How to choose great blog topics that increase readership

Deciding on the type of content you’re going to post can be crucial to the success of your blog. Often this can become a choice between posting evergreen content or a post about a hot, currently trending topic.

Evergreen Posts

Evergreen content is material that will usually be good for many months or even years, while hot topics rapidly become ‘out of date’ after a short period of time.

If you are just starting a blog you want to build a good foundation of material for your visitors to read. Usually, evergreen material is best for this. If you are starting with only a limited number of readers you want posts that don’t become outdated and remain of interest to the readers you gain as your blog grows.

While evergreen topics remain relevant longer than hot topics it is likely you will eventually have to update them. New developments or changes in fashion or best practice will make this necessary.

However having plenty of evergreen content on your site can pay off even years after the post was published. You can link to it repeatedly over time from social media accounts and refer to it in later material. Writing regular evergreen topics is a great way to showcase your personality and tell ongoing stories that are of interest to your audience.

Topical Posts

Topical posts may only remain so for a day or two, or perhaps as long as a week or month. However they can show your readers you are on top of the latest developments in your niche, which can increase your authority in their eyes.

They can also spread your content. Your readers are much more likely to share a well-timed hot topic post simply because it is relevant, will reflect well on them for passing on useful information, and can be shared immediately with friends and colleagues across social media. Hot topics can also be a great way to get discussions going.

A post about a trending topic can also take advantage of the fact that people will be searching for this information when the post is published. They are also a good option for when you can’t think of anything to write or don’t have the time to produce a post that goes in depth on a topic. Just search the latest news in your niche for inspiration for hot topic content.

The Right Mix

Ideally you want to have a blog consisting mostly of evergreen topics, interspersed with some hot topics.

The right mix of both evergreen and hot topics depends entirely on your niche. Some niches remain static throughout most of the year, while others change daily. The mix could range between 80% evergreen for a fairly unchanging niche to 90% hot topics for a blog aimed at keeping its readers informed on a niche that changes daily. As a blog owner you just have to try different percentages to see what works best for your niche.

Having a variety of content will make your blog more interesting, current and relevant to your target audience. Include evergreen material to give your visitors plenty of interesting posts to read, and topical content to show your readers you are aware of and have an opinion about the latest developments in your niche.

How To Avoid Suffering The Loss Of Your Online Business

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Imagine you have a website that receives a good supply of traffic, converts a decent percentage of those visitors to customers and provides your bank account with a healthy stream of income. Now imagine that the website, its domain name, and all the email accounts connected to the site disappear in an instant and you cannot restore it.

No website to trade from, no visitors converted to customers, no way to contact your customers, no income.

A Real Catastrophy

During the last couple of weeks this nighmare has been happening to a number of businesses. All due to two facts. The website was hosted with a company that is capable of huge errors and, most importantly, the website owners had no backup to use to restore their websites.

On 16th April the hosting company 123-Reg started a clean up process on its servers. This included their virtual private servers. These have many of the features of the more expensive dedicated private servers, where only your websites are stored and no on else’s. Storing your website this way makes it more secure from being influenced by other websites, but it can be very expensive.

A cheaper alternative is a virtual private server (VPS). This hosts hundreds of websites while mimicking the functionality of a private server. Unfortunately the script used in the clean up process included some code that identified some live VPSs as empty and therefore effectively deleted them.

A total of 67 servers were affected. There has been no statement about how many websites have been affected, though the company has been emphasising it’s a small proportion of the 1.7 million UK sites that they host. To make things worse 123-Reg does not keep backups of customer data.

As you can imagine there has been scathing criticism of 123-Reg on social media. While some businesess have effectively disappeared, 123-Reg has suffered a colossal drop in customer and industry confidence.

The catastrophy seems to be down to a combination of human error, poor processes in auditing scripts, and insufficient hardware capacity.

So, could you have coped if this had happened to your hosting company, or would your online business have disappeared without a trace?

The key to being protected from such events is having a good disaster recovery strategy and maintaining separate personal backups.

Backup Best Practices

The idea is simple. In order to make sure your data is safe, you make a copy of it. If something happens to the original copy you can always use your backup copy. Any damage can be easily undone by replacing or restoring from your backups.

Any backup solution should have the following four features:

  • Redundancy

You shouldn’t consider data as backed up unless there are at least two copies of it. You should store these copies separately. Ideally you should have one copy stored completely offline, on something like a Smart Card, portable hard drive or compact disc. However be aware that this hardware will need to be replaced regularly as each has a finite accurate data retention lifespan. With data stored offline there is a minimum risk of malware infection and you can be sure that it is truly disconnected from your online copy.

  • Secure locations

Don’t store backups on the web server. Apart from the possibility of some calamity occuring with your web host the backups could contain old software that is vulnerable, and because they are in a publicly-accessible location, they could be exploited.

Backups should be stored offsite and, as the 123-Reg disaster shows, not on the same server as your website. Other scenarios that make a server based backup useless include infection from malware and malicious attack. If you are using a WordPress plugin to make backups make sure you download a copy of each backup to your computer immediately. Off-site backups help protect your data from attackers and it also helps protect against hardware failure.

  • Automation

If there is no automation there is no guarantee that backups will be made. Without an automated system many people tend to forget or become lazy when it comes to making backups, especially if the website has been problem free for some time. Decide how often your data should be backed up and make sure the automated schedule is good enough. There may be some critical data that needs to be backed up more regularly than your site’s static data.

  • Practicality

It’s no use having backups if you can’t use the data to recover from a potential disaster. You need to regularly test that you have a practical solution by doing a test run. Using a test domain and only the files from the backup make sure you can get your website online.

This won’t necessarily mean a full restore. If an error occurs in one file that affects your whole website you can recover by simply replacing the single file that contains the error. This is much quicker than a full site restore. So make sure you know how to replace as well as restore, or that you have easy and quick access to someone who does.

Some website owners who lost their sites in the 123-Reg disaster were back online within hours of realising the extent of the hosting error. That was because they had a practical disaster recovery strategy that included secure, up to date backups. If you are serious about your online business but you could not have been one of those who recovered quickly, it’s time to take a close look at your backup strategy.

Content marketing – Questions you should ask before creating anything

Some advice I was given just before one of my first exhibition meetings was to pretend I was wearing a T-shirt that did not say ‘what can I sell to you?’ but ‘how can I help you?’

Content marketing is a means of communicating with your customers and prospects without attempting to sell to them. It is based on the belief that if you continually help your customers and potential prospects with useful, valuable information, they will begin to trust you and see you as an expert in your niche and ultimately reward you with their attention, loyalty and business.

Advertising and other sales materials are often examples of what is known as interruption marketing. It interrupts what your prospect is already doing. This may be reading a paper, scanning a website page, or watching TV. Content marketing is different. Get the quality right and your consumers will look forward to receiving your content and once they receive it they should enjoy reading it or at least gain benefit from it.

Don’t be creating content just because someone told you your blog needed a new post every couple of days, or to release a new video every week. Before you start creating content ask yourself the following questions.

1) Will the content help support your reason for being in business? For example, if your business is based on a specific way of building websites does your content help promote the use of websites built this way? If you want to help people build a profitable online presence, will your content help them on their journey to that target?

2) Will it be useful to your target audience? What will your audience be able to do once they have consumed your content? There are many different ways content can be useful. It can help educate your customers and prospects on how to address their greatest challenges, or deliver thought-provoking insights, or even help them keep the sort of positive mindset that will enable them to persist and overcome their challenges. Whatever your content is addressing check that your target audience will find it useful.

3) Does your content have a goal? It may be to help establish your authority, raise brand awareness, build an email list, convert browsers to buyers, or retain customers you already have. You know you should check the spelling and grammar used in your content, but how often do you check that it is supporting your goals?

Take the time to get clear answers to these questions and you can produce good quality, helpful, planned content that can gain the attention of your audience and help you achieve specific business goals.

Providing The Content Your Audience Needs

Backlit keyboardYour audience will always want content. As technology and the internet evolves the needs and expectations of your audience will evolve too. If you want to remain relevant and be sucessful you are going to have to evolve with them. Below are some points to check that your content is what your audience needs.

Your content is targeted

It’s really basic, but it should never be forgotten. Creating content that is of no interest to your audience is a waste of time and effort. Make it focused on the needs of your audience and you’ll get more views and more engagement.

Your content is useful

Aiming your content at the right areas of interest is not enough. What you produce has to be useful to your audience. It has to be pitched at the right level. If your readers are mostly beginners in your field you’ll be wasting their time showing them how to complete an advanced level task they are not yet ready for.

Your content grabs attention

The changing capability of the internet is affecting content online. Gone are the days when text was enough and you just had to have a good headline to make a written piece attract atention. Today it’s also about images. Ideally every blog post should have at least one image. Several positioned throughout a written piece to break up the text would be better. Embedded video or short audio is another option or your content could be entirely video based.

Your content is multimedia

Ideally you should not just be producing written content. Bog posts, articles, short reports and ebooks are still important, but your content should also be available as video, audio, infographic and other image based content. Repurposing your content into as many forms as your audience pays attention to can help establish yourself as an expert.

Your content is mobile

More people are consuming online content via mobile devices than ever before. If your content is not displayed in a mobile friendly way it will probably fail to reach an appreciable section of your potential audience. Creating a separate mobile website and a regular desktop site, then having to handle separate content and sites for each type of device is a waste of time and money. Having responsive websites will make your content consumable on all types of devices with a minimum of effort.

As a content creator you need to understand what your audience is consuming and expecting from you. Regularly use an analytics program to keep track of the content your audience likes best and the devices they are using to consume it. You should also poll your audience and ask them directly what content they want and which formats they prefer it in. Knowing these factors will help you stay useful, relevant, and available to your audience.

Why You Should Have An Editorial Calendar

If you intend to put any content online in any form this year you should be thinking of yourself as a content publisher. You should know in advance the type of content you want to produce for each of the coming months. One resource that can help greatly with this is an editorial calendar.

Theme based content

Planning ahead means you can allocate themes for your content to different times of the year. These themes could be based on products and/or services you are promoting, the time of year, or anticipated developments in your business. A theme could last a month, a quarter, or could even be used throughout the year.

If you know the products you want to create or services you want to provide for certain times of the year it will be easier to plan appropriate content. If you can identify how content can help your marketing it will be easier to decide the approach and tone of the content you need to create. Planning a theme in advance on a calendar means you will be better prepared and have time to come up with ideas and content, and find the images you want to use.

Effective content

Planning makes it more likely that the content you are going to produce will be more effective, appropriate, and enjoyable for your target audience. It means you can build in time for editing, so your finished content has optimised titles, and is focused on conveying the message that you want it to send.

Quality content

By planning correctly and following the plan you will have more time to improve the quality of your content, whether you’re writing and editing it yourself or outsourcing the work to others. Planning in advance means you can build in the time to produce the highest quality content and have it ready when it needs to be delivered to your audience.

Repurposed content

Planning means you can also build in the time to create the different forms of content you need. You can ensure you have the time to create blog posts, reports, videos, Facebook posts and more, all based around a particular piece of content or theme.

Regular content

Having a publishing schedule that gives you time to create your content increases your chances of producing content regularly. If your audience learns to expect a certain type of content from you at certain times, in certain places, they are more likely to adopt the habit of consuming your content.

We’ve all seen blogs and websites that have been abandoned for months and we rarely return. An editorial calendar can help you get in front of your content creation workload and save your sites from becoming neglected ghost sites.

Enable collaboration

Having an editorial calendar you can show to others can also help increase collaboration. It will be easier for you to give guest writers, bloggers and outsourcers guidelines for the content you require and show that you are well organised and have given your content a lot of thought.

Monitor your progress

Completing an editorial calendar means you will have to set expectations and deadlines. Once it is set up you can refer to it and be clear on the content you should be creating right now and in the near future. If you begin to drift from those deadlines you should have plenty of time to adjust your efforts and publish on schedule. You will also be able to spot content that is going off topic or that needs to be moved to a more appropriate time. It can prevent you creating content at the last moment and being rushed into publishing content that is irrelevant and has no purpose.

An editorial calendar will help you have a better organised and planned business. It will keep yourself and anyone you outsource to on track. It will help you create content that is published and distributed according to a plan which means it will stand a better chance of achieving its objectives.

Nine Ways To Monetise Your Blog

Dollar signThe weblog has come a long way since its first appearance in the late 1990s. Today there are many ways in which a blog can be used to generate a substantial amount of money. Here are nine of them:

1. Affiliate marketing

Many online business owners pay a commission to people who promote their products and services. Once you are confident you know your audience and understand their needs you can identify the products and services that would benefit them. Look for ones that will pay you a percentage of the sale in return for promoting them. The best will offer a reward worth your effort and provide you with promotional tools like images, blog post templates, and a review copy. Place the affiliate code on your blog, promote the product or service, and if it’s a good fit for your audience you will start getting commissions.

2. Sponsored reviews

Once you start getting traffic to your blog and growing your audience business owners in your niche may want you to review their products and/or services. The business owner may be willing to pay for the review or allow you to try what he offers for free. You should be given full access to the subject of your review and perhaps some behind-the-scenes information too. Be clear with your audience that you are giving a paid for review and give your honest opinion. If you’ve chosen the subject of your review correctly you will encourage sales. With this success behind you you can approach other business owners and suggest you do a sponsored review for them too.

3. Sponsored posts

An alternative or addition to sponsored reviews is publishing sponsored posts. For example, the post could be about something the seller has achieved or an event about to take place. As with reviews always be clear when you are being paid to produce a post and make sure that whatever you are promoting to your audience is useful to them.

4. Sell your own products and/or services

If you have a product or offer a service yourself you can market it via your blog. It may be related to the niche your blog is based on or, if you have a successful blog, you can offer a resource or service that will help other bloggers. If you have a number of products and/or services you can use your blog as a hub. Set up a product or services page, place images and short descriptions of what you offer and include links to your sales pages.

5. Pay per click advertising

Google advertising was one of the most successful ways to monetise a blog. Sign up to Google AdSense, install some code and the software will deliver ads based on the content you publish. Each sale will earn you a commission and if your blog is tightly focused within a niche and you have good SEO the ads displayed will be sufficiently targeted to interest your audience.

6. Direct display ads

An alternative to using third-party advertising services is to sell ads directly yourself. Once you can show that your blog receives a good amount of traffic and that your visitors are responsive you can approach businesses in your niche with an offer to advertise on your blog. If you have a WordPress blog there are plug-ins that set up an advertising platform.

7. Business resource directory

If you have a blog that offers help and support to small businesses or solopreneurs you can set up a business directory on your blog and offer to include them for a fee. You can also approach businesses that offer products and services that would help your readers and offer them a listing in the directory as well. As in the last category, if you have a WordPress blog there are plug-ins for installing business directories.

8. Have a pay per view section

If you can offer information or advice that people would be willing to pay for you can set up a pay-per-view section of your blog. This will include premium content that can only be accessed for a fee. Within this section you could also offer regular webinars and/or one-to-one coaching sessions, etc. Again if you have a WordPress blog there are plug-ins for setting up pay-per-view content.

9. Ask for donations

You may have seen creators of apps, WordPress plug-ins and other software include a donate button on their site. PayPal has a code you can add to your blog that sets up a donation button and links it to your account. You can suggest a donation amount or leave it to your visitors to donate what they feel is fair.

If you want to monetise your blog it’s best to use a range of methods. You may find that some work better for your niche than others, so don’t have all your income generating eggs in one basket. Whichever methods you choose, their success will rely on your ability to identify with your audience and offer solutions they are willing to pay for.

The Pitfalls of a Free WordPress Theme

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If you’re thinking of starting a blog or website on a budget WordPress is probably your best free option. As it’s WordPress you’ll have the choice of a number of free themes that you can use. There are even free responsive design themes to choose from. However a free theme may not be the best choice.

A Free Theme May Have Poor Code

The code for a free theme may not be as clean as with a premium, paid for theme. There may be bugs and structure issues that need to be fixed, but that cannot be fixed without upgrading to the premium version. They may also be poorly set up for SEO.

A Free Theme May Not Be Current

A free theme is often released as a lead generator. The designer will be hoping you’ll want more functionality and upgrade to the premium version. Some designers won’t keep the free version up to date, thinking it will make you even more likely to upgrade. Unfortunately an older theme that is not updated may be less compatible with the lastest and best plug-ins, and become vulnerable to security issues.

A Free Theme May Not Be Entirely Under Your Control

There may be some aspects of a free theme that you will not have permission to change. For example it may include encrypted links to ads that are displayed in the site’s footers. Some of these may be inappropriate to your website.

A Free Theme Usually Has Fewer Features

Developers are going to spend more time making a premium paid-for theme better so that it can compete in the premium theme marketplace. Consequently it will often have a number of features that the free themes don’t offer. These can include more flexibility, better compatibility with different browsers, and can also include access to FAQs and even one-on-one support.

A Free Theme May Not Be Free

In the long term a free theme may cost in terms of time and effort in getting it and keeping it working correctly. WordPress are now making updates more frequently. This can stop a theme working, and if you have an inflexible free theme that offers little support you may need to find a better, newer theme.

The bottom line is a premium WordPress theme will have more features and be more robust. If you look at premium themes you’ll find more designs that are responsive, an important consideration now that many of your potential visitors are getting online via a mobile device. Although a premium theme has a price, it will also help you avoid issues with WordPress upgrades. When you purchase a premium theme you become a designer’s customer, and that means they’ll want to keep their themes working well to keep you happy and avoid negative feedback.

Have I Discovered That Questions In Headlines Work Best?

Question markI noticed that my last three post headlines included questions. It wasn’t planned that way, but it did get me wondering if questions work best.

The best headlines capture the reader’s attention, are appropriate for the content in the article or blog post, and set clear expectations for the readers. In other words, if the content doesn’t answer a question don’t make the headline a question. If it doesn’t reveal something super secret and valuable don’t imply that in the headline.

An analysis performed on Buzzfeed posts at the start of the year found that just over a quarter were articles made of lists (listicles). See http://minimaxir.com/2015/01/linkbait. However, they found the most used three word phrase used in headlines that lead to most Facebook shares was ‘character are you’, which clearly is part of a question. More importantly, it’s a question that involves the reader.

So an effective question headline should involve the reader. Psychology Today found that one of their headlines that produced most engagement was ‘Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one at home?’ Again a question addressed directly at the reader.

However they also found that some questions have been overused. One in particular that is overused in direct mail and online is ‘Who else wants to …’ Especially the one that ends ‘get rich online?’

Other headline types are also effective. The ‘How to’ headline is effective if it implies a clear benefit and addresses a question or challenge that resonates with your audience. Headlines that appeal to the emotions also work well, again especially if your audience feels the frustration, anger, hope, or anticipation that the headline implies.

So have I found that questions work best in headlines? No. No, I haven’t. But they are worth throwing into the mix now and again.

How to grow blog traffic with efficient blog hopping

Feedly page of resultsBlog hopping (also known as blog commenting)is a traffic generating method where a blog owner visits other blogs in their niche, leaving comments on blog posts and getting links back to their own blog. The idea is to increase the links to their blog and get an increase in traffic.

The great thing about this method is that it can be done by someone new to working online and it actually works. The drawback is that if you are not organised you can lose track of which blogs you have visited, revisit posts you have already commented on, and spend so much time on this method that you don’t make progress in other areas of your online business.

So here are some tips to help you blog hop more efficiently.

Firstly you need to identify and list appropriate blogs to comment on. You may start with a pool of blogs belonging to people you have met at an online hub, like a Facebook Group or forum. However, you’ll want to increase your blogging circle, especially you are new to blogging and the hub is a place for people with as little experience as yourself. Nearly everyone will be starting from scratch and you’ll only end up with a small circle of people leaving low quality comments on each others posts.

You can search for blogs in your niche by Googling the niche keyword + blog. Also look for experts in your niche and see if they have a blog. Add these to your list.

Next you want to consider how active the bloggers are. If you are part of a group of people new to blogging there are going to be some who give up and stop blogging after a while. The most active will make themselves known when they announce their latest blog post or visit your blog to comment. At this stage you can comment on their blogs. After a few weeks those who give up will simply stop posting.

Once you have reached this stage it’s time to weed out those who have stopped posting and start getting organised.

You can waste a lot of time visiting blogs that have not posted since your last visit. To overcome this you need a resource where you can see when a blogger has published their latest post.

Feedly is a site where you can follow blogs and organise them into categories of your choice. The site suggests blogs for various niches and you can add blogs from your list too. Once it’s set up you only have to login to Feedly to see the latest posts from the blogs you are following. They can be viewed in their categories or as a list with the most recent posts at the top. The list includes the title and the first few words of the post. This overview helps you quickly decide if it is a topic you could leave a comment on and is a great time saver.

You can login to Feedly using your Google or Facebook accounts. The basic version is free and I’ve found that adequate for this purpose, but there are paid upgrades available. One advantage of upgrading is you can receive alerts so you know instantly when new content is posted. This can help you be an early commenter, increasing your visibility to those visiting the blog later.

On many blogs when you leave a comment you have the option to receive an email if replies are made. Take advantage of this as it means you can follow up on any replies, giving you an opportunity to further engage with other blog readers.

Blog hopping is a long term traffic method. Ideally you should leave comments on different blogs in your niche every day. However you may want to allocate more time on days when you post on your own blog to quickly get a healthy number of comments.

When blog hopping set yourself a target and use a timer to ensure you do not spend too much time on this task. For example, you could allocate one hour to this method. At first you may aim to spend ten minutes per post and only reply to six posts a day, but eventually you will become faster at reading and replying to posts and could get it down to six minutes per comment, giving you ten new links to your blog each day.

Could the above help you with your blog hopping? Are there other steps, methods or resources that you’ve found improve your blog hopping efficiency? Let us know in the comments below.

10 Ways To Come Up With Topic Ideas

We all experience writer’s block at some time. Whether we have a blog post to write, an article to create, or a book to plan we eventually reach a point where we can’t think of anything more to say. Here are ten tips for coming up with new ideas.

  1. Use the News tab in the Google Search Engine to discover the latest news in your niche. You can also search for “niche name blog” to find the latest topics mentioned on blogs in your niche.
  2. Read the comments below blog posts and articles in your niche. They often include further thoughts, opinions and point out any errors in the article which can inspire new content.
  3. Take a look on Twitter to see what topics are currently trending.
  4. Look for complaints and problems appearing on social networking sites and forums. If you can provide a solution you have a topic you can write about.
  5. Use mindmapping to connect topics in your niche. You may find connections that inspire ideas or you may find that as you dig deeper into a topic you’ll get more topic ideas.
  6. Find magazines in your niche (virtual or hard copy) and look at the titles on the front pages. This will show you topics that are currently trending. If that doesn’t give you enough inspiration put the titles into Google and see if the results are more helpful.
  7. Do you have any previously drafted or unfinished articles? Search through your hard drive, notebooks, or wherever you would create drafts and see if you can uncover something that you could now finish. Perhaps reading this type of material will give you ideas for improvements, alternative angles or perhaps an opportunity to write an updated piece of writing.
  8. If you have been an expert in your niche for some time it may help to step back and regard your niche as if you were a newbie. Are there basics or terms commonly used in your niche that you could explain?
  9. Visit a forum or Facebook Group related to your niche and see if there are any topics that are receiving a lot of comments. Particularly look for topics that are generating a lot of debate.
  10. Is there an anecdote from your experience or from someone else’s that you could use to illustrate a point? Stories involving people in your niche are more likely to hold the attention of your readers than a dry, factual article.

This is a list of just ten possible ways to identify topics. Are there any ways of coming up with topics that have worked for you?