s daily life. This will help you create a bond with your audience on a long-term basis.
  2. Does the content I’m about to curate establish me as a thought leader in the blog circles? The last thing you want to do is copy what everyone else is doing. This will make people overlook you and you might get washed up in the sea of content because there are other bloggers out there who’ve perfected what you’re trying to do.

Here are some of the things associated with the sense stage of content curation:

  • Put your blog post together by merging links with your own commentary and maybe one or two photos or videos to give the post some pizzazz.
  • Annotate where necessary, archive articles and links, and apply changes within your blog if needed.
  • The sense stage of content curation should typically take you about half an hour to an hour every day. This might take longer if you decide to include different forms of content to your blog post because you have to find a way to make the curated content work for you and your audience without creating disconnection or confusion.

Creation and sharing is the last stage of the content curation process and perhaps the most delicate one. Presentation is everything, and you need to know what forms of sharing will resonate with your target audience.

There are various ways that you can use to create and present your content, with the first one being lists.  People love lists as it helps them get information in a compact manner, lessening the time in which they’ll have to go all over the internet looking for content.

A great tip here would be to look at the top 15 trends in your niche and come up with a great list linking out to the best posts on the web talking about these trends. Make sure to use appropriate attribution and keep the commentary short but meaningful. You can also ask your readers what kinds of lists they’d like to see in the coming days and weeks.

Another way in which to present your curated content would be through the use of infographics. These are usually data-based with a touch of visual esthetic thrown in. Infographics help you convey less than interesting information in a fresh an exciting way without taking away from the subject at hand.  Get into the habit of saving interesting and impactful data snippets as you go about reading and curating content around the web. Every once in a while, streamline these data bites and create a curated post based on them.

Yet another light and popular way you can use to create and present your curated content is through the use of humor. People like to laugh as it makes them feel good. At the same time, humor helps with information retention and is found all over the internet. For example, if you’re a food blogger, you could come up with a blog post where you feature a video snippet by a standup comedian lambasting the paleo diet. After the video, you can add your own commentary and then add a couple of memes to break the monotony of the post. Finish off with a snippet of an article extolling the virtues of the paleo diet and then invite your readers to leave you their opinions and thoughts in the comment section.

Here are a few closing tips on what to pay attention to when curating content for your blog:

  • Create a Tumblr page so you can have an account you can use to curate rich media such as videos, high resolution photos and sound clips.
  • You can curate social updates and comments to help stimulate or start a conversation regarding your blog. This can be a great way of getting to know your audience at a much deeper level. These can also be used to add depth and validity to your curated content.

At the end of the day, you need to consistently be on the lookout for new content as well as consistent with your efforts if you want to build a following, a unique voice and be considered as a go-to blogger for knowledge and information on a specific topic or genre.