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.

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.

The 10 Best Secrets to Blog Post Titles that Attract Readers and Get Noticed

With so many blogs existing in the world, you have a very short amount of time to catch the attention of your valued readers. Your title is what most readers will see first – in an RSS feed, in Google or Bing or embedded in an email. If your title is clunky, too long or plain lackluster, your blog post will likely be lost, forgotten and just plain not seen. With so much pressure to perform, you may find your title writing skills flagging when it matters most. If your goal is to create blog post titles that attract readers, whip their heads your way, and click on your latest blog posts with fervor, here are the ten most well-kept secrets for optimizing your blog titles that every blogger should know.

Enticing Blog Subject Matter

If you are stuck on what to write about, these three title categories are sure to lure new readers to your blog in droves.

  1. Provide a Benefit: Titles that get clicked on the most promise a clear benefit to the reader. They solve a pressing problem, they offer advice from luminaries in the field and they generally seek to improve readers in one way or another.

Whether readers are trying to improve conversions, lose weight or train their dogs to sit and play fetch, get to the heart of their passions, desires, apprehensions and fears and craft blog titles that speak to your readers and promise results; and make those results fast if possible. A good example of this is the blog title How to Eradicate a Zit in a Single Evening.

This will require extensive research in order to accurately analyze the psyches of your reader base, but today’s social networks and popular forums make that research easier than ever before.

  1. Spread the News: Some of the most popular blog titles are those that strive to keep your audience informed of updates and happenings as they relate to your niche. Scour the news, read the latest press-releases in your industry and write blog titles that keep your readers on the up-and-up. A good example of a title for an IT blog might be Ten Industry Updates All IT Professionals Should Know. 
  1. Pique the Curiosity: Attempt to write blog titles that are different than everyone else’s and that resonate with your audience. Use odd but relevant word choices, personal experiences, funny anecdotes and quirky subjects that no one else is using. Your readers won’t be able to help themselves but click and read. An example of a title for a construction blog might be Hammers and Hamburgers: A Day in the Life of a Construction Worker.

Proper Title Construction

Use the following tips to develop titles that drive traffic and attract comments.

  1. Set Expectations and Tease: Your blog title should let readers know exactly what they will get out of reading your blog in its entirety. For best results, tickle your readers with a hint of what’s to come and force them to commit to experience the true payoff.

Consider this title for a weight loss blog: See What Happens when Weight Loss Happens Too Quickly. Notice how the title doesn’t say what happens, it just urges readers to continue reading and pay attention.

  1. Concise is Nice: The shorter your title happens to be, the better. Remember, you only have a very short window to reach your audience. Not only that, but your readers will typically have very short attention spans. Long, drawn out titles get ignored more often than shorter ones. A short and sweet title for a gardening blog might read 7 Plant Watering Secrets.
  1. Optimize for Search: Use your primary keyword very early on if you want to beat out competitors that are optimizing for that same term. For example, if you are writing for a cosmetics blog and your keyword is ‘eye shadow’, your title might read Eye Shadow Tips from the World’s Top Makeup Experts. While not a sure way of improving rankings, there is always the chance that this technique will give you an edge against other bloggers that are using the same term keyword term a little later on in their titles; so this tip is always worth considering. 
  1. Beat Competitors: Once you get a good idea of the title you would like to create, get online and start searching for others who are writing about the same subject. Take their titles in, process them and then use what’s available to make yours even better. 
  1. Use Active Language: Stay away from passive verbs and instead use plenty of action words to get your readers’ hearts racing. Instead of the title How the Best Athletes are Running and Jumping Today, it would be better to use the title Run Faster and Jump Higher Just Like Today’s Best Athletes. 
  1. Lists Bring the Clicks: Blogs that contain numbered or bulleted lists tend to always perform well. Readers prefer blogs that contain easily digestible content, and lists provide exactly that. For instance, 10 Mistakes All New Police Recruits Should Avoid. 
  1. A Strong Title Never Lies: Your titles should always come through on the promises you make. In other words, if your blog title promises to help readers Change a Car Tire Quickly, Even in the Rain, make sure you provide exactly that advice. If your readers are ever made to feel misled, you may lose those readers forever.

Test Your Titles for Better Results

The above advice should help you develop titles that get results, but don’t stop there. Keep testing your titles, feeling your audience out and start looking for patterns of most-read blog posts by studying your analytics data. If you notice that some titles get more clicks than others, replicate your results for even more blog conversions.

They say that your choice of title can make or break every blog post you write. With these ten tips, your posts are sure to strike a nerve with every reader you target.

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.

Stop Blogging in a Vacuum: How to Increase Engagement

Blogging Alone

You know those motivational posters your middle school teachers had plastered all over their classrooms? The ones that featured a set of whales leaping out of the ocean with the caption, “TEAMWORK” and included a little quote that was supposed to convince you not to hate all your group-work assignments?

These made easy targets for the parody “demotivational” posters that have long been popular as chain email fodder. While most of them were clearly made by individuals who have a sense of humor that got stuck in the 7th grade, there’s one I’ve seen that, as a blogger, made me stop and think. The picture is of two people on a desert ledge, dwarfed by the landscape. The caption says, “BLOGGING: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”

The reason this got my attention is because the caption is, unfortunately, based on a kernel of truth. It’s wonderful that anyone with an idea and an Internet connection can fire up their own blog and start producing posts. It’s not so wonderful that so many of us who want to run a blog don’t have any direction, knowledge on best practices, or understanding of how to translate thoughts into engaging posts. Too many bloggers out there are lacking killer content and the knowledge of how to share that content properly with the world. As a result, they’re lacking readership and engagement is nonexistent. They’re also adding to the noise and making it harder for readers to find and engage with great blogs

This is a problem, because I believe each of us does have something to say. You do possess something that you can share via your blog will add value to a reader’s day. We simply need to uncover exactly what that is. Offering something of value to the world will be the foundation to your well-read blog that attracts readers and builds engagement within your community of followers and connections.

Don’t be the blogger who has nothing of real substance to discuss, and who is projecting their posts out into that desert canyon where the only response they get is the sound of their own voice echoing back at them. It’s time to stop blogging in a vacuum, learn how to create content that an audience wants, and increase your engagement to grow your tribe.

Increase Engagement by Offering Value to Build Loyal Followers

Before we even dive into what good content looks like or how to draw more eyeballs to that content, you need to identify what it is you have to say that other people want to hear about, learn about, or talk about. People want to come to your blog and engage with your content when you have something to offer them. When you offer value, you build readership, and when you build readership, you can build engagement.

This might sound intimidating, but the value you offer to others can be anything – really! – so long as you are:

  1. Passionate
  2. Articulate
  3. Respectful of what the audience wants. It’s about your readers, not you.

That last point is extremely important. You want to empathize with your readers, show you understand their wants and needs, and provide something for them. This could be information, knowledge, a solution, or even an idea or image that provides happiness or inspiration. This doesn’t have to be complicated – keep in mind that at its most fundamental, what you provide should either take away someone’s pain, stress, or confusion, or add to their happiness, knowledge base, or quality of life in some way.

It’s Not Your Topic, It’s Your Presentation

Let’s look an example to provide some more clarity on how to offer value. Say you are passionate about your pet cat. You love talking about your cat, sharing cute pictures or funny videos, and telling stories about what your furry friend does and why. So, you blog all about your cat and (unsurprisingly), you’ve found you’re blogging in a vacuum. You have all this fun content about you and your cat, but you’re blogging into empty space.

What’s the problem here? If you said, “no one wants to read about your stupid cat,” you’re wrong. It’s not that no one wants to read about someone else’s cat. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the topic of “my cat.” This is a niche millions of people around the world can relate to, and want to read about because they’re passionate about cats, too. What is wrong is that there is no value being offered. The problem is that in this example, this blog is presented in a way where the content serves the blogger and not the reader.

So what can be done to change this? Remember, you want to either take away bad things like stress or add to good things like enjoyment. Solve a problem or increase happiness. Our cat blogger can offer value and increase engagement by creating posts like “Why Your Cat Scratches Your Couch and What To Do About It,” “7 Signs Your Cat Needs More Attention – and How to Provide It”, or “Top 10 Cute Cat Moments Around the World from 2013.”

Now the blog has begun to serve the reader instead of the blogger. With each of these post ideas, the blogger can include pictures of their own cat and share personal stories to illustrate widespread problems or universal reasons to feel joy amongst cat owners. Readers can now relate to the content, because it’s offering to solve one of their problems or it was created for their enjoyment. The audience can engage now; the blog is all about them and they want to take part in the discussion

Value Isn’t Without Personality

Focusing on providing value doesn’t mean your blog has to be divorced from what interests you. It simply needs to be packaged and delivered in a way that makes it all about the reader. As you saw with our cat blogger example, the blogger didn’t need to stop sharing stories, pictures, or information about their cat. They simply needed to incorporate these elements into posts that served the needs and wants of the people visiting the blog.

You can do the same. Your blog should offer something of value, but it shouldn’t be void of your opinions, thoughts, and interests. These are elements of what makes a blog stand out and be heard over the noise of people who have nothing to say yet publish post after post of boring fluff. Your individual, unique voice is what will help draw readers in. The value you offer them encourages them to not only come back for more but also to share with others.

If you remember, the number one thing you needed to turn your idea into valuable content for your following is passion. You should be passionate about your topics or the niche you’re in. What you should not do is ignore the people you’re relying on to engage with you and eventually become loyal members of your tribe.

Creating Engaging Content

Once you establish what it is that you can offer your followers that they will find valuable, you need to actually round up those followers and convince them to join your tribe. Yes, having an SEO strategy will help you rank better in search engine traffic and this is an important component to getting your blog seen by others. But there is something else you should be doing that is actually much more crucial to increasing engagement. If you consistently publish high-quality, thoughtful, valuable content that promotes discussion and keep that going long enough, you will develop a loyal base of followers that love you and your blog and will be happy to join your community and promote what you’re doing to others.

If you are lacking incredible content that fails to engage the people that visit your blog, you’ll never gain a foothold in your niche. Throwing a jumble of your thoughts into a post and calling it a day is, unfortunately, not going to be good enough if you want your blog to engage and retain an audience that consists of more people than just your mom.

To create content that increases engagement, your post needs to meet the following criteria:

  • The post should be empathetic; it needs to acknowledge what readers want or need.
  • The post should be helpful; it needs to provide the information required for readers to obtain what they want or need.
  • The post should always provide value in some way; it should solve a problem, offer a solution, allow readers to build knowledge, or serve as a source of joy.
  • The post should be written in your own, unique tone and voice; this is what hooks a reader, encourages them to engage by joining the discussion or sharing your content, and gets them coming back for more (a good rule of thumb: write like you talk).
  • The post should be relevant; it needs to somehow connect with your chosen blog topic or niche.
  • The post should end with a call to action to encourage engagement; ask readers a question and invite them to post responses and opinions in the comments or provide an awesome quote and turn it into a click-to-tweet link.

If your posts adheres to these guidelines, you’ve likely got a thought-provoking, interesting piece of content ready to be published. This is an incredible step forward, but your work isn’t quite done.

You need to provide your audience with an easy way to join in the discussion and to quickly and painlessly share your blog posts. Ensure you have a simple, functional comment form in place so that readers can add their thoughts to the post and engage with other members of the community. Don’t make your readers jump through too many hoops to prove they aren’t spammers; this is what good spam-blocking plugins should do for you.

Additionally, provide social media sharing buttons for your readers so they can easily click on the platform of their choice and hit “share now.” Again, these buttons should be simple and functional. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot at the finish line by making sharing buttons tiny (or obnoxiously everywhere) or hard to find. Remember, you want to make engagement as easy as possible for anyone wanting to connect with your blog in some way. Confused minds don’t buy – and frustrated users don’t bother wasting time trying to figure out how to leave a simple comment. They certainly won’t do you the favor of sharing your content if you make it difficult for them to do so.

Put It All Together and Replace Empty Space with A Vast Readership

By putting the above information and advice into practice, it’s extremely likely that you’ll be able to stop blogging in a vacuum and start sharing content with your own dedicated audience. Taking these steps will make your blog a more accessible, thoughtful, and pleasing space for others. You have something to say, so ensure you have an audience to say it to and a tribe that wants to engage with what you’ve provided for them. If you offer value, produce excellent content, and make it easy for others to engage in a variety of ways, it’s a guarantee that will not only increase your readership but also increase engagement for your blog.

How to Get Out of a Blogging Rut When You Are Feeling Stuck

Anyone who writes a blog for an extended period of time hits a point where they feel as though they’ve run out of words (or a blogging rut).  We work so hard to create engaging content and build an audience.  We gain the audience, they’re excited for each post and hungry for more. Then, suddenly, the word flow runs dry.  Panic time!

Actually, you don’t need to panic.  You need to take a deep breath.

According to WordPress, I’ve posted over 2100 times on my blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee .  I blog most weekdays, and have for nearly a decade.  Ruts exist — but you can overcome them.

Freelance writer and veteran blogger Lori Widmer, of Words on the Page suggests, “Whenever I’m finding myself in a rut, I cut down on the number of blog entries I post in a week.  Also, I draw from current situations.  An example this week is when a client and I didn’t mesh.  I found a teachable moment in that circumstance.”

Adds Erica Rodefer, of the long-running, excellent blog Spoiled Yogi, says, “Of course I get into ruts!  Sometimes I find ideas by browsing other blogs or scrolling through my social media feeds.  But the best thing I’ve found I can do when I feel uninspired is to step away from the computer!  I go outside to take a walk, call a friend, get on my yoga mat, or meditate and do something (anything!) that will take my mind off of it for awhile.  Often I’ll get an idea while I’m doing something completely unrelated–and if not, when I come back to it with fresh eyes things make more sense.”

I tend to push through, but there are times when I walk on the beach, get back on the yoga mat, and I’m known to have many of my best ideas in the shower.

What is the focus of your blog?

Most blogs are created to deal with something specific — writing, food, politics, someone’s unique personal view of the world.  Our lives grow and change, our professions grow and change.  Our blogs need to grow and change with us.

The focus with which you started may change over time.  Do you still want to write about this topic?  Or is it time to move to something else?  Is it time to start an additional blog on the other topic while keeping the current one?  Or should you wind down the current blog and start a new one?

That’s an individual decision, and you need to make the decision that best serves your vision.  However, if you decide to stop writing a blog, break the news gently and honestly to your readership.  Don’t just say, “I don’t have time to blog” — which is a slap in the face to your readers.  They MAKE time to read your words; if you tell them you “don’t have time”, you tell them that they are not WORTH the time it takes for you to write the blog.  It’s an insult, and most readers will realize it as such.  Now, you’ve lost them forever.

If, however, you tell them that you feel like you’ve said all you have to say about this topic and are either taking a break or writing about a new topic (inviting them to join you), you are considerate of the time they’ve invested in you, while still being true to your needs.  It’s a thoughtful and diplomatic way to bring about positive change.

Hang gliding

Try Something New

If you’re writing about the same topic in the same way, over and over, maybe it’s time to write about something new.  If you write a gardening blog, try growing something a little different.  Prove the “experts” wrong, through you care and nurture of an unusual plant (as long as it’s non-invasive and won’t hurt the local eco-system).  Interview the owner of a gardening center.  Take a field trip to a botanical garden and write about it.  If you write a food blog, write about a new restaurant or take a class out of your wheelhouse and share your experiences.

I admit it — I sometimes force myself out the door to go and do something so I have something to write about.  But, once I’m OUT the door and DOING — I have a terrific time, and creative ideas for articles, stories, and scripts beyond the blog posts flow.

“I keep a running list of ideas,” said Erica Rodefer.  “I add to the list anytime I get a new idea, no matter how silly it seems at the time.  That way when it’s time to write, I have a few different avenues I could explore.”

Reassess

Are you writing only for yourself or only for your audience?  The best blogs do both — they serve the writer’s vision, while conveying information that’s both useful and entertaining to the audience.

Erica Rodefer agrees.   “It’s always helpful to reassess what you’re writing and why,” she says.  “It’s important to me that the things I’m putting out there are relevant to the people who read my blogs — because if I’m just venting about my personal feelings I might as well keep a private journal instead. So, yes, I look to see what people are responding to most, what Google searches bring them to my page, and I try to create as much content as I can around those topics.”

To Vent, or not to Vent?

Wise words from Erica, above.  I still keep a personal, handwritten journal, where I can do my venting.  I do vent publicly on particular issues, especially when they have political and social relevance tied into my writing.  I don’t believe in “going along to get along.”  I’m a big believer in taking action against injustice.

However, in a case where I read a book and it doesn’t work for me AT ALL — I don’t vent about it on the blog and trash the writer.  I know how much it takes to write a book.  If I’m a paid reviewer for a publication, I will be honest, but I will not trash a colleague on my blog, even if that particular outing doesn’t work for me.  It’s a challenging balance.

Remember to Have Fun

Blogging is a way to share passions.  What fascinates you?  What intrigues you?  What makes you excited to get out of bed every morning?  Ultimately, if you’re passionate about and dedicated to a topic, you can engage your audience.