Don’t know what to write? Here’s 6 ways you can find content for your blog

I often get asked this question – how do you find something to write about in your blog?

Once you start blogging, you need to change how your view the world. I call it clicking into my blogging mode.

You need to train your mind to be always on the look out for possible blogging fodder. You should become susceptible to recognising suitable post material wherever you go, what you read, what reacts with you or whatever you bump into.

There’s nothing more irritating than forgetting a brilliant idea. So whenever something pops into my had, I scribble it down in a notebook so that I remember it later. It will remind you what you want to write about when the time comes, rather than scratching your head and kicking yourself for forgetting.

So where can you find stuff to write about?

1. Your in- and out-boxes in your email system is a fabulous place for content. You’re probably fending off questions at work all the time, and if you’ve managed to write a successful or relevant reply to a particular query, why not rewrite it as a post so that more people can benefit from your wisdom?

2. Subscribe to as many blogs as you can within your industry or niche.  It’s good to read what other people write about in similar subjected blog. This could inspire you to write about the same things in your own style and from your own point of view. What other people are writing about is probably what your readers will want to read.

3. Set up Google Alerts to receive prompts from other blogs.  Subscribe to ScoopIt, Feedly and other news feeds as well. This is how you’ll find out which projects and topics have successfully caught the search engines. Reading and commenting on ‘hot news’ will draw attention to yourself, but show you are riding the wave of ‘now’.

4. Be vigilant on social networking sites. Visit and participate on various social groups and communities to find out what’s happening. I got the idea for this post from a LinkedIn group. Check out the bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon, where there will be lots of new material to read, learn, respond to and share with others.

5. Researching which keywords are ‘a la mode’ right now. Go to Google Keyword Tools to find out popular long-tail keywords the search engines are responding to at this moment. Base your blog post around it, but remember to write for your readers, not necessarily for the search engines. Using too many keywords could be detrimental.

6. Go for a walk with the dog to let the creative juices flow. A change of scene can work wonders. Doing things outside of work will stimulate new ideas, and sleeping on a problem will allow your subconscious to work overnight. Speak your ideas into a dictaphone or scribble them in a notebook so to not lose them before your write your next post.

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training to solopreneurs. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply” to inexperienced bloggers and enables them to increase their visibility and reputation through successful blogging.

So what really makes a blog attractive to its readers?

An attractive blog doesn’t necessarily means a pretty blog.

I know this is subjective, and many women bloggers are adamant that if their readers came across a horrible theme, it would turn them off and they would never return.

OK, this may be true if your blog looks hideous, or is terribly outdated, or appears really tacky and cheap. But since there are lots of extremely good free themes and templates available, this issue really shouldn’t arise.

And if you want to spend loads of money on an expensive web-designer, go ahead, but what really makes your blog more attractive to your readers isn’t what it looks like, but how it performs and how it is seen by your public.

Content is always King

First thing to consider is how and what you write. Remember your posts should be of top quality, the best you can possibly do.

Now don’t get in a tizzy about improving your writing skills, what you need to concentrate on is your style – oh, and your subject matter too, of course.

Let’s look at style. If you examine the most popular bloggers, you’ll notice how they communicate with their readers. Their posts resemble conversations. They tell stories. Even when they’re providing information or showing off their expertise, it’s done in a forthcoming, friendly manner their readers can relate to.

And now subject matter. Write stuff their readers want to read. Present everything in your readers’ point of view. Use the same words as them. Give them practical and actionable advice. Bring your content up or down to the correct level without undermining them.

Get to know your audience

One thing blogging gurus bang on about is developing your niche. But remember, you’ll need lots of knowledge and passion to make that niche exciting and readable, bursting with continuous content people are falling over themselves to read.

And even if you’re obsessed with it, will your readers be too?

To make your blog more attractive, you need to totally understand who your readers are. How they think, what they do, what they want to know. It’s almost that you need to become like them, empathise with them, experience their problems and participate in their successes.

Make it easy for them

You may have splashed your cash to get your blog looking fabulous, but how easy is it for your readers to do anything on your blog?

What I mean is this: will your readers instantly recognise what your blog is about? Are your posts clear and legible? Is it obvious how readers can share your posts or leave a comment?

Sometimes a theme can be so fancy, it detracts from the blog’s raison d’être. You want your readers to realise they’ve come to the right place, stay and read your posts, and then take action by interacting (commenting and sharing). You will also want them to sign up to your newsletter, or browse your blog to read other posts or pages.

So as well as looking pretty, your blog needs to be practical, in a digital marketing sense, to encourage longer stays (less bounces), more content read (other relevant posts), and to make connections (subscriptions).

And what about the search engines?

Do you know something – even if you spend tonnes of dosh on an exclusive digital agency, who will happily spread-eagle your poor blog over the Internet, exposing it to all sorts of shenanigans to get Google to notice it, would it draw in the kind of traffic you really want?

Traffic is just numbers. Faceless, worthless and irrelevant. It makes your blog’s attractiveness only appear skin deep. OK, you could apply simple search engine optimisation to help your posts a bit, as it’s always nice to see them high in the search results, but this is only temporary, quickly evaporating away.

Traffic is not the same as readers. What you want are those who would regularly return to read what you have written, who would feel comfortable to add their feedback, follow you on social media, and join in a conversation.

What you want are readers who are interested in what you have to say, who will be willing to share it with their friends, who say something worthwhile in your comment box.

So what does attractive mean to you now?

Pretty colours and nice graphics are all very well, but an attractive blog is also a successful blog. Consider the points above: produce content people want to read, take action to build up your readership, make efforts to retain them, and who knows what will happen next?

One thing for sure, you’ll feel a lot happier about your blog!

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training to solopreneurs. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply” to inexperienced bloggers and enables them to increase their visibility and reputation through successful blogging.

 

Why starting small is good for your online marketing (and your business)

Everybody who has a business strives to be bigger, better and more successful. Of course you do, or why would you be in business in the first place!

But I think it’s wise to try and achieve lots of small successes first before you branch further afield. I read somewhere that entrepreneurs always see the bigger picture, and many are so impatient, they want to run before they can walk.

If you are a sure-fire entrepreneur, go ahead. But if you are of more mortal stock, stand back, gather your resources, increase your expertise to dizzying heights and gain the necessary reputation within your chosen niche before you take the next step.

And if you are successful in accomplishing all you can within your locality, or your chosen social platform, watch how your reputation spreads through natural marketing methods:

Word of mouth, referrals, retweeting, subscriptions to your RSS feeds, comments on your social media profiles and blogs, requests to speak at events, being talked about when you’re not in the room, bombarded with questions because you’re the first person they thought of, LinkedIn profile groaning with recommendations, meetings diary booked up months in advance – I could go on…

Where are you within this picture?

What are your strategies for getting your business seen online (and offline)? What are your successes so far? What more do you need to know…?

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training to solopreneurs. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply” to inexperienced bloggers and enables them to increase their visibility and reputation through successful blogging.

 

Providing the best customer service should be easy for solopreneurs

If you’re a solopreneur, working on your own, it’s sometimes tough to keep up.

But – you actually do have advantages over large companies. With today’s technology, it’s easy to respond quickly to people who try to connect with you. It’s easy to share your knowledge and publicise your expertise – for example, work within a niche. It’s easy to get out and about, both off and online, to promote your company. It’s easy to make quick decisions or react to problems, and seize amazing opportunities.

This means you shouldn’t neglect the common courtesies that make up business. Respond as quickly as you can to emails and telephone calls.

Prioritise your work so that nobody is neglected or large contracts fail to finish on time. Always be polite to your clients, even if they are rude and obnoxious – and remember you can easily ‘sack’ any that you really can’t work with!

At the end of the day, with the amount of flexibility you have, and without the millstones of bureaucracy hanging on your shoulders, working for yourself should be enjoyable. If you can’t accomplish a particular problem, you can always outsource it to an expert, while you spend the time earning more money doing what you know best. Don’t waste your time doing things half as well, when they could get done by someone else in half the time.

So the outcome of this post is: be courteous, prompt, responsive, friendly, helpful, explain things well and manage your priorities.

And don’t forget what the most important element of your business is: your customers!

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training for beginner and post-beginner bloggers.  Alice is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply”, relating her teaching to each learner according to their lifestyle and ability.

Adapt your writing style to make a bigger impact with your reader

How a piece of writing is presented will have a big effect on how it is read. If it is placed in the wrong place, it will instantly become more difficult to read, understand and appreciated within the environment it finds itself.

As a writer you need to think what you want to achieve, as well as how the writing should be delivered and in which context. Is the media suitable? How legible is it? How would it attract readers? Does it entice people to read it? Would they manage to get to the end?

Writing needs a purpose: to convey a message, to impart information, to educate or entertain, to encourage reactionary feedback, to get people to take action. Also how will it make the reader’s life better, and put you as the writer into a better light. Therefore its location is imperative to get the best results.

On the printed page

Reading print is a totally different experience than reading online or on a mobile device. Light bounces from an external source back into your eye rather than from the screen, which means that design and typesetting are imperative if the publication is to be legible, readable and therefore an enjoyable experience.

Old fashioned book design may seem boring, but it’s the best because it works! Text should be diverted away from the edges with margins, columns separated with ample gutters, and fonts should be legible – the latest trend can hinder quick reading and sometimes prevent comprehension and focus! And keep to white paper and black text for a good reason – it’s much easier to read!

Column width and quantity also either helps or hinders reading pace. Magazines mainly provide leisurely reading, so the columns should be wide to cope with longer paragraphs. Whereas newspapers are for short and quick fire presentations, as their information doesn’t hang around for long, so narrow columns promote faster moving text and shorter paragraphs.

On the screen

Reading online (computer, Kindle, tablet or whatever) has that light behind the words, making colours brighter and more accessible. Light backgrounds are always better than dark ones, as the same rules apply: black words on a white page is much easier to read (as you can see on this blog’s body text compared to its sidebars).

Good webdesign that follows old fashioned typesetting styles usually fares the best: full margins bring the eye inwards, navigation placed underneath the banner and widgets found in the sidebar, not the footer where they may be missed. Web content needs clearly defined parameters to prevent visitors getting confused: the usual route for a reader’s eyes on a website is in the shape of an F, so place the most important stuff at the top left hand corner going across, and remember a second arm spreading to the right half way down.

Blogs represent online magazines or newspapers and therefore will show varying column widths. When choosing a theme, consider how the content will be read: leisurely perusal of communicative posts requiring a wider body space, or multiple narrower columns presenting information for quick selection. The type and size of font will also have an affect, larger for slower reading, smaller for listings.

Social media varies its column use to accommodate constantly updated content. Facebook and LinkedIn have a wide central column as their content tends to stick around, Google+ and Pinterest use multiple narrower columns to accommodate the rapid inclusion of new material. People read things fast in Twitter (they have to) and applications like Hootsuite and TweetDeck that keep abreast of the many streams use multiple narrow columns that aid faster reading.

How does this affect writing?

Actually this affects how you write and for what medium. Do some research into what you are writing for, and whether it is in magazine or listings mode. Articles are slow, so can afford to be wordy with long paragraphs. Brochures are informative and contain a lot of pictures, so should accommodate both leisurely and scanning reading activities. Blogs tend to be more newsier, and are more frequently scanned before a decision is made to read the remainder. Social media is very fast moving, responding to instantaneous and reactionary information and communication.

Writing style needs to be adapted to ensure easier and faster reading. Social media thrives on conversations, sometimes incomplete as the threads get mixed up. Blogs communicate more thoroughly and can explore a concept or subject over a wider area. Newspapers fling facts at their readers. Brochures spend time to educate their readers with relevant information. Articles ramble on for ages to extend an idea and present references and examples to back up their claims.

You can see how these would benefit from different design to accommodate them. You can’t place an article into Twitter! News wouldn’t work in a brochure. Websites have blogs to showcase their information in a quicker and more accessible form. Pinterest is a social platform that presents multiple images for selection and viewing, and news360.com is a listings website of the latest posts it recommends. Each have their own style of design to present their information in the best possible way.

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides simple, jargon-free, highly visual WordPress training for beginner and post-beginner bloggers. She specialises in before-and-after screen-shot e-courses that make no assumption of prior knowledge, constructively beginning at Blogging Level 0 to ensure a good foundational training. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply”, relating her teaching to each learner according to their lifestyle and ability.

Home truths: your homepage isn’t your website’s front door any more

Alice Elliott

Back in the old days it was common to think the homepage was the front door of your website. It was the first thing people looked at when they arrived there, so the answer was to pack as much as you could into it to reassure the visitor they’ve come to the right place.

But now with the rise of more sophisticated search engine use, this isn’t the case any more. Visitors can enter a website from any page, as long as it’s live. And this is done through links and keywords.

Let’s look at links first

Links are like doorways from one website to another. If they are left unlocked (do-follow) they allow both humans (visitors) and search engines (spiders) to go through. Locked (no-follow) links allow people to visit another website, but prevent the spiders from indexing it. Whether you leave your doors locked or unlocked depends how much you care about where they lead to and what happens on the other side!

Links are a vital mechanism for gaining traffic back to your website. They also allow you to pinpoint exactly where you want your visitors to go, for example, to your blog to read your latest post, a squeeze page to sign up to your newsletter, or a sales page to buy your product.

I also mentioned keywords

Search engines match up search requests with specific keywords, and if that particular keyword is present in a specific page in your website, the visitor will be directed there. It’s like a game of snap, and search engines always look for the most appropriate match, which certainly won’t be your homepage.

Therefore to take advantage of this phenomenon, it’s wise to think which keyword is the most suitable for that webpage, and how to can attract the right kind of visitor or customer. This is the basis of search engine optimisation (SEO), which is the practice of appropriately populating a webpage with keywords and links to make it more attractive to the search engines.

Create mini-homepages

Think how you can adapt each webpage as a sort of mini-homepage. Whenever the visitor lands there, they need to be able to be reassured they’ve come to the right place, recognise the subject or purpose of that page, and understand what they need to do before leaving.

A canny webpage will take advantage of the visitor by not only providing valuable information, but will collect their details for further communication, entice them to share the contents on social media, or guide them further into the website. Getting a visitor to stay or explore further prevents them from ‘bouncing’, a term that refers to when a visitor doesn’t do anything or leaves immediately. Bounce rates in analytics are an indicator of how good you are at encouraging your web visitors to interact and respond appropriately.

What’s the homepage for?

Don’t assume your website’s homepage is redundant. Think of it as the front door only for posh or first time visitors. It needs to be welcoming, explanatory, directional and reassuring. It’s like entering a fancy hotel’s foyer with a smiling receptionist guiding you where you need to go, and the bell hop taking your bags to your room.

Whereas some people don’t need to enter that way. You may know more a direct door into the hotel, understand how to negotiate the back stairs, and get to your room more quickly and efficiently. Or your friends may know the extension number direct to your hotel room without having to go through the telephone exchange.

When not to use the homepage

One thing that is terrible, especially in online advertising, is when the link directs the visitor to the wrong page rather than the correct sales or squeeze page. For example, the advert offers a good deal on some garden furniture, but the link either goes to the homepage of the business, or to another page that has nothing to do with the product. In both cases this will result in no sale and a bounce.

Direct your visitor to your homepage rather than the more appropriate webpage, and you’ll lose them. They will be confused because it won’t match their expectations. They will have to negotiate the navigation options and may get distracted on the way. They will lose patience because they will have to work to get what they want, rather than having it given to them directly. You will lose their trust and willingness to do business with you.

A website is like an open house, with many doors, so make sure all of them are welcoming and can guide the visitor where they want to go and give the information they want quickly, easily and efficiently. And come to terms with the fact that the only access isn’t via the homepage any more.

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides simple, jargon-free, highly visual WordPress training for beginner and post-beginner bloggers. She specialises in before-and-after screen-shot e-courses that make no assumption of prior knowledge, constructively beginning at Blogging Level 0 to ensure a good foundational training. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply”, relating her teaching to each learner according to their lifestyle and ability.

How to ask what your customers really want

If you start thinking in questions, it will benefit you to:

• focus your mind on what your customers really want or need
• ask your customers what they are asking for
• work out what your own business should be asking for
• then aim to provide what your customers are searching for

This sounds deep, but it isn’t really. It’s not worth providing something nobody really wants.

Years ago I designed wedding stationery which many people told me was beautiful. But it wasn’t what brides wanted. It’s no good designing beautiful stationery that 99.9% of brides don’t want. I spent 2 years of my business life churning out stuff nobody wanted because I didn’t ask. The trouble was, when I eventually found out what brides wanted, I didn’t want to produce it because to me it seemed so tacky. If only I’d known, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time and effort.

Do you really know what your customers want?

Do you think it would be a good idea to ask questions to find this out? Are you willing to adapt or change it if necessary? It might make all the difference to your profit margins…

Think of five questions that would provide you with all the information you require. They should be designed for you to find out whether you are giving your customers exactly what they want. Make sure the questions are open ended so they aren’t replied to with a single word, and are carefully structured so the answers don’t go off on a tangent.

Go to a questionnaire source like surveymonkey.com to compile your questionnaire and send it to all your contacts.

If the questions require a full answer, put them onto separate pages: it will facilitate a better response. Include an explanation as to why you are asking these questions, and provide some sort of incentive to get a reply, like a free gift or prize. And once they’ve been completed, don’t forget to take heed of the answers and undertake some sort of process in analysing them.

More information = better informed = higher value = greater success

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides simple, jargon-free, highly visual WordPress training for beginner and post-beginner bloggers. She specialises in before-and-after screen-shot e-courses that make no assumption of prior knowledge, constructively beginning at Blogging Level 0 to ensure a good foundational training. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply”, relating her teaching to each learner according to their lifestyle and ability.