How to provide valuable content

Providing valuable content online helps build relationships and establish you as an authority. Provide useful content on a regular basis and your readers will see you as a helpful marketer rather than one who is always talking about yourself or your products.

To get yourself in this position you first need to identify what information is useful to your audience and what is not. You also need to provide information that is not being shared by everyone. Why would someone come to your site if all you’re showing is the same piano playing cat or what colour is this dress discussion as every other site?

Once you have solutions to these two challenges (I suggest a couple below) you need to have a set routine so you are finding and considering content to share on a regular basis. This could be a daily routine or you could do it on a weekly basis. If you have a routine, a system and some automation it’s more likely you’ll keep on top of curating good content for your readers. Depending on your audience you may want to post the content to different platforms or just concentrate on one.

You can use Feedly to collect RSS feeds from blogs in your niche that post useful content. You can also set up Google Alerts that will notify you when relevant content is published.

If you find useful links to information in emails you can set up the Pocket app on your phone, tablet or computer (see https://getpocket.com). There is also a bookmarklet that you can put on Google Chrome so that whenever you find content of interest you can use the bookmarklet to add it to Pocket for later reading. This also means you can delete the email but still have a link to the useful content.

Have you any experience using the above tools or would you recommend others? Leave a comment to let us know.

How to outline content

Having an outline for your content ensures that you focus on the most important topics, present them in a useful manner, and achieve the objectives you want. It can prevent you wandering from the main focus of the content and prevent your readers, listeners, or viewers becoming bored or distracted.

1.Pick the Topic

The first step in creating an outline is to pick a topic your audience will find interesting and useful. You can get some ideas by looking at paid products, either by looking at books that are selling well on Amazon.com or the products that are doing well on Clickbank.com. Niche forums and blogs can also be good sources for topic ideas, especially if you find sites that are active and have good interaction with lots of people asking and answering questions.

2. Decide the Primary Goal

Having decided on a topic you next need to set a goal for your content. Are you preparing content for a blog post, a video, or an audio presentation? Are you intending to pass on information, presell a product, or both? Is the content going to be presented as a set of tips, action steps, or in some other format? Perhaps your main intent is to provide motivation rather than information. Whatever the primary goal of the content, you need to make sure you are clear on what it is. Are you creating content that is going to be free or paid for? This could affect the depth and exclusivity of the information that you use. Lastly think about what you want people to do after they have consumed your content. Do you want them to take action, feel better, or have some other outcome?

3. Research

The next step is preliminary research. If you are creating content for use online you should start with a keyword search, using the Google Keyword Tool or some equivalent software. Identify the best keywords for your topic and use them within your writing, or as tags for video and audio content.

The next step of research involves gathering information. This could mean using Google, looking at books in Amazon, and searching for information on YouTube. You can also use physical resources and gather books from your local library or contact and interview experts in the topic.

4. Create the Outline

The next step is to create the outline itself. You will want to create your content so that it follows a logical order. If it is to be presented as step-by-step instructions you need to ensure you have all the right steps in the correct order. You may want to organise your content so that it starts at a beginner level of information and progresses to advanced. An alternative is to start writing about what can get you fast results and move on to what produces results more slowly. For example, if you are organising content about getting traffic to websites you could start by talking about online advertising, pay per click, etc. and then move on to the methods that produce results more slowly, like search engine optimisation.

5. Two Checks

Having created your outline you should then do a couple of checks. Firstly does it meet the goal that you identified earlier? Secondly, you may have a word count in mind for your content. If it’s a blog post 300 words might be sufficient. However if you are creating a chapter for a book you may want a higher word count.

Whether you are creating articles, blog posts, books, or scripts for video or audio presentations it pays to create an outline. This way you can ensure the finished product flows properly, contains useful information, and is more likely to reach the objective and produce the results you are after.

How to build a calendar for the next 90 days Part 2

Last week I described how you can start setting up a calendar to help keep your business on track for the next 90 days and beyond. Today I’m going to give you the steps to complete your calendar.

Having put all the regular events onto your calendar, you next add those events that will not be happening regularly.

This includes product and service launches, attending workshops or seminars (or even staging your own!), affiliate promotions, etc. Once you have these in place you can plan how you’ll prepare for them.

There’s plenty of information out there on how to prepare a product launch , but how much do you prepare for the others? Do you identify people going to the same seminar and think about how you could get in touch with them before seeing them face to face? Do you know which affiliate offers you want to promote to your list? Could you prepare your own bonus to offer with an affiliate product?

Events and product launches are announced months ahead of time so add them to your calendar for the whole year, not just the next 90 days. Having entered these onto your calendar you need to work backward to see how you’ll prepare for them. You may find that even if an event is planned for the latter half of the year, you might need to begin preparing for it in just a couple of months time. One of the biggest advantages of having a calendar is that you can prepare in plenty of time and avoid feeling a lack of control.

By this point you should have a calendar that shows when you are going to publish or release your regular content (like blog posts, videos, etc.) and the major events of the year, like product or service launches and other events and promotions. With this overview you can start thinking about the nature of the content you will be releasing.

For example, you can see when you’ll want your blog posts to address certain topics. If you are promoting a product about Adwords you could produce a blog post about the advantages of Adwords a week befoe your promotion. The following week your topic could be the product itself and the following week you could present another angle on advertising online.

Go through the next 90 days picking a theme per week, fortnight or month and tailor your blog posts and social media topics to those themes so they reinforce your marketing. If you have months where you are not promoting a product pick a theme and create your content around that. You can use the analytics on your blog and Insights from your Facebook Page to help you choose topics. You can also look for topics you’ve already written about to see which ones generated a lot of interest and comments.

This is also when you can coordinate any cross-media content you may want to create. For example, if you are producing videos you could have them tie in to your blog posts so you have a compelling reason to send viewers from your videos to you blog. Taking the time to plan ahead like this means you have the opportunity to direct traffic from sites like Facebook and YouTube to your blog or sales pages. If you don’t have regular marketing activities this is a great opportunity to build some into the year ahead, even if it’s only promoting your blog.

By now your calendar could be looking quite packed. Now’s the time to ask yourself whether you will be able to cope with the required workload. If you are going to be doing something for the first time you should at least double the time you allocate to it. If you complete the project ahead of schedule that’s great, but if you meet a roadblock you will have built in some buffer time to tackle the problem.

Planning ahead like this will also improve your marketing. Doing less marketing but doing it really well is better than having promotional campaigns that appear rushed and poorly prepared. This also means you have time to select appropriate images or quotes, or produce downloadable items to go with your posts, podcasts or videos, etc. You can use these to help build your reputation and your list.

A well thought out and organised calendar can help keep you on track. If you work through the process I’ve outlined in the last couple of weeks you should have the foundation for a successful year.

How to build a calendar for the next 90 days Part 1

Calendar with 90 days markedYou can make the most of the coming year by being prepared, and one of the best ways to prepare is to have a calendar that maps out your ambitions for the next 12 months.

This could be a physical calendar (board mounted that folds in the middle is best), or you can use a digital one. It could be a spreadsheet you make yourself or one based online, like Google calendar. You can even use a simple notepad on your computer, but that gives less of an overview.

Each have their benefits. Google calendar has a lot of features and can be easily shared, a self-made calendar should fit exactly what you want to work with, and a physical one means you don’t have to sit at a computer or activate an electronic device to access it. Even if you have an electronic version I’d recommend printing out at least the current month so you see it daily without having to turn on your PC.

Having decided which type of calendar you are going to use it’s time to start filling it in. Start by identifying holidays, celebration days and whatever other fixed dates are relevant to your business. Also add holidays or long weekends you intend to have. It’s important to build in relaxation and recreation time and give them the priority they deserve.

You can do this for the entire year or just for the first quarter. If you decide on the latter schedule when you’ll plan the next quarter. Also build in a quarterly progress review, so you can see what is working. What works best can change online. This is why I’m suggesting you only plan the next 90 days in detail.

Once you have done this add any actions you do regularly. This could be releasing blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. Include any regular social media posts you make, for example you might have Twitter Tips Tuesday or Facebook Friday. For now just record the times you want to publish or release this material. Don’t decide on the subject matter, unless there is a topic you particularly want to mention at a certain time of year.

Having set the release dates for your content look at what you plan for the next 90 days. Don’t look further than this in any detail as it’s possible timelines or objectives may change in the next 3 months. Work back from the publish dates and add when you are going to write, script and record your content. Build in some extra time to allow for delays or difficulties that may arise. If you are going to be trying methods or equipment new to you also build in time for the learning curve you will have to travel.

Next include any networking you do on and offline, regular ad campaigns that you run, and anything else that you plan to do regularly on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Once you have these dates in place you’ll need to think about how you’ll prepare for them and the time you’ll have to allocate to doing this.

Once you’ve completed these steps it’s time to look at your calendar with an honest and critical eye. Have you got the balance right between being too ambitious and making the next months too comfortable? You should have built in some buffer time to compensate for unexpected delays, but have you built in enough? Do you need to start tasks earlier, or should you reduce the amount of content you produce regularly?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting your content to appear in as many places as possible, but it’s better and more practical to make a good job of producing regular, good quality content for just a couple of sites than to spread yourself too thin and create weak content that is not going to help you at all.

By the end of this process you should have a calendar that shows you how you are going to produce and release content on a regular basis. Next week I’ll go over the final steps to completing your calendar.

The Advantages of Creating Authority Content

If you’ve been writing a blog for any length of time it’s likely you would have reached a point where you seemed to have exhausted all your ideas for blog topics. One of the ways you can approach this problem is to brainstorm a list of topics you want to feature on your blog. Another approach is to consider the different types of blog post you can write.

Before considering the best types of blog posts, let’s take a look at the worst. These are posts that are written purely with the objective of getting ranked in the search engines for a keyword or keyword phrase. The motive behind this is to get traffic to the blog rather than help the readers. This type of post is often easy to spot. It can be fairly short and will likely feature the same keyword or keyword phrase repeatedly. It’s unlikely to be particularly helpful or entertaining, and the worst examples will be barely readable.

One of the better types of post to write is an authority post. This positions the author as an expert by giving valuable information the reader can act on or refer to. They are usually longer than 500 words, well researched and will naturally cover a variety of keywords. It may also contain links to other relevant posts or resources.

The best way to write an authority post is to identify the issues and problems your readers face and write a post by focusing on solutions. Make sure the content is helpful and valuable first. Then consider the keywords you can slip into the post, particularly entering the relevant keyword phrase into the title, meta tags, and page URL.

There are other types of posts you will often find on blogs. The filler post is written to fill a gap. Its contents may not particularly stand out, but its subject is evergreen and can be slotted into gaps that arise due to unforeseen circumstances. The pillar post will help to form a foundation that the blog can stand on and will feature one of the basic reasons the blog was set up in the first place. The puller post contains information so useful and valuable that your usual audience will recommend it to others and so draw in new visitors.

Ideally topics and types of post should be decided long before a post is published. With the new year only a matter of weeks away a brainstorming session for next year’s posts should be something on your to do list.

4 Resources for Clear, Readable Blog Posts

Blog key on keyboardThis week I’m going to outline some resources that may make it easier to produce clear, readable blog posts. All of these are free. I hope you find them useful.

1. Blog Topics

If you’re stuck for ideas for your next blog posts take a look at Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. Enter some nouns that best describe the information you want to convey and the software will produce a list of five post ideas.

For example I entered the words “Facebook” “privacy” and “Europe” and received these suggestions:

15 best blogs to follow about Facebook

10 Signs You Should Invest in privacy

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Europe

14 Common Misconceptions About Facebook

5 Tools Everyone in the privacy Industry Should Be Using

Okay, in my opinion some suggestions are better than others, but it gives you a place to start.

You can also get a year’s worth of suggestions in exchange for some details (email address, etc.). Take a look if you’re frequently short of ideas.

2. Content Ideas

Another resource that might help with content ideas is Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
Put in a keyword and you’ll get a title that may be instantly useable or one that suggests others.

Having written your blog post it’s time to edit. Here are a couple of resources that will help you improve your first draft.

3. Clear writing

Go to Hemmingway and you’ll see an explanation of how it works. Essentially the text is colour coded to highlight where you could use a shorter word, a verb instead of an adverb, and how easy sentences are to read. There’s a key at the side of the page to explain what you should be aiming for and there’s also a colour bar to indicate the readability of your text. Get a grade less than ten and you’ve produced a piece of bold, clear writing.

Select the Write button on the page and you can paste onto the page or type in your text. Then click the Edit button and your text is evaluated. Alternatively a desktop version is available.

4. Readability

If you want to check the readability of a post you’ve already published go to The Readability Test Tool. Here you can enter a web address and get an analysis of the content. At first the results seem a bit too technical to understand, but scroll down and you’ll get an explanation. Essentially anything given a green colour is easy to read.

You can also enter your own text as with Hemmingway, but this time the tool strips out any HTML coding that is included.

7 Tips for Creating Content

One of the challenges of producing content is to always have something to write. But what can you do when your mind has gone blank and you seem to have no inspiration at all? Even the best authors suffer writer’s block.

Luckily there are some strategies you can use to overcome this problem.

1. Have a list of topics

Brainstorm the topics you could create content for. If your content is built around a niche or business start with the core elements.

For example if you were writing about getting traffic to a website your core topics might be SEO and social media.

Then break down the core topics further. Using the example above you could list the different SEO methods and the different social media platforms.

Keep breaking down the topics until you have between ten and twenty. Now you have a list of topics you may want to address in your content.

2. Have a Content Creation Calendar

Having identified the topics you could write about you may want to schedule them. Consider when it might be a good time to release the content you can produce. Could they be tied to an event that happens at a certain time of year? Is there an anniversary that would make your content more relevant? If you are creating content to help with marketing you will want to make sure you know release dates for relevant products.

Enter all the dates you identify then look at how your other topics can slot in too. This way you can develop a calendar of topics that you would like to publish on or near specific dates. Once you have entered your topics into a calendar you won’t have to spend as much time thinking of what to write about when the time comes. Now you’ll know what you want to write in advance and be able to give yourself more time to produce the content.

One of the best places to use this strategy is with blog posts, especially if you plan to post several times a week. I have applied both the above steps to this blog and use an Editorial Calendar plugin to help organise my blog posts in advance.

3. Put out a Call for Inspiration

You probably know a range of people who can help you. People who share your interests, others who also create content in your niche, and people who you regard as experts. Ask them for ideas.

If you don’t have a number of people like this you can ask I suggest you look for a Facebook Group or forum that’s related to your niche. It’s important to have support, and not just when you can’t think of ideas for content.

For those who have a list of customers or prospects you can ask them what they would want to read about. If you don’t have an email list perhaps you have followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook or readers who comment on your blog. Ask them to suggest a topic or a number of topics that they are interested in learning more about.

Collate the results and apply them to suggestion 2 above.

4. Share Your Know-How

When you can’t decide on a topic try thinking of an experience you can share. There’s a difference between a topic that’s written in a dry, almost textbook style and one that includes your own personal experience.

Write about the difficulties you overcame and any tips you picked up while actually working through a problem or challenge. Such content can inspire your readers, be more helpful, and help establish your authority in the subject.

5. Respond to a Current Topic

Try to keep up to date with your niche. One of the best ways to do this online is to subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and keep them organised.

If you don’t have an account at Feedly.com or a similar service I suggest you set one up and start looking for sites that can help keep you well informed. You’ll be able to see the latest developments in one place and perhaps get some inspiration for content.

6. Just Write

Another thing you can try is to just start writing until inspiration comes. Just like exercising a muscle can lead to improvement so perhaps a period of intense writing can lead to some useable content.

The idea is to just start writing and not stop. If you get stuck just write down mtcmtcmtc (more to come) until you can think of what to write. Alternatively you can write stream of consciousness, for example ‘I’ve run out of things to write. Exhausted, depleted. Can’t think of other words to describe it. I can’t seem to think. This is so frustrating. I wish I’d never read that David Wildash post. What can I write about next?’ and so on.

Just keep writing until you get yourself back on track. Eventually, you’ll have trained yourself to keep going, and will be better at dealing with writer’s block.

7. Take a Break

Sometimes the best thing is to just take a break. Don’t underestimate the wonderful power of the subconscious. Even when you’re not actively thinking about something your subconscious seems to stay on the case.

So step away from the blank screen with its angrily flashing cursor and go do something else for a while. Make a cup of coffee, do some exercises, read some fiction. Decide in advance what you could do that would be a complete break but that you could complete in a half hour or less.

When you return to your computer try starting at a different point to the one you left. Start at a point that you will find easiest. Remember when you took exams and the teachers told you to start with an easy question just to get yourself started?

Perhaps you could write a summary to the piece, recount a relevant familiar event, or write a section you have a strong opinion about.

As I wrote at the start of the post, even the best authors have experienced problems producing content. If I could summarise the above tips it would be to be prepared for when your idea bank dries up. Have a reservoir you can go to and you should find the experience shorter lived and less frustrating.

Learning from Spelling and Grammatical Errors

Google spell searchI remember an email I read years ago from Ryan Deiss in which he said he did not care how many spelling mistakes or grammatical errors were in his work, he was too busy creating products and making money.

Although I could see his point, it struck me as a little arrogant and completely missing the point that everything we produce creates an impression, and every impression we make influences our customer’s opinion of us. Although perfect grammar and spelling is no guarantee of the most valuable and useful content, it does give the impression that you have mastered a skill and taken time and care over your own material.

Years ago one of my mentors produced an ebook that addressed poor spelling and grammar in online sales pages. He gave his secretary the task of checking the top sales pages in several niches on Clickbank for spelling and grammatical errors. She then collated them, identified the most common errors and this became the basis of the book.

I remember that two things struck me about this process. Firstly it addressed a real problem and produced a solution to that problem, and secondly it was based around some real research. Most ebooks I had read up to that point had simply announced their solutions, without giving proof as to how those solutions were arrived at.

Unfortunately I have changed computers about three times since I downloaded the book and I can no longer locate it on my hard drive. However there are plenty of online resources now that can be of help, and who hasn’t at some time typed a word into Google looking for the correct spelling?

If making some of the most common grammatical or spelling errors is a concern to you here are a couple of websites you may find useful:

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/write/common-mistakes1.html
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/common-misspellings

How to Get Your Readers On Elastic

There are a number of factors you can use to measure the success of a blog. One is the number of people that regularly return to the blog. As if they were on a piece of elastic.

Unless you are well known and have a good reputation in your industry or niche you’ll have to give some thought to why readers would return to your blog. There are several ways you can encourage this.

Post good content

Content that is of good quality and relevant to your audience will encourage your readers to come back for more. If you can provide useful information and practical help for your readers they will value your posts. Blogging a series of related posts will also have people coming back for more. Posts that are controversial in some way can also keep people interested, especially if they spark off some lively debate.

You can also encourage readers to return with a variety of blog posts. Variety means if your last post did not interest a particular reader they are still likely to return to see if the next one does. If a reader notices that of the past few blog posts only two were actually useful, they will be less likely to return.

Post often

Blog at least once a month. Many blog visitors decide whether to subscribe or not based on the frequency of the blog posts. There is no use subscribing to a blog if the last post was nine months ago. Post good content often and your readers will expect to read new and interesting posts from you soon. This will build anticipation and increase the chances your readers will become subscribers and recommend your blog to others.

Posting more often means you will have more blog entries. An abundance of good material will make it more likely that other site owners will find your posts in search engines and link to some of your posts or promote them via social media sites.

Encourage comments

Post about topics that are likely to start a debate or ones that your readers can contribute to. Ask them for feedback, help and their opinions. Make it easy to post their comments, don’t take ages to approve and publish their input and reply to as many comments as you can. If your readers feel they can be a part of the debate they will be more likely to return to your blog.

Make returning easy

Make it easy to subscribe by setting up an RSS feed. If you are operating in a niche that would not be aware of how to use an RSS feed put up a post that explains how your visitors can become subscribers. You can also set up an opt-in form to encourage your readers to subscribe so they can access a resource they will find useful. It would also enable you to inform them when your newest blog post has been published.

A blog needs traffic like any other website. If you can get a proportion of your visitors to regularly return to read your posts you will be building a fan base that will make your blogging more rewarding.

Is Your Traffic Informing Your Website?

Have you noticed how stores often change displays, move goods around, and put impulse items beside the checkouts? These changes are often the result of analysing customer traffic and studying behavioral patterns to understand how consumers shop. As a website owner, you need to study your visitor traffic as well in order to increase sales, opt-ins, or whatever your website is designed to achieve.

If the behaviour of your website traffic is to inform you how to improve the site you’ll need an analytics package. There are a number of web analytics packages available. The most famous is Google Analytics, but that is usually underused, often because it is a little complex. StatCounter is an easier, more basic package that I would recommend to an analytics newbie.

Whichever package you use it will follow your visitors’ clicks to and through your web pages and provide you with valuable information on how your customers experience your website. Here are the main things to look out for:

1. Which keywords bring you the most hits. This is important but you should also know which keywords produce the highest conversion rates. Website owners often find generic keywords bring them a great deal of traffic, but that traffic averages a shorter stay on the site. The longer people spend on your site, the more likely they are to convert. Analytics data allows you to see which keywords are effective for you.

2. The average amount of time users spend on your site. If your visitors are taking their time, looking at things carefully, that tells you they’re really interested and may be interested in being kept up to date via a newsletter.

3. Whether your visitors are leaving as soon as they hit your landing page. If they are, you know you have a problem. As soon as users get there, you want to reinforce to them they’re in the right place. Make sure there are no disconnects on your landing page, disconnects being somethign unexpexted that may make your visitor pause and decide to leave. Things like a page that doesn’t fit with your branding or a headline that doesn’t seem connected to what they are looking for.

4. Where visitors are exiting your site. This is especially important when you have customers leaving in the middle of the checkout process. If you see a high rate of users with full shopping carts leaving on a particular page, you can pinpoint what’s costing you sales:

• If they’re exiting on the page where you explain shipping costs, it might be your shipping appears higher than your competitors’.
• If they’re leaving halfway through filling out the buyer’s information, it may be that your buyer questionnaire is too long.

Web analytics is essential for any website. It puts you in a position to see what’s working on your website and what isn’t. It’s a way to see where you need to make changes and then measure how effective those changes are.